A Tale of Two Breweries in Tyler, Texas

Tyler, Texas is only two hours away from us yet it seems like I am constantly being introduced to new things that draw parallels with our very own Shreveport-Bossier City. They have a growing downtown scene, some incredible food, and even a couple of breweries. And that’s what I’m here to talk about. Beers, breweries, Tyler.

One Saturday I went on a trip with several other media folks to see what the buzz was about. We visited two breweries: True Vine Brewing Co. and ETX Brewing Co. I was really excited because I’d never knowingly had anything from these breweries and I’m always one to try something new. So first stop was True Vine.

Based on appearance alone, True Vine is all about the beer. Their brewery looks like it was an old garage on an industrial strip. They’ve created a distinct “backyard” vibe with a stage for musical acts, picnic tables, and even have trees for you to hang your hammocks on. I immediately felt at home. I went in looking for the restroom, since I overly hydrated on the ride, and bumped into Ryan Dixon. He is a co-founder and a former home brewer turned pro. He seemed super excited to see us and was extremely welcoming.

Ryan Dixon, Co-founder, talking with passion about inspiration, art, and beer.


After we all got settled and had beer in our hands, we were treated to a delicious meal from Aspen Grill(also in Tyler). Each course was paired with a True Vine beer and a menu item regular available at Aspen Grill. My favorite beer, which happens to be East Texas’ favorite True Vine beer, was the Mermaids & Unicorns Mythical Blonde. It was a super crushable beer with low IBUs(20) that was clean, slightly citrusy with a little bit of yeast and honey on the nose. The pairing was A+ with the Pow-Wow Shrimp.

My other favorite beers were the Bon Hefe Wheat, the Round Table English Style Amber, and True Culture Oatmeal Porter. Bon Hefe is a great beer to introduce a non raft drinker to because its not hoppy or bitter. It’s slightly fruity, light bodied, and very clean. Round Table is a solid Amber. I say that because over the last couple years, I’ve had some really underwhelming amber or munich style beers. Round Table hit every flavor profile I was looking for and did it with grace. Caramel, toasty, and malty with a medium body. The True Culture is made by infusing cold brew coffee from neighbors Porch Culture Coffee. This is a fall seasonal brew that I highly suggest you snatching up when you see it. I know I’m going to make the drive to Tyler for a sixer once fall hits.

Over all, the crew at True Vine is really committed to “make Tyler a better place with craft beer.” You can tell that to be true because of Ryan’s passion and commitment to his craft. I really enjoyed my visit and am excited to go back.

Our second brewery stop was in downtown Tyler with ETX Brewing. As soon as we got there, you could tell there was a lot going on. A food truck was backing into some prime real estate in front of the brewery and there were people walking all over the side walks on our side of and the other side of the street. I’m already impressed with the downtown vibes.

The building is night and day different from True Vine. The building actually used to be a oil change place which I think creates a really great, causal vibe for it’s customers. There is a bar inside that serves as a filling station for everything they have available. It’s indoor seating is a hair larger than True Vine.

I was greeted upon arrival to ETX Brewing with a ice cold pint of Brickstreet Blonde.


Aside from the building, the beer right? ETX has an extensive line of brews that are available. Their flagships are Brickstreet Blonde, Hitching Post, 1847 IPA and Red House Wheat. With a lot of self imposed effort on staying ahead of the game and to always be creating, ETX brews a new beer each week. That is a commitment.

I got a flight of beers that I could choose. I landed on Brickstreet Blonde, the Double Dry Hopped Brickstreet, 1847 IPA, and Root Beer. I did say Root Beer. I was blown away by the consideration for families since children are allowed to be there. It says a lot to offer something like and to take the time to make it on site. Kudos to ETX for that. The Brickstreet Blonde(Flagship) was my favorite of the day. There were multiple versions of the Brickstreet(Passion Fruit infused as well as the 2x dry hopped mentioned earlier) on the menu meaning they are very happy with the recipe and enjoy playing with it. It is also their most popular beer.

