What is craft brewing?
The criteria to be considered a craft brewer, according to the Brewer’s Guild, is:
a) “Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less,”
b) Having “less than 25 percent of the craft brewery owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”
c) Having “a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beer whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients.”
Taking North Texas by sudsy storm, in a market that previously saw sporadic growth in the craft beer business, is the trend of craft breweries. We got the chance to speak with Greg McCarthy, co-founder and “Chief Justice” of Legal Draft Brewery, a North Texan craft brewery based in Arlington that expects to produce 12,000 barrels this year.
- The North Texas craft beer market is still growing
“As I became more and more interested in craft beer, I start looking at beer brewing, and was looking to get into the craft business because thought it was a good time in the market, especially in Texas, especially in Arlington – we didn’t have any breweries. While Texas, at the time I looked a couple of years ago, was number 6 or 7 in terms of numbers of breweries in the state compared to the other 50, it was really low when you look at the per capita number of breweries, which I think had Texas down to the 46th or 47th place. There are 25 million people in Texas and we’re growing all the time, especially here in North Texas. We had a good beer scene, but it was by no means mature and by no means overcrowded. I thought it was a good time to give it a try.”
- There’s a friendly competition among other local breweries
“There’s competition out there and there’s lots of craft breweries big and small that are doing a good job of making beer. Many of those people, virtually all in the craft beer business in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, are our friends. They are, to an extent, our competitors as well, but I think most see each other as colleagues. We’re trying to help each other; we’re trying to advance craft beer. It’s more about craft beer competing for space with the big brewers than it is craft breweries competing against each other.”
- There’s a lot of room and flexibility for experimentation
“To me, the craft beer scene seems very much like boutique wineries and vineyards. There’s an attention to detail, there’s a striving to make things different as opposed to, you know, the standard one-lane, one-flavor profile and all of that that we see. For wine, when the 1993 vintage runs out, there’s no more vintage 1993 left. But, with beer you have the opportunity to replicate what you did, and make another batch that tastes just as good or better than the last time you made it. We’ve already done some seasonals and that sort of thing. We started last year with an Oktoberfest; that was the first thing that we did that was outside of the core lineup. It was really popular here and out in the market and it did really well. We also had a roasted pumpkin spice lager that we sold a lot of; we made it as a special request for one of the vendors out at the State Fair of Texas. They sold it out there with a cinnamon sugar rim on the cup.”
- Craft brewing was made for the Texas heat
“From a stylistic standpoint I think there’s a couple of things that set us apart: most craft breweries produce either all or substantially all ales. We thought Texas was a good market to try to introduce craft lagers from us. Lagers tend to be cleaner, simpler, crisper and when they’re made correctly in the real German and Austrian style, they’re going to have a lot of flavor as well, but they’re not going to be as complex with as many flavor profiles as ales. The Texas heat is made for lagers. You’d like to drink something that’s refreshing and crisp.. So when it’s 100 degrees outside, and let’s face it— it’s 100 degrees outside a lot – our blonde lager and our amber lager should work well and should be popular for people who like to drink beer in the summertime like at the golf course, at the ballpark, at the beach or the pool. That’s the kind of beer we wanted to make.”
- Arlington has the only German brewer out of 3 in the entire state
“With our brewmaster, Henryk Orlik, we have one of three German-trained brewmasters in the state. I think that puts us in a different light than others. There are lots of great and talented brewers out there but the German classical training is something distinct. Henryk worked for 20 years in Germany before getting the opportunity to come to the United States and go to work in Cleveland at a small brew pub. He’s been in America ever since.“
Henryk was at a brewery in Alpine, Texas before being recruited by McCarthy and his business partner, Curt Taylor.