The Big Texas Beer Fest hit Dallas the weekend before last with a storm. The buzz surrounding the event was already in full swing prior to the event, and it only got bigger as the date got closer. Fans of craft beer showed up in hordes wearing everything from craft related shirts, hats, tattoos and were lined up around the historic Fair Park Automobile Building in Dallas.
I’ll admitt, I was leary of the success of an event of this scale (put together only in the last six months), that was to take place in the, until recently craft beer starved Dallas. They even proclaimed that they sought to be the Great American Beer Festival of Texas. Lofty goals to say the least. However, I had enough confidence in promoters, and longtime craft beer supporters, Chad and Nellie Montgomery to make the trip from San Antonio for the event. After all, there are a few new breweries in Dallas, and I had to check them out.
Aside from long lines to get in (not uncommon for a festival this size), food trucks running out during the event and live music that when coupled with the noise of the crowd made it hard to hear anything, the event was an overwhelming success. Sure, there were those present who were looking to consume whatever they could, but I observed most patrons genuinely trying styles of beers they otherwise would not have. Though the crowds grew larger the longer the event went on, most folks were courtious to each other and I observed many striking up conversations with those they’d never met, which is often a huge downer to large beer festivals.
Texas definalety took center stage with representations from most of existing breweries in Texas, including new comers such as Armadillo Ale Works in Denton. Armadillo may soon be a favorite of mine with their approach to not only making craft beers, but also finely crafted sodas as well. A trait that I highly admire in Houston’s Saint Arnold’s and Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, Colorado. Other North Texas breweries, such as Peticolas, Deep Ellum (their Double Brown Stout and Baltic Porter were incredible!) Franconia Brewing, Lakewood Brewing and Firewheel Brewing were also present.
Austin’s Jester King took center stage with what felt like the longest line there and co-founder/brewer Ron Extract took a few minutes to talk with me. Extract stated they were excited to be in Dallas, not just to spread the word about Jester King, but also to bring more attention to beer brewed the right way and antiquated laws in Texas that needed changing. Extract is referring to such laws as those that prevent brewpubs from distributing off-site and production breweries not have on-site sales, as well as the efforts of such organizations such as Texas based Open The Taps, who are working to help change those laws. In fact, Open The Taps signed up more than 30 new craft beer enthusiasts to their cause.
Other Texas breweries such as Ft Worth based Rahr and Sons, Houston’s Saint Arnold, Katy based No Label Brewing, Real Ale out of Blanco, Texas and many more were present to show that Texas is fast becoming craft beer focused.
Although much of the festival space was taken up by other U.S. based breweries, such as powerhouses Stone Brewing Co and Dogfish Head, and many international ones, it was truly great to see the strides Texas has made. Chad and Nellie truly did a great job showcasing American craft beer without losing focus on Texas.
Was I happy that I went? Absolutely. It showed many people that Texas could not only have a sucessful, well run beer festival, but that we’re have enough of our own beer to feature. Shocking for some I think to see that North Texas had some much to offer, when many focus on Austin as the beer capital of Texas. In fact, both Dallas-Ft-Worth and Austin made the 31 brewery ballot on nextooze.com to be voted BeerCity USA for 2012. For those who wish, the chance to vote goes live May 1 and runs until May 13.