For last year's recap of what is now the Texas Homebrew Society's annual amateur brewing competition, I started out with one simple truth: Brew Riot was getting bigger. This year, I'm going to start out with another: North Texas homebrewers are getting better.
Indeed, the overall quality of the beer served at this year's event was noticeably better than it has been in the past. It wasn't just my opinion, I canvassed a number of others for their thoughts, and found this to be a common sentiment among fellow homebrewers and industry professionals alike.
As for the highlights of the day, to no one's surprise patrons crowded around the booths of those breweries hoping to open in the near future. Four Bullets, Frisco City Grainworks, Noble Rey, Oak Highlands and Steam Theory each served test batches they hope are destined for a North Texas tap wall near you. Of these, Four Bullets has the shortest timeline leading to a planned October opening, with Frisco City, Noble Rey and Oak Highlands looking towards the end of 2014, and Steam Theory targeting the spring of next year*.
For now, though, we'll keep the spotlight on what this festival is all about: the homebrewers. In terms of trends, last year's mountain of milk stouts was reduced to a molehill at best. There was the expected abundance of IPAs and more sours certainly, but I didn't find myself drinking one after another of any particular style.
Congratulations to Panther Street Brewing for taking home the People's Choice prize, and to everyone else among this year's winners.
Grotto Brewing: While I enjoyed this group's Razz-ma-Tazz raspberry stout as well, they secured my People's Choice chip for their Brett-based Sour Saison.
Mossberg Brewing: These guys may focus on sours, their Purple Drank proved to be another fine example in this category, but I couldn't help but be drawn to their white flame. Otherwise known as La Flama Blanca, their India Pale Lager was as bright and fresh as they come.
High Five Brewing Mumme: This hop-less, herbal beer brewed with rose hips and juniper berries was an interesting departure, though I have to admit some confusion with the name. According to various references, Mumme (pronounced moom-muh) beers emerged in the late 15th century as the first "style" to be brewedwithout herbs (?).
Ole 47 Piper Down: This brewery got my chip last year for their Vanboozled Bourbon Oak Vanilla Porter. This time around I decided to try their Piper Down, a Wee Heavy whose rich, malty and sweet description was spot on.
Trooper Brewing Peanut Butter Stout: More peanut butter than stout, but then again I'm not sure I've ever had a beer like this that wasn't the exact same way. I'm not complaining, in fact I'd like to see a few commercial brewers take a stab at the style.