In two months, when you crack open Martin House Brewing Company’s new strawberry shortcake-flavored beer, you can thank Kyle Wheatley and Kevin Fielder for the experience.
The homebrewing duo won first prize at the recent Riverside Shootout Homebrew Competition. Each year, the winning beer from the competition is brewed and released by Martin House.
Wheatley and Fielder, who collectively go by Wheat Field Brewing, have been brewing for several years. Wheatley got into the hobby during graduate school as a way to save money.
“I was living on a stipend,” and money was tight, he recalled. “They tax alcohol a lot in the Deep South. A six pack of Boulevard was $12. I learned the basics [of homebrewing] from my brother-in-law.”
Fielder picked up homebrewing when his favorite Shiner seasonal unexpectedly went out of stock.
“I wondered how hard it would be to make it myself,” he said. “So, I started researching.”
Part of the appeal of making beer is the creativity involved, they said. As an example, they described a cocktail-inspired brew they perfected recently. The brewers are fans of Old Fashioneds. Fielder knew certain characteristics of the mixed drink needed to come across in the beer: rye, berries, and bourbon. They methodically examined the flavors found in bitters. After experimenting with chicory root, oak chips soaked in bourbon, and other ingredients, they settled on a recipe that they said turned out “really well.”
When it came time to enter the 2017 Riverside Shootout, though, they were drawing blanks. Wheatley and Fielder queried friends for ideas. One suggestion, strawberry shortcake with graham crackers, was a winner.
“We put graham crackers in our mash,” Wheatley said. “We treated it like our grain. It smelled incredible. Then we aged it with strawberries.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the brewers weren’t optimistic about their prospects for winning at first. That all changed when Martin House head brewer and co-founder Cody Martin announced them as first-prize winners. Talks between Martin House staffers and the two homebrewers have already begun. While the competition entry required several boxes of graham crackers, Martin House, with its 30-barrel system, will be dunking more than 300 pounds of the sugary confections into the brew.
Does Wheat Field Brewing plan to go professional anytime soon?
“I think that’s the dream,” Wheatley said. “This is turning into such a saturated market, though. Combine that with the TABC laws, which are very unfavorable to breweries and brewpubs, and I don’t know if this would be the right time and place.”
For now, the amateurs are content to continue experimenting and refining their craft. As for naming their soon-to-be-released strawberry ale, nothing has been confirmed yet. I do have a few ideas for them, though.
Strawberry Fields Pourever
Berry Good Brew
Won’t Wait, Shortcake
The Last Straw
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On Tap this Week:
Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. hosts 8th annual Oktoberfest 5K, Sept. 30
From Rahr: Lace up your running shoes and lederhosen for Rahr & Sons’ 8th annual Oktoberfest 5K! Costumes are highly encouraged for the fun run, which has raised $69,250 to benefit local nonprofits since its start. Runners receive a dry-fit t-shirt, an on-course TX Whiskey shot, and a finisher medal. Following the race, participants will enjoy live entertainment in a festive “biergarten.” This year’s event will benefit the Fort Worth chapter of Brotherhood For The Fallen, a nonprofit that supports the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. To register, click here.
Flying Saucer Hurricane Harvey Relief Drive at Flying Saucer
From Flying Saucer: As Texas begins its long road to recovery this month, lots of restaurants are stepping up to support the relief effort. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is one of them. Throughout September, cash donations are accepted in-store. Each Wednesday, 100 percent of proceeds from a selected keg tapping will be donated to the relief fund. Patrons can purchase $10 raffle tickets for a chance to win a $200 Saucer gift card (drawing Oct. 1). For more details, click here.