The Craft of Texas: An Angeleno Drinking His Way Through the Lone Star State

I can still remember the moment that the craft beer light bulb went off in my head.

It was after a very long Saturday of USC football. I had just changed out of my Trojan Marching Band uniform and was right outside the bookstore talking to a fellow drummer and his parents. They happened to hail from North County San Diego and appropriately had on them some bombers of Stone IPA that they hadn’t drank during the tailgating festivities. I was pretty damn tired at this point (marching and yelling and carrying a drum all day can do that) and a beer sounded great. That first sip was so beautiful. That was one of the best beers I have ever had.

I wasn’t a completely ignorant beer drinker at that point. During my freshman-year alcohol discovery phase, my buddies and I started buying bottled six packs of whatever we could get at the local Ralph’s. We had two goals: discover better beer when were just chilling in a dorm room getting ready to go a party somewhere and save up a ton of bottlecaps for a sweet custom beer pong table covered entirely with said caps. The beer got drank, but the table never happened. My friend still has a Sparklett’s water cooler jug over halfway full of bottlecaps sitting at his place. All was not lost: we did realize there was more to beer than that yellow, fizzy stuff we would have been drinking while using that table we wanted to build.

The Union Bear is one of many kick ass beer bars in Dallas.

So college happened. That first sip of Stone IPA changed things. I keep drinking better beer and discovering new flavors and styles, and I feel like I’ve started to figure out the beer scene of LA and San Diego. BeerAdvocate and RateBeer started getting as frequent visits as Twitter and Facebook. During my senior year, all of the away trips with the marching band became chances to explore the local craft scene. It’s awesome that being a part of the Pac-12 Conference means I get to travel to the craft beer meccas that are Boulder, Portland, and San Francisco, plus trips to Chicago whenever we went to Notre Dame. This led to the discovery of a lot of great brewers and getting to drink beers I had heard about but would never get to try back in SoCal. Beer had become a crucial part of my social scene and the reason I wanted to travel to new places.

Along the way, I met Kip through fellow beer (and baseball) blogger Brett. He invited me to one of his Pacific Gravity meetups, and I got to try some great beers and meet some fellow hopheads. This unfortunately happened a little too late. I was moving to Dallas, Texas the next week to start my post-grad career as an engineer for Texas Instruments (No, I don’t make calculators). I wish I could be around LA while John and Kip’s dreams come to fruition, as well as see the LA beer scene continue to develop. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Kip had told me back then that I should contribute to his blog. Six months later, here I am.

I’m now settled in and a resident of the state of Texas. That’s still weird to say. I won’t ever consider myself a Texan; I’ll always be an Angeleno. Luckily, there’s still beer here. Actually, theres a LOT of beer here. 2012 was a good year for the craft beer scene in DFW, and Texas in general. Breweries have started to pop up all over the place. It really reminds me of the recent rapid growth of the beer scene in LA, but I guess that’s pretty much happening everywhere. I’m a huge proponent of drinking local, and I’m very glad that it’s easy to do here.

At the same time, I’m realizing how lucky states like California, Colorado, and Oregon have it when it comes to craft beer. Breweries here have had a lot of ancient, nonsensical laws to deal with that have been very slowly changing and allowing the brewer more freedom and more discovery for the buyer. Brewers of any size still cannot directly sell their beer on the premises of their brewery, no matter what kind of licenses they have. Brewpubs aren’t allowed to distribute their beer. Websites for grassroots campaigns to get these laws changed have popped up.

However, the crafty craft brewers have taken advantage of a loophole: brewery tours. Tours here are like a big party dedicated to the sweet elixir that is craft beer. You pay around $10 for a pint glass with the brewery’s label on it and a “donation to the brewery,” then you are usually given 3 or 4 FREE FULL PINT samples of whatever beers are on tap at the time. It’s cheaper than going to a bar, and you get the awesome sights and smells of a brewery the entire time. Usually a local food truck or two will be outside. I can’t think of anything better. There’s still a lot of breweries whose tours I haven’t checked out yet, but so far I haven’t been disappointed.

I don’t really have a set plan on what I going to talk about here on this blog, but I’m grateful for the opportunity that Kip has given me. You’ll hear more about awesome breweries and their tours later. Maybe I’ll try to profile some brewers and their breweries. I also plan on getting you in the know with craft beer in other parts of Texas. Austin, not surprisingly, has an awesome beer scene that I want to check out some more the next time I get down there. You can say the same for Houston. I also want to talk about my homebrewing adventures at some point. That seems appropriate. Maybe some steak, BBQ brisket, and TexMex will be thrown into the mix too.

There’s going to be a lot of discovery with this section. Discovering new beer, discovering the world of homebrew, discovering new parts of Texas, and discovering if I am capable of writing this much. I’m not a hoity-toity English major like Brett. Us electrical engineers have it rough when it comes to using words good.

I hope you enjoy hearing me talk about beer as much as I like to talk about beer. This should be fun.

For my first real post, I’ll start with a profile of one of my favorite Dallas breweries, Deep Ellum Brewing Company. (FYI: all Dallas breweries are my favorite.)

About Matt Sullivan

Matt Sullivan is an alumnus of USC and the Trojan Marching Band. After completing his Electrical Engineering degree in 2012, he moved to Dallas to work for Texas Instruments. Besides beer, Matt loves supporting the local music and food scenes and playing drums whenever possible.

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  1. Sean M. Sullivan:

    Well done, MnBrPg! Your initial foray into BEER BLOGGING is a good read; very entertaining. I suppose you now have a real purpose for your evenings–RESEARCH!

  2. Dove Pressnall:

    Are you and Sean M. Sullivan related? Is he also, by chance, a slightly older Trojan? Have been trying to track down a friend by that name. He’d be about 40.

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