Fresh on the heels of American Craft Beer Week, here's a primer on 12 essential Dallas-Fort Worth craft brews. Whether you're new to the DFW craft beer scene or just find yourself overwhelmed by the incredibly vast selection that local drinkers enjoy these days, consider this a handy guide to narrowing the field. Once you ingest these 12 craft brews, you'll have a pretty good idea of the scene around these parts: what styles are popular, what people like, and who's making what and where. (Also: you'll probably be drunk.)
Deep Ellum Brewing's Numb Comfort
While their IPA is more popular (and their Blonde more controversial), Numb Comfort —an 11 percent alcohol by volume barleywine-style ale released annually in the spring — is Deep Ellum Brewing's most fawned-over brew. It boasts a 92 rating on Beer Advocate (so you know it's good when even all of the whiny contrarian weirdos on the Internet agree). Aged in oak whiskey barrels, this is a beast of a beer. Its spicy, cinnamon-y flavor and that aforementioned ABV makes sure that you'll remember, and then quickly forget, its name.
Four Corners Boss Lady Rustic Red
Boss Lady makes the essentials list due to the nature of its very existence. Four Corners brewed it especially for Pecan Lodge, dubbing it "Boss Lady" as a nod to co-owner Diane Fourton's nickname; it is a beer that exists simply to show how awesome Pecan Lodge is, and can be ordered nowhere else but exclusively at Pecan Lodge. The Deep Ellum barbecue mecca is a Dallas institution, and we must pay respect to their house suds — best sipped at a patio table on a sunny day and accompanied by some of that glorious brisket.
Community Mosaic IPA
Community Beer Company is brewing the most drinkable IPA in Dallas. The Mosaic brings us together: It has enough forward citrus and bitterness to appeal to those who cherish aggressively hopped pale ales, but its flavor profile is also mild enough to win over those who typically avoid them. It's a beer for the people — so it's no surprise, then, that it's the unofficial house beer of the Truck Yard, Dallas's premier outdoor hangout where you're as likely to see high-waisted DIY jean shorts as you are Ray-Bans and wingtips.
Four Corners El Chingon IPA
Depending on who you ask, chingon is Mexican Spanish slang for badass, f-cking great, or something else along those lines — and when it comes to this addictively bitter IPA, the city of Dallas seems to agree. At bars, beer stores, and backyard hangouts, El Chingon is ubiquitous. I hear it ordered around town constantly; my barber drinks it; happy hours are routinely awash in it. Admittedly, that kind of not-at-all-hard-hitting research is lacking in what you'd call "legitimate, empirical data," but nevertheless, it is my anecdotal experience that this is the most popular local canned beer in Dallas.
For a while, Franconia was, along with Rahr & Sons, damn near the only craft brewing game in town. In recent years, that has radically changed, but the quality of Franconia's brews has not. And that's because Franconia is brewing beer honestly, with a respect for tradition and a mindfulness of their footprint; they are one of the greenest breweries in the Metroplex. Their Dunkel, a Munich-style dark lager, is a tasty, no-frills beer, rich without being heavy, complex without being off-putting. Have a few when you tour their brewery in McKinney; the tour, given by thoughtful, knowledgeable, and hilarious owner Dennis Wehrmann, is the best one going in the Metroplex right now.
Revolver Blood and Honey
Revolver, out in Granbury, which is southwest of Fort Worth, has brewed up a mighty fine local alternative to the answer to the often-asked-while-wearing-fringe-boots question "Do you have Blue Moon?" Blood and Honey is a hefeweizen that has actual appeal: No longer do perfectly good orange slices have to drown in a tepid pool of watery yeast. It's unfiltered, which provides some unique texture on the palate, and it's refreshing, making it one of the most perfect beers to drink while you while away the day on one of Dallas's many splendid patios.
This stout's name was crowd-sourced from over 400 submissions, and that's appropriate, because it is a crowd-pleaser. It's everything a stout should be: thick, malty, chocolatey, comforting. It's just a well-brewed beer. What's more, the geniuses at Community barrel-aged this bad boy in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, and the result, Barrel-Aged Legion, is damn near a dessert. It's a symphony of sweet, rich, bold flavors, and at 12 percent ABV, it's also a hell of a nightcap.
Revolver Mother's Little Fracker
Another local stout, this beer gets its name from the founders' love of the Rolling Stones, and because its color is a deep, pure, impressive black, like that of Texas crude. Lucky for you and me, Mother's Little Fracker tastes much better than drinking literal crude oil (and is also considerably less likely to trigger an earthquake). The roasty notes of dark chocolate wrap up your mouth like a blanket. It's a seasonal release from Revolver, but if you happen to see it on a menu or a shelf, grab it without hesitation.
Armadillo Ale Works Brunch Money
DFW's only self-described golden stout, Brunch Money has an ingredient list as long as the lines for the lazy weekend meal it's named after: 13 or so, one of which is maple syrup. Flavors of coffee, vanilla, and caramel shine through, and its body is reminiscent of an oatmeal stout, but considerably sweeter. Needless to say, this beer is interesting, and Denton's Armadillo Ale Works deserves credit for its fearless beer experimentation. There ain't another beer in the city — or the state, most likely — that tastes like Brunch Money.
Rahr & Sons Bourbon Barrel Winter Warmer
Spending an afternoon guzzling the gamut of local beers on tap at the Rahr brewing compound in Fort Worth is a blast, and a DFW rite of passage; if you haven't done it yet, you absolutely must. The big happy family at Rahr & Sons knows how to throw a hell of a party, specializing as they do in the staple of every good party — beer. Their Blonde, Iron Thistle, or Ugly Pug could have easily graced this list. But their Bourbon Barrel-Aged Winter Warmer is more than a beer; it's a frenzy. When it's released every December, liquor stores sell out and beer geeks foam at the mouth. The sweetness from the oak barrels transforms the dark ale into a decadent treat.
You never forget your first. Temptress, that is. No one simply likes the Temptress; we're all infatuated with it. It's even been more-or-less statistically proven to be the most beloved beer in all of DFW. As its packaging suggests, the Temptress is a seduction, one known by many different names: Mole. Raspberry. Sin Mint. French Quarter. What began as a single milk stout has blossomed into practically its own category. There are one-offs and special releases of the Temptress in some form or another seemingly every month. While the original is every bit as rewarding as its sisters — smooth, creamy, velvety, voluptuous — don't sleep on the smoky French Quarter, and don't miss the BBT: Bourbon Barrel Temptress, which their website refers to as the "cougar" of stouts. It will haunt your dreams.
Peticolas Velvet Hammer
The best thing about this perfectly balanced ale, as smooth as it is potent, is that drinking it gets you as drunk as you always wanted to be — without you even knowing it. As Michael Peticolas himself has said, it's smooth as velvet, but hits you like a hammer. At 9 percent ABV, it should be harder to drink, more of a chore, less of a paradise; it shouldn't go down with ease the way that, say, drinking a light beer's glorified-club-soda swill does. And yet: somehow, Velvet Hammer is all things to all people. It's everything that we need. It's a beautiful godsend of a beer that helps you tie one on without filling you up. I'd say it's too good to be true, but I know better.