Some of you may have seen the article ranking the best 18 Dallas-area breweries. The article takes a fairly subjective view on a majority of the DFW (Ft. Worth is not Dallas-area) with no basis for the author's ranking, other than his own opinion on the matter. (Cue The Dude: Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man) As a side note, I do agree with the general grouping of the breweries in his rankings, but I believe his process can be improved upon.
Since the beer scene has emerged here, there seems to be a separation between the groups of breweries. For simplicity sake, I've taken this upper echelon of the local breweries and performed a deeper analysis of these breweries. Even within this top crop, there seems to be yet another breakdown between the top breweries. I've evaluated each brewery into three categories of analysis: Popularity, Inventiveness, and Locality. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 through 5.
Popularity takes into account of how much of a following the brewery has accrued. This usually favors the older breweries since they have had more time to accumulate followers. This is also heavily influenced by brewing "have-to-have" beers that create buzz and those early-morning-wait-in-line-at-Spec's adventures. Medals at beer competitions like the Great American Beer Festival and U.S. Open Beer Tasting Championships are also taken into account.
Inventiveness is all about the diverse lineup that the brewery creates. What percentage of their beers are unique and not available anywhere else? How often do they brew and release seasonals?
Locality is determined by how involved the brewery is within the local beer and personal communities. Events like beer dinners and tastings, special release parties, and mid-week tours and taproom hours are considered, as well as how dedicated they are to the DFW market.
These categories are by no means completely objective, but I do believe this is a better way to rank a very much subjective topic as ranking the best of local breweries. So lets start:
LOWER TOP TIER
Rahr & Sons Brewing – Rahr is the oldest of the current breweries in the area. Some people see them as “too mainstream,” but I believe that they still have it them to keep up with the emerging beer scene. While their year-round beers may leave something to be desired, they keep us coming back with their seasonal beers (like Winter Warmer and Iron Joe) and their one-offs at the brewery and beer festivals.
Popularity: 4 Inventiveness: 3 Locality: 2
Revolver Brewing – Revolver’s early popularity rose directly with their flagship beer in Blood & Honey. Like it or not, it has been one of the most popular beers in the metroplex, for craft and non-craft drinkers alike. Though they do not have a wide assortment of beers on the market, they are one of the first local breweries to dive in sour beers, with their Sangre y Miel sour ale. Make sure and take the trek out to Granbury sometime and check out their brewery with expansive outdoor seating and activities.
Popularity: 4 Inventiveness: 2 Locality: 3
Armadillo Ale Works – For only having four beers and no brewery, Armadillo has hit the ground running, even winning a gold Great American Beer Festival medal in the process. They are creating inventive beers like their Wundermelon Watermelon Kolsch and Brunch Money Golden Stout.
Popularity: 2 Inventiveness: 5 Locality: 3
MID TOP TIER
Martin House Brewing – One of the first Fort Worth newcomers A.R. (after Rahr), Martin House started off with four solid beers, but only sold two in cans. Today, they have all four of their year-round beers in cans and have offer a different seasonal beer each month. They also keep it inventive with the annual Riverside Shootout Homebrewer’s competition, which turns into their November seasonal.
Popularity: 3 Inventiveness: 4 Locality: 4
Deep Ellum Brewing – The first Dallas-proper brewer since the ‘90s, Deep Ellum is still churning out great beer. Though mostly sticking with classic styles in their year-round beers, they put twists on their limited release beers, most recently in their Wine Barrel Four Swords and Hatch Chile Stout. Their new next-door tap room now allows you to go and drink their freshest beer almost any time you like.
Popularity: 4 Inventiveness: 4 Locality: 4
Peticolas Brewing – My personal favorite local brewery has a large following, even without can or bottle distribution. Winning best beer in Dallas multiple times with Velvet Hammer, Peticolas is saturating the DFW market before any moves elsewhere. Wider distribution would definitely put them on larger pedestal, but then I would also love to keep them as a Dallas-only treasure.
Popularity: 4 Inventiveness: 3 Locality: 5
Photo credit: Chris Trumbla
UPPER TOP TIER
The final two breweries are immensely close in my opinion. Both have large distribution and even larger followings in the area. I would like to list them as 1A and 1B, but there always has to be a winner.
Lakewood Brewing - Lakewood has struck gold with its Temptress Milk Stout. It is constantly on the list of top DFW beers and their variants cause long lines at various stores and bars, just for one taste of them. Lakewood has recently been upping their distribution and even recently finished a major upgrade to their brewery.
Popularity: 5 Inventiveness: 4 Locality: 4
Community Beer – I give the nod to Community over Lakewood here becasue it has a bigger multi-beer following. While Lakewood has their following of Temptress, its only other big attention getting beers are their one-off versions of Temptress. Community has a strong following in their year-round Mosaic IPA and their newly released Legion and Bourbon Barrel variant are quickly picking up steam. Community also holds quite a few beer medals, has a massive tap room, and is near the heart of Dallas; closer than most breweries not in already in the Design District.
Popularity: 5 Inventiveness: 4 Locality: 4
Keep an eye on:
Collective Brewing Project – The newest brewery in Fort Worth, The Collective Brewing Project boasts a wide variety of interesting beers with a new beer each week. They are also one of the few places utilizing the Crowler. Think 32-ounce disposable can-growler.
As it is with all opinion articles, you may completely agree or disagree with me, or land somewhere in the middle. Feel free to comment/bash/praise/like/retweet this all you want. The more conversation we have over quality beer, the better the industry here becomes and the better the beer becomes here.
Make sure to check out all of these breweries and other local breweries at Untapped Fort Worth. More details on the Untapped Fesitval - Ft. Worth page here.
*Top Photo Credit: Greg Haney