Sunday, October 2, 2016

Zero to Nine: Craft Breweries in your Backyard

In 2011 the closest craft brewery to my home in Longview, Texas was Deep Ellum Brewing Company 133 miles away in Dallas. If I wanted to visit the next closest brewery I had to drive another 36 miles to Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. in Fort Worth. Today I just have to drive a little over 3 miles to Oil Horse Brewing in downtown Longview. I can drive 59 miles to Shreveport and hit 3 breweries in 3 miles. Within 100 miles of my home are now 9 craft breweries that did not exist 5 years ago. From zero to nine in 5 years. It is easy to take for granted the ease with which we can now drink fresh craft beer at the source. Saddling up to a bar at one of my favorite taprooms has become second nature but I still remember not very long ago the smoke filled bar at Buffalo Wild Wings was our only chance at finding more than light beers on tap in my town. The explosion of new breweries in our area has drastically changed the beers we are drinking and where we are drinking them. When you read the numbers on craft beer sales in the United States remember any beers sold at a taproom are not included so those numbers are drastically lower than the actual number of craft brews being consumed. I’m pretty sure these days I drink more craft beer straight from the brewery than I buy at a grocery or liquor store. Having 3 breweries just over the Louisiana border allows me to do something we can’t do in Texas; Bring a growler of fresh beer home from a craft brewery. I think it is important to highlight our local breweries that bring fresh craft beer just a hop, skip and and a jump away.

Cedar Creek Brewery

In 2012 Cedar Creek Brewery began production and didn’t take long before placing East Texas beers on the map by winning Gold at the Great American Beer Festival with their Belgian-style Dubbel. In contrast to the new multi-million dollar breweries you see popping up around the nation founder Jim Elliot and brewer Damon Lewis repurposed dairy equipment for the original 10bbl brewhouse and fermentation vessels. It wasn’t until 2014 that their flagship beer, Dankosaurus, was added to their year round lineup. In 2015 they added Plowboys Cafe to the taproom serving delicious burgers, salads and sandwiches to those who visit them in Seven Points.

Great Raft Brewing

According to their website “Great Raft Brewing is a Shreveport, Louisiana based craft brewery dedicated to making creative, authentic beer and helping to build a great beer culture within communities it serves.” I’d say the description fits them perfectly. Saying I was excited about the 2012 launch of Great Raft would be an understatement. From day one they have done so many things right that many craft breweries get wrong. From the beer, to the taproom to their marketing founders Andrew and Lindsay Nations seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of local craft beer lovers. They took time to plan out the details and it shows. The hiring of chief brewer Harvey Kenney was one of the the best moves they have ever made. Great Raft sold the first locally brewed beer in Shreveport on October 15, 2013. On December 20th of that year they gave us the perfect Christmas gift by opening Shreveport’s first local brewery taproom to the public. Over the past few years Great Raft has continually impressed craft beer lovers across the country with their excellent seasonals and keep the fans coming back for their special events. Great Raft has shown no signs of slowing down as they recently launched their sour program under the leadership of Malari Coburn. They also have announced after expanding distribution across the entire state of Louisiana they are now bringing their beers to Arkansas and East Texas.

Red River Brewing Company

“With roots in the local home brewing community, our mission is to bring high quality local beer to high quality local people….or vagrants like us, too.”

In the fall of 2013 Red River Brewing Company became a commercial craft brewery under founders Robert McGuire, Jared Beville, and Beau Raines. Their first beer was Hay Ryed and it has remained their flagship beer for the past 3 years. On April 2, 2016 Red River Brewing Company marked the next step in their evolution with the grand opening of their first taproom at their brand new brewery just south of I-20 in downtown Shreveport. The beautiful facility also ushered in the era of bottled 6-packs for the brewery. Along with their flagship and seasonal brews the taproom also offers tasty eats from local caters and food trucks. You can also feed your competitive side by playing corn hole or Kubb against your friends or a complete stranger who happens to have good taste in beer. On Thursday September 29th Red River will debut a special beer, Penalty Bock made for Shreveport Mudbugs Hockey at their home opener.

