When we did our DFW Craft Beer Battle back in the fall, a couple of North Texas breweries weren’t on taps or in stores yet, so they weren’t eligible. After we started the bracket, Grapevine Craft Brewery got out there with its Lakefire Rye Pale Ale, which is available largely in Northeast Tarrant County and Dallas.
In December, Rabbit Hole Brewing started getting on taps in Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Parker Counties (for a partial list of of places where Rabbit Hole beers are available, go here). Right now, it has two brews available: Mike Modano’s 561 Kolsch-Style Beer, named for the former Dallas Stars hockey player and his record career goals; and Rapture Fusion Brown Ale, a toasty, hoppy English/American Fusion Brown Ale. A third beer, 10/6 English India Pale Ale, is expected to be available by mid-February.
Located in Justin, about 25 miles from downtown Fort Worth and about 15 miles from the Denton Courthouse Square, Rabbit Hole is a modest hutch with a patio area, tasting room and brewing area. The brewery held a sold-out open house Jan. 18, but if you missed it, Rabbit Hole will begin offering tastings and tours from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays beginning Jan. 25.
The $10 admission price will buy you a pint glass, three pints of beer and a tour of the facility. The brewery is fairly small, so tours tend to take only about a half-hour and don’t involve a whole lot of walking.
The brewery was founded by Matt Morriss (listed as “Founder, Brewmaster, Janitor” on the website), Tom Anderson (”Founder, Hatter, Janitor” -- the place was clean), and Laron Cheek (”Founder, Prophet Truck Driver). Tait Lifto, formerly of Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewing Co., recently signed on as Rabbit Hole’s “Chief Sales Sensai.”
“We started Rabbit Hole because we wanted to bring some classic styles that don’t get as much love in the United States market but are classic styles for a reason,” Anderson said during the Jan. 18 tour. “You don’t see a lot of classic Kolsches in America. You see a lot of blonde ales ... [this] will give you a different set of flavors.”
“I got involved in home brewing about 10 years ago, and it became a deep hobby of mine,” Morriss said Wednesday during a phone interview. “After that, I met Tom at my former job. He used to be a home brewer, and I got him back into it. The third person was Laron, a long-term friend of Tom’s. He tried home-brewing but discovered that he preferred drinking it to making it.”
The three friends began to start talking about opening a brewery together, and started doing research. They discovered that there was a lot of work and red tape involved, but they knew they’d regret it if they didn’t give it a try. They started planning in earnest in 2011.
“My wife will tell you this is what happens when a hobby gets out of control,” Anderson said during the tour. “She’s quite right. At some point, all home brewers have talked about it, and we got to a point where we [had to] stop talking about it and put the business plan together.”
With all that goes into a brewery -- getting the location, the equipment, the permits; dealing with the production, marketing and distribution -- anyone who tries to launch one has to be pretty driven to succeed.
“You’ve got to really want it,” Morriss says. “It can’t be just a passing notion to open a brewery. The same thing happens with people sitting around a bar drinking beer a lot of times. They’ll say ‘We should open a bar sometime!,’ but it never happens, because of all the work involved. Opening a brewery is even more work than that.”
Justin, a small town about five miles west of I-35W and not far north of Texas Motor Speedway via FM 156, might seem like an off-the-beaten path choice to open a brewery. But that was part of the appeal for the founders.
Morriss says that Justin worked well with the founders as they were trying to launch the brewery, and that the town wanted the brewery, to help give it some more recognition.
“We could’ve been pretty much anywhere in the Metroplex,” Morriss says. “We didn’t want to be the third brewery in Fort Worth or the fifth brewery in Dallas. It’s hard to distinguish yourself that way. We kinda wanted to be in a place that had good history, that wasn’t just a suburb or a bedroom community, and that had a little bit of character.”
Rabbit Hole Brewing is at 608 Topeka Road in Justin, just north of FM 407. Tastings/tours are available from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday or by appointment. All the contact info and a map are here.