The Rise of the DFW Brew

Free from the hangover of the '90s craft beer bust, Dallas' small brewers cheer another round of growth.

Dallas lawyer Scott Frieling, one of the founders of DEBC, says that's one reason he's fashioning a lawsuit based on equal protection grounds.

"The law can't treat entities differently for any reason," Frieling says. "That's what equal protection is about."

He gives the example of the brewpub Gordon Biersch. Based in California, the chain operates more than 33 restaurants across the United States, including two in Texas. They also sell kegs and packaged beers in liquor stores in Texas. Lone Star brewers can't do that.

John Sims at his brewery, Four Corners.
Mark Graham
John Sims at his brewery, Four Corners.
Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s inaugural tour in January.
Mike Brooks
Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s inaugural tour in January.

"So, we're at a distinct disadvantage to out-of-state brewers," Frieling says. "From a legal stance, what you have to ask yourself is, 'Is there a rational basis?' And the answer is no. The only person who would organize their laws so that out-of-state breweries have an advantage is a crazy person."

Frieling, who has a firebrand spirit, believes the judicial route offers less resistance than the Legislature and is the cheaper option. "If you really want a fair shake," he says, "the court system is set up for a David versus Goliath situation where you're on the same footing."

Meanwhile, Metzger, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and Open the Taps will continue to work the legislative angle.

"If I had an hour with every legislator in the state," Metzger says, "I think I could convince them because I think we have a really good, reasonable argument. But, it takes me an hour to explain it, and I don't have an hour with everyone. That's part of the challenge."

The next legislative session begins January 8, less than three months away. The Texas Craft Brewers Guild has hired a lobbyist and Open The Taps is considering doing the same. Unfortunately, the WBDT has its own PAC and many on its payroll.

A mid-year growth analysis released by the Brewers Association reported a 14-percent jump in dollar sales for craft beers in the United States for the first half of 2012. Volume jumped 12 percent during that same time period. Craft brewers sold 6 million barrels of beer in the first six months of 2012.

"Beer-passionate Americans are opening breweries at a rate faster than at any time since the day Prohibition ended for the beverage of moderation," wrote Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association regarding the study. "There is nearly a new brewery opening for every day of the year, benefiting beer lovers and communities in every area across the country."

North Texas has 14 breweries either established or in the works today. And as brewers promised, they are cooking up quality stuff. To drive home the point, Peticolas Brewing Co. recently won a rookie-year gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for Royal Scandal, an English-style pale ale. Like the swift flight of a well-launched dart, Dallas craft beer hit a bull's-eye.

"I don't know how things are going to change after the gold medal," says owner Michael Peticolas, "but in just three days since the announcement I've already had probably a record number of orders."

Peticolas had already purchased more brewery space, which will triple his output capacity. Meanwhile, calls from Austin to sell his beer there are largely ignored. "For years I drove down there for good beer, now they need to come up here."

John Sims at Four Corners is working hastily to keep up — or catch up. The brewery plans to ship its first beers, Rojas Red Ale and Local Buzz Honey Rye Ale, in early November. This time around, bars and restaurants call him wanting to know when their beer is going to be available. What a difference a decade can make.

He also sees a shift in preferences compared with his days at the Copper Tank. Back then the best-seller was light beer. Now, consumers' palates are more diversified and exploratory, or as Sims puts it, "Their preferences have changed in the favor of flavor."

Sims is giddy about the second craft beer boom to hit Dallas. "I'm not a kid in a candy store, but I am a man in a beer factory, and that's about the same."

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Home brewer here. Great article. Thanks for supporting our local brewers. The Temptress (Imperial Milk Stout) by Lakewood Brewing is AMAZING. But, Rahr, DEBC, Peticolas all make quality stuff as well. My friends and I hope to join them in the business someday soon...


@Dallas_Observer Really great article, keep up the awesome work!


While Humperdinks is a brewpub they make some of the finest beers in the Metroplex.