With more than 400 beers to choose from, there were decisions to be made — even after buying an extra tasting card and tasting friends' selections, it was impossible to try all the beers our hoppy little heart desired. But we certainly gave it a good ol' college try, sampling everything from Icelandic white ale (crisp and light) to a pumpkin sour (the pumpkin taste was subtle, which was great for our first pumpkin brew of the season) to a hard orange cream ale that tasted like someone dumped a pound of sugar into a vat of spoiled cough syrup.
There were definitely a few stand-out breweries from this year's fest. Colorado brewery Funkwerks lived up to its name with fascinating and adventurous saison-focused brews, and New York brewery Ommegang proved popular with its Game of Thrones-themed beer and Rosetta, a delightfully fun Belgian kriek fruit beer featuring cherries that had been aged a minimum of three years. But the real stand-outs from this year's fest could be found on the outer edge of the festival, where some of DFW's best local breweries were all gathered in one place.
For local beer lovers who have yet to make the rounds to every brewery — a not-so-easy feat considering there are several dozen breweries currently operating in North Texas — it was a great opportunity to check out local brewing talent. Since some of the brews have limited distribution, the local beer selection alone was well worth the cost of a BrewFest ticket.
There was no contest, no medals awarded, but if there were medals, there are a few local beers we would have handed the gold:
- Legal Draft Beer Co. This brand-new Arlington brewery, taproom and beer garden, which opened this summer, had a seriously solid showing with a crisp Legal Blonde Lager and the Presumed Innocent IPA, a super approachable IPA that would be a great IPA introduction to drinkers who don't feel compelled to seek out bitter, hop-heavy brews.
- Wild Acre Brewing. This new Fort Worth brewery hit the beer scene with guns blazing when it launched early this summer, and the beer is well worth making the trip out west. We particularly dug Billy Jenkins, a session bock that proved a nice respite from the 10 percent brews we'd been partaking in at rapid-fire pace.
- Shannon Brewing Co. This Keller brewery has a fun twist: Owner Shannon Carter uses his great-grandfather's old Irish recipes and uses an old-school fire-brewing process. In a landscape saturated with IPAs, their double IPA — a limited-release beer available in kegs and cans twice a year — was beautifully aromatic thanks to the beer's three dry-hop sessions. If you spot this beer, snatch it up while it's available.
- Whistle Post Brewing Co. Another newcomer on the scene, Whistle Post Brewing Co. in Pilot Point is owned by — and next door to — Western Son Distillery, which makes Pilot Point an excellent small town for Texas booze-lovers to visit. At BrewFest, we particularly dug Whistle Post's Lizard Scorcher IPA, a bright, fresh summer IPA.
- Martin House. We were able to sample nearly 40 beers from all over the world at this year's fest, but our favorite beer by far is brewed just down the road in Fort Worth. If you dig Martin House's Salty Lady — a great introduction to the salty, tart German gose — you'll adore their latest beer Sea Witch, a whiskey barrel-aged black gose that celebrates its official launch on Thursday, Sept. 22 at the Bearded Lady in Fort Worth. Made with coriander, Hawaiian lava salt and roasted malts, it's dark but not heavy, its tart bite balanced by a warm roastiness and pleasant hit of salt. Martin House really nailed it with this one.