On Saturday, thousands of local beer snobs flocked to Fair Park for the annual Big Texas Beer Fest. Started by locals Chad and Nellie Mongomery after their visit to the Great American Beer Festival in 2010, the Big Texas Beer Fest is a charitable event that provides a portion of their proceeds to the North Texas Food Bank. This year, more than 100 breweries signed up to hand out 2oz samples to thousands of local beer snobs.
I joined the procession of beer drinkers at Fair Park's Automobile Building. After my ID was scanned, I exchanged my ticket for a beer sample card and made my way inside the Automobile Building where I received my acrylic sampling cup. The wonderful thing about beer festivals is that, while you are given a beer sample card, breweries don't always check off your samples. Whether it's negligence or beer-pouring angels who don't care about cards, this allows your typical attendee to try more than 12 beers without having to purchase extra sample tickets. That said, the festival made an effort to remind everyone that this was a "beer tasting event," not a "beer drinking event." Right.
Most of the breweries came from Texas. I made my way first to local favorite Peticolas, where I was able to sample a special version of Golden Opportunity cask dry-hopped with lemondrop hops. As the name implies, this choice of hops gave Golden Opportunity a nice citrusy hint to its already great taste. This was a much better version of the already fantastic Golden Opportunity.
In search of other interesting beers, I headed to Franconia's booth, where I sampled the Bordeaux Triple Dunkle, a Belgian strong ale, which is better than the Franconia Dunkle. While the regular Franconia dunkle has hints of mocca and chocolate, the Bordeaux had a much stronger kick of those flavors, which made for nice chocolatey coffee taste. Also being offered at Franconia's booth was their "McKinney Champagne," an American strong ale; this is a beer that is sweet and tart, living up to its name. While I don't think a whole pint of the champagne ale would be for me, it can see this being a well-liked beer among people who prefer mimosas to beer.
The soon-to-open Tupps Brewery from McKinney was also there, and I was able to sample their current version of Texas Shade, their wheat beer brewed with different flavors for the season. The current version of Texas Shade is best probably described as a banana beer, as it had a pronounced banana flavor when I sampled it. While bananas don't sounds like a great mix with beer, it is a beer I look forward to drinking again.
Ft. Worth's own Rahr & Sons was in attendance where I was able to sample their Bucking Bock, a heller bock, which is a wonderful light bock beer that isn't always available, but highly recommended and very drinkable.
Community Beer Co. was offering samples of Brett's Get It On, a sour/wild ale. This was one of the more complex and interesting beers I had on Saturday; the taste was sour, fruity, and and even carried a very slight earthy tone. I missed out on Community's unique version of Legion, cask-conditioned with raspberries, which had run out shortly after the start of general admission entry.
Lewisville's Cobra Brewing Co.'s Donut Dunker was one of the better beers I was able to sample at Big Texas Beer Fest; a porter that is brewed and fermented with hazelnut coffee, it tasted almost like coffee, which was fantastic. With a smooth, light body and slightly bitter aftertaste, it is a beer that coffee drinkers should seek out. And possibly consume with/for breakfast.
Another interesting local beer I was able to sample was Lakewood's Brabo's Cut. A Belgian-style dark ale and a member of their Legendary series, Brabo's Cut has a complex flavor that is sweet with sour and fig notes coming through.
Of course, for all the great beer being handed out by the various breweries, there was also a fair share of terrible beer. Fruit beers have been very popular this year, and I am glad the trend is being taken seriously. Traveler Beer Company from Vermont was offering three fruit beers on Saturday: a lemon shandy, an apple ale, and a grapefruit ale. Their grapefruit ale is a good fruit beer, but the other two offerings from Traveler were a waste of calories. The Curious Traveler Shandy tasted like someone poured Country Time Lemonade drink mix into a beer, and the Forbidden Traveler Apple Ale was exactly the type of beer you would order if Trolli Sour Apple Rings are your favorite thing on earth, or if you want an appletini instead of a beer.
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By far, the most interesting brew I had at Big Texas Beer Fest was from Texas Mead Works, a meadery located in Seguin, Texas. Mead is an alcoholic beverage that comes from fermenting honey with water, and it is also considered the oldest alcoholic beverage in history. My sample of Minstrel's Mead, a semi-sweet mead, was smooth and tart, with very mild sweetness and syrupy mouthfeel. The blackberry mead was something else entirely; tasting like blackberry wine with a strong honey flavor, it was thick, sweet, and strong. While not the best thing I drank on Saturday, it was by far the most unique. So, if your hipster friends are trying to drink mid-century cocktails like Don Draper, one-up them; buy yourself some mead, and drink like a Scandinavian
By 5 o'clock, the food truck lines outside were long and the PA system was torturing hungry souls with more speaker feedback than music. The crowd's overall intoxication was growing, which was clear from the constant "Oooh!" every time someone dropped their sample cup. It was at that point that people began to slowly depart, making their way back to the DART station or the parking lot.
It was a worthy experience. If you go next year, don't forget your pretzel necklace, so everyone knows you're real a beer snob, too.