Even though they celebrated their grand opening only this past Saturday, Shannon Brewing Company in Keller may already be the oldest brewery in the state.
Of course, their age is in their approach to brewing and constructing their brewery and not strictly the calendar. Even with some of the most modern equipment found in North Texas craft brewing, Shannon Brewing’s philosophy and practice is decidedly Old World. Consider their choice of location, for a start.
Shannon Brewing is built on the grounds of Samantha Springs Bottling, a bottled-water supplier that captures the centuries-old natural spring water on the site for commercial sale. Taking a page from traditional European brewers, owner and founder Shannon Carter chose to locate his brewery to take advantage of that most critically important yet too often overlooked component in beer: a quality water source. Carter negotiated for the rights to the exclusive use of the untreated spring water for his beers and developed his brewery accordingly.
Next, Carter wanted to use flame as a heat source for the boil and mash as brewers did in the ages before industrialization (modern brewers use steam as their heat source due to cost and efficiency). Flame allows greater control of heat and a higher temperature at the point of contact than does steam, e.g., compare cooking in your electric oven versus a gas-flame stovetop. Many said it could not be built but Carter commissioned a specialty brewhouse that heats the wort using natural gas flame, and may now be the largest flame-driven brewery in production today because of it.
Likewise, Carter insists on using only non-GMO grains in his beers, and all the beers are naturally carbonated and unpasteurized. Clarification is achieved with Irish moss — actually a dried algae that is used more at the homebrewing level rather than commercial — instead of diatomaceous earth or other modern filtration techniques.
But lest you think Shannon Brewing is fully antiquated in their methods, they still have an updated brewhouse that in some ways is more advanced than most start-ups. For example, craft breweries of this size use about 5 gallons of water (average) to produce 1 gallon of beer. However, the natural water supply from Samantha Springs is considered so precious that Carter’s design uses the spring water in the heat exchanger and captures a warm water reserve for the following batch, making his ratio about 1.5 gallons of water used for each gallon of product.
The beers Shannon Brewing produces reflect their traditions and Carter’s Irish brewing heritage, having spent a few years as a journeyman brewer with several Austin microbreweries. The direct-flame brewing produces heavier caramelization of malt sugars that is evident in each product, a distinctive roasty flavor that few others can achieve with their equipment. The Irish Red best shows the difference in technique, a much more deeply roasted malt profile than most red ales.
Their initial lineup of beers includes basic standards of a Pale Ale, Irish Red, Blonde Ale, Chocolate Stout, and IPA, and is likely to favor more traditional beer styles over trendy experiments. A tap room and biergarten are open, and tours are now held every Saturday (see website for times).
Availability: Production is already underway with kegs going out the door, and a bottling line should arrive and be set up within a couple of months.