Last month Community Beer Company in Dallas celebrated its seventh anniversary with a major shindig inside its Design District taproom.
Although it’s hard to believe now, given that craft breweries and brewpubs have enveloped North Texas, a seventh birthday means Community is among the new-era pioneers of the local beer scene as we know it.
As is the case with any milestone, it’s understandable to look back on one’s history and the path that has led to the present day. Community’s owner and founder, Kevin Carr, admits that such reminiscing can be deceiving.
“It’s crazy to think about how much time has gone by,” he says over the phone with a clear sense of awe in his voice before allowing a slight laugh. “It may have only been seven years, but it honestly feels like 15.”
A major reason for that easily distorted sense of time is the grueling nature of not only building a business from the ground up, but doing so in a way that wasn’t as common then as it has been over the last few years.
Seven years ago, Carr thought surviving such paperwork and red tape-covered hurdles might give his new business a leg up even.
“There was a lot of trailblazing we, and other breweries who started at the same times as we did, had to do,” Carr says. “At that time, one of the biggest challenges was the regulatory part. The city of Dallas didn’t really seem to know what a brewery was. The barriers to entry were so great. I determined that if we could get through all that and get into business, the competitive landscape wouldn’t be all that crowded locally for a long while, and, boy, was I wrong.”
Indeed, the growth in the amount of North Texas craft beer producers has more than skyrocketed since Community opened in 2013. Rahr and Sons Brewing in Fort Worth and McKinney’s Franconia Brewing were the pre-boom leading lights for discerning locavores.
But since Community and other early entrants including Peticolas Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing and Lakewood Brewing poured their first pints, more than 70 breweries and brewpubs have opened, along with more than 20 operations in some form of development, according to the excellent website beerinbigd.com.
There have also been a few local craft breweries open and shut down over the course of the last few years, but Community has stayed successful by remaining focused in a way that’s not particularly adventurous or sexy, but has proved effective.
“We’ve had to adjust, adjust, adjust,” Carr says. “Because the competition for shelf space and tap handles is so crowded. But we’re not shifting left or right or making major changes in order to adjust to the competition, really. For us, it's more about staying focused on providing quality and having popular beers we can hang our hat on.”
Over the past year, there have been buzz-grabbing releases for beers including pickle juice, peanut butter, barbecue burnt ends and Peeps Easter candy, with upcoming beers featuring pizza ingredients and even Buc-ee’s beaver nuggets snacks.
Carr is clear in his belief that it’s vital for each brewery to find its own way in a field that can often be cutthroat, but the quirky, headline-snatching experimental styles aren’t the path he and Community have chosen. He cites his brewery’s most popular, award-winning offerings as the embodiment of his marketing focus.
“We’ve been able to hang our hat on our Mosaic IPA,” he says. “And our newer ones like our Texas lager and Citra Slice have been beers our customers have gravitated to. If you look at any successful brewery, you can point to that one beer they can hang their hats on, like Velvet Hammer for Peticolas or Blood and Honey from Revolver.”
It’s not that Carr is opposed to getting crazy with the occasional recipe. Community has released a number of brews through its small-batch series and regularly offers a keg or two of experimental beers exclusively in its taproom. The new beer Carr is most excited about, Hop Skinny IPA, is a low-carb beer that began as one such taproom-only test batch and represents Community’s ability to see trends and apply its own spin to it, versus simply glomming on.
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“Seltzers are exploding right now,” Carr says. “There’ll be 50 hard seltzers on shelves during spring recess this year, so instead of hopping on that train, we asked, ‘Can we make a beer that’s better for you and that you can still enjoy like a regular beer?’ It was important to us to make it taste like a real IPA and not just sell a beer with only four carbs.”
In terms of Community’s future, Carr is steadfast on sticking with what has worked well so far for the most part. When asked about the rumors his brewery will move to a new facility in the near future, he says he can’t really say much on the topic, only that “some exciting news about our future” is coming soon. Regardless of how Community moves into the future, Carr is certain his brewery is ready to meet evolving demand and tastes.
“Just like it is with any product or industry segment,” Carr says. “Consumer palates have developed a lot, compared to a few years ago. Palates are becoming more sophisticated, and there’s a market here that caters to them now, which I think is good for us, because we’ve always focused on making beers for those customers.”
Community Beer Company, 1530 Inspiration Drive (Design District). Open 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday; 2-10 p.m. Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday-Tuesday.