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

5 Favorite Patio Pounders Under $20| March 2017

Patio pounders. I love that phrase. It describes a group of wines I am completely in love with. The phrase is in reference to a sect of crisp wines, usually white wines, that are light in body and high in acid. If that sounds weird to you, then think about lemonade. It’s light and extremely high in acidity. It’s perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot Louisiana summer day. That’s what I’m talking about.

Usually, my favorites aren’t from around here. I’m a fan of Spanish, French, and Portuguese white wines in beautiful weather like this. California, Oregon, and Washington do make some great summertime wines. Most of the time I gravitate towards different styles but there are exceptions. Here are 5 Patio Pounders you need to know about(please note, I purposely didn’t include any roses so I could showcase some great white wines):


Broadbent Vihno Verde, Portugal. We just tasted this one out last week at the bottle shop and it was a huge hit. Super fresh, high acid, and just a hint of effervescence made it popular with everyone. It doesn’t have a vintage because its literally just built to drink fresh. “Vihno Verde” actually translates to “green grape.” Like young green not under-ripe green. Being $11 doesn’t hurt anything either.

Jo Landon La Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire Valley, France 2015. If you are eating raw oysters in France, this is the juice you should be drinking. Muscadet often gets confused with Moscato but hey, we all make mistakes. This drinks with zesty lime citrus and a slightly oily texture. Beautiful when paired with salty oysters. $17

Leitz “Dragonstone” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany 2015. You’re judging me for a riesling. Most people don’t know that riesling is actually one of the most versatile grapes out there. It can be super sweet, slightly sweet, dry, or bone dry. This little gem is dry with flavors of white peach, lots of minerality, and a boat load of acidity. It drinks smooth and doesn’t sit heavy. Try it with wasabi drenched sushi and thank me later. $19.99

Tuck Beckstoffer Wines 75 Sauvignon Blanc, California 2015. I know I usually like to drink European white wines but this one was just darn delightful. Citrusy with a tad of grapefruit and maybe something tropical like kiwi with a dry finish. Great Cali juice. $16

Domitia Picpoul de Pinet, Lanquedoc, France 2015. My first love in the patio pounding category. Drinks like a dream and doesn’t break the bank at $14. Zippy acidity and sharp apple-lime flavors. Perfect for Manchego or a cloth bound cheddar. These are built to be drank young so don’t be shy.

These are fun wines and affordable. Try them on your favorite patio or porch while the weather is delightful.

Teutonic Wine Co.’s “Bergspitze” Pinot Noir, Oregon 2014

So this wine caught me way off guard. I’ve not known myself to be the biggest Oregon Pinot Noir fan. It could have been a few things that factored in but I was really impressed by this gem. The only problem was that I bought what was left in the state for the Bottle Shop and found out it won’t be available anymore. Ya win some, ya lose some.

This wine is a geeky favorite of mine now. I love that it is whole clust fermentation which means the grapes weren’t destemmed. That imparts an earthy tone to what could be an overly fruity wine. To me, this wine has it all. The big plus of this purchase for us is that it was marked at a discounted rate so heck yeah, down side is the price will be higher than $24 if we are ever able to get any more.


Sight: Ruby

Nose: Black cherry, cola, tobacco leaf

Taste: Big cherry-cola flavor, fresh earth, tobacco-tea leaf, medium + acidity, medium tannin, short finish

The long and short of it is that I think this a great Pinot Noir repping Oregon terrain. I has everything I’d expect and maybe a little bit extra to keep me interested. I think under $30 this is a great wine to take home and I’d be extremly satisfied paying around $60 in a restaurant. I’d be interested to taste this again in a year or so to see the effects of the whole cluster fermentation. All in all, great buy around that $30 range.

Whiskey Sours Aren’t Gross

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been really working on cocktails for the new spring menu. I happen to get a slight obsession with sours because of a bartender that posted a video about about an Amaretto Sour. I’ve brought it up a couple of times to several bartenders and I always get the same disgusted look. Hey bud, if you tried to tell me you’ve been lovin’ on a drink that consists of good whiskey and crappy, processed corn syrup that is supposed to taste like chunky citrus juice; I’d look at you grossed out too. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Sours are a group of cocktails that use fresh citrus juice(usually lemon) and simple syrup(1:1 sugar and water). And optional but crucial component in my opinion is the egg white. So here’s what you’ll need: 

