The Fort Worth edition of Untapped Fest is bigger than it's ever been. Returning to its perfectly picked home at Panther Island, this year's festival has more than 80 breweries offering 300 different elixirs, with indie icons Built to Spill and Lone Star songwriting great Hayes Carll headlining the musical side of things. The past couple of years have seen stormy weather play a large role in proceedings, but here's hoping the June date — pushed back from May last year — helps keep the unpredictability and excitement flowing from the taps and not the skies.
For those beer lovers who have heard all the talk about a North Texas beer boom, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to get a quick taste of dozens local breweries, including many that are still quite new to the region. But the music is an equally important part of the equation. So to help maximize your Untapped experience, here are the best beer and band pairings for Untapped Fort Worth 2016.
Built to Spill (Rahr & Sons Stage - 9 p.m.)
Suggested Pairing: Ninkasi Brewing’s Maiden the Shade (Eugene, OR – 6.8% ABV)
This Doug Martsch-led indie crew still knows how to kick out the guitar jams after well over two decades together. The Idaho outfit’s tunes straddle the hard-to-negotiate line between accessible and challenging like few other bands can. Last year’s Untethered Moon proved a group can own a signature sound and keep it fresh for years, surviving stylistic trends and shifts in the industry. Before hitting the final main stage set of the night, hit the Ninkasi tent for a mouth full of Maiden the Shade, an IPA brewed in the Pacific Northwest, not too terribly far from the band’s home. It's an approachable yet distinctly unique beer with bright shimmering notes of pine and citrus that keep things fresh and a bit unpredictable.
Grupo Fantasma (Rahr & Sons Stage - 5:30 p.m.)
Suggested Pairing: Left Hand Brewing’s Wicked JuJu (Longmont, CO – 7.2%ABV)
The term “Texas music” gets thrown around a hell of a lot, and country and Americana acts dominate that conversation for the most part. But Grupo Fantasma, Austin’s gifted Latin funk collective, is as Texan, if not more so, than any random frat-boy ballcap-wearing singer can claim to be. This crew served as the dearly departed Prince’s backing band on occasion and has played Bonnaroo, among a number of other high-profile gigs over the years. Left Hand Brewing’s Wicked JuJu, just like Grupo Fantasma’s music, is a pop in the face that leaves you waiting for the next wallop. This oily black herb spice ale brings a touch of spicy heat mixed with ginger flavor, plus some sweet maltiness for delightful brew that can’t be easily categorized.
Bummer Vacation (Rahr & Sons Stage - 4:10 p.m.)
Suggested Pairing: Collective Brewing Project’s American Sour Red (Fort Worth – 6.5% ABV)
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The folks behind Untapped have always been keen on booking local bands. Though Bummer Vacation hasn’t been around very long, its 2014 LP, Creative Differences, is all that's needed to get pumped for this set. It's dream pop that's reminiscent of the Cure, but with a bit more swagger, grit and fuzz. According to the band’s Facebook page, some new songs will be offered at Untapped, which is surely reason enough to hoist those 2-ounce cups of one of Fort Worth’s funkiest beers in appreciation. There’s not a better brewery at crafting sour and wild ales in North Texas than Collective Brewing Project, and this fruity and refreshing ale lends a tartness that keeps things from getting too sweet or stale.
Hayes Carll (Rahr & Sons Stage - 7:10 p.m.)
Suggested Pairing: Big Bend Brewing’s Terlingua Golden Ale (Alpine, TX – 6% ABV)
It took him several years, but Carll came back recently with a new record which reestablished him as a pure songwriting force. Released in April, Lovers and Leavers is Carll’s quietest and seemingly most personal record yet. In a solo acoustic setting, Carll’s hilarious stage banter and poetic delivery can hold a crowd tight, but with the main stage full band setup, his show draws its power from highly charged numbers like “Little Rock” and “KMAG YOYO." He’s come a long way since becoming the first truly independent artist to have a No. 1 album on the Americana charts, and now that he’s back with a fine record, there’s no reason to think he won’t keep going. If you want to be the most obvious drinker at the fest, grab a sample of Pedernales Brewing’s super-drinkable Robert Earl Keen Honey Pils, but if you want to pair Carll’s set with a brew that goes down easy without sacrificing some bold notes and genuine character, then Big Bend’s Terlingua Golden Ale will be well-suited for your own Drunken Poet’s Dream.