There are three things about Bearded Eel Craft Brewery that caught my attention from the get-go. First, the location a few miles east of Eagle Mountain Lake couldn't have been more contrasted from the central, downtown-ish locations of The Collective Brewing Project, Rahr & Sons Brewing, Panther Island Brewing and Martin House Brewing Company. Second, the owners use small batch 1.5 barrel (55-75 gallon) brewing vats instead of systems that are typically several times that size. And, last but not least, the brews here are incredibly creative and quirky.
At the recent Untapped Festival at Panther Island Pavilion, I tried their Texican, a Serrano-infused ale. Some brewers keep the heat in for styles like this, but there wasn't even a hint of spiciness here. The taste is similar to a bell or poblano pepper and didn't overpower the light, amber ale.
Bearded Eel co-owner Becky Burnett was kind enough to take some time off from brewing to discuss the new venture she founded with her husband B.J.
Becky said she and her husband live in Saginaw, so the brewery location came naturally. Most of her customers are locals, but a growing contingent from Dallas and beyond are becoming regular customers, too. The Texican I tried recently was a special project and, as it turns out, has a fun story behind it. The couple was living in Switzerland at the time and they decided to brew a Jalapeño Saison. The local store was out of jalapeños, but they did have serrano peppers. To keep the heat out and the flavor in, B.J. and Becky de-seeded the fiery poppers. They loved the results and made it one of their first recipes when Bearded Eel opened.
Bearded Eel brews perennial favorite styles like stouts and IPAs, along with several lesser known varieties like their Wizard Status (double rye IPA), Shucking Stout (oyster stout), and Bee Funky (sour mash farmhouse ale).
"While we don't seek a particular style preference, we do seek to make bold, complex beers," Becky said. "We make beers that we want to drink, and those tend to be full flavored, somewhat strong ales that speak to those that have already discovered craft beer."
The nano-brewery concept is working for them, she added. Small batches mean she and her husband can be adventurous with trying new recipes without the risk of wasting a large batch of beer if it doesn't come out as intended. One future plan is to start bottling their products so they can reach a broader audience.
Watch out for the newest Bearded Eel release, Jules. It's a sour ale re-fermented with peaches and mint. Bearded Eel offers public tours and tastings every Friday from 6-9 p.m. For now, brewery tours are limited to folks 21 and up. Thanks to entrepreneurs like B.J. and Becky, Fort Worth and Tarrant County continue to be pioneers in the craft beer movement.