By Ben Esely / Images by Garrett Dennington
Garrett Dennington has been obsessed with craft beer and intrigued by the harder-to-find beers for years. Now his team travels the US visiting breweries and drinking those hard to find beers.
"We love craft beer and decided to take an annual road trip to discover new and exciting craft breweries." What he learned along the way was so much more. He met brewers in tight knit communities, folks at the bar who love their beer and so much about the local culture and lifestyle in each city he visited.
Dennington moved beyond being just a craft beer drinker to something more when he decided to road trip it up to New Glarus Brewing.
"What finally made me bite the bullet was that I couldn't find New Glarus beers outside Wisconsin. I couldn't just find it locally. I HAD to go to Wisconsin." explained Dennington. "We wanted to go to New Glarus and stopped at many places along the way and had so much fun on the trip. It was the journey that told me that I could make this thing happen."
Dennington discovered the best part of the trip wasn't the destination at New Glarus, but that the real reward was the trip itself. "You really learn the community of craft beer as you're traveling through multiple states. You stop at a brewery and they recommend the other breweries that are their favorites in that area." he said.
At each stop, as brewers and bartenders shared their love of other beers, Dennington found more signs of support in the craft beer community.
"While our team was in Springfield Missouri I met people at Mother's Brewing Company. They knew that we were going to St Louis next and were more than willing to tell as their favorite breweries in St Louis. We found out very quickly that craft beer is a small tight-knit community. Along those same lines when we got to St. Louis, the breweries there told us where to go at the next stop and so forth and so on. We never got the sense that it was a cutthroat business like we had expected. Everyone was more than willing to tell us where to go to get even better or at least different beer than theirs."
Since that first trip, The Great American Brewery Tour team has traveled to 45 breweries on 6 different trips to some of America's favorite breweries like; Lost Forty, Prairie Artisan Ales and Night Shift Brewing.
On their latest trips, the craft beer group began taking along some of the greatest brews from Texas. By sharing their love of not only Texas beers, but all craft beer, they've built strong relationships with beer drinkers and brewers alike, across the US.
On a 2015 brewery tour visit, some brewery staff had mentioned they wanted to try Southern Hops'pitality (from Lazy Magnolia Brewing). Well, the troup had just come from a visit with Lazy Magnolia just a day earlier. So they pulled out some beer and started sharing!
And Dennington added, "The brewing team at Yazzoo shared all these beers they made and had an issue with a Mosaic IPA. So we shared Community's Mosaic and traded for some of their beers. We would have never known that the bar manager had family in Denton if we hadn't shared that beer with them."
All of Dennington's journeys began right here in Denton. He's lived here for the past four and a half years and set out on 3 major Great American Brewery Tours.
"When we're not on the road, we're hanging out in Denton at The Austin Street Truck Stop, The Bearded Monk, Lonestar Taps & Caps, Eastside, Oak Street Draft House, Harvest House, Midway Mart, Barley & Board, LSA Burger, Audacity Brew House, and nearly everywhere else on the square!"
"We're thrilled to see what's happening in Denton. It seems like every month there's a new place opening that either sells craft beer or makes craft beer. It's great that Denton is quickly catching up with, if not already blown by, Austin as the go-to destination for craft beer. Once Armadillo Ale Works and Denton County Brewing Co. open for business, Denton will be cemented in the Texas craft beer scene."
Dennington wants to further solidify Denton as a major craft beer local and has his sights set on a new vehicle. There is now a Kickstarter for a new Great American Brewery Tour Bus. But this new venture is so much more than just four wheels. He plans to host discussions, classes and bottle shares across the US. "Using the Great American Brewery Tour bus as an RV while on the road means that we'll be able to stop overnight at interesting and unique places along the way. Having this bus parked near a brewery will not only bring attention to our mission, but it will help bring people into a brewery. The bus will also be a staging point for interviews and a place to talk about the breweries that we visit."
It will also be the beginning of a grander plan to create an interview series to promote the American craft beer culture and the breweries they visit.
"Once the bus is complete, we plan to use it to start fundraising to shoot a pilot episode about our travels. Garrett has a background in video production and got his start in local television in Oklahoma City. He can apply that knowledge to creating an interesting and thought-provoking look at the craft beer movement.
Getting to know Dennington and is gaggle of beer nerds over the last year, I've learned how truly passionate they are about craft beer. I'm excited to be a part of their next step and this unique project, created right here in Denton. If you'd like to be a part of this distinct, beer-centric venture join The Great American Brewery Team at Denton County Brewing Company's future location on Friday 8/19 (6p-11p) for a massive bottle share of some of the brews Dennington found on his journeys and join in on their Great American Tour Bus fundraiser!