Tasting the Beers of Panther Island Brewing

These days it seems like you can't swing an empty growler in Dallas without breaking a freshly-screened pint glass from a new local brewery. Is our market saturated? Is there room for another new brewery? What makes this one different from the last?

*insert incessant hand-wringing*

Well, I'll tell you how this one is different, greasy-haired-guy-at-the-bar. These guys are from Fort Worth. That's west of Dallas.

Cowtown's newest brewery -- Panther Island Brewing Co. -- celebrated its official launch about six weeks ago, but hadn't yet made their beers available outside of Fort Worth. On Wednesday night, co-owners Mike Harper and Ryan McWhorter made the long trek east to Craft & Growler to pour brews in Big D for the first time.

Mike says the idea for the brewery started about three years ago, when he and Ryan would take breaks from band practice to brew/drink beer. "We'd both been professional musicians for a long time, but then we found ourselves in a cover band," he said. "We needed something to work our creative muscles; we needed to make something, you know?"

They called themselves Wahoo Brewing Co. during their first few years of planning, but late last year they decided to change the name to Panther Island to better reflect their location near the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Their soon-to-open brewery space, which formerly housed the now-defunct Texas Beer Co., is being remodeled with a focus toward hosting parties (their word for tours), concerts, and bar patrons. "I think we're going to be the only brewery in the area to have A/C throughout the entire brewery," says Ryan. "We just want people to be comfortable and stick around for a long time."

Even though it took them over a month to venture into Dallas with their beer, Mike says he's been inspired by Dallas brewery mainstay Michael Peticolas. He completed an internship with Peticolas last year, and both he and Ryan volunteered extensively to get an idea of how to run a successful brewery. "That's the best thing about the brewing community in D/FW," says Mike. "These guys are more than willing to let us see what it's like for ourselves and get our own hands in the mix."

"It's like being in a band," Ryan adds. "You're hanging out, and it turns out that one guy knows another guy who can help you out, play bass, or connect you to something you didn't even know you need."

Of the four beers they've released so far, three were available at Craft and Growler last night. By the weekend, their beer should also be pouring at LUCK in Trinity Groves.

Boom -- Summer Blonde

Blonde Ales can be pretty hit or miss; some are a poor imitation of Miller Lite, others are hopped up beyond recognition. Boom is on the lighter side, with a few subtle hops that hide behind the mostly malt character. It's sweet without being cloying and finishes cleanly.

Allergeez -- American Pale Wheat Ale

Of the three, this was my favorite. It pours an amber color that's probably too dark for the style, but it's well-carbonated and flavorful -- the addition of honey, chamomile, and rose hips goes a long way to cut the wheat profile. It's a tasty beer that I look forward to pairing with food.

Real Good -- Traditional Cream Ale

I've wondered when someone local would try their hands at a cream ale. Real Good is pleasant, with a light mouthfeel and little-to-no hops or bitterness. It starts sweet and finishes with a corn flavor that is reminiscent of one of my favorite beers -- New Glarus' Spotted Cow. Unfortunately, after one sip all I could think about was how much I wanted a Spotted Cow and how my in-laws "forgot" to bring any back for me on their latest trip to Wisconsin. Kudos to Panther Island for even coming close, and a hex on anyone who goes to the Dairy State and doesn't bring back a sixer of Cow to share.

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Steven Harrell
Contact: Steven Harrell