Oak Cliff Brewing Co. Debuted at Brew Riot — But They Still Don't Have a Brewery to Call Their Own

This was the initial Munn Harris design plan for Oak Cliff Brewing Co., before sewer main problems forced the upstart brewing company to abandon their property across from the Dallas Zoo.
This was the initial Munn Harris design plan for Oak Cliff Brewing Co., before sewer main problems forced the upstart brewing company to abandon their property across from the Dallas Zoo.
Munn Harris

There was a lot of beer — and a lot of great beer — at Brew Riot, the homebrew fest that took over Bishop Arts on Sunday afternoon. Established breweries shared their goods, homebrewing clubs showed off seriously above average beers (I would like a dozen six-packs of Trunk and Commerce Brewing's Scythe Saison, please) and beer lovers wandered the streets drinking and chatting with an increasingly rare type of beer producer: one who brews great beer for nothing more than the love of beer. As craft beer continues to prove itself as a trendy cash crop for the alcohol industry, craft beer loses a lot of that sweet, idyllic earnestness every day.

One group of earnest homebrewers didn't show up just to brag on their brews: they were unveiling their dream for the neighborhood where they grew up. Oak Cliff Brewing Co. debuted at Brew Riot with four solid beers: Ruby's Last Shot (an outrageously refreshing grapefruit gose), Oak Cliff Export (a dortumunder lager), Dog Catcher (an ESB) and Bishop Black (a shwarzbier). 

"It was great to get out and meet the community," says Joel Denton, Oak Cliff Brewing's founder/brewer. "Our Bishop Black lager won the Best Lager award, so that was the icing on the cake for our first public event."

Oak Cliff Brewing Co. isn't a typical group of hophead homebrewers. These beer lovers have a clear, concise dream for the brewery they want to bring to the neighborhood where they grew up. Up until recently, OCBC had a plan, a location and even renderings of their dream space. 

"We had a property on contract across from the Dallas Zoo at the end of 2015," Denton says. "That deal fell through because of a sewer main from 1909 running under the building, the same main that drains the entire zoo and surrounding neighborhoods. The city required it to be rerouted at the owner's cost and we couldn't come to terms, so we backed out of the contract."

The proposed taproom, designed by Munn Harris, for the Oak Cliff Brewing Co. property that fell through.
The proposed taproom, designed by Munn Harris, for the Oak Cliff Brewing Co. property that fell through.
Munn Harris

OCBC commissioned Dallas firm Munn Harris Architects to design a brewery and taproom, which recently won an award from the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects, even though the building never came to fruition. A description of the project from AIA Dallas' website paints a picture of the kind of space Oak Cliff could really get behind:

With a reclaimed industrial warehouse and minimal budget as a result of high equipment cost, the proposal for Oak Cliff Brewing aims to create a welcoming place for the public through minimal design expense. Using a large pecan tree on site as inspiration, reclaimed wood elements act as a unifying palette and define the character of both indoor and outdoor spaces. The jurors commended the modest proposal and its ability to prove that you can do a lot through a little.

"The sting hasn't worn off on that deal yet — it would've made a great brewery and I think would've done some really positive things for that east edge of Oak Cliff," Denton says.

Denton hasn't given up, which is why he's still rooting around Oak Cliff looking for a new home for his dream brewery.  

"We're currently in search of a 10,000- 20,000-square-foot property to build the brewery," Denton says. "We are committed to building it in Oak Cliff, so that limits our options some, but we feel it's important to be in our namesake community — all of the founders are Oak Cliff natives." 

Denton has backers and is ready to build as soon as he finds a location, he says, which he hopes to nail down in the next few weeks. Once up and running — by the first quarter of 2017, he hopes — OCBC will be a "a packaging brewery with a goal to be in bottles or cans within six months of opening," he says. 

"We'll also have a large taproom that is integrated with brewing operations," he says. "We want brewing to be like a community event where we can engage visitors in the beer-making process." 

Small Brewpub (which recently ramped up production) notwithstanding, with Four Corners' recent announcement that they will soon abandon their space in Trinity Groves to move into the Cedars, that leaves an even bigger production brewery deficit on this side of the Trinity — and Denton, who plans to leave his job as IT executive to run the brewery, wants to fix that.

"I'd been entertaining the idea of opening a brewery in south Dallas since 2010, but just around this time last year decided to get serious about it and pulled this team and concept together," he says. "Given our roots in Oak Cliff and the lack of a production brewery in south Dallas, we chose it both as our location and our brand identity."


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