Three years ago, Sherman’s 903 Brewing owners Jeremy and Natalie Roberts were in Florida at a beer festival, when they encountered a decidedly unusual beer style from Indianapolis’s 450 North Brewing Company. Situated next to the brewery’s booth at the festival, the Robertses noticed that 450 North’s line seemed constantly packed with people itching to try its slushy-style beers.
“We were wondering why people wanted these beers so much,” Roberts says. “And then we tried it and saw how refreshing it was. We said, ‘Look, no one else in Texas is really doing a slushy-style beer, and we need to.’”
Enter 903 Brewing’s fruited sour beers — a seriously creative line-up of brews that’s been inspiring Dallasites to drive an hour north just for a drink since the slushies made their debut last year.
For folks who aren’t -familiar with the term “slushy,” it isn’t the frozen libation that you might be thinking of. In fact, there’s no ice involved at all. At 903, “slushy” refers to a fruited sour, which is essentially what it sounds like: a sour beer, in this case, Berliner-Weisse, that’s infused with a ton of fruit puree. The result is a beer that comes out thick, with a slushy-like consistency and seriously fruity flavor profile.
Roberts describes the style as “almost like a cocktail.” The fruits and other additives, like lactose, completely transform the beer’s flavor, so while many of 903’s slushies are built off the same base, every variation is a completely unique experience. Some are sweet, others are mouth-puckeringly tart. Some exist in a liminal space between the two. The transformation is so stark, in fact, that even folks who are avowed sour beer haters can find something to appreciate in these brews.
Now, according to Roberts, 903 is “one of the top breweries that produces the heavily fruited slushy sour ales.” It’s a huge change of pace for the brewery that had previously been renowned throughout the metroplex for its dark and complex stout beers — particularly the Sasquatch, an imperial chocolate milk stout that’s brewed with lactose and cacao nibs.
Now that there’s such robust interest in 903’s slushies, Roberts is focused on continually experimenting with new flavors and styles. In April, 903 Brewers released a smoothie-style seltzer, an attempt to create a gluten-free companion to the slushy beers. It was slow to sell at first — its April 1 release date led some people to think it was a cheeky April Fool’s joke — but once people tried the fruity seltzer, it quickly sold out.
Roberts has also started working with ingredients that don’t traditionally belong in sour-style beers. In one of its recent releases, the Raspberry Beret slushy, Roberts blended strawberry, raspberries, and blueberries with decidedly non-traditional ingredients like vanilla, white chocolate, and milk sugar (or lactose). Even though you’re more likely to see those latter ingredients in something like a stout, they cut down on the tartness of a typical berry-spiked sour, while lending richness and helping to create a smooth mouthfeel.
In the midst of the slushy boom, 903 Brewers has also been busy making some much-needed improvements to its operations. Throughout the pandemic, 903 has seen dramatically increased demand for canned beers, so much that Roberts says the brewery can’t keep up with the demand for its inventory. Recently, Roberts purchased a new canning line from Blanco’s Real Ale Brewing, which he says will allow the brewery to quadruple its daily production, from 800 cases of beer per day to 3,200.
Roberts is also constantly working to increase the amount of beer that 903 can brew. He says that when the brewery started, they were brewing 55 gallons of beer at a time. In 2014, they upgraded to a 200-gallon system, and have now ramped up even more and are brewing 1,000 gallons at a time.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he says. “I brew more beer before noon every day than I did my whole first year in business.”
In fact, while businesses around the country were laying employees off during the pandemic, Roberts says that the sales of its canned brews, like the slushy beers, were strong enough to keep all of the brewery’s workers employed and even allowed 903 to make new hires.
When it comes to finding 903’s slushies, the best bet is to drive up to Sherman. Most of these releases, like the island-inspired Tiki Room, which is infused with coconut, passionfruit, and guava, and the raspberry-infused Raspberry Beret, can only be found in cans at the brewery. Its taproom is filled with slushy four-packs that can be purchased to-go, while single cans are on offer for folks who want to sip a slushy on the brewery’s spacious patio.
People who can’t get to Sherman aren’t totally out of luck, though. Roughly twice a month, Roberts says that he’ll send out some slushies — around 40 cases — to 903’s retailers across the state. The brewery also releases all of the slushies in kegs, but will only send out between six to 10 of those kegs to local distributors. So while it’s possible to find these coveted slushies on tap at various growler bars across Dallas-Fort Worth, it’s impossible to try the entire line without a trip up north.
But Roberts says that plenty of people are making that trip, and not just from Dallas. “We get a lot of people from Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, but also Tulsa and Oklahoma City,” he says. “The crazier we get, the better our beer gets.”