Once again, the end of another calendar year brings us face-to-face with the toughest craft beer list in North Texas. The year 2015 saw even more tremendous growth in the local beer market with a record 14 new breweries opening in the DFW Metroplex, one even as late as today.
Sadly, 2015 also saw the first closures of the current generation of craft breweries with Rowlett’s FireWheel Brewing and Fort Worth’s Bearded Eel Craft Brewery shutting their doors for financial reasons. The beer market is becoming very competitive as consumers have an ever-expanding selection of domestic and imported products from around the world fighting for taps and shelf space.
As ever, the rules for this list are very simple: To be eligible, beers must have made their first commercial debut here in the North Texas market during the year, whether they are newly created products or just craft breweries expanding into our region. New and local brewers have somewhat of an advantage only in that their beers are usually all new and the most accessible.
These represent the best beers that I personally found during the past year but by no means an exhaustive or absolute list. One can only judge beers that are individually encountered and consumed, so many equally good beers may have regrettably been overlooked. If you have any additions to or criticisms of this list, send me a note.
10. 903 Balcones Barrel-Aged Sasquatch. This version of their imperial milk stout spends time in whiskey barrels from Waco’s Balcones Distilling, toning down its inherent sweetness and rounding out the flavor profile with a wonderful marriage of products.
9. Bitter Sisters Hissy Fit Marzen Lager. One of the first beers from a brand-new Addison brewery hits a home run with an absolutely perfect German märzen-style lager that is eminently quaffable.
8. Abita Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale. From their barrel-aged series, this rye pale ale is sweet, clean and pretty much as close to drinking a watered-down rye bourbon without the alcoholic burn as one can produce.
7. Peticolas Ghost of Alfred Brown. Kudos to Peticolas for brewing one of the best chile beers for Halloween, his Alfred Brown English ale brewed with just the right touch of the infamous ghost pepper (bhut jolokia).
6. Save the World Sol Hominis. The “Sun of Man” from this brand-new brewery from Marble Falls is a clean, biscuity, lightly fruity version of a Belgian golden strong ale that only just misses the tripel style by a hair.
5. Oskar Blues IPA. From an already hops-saturated brewery comes a unexpectedly new take on the IPA, brewed exclusively with four Southern Hemisphere hops varietals for a bright and compelling flavor that sets it apart in a crowded market.
4. Strange Land Entire. This new Austin brewery has brewed many excellent examples of Old World beers, the Entire being a dark English porter that hits all the style flavor elements as good as any British import.
3. Rahr & Sons XI Russian Imperial Stout. Surprisingly, this German-heritage brewery has turned out one of the best imperial stouts in years: a smooth and full-bodied beer that is not too sharply hopped for the style, a limited release made for their eleventh anniversary.
2. Jester King Reposé. A native saison brewed with Texas yeast and bacteria and then slowly fermented in French brandy barrels, this beer is mild, complex and only slightly sour but immensely satisfying and comparable to any Belgian import.
1. Braindead Caribbean Stout. Tapped only briefly for an in-house beer pairing dinner, this moderately strong stout was brewed with espresso beans and aged in rum barrels for a velvety, entrancing depth of flavor that had me going back for more. Please make this again.
Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout, Abita Wrought Iron IPA, Intrinsic IP-80, Shiner Wicked Ram IPA, Noble Rey Vertigo, Dogfish Head BEER Thousand, Wells & Young Courage Russian Imperial Stout, Gordon Biersch (Park Lane) Centennial IPA, Bayou Teche Acadie, and a days-old keg of unpasteurized, unfilered Pilsner Urquell straight from the Czech Republic brought in for a special event at the now-closed SMU World of Beer location.
Happy New Year!