“What’s the difference between light beer and having sex in a canoe?”
It’s a joke I’ll never forget. Carousing at the go-to Irish pub in College Station nearly a decade ago, I stroked my chin in contemplation until my brother’s roommate delivered the punchline.
“Nothing. They’re both fucking close to water.”
Can’t deny that logic. I could claim that, ever since that fateful night, I follow a code (of sorts) when choosing the quality of beer I drink, but the truth is I’ve never liked those shelf-fillers one might find at a frat party. Gimme quality over quantity any day.
Well, new-kid-on-the-block Neutral Ground Brewing Company delivers that quality.
With a name like Neutral Ground, you might expect The Post’s next-door neighbor on Race Street to be a coffee shop — but you’d be wrong. The unassuming craft brewery in River East boasts an array of ales, from golden blondes to dark porters and every shade in between.
Founders Stan Hudson, a native of Lampasas and expert in engineering and homebrewing, and Sean Doublet, a master chemist from New Orleans, are the heart and soul of Neutral Ground. It’s not just their prowess, but their passion — “a combination of science and artistry,” per their mission statement — that compels them to craft “delicious beer for all […] by focusing on top-notch quality and ingredients, in a fun and inclusive environment.”
In fact, the microbrewery’s name pays tribute to the armistice struck between rival military leaders after the Louisiana Purchase. They declared that the disputed territory between then-Spanish Texas and U.S.-acquired Louisiana would temporarily serve as “neutral ground,” a place where people could enjoy free trade and camaraderie without threat of conflict until the border was officially established. What could have been ravaged by fighting instead became a haven, and what better way to honor that legacy than by bringing people of all walks together with craft beer?
Though in present-day Louisiana, neutral ground is tantamount to a road median, the spirit of the historic alliance lives on at Neutral Ground. The taproom was fairly packed when my friend Sasha and I dropped by one Friday, with children teeter-tottering about freely and lively chatter filling the modest space.
Not only that, but the beerhouse also frequently hosts local food trucks and pop-ups to promote and gather its neighbors. That evening, Love, Sammy’s served up crispy tostadas with all the fixin’s and picante rice. As the chefs warmly greeted people and the barbacks enthusiastically recommended pairings, it occurred to me that the place may be small, but the people, on either side of the bar, fill it with life and make it feel substantial.
While its simple, industrial design and color scheme may live up to the name (emphasis on “neutral”), the brewery is anything but plain. Wood slats painted a mossy green wrap the barroom from floor to ceiling and back like a ribbon on a gift box, a windowed garage door all but spans the façade, and patterned brown and gold-embellished tiles adorn the ceiling above the taps.
But that’s where the analogy ends, because there’s nothing neutral or middle-of-the-road about the brews.
When sampling a beer selection, I always opt for a flight or two. With four tasters in each flight ($16), Sasha and I went all over the map, determined to take advantage of the shorter pours to dip our toes into a wider variety of Neutral Ground’s brews.
We kicked things off with the darkest blonde I’ve ever seen. The Cal Blonde Ale’s hue gave off an amber ale vibe. Reminiscent of my childhood platinum locks that gradually faded to a dirty blonde as I grew older, the more I emptied the glass, the paler the liquid became — an inverse effect I wish had been true of my mane. The blonde’s delicate, subtle flavor was followed by a delayed and unexpected sharpness that woke the senses.
It took a few sips of La Bruja to get past the sweet, spicy, and salty of the tajin and lime adhered to the rim to the refreshing Mexican lager within, but once I did, “The Witch” had me wishin’ I was lounging on a tropical beach somewhere like someone straight out of a Corona commercial.
Not normally one for IPAs or the like, I branched out with a Brave Noise hazy pale ale. To my delight, the new release savors strongly of wheat without being overly hoppy. Even the Trail Boss “Jefe”weizen, though akin to your typical German “white beer,” possesses a unique heartiness that bespeaks quality.
The clear frontrunner was The Accursed, an unsurprisingly award-winning Baltic porter. Dark, rich, and smooth, it left behind a lingering robust coffee aftertaste. And if there’s one thing I love more than beer, it’s coffee.
Fool’s Fancy came in a close second. At 10.2% ABV, this strong golden ale packs some intense flavor. Though you may mistake it for cider by the looks of it, the Belgian-style beer was a touch fruity, spicy, and nutty, and I even detected notes of ginger. Pardon me as I remove my monocle, but even if my detective skills pale in comparison to those of Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple, trust me that Fool’s Fancy is a must-try.
Neutral Ground is making its mark and creating community. And for a good price, I was able to partake in a good portion of their high-quality offerings. You best believe I’ll be back for the rest — especially since, as I closed out, the bartender informed me I’d missed out on one of the best beers they have on tap, a tripel called Mannequin de Belgique, and teased their upcoming fall batches.
Neutral Ground Brewing Company, 2929 Race St, FW. 682-499-6033. Noon-5pm Sun, 4pm-9pm Thu, 4pm-10pm Fri, 2pm-10pm Sat. Closed Mon-Wed.