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Photo credit: Brian Hutson

The thing to remember about 2017 isn’t that more people were turned onto craft beer. It’s that more folks here and regionally began drinking Fort Worth brews. Chronicling that aforementioned year in its entirety would take more ink than we have space. But we do have some good highlights.

The granddaddy of them all (locally and across North Texas) is Rahr & Sons Brewing Company. At the brewery’s recent 13th birthday bash, I savored pours of Rahr’s funked-up Brett Storm Cloud and the muy rico rum barrel-aged 13th Anniversary. Rahr’s lauded head brewer, Craig Mycoskie, has gone southward to even funkier enclaves in Austin. With the help of current head brewer Nate Swan, Mycoskie left us a parting gift: Dadgum IPA. The West Coast-style India Pale Ale has, so far, won over the masses with its tropical, citrus, and piney notes.

Martin House Brewing Company, home to local beer personalities Cody Martin, Shugg Cole, and Ice Cole, may be writing its own obituary. (Sarcasm? Yes, but bear with me.) In my very unscientific observation-based study, I witnessed a swell of interest in Martin House’s lighter releases like Parker County Peach and Pumpkin Latte. Does this signify a shift away from the brewery’s irreverent experiments with lava salt, bourbon barrels, and tomatillo-based brews? Probably not. The Martin House flavor pendulum sways both ways these days.

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Adieu, End of the Weak. According to my not so anonymous source David Riddile, The Collective Brewing Project stout’s days are numbered. The rising star of the Near Southside-based brewpub may well be Cup O’ Beer. The ramen-based gose will be the base for a new line of firked-up and/or spontaneously fermented variants. The brewery recently began offering quality small-dish food items. And wine. And carefully curated art shows. It’s a really cool industrial-chic pub where the beers are so good they just might change your life.

Since HopFusion Ale Works turned 1 last month, it’s been hard to get HopFusion co-founders Matt Hill and Macy Moore to stop smiling. The brewery is a family- and dog-friendly respite for lovers of choice craft brews as well as kids and moms who prefer made-from-scratch lemonade or locally produced root beer. It’s all there, and the beers (Feisty Blonde being a popular favorite) are uncompromisingly well-executed and creative.

Thousands of locals have taken a walk on the Wild Acre side. Head brewer Mike Kraft has proven that newcomer breweries can still make a splash in the local craft beer scene. Having a badass pad helps, and Wild Acre’s taproom is arguably the most impressive in the 817. It’s not a brewery known for irreverent recipes, meaning anything off the tap tends to quickly garner mass appeal.

Chimera Brewing Company balances two demanding offerings: small batch brews and a full-service kitchen. The brick-oven pizzas always top locals’ recommendations for the best pie in town. And the beers. Head brewer Matthew Maroney has retained several England session styles while expanding the lineup to include a New England IPA and Mexican lager. It’s a slow evolution that shouldn’t cause too much of a conniption among diehard Chimera fans. 

This year, the looming $1 billion Trinity River Vision began reshaping the land around Panther Island Brewing. It’s a moment the Northside brewery has been eagerly awaiting. In the coming years, posh developments and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes will surround Panther Island, hugging it in a warm, business-friendly embrace. Until then, Ryan McWhorter and his team will continue doing what they’ve done for the past three years — making delicious beers and hosting crowd-pleasing taproom tours. Besides favorites Allergeez, Cannonball, and Tailgater, this year McWhorter started the WRATH series, a boozed-up Belgian lineup that’s accompanied by original art and fictional stories.

Our southern neighbor is now one of the largest players in the North Texas craft beer market. Having MillerCoors’ coffers behind you doesn’t hurt. It also doesn’t hurt that Revolver Brewing’s brewmaster, Grant Wood, has a penchant for crafting recipes that are as original as they are damn tasty. Some of my favorites have been the tart Sangre Y Miel and Mandarin. And yes, I’ve been known to grab a sixer of Blood and Honey here and there.

Arlington, your nightlife continues to blossom. Part of that appeal has come via two breweries: Legal Draft Beer Company and Division Brewing. Legal Draft boasts one of the most spacious and pristine taprooms in North Texas. It’s still hard to find a good locally made lager, but their blonde lager has been my go-to for a while now. Bock Trial has a welcome roasty, caramel-kissed flavor with a robust malty backbone. And the IPAs, for my money, are some of the best around.

Who says you can’t have it all? Division Brewing makes sours, stouts, IPAs — basically anything your beer-enraptured mind could conceive. Whiskey barrels and firkins top the offerings here. It’s a laid back, no-frills spot where you can unwind and take in some superlative craft suds.

Mansfield is home to a new trend in brewery openings — small breweries and brewpubs that are content to serve the surrounding community. Dirty Job Brewing recently opened in historic downtown Mansfield, serving a rotating selection of classic styles and quirky originals like Agave Davida (citrusy wheat ale with blueberry notes) and Maize Runner (corn-flavored ale, almost like a tortilla).

I predict that New England-style IPAs will dethrone sours as the trending beer of 2018. Leading that wave of hazy, juicy pale ales is Turning Point Beer. The brewery is expected to open early next year in Bedford. Having sampled these brews, I see a bright future for this style, especially for folks who typically find IPAs off-putting.

Pantego-based New Main Brewing Company takes a novel approach to serving beer. The brewpub will release four variants (wood-aged, spiced, fruited, and barrel-aged) of each of its six flagship styles when it opens early next year. Be on the lookout for two other newcomers. Parker County Brewing Company will have a few year-round beers (American-style wheat ale and Belgian Wit, among others) that will be complemented by a rotating selection of seasonals like Scotch ales, stouts, and pale ales. The brewery will offer three of its beers through a cask. The centuries-old technique uses a hand pump to siphon beer from a keg or container. The results leave the ale with a creamy mouthfeel. Come this time next year, Brutal Beerworks’ Pineapple Milkshake and Peach Ryewine may be North Texas favorites. The Bedford-based brewery plans to open its doors late next year. And California transplant Eric Addison is working overtime to ensure Pathfinder Brewery is ready to open by mid to late 2018.

As the Fort Worth Weekly’s craft beer columnist, I get to shake hands and clink pints with the hundreds of people who make, distribute, and sell locally brewed beer. Those folks are all community-minded and passionate people. Next time you grab that sixer of Rabbit Hole’s Rapture Fusion Brown Ale or Panther Island Brewing Company’s Allergeez, you can take pride in the fact that Fort Worth makes some of the best damn beer in the country. Cheers. 

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