Tag Archives: Texas craft beer

Across Calatrava’s Bridge: Four Corners Anchors Revitalization of West Dallas

Chuckle if you will, but judging a double-header of Imperial Stouts and Barrel-Aged Beers is a taxing proposition. My friend and I were in the Dallas area for the weekend to serve as judges for the annual Bluebonnet Homebrew Competition,FourCorners - Cart (fcbrewing-com) and this judging assignment was our last of the weekend. Plenty of the burgeoning Dallas craft beer scene remained for us to explore, but our saturated senses were calling for a long time-out. After a brief discussion, we settled on Four Corners Brewing Company. Both their motto, “All Day Ales,” and their approach––sessionable beers that range between 4.5% and 6% ABV––seemed perfectly tailored to this balmy spring afternoon.

An endless landscape of warehouses and sundry remnants of West Dallas’s heavy-industrial past unfolded before us as we rolled along the route from the judging location in nearby Irving. This area was originally settled in the 1850s by French and Swiss immigrants who aimed to establish a socialist utopia, but that experiment gave way in relatively short order to a decidedly dystopian wave of industrialization around the turn of the century.

Cement factories came first, followed by chemical factories and oil refineries, each industry giving rise to hard-scrabble working-class towns on the periphery of Dallas. Before incorporation into Dallas in 1954, the area laboured under a general lack of amenities such as running water and paved streets. To make matters worse, for nearly half a century dating from 1934, the RSR Corporation operated a secondary lead smelting plant that laid waste to the environment with its processing of used batteries. Several thousand inhabitants suffered from elevated bloodstream lead levels as a result. Such was the lot of these historically underserved and, by now, predominantly Hispanic and African-American communities until the area qualified as an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site in the mid-1990s. A clean-up effort ensued, and by 2005, a completed Five-Year Review deemed the site “protective of human health and the environment” and fit for “the safe redevelopment of residential and commercial properties” (EPA, 2014).

FourCorners - Callatrava Dallas (fdbrewing-com)Tire shops and garages now populate many of the low-rise brick storefronts lining the thoroughfares of these communities, but the first signs of a tectonic shift are beginning to make themselves felt. Immediately to our east rises perhaps the most visible symbol of this transformation: a finely wrought arch etched against the foreground of the Dallas skyscrapers, its pearl-like luminescence and avian grace bearing the inimitable stamp of renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava. We stop short of Calatrava’s recently completed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and pull into the lot in front of the colourfully appointed warehouse enveloping Four Corners Brewery.

Inside the taproom, my friend and I joined a group of convivial patrons for a few drinks as I waited for co-owner and head brewer, Steve Porcari, to finish his Sunday rounds.FourCorners - Local Buzz Tap (fcbrewing-com) Porcari and co-founder, George Esquivel, got their brewing start after seeing a TV ad for a homebrew competition organized some years back by Sam Adams. They bought and brewed the kit, but never entered that first effort into the Sam Adams competition. Little did they know back then that this inaugural batch would become the basis for their Local Buzz, a refreshing brew that now incorporates honey from Burleson’s Honey Company in Waxahatchie, TX.

Like all of Four Corners’ beers, Local Buzz features a striking label with bright colours and boldly rendered pictograms. Four Corners’ design aesthetic pays hommage to a Mexican game similar to bingo, Lotería,FourCorners - Loteria Mexicana (Wiki) in which the caller announces the cards to the players by way of riddles and associations. Four Corners’ beer labels evoke local linkages in an analogous manner. Red’s Roja reflects the plethora of tire shops that dot the neighbourhood, while La Bajada, adorned with a defiant gesture, renders tribute to the working class neighbourhood in which Four Corners finds itself.

The iconography of La Bajada recalls the resilience of the neighbourhood inhabitants who built the dike system along the Trinity River to control the once-catastrophic floods.IMG_9795 On a different reading, though, the visual vocabulary seems to bespeak the tensions that accompany the penetration of fashionable arts and culinary scenes into long-established communities. The Trinity Groves urban renewal project backed by Philip Romano of Macaroni Grill fame was the first lot cast in the rejuvenation of West Dallas. Four Corners followed suit in 2012, setting up shop in an 11,000 square-foot repurposed big rig factory in the heart of this erstwhile marginalized section of the city.

