Love at First Sip

Local breweries, distilleries and wineries have found Fort Worth to be a spirited and thirsty crowd. Discerning drinkers have become fiercely loyal to the growing list of local favorites.

Rahr & Sons Brewery
Lakewood Brewing Co.
Grapevine Craft Brewery
Martin House Brewing
Revolver Brewing
TreyMark Vodka
Firestone & Robertson Distillery

Fritz Rahr Jr. was one of the first craft brewers on the local scene. Generations of brewing experience were brought to bear when the TCU grad decided to put down permanent roots in Fort Worth, founding Rahr & Sons Brewery in 2004. With 30 awards and counting, Rahr has certainly made a name for itself. “For me,” Rahr says, “I know when I drink a great beer — it jumps out at you and kind of smacks you in the love at first taste!”
    What is on tap for the future? “There is a lot going on,” says Rahr. “We have hired Bryan Miller as our new vice president of sales. Bryan comes to us with 10 years of experience in the beer industry, the last five he spent with Boulevard Brewing as regional sales manager over seven states. His expertise in managing growth with a large regional brewery will be very important as we expand the brewery into our 24,000 barrel capacity later this year.”
    “Our new canned products are coming out in May,” says Rahr. “First, we will have our 12-pack cans of Blonde Lager — a pale German helles-style beer. It is a clean, easy-drinking beer — just in time for the summer months.” Then Rahr will be introducing a new brand to its line-up called Pride of Texas Pale Ale. This is a traditional style American/West Coast Pale Ale. “Coming in at 6 percent ABV and 60 IBUs, this refreshing pale ale is packed with lots of Amarillo and Manderina hops. People have been screaming for us to make one,” Rahr says. “Well, here it is and it’s impressive!”
    Revolver Brewing is already famous for its Blood and Honey, with touches of blood orange and local honey. Owners Rhett Keisler, Ron Keisler and Grant Wood have been amazed by its success. Demand has certainly exceeded expectations. “We sold our first keg Sept. 1, 2012, and our facility already required its second expansion by June 2013, just to keep up with demand,” says Wood. Blood and Honey is currently the only beer they have available in bottles. “Fortunately, we have been able to stay ahead of the curve and keep up the pace. Our bock, named Malt Lick, is really starting to catch on too. It should be the next one out in bottles.”
    Wood says, “The future looks bright for Revolver. We are expanding into the Austin area with draught, and we look forward to serving our customers even better in the future. We have our own fleet of trucks, so we can self-distribute.” Be on the lookout for seasonals like Sidewinder — the pale ale with Southwestern touches like agave nectar, maize and cumin; Mother’s Little Fracker — with its earthier, dark chocolate flavors and aromas; and Cinnamon Girl — a deep amber spiced ale due out next fall.
    Grapevine, which is known more for its wineries, now boasts a new brewery of its own — Grapevine Craft Brewery. Gary Humble founded the brewery with a commitment to community in mind. “We made our first delivery the day after Thanksgiving, and we are excited to currently be in over 120 locations. In February we expanded into both Waco and Austin,” he says. Grapevine Craft introduced its Lakefire Rye Pale Ale and Monarch Wheat first. They were initially available in draught only. Humble says, “Lakefire is now available in cans across North and Central Texas, and Monarch is coming in cans this summer.”
    At the time of the interview, Grapevine Craft was set to launch .10 Gauge Belgian IPA in draft between April and May, along with tours of the brewery that began on April 12. “We are working on a new limited edition series of beers called the Bonnie Blue Series,” he says. “These beers will all come in 750ml bottles. The first will be a saison and is slated to come out at the end of April.”
    Martin House Brewing packages its brews in a can. They feel cans are better for the beer, the environment and provide easier portability. Martin House has made a name for itself with the novelty Daybreak 4 Grain Breakfast Beer and The Imperial Texan — a double India red ale. Co-owner David Wedemeier says, “We try to keep things fresh with the introduction of a new seasonal every couple of months. Look for Salsa Verde soon, with cilantro, lime and pepper notes.” A collaboration with local band the Toadies has been fruitful as well. Wedemeier says, “The band members have all had input into a beer dubbed Rubberneck Red in honor of their platinum-selling album. Expect it to be a very hoppy red.” Rubberneck was available in draught and cans in late March.
    Martin House will be canning two of its bestsellers, River House Saison and Pretzel Stout. “Our stout is really popular. We throw pieces of hard pretzel into the mash, which adds a nice saltiness to the roasty, chocolaty and caramel flavors,” Wedemeier says. Tours of the brewery have become so popular on Saturdays that they began touring guests on Thursday nights as well. He says, “It is by the river, with a great view of downtown, and a really fun, family atmosphere featuring a different local food truck each week.”
    With humble beginnings in a Lakewood neighborhood garage, Lakewood Brewing Co. sold its first keg in 2012. Local “hop heads” are loving Lakewood’s Hop Trapp. Founder Wim Bens calls it “the thinkin’ man’s IPA, with a touch of Belgian yeast that adds another level of complexity.” The bourbon barrel Temptress is another one of their bestsellers.
    Bens says, “In addition to our core four, which includes Rock Ryder, Hop Trapp, The Temptress, and Lakewood Lager, we have some amazing limited release beers in our Legendary Series. Those are one-and-done brews that we only make once and then never again.” Lakewood seasonals like Punkel — a pumpkin-spiced dunkel sold out quickly last fall, and Till and Toil — their popular and refreshing farmhouse saison — with notes of tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and papaya — reappeared this spring.
    Fort Worth is also home to a couple of distilleries. Four years ago, a disheartened farmer from Muleshoe surveyed his drought-stricken crop of black-eyed peas and decided they would be better off in a bottle of artisan vodka. TreyMark Vodka founder Trey Nickels and his mother, Deborah Nickels, did the research and realized it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. “We found out that nobody else was doing it,” she says.
    So far, they have validated the formulation and distilling process and have set up shop in the revamped Fire Station No. 5 in the Southside of town. A former volunteer fireman in Parmer County, Trey Nickels was immediately drawn to the historic space. Where the former fire station pole once stood, now you will find a two-story-tall copper still in its place. “Our 22-foot-tall still column rises to the old fire pole No. 5 position,” Deborah says.
    TreyMark Black-Eyed Vodka will be the company’s flagship offering. It has been a long process getting all the city and TABC approvals, but TreyMark is looking forward to getting the first-run process underway and hopes for an early June production date. In the meantime, they have been able to use the distillery to support local causes. “We were so pleased to host a benefit for Beau Birdwell (a local 2-year-old who is battling cancer) and are happy that we can use the facility in that way,” Deborah says.
    Founded in 2012, Firestone & Robertson Distillery has gained a loyal following. Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson have had great success with their premium TX Blended Whiskey, which is now available throughout Texas and Louisiana. Firestone says, “We feel very fortunate to be producing our whiskies in Fort Worth because we love the city, the people, and we proudly call Fort Worth our home. The community has been extremely supportive, and that has made an incredible difference in our efforts to build a business.”
    Firestone says, “We have public tours every Saturday at 2 p.m. The tour lasts a little over an hour. It’s educational and fun because we really like to get into the details of whiskey-making and how we started the distillery. Of course, everyone of legal age is offered a sample of our whiskey at the end of the tour, and we also have a retail shop where folks can purchase merchandise and a bottle or two to take home.”
    F & R’s artisanal Straight Bourbon Whiskey is highly anticipated. “It has been aging in charred oak barrels for a little more than two years,” says Firestone. “We have found that the Texas summer is having a great influence on the bourbon’s maturation, and the whiskey is developing exceptional flavor characteristics including vanilla and coconut and a nose of brown sugar. We are hoping that another summer or two will complete the process.”

