Perhaps the most common question one can overhear from another table when visiting one of the dozens of local brewery taprooms is “Ooh, now what’s that I’m tasting here?”
Thanks to the ever-expanding number of craft breweries in North Texas, each with its own ever-expanding list of selections both permanent and seasonal, local beer lovers are getting their mouths around beers with more flavorful ambition than much of what was brewed in the early days of Rahr and Sons in Fort Worth, Franconia in McKinney or Deep Ellum Brewing in Dallas just under a decade ago.
Over the summer of 2018, I found myself asking the aforementioned question (to myself, as I was drinking alone, and no, that is not sad in any way) after ordering a pint of 3 Nations' Lady Luck Horchata Ale. As the beer’s name more than suggests, the answer to my self-posed question was “horchata,” generally speaking, and it was a revelation.
While there are many flavors of horchata, the one most popular around here for sure is the Mexican-born horchata de arroz. Commonly found in taquerias and Mexican paleta shops, this addictive drink is made with rice and milk and offers strong hints of vanilla and cinnamon.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago during a visit to my favorite shop in town, and what did I spy? Indeed, not only did I catch “horchata” noted prominently on a four-pack of cans, but it sat under the 3 Nations logo again. At that time, a horchata-flavored version was the latest in the Farmers Branch brewery’s Devout Imperial Milk Stout series (also available in a chocolate hazelnut version). Of the smorgasbord of fruits, berries, peppers, nuts and assorted sweets one can now put into beers for the masses, it’s noteworthy that the milky, cinnamon, vanilla-enriched flavor of horchata seems to have captured 3 Nations’ fancy.
“We first used the horchata flavors when we only had three beers on tap at our brewery in order to fulfill a fourth beer,” 3 Nations owner Gavin Secchi says. “Back then, we were using cinnamon, vanilla and coffee on our 5.5 percent ABV Bull's English Brown Ale. It was a hit, so then of course when our Imperial Milk Stout was born, we deemed it horchata-style because we used milk sugar with the Devout IMS.”
That was in winter 2016, and it led Secchi and his team to look for other ways to employ the horchata flavor. In March 2017, the pairing of the key horchata elements with a base of Belgian golden ale proved to be a well-timed recipe for the coming spring and summer drinking seasons.
But why horchata? As is the case with the best beers, there’s a personal connection between the maker and the product.
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“I worked in restaurants growing up and was first introduced to horchata while making friends with the kitchen staff at my parents’ restaurant several years ago,” Secchi says. “The drink was delicious, so we incorporated it into beer as a trial basis. I'm glad that we did.”
Unsurprisingly, the flavor train isn’t slowing down anytime soon for Secchi and 3 Nations. Horchata is just a stop on the line, albeit a deliciously stellar one.
“We just released a one-off keg at the taproom of a Chocolate-Covered Strawberry IMS for Valentine's Day,” Secchi says. “And we have a Bananas Foster Devout coming out on draft in March, which is a personal favorite of ours. I would like to say that the possibilities are endless.”
3 Nations Brewing, 2405 Squire Place, Farmers Branch