Dallas Beer Scene: Revolver Brewing Gets Serious in Granbury
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
It's been a big year for craft beer in Texas. One of the biggest stories, however, is news that hasn't quite made its way down to Houston. Dallas is currently experiencing a boom in breweries as big as, if not bigger than, the expansion Houston and Austin have seen in past years. Dallas/Fort Worth and its surrounding counties have added no less than six breweries to the fold. With all the buzz slow to reach Houston, Eating...Our Words decided to take the show on the road and head to Dallas to see if the City of Hate could make us fall in love with their beer. This week we look at a few of the hotspots in Dallas's new-found beer economy.
I still remember beer blogger Leslie Sprague's first mention of Revolver Brewing back in 2011. A craft brewer in the small lakeside town of Granbury -- where a large portion of my extended family, including my parents, have retired -- about 40 minutes outside of Fort Worth seemed like a bit of a pipe dream. Owner Rhett Kiesler eventually got back in touch with Leslie to confirm that yes, Virginia, there is a brewery in Granbury.
Not too long after, my mom called me rather excitedly to tell me that her little town had a brewery. Clearly the word was spreading and things were happening out there south of Fort Worth. Revolver Brewing officially sold its first keg late this summer, and in the subsequent months afterwards we at Eating...Our Words heard bits and pieces regarding the brewery -- but the beer itself has yet to make it down to Houston. So if the mountain won't come to Muhammad... Muhammad must go to Granbury. We headed up north a few weeks ago to find out what we could about the small outfit.
Food trucks and craft beer fans fill the lot at Revolver during its Saturday tours.
Revolver is not actually in Granbury, but rather a few miles outside it, in the even-smaller town of Acton. As we wound the rolling country roads approaching the brewery, we weren't sure what to expect -- but Revolver's massive, white, custom-built barn that rose around the bend to meet us certainly wasn't it. Standing in a clearing of salt cedar and mesquite trees, Revolver's glistening, white monolith looks like a North Texas sheet metal version of Jester King's limestone barn, and it's nearly as big.
We couldn't make it to Revolver's usual Saturday Tour, but Rhett -- along with co-founder Ron Keisler and brewer Grant Wood -- were kind enough to meet us out at the brewery on a Sunday afternoon to give us a look at Revolver. And if Wood's name is familiar to the beer nerds in the audience, that's because he was a brewer with Boston-based Samuel Adams for 16 years.
In talking with the guys, they touched on some very similar points as the gentlemen at Lakewood Brewing regarding drinkability: Both Lakewood and Revolver want all of their beers to be approachable. One of the key points both Rhett and Grant mentioned was Revolver's desire to make a lineup of beers that remain supremely drinkable, especially in the context of Texas' climate, which can be brutally hot in the summer. Having tried the entire portfolio, we feel they've succeeded in that goal. Here's our take on the four beers currently in Revolver's excellent portfolio:
Blood & Honey
Made with blood oranges and local honey, this wheat beer hides its rather high 7 percent ABV very well. While it is unfiltered, it's never cloying or overly malty as some wheat beers tend to be. Big notes of honey and a slight hint of coriander finished with orange zest. Supremely clean finish, something that will become a consistent comment as we work our way through these beers.
Compare to: Saint Arnold Wheat. This is a tough comparision. Blood & Honey is a bigger, crisper beer but with a similar, complex body to the Saint Arnold and -- to us -- a far cleaner finish. This is a wheat beer that fans of bigger beer can still enjoy.
We liked this one so much we had it with dinner later that night at a taco shop in town. Listed as a Blonde Ale, we found the crisp body not nearly as malty as say Southern Star's Bombshell Blonde. We noted that this beer actually warmed up quite nicely, bringing out a nice, single-note hop bitterness as it warmed. My non-craft beer drinking mom said, "I don't drink much beer, but I like it. It tastes much better than MGD." She added almost apologetically: "And you know I like MGD,"
Compare to: Buffalo Bayou 1836. Both are launch beers -- a.k.a. one of the first beers available from a brewery when it first starts -- from new Texas brewers. We noted a few direct similarities, especially in the crisp, almost vanishing finish on these beers. Both also sit just a little bit outside the stereotype for their style. At 6 percent, both drink far smaller than their ABV.
This was my favorite of the day. So much, in fact, so that I did something I don't do with just about any beer: I asked for a second one. Making a Bock in Central Texas -- where Shiner Bock is about as "out there" as a lot of beer drinkers venture -- is either really smart or really dumb depending on your viewpoint. We feel like if someone is going to take the fight for beer drinkers' money to Shiner, this is a strong piece of weaponry to be packing. Huge caramel and slight mocha notes wrapped in a warm amber malt body fade quickly to a hop-laced finish.
Compare to: Shiner Bock, but not really. Supremely better in just about every measurable category, this beer brings pride back to the Bock style in Texas. If and when we get Revolver in Houston, this will be a go-to beer for me.
Mother's Little Fracker
A new, keg-conditioned stout, Mother's Little Fracker is a nod to the fact that the land Revolver sits on was once intended as a dumping ground for fracking water. The fracking thankfully never happened and Revolver scooped up the unused plot. Revolver must know that there are some of us who ignore seasonality and love a stout even when it's 102 degrees outside. Fracker clocks in under 8 percent and certainly makes a case for year-round drinkability. Light in body but still packing a punch in its rounded cocoa and brown sugar notes, it's also a perfect example of brewing a great beer without having to crank out an 11.5 percent monster
Compare to: Saint Arnold Winter Stout. This has a much softer mouthfeel, which we suspect owes something to Revolver's excellent well water. Both beers are smaller stouts by today's standards but both manage to come across far larger with strong malt profiles and distinct roasted notes.
Revolver still self-distributes for now.
That's not quite all we have from Revolver, though. The guys were gracious enough to sit around and talk to us for a couple of hours that Sunday afternoon, so we have plenty more to fill you in on in the coming weeks.
Although they are available in and around the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, Revolver is draft only for the foreseeable future -- and since they are self-distributing, we aren't sure when we will see their beers here in Houston. That doesn't mean you can't plan your own trip up to Granbury for a B&B&B weekend -- that's Bed & Breakfast & Brewery.
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