Wine Crawl
For some fermented fun, drop in for a tasting or tour at these local wineries.

Delaney Vineyards & Winery

    2000 Champagne Blvd., Grapevine
    Tastings: $10 for five wines, Monday - Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wines: After 20 years in the wine business, Delaney Vineyards has more than 120 medals in national and international wine competitions to their credit. The line-up includes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Three Daughters (a red blend), Pinot Noir, Texas Claret, Sweet Texas Red and Texas Rose.
    Prices: $16.99 to $24.99
Cowtown Winery
    112 W. Exchange Ave.
    [email protected]
    Tastings: A flight of three wines of your choice for $6, Monday – Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wines: Featuring fruit-flavored wines like Texas Twister (pomegranate), Rodeo Red (black cherry), and Texas Rio Red (grapefruit). They also have a full range of labels like the four-time medal winner Republic Red (a Malbec/Tempranillo blend), and their best-selling Wild West White. Prices: $15.99-$29.99
Cross Timbers Winery
    805 Main St., Grapevine
    Tastings: $5 for four 1-ounce pours, Monday - Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wines: Choose from Cross Timbers Blush, Viognier, Tempranillo, Malbec, Muscat Canelli, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. Prices: $13 to $30
Sunset Winery
    1535 S. Burleson Blvd., Burleson
    Tastings: $5 for six pours, Thursday - Sunday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wines: Sunset Winery is now boasting 15 different labels to choose from. Sun Ray Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Glow Merlot, Twilight Tango Malbec, Pink Rainbows (a blush-colored Chenin Blanc blend), Orange Muscat, and Redhead Table Wine are among the favorites. Prices: $13.95 to $39.95
Lost Oak
    2116 FM 731, Burleson
    Tastings: Sample five wines for $5, Sunday & Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. or Thursday - Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. The cost of tasting is waived with a purchase of any bottle. Wines: Many Texas brands are on the sweeter side, but Lost Oak has a full line of dry reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Crimson Oak (an aged mostly-Merlot blend), Merlot, Red Roan, and Tempranillo NV Bingham Vineyards. Dry whites include Blanc du Bois (a uniquely American grape variety), Riesling Dry, and Viognier.
    Prices: $11.95 to $34.95
Times Ten Cellars
    1100 Foch St.
    Tastings: Tuesday - Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday - Sat from 1 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sun from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wines: Dry Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Blanc are sure to please white wine lovers. Red selections include Dulce Roja NV, Grenache/Syrah, and La Libertine Red Blend NV (a Syrah/Cabernet Franc blend). Prices: $20 to $32
LightCatcher Winery
    6925 Confederate Park Road
    Tastings: $5 for three wines, Wednesday & Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday - Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wines: Award winners like 10 pt. Cabernet Sauvignon, Yellow Rose Chardonnay, and Roadrunner Voignier are mainstays. Other popular labels include Texas Kiss Merlot Rose, Remuda Red, and Happy Dog Sweet Red. Prices: $18 to $34.
Homestead Winery
    Grapevine Tasting Room
    211 E. Worth, Grapevine
    Tastings: $7 for five tastes, Sunday - Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Wines: A full range including Chardonnay, White Rose, Desert Rose, and Prairie Rose (an off-dry Chenin Blanc), and reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Prices: $12 to $20