Along with Romano’s “restaurant incubator” concept that forms the backbone of the Trinity Groves development, Four Corners serves as a magnet enticing people across the bridge. But will those who come from more affluent parts of Dallas disrupt the fabric of West Dallas’s established communities? Such is the dual-edged nature of urban revitalization. How will the proposed development of West Dallas integrate neighbourhoods such as La Bajada and Los Altos?

The people behind Four Corners consider themselves to be part of the answer to these pressing questions. Esquivel, one of the partners in the Four Corners venture, has a stake in this emerging neighbourhood, having grown up in nearby Oak Cliff. Collectively, he, Porcari, and Greg Leftwich, the third of Four Corners’ co-founders, want their establishment to serve as a catalyst for measured change and economic stimulus in this once-neglected neighbourhood brought closer to the Dallas metropole by Calatrava’s bridge. FourCorners - Brewery (fcbrewing FB)Tasting Notes

Four Corners is in the business of producing flavourful, balanced, “everyday” session beers. For them, 8% ABV is straining the upper range of the scale, and only a few of their seasonal beers bump up against this threshold. Relates Porcari, in a city recently tuned into the dual trends of barrel-aged offerings and out-sized “status” markers such as high IBUs and high ABV, Four Corners’ commitment to a lineup of sessionable beers has, on occasion, presented challenges in terms of finding tap handles at local bars. A shame, really, for as I’ve argued elsewhere, beer doesn’t have to be big or “extreme” to be worthy of our attention––and I think Four Corners’ beers merit our attention.

At the lighter end of the colour and ABV spectrum we find Local Buzz, the aforementioned honey-rye golden ale with fresh floral aromas of honeyed grain, subtle hints of pepper, and a surprising scent reminiscent of a cross between fresh cucumber and gooseberry. The grain-accented beer is crisp, with a spicy-herbal hop character that melds well with the rye and ensures that the beer finishes refreshingly. A fine beer for a warm day.

FourCorners - Block Party Cans (fcbrewing FB)Clear dark ruby and pecan in appearance, the Block Party Robust Porter comes across with plenty of mocha and coffee aromas layered with sassafras, cherry-plum yeast esters, and a hint of citrus-grapefruit suggestive of North American hops. At 40 IBUs, this off-dry beer is firmly but not overly bitter, with the hop notes of the bouquet joining forces with a toast, burnt caramel, and roasted coffee malt profile.

The Notorious OAT is a late winter seasonal stout that is as harmonious as it is intense. A hefty grain bill contributes 7.2% ABV along with aromas and flavours of roasted barley, toasted toffee, butterscotch, malted milk, maple syrup, and a wisp of smoke. Its relatively high level of carbonation for the style provides an effervescent accent to the licorice-like earthiness and light-roasted coffee, the latter of which provides a smooth bittering undercurrent that carries through the pleasant roasted grain and maple finish.

Clocking in at 8% ABV, Celebración Belgian Strong Ale is the strongest of Four Corners’ seasonal offerings.Celebracion Tap (fcbrewing FB) Spices take center stage in this beer that exudes complex aromas of ginger, nutmeg, a dash of cinnamon, orange blossom, chai tea, and mild caramel. The effervescent mélange of chai, molasses, gingerbread, caramel, and Christmas cake make this an ideal winter warmer that is, nonetheless, light-bodied and deftly articulated. I asked Porcari what kinds of spices go into the beer. Just one pound of ginger per barrel, he answered. The combination of Belgian malts and Belgian yeast does the rest. Eminently in line with Four Corner’s pragmatic approach to beer-making, I thought, even if more than a few of these might put a premature end to my afternoon drinking session.

Odds and Ends and Further Reading

IMG_9797The rooster logo: Cristi Brinkman, the artistic designer behind Four Corners’ beer labels and tap handles, translated the brewery’s name into a weather vane with the obligatory rooster perched on top. The cock’s crow is still endemic to the neighbourhood.

