North Texas was bleak from 40,000 feet up — dirt and space and trickling, blood-red rivers — but on the ground, the beer landscape seemed bleaker.
“We have Bud Lite, Coors Lite, Miller Lite, Corona Lite…”
Then we heard about local favorites Rahr and Sons Brewing, but we also heard about their roof. Last year, a freak storm dumped 12 inches of snow on the brewery, collapsed its roof, and shut them down for seven months. This is rough country for craft beer.
But Rahr pulled through. In fact, the disaster gave them a chance to rebrand and the insurance money paid for a new brewing set-up and a new bottling line, easily making up the lost production, and then some, when they got running again. It also helped get Tony Drewry a job. Tony’s a master plumber with the tattoos of torches and pipe adhesive to prove it, and he talked his way into Rahr with the epic pick-up line, “wow, you guys have a lot of plumbing here.” The roof collapse let him rebuild the brewery, and he beamed as he showed off his shower-head bottle washing station and Swedish, pre-insulated ABS glycol pipes, the envy of every brewer in Texas.
If you’re a homebrewer, you’ve probably heard of Rahr. Fritz Rahr, of Rahr and Sons, comes from the same line as the Rahrs behind Rahr Malting. We buy their grains — American-grown, American-malted. One of the gems the folks at the brewery showed off was a mind-blowing family history of the Rahrs written and illustrated by Rockwell Kent, who also illustrated the greatest edition of Moby Dick, ever.
The Rahrs came over with the first wave of great German brewers, and their beer has a characteristically German maltiness to it, kind of a gritty, bready feel. Stormcloud is a German IPA; Snowmageddon is meaty-but-drinkable imperial oatmeal stout — nothing like the imperial Russian sludge most craft brewers offer this time of year. Bucking Bock (mom’s favorite) is a true-to-style German bock, says Tony: “pale, medium-bodied, it’s got some punch to it. People drink it and go, wow, this isn’t Coors.”
And that’s something Rahr thinks about a lot, because unlike brewers in California or Oregon, Coors is their competition. Anheuser-Busch snuck in Ziegenbock — “only available in Texas!” — to chip away at Shiner and Rahr’s actually local bocks. Lone Star Beer calls itself the “official beer of Texas,” but it’s owned by Pabst and brewed by Miller.
That’s not local. “Come meet the guy who makes it,” Tony says. “That’s local.” Rahr only distributes in Texas, and Tony is usually the guy who does the distributing. He’ll fill up ten kegs, throw them in a truck, and drive them 180 miles south to Austin himself. “And the beer’s still cold when I get there.”