LOCAL BREW: Top Beers to Try at Untapped Festival

The Paste Untapped music and beer festival is coming back to Dallas on September 7th. While I am gushing over the lineup of Delta Spirit, the Cults, and Freelance Whales, I am even more excited for the lineup of over 200 beers represented by over 60 different breweries from across the U.S. and world.

Below is a list of the most anticipated beers ranked based on three categories: Availability, Price, and Uniqueness.

Availability (Scale: 1-5):
How easy will you be able to find this beer in the Dallas area? Though some of these beers are only special occasion beers and not available anywhere else, the availability of their original versions were taken into account (e.g. cask, barrel aged, and past year varieties). Seasonal availability is also factored in.

Price (Scale: 1-3)
Assuming you can find the beer, how much is it relatively going to cost you? Since this is a festival, why waste big bucks on something you can at least try for the included entrance fee? Most local offerings aren't going to cost you as much versus something that is going to be shipped from half way across the country.

Uniqueness (Scale: 1-5)
Is this beer a variation on one of their year-round beers? Or is it something that they have never made before that you may never see again? The entire point of beer tasting festivals is to try the weird stuff that you would never buy or even see again! Get out of your comfort zone and try out some of the one-of-a-kind beers out there!

Though all the beers are initially available, VIP ticket holders will get into the festival at 1:30 pm instead of the General Admission time of 3:00 pm. If you really want to try some of these more unique and rare beers, it is suggested to get a VIP ticket, which are still available!

So lets get down to the beer!

Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Details: 11.2% ABV, 70 IBU
RateBeer: 100
Brewer: Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

Brewer's Description: What we’ve got here is an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year to make sure wonderful bourbon undertones come through in the finish. Makes your taste buds squeal with delight.

Availability (5): Founders Brewing has only been distributing in Texas for only a handful of months of now, and this beer is easily one of their most renowned. They severely limit the availability of this beer and its only available in the month of April each year. Earlier this year, The Meddlesome Moth was able to secure one keg and well within 24 hours, the keg was empty. The standard version of Founder's Breakfast stout is available October through February (coming soon!).

Price (2): Though it is a very limited release, it never seems to be more expensive than any of your standard upper end craft beers.

Uniqueness (3): The standard Founder's Breakfast Stout is already a highly rated beer with its blend of chocolate and coffee (hence the "Breakfast") flavors, and the addition of the bourbon and oak add to the complexity of this beer.

Style: Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout
Details: 13% ABV, 82 IBU
RateBeer: 100
Brewer: Firestone Walker Brewing Co., San Obispo County, CA

Brewer's Description: One of our most aggressive and sought-after offerings. Bold Bourbon, tobacco and espresso aromas and a hint of American oak greet the nose. Rich, chewy roasted malts, charred oak and bourbon-like vanilla attack the palate and finish with a bang. A remarkably complex brew that offers a transcendental drinking experience – enjoy with good company.

Availability (4): Firestone Walker is another brewery that has only recently starting distributing in Texas as well. As part of their Barrel Aged series, Parabola is on a very limited release that only comes out only once a year. In April, it was released nationwide. Look for it at the more knowledgeable high end craft beer bars like the Meddlesome Moth, where it was this year.

Price (2): Similar to other out-of-state brews, it may cost you a little more than the local stuff, but nothing outrageous.

Uniqueness (4): Though many breweries make Imperial Stouts, very few compare to the many levels of flavors as the Parabola.

Bishop's Barrel #4
Style: Bourbon Barrel Weizenbock
Details: 9.9% ABV
RateBeer: N/A (not enough ratings)
Brewer: Saint Arnold, Houston, TX

Brewer's Description: Pours a dark brown color with a very light head. The nose is bourbon, chocolate and banana. The taste starts with bourbon and a rich maltiness. Chocolate and a light banana flavor emerges, reminiscent of a banana split made with chocolate ice cream. We brewed the base weizenbock again and blended 10% fresh beer in with the barrel aged beer as much of the weizen yeast character had greatly diminished in the barrels.

Availability (4): The first of the Texas beers that I am looking forward to is the latest in the Bishop's Barrel series. Started late last year, the Bishop Barrel specialty series has been producing some of the more unique beers coming out of Houston. Though in Houston, the beers in this series that do make it up to Dallas, are still in very limited supply.

Price (2): Though semi-local, some of the special ingredients used in the Bishop Barrel Series drive up the cost of these limited released beers, though they are not quite outrageous.

Uniqueness (4): The description alone of comparing it to a banana split with chocolate ice cream has me drooling already. And then the fact that they aged it in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels tops it off.