Peter Simek’s “Trinity Groves: The New Dallas Starts Here,” D-Magazine (January 2013) traces the outlines of the urban development controversy unfolding in West Dallas while detailing the interests and stakes of the various constituencies involved. http://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/2013/january/trinity-groves-the-new-dallas-starts-here?single=1

A section of the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s website narrates the history of the area from the early 1800s through the present. http://www.westdallaschamber.com/west-dallas/index.html

The Environmental Protection Agency’s document, “RSR Corporation Superfund Site, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas: EPA Region 6, Congressional District 30” (updated June 2014) provides a brief encapsulation of the environmental contamination and clean-up of West Dallas. http://www.epa.gov/region6/6sf/pdffiles/rsr-tx.pdf

Image Credits

“Palatero” push cart: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Local Buzz tap handle: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Lotería Mexicana: Wikipedia

Lotería-like beer labels: F.D. Hofer

Four Corners exterior: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Block Party in cans: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Celebración Tap Handle: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Rooster Logo: F.D. Hofer

© 2014  Franz D. Hofer. All Rights Reserved.

Tempest’s Tankard Ratings and Austin’s Best Brews

Welcome to Tempest’s final post in the Austin craft beer series. In this segment, I unveil my “Tankard” ratings so you can easily find both the finest beers and purveyors of those brews when you visit Austin. If you’re looking for more specific aspects of Austin’s vibrant scene, click here for brewpubs, here for breweries, and here for taprooms and bottle shops.

Austin Map (tourtexas-com)

Austin is awash with fermented beverages, which can make drink decisions both intriguing and intimidating. For the purposes of this segment, I’ve decided to suspend my usual injunction against ranking beers so that you can get a sense of which beers stand out from what’s already a very solid field.

Against Ratings

One of the reasons I’m wary about introducing rankings and ratings to my beer features and brewery profiles is because even though I recognize the value of ratings in certain cases, I’m cognizant of the extent to which environment and other factors exert a sometimes imperceptible influence on my perception of a beverage. None of the ratings I offer here is cast in stone. If I were to try all of these beverages blind or under otherwise different circumstances, I might reach conclusions that are at odds with my initial impressions. (It’s happened before – label and brand expectations can play an unconscious and often underappreciated role in our judgment and evaluation.) Sampling a horizontal flight of, say, Pilseners from a variety of producers will affect my perception – and hence my evaluation – in a different manner than if I were drinking them in isolation, or alongside a number of styles. If I were to taste a beer, wine, saké, or spirit today as a component of a structured tasting and then drink the same beverages tomorrow as an accompaniment to a memorable dinner shared with close friends or family, my impressions may well diverge in subtle but potentially significant ways: Same beverage, different locale and different time of the day.

Tankards, Tankards, and More Tankards

Tankard - Classic PewterWith those caveats aside, I offer my tankard system in place of more common rating systems. Rather than trying to include every beverage I sampled during my stay in Austin, I’ve devised a rating system that highlights what I think are among the best beers, breweries, brewpubs, taprooms, and bottle shops a city or region has to offer. Since I’m not particularly enamoured of reducing aesthetic pleasures to numbers, I’ve ruled out numerical rankings. Instead, I’ll award “tankards” to some of the beverages I evaluate. Not unlike the Michelin star system used for dining establishments, only the most impressive beverages receive tankards.

A few points:

1. I’ve heard great things about several brews from Austin in particular and Texas in general. If one of the generally-accepted standouts is not listed here, it’s either because I haven’t gotten around to trying the beer yet (the most likely scenario – the Jester King Atrial Rubicite resting in my cellar is a case in point), or because the beer wasn’t in season (I was in Austin in early winter, and missed some of the weightier beer releases), or because the beer didn’t deliver on its reputation (which is not beyond the realm of possibility).

