Opening day has been a long time coming for Oak Cliff Brewing Co.
Back in late 2015, the fledgling brewery found a property across from the Dallas Zoo and commissioned a design from an architectural firm, the first step to building a production brewery and taproom capable of bottling and canning founder Joel Denton’s recipes. Then the city informed Denton that the property sat on top of a 100-year-old sewer line, which would need to be rerouted at his expense. That was the end of that.
Almost three years later, Oak Cliff has its space, its taproom and a lineup of beers ready to sell. The new home is at the eastern end of Tyler Station, a historic warehouse building, which, even amid redevelopment into art studios and other working spaces, still carries the stamp of its working-class history. The new taproom fits right in to the building’s aesthetic: stark concrete floors, an industrial-chic window-seat alcove, barely any decoration besides hand-painted signage.
At first taste, the lineup of beers is very promising. Oak Cliff’s four core beers — refreshingly, they do not have cutesy nicknames — are two lagers, a saison and an IPA. At a recent preview event, they augmented the standards with two variant IPAs, a brut brewed with Champagne yeast and a hazy (New England-style) brew.
All four beers we tried were excellent. The black lager, an award winner back when Oak Cliff started as a hobby operation, has a strong roast flavor — think coffee and toasted nuts — but its mouthfeel is light, and it’s very easy to drink. It’s also the least alcoholic beer in the lineup (4.6 percent alcohol by volume; the others all range from 5.8 to 6.7 percent). The export lager — based on the Dortmunder style — is light in color but far from light any other way. It’s nearly opaque and richly flavored, with a hint of tartness and strong, assertive carbonation.
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The farmhouse saison is rather tart, too, but not to an extreme. But the most pleasant surprise may be that Oak Cliff Brewing has jumped on the New England IPA trend from Day 1 and conquered it. The style, also known as “hazy IPA,” looks as thick and cloudy as apple cider or orange juice and balances a hop-forward aroma with a taste that should be subtly bittersweet. Oak Cliff’s, dubbed Lady Glasses, is, like the other three beers we sampled, sophisticated yet easy to drink, complex and flavorful but not meant for contemplation. That’s a tricky, satisfying balance.
More seasonal offerings are yet to come. A desserty imperial stout is underway, brewed with housemade caramel. Springtime might bring Denton’s acclaimed grapefruit gose, and new brewmaster Todd Holder probably has tricks up his sleeve, too. Also in the works: a formal opening for the new taproom. After a weeklong series of debut events across Dallas, Fort Worth and Lewisville, the grand-opening party will be Saturday, Sept. 1, with the launch of the imperial stout and a slew of food trucks.
It’s exciting for Denton and Holder that their dream will finally be open and ready to serve. But it’s even more exciting for Oak Cliff, which, incredibly, does not have a single large-scale brewery to its name. Small Brewpub lives up to its name, and Steam Theory recently replaced Four Corners in the Trinity Groves development in West Dallas. But this neighborhood was once beer-dry, and now it has an oasis of locally owned, thoughtfully made brews.
Oak Cliff Brewing Co., 1300 S. Polk St., No. 222