Style: Barrel Aged Barley Wine
Details: 13% ABV, 42 IBU
RateBeer: 100
Brewer: Firestone Walker Brewing Co., San Obispo County, CA

Brewer's Description: Big boozy bourbon and American oak aromas combined with soft chocolate malty undertones. Complex malt flavors framed in oak, with hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, coconut and just a touch of dark cherry.

Availability (4): Just like its Firestone Walker brother, Parabola, §ucaba is on a similar limited release schedule, becoming available in February of this year. Also look for it in the same craft beer bars.

Price (2): Similar to Parabola as well. May cost more than the local beers, but nothing too much.

Uniqueness (4): Anyone who is a fan of barley wines knows that most of them of them are boozy and hop forward. This barley wine bucks the trend. The chocolate, vanilla, and dark fruity notes make this one stand out from the rest.

120 Minute IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
Details: 15-20% ABV (depending on year), 120 IBU
RateBeer: 99
Brewer: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE

Brewer's Description: Clocking in at 15-20% ABV and 120 IBUs, it's easy to see why we call this beer THE HOLY GRAIL for hopheads! 120 Minute IPA is boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops.

Availability (4): Though this beer may seem difficult to find, some places do carry it, if you know the right people to ask. Usually The Gingerman in Uptown and some beer specialty stores will carry it when Dogfish Head releases it a few times this year. Recently, Kegs and Barrels in Plano has received some.

Price (3): Because this beer is one of the hoppiest beers around, it will definitely cost you. Even if you buy it in store, it will cost you $15+ for a 12 oz. bottle, and if you're out at the bar, it will cost you even more.

Uniqueness (3): Dogfish Head makes some of the best IPAs in the country. They provide less intense versions of the 120 Minute, in their in 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPA versions. Their 90 Minute IPA came in at #3 for the best beer in America, according to the American Homebrewers Association. If you don't want to spend the money on the 120 Minute, the 60 Minute and 90 Minutes variations are highly recommended.

W00t Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
Details: 13% ABV, 65 IBU
RateBeer: 99
Brewer: Collaboration between Stone Brewing, Wil Wheaton, and Drew Curtis, Escondido, CA

Brewer's Description: From the most unlikely yet intensely imaginative trio that is actor and uber-geek champion Wil Wheaton, alternative news website Fark.com creator Drew Curtis and Stone CEO/Co-founder Greg Koch, comes an imperial stout unlike any ever made. Brewed with rye, wheat malt and pecans and partially aged in Bourbon whiskey barrels, this viscous yet silken brew erupts with an oaky, nutty bouquet and rich flavors of vanilla, toast and bitter chocolate. Enjoy now or cellar this celebration of nth degree passion and geekery applied most gracefully to the craft of brewing and collaboration-Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout!

Availability (3): Most of the Stone Brewing specialty brews make their way over to Texas, but usually after a month or so after they have been initially released in California. Most places that carry some of their most specialty releases (e.g. Enjoy By, Dayman, etc.) should carry this as well. The Whole Foods Market on Park Lane will soon have this on tap at their bar inside.

Price (2): If it is any indication from their other specialty releases, the W00t Stout should not cost too much.

Uniqueness (5): Where else are you going to find a beer created by a world class brewery, a famous sci-fi actor, and an indie blog creator? Not only are the inventors of this beer unique, but the blends of ingredients and flavors like pecan, wheat, and the oak vanilla character from bourbon barrels add a level of complexity to this beer.

Indra Kunindra
Style: Foreign/Export Stout
Details: 7.0% ABV
RateBeer: 97
Brewer: Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, San Diego, CA

Brewer's Description: Brewed with madras curry, caynne pepper, cumin, toasted coconut, and kaffir lime leaf, Indra Kunindra is a 9% ABV stout brewed in collaboration with homebrewer Alex Tweet. It was brewed for Holiday Wine Cellar’s 46th Anniversary Homebrewers Competition. First batch at 9%, others at 7%.

Availability (2): Ballast Point is available in many places around Dallas, and though is a specialty release, it is available in many craft beer stores like Craft & Growler, Spec's, and Total Wine.

Price (2): Though only available in bomber bottles, they tend to be on the lower end for the out-of-state special release beers.

Uniqueness (5): This is most unique and interesting beer available at the festival. With additions of curry, Eastern spices, coconut, and lime, this beer is an interesting taste of India in a bottle.

Scots Gone Wild
Style: Sour Ale
Details: 9.7% ABV, 27 IBU
RateBeer: 97
Brewer: Real Ale Brewing, Blanco, TX

Brewer's Description: Scots Gone Wild marks the initial offering from Real Ale Brewing Company in the world of sour beers. Real Heavy, our strong scotch ale, was aged for 6 months in American oak barrels, during which time it underwent a dramatic refermentation due to the presence of a very special cocktail of wild yeast and bacteria. The end result is a dry, cherry-pie sour, with a subtle oak character and a bold tartness.