2. If a beverage does not receive a tankard, this does not necessarily indicate that the beverage is subpar. Now, if I were to include a catch-all category comprising all of the beverages that receive no tankards, this category would include drinks ranging from run-of-the-mill to quite good. In other words, if someone at a barbeque or dinner party offered me a beer at the higher end of the range, I’d have no problem tipping back my glass.

3. Occasionally, breweries, brewpubs, and taverns find their way into these listings if they merit a special trip.

4. With the exception of breweries, brewpubs, taprooms, and bottle shops, listings are in alphabetical order.

5. Entries with an asterisk (*) represent beverages I’ve tasted in a place other than at the brewpub or brewery – usually at a taproom, sometimes in the comfort of my home.

How Does It All Shake Out?

  • One tankard: A very fine beverage. A cut above and a few ounces taller than other beverages.
  • Two tankards: An excellent beverage. Worth searching out, preferably at its place of production or, if that’s not possible, then at a taproom or liquor store.
  • Three tankards: Exceptional. An absolute aesthetic pleasure, one that blends the Kantian sublime with Proust’s literary account of aromas and the gustatory delights of Babette’s Feast. A beer that could find a place on any hypothetical Top-25 list I’d concoct.

TankardTiledX3Tempest’s Austin Faves

One Tankard:

Flix Brewhouse. Brambler Sour. Barrel-aged for fifteen months; blackberry purée added prior to kegging. Broadly in the Flemish red style, with bright sour cherry, horse blanket funk, wood notes, and a vinous character reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. A mild nutty caramel note counters the sour pepper-lemon flavours, while a buoyant cherry/blackberry acidity predominates throughout.

Jester King. Boxer’s Revenge. Farmhouse/Wild-Fermented Beer (aged in whiskey and wine barrels). Sour caramel, allspice, and pine needles. Rich and citrusy palate with pungent oak-Brett. At 10.2% ABV, watch out for this sour beer’s left hook.

*Live Oak. Hefeweizen. Sampled at The Brass Tap, Round Rock. Fine example that does a good job of walking the clove/banana tightrope, but a touch light in the mid-section. More malt richness would make this a stellar beer.

IMG_9550Pinthouse Pizza. Bearded Seal. Dry Irish Stout. A bit potent for the style (6.1% ABV), but with a deft blend of freshly-roasted coffee beans, espresso, and café au lait.

*Real Ale. Hans’ Pils. Pilsener. Canned. Clean, crisp, and dry; an austere northern German-style Pils with that characteristic bitter hop note the Germans call “herb,” which combines dry, bitter, astringent, herbal, and spicy into one difficult-to-translate flavour/sensation package.

Rogness. Tenebrous Stout. Raspberry Seasonal. Rich but restrained; harmonious integration of fruit, malt, and yeast character.

Uncle Billy’s. Humbucker Helles. A Munich Helles featuring bready malts with a mild toast accent. Rich and full-bodied, with soft notes of citrus and grassy hops rounding out toasty and fine-grained malt.

____________NXNW - Growler-Logo

North by Northwest. Brewpub. Compelling diversity of traditional and experimental beers, with food and ambience to match.

Sunset Mini Mart. Bottle Shop. A local institution and an absolute gem, especially considering that it’s nominally a Citgo gas station convenience store.

Two Tankards:

The ABGB. Industry. Pilsener. Hops are a quiet force in this beer, floral-perfumed and spicy. Well-rounded on the palate, with a dry, crisp finish.

*Argus Cidery. 2011 Bandera Brût. Sparkling Hard Cider. Cinnamon-spiced apple with prominent, hay-like Brett character, and pleasantly acidic.

Jester King. Ol’ Oi. Sour Brown Ale/American Wild Ale. Rich, complex, and with great depth. Combines caramel with aged balsamic vinegar notes.

*Real Ale. Sisyphus. Barley Wine. Bottled. Extended Tempest review here.

North by Northwest. Holiday Ale. Grab one when it’s released, but hold onto it for a few years. The best ones I sampled had one to two years of bottle age. Three years out and the beer develops interesting Oloroso sherry notes.