The Brickstreet Blonde stood out to me from all the beers I had. Little citrus notes and a hop balance make this a great beer to drink while your figuring out what to drink next. Can’t go wrong with that.

There was a warm(not only from the 193 degree heat) vibe radiating from patrons and employees alike. You can see the downtown culture thriving in this building. Come to find out, the owners were the first business to commit to the downtown location and more business owners followed suit. Now, next to the brewery there is a pretty cool record shop, a boutique retail shop that sells local goods(cloths, artwork, soaps, etc.), and a coffee shop. There was even a trio of talented young musicians set up outside the record shop providing music for the whole block.

I think the culture that ETX has created with it’s beer is also mirrored in the downtown vibe. It’s only the beginning. Brian, co-owner and brewer) even says they haven’t gotten crazy with their beers because they are introducing people to craft beer everyday. This is a common tactic a lot of breweries use when people aren’t used to having a local brewery. Seasoned craft beer drinkers can get their fix and the brews will remain approachable to the novice.

Add these two breweries to what Keipersol Winery & Distillery is doing and you literally have something for everyone in Tyler, TX. Next time you’re in town swing by either place and have a pint.

I’d really like to take a second and thank both True Vine Brewing and ETX Brewing for their hospitality and their time. Great people and delicious beers. It’s always rejuvenating to meet people that are so passionate about something that you can hear it their voice. Also, a big thank you to Chris Jay with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau and Holli Conley with Visit Tylershre for setting up this great trip.

Side note: It is incredible important for people to support local business but these are very important to actually go to their breweries and support. The breweries can’t sell packaged items on site. That means only pints to drink while you are there. This can be their life blood. Who knows, you may even meet some like minded folks or find out about a local charity, artist, or event that you could love. Get out there and drink some beer.

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Lager Me Bro: A Bromance

In the spirit of American Craft Beer week, I thought it would be a good thing to post a story that is important to me and many another Shreveport craft beer lovers. Great Raft Brewing has changed Southern Drawl. *Gasp*

As with any story worth telling, you’ll need context. Here we go. I’ve been involved with Great Raft on a retailer/restaurant/customer level for the whole time they have been producing beer. We’ve done events, pairings, tastings, the whole shebang. I’ve always admired their drive for quality and determination. In working with them and enjoying their beer, I really have only missed maybe 3 beers they have put out. (One is a sore subject and not GRB’s fault and the others were literally because I missed an anniversary party) Needless to say, I like their product and brand.

Southern Drawl caught me off guard. The first time I tasted it and I never went back. Personally. I order it everywhere I go and if they don’t have, I’m usually that guy that asks why they don’t carry it. It has been my go-to for the last 3 or so years. I love that Pale Lager. When I found out they were changing it, I was devastated… for about 10 seconds. Talking to Bob(Tasting Room Manager), he explained to me the change, the reason for it, and even let me taste the new brew.


I didn’t think SD could get better. I figured I was going to proceed like it was another Marvel movie. I had to like it because, it’s Marvel. I was just going to drink it and dream about those early Southern Drawls I was crushing at Hogs For The Cause or taking 6 packs to my out of town friends and telling them this was the game changer for Shreveport. I thought, “There’s no way they could make my favorite beer better.”

I was wrong.

If possible, I personally believe the change is for the better. The new dry-hopped pilsner is cleaner, more crisp, and more (as Andy Nations would say) crushable. They are using rice from Louisiana to make Southern Drawl actually “southern” and I think it adds a more approachable aspect to the craft genre. People still have this automatic, “snob” response to someone using the term craft beer. (When I hear mixologist I sometimes pull a Robert Downey Jr.)


When you pop a can, you’ll get the hops tingling your nose. That cereal grain flavor I loved on the end of it has been replaced with a fresh, slightly sweet grain finish. I honestly think it’s the best beer they’ve put out since Near & Far(I’ll never stop talking about that one).

So, get out there and grab a pint or a sixer of the new Southern Drawl. Let me know what you think about it. Was it a change for the better? Email me at beardandbarrel@gmail.com

Abita Oktoberfest

Abita puts out some damn fine beer in Louisiana. Their flagship beers are great and their seasonal are pretty great too. I’m talking like you people in Louisiana have never had Abita beers… So let’s talk about the Oktoberfest.

