It was a random conversation in College Station that tipped me off to the Franconia Brewing Company. Just a casual word that I was on my way to a wedding in McKinney, and he mentioned a great craft beer tour just minutes from where I would be staying. What were the odds?
Franconia is a regional brew available primarily in the DFW area, and only in kegs. No bottles or cans to be had.
From the outside the warehouse-style building appeared to be nothing special; a simple brick building with no distinguishing sign or logo among several others in an industrial complex on the McKinney Parkway. But inside there was stuff happening from one end to the other that would make most craft brewers envious. An old-style German beer was being brewed with several generations of experience to make it right.
Owner and Brew Master, Dennis Wehrmann comes from a long line of German brewers. His great grandfather was a brewer back in the 1800s where all kegs where made of wood and beer was delivered by horse carriage. Most of his uncles are brewers and even his mom has a degree as a brewery lab technician. I guess you might say that Dennis has beer in his blood . . . literally and figuratively.
I have been on several brewery tours, but this one was the best ever. Dennis was one part Brew Master and one part standup comic. His well rehearsed routine was peppered with comedic one-liners skewering the big guys. One minute he was explaining how four simple ingredients combine to make beer, then the next he was debunking the claims of a major beer company that by “triple hopping” their brew it makes it superior. According to Wehrmann triple hopping has been a standard process for brewers since the beginning of time.
Perched on a commercial step ladder high above more than 125 visitors, Wehrmann told beer lovers, home brewers, and curious looky-loos about the three temperatures necessary to brew his three signature beverages. He then proceeded to offer to wave the usual $5.00 Franconia tour fee for anyone who would go to Houston’s St. Arnold Brewing Company and come back with their closely guarded temperature ranges.
He mocked the Rocky Mountain claim that “frost brewing” makes beer taste better by asking the crowd when was the last time any of us saw “frosty steam” rising from a heated beer kettle. “After a workout, why spend money on expensive protein shakes when there is just as much protein in the foamy head of a great tasting beer?” he asked. No one in the crowd with a pint of lager in-hand could dispute that statement.
Wehrmann went out of his way to explain a complicated process in a manner that everyone could understand. From start to finish he made it sound so easy, though we all knew that this was a skilled master of his craft. Unlike many brewery tours, this was more than a two-hour drinking party. It was a learning experience for anyone who appreciates the process of brewing a tasty tall one. From a traditional German lager, to the Wheat and the dark Durkel, Wehrmann has gotten it right.
As we were leaving his lecture Wehrmann asked us to stop and listen closely to his final words. He said that Americans have three major misconceptions about Germans that he wanted to set straight. “First, Germans don’t wear lederhosen all the time.” There was a laugh. “Second, Germans did NOT invent the Chicken Dance . . . in fact, we don’t even do the Chicken Dance.” This time there was a bigger laugh. “And three . . . Germans don’t drink warm beer.” Cheers filled the room.
These were words to live by. . . words that I won’t soon forget.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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