Like its many consumers, Fort Worth’s craft brew scene keeps chugging along. There were many noteworthy beer-related events in 2019. Too many, in fact, to fit into our 2019 Beer Issue, but we’d be remiss to not explore how brewery openings and closings, state law reforms, beer releases, and progressive pubs shaped our local beer-scape in indelible ways. Here’s to the local movers and shakers who changed how Fort Worth thought about and consumed craft beer this year.
Return of the Lady
Much of Fort Worth gave a collective sigh of relief when the Bearded Lady reopened, this time in South Main Village, after a nearly year-long hiatus from the local pub scene. The Lady played a formative role in Fort Worth’s craft beer history. Owner/cofounder Shannon Osbakken is a long-time champion of local beer. “Long-time” is relative in local beer terms, but suffice to say, if a new local brewery needed help hitting a crowded market over the past five years, the Bearded Lady was happy to offer that early break. The Lady has even elevated bar fare from pedestrian pretzels to elevated burgers that are worth the trip. With or without the beer.
Pickle Beer? Really?
On my running list of “What the World Really Needs,” pickle beer ranked somewhere between reusable floss and a resurgence of interest in Jeff Foxworthy jokes. Pickle beer’s rankings shot surprisingly high, though, when I tried Martin House’s new Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer. I never thought that getting drunk on pickle juice would be a thing, but like the hoards of pickle beer fanatics who devoured every last drop within a week of the ale’s release, I was sold. I just couldn’t stomach a second pint. I mean, it is pickle juice.
Rabbit Hole Brewing Company Closes
Justin-based Rabbit Hole Brewing Company had a good run. That’s not to say that every brewer that closes after five years feels good about it. I’m simply pointing out that the brewery made some amazing beers and memories in that span of time. The customer service at their taproom events was always great, and Mystic Rapture will always be my all-time favorite brown ale. And I generally dislike brown ales. The folks who ran that brewery worked magic day in and day out to bring joy to folks in Justin and across the region, and we can only thank them for the great beer and memories they made along the way.
Texas Updates Antiquated Beer Laws
I can’t talk about the new TABC guidelines that allow breweries to sell beer to-go without mentioning how ridiculous it was that Texas didn’t allow breweries to sell beer to-go in the first place. It’s a testament to the power of alcohol distribution lobbies that breweries have been painted as a threat to our revered three-tier system of retailer, distributor, and brewer. The bill was passed by state legislators earlier this year and became active on September 1. You may have noticed sixers of beer at Rahr & Sons or Wild Acre Brewing Company. It’s a welcome free-market change that has been a long time coming.
As the old adage goes, if you can’t out-predatory price them, join ’em. Texas’ craft breweries took a pragmatic approach to lobbying this year — and won. The Texas-based political action committee was recently founded by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, which represents independent breweries across the Lone Star State. The PAC supported beer to-go and continues to champion legislation that “expands the rights of Texas craft brewers” and fight against “any proposed legislation that seeks to further limit the rights of craft brewers.”
Funky Picnic Brewery
The homebrewing team of The Fort Brewing realized every amateur brewer’s dream of launching a brewery when Funky Picnic Brewery & Café recently opened in South Main Village. The restaurant offers artisan sandwiches that pair well with head brewer Michael Harper’s rotating beers. The family-friendly brewpub is bustling with locals of all ages most days of the week.
Deep Ellum Brewing Goes Deep
Locals appear to have forgiven (or forgotten about) Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s John Reardon following his public conniption after the City of Fort Worth demanded that he take down an unapproved mural earlier this year. Deep Ellum Funkytown Fermatorium offers a wide range of choice beers and some of the best Neapolitan pizza in the 817. There’s still room for brewery growth, even from our neighbors to the east.
What’s New for 2020?
As 2019 comes to a close, Fort Worthians can look forward to two brewery openings early next year. Second Rodeo Brewing Co. is slated to open as part of the new Stockyards development sometime this spring. The venture is headed by restaurateur Jason Boso and head brewer Justin Meyers, who currently heads By the Horns Brewing in Mansfield. Construction is underway at Maple Branch Craft Brewery (see: their full profile in this issue) in the Foundry District. Fort Worth’s breweries and many of our stalwart pubs are largely in the hands of local owners, meaning whatever surprises are in store for our beer scene next year will be uniquely Fort Worth experiences.