Last Saturday's Texas Brewvolution, the kickoff party for North Texas Beer Week, featured a couple dozen Texas breweries -- the most I've seen under one roof -- some rare finds from other great craft breweries across the country, and about half the attendees it should have had.
I got to try Community Beer Company's Trinity Tripel, which they describe as "a tripel with attitude," a very hop-forward tripel, as promised, with a big fruity aroma and a spicy finish. Lakewood Brewing Company's Lion's Share was a fantastic Belgian-style double IPA that I think had some woody, bourbony flavor from barrel-aging, but I could be mistaken as a few hours of sampling big-ass beers had rendered my notes rather questionable by that point. And it was an early chance to try beers from Salt Lake City's Uintas Brewing, which just started distributing in Texas -- and the huge Labyrinth Black Ale, which their booth's rep described as a "quadrupel black ale" packed a ton of flavor into a 13.2 percent ABV beer that didn't taste a smidge above 11 percent. Food-wise, the brisket pizza from the Doughboys food truck was awesome -- and came with a great T-shirt for just $10.
But while I appreciated the short lines, it was a bit disheartening that it didn't draw a bigger crowd. Nellie Montgomery, who along with her husband, Chad, and The Common Table's Corey Pond organized the fest, said in an email that attendance was around 1,500 people. Financially, it was "somewhere around break even," and didn't generate enough money to make the kind of donation to the North Texas Food Bank that they'd hoped.
Nonetheless, she calls it a success.
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"Everyone was in such a positive mood, and it was just such a relaxed vibe," she writes. "I talked to so many people that found a new favorite beer or brewery that day. In my book, that's a success. ...
"While we didn't turn a profit on this event, we're still celebrating the successes of how far North Texas breweries have come in two years. We are still a small enough community that the brewers are all still pushing for each other. For now, it's us (craft beer) against them (Bud/Miller/Coors). I am cherishing this time. We've got space to grow and learn."
Untapped showed just how great beer fests can be when equal emphasis is put on the quality of the music lineup and the beer selection. In doing so, though, it raised the bar. No knock on Shotgun Friday, Roomsounds or Hanna Barbarians, but that's not a lineup that's going to get a potential ticket buyer off the fence. And there were other factors, too. Chad pointed out that Deep Ellum Brewing Company had its anniversary party that same day, which obviously would draw much of the same crowd.
Sparse attendance aside, though, it was a fun time, the location near the Fair Park DART rail station was ideal and I didn't hear anyone complaining that they missed 30-minute waits for food and empty kegs. Let's hope the next one strikes a good balance between making a profit and manageable crowd size. Fortunately, Nellie doesn't sound deterred.
"As long as people still want a beer festival, we will continue to throw the parties," she writes.