The Collective Brewing Project, Hop Fusion Ale Works, Wild Acre Brewing, Panther Island Brewing, Martin House Brewing, New Main Brewing
Fort Worth surprised me with its attractive, laid-back downtown, and, somewhat naively, at the range and vibrance of the craft beer scene, particularly with how many breweries whose beers I drink regularly are based there – shame on me for not paying more attention! While we weren’t able to run the full gamut of all the city has to offer, we packed in a respectable 6 breweries between visiting the historic Stockyards and chomping on fab local barbecue, including some absolute champions.
The Collective Brewing Project
Fort Worth’s answer to all things sour and funky, Collective Brewing Project have been tickling our tastebuds since we got to Texas, so a visit to their mothership was first on the agenda when we arrived into town. They have a cool, laid-back space in the brewery-rich Near Southside district with a substantial 16 beers on tap, including rather exciting taproom specials. Collective’s beers are of an intimidatingly high standard, and our flight of 5 (a steep but excusable $15) was an absolute treat.
The Bug Rye’d was a sweet-sour-smoky delight of a Rye Porter and the Classipied sour pumpkin-pie Saison singlehandedly disproved my theory about lighter pumpkin beers not working. Their classic Suspicious Delicious sweet-spicy Farmhouse Saison was extra-zingy straight from the source and the Churroing is an ambitious sweet, boozy, woody beast that really works. Collective brew beers that are imaginative and experimental without compromising on quality, and staff were approachable and helpful. Sitting amongst Collective’s tanks and foeders with our veritable rainbow of a flight was an excellent way to begin our Fort Worth beer adventure!
Hop Fusion Ale Works
After a hearty Texan barbecue at Heim BBQ (we’re told it’s the best in town and are in agreement!), we hit up Hop Fusion, nearby to Collective. This hip, modern taproom has graffiti art on the walls and bicycles hanging from the ceiling, with 14 beers on tap. We arrived on karaoke night (Wednesdays for those interested) which was excellent news for me, this being my favourite pastime other than drinking beer, and the enthused and proficient crowd of regulars were happily welcoming to this out-of-towner when it was my go with the mic – excellent fun was had!
I’m a big fan of Hop Fusion’s big milk stouts, the Fur Slipper and Coco Anejo, so wanted to branch out and try new things with my flight (four 5oz pours for $12). I was impressed by how authentically English the Bailiwick ESB was, only to discover that Hop Fusion had procured some Fuggles hops ‘specially – you don’t find these in Texas often! The Boatman’s Barleywine and Brabant Belgian Dubbel were both full and potent, if a little on the sweet side, and the Magnolia Brown was nice, with the flavours expanding as it warmed up. Our bartender chatted away with us about the beers, and if they weren’t quite of an even standard, there were no duds either, and it’s a great taproom – a fun part of the Fort Worth beer experience.
Wild Acre Brewing
After a spin round Fort Worth’s downtown, we stopped by Wild Acre Brewing, located in Fort Worth’s Near East Side district, next to Trinity River Distillery (worth a quick visit if you’re there). Wild Acre has an open, spacious taproom with a large outdoor area, and they do a great job creating a rustic ambience to make you forget that you’re actually in an industrial estate! While Wild Acre don’t serve flights, they offer half-pours and are happy to let you sample beers before buying. Friendly, engaged staff were happy to advise, and what was meant to be a short stop-in soon morphed into a bit of a session.
My favourite brew was the Opportunity Brown Ale, a rather delicious full nutty ale which weighed in at a slightly tipsy 7.2%, a bit of a different animal to the traditional English variety (and not in a bad way). Of their numerous IPAs, the smooth, hoppy T-Hawk Red was my pick of the bunch, and not just because you don’t see enough Red IPAs around! The Snap’d American Strong Ale was also fab, I loved the strong ginger notes, but the Super Hawk DIPA was a little too boozy even for me! The seasonal Billy’s Birthday Doppelbock was a superb mega-lager – 9.8% of rich, malty yum, was wishing I’d brought my crowler for that one! A lovely spot to hang out for an afternoon’s boozin’.