  
Aroma: malty and toasted caramel

Color: copper/tea/amber

Flavor: Truly a German style. Very nicely malty with just a little spice to it. 24 IBUs so it’s not too bitter at all. Very easy drinking at 5.4% ABV.

Abita Oktoberfest is probably one of my favorite Oktoberfest seasonals. Maybe there is a bit of home court advantage there because I’m a Louisiana boy but whatever. This is probably one of the easiest to get ahold of since it’s running from now till November. It’s case stacked at pretty much every grocery store in Shreveport and on tap at a ton of your favorite beer drinking spots.

Horny Goat Brewing Oktoberfest

Horny Goat Brewing’s Oktoberfest ain’t bad. HGB is based out Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you don’t like pumpkin flavored beers, you won’t like this one. It still brings standard Oktoberfest flavors of malt and caramel but a little pumpkin goes a long way.

  

Aromas: pumpkin spice and light hops

Color: light amber, caramel

Flavor: That pumpkin spice and hops comes through up front. 25 IBUs and light hops make this one not too bitter. At 5.6% alcohol it’s a super easy sipper. 

All in all, it’s a tasty brew with mild caramel and spice. It tastes more like a pumpkin beer than an Oktoberfest to me though. And that’s not a bad thing if you dig that style.


Oktoberfest is Upon Us

As much wine as I drink and talk about, I probably do the same for beer. Normally, you can find me savoring an ice cold Great Raft Southern Drawl or an Abita Andygator but not right now. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. The temperature is starting to drop from Hell to manageable and the word “Oktoberfest” starts popping up everywhere. Yep. Call me what you will but I love a good Oktoberfest brew.

The low down on Oktoberfest is that it started in Münich in 1810 and was a celebration of Crown Prince Ludwig’s wedding. It ran for 16 days up to and including the first Sunday in October(hence Oktoberfest starting in September). A special beer was made for the event and CP Ludwig and his bride invited all of the peasants to celebrate with them. After all was said and done, they thought, “That was a great party! Let’s do it again this year.” And the beloved worldwide beer drinking extravaganza was born.

Oktoberfest beers have a style to themselves. They usually have an amberish hue and a hint a caramel to taste. I always have an overwhelming sense of Fall while drinking them. To me, It kind of symbolizes the calm before the holiday storm that the retail/restaurant gig has from September to December. I adore them for that reason.

FYI: Zocolo Eatery is hosting an Oktoberfest celebration this year! Beers and beers on a September 27th. Make sure to put this t in your calendar.


Speaking of celebrating of one of my favorite drinking holidays, I’m going to review every Oktoberfest seasonal, I can get my hands on. I’ll start with the one that everyone loves, including myself. Samuel Adams Oktoberfest. It was the first Oktoberfest I ever had and knew nothing about it. I remember where I was and when I had it.

So here’s the beer:

 Aromas: salted caramel and lightly toasted walnuts

Color: deep amber, like bourbon

Taste: Not sweet but a savory caramel and malty grain. Big, rich flavor and a light finish. Super drinkable.

Look for more Oktoberfest Brew Reviews coming this month!

5 TV Shows That Drive Me To Drink

It’s not a surprise to anyone that we are influenced by what we see on television and digital media to want to buy… Or drink. We’ve seen a clever ad and then some how, magically, have an uncontrollable urge to use, eat, or drink that product within the next few days. It’s almost like we are being told what to do…..

