Last year was a bit of an experiment for me. Beginning slightly before the pandemic shutdown, the fantastic growth of craft breweries in our region planted a seed in my mind that has become a minor obsession: sequentially visiting every brewery in the greater North Texas area within one calendar year, an idea that I refer to as the “North Texas Brewers Tour.”
With the rollercoaster of economic, political and public safety difficulties that we have experienced recently, 2022 proved to be the first full year that such a project became viable. The rules are very simple: Drink at least one full beer on-site at each brewery (to-go beers and tasting flights do not count) between January 1 and December 31. For practical purposes—because most of us work for a living—the majority of visits were often limited to weekends and/or holidays, but weekday visits were possible for some of the breweries closer to home.
Full disclosure: I did not actually accomplish my goal of visiting all operating breweries, but I came close enough to demonstrate its practicality. The last month of the year presented some inclement weather as well as holiday and family commitments, so my final tally fell about six or eight breweries short of completion. Included here are my observations, with hopefully some learned insight from the experience.
Such a tour is entirely doable in a calendar year…
Depending on the count and how you define the region (several websites provide comprehensive lists to use for both geography and brewing activity), our area currently includes between 85 and 95 independent craft breweries spread across the 16 counties generally considered as North Texas, along with a handful more of locations close enough to be counted. An easy breakdown allows for about two brewery visits per week with a few exceptions for holiday closures and weather events, which is easy to accomplish for even the casual craft beer fan.
The order of visits is entirely up to the participant. Alphabetically by brewery name is a convenient default but other organization such as by city, region, distance or opening date are also reasonable. New and special releases throughout the year may alter the preferred order, or some randomized algorithm can be used to make each weekend’s destination a surprise. Personally, I tried to optimize an alternating distance order (close/far) to avoid a lot of long-distance driving all at once.
…but some accounting effort is necessary.
Bear in mind that the total number of operating craft breweries is a moving target. New breweries open throughout the year and, unfortunately, breweries shut down due to financial difficulties or other reasons (one brewery was missed simply due to an unexpected business closure). Stay aware and flexible for operating hours and announcements of sudden changes and if your schedule can accommodate these changes; social media is often more helpful with real-time updates than brewery websites or traditional news outlets.
Such a tour is somewhat of a commitment…
Visiting breweries on weekends is an enjoyable hobby, but committing to it every weekend can become a minor chore as the year progresses. Competing weekend plans often require cancellation, and commitments to family and friends can often preempt planned brewery visits. Holidays, illness, vacation travel and even responsibilities like home or auto repairs mean that some weekends must be doubled-up to stay on schedule.
…because distances in Texas are not insignificant.
Breweries visited early in the year are usually the closest and easiest, and one learns to appreciate the significant breadth spanned by the North Texas region by day-tripping to some of the more distant breweries. Driving 50 to 70 miles round-trip (or 120 miles, in more then one case) simply to drink a pint of beer may not always be the most ideal use of one’s personal time and resources. This can become especially onerous if one still commutes daily to an office for work, when weekends are valuable time for rest and decompression without spending even more time in traffic than is necessary.
Clusters of brewery locations can be an advantage…
Overall, craft brewing operations are distributed fairly uniformly across our region, with a few brewers opening in relatively remote rural areas. However, urban clusters of craft brewing activity can be used to your advantage with such a tour. Locales like Deep Ellum, Dallas’ Design District, South Main in Fort Worth, Denton’s downtown square and even the Weatherford/Hudson Oaks area allow for hitting multiple breweries in one afternoon, which can help make up for lost weekends.
…making mass transit very helpful (to a degree).
Granted, DART serves only the Dallas area and a few surrounding municipalities, but at least 10 craft brewers are located within easy walking distance of a metro rail stop. Combining this rail service with that of Denton’s connecting DCTA and the Trinity Railway Express (TRE), a majority of cities in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex proper can be reached without having to drive. Add a quick Uber or Lyft to the end of a rail stop and all but the most remote breweries do not require a personal automobile.
Overnight stays—even local—are recommended.
To a large degree, craft beer is a self-limiting hobby. Practical matters should always be at the forefront, not the least of which becomes driving local highways after consuming alcohol. Without built-in benefits such as a spouse or a committed friend to alternate as designated driver, staying in a hotel or private rental even just a few miles from home can be very beneficial. Make a fun, minor staycation out of it instead of a risky drive home, and don’t feel bad about renting a room in a neighboring city.
2 thoughts on “The North Texas Brewers Tour”
My wife and I had this idea, albeit supersized, to visit every operating brewery in Texas which we commenced in early 2018 (Long enough ago to have counted Pedernales, Big Bend Brewing and Goliad Brewing among our visits.) To date we have visited almost 400 breweries within this great state. I will admit with no shame though that we do count “Beer-To-Go” and flights among our count. You’re missing out on a lot of special release or barrel aged and high ABV beers if you limit yourself to in house pints only.
Oh, there have been plenty of to-go purchases as well as on-site pints. However, you can’t really count “drinking at a brewery” if all you do is run in and grab a sixer. It’s about the experience, not the stats.