True Vine Brewing Company

While founded in 2011, True Vine Brewing Company finally became Smith County’s first licensed brewery in November 2013 with the first keg sold in January 2014. The brewery describes itself as “More than just Tyler’s 1st craft brewery, True Vine strives to create true, authentic community through love and integrity in all that we do. From our artistically driven beers to our Back Yard events, our goal produce them with excellence. Each specialty handcrafted beer at True Vine represents depth of concept and flavor and is meant to be enjoyed around a table with old friends and new.” Starting out on tap at some of Tyler’s favorite restaurants and bars True Vine soon launched their monthly Open Taps event at the brewery. Now in addition to Open Taps their backyard taproom is open every Thursday and Friday allowing the community more chances to gather together and enjoy a fellowship around a fresh pint of Mermaids & Unicorns. In the summer of 2016 their canning program was kicked off with distribution across East Texas. FUN FACT: Just this week the brewery gained international notoriety when a Reddit post highlighted the fact their True Culture cans have “For Harambe” stamped on the bottom.

Big Thicket Brewery

Big Thicket Brewery proudly proclaims to be Deep East Texas' first brewery. According to the brewery “It all began with a dream of creating and sharing quality, hand-crafted ales with friends and family in the Lufkin area.” They also say “Big Thicket Brewery is a small-town brewery that celebrates the local history and pride of East Texas while also keeping with the time-honored tradition of independent brewing.” Since October 2014 Big Thicket has been providing craft beer to the people of East Texas in the heart of Lufkin. The taproom opened in January 2015 and is open Tuesday - Saturday so they give you plenty of options on when to stop in for a pint of Lone Star Electric Imperial IPA or even a tasty root beer! Towards the end of 2015 they began selling their bottled brews in local stores.

Pecan Point 
Gastropub & Brewery

Pecan Point Brewing opened in October 2014 in a historic building located in downtown Texarkana, Texas. What sets Pecan Point apart from other local breweries is the fact that they have a full restaurant and bar. Chef Rebecca Williams serves up some of the best food in town while Jason K. Williams creates custom cocktails made with house-infused spirits. Designed by Brooklyn-based architect Justin Scurlock, Pecan Point's interior “peels back the layers of the building's history to reveal the beauty of the original structure.” Guests are allowed to choose between the “intimate atmosphere of the Dining Room or the communal experience of the Beerhall.” All in all everyone should be able to find a dish and a drink they will enjoy at Pecan Point.

Flying Heart Brewing

When Flying Heart Brewing opened it’s doors to the public on May 1, 2015 it was obvious the owners had put a lot of work into the former Bossier City Fire Station #6. Only a short walk from Horseshoe Casino, Flying Heart finds itself in the middle of the action. While not as large or ambitious as the breweries in Shreveport, Flying Heart has carved out a spot for itself with craft beer lovers in the Ark-la-tex. The taproom is open on Friday and Saturday and you can usually find a food truck pulled up to the patio serving food to those enjoying a cold pint and live music. They even have their own Pokestop and a nearby Pokemon Gym so you can enjoy a beer while catching a Charmander!

Athens Brewing Company

On April 30, 2016 brewers Brittany Pierce & A.J. Campbell brought their dream to life as they opened the doors of Athens Brewing Co.'s taproom to the public. Housed in a historic 1925 three story building on the downtown Athens square which was formerly the Henderson County Courthouse Annex. On June 19th Father Frick of the St Matthias Episcopal Church performed a blessing of the brewery which was attended by people from all over East Texas. The blessing must have worked because since then the brewery has seen tremendous success! On Sept. 24th the brewery opened it’s restaurant during the breweries grand re-0pening. The taproom is open Thursday - Sunday and plays host to live music, kids finger painting and other events regularly. The brewery features a dog friendly patio called The Alleyway full of beer garden games as well. These brewers are not afraid to experiment and the results are plenty of unique beers that you will not find in your average East Texas taproom.