Now when I say drive me to drink, I’m not talking about a suspenseful plot line or stressing me out about which of my favorite characters will die next(*cough* Game of Thrones *couch*). I’m saying I want to drink what my fictitious friends are drinking while I’m watching whatever shenanigans are happening in front of me. Basically, I don’t feel completely fulfilled in finishing an episode unless I’m having a beer Tim Riggins or drinking all the Dornish wine with Tyrion Lannister. So here are my top 5 TV shows that drive me to drinking:

5. Friday Night Lights and Shiner Bock  

Personally, I think FNL is one of the best shows ever made. And for the record, I’m not even super into football. Coach Taylor taught me a lot about life in 5 seasons. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” has been a mantra for me in many situations. But it’s not Coach Taylor, Buddy Garrity, or even the incredible soundtrack by one of my favorite bands(Explosions in the Sky) that make me want to drink. It’s Tim Riggins. The troubled bad boy that can’t find peace is relatable to everyone right? Not me but I just like raising an ice cold bottle of that Texas beer in the air whenever I hear anybody say “Texas forever.” Shiner Bock is the flagship beer of the Spoetzl Brewery out of Shiner, Texas about an hour to an hour and a half out of Austin. Shiner Bock is easy to get and FNL is on Netflix.

4. Treme and Great Raft Southern Drawl

New Orleans is probably one of my favorite places in the world. It’s history, culture, and community pride overwhelm me every visit. New Orleans is more than Hurricanes and Bourbon Street and Treme shows the rest of the world that. The show isn’t action packed like creator David Simon’s previous shows(The Wire and Generation Kill), it about the struggle of chefs, musicians, politics, and the community trying to build their city back just 3 months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it. Musically, it’s everything New Orleans from Rebirth Brass Band to the street musicians trying to get by. So why a Shreveport beer like Great Raft Southern Drawl with a New Orleans show? Seeing the struggles and triumphs of people building their city back up all the while fighting to keep their traditions of Mardi Gras, festivals and dancing alive makes me proud to be from Louisiana. What better way to show local pride than with a tasty brew from my home town? The entire Emmy award winning series of Treme is on HBO Go. If you’re reading this or live in Shreveport and don’t know what Great Raft is or where to get it, you should probably move to Canada.

(Sidebar: GR broke into the New Orleans and Baton Rouge markets just these last few months and are killing it)

3. Bloodline and Patron Añejo

Friday Night Lights’ Coach Taylor, Kyle Chandler, stars as a protective family man when his black sheep of a brother comes home to their Florida Keys family business and wants in. Shady things start happening and conspiracies arise. The shows tag line of “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing.” is enough to draw anyone in. The world dominating tequila brand Patron is all over the show from the Silver to the Añejo. It’s architectural web of secrets and lies around this family are enough to make you want to sip on some Patron Añejo or take a shot of Patron Silver. Bloodline is a Netflix original series and Patron Añejo is readily available at any spirit shop worth it’s salt, and lime, for around $60.

2) Justified and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon  

This is one of my favorite FX shows ever. U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, played by God’s gift to swagger Timothy Olyphant, is sent back to his poor coal mining Kentucky town of Harlan from Miami after he shot a fugitive on sight in a quick draw contest. Set in modern day, it’s a roller coaster ride of devastatingly intelligent banter, hill billy organized crime, meth turf wars, and betrayal. People in the show are constantly drinking bourbon and I always get the urge to sip on on of my favorites. You see people drinking Pappy Van Winkle throughout the show so Buffalo Trace is as close as I can get(Pappy is distiller at the Buffalo Trace Distillery). The Justified series is finished now and all seasons are available on DVD and Blueray. A liter of Buffalo Trace Bourbon(liters are the best value for your buck with spirits) will run you about $32-33 a bottle.

1) Game of Thrones and 2013 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais 

game-of-thrones-season-4

Probably the most frustrating show ever made. George R. R. Martin(author and creator of the series)has a super natural ability to get you to love a character, pull for them, and then kill them off. After every episode ends, I have to take an extra glass of wine and 20 minutes to collect myself and process what I just saw. I like to think Dornish wine, which is always referenced, is like Beaujolais. I don’t know why, that’s just where my oenophile mind goes. Probably because its exotically French, fruity, and easy to drink when watching the devastation at Hardhome is tough to swallow. Game of Thrones is available on HBO Go streaming and on DVD/Blu-ray and you can pick up a bottle of Pierre Chermette at Wine Country Bottle Shop for $17.

If you need a weekend binge on TV shows and get hobo hammered while you do it, here’s your starting point.

Wine