Just outside the average Dallasite's comfort zone lies some North Texas beer that's well worth the drive.
Rabbit Hole Brewing in Justin has been canning the official brew of the greatest-ever American-born hockey player since the team of Matt Morriss, Tom Anderson and Laron Cheek swung open their doors in late 2013. Mike Modano's 561 kolsch, one in a line of off-the-beaten-path offerings, offers a clue into how this trio does things — and the unique position they're trying to occupy in a craft brew scene that now boasts more than 40 local independent breweries and/or brewpubs.
"A lot of what we focus on is underrepresented styles, or disrespected styles," Morriss says. "When we were making the transition from just a group of homebrewers to doing it professionally, hardly anyone was doing an English pale; no one would ever say that a brown ale was their favorite beer. It took us a year and a half before we did our first American IPA, largely because everyone was doing one. Our [Rude Jester] IPA is popular in its season, but we feel what sets us apart is how unique our three year-round beers are."
It all starts with the 561, named in honor of the career goal-scoring mark of Modano, adopted son of Dallas after helping to deliver the 1999 Stanley Cup. Modano was an early investor in Crazy Water, based in Mineral Wells, owned by Carol and Scott Elder.
Carol enlisted the boys for help with Christmas presents for her major investors one year, and just like that, Modano was gifted a small batch of what would eventually become Rabbit Hole's Wanderlust Saison. He liked it, but after a couple more tastes, decided he liked Anderson's Kolsch even more. After a few more conversations, Modano also became an early investor in Rabbit Hole, and when he retired in 2011, they settled on the beer's name, Mike's final goal tally.
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561 is one of Rabbit Hole's most accessible brews, crisp and clean with the subtlest fruity notes and heavier floral notes throughout. The kolsch and the Rapture Fusion Brown Ale, two-thirds of their year-round lineup, combine for about 75 percent of the brewery's can sales, according to Morriss, and it's easy to see why.
If you come for Modano's beer, you'll stay for the Rapture, just hopefully not in the Biblical sense. The Fusion Brown is big and nutty with a thick, satisfying head. The deep copper-colored 10/6 English pale ale rounds out Rabbit Hole's year-round triple threat with a prominent English hop character that works well as an IPA substitute for Dallas' hop enthusiasts. But Rabbit Hole's Rude Jester American IPA is just around the corner, as Memorial Day weekend and the brewery's Summer in Wonderland celebration marks the beginning of the season of virtue, when both the IPA and Rabbit Hole's Wonderlust Saison join the rotation.
The party is set for May 28, and kegs of several out-of-season and small-batch experimental brews will be available as well. If you haven't taken a jaunt out west to Justin and down the Rabbit Hole, Summer in Wonderland is the perfect excuse.
Rabbit Hole Brewing, 608 Topeka Ave., Justin