Oil Horse Brewing Company

In 2016 co-founders Jack Buttram and John Oglesbee brought Longview’s first craft brewery to life. On May 7th Oil Horse Brewing Company opened the newest East Texas brewery and taproom to the public and quickly won over many craft beer lovers. Originally open every other Saturday they have now expanded to be open every Friday as well. As demand for their beers grew several Oil Horse beers found their way onto taps across the city. You can frequently find live music and food trucks at the brewery and people of all ages enjoy the laid back atmosphere of the downtown location. These brewers are not afraid to tinker with their recipes as is seen with their popular Moon Pool Belgian Tripel which keeps getting better with each batch brewed.

Zero to 11?

If you are willing to drive just a tiny bit further here are two more local craft breweries worth a visit. They are only 1.5 miles apart in the booming tourist community Hochatown, Oklahoma. Along with the beauty of Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow Lake, Mountain Fork River, many restaurants serving Oklahoma’s best craft beer, and three wineries it’s easy to see why so many people take time to relax and recharge while living on Hochatime!

Beavers Bend Brewery

In April, 2016 Beavers Bend Brewery relocated from Idabel to Hochatown, Oklahoma. They have settled into their brand new brewery and taproom located right outside Beavers Bend State Park. Located next door to a winery and across the road from the famous Grateful Head Pizza Oven & TapRoom, Beavers Bend Brewery is in the heart of Hochatown. Brad Reesing does a great job providing refreshing beers for the endless stream of locals and tourists who fill up the patio regularly. Chances are no matter when you are in the area Beavers Bend will be pouring beers as they are open everyday except Tuesday. Their taproom not only serves glasses of beer but can sell you packaged beer to go or fill your growler. Swing by after kayaking the river and enjoy a pint of Bigfoot Brown while enjoying live music on the patio!

Mountain Fork Brewery

July 2016 saw Hochatown become a two brewery town! Mountain Fork Brewery's taproom began serving up pints, growlers and Crowlers. Conveniently located next to Chef Tabb Singleton's The Moon Tower Bar And Grill, Mountain Fork is sure to have a beer you'll enjoy. Their massive gift shop houses a rare find in this area. While you pick up a hat or pint glass you can also buy home brewing equipment and supplies! After only two months there are already big plans for a major expansion. A new gift shop is in the works attached to the new taproom which will seat 100 guests. The new brewery will have 10 times the capacity to keep up with the growing demand for craft beer in McCurtain County.

On The Horizon

East Texans will soon have a few more options when they want to visit a local craft brewery. Here are a few breweries that are in the works. Check back often as we will keep you up to date on their progress.

Fredonia Brewery

138 N Mound St Nacogdoches, TX 75961

According to their website Fredonia Brewery plans on "setting up in a 20,430 square foot space with high ceilings to allow for tall fermenters and equipment. This will allow for room to brew, grow, and have a tap room. A 15 barrel brew house will fill four 30 barrel fermenters. A canning line will allow for packaging to sell our beer through local retailers, and expand our market continually." They mention plans for the taproom to be open Thursday-Saturday as well as contract brewing for a very popular food truck beer garden in Dallas. Planned beer styles include cream ale, amber ale, pale ale, IPA and porter. Fredonia hopes to open by December 16, 2016 which will be exactly 190 years since the Fredonia Rebellion began.

ETX Brewing Company

221 S Broadway Ave Tyler, TX 75702

Downtown Tyler will soon be home to ETX Brewing Company. With a taproom that offers a view into their production area ETX Brewing Co. plans on opening this December. Ten beers will be available in the tasting room with five year round beers and five rotating brews. With the motto "Do what you Love and Love what you do!" it is easy to see why they decided to open a craft brewery. Their ultimate goal is to "share our love for quality craft beers with all of East Texas" and they are already planning many fun events to benefit locals once they are open. The taproom is a major component of the brewery and is planned to be open 4 days each week.

Tyler Brewing Company

Tyler, TX

Tyler will soon become the "Ft. Collins of East Texas" when it becomes home to 3 craft breweries. Not much has been publicly announced but as soon as a location is finalized we should hear more. Keep an eye on Tyler Brewing Company's Facebook page for info over the coming months.


Joel Patrick Heflin

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