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All Hail the Ale Trail

Fort Worth Brewery Tours
Written by June Naylor. Photographs by Will van Overbeek.

Drink Ale TrailIt’s a typical Saturday in Fort Worth, a weekly day of celebration among craft beer fans. The popular small breweries in town are open for tastings and tours, complete with music, games, food, and frivolity.

Fort Worth Ale Trail

Visit www.fortworth.com/aletrail to download the Fort Worth Ale Trail Passport, which currently covers nine craft breweries in Fort Worth, Justin, Keller, and Granbury. You can also pick up a printed version of the Ale Trail Passport at any of the Fort Worth visitor information centers.

The Collective Brewing Project is at 112 St. Louis Ave. Call 817/708-2914.

Martin House Brewing Company is at 220 S. Sylvania St., Suite 209. Call 817/222-0177.

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company is at 701 Galveston Ave. Call 817/810-9266.

In recent years, craft breweries have been popping up in and around Fort Worth at a rapid rate, just as they have in many other towns and cities across the state. Keeping track of all the new places boggles my mind. How handy, then, that Fort Worth offers an easy-to-follow, self-guided Ale Trail? Armed with this helpful brewery passport, my beer-loving friends and I have made beer-touring a regular part of our weekend entertainment, and before setting out we always reference the Ale Trail map to navigate the stops and learn a little about each brewery’s seasonal offerings.

If it’s a pretty afternoon and we’re popping in to just one or two places, we’ll ride our bikes. (We notice lots of folks using the city’s bike-sharing program.) But often, especially if we’re hitting a trio of Saturday stops, we summon Uber to take us brew-to-brew.

Downloading the brewery passport onto my smartphone, I note that today is the monthly beer-and-yoga day at The Collective Brewing Project. Arriving at the brick building with our yoga mats a little before noon, we claim spots among 40 or so others in the Collective’s main taproom. Sunlight spills through the large front windows as yoga instructor and “beertender” Carly Taylor leads an hourlong class. I realize how perfect the space is for stretching and deep breathing as we gaze up above the wooden rafters at the soaring ceilings.

As you might expect from a yoga class in a brewery, the mood is light, yet appropriately quiet. We giggle, however, when Carly points at a passing fire truck and says, “That’s our brewmaster, checking up on us!” And it’s true: Ryan Deyo, who opened the Collective in 2014 with partner Mike Goldfuss, is a full-time firefighter for the Fort Worth Fire Department. Deyo works 24-hour shifts at the nearest firehouse when he’s not overseeing beer production.

After class concludes, our afternoon beer adventure begins when Carly and her fellow bartenders point out several interesting choices on the blackboard behind the taproom’s bar. Included in the beer-and-yoga price ($20) are three samples of our choosing in a private hour of tasting and learning.

I’m partial to the seasonal Citra Citrus, a wheat beer with hints of elderflower and orange peel, but I note that lots of veteran visitors are hot for Deyo’s Funkytown Series. Today’s Funkytown offering is a creation called Petite Golden Sour, a tart beer that’s especially refreshing in warmer weather.

“Their sour beer program is without equal in this area—it opened our eyes to an entirely new spectrum of taste,” says my friend Mike Deavers, who’s here with his beer-loving wife, Kristy. “That’s one reason why the Collective is a brewery to watch.”

The Collective keeps its longest hours on Saturday, opening from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, crowds remain steady with a flow of enthusiasts checking out new releases and enjoying tried-and-true standards from the taps. Every two to three weeks, the brewery releases a new creation just for brewery guests, but occasionally it’s a sneak preview of something destined for sale in stores.

We want to keep going on our Ale Trail adventure, however, so we continue on to Rahr & Sons, which opened in 2004 and stoked the craft-brew fire in Fort Worth. Founder Fritz Rahr’s family has been making malt for breweries for more than 150 years, so the beer business is in his blood. These days, Rahr & Sons produces more than 20,000 barrels of beer annually; it’s now widely available throughout Texas. When the weather is nice, the Saturday-afternoon gathering here often includes more than 1,000 guests. Some might even spend the whole Saturday at Rahr, running in the frequent brewery-sponsored 5K and 10K races that raise money for various charities. There’s always at least one brewery tour, giving newbies a chance to see the Rahr production line, as well as a gift shop for picking up souvenir T-shirts and hats.

Grabbing the souvenir pint glasses that come with admission, we take a place in one of the tap queues, which move pretty quickly. Each week, bartenders pour at least six of Rahr’s award-winning brews, along with the seasonal releases. Equipped with pours of Rahr Blonde Lager and Bucking Bock, we luck into seats at a picnic table outside and listen to the band playing on the old loading dock that now functions as a stage. I hold down our table while friends procure snacks from Lee’s Grilled Cheese food truck.

Moving on, we travel 10 minutes by car to the next Ale Trail stop, Martin House Brewing Company, which sits on the banks of the Trinity River’s West Fork in the shadows of downtown. A pretty day like today brings bicycling guests in droves, as pedaling here is a breeze on the Trinity Trails, a system of hike-and-bike trails along the river. Many guests bring their leashed pooches, as Martin House is one of the most dog-friendly breweries in town.

Named for founders Cody and Anna Martin, the brewery name also pays homage to the sociable purple martin, which appears in the brewery’s logo. My favorite Martin House pours are Day Break (an ale with honey and grain notes) and Salty Lady (a cloudy, unfiltered German-style beer called a Gose), which we sip while listening to the guitarist and soaking up the sun. The sense of fellowship and fun spreads over the crowd, and former strangers become friends, playing washers and telling stories. Smart folks—especially those with kids—remember to bring folding chairs and umbrellas, too.

When Martin House’s visiting hours end at 5 p.m., a good many of the crowd head back to The Collective, which stays open until 9 p.m. We follow suit, eager to hear the guitarist playing this evening; we’re also looking forward to made-to-order ramen and banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) from Yatai Food Kart, tonight’s food vendor at the Collective. When it’s time to stop drinking beer, there’s always kombucha on draft and other non-alcoholic choices.

At day’s end, we’ve ticked three spots off our Ale Trail list. Before too many weekends pass, we’ll have blazed the whole trail—and be ready to start over again.

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