Every fall during grad school, my husband would gleefully announce: “Home brew party!” He and his fellow engineering students made their own beer, then brought bottles to share and swap. It was fun—some of the beer was good and some truly, impressively bad—and it always made sense to me in terms of the larger cultural zeitgeist. In an era of Michael Pollan and locavores, homemade anything (everything?) was a reason to throw a party.
All of Dallas now has a chance to have “homemade” beer. At least five new craft breweries have opened in the last 18 months: Deep Ellum Brewing, Peticolas, Revolver, Lakewood, and Four Corners. Four Corners is the youngest, opened in November just past the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in West Dallas. Given the surge of craft beers made locally, it makes sense to have a space like Craft and Growler.
Craft and Growler opened in November and is part bar, part retail space. One wall is shelves filled with empty growlers, which are large, reusable bottles for taking home draft beer. If, for example, you want some of the Peticolas Brewing Company’s Wintervention, you may be able to go out and get a pint at a bar, but the beer itself is made in small batches, so you likely can’t buy bottles at your corner store. If you want to take some Wintervention to your spouse who watched the kids while you went out, that’s where the growler comes in handy.
You can’t do this at just any bar, and, in fact, there are only a handful of places in Dallas to fill up. Whole Foods in Lakewood offers growler action, and some breweries do it, too. But Craft and Growler is an actual bar (rather than a grocery store). Taps hang over a metal trough behind a bar that’s clean and shiny. Beer is dispensed with long tap handles that look like some stainless steel medical device married with a magic wand. Each tap has two orifices, one for sucking out air and another for dispensing beer. The process protects beer from oxidation and “results in a fresher and longer-lasting growler fill,” owner Kevin Afghani told me in an email. Afghani, who has a degree in physics and is a patent attorney, has a patent pending on the technology.
The space is industrial-cool, big, airy, with concrete floors and long tables. The windows are nearly floor to ceiling, revealing big skies and Fair Park across the street. The whole place feels as much like an artist’s loft as it does a wine cellar, with some German beer garden thrown in. Craft and Growler’s corner lot sits next to the Meridian Room, and Meridian’s food is served at the bar.
But however good the food, the focus is on beer. Thirty taps are going at any given time, with two taps dedicated to North Texas breweries, including Franconia (McKinney), Peticolas (Dallas), Revolver (Granbury), Deep Ellum (Dallas), Lakewood (Dallas), and Four Corners (Dallas). A number of the other taps are filled with Texas brews, and other states compete for the remaining slots.
Compression, a friend recently observed, is important to artistic culture. People need to live near each other to have the accidental and regular encounters that lead to the exchange of ideas. Yes. New ideas and cultures grow well when people from different arts bump into each other: poets talking to painters talking to potters and other painters they happen to bump into. Compression launches interesting trajectories. This sudden growth of craft beers in a compressed area has got to be good for breweries, as it facilitates the cross-pollination of ideas and enlarges the support network. And it seems like Craft and Growler might be a great place for beer culture, a place where people can jaw about hops and malt, where fans can taste a bunch of small-batch local beers all at once, then take home whatever they like. It certainly was good for my husband, who happily opened his new growler and had a draft beer at home, even though he couldn’t make it to the bar.
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