There's been a lot of attention toward Tarrant County beer in the wake of MillerCoors' move to acquire a majority interest in Granbury's Revolver Brewing. Whatever your feelings about the macro giant’s incursion into North Texas craft beer, the sale provides a good pretext to look at our sister city’s profound proliferation of award-winning, boundary-pushing breweries.
“Fort Worth has a lot more of a laid-back attitude, [which] is what I think a lot of people don’t see about it,” says James Herrington, a brewer at Collective Brewing Project. “People are like, ‘Have you been to this place out in Dallas?’ and I’m like, ‘No. Do you ever come out to Fort Worth?’ And they’re like ‘No. What’s there in Fort Worth?’ and I’m like ‘You have no idea what’s in Fort Worth? There’s five breweries within five blocks.’”
Indeed, six craft breweries operate within a 5-mile radius in Fort Worth; four of them are situated no more than 2 miles apart in the Southside/Near Southside neighborhood. That’s a Denver-level concentration of ale outposts, all located along a pedestrian/pedal-friendly network. Herrington's comment got us thinking about how best to take advantage of such a beer-soaked ZIP code, and so after some consultation with Google Maps we came up with a road map to the fermenters of Funky Town.
In 10.2 miles and an hour and some change of ride time, you can hit half a dozen of the best breweries in the state. Pump up the tires on that one-speed Huffy and follow Cowtown's craft brew bike trail.
Wild Acre Brewing Co.
1734 East El Paso St., Fort Worth
(2.2 miles/13-minute bike ride from Martin House)
Wild Acre is the newest kid on the block — the brewery started pouring brews in their digs at the former Ranch Style Beans factory on the Near Southside this past Fourth of July, but they’re no newbies. Founder John Pritchett used to work for craft beer distributor Ben E. Keith. As such, it makes sense that the brewery is focusing on a core quad of beers, each of which reflects Fort Worth’s status as the last port of call before travelers enter West Texas.
The Tarantula Hawk is our particular favorite. It’s a red IPA, favoring the malts while retaining a respectable hop sting. If you prefer the stouter stuff, try the Soul Pleasure Southern Stout. It counts seven separate malts on its grain bill, pushing forward the coffee and chocolate dimensions of its recipe.
Rahr & Sons Brewing
701 Galveston Ave., Fort Worth
(1.7 miles/13-minute bike ride from Wild Acre)
Once you’ve wet your whistle at Wild Acre, it’s time for a leisurely ride on to Rahr & Sons. Established by Fritz Rahr in 2004, they’re the oldest continuously operating brewery in DFW and a paternal figure among Fort Worth breweries. Rahr’s styles are more in-bounds than the whippersnappers down on the Near Southside, but you’ll do well to respect your elders.
Rahr brought home twin gold medals from the Great American Beer Fest last year for The Regulator doppelbock and Oktoberfest, two styles that place a premium on fundamentals. The Bucking Bock flexes that finesse especially well this time of year, taming a 7 percent ABV mustang kick with an effervescent body and plainspoken bock taste.
1001 West Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth
(0.9 miles/5-minute bike ride from Rahr & Sons)
Chimera Brewing Co. sits the furthest south on this joyride. Like its namesake, Chimera is several beasts at once: brewery, restaurant and cozy punk rock hangout. Rock and roll is an overt feature of many Fort Worth fermentaria, but we can’t imagine a more metalsome beer name than Chimera’s Black Sabbath saison, Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath. Pouring the murky brown of Texas-strength iced tea, this beer smells like it was brewed in a cauldron of oregano, rosemary and dead pigs (prosciutto, to be precise) and tastes like those things too, along with 6.66 percent ABV of alcohol heat and dark (lord) chocolate. Less intense brews include the Good Riddance Gose, Roman Empire ESB and the Smoke Wheat Every Day, the latter of which resurrects the Polish smoked ale grodziskie.
Chimera only sells its beers on-site. They sell some pretty gnarly growlers, which are sturdy enough to survive knocking around in your bike basket. Grab a slice of pizza before you hit the trail — the pizzas come care of Italian native Carlo Galotto, who roasts the pies in a stone oven and ensures the tomini al verde is manually pulverized by mortar and pestle.
Collective Brewing Project
112 Saint Louis Ave., Fort Worth
(1.3 miles/7-minute bike ride from Chimera)
If there’s a line wrapped around the block when you arrive at Collective, don’t be surprised: the Near Southside brewery’s forays into the wild West of spontaneous fermentation are propelling it ever closer to Jester King status. This reputation began with the Petite Golden Sour, a wild ale whose fruited variations draw fans from Oklahoma and Louisiana for each release (and whose popularity requires stricter and stricter sales to ensure there’s enough to reach all the thirsty).
This past Saturday, Collective released Wood Folk, the first North Texas beer to spring from a foeder, a large oak barrel whose nooks and crannies offer ideal hiding places for brettanomyces, lactobacilli and other Latin-monikered microorganisms that ensure your beer is funky, tart and freely fermented. If you want to see what’s going on in the many barrels that line the brewery’s interior, there’s a chalkboard helpfully hung at the side of the taproom bar to clue you in.
Panther Island Brewing Co.
501 North Main St., Fort Worth
(1.8 miles/14-minute bike ride from Collective)
Panther Island bears the most explicit connection to music on the trail — founders Mike Harper and Ryan McWhorter would take breaks from band practice to brew (and quaff) their homebrew. The beer ultimately took priority over the tunes, and now Panther Island sits along the banks of the Trinity River in a space formerly occupied by Texas Beer Co. Here, Harper and McWhorter were the first in the area to take on (and succeed at) the cream ale style, first with Real Good and then with CreamWeaver. We’re still waiting for the prickly pear-jalapeño iteration to make its return to their taps. Also of note is Allergeez, a wheat beer brewed with rose hips and Texas honey. It’s definitely nothing to sneeze at.
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Panther Island unfortunately does not keep hours on Saturdays, making it more of a sight to see (or place of pilgrimage) on your trail ride. Happily, the camaraderie amongst Panther City’s breweries is sufficiently thick that you’re bound to happen across one of those creamy, sudsy delights on a guest tap somewhere along your route.
Martin House Brewing Co.
220 South Sylvania Ave., Fort Worth
(2.3 miles/16-minute bike ride from Panther Island)
Martin House is the final stop on this beer bike. Cody Martin and his crew possess a unique knack for translating curious flavor profiles into notable pints. Take the Salty Lady, a gose that tastes like Vietnamese salty lemonade, or the Money On My Mind, which pimps out its strong ale base with juniper berries and orange peels. For the Salsa Verde, Martin House’s most recent seasonal, cilantro, tomatillo and Hatch green chiles all blend into the ultimate Texas appetizer brew. With luck, one of your friends stashed some Tostitos in their fanny pack.
If you prefer your beer sans spice or salt, you can keep things elemental with the Cellarman’s Reserve. This ongoing series swaps out hop varietals more often than some dudes change their socks — there are 16 versions and counting listed on RateBeer. Maybe you’ll close out your ride with the mother of all verticals.
Total distance: 10.2 miles
Total travel time: 68 minutes
Time had: Totally awesome