____________

Craft Pride. Taproom. Excellent selection of beers from Austin and from Texas more generally. And that’s it. But this is not a bad thing, especially with several dozen taps dedicated to the finest Texan beer. Knowledgeable serving staff. Great woodwork. Be sure to check out the well-curated bottle shop next store. IMG_9575

Jester King. Brewery and Taproom. The hype is much-deserved. A predominantly sour and wild-fermented lineup that is both well conceived and well crafted. But you probably already knew that. Side note: Great flat-crust pizza next door at Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. Maybe you didn’t know that.

Three Tankards:

*512. Pecan Porter. Sampled at The Brass Tap in Round Rock. What’s not to like about rich and buttery pecan-maple accents in a well-crafted smoky porter? Roast notes and creamy coffee on the palate, balanced by a vivacious mineral carbonation. Finish is as long as a total eclipse is black.

The ABGB. Hell Yes. Munich Helles. Rich but crisp and refreshing; clean bready malts with a touch of honey and a subtle grassy minerality. The embodiment of finesse.

*Austin Beer Works. Sputnik. Coffee Imperial Stout. A Texas stand-out. I had mine at Craft Pride. Freshly-ground coffee aromas, Tia Maria, dark caramel malt, and an infinitely chocolaty rich roast on the palate.

____________

ABGB Glass 2The ABGB. Beer Garden/Brewery. Exquisitely balanced beers, whether lagers or hop-forward and higher-ABV offerings. Urban beer garden with an amicable vibe; beer hall with a spare, industrial-warehouse aesthetic.

Postscript:

If you’ve been to Austin, what stands out for you? Feel free to share your favourite beers, breweries, brewpubs, taprooms, and bottle shops by clicking “Leave a Reply” above.

Images:

Austin map: www.tourtexas.com

Pewter tankard: www.germansteins.com

Tempest’s tankard: F.D. Hofer

Pinthouse Pizza: F.D. Hofer

NXNW: courtesy of NXNW

Jester King brewhouse: F.D. Hofer

The ABGB beer garden: theabgb.com

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beverage Enthusiast (Breweries)

Welcome to Tempest’s ongoing series on Austin’s craft beer scene. In this segment, I profile breweries that I visited in Austin. Part 1 (here) introduced a few of Austin’s brewpubs. Part 3 (here) details taprooms and bottle shops in the Austin area.

Notes on Method

Drinking your way through Austin (or any region, for that matter) is an enjoyable way to spend five days. But it’s difficult indeed to make a dent in all of the breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms that Austin and its environs have to offer. If an establishment is not represented in this spotlight, it is simply due to scheduling conflicts or time constraints. Next time! As for prices, they change regularly and are readily available from a given establishment’s website.

Austin Mural (centraltexasmurals-com)

Resources

As mentioned in Part 1 of this User’s Guide, a good way to get a handle on Austin’s beverage scene is to seek out the Austin Beer Guide with its comprehensive coverage, maps, and brief write-ups on craft beverage establishments in Central, North, South, and Greater Austin. Each issue offers roughly eighty to ninety pages of scene-related articles.

Breweries and Such

Central Austin is home to a handful of breweries (Live Oak; Hops & Grain), but the majority of production facilities involve some travel time. Thanks to recent legislative changes governing the consumption and distribution of beer in Texas, production breweries are now able to sell beer on premises to visitors who make time for the trek. Tasting rooms are fast becoming a part of the craft beer landscape. Gone are the days when patrons would have to pay for a tour and glassware as a means of sampling a brewery’s wares on site.

Located a stone’s throw from the farmland of Pflugerville, a small town recently incorporated into Austin’s northeastern periphery, Rogness Brewing Company has become a magnet for the surrounding exurbs with its trivia nights and brew-house film screenings.IMG_9559 Diane and Forrest Rogness, the long-time owners of Austin Homebrew Supply, are no strangers to the kinds of serendipitous brewing discoveries that result from a twist of this and a dash of that. Beers such as the chai-spiced Yogi amber beer and the lavender-scented Joi d’été saison augment a strong year-round collection of 22-oz. bottlings that includes a porter, pale ale, IPA, Scotch ale, and even a bière de garde. (See my “Rogness: A Plethora of Beer from Pflugerville” for an in-depth feature of this family-operated community hub.)

