With Two New Beers Debuting This Week, Deep Ellum Brewing Company Keeps Riding High.
The founders of Deep Ellum Brewing Company don't like to play by the rules. But, then again, that's where a big part of the local brewery's charm lies. It's a philosophy that permeates every aspect of DEBC's business model, from their marketing materials to the events they put on to their unique brews themselves.
And one doesn't have to look any further than the two new beers being released this week to get a literal taste of their iconoclastic attitude.
Tonight at The Common Table the brewery is releasing Wealth and Taste, a seasonal beer that represents their most ambitious effort to date. Aged in chardonnay barrels, the Belgian Golden Strong Ale marks the first barrel-aged beer brewed on this scale in Dallas. It's an astoundingly aggressive move for a brewery less than a year removed from delivering its first keg to Anvil Pub last November.
“We like to do some edgy stuff,” says DEBC co-founder Scott Frieling. “That's what we're all about.”
The brewery's first foray into barrel-aging has produced something of a scary result — a beer with 9.5 percent ABV, a citrus taste up front and a wine finish that is remarkably light. It has such a good reputation around the brewery that several employees we spoke with joked about wanting to keep the beer around solely for in-house consumption, likening releasing the beer to losing a limb.
Joked sales and brand “ninja” Tait Lifto: “How do you cut off your own arm?”
Not ones to stick all that strictly to German purity laws, DEBC's brews can sometimes be somewhat hard to classify.
Wealth and Taste, for instance, shares qualities of a Belgian Golden Strong Ale but is also brewed with Muscat grape juice. Not that any of this seems to faze any of the DEBC staff.
“People have trouble categorizing our beer,” Lifto says. “We want to make something that tastes a certain way and put it in people's mouths. We'll figure out what to call it later.”
The fact that DEBC has been able to execute such daring and boundary-pushing beers so early in existence is largely thanks to the outside-of-the-box leanings chief brewer Drew Huerter.
It's a skill he was forced to develop at his last gig. While working at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis, Huerter was required to develop a new beer every week as part of that company's Peek a Brew series. It's a task he fulfilled for nearly two years. So when DEBC decided to add a blonde to their year-round offerings, Huerter was more than up for the task.
While explaining that the term “blonde” didn't really have much meaning in the brewing world, Huerter said that DEBC's take on the beer was an ale that is both “American-style and hop-forward.”
The beer, which we were allowed to sample prior to its launch this Friday at Katy Trail Ice House, was hoppier than other blondes we've tasted, thanks to its blend of four unique hops (Summit and/or Bravo, Glacier, Palisade, Meridian). And yet it remains extremely light and drinkable — a fact the marketing department acknowledges in their playfully brash campaign for the brew that says “It goes down easy.”
For what it's worth, their marketing efforts seems to be working.
Thanks in part to their edgy attitude and their Caliber Creative-designed graphics, the brewery has managed to acquire over 13,000 “likes” on Facebook and sign over 180 accounts in little over a year, including 10 each in Austin and Waco, eight in Denton and two up in Boston even.
But slick posters and twice-weekly brewery tours are only part of the equation. A passion for quality products and turning the public onto the higher quality of craft brews lies at the heart of every decision Deep Ellum Brewing Company makes.
“Just because a bunch of horses tell you to drink something doesn't mean you have to,” Lifto says. “I want everybody to choose our beer because they liked it and not because it's the next big thing.”