Friday, November 2, 2012

Northeast Tarrant Beer post!

Hi everyone... I need to get something going here. You know how it goes - you put it off, and then the pile becomes too big to deal with... and then you just blow it off ("Why bother?" "Nobody reads it anyway..."). At least I wanted to get some quick thoughts of restaurants in our area. I think most of these updates will be for our friendly neighborhood Northeast Tarrant County. So I'll start with this beer guzzling edition, then some restaurant updates, and then I'll have a separate post on openings and closings.

As mentioned in our previous post, we did in fact go to Oregon and Washington for 3 weeks in mid-July through early August. We picked a great time, as it seemed that was the hottest weather DFW received this summer. I worked remotely for two out of those 3 weeks, with the middle one used as vacation. The first week we rented a cottage in Bend, Oregon. What a beautiful region. And we managed to try all 10 of their microbrews / brewpubs (we even got the free silicon mug that the city Tourist Board gives out if you go to all of them!). I mean how crazy is that? A town of 80,000 has 10 breweries! Now they have 11 if you can believe it and more on the way. They have more than all of DFW combined, and we're the 4th largest MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) in all of the United States. But that's a changin' folks. Thanks to hard working breweries and independent (beer connoisseur) lawyers, they've finally started repealing old Prohibition Laws that are amazingly still on the books. The beer revolution is here and growing like a weed. It is no coincidence that I will refer to beer often in these updates. According to my personal database, updated to last night, I have now tried 1,172 different beers from 401 breweries all around the world (and I didn't start keeping track until halfway through 2006). And Texas is right in the middle of it: I've tried 104 Texan beers from 24 different breweries. This trip to the Northwest skyrocketed my Oregon totals, which currently sit at 105 beers from 33 breweries. Obviously Texas continues to gain ground and will ultimately pass it. It will be years before we catch up with Colorado, especially given the last 3 full summers we spent there. And California has an incredible brew culture that I've taken full advantage of.

The second week we toured along the Oregon coast, and into Washington. We based in Seattle for 3 days, but explored most of the National forests and parks within the state. Needless to say, our Washington beer total went through the roof as well. All of the Left Coast is a beer drinker's fantasy (there's even a California brewery named Left Coast that is quite excellent). And then for the final week we settled in Portland, where we rented a basement apartment that I worked from.

In Portland they have a place called Bailey's Taproom. It's a true beer bar. They don't have static stock, and you can't buy a Bud Light, or Coors, or Shiner, or Fat Tire or even Full Sail Session (you see what I did there?). Or probably anything you've ever heard of. They had beers from Bend that I couldn't find while there just two weeks prior! They have 20 rotating beers, all shown on a large computer screen. The screen shows the tap # (no point having the brand tap, since it will change quickly), the beer name, brewery, type of beer, where it's from and the ABV (alcohol level). Some beers barely last a day, none last longer than a week I suspect. We went twice during the work-week and the place was always packed. What a great place to sample rare taps - beers that aren't even bottled or canned. It's either go to the actual breweries (which is very time consuming and expensive), or just go to this one downtown bar. I so wish we had a place like that here. Certainly Flying Saucer is close in terms of quality (they don't carry that many obscure beers, but certainly enough, and besides they have good food!). And the other issue is that downtown Ft. Worth is the closest one with Addison a close second for us anyway. You do realize that no public transportation, long driving distances and lengthy beer sessions don't go together very well right?

Ah, but you say, "RJG! What about the new Ginger Man in Southlake??" Ugh... Oh don't get me started now. Oh..oh... don't. Well, darnit you did. I'm so hopping (no pun intended) mad at them right now, I can't see straight. I cannot tell you how excited I was to hear we were getting our first authentic beer place in NE Tarrant. If you go to the Ginger Man in Austin, for example, you will have the opportunity to try many cool local beers. But on my first visit to the one here in Southlake, I was furious - not to mention the condescending bartender who had no clue what she was talking about. Thank goodness for a cute barkeep named Danielle, who saved the day and at least made the visit tolerable for my wife and I. It wasn't her fault that the owner decided that Sam Adams Okterberfest was some sort of obscure beer. Therefore I wrote this scathing review on Urbanspoon. A review, I might add, that I don't want to keep. I want them to prove me wrong. I want them to hear me, so I will be a regular visitor. But if things don't change - then there's no way I can promote them. Here's the review:

"The Ginger Man, at least the Southlake location, couldn't possibly have a more lame selection. Everything they have you can get at the local World Market or Grapevine Beer & Wine just down the road. 96 taps doesn't matter anymore - it's still easy-to-get beers. A beer bar cannot have a STATIC beer list. It must be dynamic with local taps. 2 total beers from (512) Brewery - that's your total Austin selection. Nothing from any of the new breweries in DFW. Just a couple of token Rahr beers that Kroger has on their shelves.Worse is their website does not represent what they have in stock. Nearly 50% of the beers listed here: are not at the location!The Mellow Mushroom pizza joint just down the road has more unusual beers - and I'm dead serious here.To the owners of Ginger Man: You want to be a real beer bar? Offer me brews I can't get elsewhere. Otherwise, just another bar with a large selection of international and national macro brews. Flying Saucer blows this place away. But unfortunately NE Tarrant doesn't have one. So I implore the owners of Ginger Man: Please offer weekly new beers!! Not Sam Adams Octoberfest (Tom Thumb has that!), but rather something new from Deep Ellum, Peticolas, Revolver, Lakewood (uh - these would be local breweries - you probably don't know them) and any number of the exciting new breweries in our area - or from Austin, San Antonio or Houston. Let's GET SERIOUS about beer here please! Thank you."

