When it comes to what bar or brewpub owners want their places to be, it seems no designation is as hoped for as “a true neighborhood joint.” While almost any spot, save for maybe a pub placed along a freeway service road, can lay some sort of claim to being a warmly inviting neighborhood hub, how many watering holes truly fill that bill?
TKO Libations in Lewisville does. In fact, it’s really not accurate to give Lewisville the credit for hosting the 18-month-old brewpub. Nestled inside the Castle Hills neighborhood in its eponymous shopping center, TKO Libations is as secluded a spot for local craft beer as you’ll likely find in the area. There’s almost zero chance a beer-lover will just casually stumble upon this place unless they know someone living in the tony Castle Hills development.
And when you walk in, you do feel as though you’re entering a comfy beer-centric enclave. Large windows leading to the shiny brew tanks and equipment hit you first thing, before an open industrial-looking floor plan is revealed with neatly arranged picnic tables. On your way to the bar, you’ll notice hardcover books about craft beer and homebrewing placed at each table, just as you might find on a buddy’s home coffee table.
That music you hear? It sounds more vibrant and prominent than you’re used to. That’s because the staff keeps a turntable next to the tap wall so they can play LPs from their personal collections or records that customers have brought from their own shelves. Rather than a generic, random Pandora-powered playlist, we were treated to Jefferson Starship and Journey. Sure, that’s not exactly the hippest selection in town, but it was cool to have the bartender stop what he was doing in order to go flip the record to the other side for the tunes to continue.
The beer sort of fell into a similar realm of relative judgment as the music selection did. Aside from a couple of standout selections, there wasn’t much to be blown away by, and some seemingly simple details were just off kilter enough to keep us from appreciating TKO as much as we wanted to after being so initially encouraged.
When serving flights, most places mark the serving vessel with the name or tap number of each beer so as to avoid confusion. Here, a slip of paper printed with the names of the beers were hand-marked with the number signifying the beer's position on the wooden serving paddle. The convoluted system caused confusion for one of our two four-beer flights when it seemed as though the Color of Your Energy amber (6.3% ABV) and the Lett’s Red Folly Irish red ale (3.9% ABV) were switched.
Both a pretty, dark ruby shade, each beer tasted far more similar to one another than an amber with an allegedly prominent hop presence and Irish red ever should. Both were passable, but having to stop and attempt to figure out which was which based on the paper list, taste, look and smell was tiresome.
And while the uniquely shaped taster-size flight glasses were cold, each of the eight beers we sampled were not nearly cold enough, which, when working your way through a flight without pounding each beer, makes for unpleasantly warm samples by the time you’re wrapping up. When asked which beer he was particularly jazzed about right now, the beer-tender supplied us with a You Like the Juice West Coast IPA. It wasn’t half as juicy as the name leads you to believe, and in a city sick with a billion IPAs of all styles, an under-delivering IPA is rather off-putting.
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With all that out of the way, there were some successes. The Bayern Weizen Hefeweizen (4.5% ABV) was crisp with a nice, slight sweetness in the aftertaste. The Southern Chap brown ale (6.2% ABV) had a rich, inviting maltiness, and the saison was crisp but finished with a distinctive farmhouse funk. Similar to how the brown ale was a flavorful take on an oft-underwhelming staple, the Castle kolsch offered a sweet, almost honey-like burst that elevated it above the simple summer sipper many brewers relegate their own kolsch offerings to.
And though many folks prefer their gingerbread flavors to be mainly consumed in the holidays, only after they’ve exhausted the pumpkin-flavored beverages, TKO’s Gingerbread Monster imperial porter (9.75% ABV) had a gloriously smoky aroma, followed by a silky, spiced taste befitting a complex example of the porter style.
TKO Libations is without a doubt a nice neighborhood joint. In fact, having a brewpub within walking distance of your suburban oasis is quite the luxury. It’s well-designed for chummy neighbors to smooth out any sort of HOA troubles over a couple of quality beers, even if it’s not yet a legitimate attraction for craft beer hounds to sniff out from elsewhere.
TKO Libations, 2520 King Arthur Blvd., Lewisville