Panther Island was a bit of a revelation to us – we’d not come across them on our travels or tried any of their beers prior to our visit, so were somewhat blown away by the high quality across the board. Running the gamut from Pink Guava Gose (There Gose My Hero – what a name!) to Peanut Butter Milk Stout (Sweet Fang) by way of IIPA (Ipf’nA), these beers were absolutely gorgeous. I’m dead fussy about Peanut Butter Stouts, but Panther Island’s was of a standard to rival my absolute favourite, Hammerton Brewery’s Crunch (try it if you ever get the chance!). Getting it so right over such a wide range of styles isn’t easy, but Panther Island made it seem absolutely normal – the NEIPA, Stout and Scotch Ale all more than measured up too.
Our visit was made even more enjoyable by an excellent chat with our super-knowledgeable and engaged bartender Colt (like the horse and the gun!), a brewer and beer aficionado after my own heart with whom we exchanged beer-travel stories and recommendations. The simple but atmospheric taproom is lit by clusters of fairy lights hanging from the ceiling, backing out into the brewing space. There’s even air hockey, should you feel the need to indulge. With a picturesque spot right on the bend in the West Trinity River, Panther Island has a great location between Downtown and the Stockyards, so there’s really no excuse not to visit. A Fort Worth beer-must.
Martin House Brewing
I am a huge fan of Martin House beers, which are happily readily available in Austin (and most places in Texas), so had been expecting our visit to the mothership to be a highlight of our Fort Worth beer-adventure. Events conspired to delay us (ie we tarried longer than expected at Panther Island!) and by the time we arrived we were just able to squeeze in a quick flight before closing, and needless to say, went for as many of the taproom specials as we were able.
Of the five beers we ordered, the Stage 5 Clinger, a rich, luscious, boozy cherry wheat, was by far the pick of the bunch – I absolutely loved it! Unfortunately, there was disappointment in store. Aside from a nice spicy, bright tamarind Holler At Chamoy Gose, the rest of our flight was weak to say the least. Perhaps we chose poorly, being under time pressure, but we were really surprised and at this unexpected turn of events. The Beach House was full of promises – a mango-habernero Pale that should have been a superb confluence of flavours, but both of which were resoundingly lacking. I was also super-psyched for the Raspberry Erebus, a huge 13% stout aged on raspberry puree which sounded absolutely delectable. Sadly the alcohol taste was so strong that it overwhelmed everything else and we weren’t able to finish it. Similarly, the Great Odin’s Raven, a Farmhouse Saison brewed with juniper and cedar, was a bit too boozy and somewhat bitter. The taproom itself is a bit of a haphazard affair that feels rather thrown together, and combined with some rather drunk and obnoxious patrons, didn’t have the greatest vibe to it. That said, the lady who served us was great (particularly in the face of said obnoxious customers), so perhaps it is indeed a work in progress. I’d advise caution when ordering, but honestly it’s Martin House – you have to go!
New Main Brewing
As we were staying out in Grand Prairie, we made a late-night pit stop at New Main for a quick nightcap-flight (yes, this is a thing – at least, it is with me). They only had four of their own beers on tap during our visit, so that’s what our flight was made up of. The Trappy Pils was an interesting blend of Pilsner and Belgian Blonde, although the Wonderbread Hefweizen with Orange Peel was pretty much a regular Hef. The Pantego Porter was solidly up to the job, and I rather liked the Damn Fine Wheat Wine, which was nicely light and quaffable for 9.5%.
The New Main taproom, however, is a seriously lacking in ambience due to the jarringly bright lighting. The furniture is spread out a bit randomly in the large space which adds to the sense of being out of sorts, and there’s also a room with video games strewn around like a half-abandoned man-cave, which was a little odd. It may be a more inviting space at a different time of day, but I would definitely recommend a bit of a refurb. One for if you’re in the area.