First Look

After Years of Anticipation, Beer Lovers Can Finally Visit Manhattan Project Beer Company

Two beers at Manhattan Project: X-10 session ale and Reaction dry-hopped saison
Two beers at Manhattan Project: X-10 session ale and Reaction dry-hopped saison Brian Reinhart
After months of waiting and years of brewing beer in rented spaces, Manhattan Project Beer Company has a home, and it’s open to the public.

Karl and Misty Sanford and Jeremy Brodt hoped to open their new brewery in October, but issues with city health inspections and permits caused weeks of delays. (Notably, for instance, the brewery was meant to open within days when a tornado ripped through Dallas and sent city officials to emergency work elsewhere.) The new space finally debuted Dec. 20.

Over its years as an itinerant brewery, most notably brewing on contracts at Bitter Sisters and then Hop and Sting, Manhattan Project Beer has developed a local following for its focused, consistent excellence. Packaged in sleek, matte-finished cans with stylish designs, Manhattan Project’s beers primarily appeal to hop nerds. But their few non-IPA brews are so uniformly great that I’ve kept them well-stocked at home.

On the brewery’s third day in business, I stopped in to see how things look. Manhattan Project’s new space is just north of the main Dallas post office, in an industrial neighborhood within easy reach of West Commerce Street and Sylvan Thirty. As of now, the black building doesn’t have a sign: Look for the gravel parking lot, garden patio and mural of hops and hexagons.

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The beers (and coffees) available at Manhattan Project's opening weekend
Brian Reinhart
The interior is a combination of brewery and coffee shop. Manhattan Project actually opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays to serve carefully made coffee. The bar’s black geometric backsplash, its black-and-white color scheme and the comfortable banquettes along one wall all suggest a place to sit, have a cortado and maybe get some work done.

I don’t know much about coffee, but I do know where I’m going if I need a beer for breakfast.

Manhattan Project’s tap list sits at 13 right now with more to come, with numerous beers that have never appeared in cans. Past favorites such as the Necessary Evil pilsner and Hoppenheimer West Coast IPA mingle with X-10, a “session ale” that’s as well-balanced and easy to drink as the name suggests. “Pale ale” as a category has become the opposite of trendy, and X-10 is a good argument to ignore the trends.

The saison, Reaction, is dry-hopped, which provides an intense nose but leaves the beer extremely drinkable. There’s an edge of hops built into a Belgian engine. And speaking of Belgian beers, Inception is — as the name suggests — one of the Project’s original homebrews, made for the Sanfords’ wedding. It’s a “Belgian brown,” a style I had never encountered before but tastes, with its mildly fruity, nutty maltiness, like a dubbel.

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The exterior of Manhattan Project Beer Company in West Dallas
Brian Reinhart
The brewers have also, more regrettably, kept around the name of their popular tart gose, which is a refreshing treat in summer. It’s called Bikini Atoll, even though the actual displaced Bikini islanders politely but firmly asked them not to use that name. I regret that Manhattan Project’s owners have decided to ignore that reasonable request.

As I wrote last year, the brewery could have chosen to respect islanders’ wishes about the co-opting of a traumatic event in their past. The brewery apparently chose disrespect.

I also regret, temporarily and less acutely, that most of the brewery’s seating is outdoors. In nice weather, the dog-friendly beer garden will be a great place to drink a Necessary Evil, but for now, more folks will be packing themselves into the taproom. They will also be partaking in a neat feature: a built-in cooler for beer to go, next to floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the production space.

Given this brewery’s legions of fans, all of whom have been waiting for months or years to visit a permanent site, Manhattan Project will probably keep itself busy in the first few months. If you want to avoid the crowds, maybe visit before lunchtime. Coffee is optional.

Manhattan Project Beer Company, 2215 Sulphur St. (West Dallas)
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart