North Texas Brewers, A to Z
It was not the inaugural North Texas Fresh Hops Fest last October that makes Windmills different. Many local brewpubs create and host their own local craft beer events as welcome self-promotion.
Nor is it the comparatively high-end (at least for craft beer) dining environment. A few local brewers, both current and long closed, have skewed toward finer dining trends over the industrial warehouse-and-burgers theme more common in modern craft brewing.
Instead, it was Austrian David Helbock and his jazz trio Random/Control (piano, trumpet, saxophone) providing background ambiance as they performed during the small Saturday fest that lets you know Windmills is a new and different animal in the local craft beer scene.
Windmills is not based locally, but their location in The Colony’s Grandscape business mega-park was the first of its concept in the US when it opened in March 2021. Its parent is a fairly successful real estate corporation out of Bangalore, India, named Total Environment, which is noted for developing some award-winning housing projects over its more than two decades of existence. With their corporate success, founder Kamal Sagar teamed up with CEO and local amateur homebrewer Ajay Nagarajan to create the new Windmills brewpub concept first in Bangalore, and now here in North Texas.
The brewpub/restaurant is a stunning two-story standalone structure on a man-made pond sandwiched between the Sam Rayburn Tollway (Hwy 121) and a Scheels sporting goods chain, all within the orbit of Nebraska Furniture Mart. The building alone looks as if it belongs in the pages of Architectural Digest: The windswept design includes broad upper and lower covered patios facing the water, and the interior is adorned with varnished woods and fine furniture.
A fairly large stage area holds a resident Steinway and has walls stocked with real full-color books on all subjects, not just decorative thrift-store filler pieces.* The second floor is only a wraparound bar area that overlooks first-floor dining and the stage, providing an open high ceiling and adding to the acoustic fidelity. It quickly becomes obvious with strategic soundproofing and other elements that this is a space designed around live music (think chamber music and small solo acts instead of garage bands).
Windmills is a new and different animal in the local craft beer scene.
The kitchen and hospitality follow suit: Touchscreen tablets present interactive e-menus with custom software, allowing full descriptions and photos of elevated Indian-American pub-fusion cuisine such as steaks and burgers, tandoor chicken and saag paneer, blistered shishito peppers and tiramisu, bratwurst and fish and chips. The food is very good, but they might better serve patrons and the Texas craft beer community with more traditional Indian dishes. (Ethnic cuisine of almost any kind is wholly lacking in local craft brewing ventures.) Pages of specialized spirits, wines and mixed drinks are also available.
As for the beer, the offerings are more conservative and mainstream styles compared to other brewers across Texas. You will likely not find many sour beers here, or anything brewed with pickles or scorpion chiles or Girl Scout cookies. However, what you will find from the brewing team of Cal Ryan (Surly, Stone) and Matt Pennington (Deep Ellum, Oak Highlands) are some classic American and European styles such as märzen, Czech pilsner, hefeweizen, West Coast IPA, Russian imperial stout or Mexican lager. So far, everything sampled has been rock-solid and true to style descriptions.
The North Texas Fresh Hops Beer Fest itself was a modest event, including only six local participating brewers (including the host brewery) and drawing a small but intimate crowd to their exclusive upstairs bar area. The spirit of the fest was as advertised with brewers bringing lighter beers and collaboration brews that featured the freshest of fresh-hopped malt beverages along with some rare facetime with a couple of the brewers themselves. Hopefully, this and other events can gain traction, as a venue like Windmills is both well-suited for available space and a central location for North Texas brewing.
Mentioned previously, the live music lineup is nothing to ignore either, attracting artists literally from around the world. Recent shows have included clarinetist Anat Cohen, cellist Ben Sollee, The Nightowls, Stanley Jordan, classic country and blues from The Warren Hood Band, and Brazilian jazz trio Hamilton De Holanda, Varijashree Venugopal and Eddie Gomez. Pandemic restrictions and inclement weather slowed down their in-house music scene for a while but it looks to be building momentum once again.
Whether a fan of craft beer or live music (or both), the owners and management of Windmills have demonstrated seriousness and eagerness about the specialized concept they are trying to create here. It is definitely a developing place to add to your watch list.
* Brand-new books that patrons are welcome to borrow and read, just like a functioning public library.