Five years ago, options were limited when it came to finding a local beer served at a neighborhood bar. Today, local brews are ubiquitous, with some establishments devoting large portions of their tap walls to beer brewed in Dallas-Fort Worth.
When Deep Ellum Brewing Co. opened in 2011, it ushered in a new era of craft beer in North Texas, and in the years since, the local industry has grown at an unprecedented rate. The region is now home to about 60 brewing operations, with plenty more on the way.
To veteran beer drinkers, the boom is reminiscent of the mid-1990s, when new legislation paved the way for a surge in local brewpubs. The momentum then was short-lived, as brewers struggled to sustain a market for their products. Later, stalwarts like Rahr and Sons Brewing Co. and Franconia Brewing Co. laid the foundation for upstarts like Peticolas Brewing Co. and Lakewood Brewing Co. to lead a renewed charge, but the continued rise in local offerings has led some to ask the question:
Is it too much of a good thing?
"I think we've grown too fast relative to true demand," says Michael Peticolas, owner of Peticolas Brewing Co. "The number of beers available here now is staggering. And, it's not just the beers being produced by local breweries."
Concurrent with the craft beer boom, a plethora of brands have poured into North Texas from across the nation. That's great for drinkers, who can now choose from a growing lineup of local flavor alongside beers from Bell's Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Founders Brewing Co. and others. For brewers, however, it's a double-edged sword.
More beer means more competition, and there are only so many tap handles and so much shelf space.
While some experts (and per-capita numbers) say Dallas-Fort Worth hasn't reached a tipping point, past lessons suggest the long-term health of the industry might be better served with tempered growth. Still, it's as vital as ever to continue the push to convert casual beer drinkers, Peticolas says.
"Local craft beer drinkers are more knowledgeable than they were five years ago," Peticolas says. "We've definitely drawn in more people, but I think we have miles to go in educating beer drinkers in general about craft beer."
Steering more locals on the path to better beer will not only help keep current breweries in business, it will give future breweries a better chance at success.
Brian Brown keeps up with the North Texas craft beer scene on his blog, Beer in Big D.