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The Adventures of Lego Ren: Dark Knight Drinking

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Where Does Your Beer Come From?

Dallas

Dallas Craft Beer Examiner

As a craft beer fan and dedicated consumer, do you know where your beer comes from? Not the ingredients, not the brewery ownership, but culturally and conceptually?

Most of the classic beer styles we enjoy every day were created somewhere else, mostly in the Old World, and many originally individual and unique to particular regions. Before industrialization, brewers had to work with only the grains, adjuncts and water chemistries readily available to them. And until the dawn of microbiology as a science, brewers were often at the mercy of nature, too.

We enjoy a wealth of beer diversity in America, but we can claim very few formal beer styles as wholly created here. The first settlers in New England were mostly from the British Isles and Northern Europe, and brought with them an ale tradition that served as their everyday beverages long before commercialization. Citizens brewed and blended their own brown ales and porters of varying shades as their households and pubs had done for centuries prior.

Our biggest beer shift came with German immigration in the early nineteenth century, the largest ethnic influx our country has ever experienced. Magnates like Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Anheuser built empires of lagers on the heels of the steel and railroad industries, moving the balance away from ales well into the twentieth century. Ironically, “American beer” was defined for a time by uniquely German tastes.

In the twenty-first century, American beer is more an intellectual melting pot than ever before. We threw away ineffectual temperance efforts and with the rise of international travel, we have embraced old English and Scottish ales; sharp Czech pilsners; Bohemian weizen and bocks; Scandinavian sahti and Slavic kvass; soured beers from the Low Countries; bold Russian stouts and Baltic porters; and Belgian ales that are classic, experimental and ecumenical. We have adopted many beer styles as our own despite their origins, and produce distinctly American hoppy IPAs with native-born strains never known to old European brewers.

Lest we ever forget, this cultural fingerprint is still with us today. Kosmos Spoetzl built on Czech and German settlements in South Texas to brew his beers in the little town of Shiner. Pierre Celis almost singlehandedly rescued his native Belgian witbier style from extinction and became an Austin legend. Lakewood’s Wim Bens puts his personal taste on his products for Lakewood that reflect his own Belgian heritage. Fritz Rahr‘s German brewing family predates Prohibition in Wisconsin, and Dennis Wehrmann brews beers from the Franconia region where he grew up.

And the efforts have not ceased. As China, India and South American markets embrace the craft beer industry and their equivalent consumer base grows, what local malt-beverage styles have yet to be reproduced for a widespread American audience? Bradon and Yasmin Wages brought a Vietnamese bia hoi to their Malai Kitchen restaurants, and many local and national brewers continue to experiment with ingredients and influences from ginger to pulque. From Near East to Far East and everywhere between, what new immigrant brewer will bring a rich new flavor to our bars?

American craft beer is incredibly diverse, with thousands of fathers and mothers from around the world, and we are a culturally stronger nation for it. Let’s work hard not to forget that.  SD


Included in the event program for Big Texas Beer Fest, March 31-April 1, 2017

Peticolas Brewing finally joins the taproom age

Dallas Craft Beer Examiner

logoThey anticipated a quiet opening week, a Thursday soft opening that might attract a few of the craft beer loyal, just enough to make keeping the doors open worthwhile on a weeknight.

Peticolas Brewing seriously underestimated their fans and their customer base.

With the new year brings a fundamental business shift at Peticolas Brewing, at least in weekly operations for the Dallas craft brewer. Rather late to the party, Peticolas debuted their new brewery taproom to an eager public on a crisp and clear mild winter’s evening. Estimates of the crowd ranged from 150-200 thirsty supporters, perhaps more as they continued to cycle in and out all night at the Design District industrial location.

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The man himself, Michael Peticolas, missed opening night with a family-imposed quarantine (flu, maybe malaria) but wife Melissa was present, running empty glasses along with the brewery staff just trying to keep up with a crowded bar service. Lines for the tap wall were consistently deep and self-replenishing, patrons retiring with their pints to one of the many social spaces as people continued to stream in the door.

Peticolas may have added that critical mass to make the area a serious nightlife destination.

The taproom is not a new build but a full renovation of the main floor, itself an expansion space Peticolas added a few years ago as a common area adjacent to the production brewhouse. Where once were thrift-store sofas and seating for bimonthly weekend tours now is an attractive, spacious bartop framed in brushed metal and unfinished wood. The small stage that hosted local bands and at least one wedding now opens up as a rolling garage door with counter seating facing the street and that provides cool ventilation for the growing body heat of the bar area.

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Although selling only house products, the bar itself is already competitive with many other local craft beer establishments. Seventeen taps were available opening night including nitro pours and a cask offering as well as specials and seasonals. Vintages of kegs held back from previous years were also offered as were a few taproom-only beers, a standard commercial draw for the now-legalized brewery format.

Naturally, the timing of this brewery addition is curious. The State of Texas succumbed to lobby efforts almost two years ago and legalized the on-premise sale of beer that makes taprooms possible. (Off-premise, or package sales, is still being fought in the legislature, with possible success this coming summer session.) Nearby craft brewers Community Beer Company and Noble Rey Brewing (and not too distant Four Corners Brewing) were quick to adapt space for commercial taprooms, and Texas Ale Project designed theirs into their structural build. So why would Peticolas delay opening one until now?

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The answer is that Michael Peticolas may be suffering from the plague but he is certainly no fool. He has always built, run and expanded his brewery operations very conservatively and deliberately, answering to no investors and taking his time with a focus on quality and slow, reliable growth. (His beers still are not packaged.) The craft brewing industry is now mature enough that the brand is as much a consideration as the product sold, that breweries must husband their name as much as they do their products. Peticolas has created his own worth simply by his choice not to follow development opportunities that his competitors have—a risk, to be sure, but it worked for Apple. His success is demonstrated by Peticolas’ almost rock-star following among North Texas consumers.

The bimonthly Saturday tours will continue as scheduled for now, most likely to be folded into taproom operations eventually. The old brewery bar and production floor are closed off to the public with the remodel, but the new taproom offers plenty of space and sights other than stainless steel tanks and sacks of grain. The bar itself opens with limited hours, running Thursday and Friday evenings and most of the day on weekends through Sunday. The operations will likely be modified once a routine is established and sales determine how to best accommodate the visiting public.

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More than the delayed opening, this Peticolas taproom may bring with it more underlying significance for the surrounding area. The Design District has been rapidly evolving from an ugly no-go industrial area to one beginning to enjoy a few late-night restaurants and even growing residences. With the likes of four Dallas craft brewers and one cidery operating within a scant few miles of each other, bolstered again by craft beer establishments such as Meddlesome Moth and Rodeo Goat, another taproom may finally affect the larger evening consumer business. Peticolas may have added that critical mass to make the area a serious nightlife destination.

Regardless, the new taproom is already a good place to reliably find Peticolas beers and a good space to comfortably hang out and socialize, or even pick up brewery merchandise. And as Michael Peticolas surely suffers in the throes of Ebola, his crew has eagerly taken up the charge and already has the taproom ticking along as if it has always been there. SD