The traditional year-end list of the ten best beers to arrive in North Texas is once again here. In 2013, we have had a year that bested even last year’s landmark 2012 for both volume and significance of new brews on our shelves and tap walls. Several Dallas craft breweries entered their sophomore year as strong as ever as new local competition continues to rise almost monthly.
Houston and Austin brewers have begun to sneak into DFW, bringing with them even more in-state (“home”) choices as well as the rise in many new commercial establishments that focus on local craft beers. If anything separates this year from the previous, it is the continued arrival in Texas of some very esteemed craft brands from outside the state and even outside the U.S. – great news for the consumer but a tighter playing field for local brewers.
As always, this list is not necessarily what is wholly new or best on shelves right now but what has been made newly available to our local market in the past calendar year. All these beers should be required drinking for the well-rounded craft consumer.
10. Abita Kaiser Alt. This draft-only release from Abita’s Select Series went almost unnoticed with its small quantities available. However unlike the similarly named beer from Avery, this 7% ABV Düsseldorf altbier was a clean, malty, extremely sessionable German brown ale.
9. Firestone Walker DBA (Double Barrel Ale). This is the one beer I found myself coming back to again and again. An ESB aged in American oak, it is amazingly balanced with a mild caramel sweetness and would compare well to any similar British ales.
8. Community Mosaic IPA. With a bold use of the distinctive Mosaic hops variety, Community Beer has produced a local beer that will surely challenge Deep Ellum’s IPA for the title of “Dallas’ IPA.”
7. Mönchshof Schwarzbier. From the makers of EKU 28, Kulmbacher produces this overlooked schwarzbier under its Mönchshof label and brings another subtle, classic Old World beer style to our Texas market.
6. Real Ale Benedictum. Real Ale’s wild-yeast brewing program has reached a level on par with Belgian imports, as this Mysterium Verum release shows. An almost perfect Flanders brown or oud bruin, the sweet and sour complexity of caramel malt, vinegar notes and tart cherries is impressive.
5. Hitachino Nest XH. Truly, the entire Hitachino Nest line of beers from Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery shares this space in the list. The XH is a great Belgian-style strong dark ale aged in schochu barrels, and the distinct flavors of all these rice and sake-influenced beers is an education for the Western beer-drinking palate.
4. Lakewood Molé Temptress. The sweet stout Temptress has proven to be quite a chameleon in its post-production life, with variants including aging in bourbon barrels and nitro servings or additions of mint, Mexican molé and coffee. You may think other versions are better than the molé but you would be mistaken.
3. Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve. It is with regret that we learn this robust American porter, aged in oak barrels and bottle-conditioned, is soon to be discontinued. Although at just under 6% ABV, it shows that depth of flavor is not limited to monstrous alcohol levels.
2. Deep Ellum Numb Comfort. This deeply rich, complex, barrel-aged barleywine may be one of the finest beers ever made in the Dallas area. Although the last from departing brewer Drew Huerter, his next project (soon to open in 2014) means Dallas can now lay claim to him as our own.
1. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. The significance of the arrival of this world classic of the Bamberg rauchbier style in Texas cannot be overestimated. It should be required for anyone who wishes to appreciate any of the variations on smoked malts used in craft brewing.
Four Corners Block Party Porter, Stone Götterdämmerung IPA, Community Witbier, Martin House There Will Be Stout, Lakewood Lion’s Share, Revolver Mullet Cutter, Real Ale Maibock, Humperdink’s Strongman Porter.