Last year was the year of Peticolas Brewing Company. They burst out of the shadows of the Design District to take the beer universe by storm, becoming the first North Texas brewery to win a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012 after only being in business for less than a year. Spurred by this victory, Peticolas went on to win just about everything in 2013, including several best North Texas brewery awards and another half dozen medals at the U.S. Open Beer Championship.
I'm not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but it seems like Peticolas' Design District neighbors Community Beer Company are poised to have a similar run of success in 2014. Last October, they won Dallas' only 2013 GABF medal (a gold) for their Public Ale, after only being in business for less than a year. This year, they've already released Ascension Coffee Porter to favorable reviews and look set to grow even further. There don't seem to be too many hard feelings, though, as the Peticolas crew was sitting at the same table as the Community crew while they both waited to see if their names would be called.
Community released its latest offering last week: Minivan Wheat Wine.
Originally brewed in a small batch to celebrate the birth of Brewmaster Jamie Fulton's third son, Will, Minivan was so well-received at Community's first anniversary party that they decided to issue it as a limited release. If the name still sounds odd, consider for a moment the transportation-based consequences of fathering three sons.
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Wheat wine is a relatively new style of beer that combines the high-alcohol, fruity/floral barleywine style with the deliciousness of wheat malt. NB: The "wine" in the name simply refers to the fact that these beers tend to have an ABV similar to that of wine (10 to 14 percent). There are no grapes.
I enjoyed Minivan quite a bit more than I've ever enjoyed a barleywine. It seems like many brewers who attempt barleywines try to overcome the inherent funkiness of the style by throwing in an abundance of hops to even it out, but to my palate this just leads to a mess of flavors and competing aromas. Minivan still has plenty of hops for sure, but the hops hang around in the background and serve more to highlight the tropical fruit flavors than to suppress them. It pours a beautiful reddish-brown color with a meringue-like head that leaves a nice lace. At 10.84 percent ABV, you can definitely taste the presence of alcohol, but it's a pleasant, friendly taste. It leaves you with a syrupy mouthfeel that lingers around longer than I expected it to.
Wheat beers are to beer like cake is to bread, just an extra delicious and fatty version of the genre. By staying fully committed to the wheat malt base and accentuating it with the best aspects of barleywine -- fruit and booze -- Community has created something truly wonderful. There's something attractive here for everyone, from the sorority girl who likes Blue Moon to the beer snob who wants an obscure, complicated style. But even though it's light enough to bring a growler to soccer practice next time it's your turn to drive the carpool, please remember the nearly 11 percent ABV and make a good choice. Make someone else drive.
As of the formal release last night, Minivan is available at Community's taproom, as well as Dallas Beer Kitchen, LUCK, Goodfriend, Flying Saucer Fort Worth and East Side Social Club for our friends in Denton.