For a decade, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company has helped shape the face of both the Near Southside and craft brewing in North Texas. This month is the brewery’s 10th anniversary, but co-founder William “Fritz” Rahr will tell you there’s well over a century of tradition behind his enterprise. His namesake great-great-grandfather immigrated to Wisconsin from Germany before the Civil War and promptly commenced to make beer. Although the brewery ceased production in the 1970s, it retained a malting plant, and Fritz worked for the family business as a teenager before leaving the Badger State to attend Texas Christian University.
In 2004, Fritz, who graduated from TCU in 1989, and wife Erin Rahr gambled on the idea of starting a craft brewery. Their first challenge was finding a place to call home. Named in honor of Fritz’ brew-happy ancestor, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company opened in a massive warehouse on Galveston Avenue long before the Near Southside had become “the cool place to live and work,” Fritz said. “It was a scary area. We watched drug deals outside the back door.”
The Rahrs’ second challenge was carving out a market share in Fort Worth, a city that — like many others in this part of the world — was saturated with products by Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. To get started, the Rahrs relied mostly on word-of-mouth, helped along by their TCU connections. Response from local bars and restaurants, Fritz said, was lukewarm, in part because Rahr offered little of the swag — free stuff like steak dinners — that bar/restaurant owners apparently love.
Bringing people to the beer instead of the other way around greatly helped spread the Rahr & Sons gospel. Because the brewery sells fewer than 225,000 barrels per year and is unattached to a bar, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Rahr employees cannot sell product directly to anyone who walks into the brewery. But shortly after opening, Rahr & Sons started hosting tasting tours on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons: Beer lovers pay $10 for a commemorative pint glass and receive up to three free refills of select Rahr brews, and Rahr stays legal.
What goes into those glasses definitely hasn’t held Rahr back. Over the years, the brewery has won more than 50 national and international awards, including a bronze medal this year for the doppelbock-style Regulator (a dark, malty lager) at the Great American Beer Festival. Rahr won a silver medal in the same competition in 2012 with Iron Thistle, the 2009 National Grand Champion and 2014 gold medal winner in the U.S. Open Beer Championship. (Rahr’s Oktoberfest and bourbon barrel-aged Winter Warmer also took home medals at the U.S. Open.)
Before Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Four Corners Brewing Company, Franconia Brewing Company, Lakewood Brewing Company, Martin House Brewing Company, Peticolas Brewing Company, and Revolver Brewing, there was Rahr & Sons, so you could easily say that Rahr’s success is partly responsible for the explosion in regional craft breweries over the last few years. There are few bars and bar/restaurants left in North Texas where you can’t get a Revolver Blood & Honey, Martin House Day Break, a Peticolas Velvet Hammer, or just about anything by Rahr.
A big reason for the uptick in interest in craft beer locally, Fritz said, is that many North Texas restaurateurs and chefs have begun realizing the value of the libation as part of a tasty culinary experience. Earlier this month, the homey but swanky Bird Café downtown offered a beer-pairing dinner with several Rahr products. The Pecker Wreck pilsner accompanied a fruit-and-nut appetizer on a popover, the heavy oatmeal stout Snowmageddon (named after the blizzard that destroyed the brewery’s roof five years ago) was matched with beefy braised oxtails, and the Pride of Texas pale ale joined chicken and a fancy chilaca chile pepper-and-potato side dish.
Not much has changed around Galveston Avenue since 2004. The brewmasters still conceptualize the flavors and then whip up test batch after test batch until “nailing it,” Fritz said. Rahr & Sons Brewing Company produces five beers year-round and six seasonal brews. Despite Rahr’s popularity, Fritz said batches are as small as they were 10 years ago.
“We just brew a lot more of them now,” he said.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 10th Anniversary
6-9pm Fri and 1-5pm Sat at 701 Galveston Av, FW.