The year 2020 has not been kind to the Dallas food & beverage industry. With the coronavirus keeping customers hunkered down at home and state laws that seem to change every day, it's a nostalgic trip to recall the days when you could drop into your favorite spot and grab a drink and a bite.
It's those days that CultureMap Dallas celebrates via its annual Tastemaker Awards, honoring the best in local food and drink.
Now begins our editorial series, with entries we'll post over the next few weeks, lauding candidates for best chef, best restaurant, and best rising star.
To determine the nominees, we drafted a panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, who helped narrow down the list to 10 finalists, then voted to crown a winner.
One fortunate thing about craft breweries is that, despite COVID-19, most are able to keep producing — and we're able to keep buying — their craft beer.
Here are the best craft breweries of the year:
3 Nations Brewing
Launched in 2015, 3 Nations is the brainchild of Gavin Secchi, whose family owns Ferrari's Italian Villa. The brewery resides in a cool building, a former grain storage shed, in downtown Carrollton, where they're doing adventurous beers such as Crazy Pale Ale and Mango Smash IPA. Their taproom is currently closed but they have a robust curbside program where you can order online, then swing by their south side entrance from 12-8 pm, and pick up a 6 pack or two.
Brewery in downtown Rowlett is from chef Kevin Lefere and brewmaster Chad Moshier, who took over as head brewer in September. Moshier has been making beer for more than a decade and oversaw a brewery operation in California before relocating to Texas. Their selection is extensive with 16 of their own beers on tap, including a Belgian pale ale and a Vienna-style lager.
By The Horns Brewery
Brewery in downtown Mansfield was launched by Twisted Root founder Jason Boso, and features brewmaster Justin Meyer, following the German style he learned while training in Bavaria, Germany. The decor in this one-time gas station is classic Boso, combining vintage elements with Texana-style fixtures such as cow horns. An adjacent taqueria offers tacos on site. They're temporarily closed but you can find the beer at Boso properties including Truck Yard Dallas, Colony, and Houston.
Brewery and taproom in the Medical District specializes in New England-style hazy IPAs. Founders Matt and Molly Reynolds make beautiful-looking and beautiful-sounding beers that follow an ethereal, outerworldly theme with names like Illusion, Crepestellation, Odysseus, Andromeda, and Electromagnetism. The taproom is closed for visits but you can hop on www.celestialtogo.com and/or head to the taproom between 2-7 pm to buy their beers in a crowler format.
Manhattan Project Beer Company
Brewery with acclaimed beers is from husband-and-wife Karl and Misty Sanford, and friend Jeremy Brodt. who opened their taproom at 2211 Sulphur St. in December 2018. The facility has 16 beers on tap, including rotating specialty brews, plus a beer garden and space for live music. Unusually for breweries, Manhattan Project Brewing Company is open mornings: 7:30 am Monday-Friday, and at 9 am on weekends, when they serve coffee from Edison Coffee of Flower Mound. They also introduced a food program in 2019.
Martin House Brewing
Since opening in 2013 in an idyllic spot on Fort Worth's Trinity Trail, Martin House has acquired a legendary status, with brews and an approach that stand out from the pack. They've released many acclaimed beers, but perhaps none surpassed the buzz generated by their two pickle beers, released in a clever partnership with Fort Worth pickle company Best Maid.
Oak Cliff Brewing Co.
The first craft beer brewery in Oak Cliff sits in Tyler Station, a creative mixed-use complex, where it has 10 original brews on tap. Founder Joel Denton is a third-generation Oak Cliff resident who began brewing in his garage in 2007. The brewery does lots of experimental releases, including cult faves such as Mango Chile Paleta Weisse and Cucumber Lime Paleta Weisse. In addition to operating the brewery, they also operate a distributorship and distribute their beer throughout DFW. The taproom is currently closed, but you can order online.
Oak Highlands Brewery
There isn't a brewery in town more neighborhood-centric than Oak Highlands Brewery, founded by Brad Mall and Derrin Williams, homebrewers who left corporate careers to launch OHB. Brews such as DFDub and Freaky Deaky are not only highly likeable, they're readily available across the Metroplex. Their commitment to their community extends from yoga on Saurday mornings to brisket competitions to Friday night fish fry events. They're open 5 days per week for to-go & curbside pickup including six packs, crowlers, and growler refills, and their parking lot is open for tailgating.
Small batch brewery and craft beer taproom in East Dallas features 40 taps featuring both their own experimental flavors along with rotating guest taps that provide a little something for everyone. They're located next-door to Cane Rosso, and allow you to order a pizza and bring it inside. They're a returning champ, having won for best brewery in 2016.
Pegasus City Brewery
Pegasus City opened in the Design District in 2016 and celebrates its Dallas roots, with its name honoring the city's iconic Pegasus red horse. Their beer lineup is extensive, although they're nearly as well known for their cool Art Deco packaging design. They're plotting a second taproom with additional brewing space in downtown Dallas' Dallas Power and Light building, but for now their taproom is closed. Order and pay online or over the phone, and they'll bring the beer to-go safely to your vehicle.