Earlier this week, a local home brewer offered a dispatch from last weekend's home brewing competition, Brew Riot. Today, we hear from our beer writer, Steven Harrell, who judged the event.
Way back in 2009, some Oak Cliff Dwellers brought together eight home brewers for a friendly competition behind Eno's in the Bishop Arts District. Five years later, on Sunday afternoon, this was the scene: Over 60 homebrew teams pouring 200-plus different beers for a crowd of over 1,500 people. Brew Riot is, without question, Dallas' best homebrew contest, is damn near the top of the list for beer events in general, and is perhaps the best single example of how Dallas' beer love has blossomed in the last few years.
There's something refreshing about how homespun and community-based it is. Folks stream past booths pouring Dallas' most popular local beers like Peticolas and Deep Ellum to get a first look at the unknowns -- something usually foreign to the Dallas psyche. Suggestive labels that would never be approved by the TABC are proudly hung behind booths. Groups of homebrewers, normally very protective of their hard-crafted treats, freely pour them for any random person with an approved sample cup.
Most times, I'd rather hear about your "great" food truck idea than about the brewery you've been "thinking about for awhile now." But at Brew Riot? Anything is possible. A few years ago, an unlicensed Lakewood Brewing Co. poured beer. Four Corners and Peticolas are also Brew Riot alumni who successfully made the jump to legit businesses.
I talked to Stacey Spillers, who runs the event with her husband, Matt. She emphasized the importance of the home brewers to the experience. "It's very special to make something and choose to share it with someone else," she said. "It's their passion for their hobby that makes Brew Riot work. We wanted to create a forum for that exchange to happen."
As a judge, I probably had more than my fair share of brews during the days leading up to the event. But, since it was a blind tasting, I can't fully give credit where it's due to some of those that I wasn't able to go back and track down once the official blinders came off. Either way, here are a few of my favorites from the event. If I missed any, feel free to tell me about it in the comments.
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Mox Nix Brewery, Texas Breakfast Stout -- My oh my. Founders Breakfast Stout is one of the country's most coveted beers, and these fellas made something even better. I can't overemphasize how good this was. The oatmeal, coffee, chocolate, and grains all blended with just enough milk sugar to hold it all together. I would buy a six-pack tomorrow. And then another the next day.
On Rotation's Jalapeno Saison -- I actually blind-tasted this one at judging, and proceeded to tell my friends and family about it for the next week. Somehow, the brewers extracted the flavor of jalapeno without letting the spiciness overpower your palette. And, in a saison? You're crazy, homebrewers, and we love you for it.
Steam Theory's Triple IPA -- Hops on hops on hops on hops. But, it wasn't overly hoppy. Does that make sense? Does anything make sense? We just want to live in our perfectly-hopped world without your judgement.
The Manhattan Project's Half-Life American Pale Ale -- The Manhattan Project team thoroughly dominated the day with four appearances on the scoreboard. My favorite brew from them was their American Pale Ale, just because it so fully fit into the textbook description of what it should have tasted like. After a day of cherry-chipotle-stouts and watermelon hefeweizens, it was nice to taste beer again.