Also tucked away in the northern reaches of the Austin area is something you don’t see every day: a cinema that serves beer and food inside the inner sanctum of its theatres. And not just any beer, but craft beer brewed on site.Flix - Theater Exterior 2 Flix Brewhouse bills itself as the only first-run movie theatre in the world to incorporate a fully-functioning microbrewery. If your plans don’t involve a film, that’s fine too. The Flix Mix brewpub caters to the imbibing needs of the Round Rock community with in-house brews and guest taps. For a brewpub, the food menu is fairly straightforward, but as far as cinemas go, this is a major step up from the standard cineplex fare of overpriced popcorn and chocolate bars. The house beer lineup features a blend of nine regular, seasonal, and limited-edition beers brewed broadly in the Belgian, Scottish, and American traditions. Try a few samples before settling on a pint. At their best, the beers are refreshing (Flix Golden; Luna Rosa Wit), or they represent unique and often compelling experiments (Beer of the Dead; Brambler Sour). If your idea of a good time involves a mix of mainstream Hollywood movies and craft beer, you could do much worse than a trip out to the Round Rock area of Greater Austin. (See my “Flix: Craft Beer at a Theatre Near You” for more.)

Austin is a sprawling city, with plenty to see and do besides visiting breweries. If you had time to visit but one brewery while in the Austin area, I’d go with Jester King, not so much because I think they make great beer – they do – but more for the opportunity to get out into the surrounding countryside for an afternoon.IMG_9585 The rolling hills and semi-arid scenery, the quaint farmhouse brewery, the bustling tasting room, and the informative tour make for a worthwhile excursion. Add the nearby Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza with its wood-fired oven and cracker-like thin-crust pizza, and you’ve got a satisfying meal into the bargain as well. Jester King has generated plenty of buzz over the past few years for its farmhouse-style sour and barrel-aged beers, and aside from Petit Prince (not my fave), the hype is justified. Beers range from light-bodied, crisp, and dry to weighty and complex. With its bracing passion fruit, pineapple, and mild hay-like Brettanomyces character, Das Wunderkind Saison (4.5% ABV) occupies one end of the scale. Boxer’s Revenge (10.2% ABV) is representative of the other end, featuring pungent oak-Brett aromatics, a rich yet sour palate, and citrus-infused notes of caramel, pine needle, candied tangerine, and cinnamon-allspice. IMG_9582The mad fermentationists at Jester King have been hard at work developing the kinds of unique yeast strains that’ll contribute additional layers to the “house character” of the beers; look for subtle differences in taste between older and newer versions of Jester King regulars like Wytchmaker, Petit Prince, Mad Meg, and Noble King.

If the Flix format isn’t enough of a change of pace for you, and if the sour and barrel-aged offerings of Jester King haven’t succeeded in stimulating your palate, try something altogether different: saké. Austin’s Texas Saké is the only brewer of saké in the state – and the only one for several hundred miles around, for that matter. (Most North American saké production is concentrated on the West Coast, with a few others in the Twin Cities and Asheville.) Texas Saké rests its brewing philosophy on the foundations of wild fermentation and organic local ingredients. In the case of wild fermentation, Texas Saké brews in what is generally considered to be a less-refined style of saké, yamahai-shikomi, noted for its rustic, bold, gamey, tangy, and potentially funky aroma and flavour profile. As for the ingredients, the kura sources its Shinriki rice strain from the Houston area. (Kura is the Japanese term for saké brewery, and means, literally, storehouse.)IMG_9632 Shinriki is a rare ancestral strain to many of today’s saké rice varieties, and it has an interesting history in Texas (click on the photo to the right). It is a difficult rice to mill, and doesn’t have as large a shinpaku (starch packet) as the Yamada-nishiki variety used widely in Japan. This results in more amino acids and lipids, which contributes yet more gaminess and acidity to the flavour and aroma profile.

