When Craft and Growler opened across the street from Fair Park in 2012, it was the first of its kind in Dallas: A bar focused not only on offering more than 40 taps of craft beer, many of which were local, but to specifically sell beer by the growler was quite the revelation for North Texas craft beer fiends at the time.
Now, the wheels are in motion for Craft and Growler to lead the pack in a new way: by brewing its own beer. The bar posted pictures of some gleaming silver brewing equipment on its Facebook page last week with the caption “More change is coming. Stay tuned.” According to general manager Robert Celestino, this new venture is but one of the developments he and owner Todd Quigley see as inventive ways to continue to stand out in an ever-expanding craft beer landscape. Quigley bought Craft and Growler from original owners Kevin Thibodeaux and Cathrine Winslow in 2017 and is now ready to build the brand into something bigger.
“The more and more we thought about all of the growth and changes in the beer scene here in North Texas,” he says, “Todd and I decided we needed to do something different.”
In a recent Facebook survey of its more than 25,000 followers, Craft and Growler asked if they wanted them to begin selling food or brewing beer on-site. Celestino says the response came back almost 50/50 even, which made them decide to branch out into both directions. In recent weeks, under the supervision of chef Joseph Tarantino, menu items including grilled chicken sandwiches and Greek salads have been tested.
One particular menu item that Quigley, a Minnesota native, is excited about is the Juicy Lucille. Inspired by the famous, much-debated “Juicy Lucy” burger (made with a burger patty stuffed with cheese) from Minneapolis, the Dallas version will hopefully be an attention-getting burger, Celestino says.
As for the beer, the wait will be a bit longer than for the food. Celestino says that the licensing process for the brewing is an arduous, time-consuming process. Realistically, he says, the goal is to “be brewing by the end of the summer.” When they do finally begin brewing, the in-house beers will not replace the dozens of beers they usually offer.
“We have enjoyed great relationships with so many breweries, especially many of the ones here in North Texas,” he says. “We’re not looking to compete with them with our beers. In fact, many of the first beers we make will probably come in the form of collaborations with some of the brewpubs and production breweries around here.”
The tentative plan is to have one or two in-house beers available at a given time. Because the brewing capacity of their three-barrel system will be more limited compared with a standard brewery, Celestino hopes they’ll produce styles that veer away from the standard stuff. In their role as retailer, Craft and Growler understands which brewers excel in certain areas and will look to partner with brewers based upon each individual recipe idea. They plan to bring on a head brewer to lead the project, though the staff will be involved in most of the process as well.
“Selling beer has been great for us,” he says. “But if everything is changing, we want to change with it.”
Craft and Growler, 3601 Parry Ave. (Expo Park)