Sep 07, 2016 09:42AM ● Published by Ashley Pape
By Audrey Sellers
Let’s raise a glass to beer: It’s America’s preferred alcoholic beverage. When Americans reach for alcohol, 43 percent prefer to sip a glass of suds over wine or liquor, according to a recent Gallup poll. It’s not hard to understand why. Beer is the start to so many good moments: a three-meat barbecue plate, an epic tailgate, the football game that follows and plenty others.
But as every beer aficionado knows, there’s big beer (think factory-produced suds for the masses) and then there’s craft beer, a beverage that is lovingly and expertly handcrafted by brewmasters who put their heart and soul into each batch. These craft brews are shifting American beer culture, with tastes increasingly turning toward craft beer. We are undoubtedly in the middle of a craft beer renaissance.
Craft breweries in the United States produced more than 24 million barrels in 2015, nearly triple the nine million bar-rels produced in 2009, according to Brewers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting American craft brewers and their beers. The beer market in the U.S. is worth about $105.9 billion—and craft beer has a 12-percent share.
Lucky for the beer hipster in every Texan, the Lone Star State happens to be a great spot for craft beer. Texas—specifically North Texas—is a haven for craft breweries. Five years ago, just a handful of establishments inhabited the Metroplex; today more than 40 bottle their brew here. We caught up with a couple local brewmasters to get their take on the buzz surrounding craft beer.
SIGHTS SET ON SUDS
Peticolas Brewing Company in Dallas was one of the earliest to arrive on the craft beer scene, turning out its first batch of beer on December 30, 2011. “What a day that was,” says Michael Peticolas, the attorney-turned-brewer who started the award-winning brewery.
He has two main loves in life: beer and soccer. Peticolas wanted to make one of his passions his job, and needless to say, he didn’t lace up his cleats to hone his bicycle kick. “Some people open craft breweries to make money. I did it because I love beer,” he says. “For me, it’s about the beer first and foremost.”
Peticolas’ passion for brewing has earned him some impressive hardware. He took home a gold medal for his Royal Scandal English Pale Ale at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012. The three-day event, hosted by the Brewers Association, is arguably one of the year’s biggest events for beer aficionados. But Peticolas doesn’t align himself with the beer industry; he considers his craft to be part of the entertainment industry.
“I work to make my consumers my marketing stars,” he says. “I want them to go into bars and say, ‘Hey man, get some Peticolas beer in here!’” So what makes locals so devoted to his brews that they’ll ask for them by name? One word: Consistency.
“When I was learning how to brew, a brewmaster told me, ‘The best thing is to make a great beer consistently. The next best thing is to make a bad beer consistently. The worst thing is to make a beer that’s sometimes good and sometimes bad,’” Peticolas recalls. “Consistency is massive to me. I care about the beer more than anything.”
While other craft breweries may experiment with questionable trends (“I’ve seen beers made from yeast on belly button lint,” Peticolas says), his brewery steers clear from such kitschy gimmicks. “I’m all for innovation in craft beer, but there’s a line,” he says.
Closer to home, Shannon Carter, brewmaster at Shannon Brewing Company in Keller, is excited about all the innovation of the craft beer craze. “I love the breweries that are pushing the envelope. As a beer consumer, it’s fantastic,” he says. “But as a brewery, it’s difficult to garner attention and keep yourself relevant.”
Celebrating its second anniversary this fall, Shannon Brewing Company is introducing a wave of new tastes. A few Carter is particularly enthused about? A grapefruit IPA and honey porter along with uniquely flavored brews such as hazelnut chocolate stout and a boysenberry blond, which Carter says is a cool shade of bluish purple.
“We try to stay in our vein when we do something new,” Carter says, “and we always try to make it as natural as possible.”
For Shannon Brewing Company, this means using whole grains, natural fermentation and fire. That’s right: All the beers are fire-brewed. “To our knowledge, we’re the only brewery that does the entire process with fire,” says Carter. “This caramelizes our sugars in a way that you can’t get with superheated steam or electricity, which are the alternatives.”
And because the brewery is situated on Samantha Springs in the heart of Keller, the brews are made from good, ol’ Texan spring water. The beers are so pure and natural, one could almost call them wholesome.
POUR ME A COLD ONE
When it comes time to get that first taste of an ice-cold craft beer, Peticolas and Carter are adamant: Always enjoy it from a glass.
“When someone gives me a bottle of beer, I’m doing everything I can to find a glass to pour it in,” says Peticolas. “When you pour the beer into a glass, you’re getting a fuller experience—something closer to what the brewer intended.”
A curved glass is best, according to Peticolas, because the aromas of the beer will be more concentrated. At his brewery, beers are poured into a tilted and curved glass at a rate that allows carbonation to release from the beer and provide a half-inch head.
“There’s an art to pouring a beer,” Carter says. “Getting that thick, half-inch head is the goal with most beers as the head releases aroma and gives a nice mouth feel.”
Thirsty yet? The sky’s the limit when it comes to craft brews. But consider a bit of brewmaster advice as we launch into the season of pumpkin-flavored everything: Just say no to pumpkin beers. For Carter, it’s a trend that needs to stop.
In the Lone Star State, it’s always a good time to sip a Lone Star or Shiner, but should you want to reach for a limited-edition brew from your favorite North Texas craft brewery, go forth and drink. And by all means: Get a glass.