Dallas had J.R. Ewing and Neiman Marcus and Big Hair, and it always irked me that the nation seemed to look at the Big D as the Lone Star State’s premier city even though it has long been outstripped by Houston in population. We may have the Astros to their Rangers or the Rockets to their Mavs¹, but the Bayou City has fostered a wealth of both autochthonous and international culture and cuisine without the glitz of its northern neighbor, Dallas appears to be strangling its nascent food truck community while Houston’s thrives, and craft breweries have proliferated here, outnumbering the likes of Peticolas and Deep Ellum nearly 2:1.
That doesn’t mean they can’t do craft beer well though, and I got a chance to stop by Deep Ellum the other weekend to take a look. I had tried their Darkest Hour Imperial Stout back in January, and their Farmhouse Wit in the spring, but it was their IPA that made me, and quite a lot of the Houston craft beer community, take notice. Focusing on American hops, this beer has a lot of bitterness without sacrificing the citrus and pine notes that make IPA’s more palatable. But, perhaps sharing with Houston’s own Karbach Brewery an affinity for the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil, it has been Wealth & Taste, a Belgian Golden, that has taken aficionados by storm. A decadent brew with Muscat grapes, citrus and floral notes come through the Chardonnay barrel-aging, and the result is an exceptional beer that deceptively masks a 9.5% ABV.
There was no Wealth & Taste on tap at the tour, as afterwards founder John Reardon noted that Deep Ellum had sold fully 50% of its entire supply to retailers before it was even officially released. Keep an eye out for the next release of this one. I love that craft brewers today are taking the mantle of historic styles like pilsners and lagers from Big Beer, which has sullied their good name. Deep Ellum takes it up a notch with their Rye Pils, a malty yet easy-drinking pilsner, and I was impressed by the new Dallas Blonde, a crisp and refreshing ale. Blonde ales are sometimes dismissed as light-bodied starter or gateway beers, but during Texas summers when you might as well be enjoying your beer in Mercury’s Caloris Basin, blondes can be a godsend. And I was bemused by the nod to Big Hair and slightly creepy Valley of the Dolls label. In any event, the brewery itself is small, about the size of Karbach here in Houston, and after the de rigueur explanation of the brewing process, visitors exchanged their remaining beer tokens while enjoying live music on the back patio and noshing on mini-burgers from the Easy Slider food truck. We also took a gander at the soon-to-be-operational bottling line.
Apropos, whereas now it might be Greenville, when I was in college visiting the Metroplex, there was one boozy neighborhood synonymous with bacchanalian revelry: Deep Ellum. Houston and Dallas certainly share a long and storied rivalry, but in the craft beer world, it’s an amicable one, and I certainly look forward to future offerings from this dynamo brewery from the Dallas warehouse district.
¹Though this year we have the Texans to their Cowboys. Bulls on parade!