Sometimes the name of an event can say it all. That's certainly the case with Dallas' Big Texas Beer Fest. The homegrown party celebrated a fifth year with more than 500 beers over two days (April 1 and 2) at the Automobile Building in Fair Park. Couple the drinks with great tunes and picturesque weather and this year's event proved it may be one of the best beer festivals in the city. Oh, and that Dallas drinks a lot of beer.
Here's how the event lived up to its name.
Too many festivals seem to be a strategy game – grab a sample and get in another line so you’re not waiting empty-handed. Not so at BTBF. Organizers said about 7,000 people came through the festival over the weekend, but Saturday was the biggest day, selling out at 5,000 attendees. Fair Park (once again) seemed like the most appropriate place for an event this size. The entire Automobile Building was lined with beer stations representing almost 150 different breweries, and because there were so many options, the crowd never felt overwhelming. Waits were short and lines moved quickly, which is great when drinking 2 ounces at a time.
Outside, bands played on a stage and food trucks and vendors lined a beer garden. Again, thousands of people milled about, but it wasn't tight or uncomfortable. And perhaps most importantly, there were plenty of restrooms.
While BTBF invited breweries from around the country and world, Texas had a commendable showing. Local breweries busted out the big guns too. Many, like Rabbit Hole Brewing in Justin and Lakewood Brewing Co. in Garland, debuted new beers. Franconia Brewing Co. out of McKinney served its suds from huge ice sculptures. Its Ice Bock was also one of the most talked about beers of the fest, clocking a crazy 27 percent alcohol content.
Local breweries also brought a bar-type atmosphere to BTBF. For example, Shannon Brewing Co. (Keller) set up foosball and video games in its tent, and Martin House Brewing Co. (Fort Worth) brought out a disc golf basket where patrons could shoot in hopes of scoring a free sample. Dallas brewer Michael Peticolas (Peticolas Brewing Co.) also caused quite a stir when he scaled a wall ladder and took pictures from scaffolding hanging from the ceiling. (The authorities were unimpressed, but Peticolas wasn't charged.)
Of course, the main attraction of the day was the beer, endless amounts of delicious beer. So where to begin?
Some meandered through the rows of tents, stopping by a brewery they liked or a design that caught their eye. Others, like Chait and Ruchika Verma, devised a plan. Before the fest, they compared the beer list to Chait's Untappd account, whittled it down to the brews they'd never tried and then researched those to see which were the highest rated.
"Each beer you have here is going to be different," said Ruchika, a personalized spreadsheet in hand. That's why she and Chait are determined to try new flavors.
I sought out some of the aforementioned new releases -- I highly recommend both Rabbit Hole’s Ryeteous Knight roggenbier and Lakewood’s All Call Kolsch -- as well as recipes I heard about through the grapevine.
The standouts include...
- Improved Old Fashioned by Brooklyn Brewery, a rye ale aged in whiskey barrels with orange peel and bitters. This is no doubt a whiskey lover's beer: simultaneously smooth and bold with a sweet finish that lived up to the cocktail it's brewed to match.
- Black Jesus by Texian Brewing Co., a wild dark ale with cherries. The fruit cuts the beer's sourness for a nice clean finish.
- Grapefruit Shady from SanTan Brewing Co., an ale brewed with indigenous Arizona grapefruits. This spring seasonal is bright, juicy and begging to be paired with a sunny day.
- Double Barrel Brunette by Twins Peaks Brewing Co., a barrel-aged brown ale that earned the local brewpub a bronze medal at Great American Beer Festival last year. Naturally, I had to see what the fuss was about and was pleasantly surprised by the balance in flavors. It's roasty and chocolatey throughout, including the finish, which is clean and less boozy than most barrel-aged beers.
In an age were festivals are a dime a dozen, Big Texas Beer Fest is one not to miss. Between the seamless flow, selection of beers and laid-back vibe, the event has a winning recipe that should keep it around for many years to come. Plus, beer naturally brings people together, so you're bound to make new friends along the way.