Words of Wisdom and Cautionary Tales From the Brewmasters of DFW

Words of Wisdom and Cautionary Tales From the Brewmasters of DFW
Allison V. Smith

Behind Dallas' booming craft beer scene is an eccentric (and exclusively male) batch of master brewers, former engineers and lawyers and homebrewers who have devoted their life to getting you tastefully drunk. Over the last few months, we sat down with the head brewers at 11 area breweries, to learn how their businesses were built, what consumers don't understand about brewing, and how to break into the beer game. Their answers have been edited and condensed. Read responsibly.

“It is a glamorized lifestyle. I don’t know if all these people getting into the industry really understand what they are getting into. It is a lot of work and takes even more capital.”

The Brewers

Fritz Rahr

“Brewing beer is the easy part,” says Community’s Jamie Fulton.
Allison V. Smith
“Brewing beer is the easy part,” says Community’s Jamie Fulton.
Franconia’s Dennis Wehrman to young brewers: “Have fun. Have fun. Have fun.”
Allison V. Smith
Franconia’s Dennis Wehrman to young brewers: “Have fun. Have fun. Have fun.”

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth

It was Fritz Rahr's great-great grandfather who, after immigrating from Rhineland, Germany, began homebrewing, a hobby that grew to a major malting company that now supplies malt and brewing materials to 90-percent of breweries in the United States. Rahr started the Fort Worth-based brewery in 2004.

Dennis Wehrman

Franconia Brewing Company, McKinney

Wehrman grew up in Nurnberg, Germany, with a rich family-brewing tradition. His great-great grandfather owned a local brewery and his mother was brewery lab technician. Dennis started working in a brewery at age 12 and, after graduating from Doemans Brewmaster School in Munich, moved to Texas and founded Franconia Brewing in 2008.

Jeremy Hunt

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas

After moving to Austria to finish his studies and become a priest, Hunt had a divine intervention: he discovered great beer and a great woman. He came home married and a brewer. After working at both Mercury Brewing Company and Redhook, he studied under Sam Calagione at DogFish Head Craft Brewery before being recruited to Dallas.

Michael Peticolas

Peticolas Brewing Company, Dallas

It was Mom who first introduced Michael to the ins and outs of homebrewing and what it meant to share a beer made at home with friends. Now operating on a large scale, Peticolas has amassed a nice collection of hardware for its beers, including a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its English Pale Ale, Royal Scandal.

Grant Wood

Revolver Brewing, Granbury

Though Grant Wood came to the brewing outpost of Granbury by way of Samuel Adams Brewery, he got his start as a lab technician at Pearl Brewing Company and Lone Star. The Irving native then spent 16 years at Samuel Adams before returning to North Texas to work as head brewer at Revolver.

Brad Perkinson

FireWheel Brewing Co., Rowlett

After getting laid off from his job, founder and brewer Brad Perkinson took a gamble and opened this small brewery in Rowlett on a shoestring budget. For the first two years of operation, it was a one-man operation, sustained with the help of friends. He recently hired his first official employee, got a brewery dog, and plans to expand soon.

Wim Bens

Lakewood Brewing Company, Garland

As a boy, Bens often traveled to Belgium for family vacations, and over the years developed a taste for the local beers there. After graduating from SMU, he settled into East Dallas, dug the vibe and started homebrewing. Soon he enrolled in a program with the American Brewers Guild, had an apprenticeship at Rahr & Sons, and opened Lakewood in 2012.

Zach Petty

Four Corners Brewing Co., Dallas

Prior to his job at Four Corners, Petty homebrewed for almost a decade and learned a lot about the trade while working at the local mecca of all things homebrew-related, Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson. He took over the job as head brewer at Four Corners last year after studying under previous brewmaster John Sims.

Jamie Fulton

Community Beer Company, Dallas

While studying culinary arts in Europe, Fulton discovered the finer art of craft beer. Upon returning home, he enrolled in brewing courses through University of California at Davis, interned at Blue Star Brewing in San Antonio and returned to Europe once again to study at the Doemens Academy in Munich. He then worked at The Covey in Fort Worth, where he started producing award-winning beer, and is now doing the same at Community.

Cody Martin

Martin House Brewing Company, Fort Worth

Formally trained in engineering, Martin started homebrewing just over a decade ago. He worked in environmental engineering before giving notice and opening a brewery on the banks of the Trinity River in Fort Worth.

Caton Orrell

Grapevine Craft Brewery, Grapevine

It was Dad who first introduced homebrewing to Caton Orrell, a Denton native. He moved out of state to hoppier pastures, but made a beeline back to Texas to work at Grapevine Craft Brewery. He worked at both River City Brewing Co. in Wichita, Kansas, and Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, where he worked on the Smokestack Series.

What's the greatest misconception about being a brewer?

Petty: A lot of people think we sit around and drink beer all day. A majority of the time I'm a glorified janitor. It's a lot of cleaning. You have to clean and sanitize to get to each process, then you do the process, and then you clean and sanitize once you finish the process.

Fulton: That if you can brew great beer at home, you can do it in a production brewery. Being a brewmaster is loosely the equivalent of being a chef. Just because you can cook it up with the best in your kitchen at home doesn't mean you're cut out to run a professional kitchen. It's even more true for brewing in a professional production brewery. Besides managing the logistics of the processes, much of my job is troubleshooting broken or malfunctioning equipment, and you seldom encounter the same problem twice. Brewing beer is the easy part.

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