Availability (4): Another Texas beer to look forward to, Scots Gone Wild is part of Real Ale's Mysterium Verum series. Most of their beers from this series only make it to a few craft beer places like The Meddlesome Moth and The Common Table.

Price (2): These beers tend to be a little bit more pricey by the glass compared to the normal Real Ale offerings.

Uniqueness (4): If you are not familiar with sour-styled beers, you are in for a treat. Sour beers are growing in popularity, even in other places in our own backyard. Another Austin area brewery, Jester King, specializes in sour beers. In this beer, Real Ale aged their original Scotch Ale in barrels and added special souring bacteria and wild yeast to create its unique flavors.

Lion's Share
Style: Barrel Aged Belgian Imperial India Pale Ale
Details: 9.8% ABV
RateBeer: N/A (not enough ratings)
Brewer: Lakewood Brewing Co., Garland, TX

Brewer's Description: Double Belgian IPA aged in oak with brett for eight months. Lakewood First Anniversary beer.

Availability (4): The first of the local beers to look forward to. Brewed once for Lakewood's First Anniversary back in early August, this will hopefully be around longer, at least for us locals.

Price (2): Assuming it is kept around, it should be similarly priced to their other specialty bomber bottles from their Legendary series, like the Brabo's Cut and La Dame du Lac.

Uniqueness (4): This isn't your typical IPA. The addition of Brettanomyces (also referred to as "Brett") adds a little 'funk' that is found in some traditional Belgian style ales.

Style: Imperial Berlinerweiss
Details: 8.0% ABV, 6 IBU
RateBeer: 57
Brewer: New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO

Brewer's Description: Yuzu is a strange fruit- citrusy and bold. Those three words: strange, citrus and bold are the perfect beginnings for a great beer. So, our brewers paired yuzu with the sourness of a Berlinerweiss to create this beerlicious Yuzu Berlinerweiss. Brewed with pale malt and wheat this Berlinerwiess was acidified with Lactobacillus for a light, dry mouthfeel and tart refreshment. Hazy and straw-colored, the yuzu fruit brings a tropical charm to a traditional beer.

Availability (3): Most of New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series beers pop up on the shelves in places like Spec's, Total Wine, and Whole Foods. Though no sightings yet, there is a good chance it will eventually arrive.

Price (2): The price tends to be a little higher on these one-off beers, mostly because of the unique styles and ingredients incorporated into them.

Uniqueness (4): To be completely honest, I had to look up what Yuzu was. This unique fruit is a tart East Asian citrus which seems like a perfect fit for a sour-styled Berlinerweiss.

Style: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Details: 8.6% ABV
RateBeer: 98
Brewer: Southern Tier Brewing Co., Lakewood, NY

Brewer's Description: Pumking is an ode to Púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. Púca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from which they return forever changed. Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow its alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let its deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape the Pumking.

Availability (5): This Fall seasonal is released each year in August, but Southern Tier is not currently distributed in Dallas. Andrews Distributing will begin distributing their beer in Dallas come October. Or if you can't wait, they are already distributing in the Austin and Houston markets.

Price (2): For the time being, you may have to spend a little extra to get your beer from the other Texas beer markets. The prices in those are markets are standard and should be the same when they do begin to distribute in Dallas.

Uniqueness (2): Now that Fall is almost upon us, everyone will be coming out with their various pumpkin beers. This pumpkin ale is one of the top rated every year.

Other Options:

(903) Kahlua Aged Pecan Porter (Sherman, TX)
Availability (4); Price (1); Uniqueness (4);

Stone R&R Coconut IPA (Escondido, CA)
Availability (3); Price (2); Uniqueness (4);

Lakewood Punkel Surprise Cask Dunkelweizen (Garland, TX)
Availability (4); Price (1); Uniqueness (3);

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (Milton, DE)
Availability (4); Price (2); Uniqueness (2);

Franconia 5th Anniversary Belgian Strong Ale (McKinney, TX)
Availability (3); Price (1); Uniqueness (3);

Peticolas Great Scot Cask Scottish Ale (Dallas, TX)
Availability (4); Price (1); Uniqueness (2);

Deep Ellum 2012 Wealth & Taste Belgian Ale (Dallas, TX)
Availability (4); Price (1); Uniqueness (2);

Rahr 2012 Barrel Aged Winter Warmer English Strong Ale (Ft. Worth, TX)
Availability (4); Price (1); Uniqueness (2);

Peticolas Rye't On Cask Pale Ale (Dallas, TX)
Availability (4); Price (1); Uniqueness (2);

For more information on the Paste Untapped Festival and the complete list of brewers and beers, visit: www.untapped-festival.com/dal/. Tickets are still available.