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What We Drank at Dallas Observer Brewfest

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Steven Harrell is a Dallas freelancer. He writes about beer for the Observer.

On Saturday night, more than 4,000 Dallasites descended on the Farmer's Market for Dallas Observer Brewfest. The event made for great people watching if you want to get to know all of the different kinds of awkward white people that make up our fair city. Fedora-wearing dudes with necklaces for their customized vape pens? You betcha. #basic SMU girls? Yes. $30,000 millionaire bros? This is Dallas, my friend. Very tall women in red pants? In spades. Hipsters, bros, foodies, and smokeless tobacco vendors -- they're all welcome in the big Brewfest tent, and they all look the same when spontaneously dancing to "Baby Got Back" at last call.

See also: The People of Brewfest (Slideshow)

In addition to people, Brewfest is also known for, well, beer. More than 70 breweries were represented, most pouring samples of three or four brews. As the North Texas beer scene has exploded, local representation at Brewfest has also expanded. No fewer than 15 local breweries showed up to introduce themselves to beer drinkers, including old favorites Peticolas and Lakewood, as well as newcomers like Cobra Brewing Co. (Lewisville), Shannon Brewing Co. (Keller), and Grapevine Craft Brewery (Grapevine Farmers Branch).

Brewfest is one of the few events in the world where a brewery like Dogfish Head can set up a booth across from a brewery that opened three weeks ago in a Tarrant County suburb, and the line is twice as long for the unknown local as it is for the major national player.

In keeping with the hometown spirit, I tried to limit my first pass of samples only to the local folks. Generally, everyone seemed to realize what a great opportunity this was for their business and they stuck to playing the hits. But a few tried to bring something new to the table alongside their mainstays. Here's what we had.

Rabbit Hole's Wonderlust
Rabbit Hole Brewing Wonderlust

Rabbit Hole claims to be going for an "approachable" interpretation of a Saison-style ale, but I expect a lot more complexity and earthiness in Saisons. Wonderlust is a bit too sweet without the needed spice. But, it could just be an expectations issue -- if it was called Wonderlust Belgian Pale Ale, I might have been all over it.

Community Raspberry Wit I went after the Raspberry beer, hoping to finally find something Community Brewing hadn't done perfectly. I'm going to have to keep looking, because this was delicious. The flavors of the shining star base -- Community's gold-medal winning Wittbier -- were cut cleanly through the tartness and sweetness of the raspberries. So good. So damn good.

Cobra Brewing Co. Dawn of the Dank First, it's important to note that this is an excellent name for a beer. I don't know much about these guys, but despite the fact that this particular dank was so dank that I nearly couldn't finish the two ounce sample, I applaud anyone willing to cram that many hops into one taster glass. Hop-crazed friends assured me I was missing out, and that this (double? triple? septuple?) IPA is dank indeed.

903 Brewers Peach Buzz I hit this one early, and think I might have gotten a skunked sample, which is very disappointing because peach is definitely the best fruit to add to beer. Unfortunately, this was bad. But, conveniently, they were also pouring their Sasquatch milk stout, so I quickly had something delicious to wash away the bad taste with. When God closes a door, she opens a window.

Shannon Brewing Co. For me, tasting Shannon's beers were the highlight of Brewfest. I had the exact experience you hope to when you go to one of these events -- I got to meet a brewery I knew of only by name, taste their beers for the first time and discover something I really enjoy. They were only sampling two -- a chocolate stout and an IPA -- both of which were really excellent. It's obvious they're using quality ingredients and have a passion for good beer, and I expect them to be around a long time if they keep making a product that is this damn good.

Armadillo Ale Works Wundermelon Watermelon Kolsch In the same way that high school seniors across North Texas apply to UNT after they get rejected from UT, Denton wants so badly to be Austin-Weird but pretends they actually have their own thing going. Denton's own brewery seems to go after the weird stuff too, and have made a watermelon beer to prove it. That being said, Wundermelon is surprisingly good. I can see how it might get stranger the deeper into a 22 oz bottle you go, but 2 ounces was clean and refreshing. It was like fancy hotel fruit-water, but with beer.

Firewheel Brewing Co. Midnight Ninja with Cinnamon I'll hand it to Rowlett's Firewheel Brewing Co -- they aren't afraid to veer away from playing the hits at festivals. Adding cinnamon to their well-liked, if not widely popular, Midnight Ninja Black Ale is like if an up-and-coming band got booked to play their single on The Tonight Show, then added a steel drum solo at the last second just to see if it worked. But, to their credit, it worked. The cinnamon complemented, rather than overpowered, the dark cacao and coffee flavors of the original and made for a stand-out beer among rows and rows of available stouts.

Martin House Pretzel Stout Didn't this beer used to have another name, or have we always called it Pretzel Stout? Either way, it's brewed with six pounds of sourdough pretzels per barrel. The pretzel flavor is minimal, but this beer does boast a soft, doughy mouthfeel that's pretty unique. It's a bit more brown than it is black, with a nice toasted malt and cream flavor. Every time I try it, I like it a bit more. In the spirit of Brewfest, I made sure to try it twice.

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