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Still In Dallas

July, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Two Rows Brewing Company opened for business in 1995 and is one of those swanky upscale sports bar-slash-restaurants. From a large C-shaped bar, appointed with glaring televisions at practically every angle, we tried several simply-too-cold beers and found them better than expected, considering the setting. Honey Blonde, my pick as their brewpubs best seller, presented a pleasant malty body capped off with a mild bitter finish. Winterfest Lager was thin with a sweet, cloying, syrupy flavor, while Steamroller’s bold copper color, was a thoroughly bitter lager- quite nice. Tingly and thin, Barking Fish Porter had a complex (coffee, licorice) taste with sharp bitter ending.

From a board behind the busy bar, we learned that upcoming beers would include an IPA, Old Town Weizen, Oatmeal Stout and Titanic Barleywine. I’ll give Two Rows credit, they are trying awfully hard to be a brewpub, in spite of the sports bar trappings.

One last stop (our fifth) before we called it a night. Humperdink’s/Big Horn Brewing Company, not far down Greenville Avenue, is part of a growing western brewpub chain. There are four Big Horns in the Dallas area and seven in Texas. A family restaurant surrounding a big, noisy sports bar is ample description for them all. Though the beers do not vary from Big Horn to Big Horn, they still sort-of qualify as craft brewed. From heavy chilled mugs, we tried to disseminate taste with taste buds frozen near permafrost conditions. Buttface Amber Ale was 90% malt chased by the remaining bitter tail. Overly bitter for style, the dark Total Disorder Porter would have made a better stout. It being late, we merely glanced around the L-shaped bar as other happy patrons slurped such interesting brews as Texas Blonde, Big Horn Light, Big Red Ale and Bubba’s Brown Ale.

Up and at ‘em bright and early, we struggled through an all-day business conference and headed, second and third wind as our power, to the Craft Brewers Association of Texas’s Second Annual Winter Beer Tasting. Held in a small convention center, we were entertained by a throng of thirsty Texas cowboys and cowgirls and 24 beers from six local brewpubs, five of which we’d visited the day before. As I’ve said before, small beer festivals are usually much more fun than the big ones.

I started out the next night alone on the north side of this sprawling Lone Star city. Almost by accident I found another Humperdink’s/Big Horn, this one on the confusingly named W. Northwest Highway. The layout was pretty much the same as above, but bigger. And, most appropriately, the cold mugs were bigger as well. One seasonal brew, a malty sweet Macho Cabrito Bock, was the only difference in the beer list. Mixed drinks seemed to be more popular.

From there I sashayed into another sister brewpub, Hoffbrau Steaks & Brewery, in Addison. (See last issue for tales of the downtown Hoffbrau). This brewpub was cleaner, nicer and much larger than it’s college town brethren. And the beer selection was better. Tossing peanut shells on the floor, I sampled the smart Yellow Rose Cream Ale, a GABF award winner, the English Brown-style Buffalo Ale, American Pale Ale-ish Rodeo Red Ale and the American (?) style Blackrock Bock. Following an intriguing conversation with a local homebrewer, I lit out in search of more.

And found Rock Bottom Brewery. Part of the Boulder-based chained, this Addison, Texas brewpub, established in 1995, was a wild party in motion on Saturday night. The yuppie crowd was more interested in the A&M football game than anything, but I found the beers quite entertaining. The bartenders were going full steam ahead, yet remained personable. I went straight for the throat, choosing the seasonal Black Horse Porter, which was reddish-brown and smooth. Along with the chocolatey, creamy Road Runner Stout- roasted malt flavored and high in alcohol kick -these were the only two brews served in room temperature glasses.

Before retiring for the night, I found one more Big Horn, the only one in Addison. Featuring a different seasonal- a hoppy Irish Bad Ass Ale -than the others. I noted, somewhat disgustedly, a sandwich board promoting the “Martini of the Day.” How serious about beer can they be?

Oops, that’s all for the Dallas area- nine brewpubs and one beer fest. Not bad for three day’s work.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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