.75 ounces of Simple Syrup (Boil 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar, keep it going till the sugar dissolves. Let it cool and BOOM: Simple Syrup)

.75 ounces of Lemon Juice (Seriously, just juice the lemon. It takes only a second and makes all the difference in the world)

2 ounces of your favorite whiskey (I always have Buffalo Trace at home but anything you like to sip works)

1 egg (whites only: gently crack the egg and work the yolk back and forth into the shell halves until the white drops in the shaker)

Combine your Simple Syrup, Lemon Juice, Whiskey, and egg white into a cocktail shaker. Dry shake the crap out of it(a dry shake is shaking all the ingredients with no ice. It helps to emulsify and froth up that egg white while evenly blending the other liquids)! Now, add ice to the shaker and shake till you get frost on the outside of the shaker tin. Now strain that deliciousness into a chilled old fashion glass with a large ice cube in it. The large cube slows the dilution so you get the rich, creamy texture through the whole drink.


At this point you could float wine on top, add a couple dashes of your favorite bitters, or just garnish with a cherry and dive in. It’s a classic that is super easy to make and enjoy.

Delicioso Tempranillo, Spain 2015

I never really put stock in labels and I don’t shop by them. Yeah, they catch your eye but most of the time I wonder what an extravagant label is hiding. Is it there to look pretty on the shelf and to hide a subpar wine? Maybe. Simple labels are more attractive to me personally because it feels like its more to the point. No flashy distractions from what’s in the bottle.But honestly if you put a pig on the label, I’m going to try your wine. Maybe I actually do shop by labels…

Sight: Ruby-Garnet 

Nose: Red fruit, cherries, briar, lavender

Taste: fresh red fruits, currants, cherries, stems, lavender comes through, medium acidity, medium tannin, short finish

This tempranillo is build for speed. It’s ready to drink now and should be. It has a lot of fruit presence that isn’t competing with the wood/briar/stem flavors that create a beautiful contrast. Structurally, it’s fun and easy. This isn’t a wine to lay down and see how it ages. It is for sure a wine to buy by the case as a house red. Definitely a bargain for burgers, pastas with red sauce, charcuterie or on it’s own.

Don’t Worry, I’ve Been Drinking Lately.

It’s been too long my friends. Finding extra time to write has been a bit difficult lately but, we’re going to get right back at it. So what’s new? I’ve been working with some new people that are very well educated on wine and have been working in the restaurant/hospitality business for many years. They’ve brought a new set of eyes to my work and helped expose and educate me on a lot things. It’s been a really humbling experience but also extremely valuable. In this business of drinking for a living, you can never assume you know everything. Because someone will always come along and prove you wrong.

Here’s something I’ve been schooled on: Argentina wines. Once believed to be strictly Malbec country with some smatterings of Cabernet. A lot of these wines are starting to give California Cabernet a run for their money. Seriously, the money though. They aren’t $15 a bottle but the $30 Argentina bottles can give a $50 Cali Cab some serious competition. There are are a few that I’ve run into that deliver on a grand scale if you like a big, fruit dense red with a smooth but grippy tannic finish.  


Ben Marco “Expresivo” from Mendoza, Argentina is a solid buy at $30. It’s a big, densely fruited red. Opaque in color and aromatically it’s a black and red fruit quaffer. But how does it taste? Bulky and balanced. Lots of dark cherries, blackberries, some baking spice, sweet pipe tobacco, and richly apparent tannins. This is a solid steak night pairing. 


My most frequented bar these days is my couch. I’ve had a resurged interest in classic cocktails. I feel like they are the bone structure of modern cocktail culture. The classics are the beverage architecture I build on and tweak. My main stay at home has been an Old Fashion. I’ve even lured a friend or 2 over to visit with the offer of one. Here’s how I make it:


My personal recipe is boozy but I really just use the whiskey and sugar as a constant to test bitters, if that makes sense. But here’s my recipe: 2oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon, a bar spoon of 1:1 simple syrup and 4 dashes of Aromatic Bitters(Angostora) and 2 dashes of Orange Bitters. Drop all those ingredients into a frozen rocks glass and stir with a bar spoon. The frozen glass is part of the craft of it drink. It truly makes the difference. Then I add a large, single cube of ice(specialty ice cube tray you can get just about anywhere) and stir till chilled. Then I take a large swath of Orange peel an express the oils directly over the glass and drop it in. Enjoy.