Texas Saké bills all of its offerings as junmai sakés, which means that the beverages are brewed with rice, water, and koji mold only. The kura focuses most of its energy on three different bottlings: a nigori (cloudy) offering called Rising Star; a karakuchi (dry) called Tumbleweed; and the less-dry Whooping Crane.Whooping Crane (tx-sake) Now, I understand the economics of producing an organic and artisanal beverage with which not too many people are familiar; however, at an average of $35 per 720mL bottle, the price point is firmly to the north of the dial. And even if rustic and less-refined sakés can make for a refreshing change from delicate and elegant sakés, Texas Saké’s offerings are a tad tart for the style. Be that as it may, these sakés represent a respectable effort, especially given that the folks at Texas Saké are working in a field where it’s not nearly as easy to tap into a broad pool of knowledge as it is in the North American craft beer industry. In spite of the difficulties, I find it encouraging that people are trying to produce more saké in North America, and genuinely wish Texas Saké success as they continue to hone their craft. Hats off to them so far.

*Don’t see your favourite brewery among the ones I profiled? Click on the “Leave a Reply” button located at the top of this post and tell Tempest’s readers about it.

*Next up in the series: taprooms, bottle shops, and beer lists

Related Tempest Articles

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beer Enthusiast (Brewpubs)

Getting Your Craft Beer Fill at Austin’s Taprooms and Bottleshops

Image Sources and Credits:

Austin postcard: centraltexasmurals.com

Rogness logo: F.D. Hofer

Flix Brewhouse: Flix Facebook page

Hill Country and Jester King photos: F.D. Hofer

Saibara plaque: F.D. Hofer

Whooping Crane: txsake.com

©2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Rogness: A Plethora of Beers from Pflugerville, Texas

Photo by author.

Photo by author.

I first met Forrest and Diane Rogness at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. I was “exploring” the less-beaten paths of the festival when a place name caught my eye: Pflugerville. I had lived on a street called Pflügerstrasse while living in the Neukölln district of Berlin, so I was immediately intrigued. (Narrowing down tasting options at the GABF sometimes comes down to these kinds of serendipitous coincidences.) The couple were pouring their Rogtoberfest, a style of which I’m particularly fond, so I had even more reason to stop by the booth. The rest of their full-flavoured beers made a significant impression amid the sea of beer that was flowing that weekend, and I made a note to pay their brewery a visit if in Austin some day. That day came sooner than expected. All the better.

Pflugerville got its start in the mid-1800s when a German immigrant, Henry Pflüger, settled in the area with his family. An erstwhile wealthy farmer in his native land, Pflüger lost his holdings in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the First Schleswig War. After fleeing the conflict and journeying across an ocean and into the heart of a continent, Pflüger and his family put their skills to work raising corn, wheat, rye, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and cattle. Texas seemed a safe bet for the Pflügers to start anew. Relatives had arrived in the area before him as part of a wave of immigration that saw ethnic Germans comprise more than five percent of the population of Texas by 1850. The descendents of Pflüger and other Germans attracted to the area built up a small but thriving community that witnessed the establishment of a Lutheran church in 1875 and the arrival of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad in 1904. But the Great Depression dealt the town a blow from which it almost didn’t recover. By 1949, a mere 250 souls inhabited Pflugerville.

Fast forward to the new millennium. Sited about fifteen miles northeast of Austin, the community benefitted handsomely from that city’s astounding growth in recent years. Pflugerville now boasts pfun for the whole pfamily. (No, I didn’t make that up – the town even has a newspaper called the Pflugerville Pflag.) And, since March 2012, Pflugerville has its own brewery – Rogness Brewing Company – located right on the seam separating light industry from pastoral fields.

The Rognesses are no strangers to brewing. The couple took up homebrewing in 1990 while working together at a camera shop in Iowa City. Upon landing in Austin later in the decade, the Rognesses purchased (and still own) Austin Homebrew Supply, for which they have developed over a thousand recipes as part of their beer kits. That experimental homebrewing ethos makes for some refreshing surprises that buoy quite an array of perennials, seasonals, and limited edition beers spanning both beloved and underrepresented styles.

