Pick a weekend and you'll likely have more than a handful of craft beer events and festivals throughout North Texas to choose from. But when local beer nerds Chad and Nellie Montgomery founded the Big Texas Beer Festival in 2012, it was something of a novel concept.
Inspired by the long-running Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the couple attempted to recreate the vibe of that esteemed party on their home turf. But Dallas-Fort Worth's beer scene was in its infancy and neither was sure if 80 companies offering sudsy samples was enough to lure residents.
"I was a little scared," says Chad of that first year. "I didn’t know if we were going to throw a party for 200 people or 2,000 people."
If the turnout was an indication, however, local enthusiasm for craft beer was brewing -- more than 3,500 drinkers showed, selling out the venue.
Big Texas Beer Fest has upheld that tradition in the years since, continually serving a full house and earning the reputation as one of Dallas' most beloved booze-drenched events. Its success has not only afforded the Montgomerys an opportunity to grow -- this year's fest is up to two days -- but also turn beer party planning into a full time gig.
In its fifth year, Chad says it was pivotal to expand BTBF to keep up with the thirst -- it hosts more than 140 breweries bringing more than 500 beers on April 1 and 2 at the Automobile Building in Fair Park. When deciding exactly how to get bigger without watering down quality, he aimed to do two things:
“Keep the price where it is, keep the event footprint where it is,” he says.
Still, Chad expects 10,000 people to come through the doors in Dallas this weekend. (Residents in Houston can also partake in the fun when the fest makes its South Texas debut at the NRG Park on May 21.)
Part of becoming a bigger Texas beer fest means showcasing the local guys. The number of D-FW breweries has more than tripled since 2012 and Chad says about 40 will be doling out samples alongside national and worldwide brands, including heavy hitters like Boulevard Brewing Co. and Sapporo. (See the full beer/brewery list here.)
There's a feel-good aspect to drinking that much too; a portion of proceeds benefits the North Texas Food Bank. Between its four previous installments, BTBF has donated about $40,000, according to Nellie.
If that many hopheads, breweries, beers and dollars sound like a lot to handle, that's because it is. But this couple doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon. They are already working with the city of Murphy on a first-year beer-centric event called Tunes, Tails and Ales. Plus, resting on their laurels would be remiss.
“Being able to work on something really hard, nights and weekends, and be able to get to a point where you can support yourself,” says Chad, “that’s the dream for me.”
Plan your life
Big Texas Beer Fest hits the Automobile Building in Dallas' Fair Park on Friday, April 1 from 6:30-10:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 2 from 2-6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $39 for general admission and $65 for VIP, which include early entry to the festival. The event includes live music and food vendors.