So there you have it. I checked their website yesterday, and they still claimed to have all of these really cool beers from Austin, which I'm sure they don't have. To date, there are 4 votes. 3 positive and one negative (mine). But 3 folks have rated my review as "helpful". I promise to change it if Ginger Man changes their approach.  But if they just want to be "we have Spaten on tap" - then whoopdee-doo. I'll go to a German restaurant for that. I'll be meeting one of my business partners there in 2 weeks - so let's see if we notice progress.

Speaking of lots of great beer on tap: When was the last time you went to Tolbert's? I think we hadn't been since March. Now they've gotten serious about beer! They've added 32 micros on tap - including 16 Texas ones! None are real obscure, but it's just cool they have a good selection of beers on tap from Real Ale, Saint Arnold, Franconia, Rahr and Spoetzl. And their selection of out-of-state micros is also well researched. In fact they give full descriptions of everything they serve. Apparently they made this change roughly two months ago according to our waiter. Who knew?

So, RJG, what stores in NE Tarrant can I buy all this great beer anyway? My suggestion is to start at the World Market in Grapevine (the one in Watauga is a lost cause). Why there? Because they allow you to buy singles (one 12 ounce bottle), so you don't have to commit to 6 packs. And they have an excellent selection - and some knowledgeable folks. Central Market in Southlake has greatly improved in this area, and they too offer this benefit. Market Street in Colleyville seems to have pulled back some, but they also have singles. Honestly, that's how I got started with this. It saves you money, and it lets you get an idea of what types of beer you really like. The differences between a Belgian Wit and an Imperial Porter is like broccoli and steak. It won't be long before you start going for the "bombers", generally the 22 ounce bottles or the wine size bottles. These are how most premium beers are stored, especially those from Belgium, but really most of the US microbreweries will do this too. It gets pricey, but I would advise to stay under $10 a bottle until you really know what you're doing. Believe me - some of the best beers in the world can be had for cheap. It's not like wine in that respect.

Once you exhaust their selection, and you're still into it, then you're ready to go "all-in". The largest selection in our area is definitely Hall's Grocery in Colleyville (121 & Glade). But I will tell you that it is one wacky store. They run a barbecue fast food joint out of there as well. Their prices are definitely the highest, and depending on when you go, some of the help staff there is rather... ummm... scruffy. And mean sometimes. But their selection is overwhelming. I'm still working my way through that store. They don't have singles, and that's their only real flaw.

My favorite store is definitely Grapevine Beer and Wine (114 & NW Hwy). They are owned by guys originally from India and they couldn't be nicer. And they really work hard to try to bring in new beers (they do their homework). Their prices are on the high side, but not as bad as Hall's. They're a small independent store, so I think they probably are offering rock bottom prices to still make a little profit. Their fatal flaw is the store is waaaay too small. You can't swing a cat in it. And because of that, they can't offer singles either.

I also want to give a shout-out to quite possible the best beer store in DFW. As usual, it's on the Dallas side of the Great Divide. But definitely give Lone Star Beverage a try, if in the vicinity of Carrollton (Josey and Frankford). Mr. Music turned me on to this place, and their selection is just fantastic. It's not huge, but it's very selective, with beers I haven't seen anywhere, especially from Texas. No singles here either, though.

Now the new kid on the block is Total Wine, who just opened their first store in Ft. Worth (Hulen area). They combine the great selection of Hall's and Grapevine with the ability to buy singles, all at a very low price. It's a superstore and as a friend calls them "Supermarkets of Alcohol". I've been to their Dallas store (near Northpark), and it was fantastic. But those are long journeys, and I won't be able to frequent either location much. Word on the street says Specs in Dallas (close to Total Wine and another superstore) is also awesome, but I haven't been yet.

Mr. Music advised that I clarify again what I mean by "singles". Places like World Market and Total Wine offer 12 ounce bottles to be sold separately, rather than insisting you buy the whole 6 pack. All of the above places offer Bombers (22 oz) or 750ML bottles. Just wanted to clear that up.

Most of the new liquor stores in Colleyville, Roanoke, and Westlake (the only local communities that allow you to buy high octane liquor) are surprisingly lame when it comes to beer. Fossil Creek and Centennial are hopeless, Bear Creek does an OK job, and Goody-Goody's treats beer as an afterthought (wine, OTOH, they excel at). Goody-Goody's has a large selection, but little focus is given to local to Texas beers and it's pretty obvious they only come from large distributors.

Man, this gave me a thirst. You guys 'bout ready for a beer (pronounced "bur")?

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