Source: Rogness Website

Source: Rogness Website

Take, for example, the Yogi. Diane Rogness can’t go very long without a cup of chai. And daily samples of beer come with the territory of owning a brewery and homebrew shop. Why not combine some of the typical spices of chai with an amber beer, she thought? The result is a potpourri of peppery cinnamon, clove, and ginger intermingling with Belgian yeast aromatics and rich caramel.

A touch of southern France graces the Rogness saison, Joie d’été, a beer that also pays tribute to the long summers of Texas. True to their desire to brew unique beers that don’t sacrifice that all-important element of balance, the Rognesses have managed a deft saison with mild aromas of lemon zest and just the slightest hint of lavender. (I think I might just toss a dash of lavender in the next witbier or saison I brew.)

If the saison evokes warm breezes rippling through Provençal lavender fields, the Raspberry Tenebrous Stout is a beer to drink in praise of shadows. Raspberries add a ray of brightness to classic dry stout notes of roast barley and dark chocolate crisply accented with espresso bitterness.

A porter, pale ale, IPA, Scotch ale, and even a bière de garde round out the beers regularly available at the tasting room and in 22 oz. bottles available locally and in other Texas metropolitan areas. Though I didn’t sample it myself, the Rogness Shandy was also popular among the tasting crew that accompanied me to the brewery. Coming soon (pending label approval) is the second in their limited edition series, Sophina. A sour mash promises to deliver a tart zing counteracted by caramelized pineapple added after fermentation.

Courtesy of Rogness

                              Courtesy of Rogness

In the time since it opened its doors, Rogness Brewing Company has become a community hub for the surrounding exurbs of Austin. Recent changes to the laws regulating the sale and distribution of alcohol in Texas has translated into a tasting room where you can buy beers for drinking during their weekly events nights, or for enjoying the early evening with friends in the beer garden. (No growler fills to go in Texas yet. Still, that’s much better than the situation in neighbouring Oklahoma. Slowly do those legislative wheels grind.)

Rogness - Yappy HourTrivia nights are popular, as are the monthly firkin nights and the recently-inaugurated “Yappy Hour” for well-behaved four-legged friends. Thanks to the generosity of a local independent cinema that passes along films to Rogness, Saturday evenings feature independent and documentary film screenings right in the brewhouse. Recent screenings include Cinema 6 and Beer Hunter: The Movie, a documentary about the pioneering beer writer, Michael Jackson. Films are free. The Rognesses frequently donate the partial proceeds from a given event night’s beer sales to charities, a few of which have included Pflugerville Pets Alive and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. So you can drink rest-assured that you’re imbibing for a good cause.

Rogness recently upgraded from a seven-barrel system to a thirty-barrel system to meet growing demand for their beers. Barrel-aging is also on the horizon, with the couple currently considering a quarterly funk release. And as if Forrest and Diane Rogness don’t already have enough to do with an increasingly popular brewery and a thriving homebrew shop, the two have already begun work on their cidery in the warehouse next door. Named after a mythical shape-shifting seal from Iceland, look for a dry and off-dry cider from Selkie Cidery to hit the market at some point in 2014.

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Odd lots:

Image Courtesy of Rogness

Image Courtesy of Rogness

  • The Rognesses sell soap that a local craftsperson has made based on inspiration from their Yogi, Ost, and Joie d’été beers.
  • The artwork that adorns the tasting room walls? Those pieces issue from the hand of their daughter, who, at eight years of age, already knows that the main ingredients of beer are grain, hops, water, and yeast.

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Sources:

  • For the historical background influencing Pflüger’s decision to emigrate to the United States, you can consult the German Historical Institute’s German History in Documents and Images website. The section entitled “From Vormärz to Prussian Dominance, 1815-1866” gives a brief contextual snapshot of Central Europe at the time.
  • On the history of Pflugerville’s development, see this section of the official Pflugerville website.
  • The Texas Historical Association’s website has an informative article on the development of the “German Belt” that ran from the humid Coastal Plain near Houston to the Hill Country outside of Austin.