North Texas Brewers, A to Z
When you mention Cedar Hill to long-time residents of North Texas, one image comes immediately to mind: radio towers. Due to its unique regional geography and elevation, Cedar Hill has long been home to the highest concentration of radio broadcast towers in the area. Their skyward blinking red lights are an iconic landmark for anyone traveling south of Dallas at night, far from urban light pollution and overlooking a state park and its relatively new lake.
This iconography is carried into the taproom decor at Ash & Ember Brewing, the first craft brewery to operate in Cedar Hill. It opened in the summer of 2020 in the midst of our nationwide pandemic with all its associated safety restrictions but has persevered and survived, now brewing up to a dozen craft beer styles with rotating seasonals in a small commercial building just blocks east of the town’s Historic District.
The origin story should be familiar: Local homebrewing buddies have success with their amateur efforts and decide to make the jump to a full-time commercial career. Brian Krajcirovic and Tim Martin began brewing together in 2013, lifetime fans of craft beer who turned their hobby into a few competition medals brewing traditional craft beer styles. The twist here would be Krajcirovic’s background, a Slovakian family (as the name might suggest) who relocated to the US but originally from a culture saturated with quality Czech pilsners.
The brewery occupies a nondescript commercial building in the middle of a residential area just off State HIghway 67. The hops-cone logo is displayed outside on painted grey brick with maroon awnings, a relatively small space with limited parking (a few spots are located out front with a private lot around back, but no street parking is allowed). The location may seem remote for most North Texans but it is surprisingly easy to reach, located at the terminus of the mid-cities’ Belt Line Road (FM 1382) on the far side of Joe Pool Lake by taking that road as far south as it goes.
Krajcirovic and Martin’s brewing philosophy seems to lean heavily toward traditional craft beer styles instead of experimentation.
The taproom itself is a small, windowless but well-appointed space lined with wood panels and local photographs, along with a mural of the aforementioned towers. High-top tables spread out in front of a bar that parallels one wall, with the kitchen, cold room and brewhouse in separate rooms directly behind it. It is very much a “pub” space, intentioned or not, and in contrast to the glass and steel of some of our newer breweries. It doesn’t have the capacity for much of a crowd, but that may be well-suited to its address.
Krajcirovic and Martin’s brewing philosophy seems to lean heavily toward traditional craft beer styles instead of experimentation, which makes the brewery almost a throwback in today’s trend-focused market. Their lineup can include styles such as traditional American IPA, pilsner, porter, wheat/hefeweizen, English bitter, stout, winter warmer, sometimes a Belgian or two—a selection that would not have been out of place at Texas brewpubs two decades ago. This is refreshing in an age of brewers style-bending at a dizzying pace, and the quality of their beers seems to be holding up.
In addition to craft beer, Ash & Ember is also home to Mija Barbecue, which operates and serves inside the same space. A venture of Ryan Siegler and his family, Mija sells traditional Texican brisket, pork and burgers with a full commercial smoker operating out of the back of the production space. Even for brewery ‘cue, which can sometimes be a disappointing afterthought, Mija is competition-worthy fare and likely destined for an independent location at some future point.*
Overall, Ash & Ember is a solid sophomore-class brewery, and a worthwhile day trip when the weather is nice. Looking forward to Krajcirovic and Martin spreading their wings a bit with a little more experience.
* Not to distract at all from Siegler’s efforts, but the Texas Monthly–rated Harris Bar-B-Que is found only a block away from the brewery.