The Best Specialty Brews We Sampled At This Weekend's Big Texas Beer Festival.
Thousands of thirsty craft beer aficionados flooded through the doors of Fair Park's Automobile Building on Saturday afternoon as Big Texas Beer Festival kicked off its fourth rendition, offering attendees a selection of more than 400 craft beers from over 100 breweries around the world in the process.
There were 5,000 festival-goers to be exact — and they were all ready for a great time. And, for sure, there was plenty of beer to help them get there: Brewery booths lined the center of the room, each offering a variety of brews. And with robust, rich stouts infused with coffee and chocolate, intimidating barrel-aged ales, mouth-puckering sours and classic styles complemented with strange fruits and exotic hop varieties, all tastes and preferences were accounted for.
A truly wonderful detail about this festival, though, is the opportunity to try special, rare or one-off brews — beer you wouldn't normally find anywhere else.
So, with a beer sample card in one hand and a tasting glass in the other, my orders were clear: I would seek out and discover the wonderful concoctions notable enough for a mention, and, of course, worthy of a scratch on the beer sample card.
Here's what I found.
Franconia Brewing Company's Triple Dunkel Eisbock. Made from Franconia's Triple Dunkel and poured from a magnificent barrel made of ice, this beer was the talk of the festival. Eisbock, a German specialty beer made by partially freezing beer and removing the block of nonalcoholic ice that appears, is concentrated in both alcohol and flavor. This batch, coming in at a whopping 22 percent ABV, served bold malt flavors, rich and sweet caramel notes with a creamy, velvety body. The alcohol is almost as disguised as with its regular Triple Dunkel. A deliciously intense beer brewed only once a year. If you can find this one, you should consider yourself lucky. This was a fact not lost on this year's Big Texas Beer Fest attendees.
Community Beer Company's Oaked Inspiration. This oak-aged Belgian Strong Ale is built upon Community Beer Company's traditional Inspiration offering. But this version, which has been aged on oak spirals for over a year, comes in at 9.45 percent ABV and introduces complex flavors of caramel malts, oak, earthy yeast, vanilla esters and fruit to mask the alcohol. Lucky for me and other Big Tex attendees, Oaked Inspiration will soon hit the market for real. I unfortunately just missed the last pour of a version of the brewery's popular Legion brew, cask-conditioned with raspberries. But this one was a nice consolation prize.
Deep Ellum Brewing Company's Morpheus. A non-barrel-aged version of DEBC's Belgian golden ale Wealth & Taste, one of its most popular limited-release beers, comes in at 10.5 percent ABV, with a peppery yeast character right off the back, followed by a sweet white grape and tropical fruit flavors. It's dry-hopped with a New Zealand hop variety called Nelson Sauvin, which complements the beer's fruity and floral flavors. All beers we highlighted thus far, you'll notice, have been near 10 percent or above to this point. It was a heavy day of drinking.
Rabbit Hole Brewing Company's Ethiopian Rapture. A brown ale cask-conditioned with Ethiopian coffee from Mystical Coffee, this beer serves up complex coffee flavors with subtle vanilla flavors and a rich roasted malt backbone. It's less of a heavyweight than some of the other beers from this year's festival — it checks in at six percent ABV — but it's got some fight in it just the same and is well worth a round or two in the ring. Word is you may be able to catch this one again at North Texas Firkin Fest at Globe Life Park on April 25.
Peticolas Brewing Company's Golden Opportunity cask dry-hopped with lemondrop hops. This is a delicious take on the brewery's classic year-round kolsch, dry-hopped with one of this year's most popular hop varieties, the lemondrop hop. It's sad to think many won't ever get to try this beer; it has wonderful, complex hop flavors, as well as grass and floral notes with bright hints of citrus, wheat and grapes.
Martin House Brewing Company's Mind On My Money. Brewed and kegged by Martin House, one of Fort Worth's most prominent breweries, is a gin and juice-inspired blonde ale brewed with juniper berries, orange peel and Mandarina Bavaria hops. The only word suitable enough to describe this beer is “gangsta.”
Firewheel Brewing Company's StrIPA with Grapefruit. This is a great rendition of one of Firewheel's most popular beers, its StrIPA Strawberry IPA, this time with some added grapefruit flavoring. The grapefruit adds an enjoyable tartness that complements the strawberry. The great part of this beer is that the fruit flavors are subtle so as not to overpower the taste and blend well with the hops.
Lakewood Brewing Company's Brabo's Researve. This one went fairly quick, too. The Brabo's Reserve is the red wine barrel-aged rendition of Brabo's Cut, a Belgian Dark Ale coming in at 9.4 percent ABV. The flavor has a nice bit of tartness, as well as some tannic and oak wine notes. The acidity is very well-done and the beer is extremely enjoyable.