Dallas Craft Beer Examiner
As a general rule, the rain keeps me at home and out of pubs and local breweries. Low turnout, putting on pants and messy, slick streets are just not worth the effort on such grey days.
However, today someone else was driving.
It was the holiday-appropriate ‘Merica Tour aboard the Dallas Brew Bus, a roving craft brewery-themed revue that has become a minor institution in the Dallas area. Operating semi-monthly now for more than four years, the DBB is a curated bus trip run by Matt Dixon (of Dallas Brew Scene and North Texas Beer Week) and wife Vanessa to select North Texas breweries and area craft beer locations. With most of my brewery visits being solo trips and having never been part of the ongoing bus adventure, a ride was long overdue.
The first scheduled stop on this patriotic road cruise was Lakewood Brewing in Garland, a trip across area highways under cloudy skies as the morning rains came to an end. This was the first tour to feature a shiny new luxury charter, quite a pleasant climate-controlled and modern audio system upgrade for the trip (rented district school buses are the norm). Thirty-eight fellow adventurers joined me today aboard clean, stain-free fabric seats, continuing the Dixons’ long streak of sold-out bus tours.
Far from a stale trap for craft beer tourists, the DBB is an interactive event with trivia, prizes, Dixonian anecdotes and a themed soundtrack throughout the ride. The crowd is mixed, mostly locals with a few out-of-towners, and includes patrons spanning the age and demographic spectrum who are encouraged to interact and stay lively. Less than a circus sideshow, Dixon is personally an unending source of first-hand knowledge for modern North Texas brewing and personalities (and indie music), so the fluid salesman-like patter along the trip rarely stops.
This is the fundamental appeal of the Brew Bus: The ticket is all-inclusive.
Upon boarding, riders receive a drinks card that is checked off with each beer ordered at the various destinations. This is the fundamental appeal of the Brew Bus: The ticket is all-inclusive. A collective logo sample glass entitles riders to fills at each brewery, so there is never a need to open a tab, show ID or even carry cash (exceptions for additional beers, merchandise, food trucks or staff tips at the participant’s discretion).
Lakewood did not disappoint, as their still-new taproom offered all varieties of seasonally brewed Temptress specialties such as a rare bourbon barrel-aged molé variety. Bottled water and a light snack are even included aboard the bus, a varying culinary fare usually provided by the maestros at LUCK—today, a cellophane-wrapped roasted pork sandwich with fresh coleslaw, which was far better than a bag of dry pretzels.
Dallas’ On Rotation was our second stop, by then the day beginning to dry out while the bus crew was just hitting their drinking stride. A self-proclaimed “craft beer laboratory” sandwiched between local brewing giants on this tour, On Rotation always affords an additional food source with hot pizza available from Cane Rosso located just next door in its suburban-like strip center near White Rock Lake.
Each bus stop is planned for about 90 minutes each which, allowing for variable travel schedules based on particular distances, is plenty of time to socialize, run through the sample card and explore new locations. (Today’s beverages included only those brewed in-house, not from On Rotation’s extensive commercial tap wall. However, their current Red, White & Blueberries is well worth seeking out.) Most places are happy for the off-peak influx of an eager craft drinking crowd arriving midday, although a thirsty bus unloading at the door can be a visceral shock for some if not aware of the schedule beforehand.
DBB tours usually encompass three local stops, most often from Dallas and the adjoining areas but Fort Worth locations have been included as demand allows and newer breweries arise. Featured breweries have included craft beer destinations as far away as Cedar Creek Brewing in Seven Points (roughly 50 miles southeast of Dallas), and a Tarrant County-based tour is already scheduled. Holiday themes are common (Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, “Endless Summer”), and the tour and its services are also available for private events.
Our final destination was Community Beer Company, which was also our starting point and a common spot for tour embarkation due to space, parking and a widely known central location. With riders now well-lubricated from a half-day of reckless sampling, we folded into the normal weekend taproom crowd at its late-afternoon peak due to clearing skies and broadcast sports; fortunately, the lines moved quickly and the wait was minimal. Community’s Passiflora IPA, a hoppy saison brewed with passion fruit, was newly debuted this weekend and quite in demand by bus riders and general taproom visitors alike.
Although the tour would not formally end for a while yet, riders melted into the mass of normal weekend patrons as the bus departed empty, all our official stops now completed. Any brief camaraderie our little tour group had quickly disintegrated as non-tour friends and designated drivers joined their charges in Community’s spacious front taproom with a band starting up at the far end. In the end, we simply added to the normal Saturday brewery crowds for as long as we individually cared to stay.
Community’s location proves an ideal benchmark to include in the DBB tour (officially or not) as its position in the Design District allows for a variety of after-events with nearby breweries, beer bars or even activities at the American Airlines Center. However, the Dallas Brew Bus is more than enough for a great afternoon spent indulging in the local craft beer experience, whether one is experienced in the North Texas scene or not. SD