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Something new is on tap in Denton County

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There’s something brewing in the small Denton County town of Justin, where a new microbrewery named Rabbit Hole Brewing recently began operating.

The small brewery has the capacity to ferment as much as 120-barrels of ale or beer at one time. That’s 3,720 gallons; which is a lot of beer by anyone’s standards.

Of course, mega brewers—like Budweiser, Miller or Coors– do have the facilities to manufacture railroad tank-car quantities of beer and can distribute and advertise their products on an incredible scale.

However, large corporations are typically unable to adjust their products to meet the tastes of the local sophisticated beer lovers among us. Companies such as the new Justin brew house are able to tailor their brews to the tastes of local consumers with remarkable skill, speed and agility.

Bringing an educated palate for the local preferences is Matt Morriss, one of the three partners in the new business. He was raised in Bartonville and attended Stonewall Jackson and Sam Houston Elementary Schools, was an honor student at both Calhoun Jr. High and Denton High School and attained the rank of Eagle Scout as a member of Boy Scout Troop 140 in Denton.

Morriss received a degree in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M and then joined Motorola in Fort Worth. His work travel locations included England, where he encountered some of the old-world beers which introduced flavors very different from anything he’d tasted down in College Station, Fort Worth or Dallas.

An avid skier, Morriss had a high-speed crash that resulted in a badly broken leg and a long convalescence in a wheelchair. While on the mend, he tried his hand at brewing his own beer. He soon found that he could recreate beverages that were every bit as good as those served in the pubs of London. He also found a whole new universe of people who like to cook up their own varieties of the hundreds of different ales and beers that have been perfected over the last 5,000 years of history.

Tom Anderson, another Eagle Scout who grew up in New Jersey, graduated from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and worked at Motorola, also enjoyed brewing his own beers.

While Morriss enjoyed inventing new equipment and controls for home brewing, Anderson preferred to develop new recipes to fine-tune beers to match precisely with certain foods. They each recognized the obvious strengths of the other and– along with two other friends– started a home brew club they named the “Horsemen of the Hopocalypse.”

The Horsemen attracted the attention of other home brewers in North Texas. The little group grew and started to win ribbons, medals and awards at many diverse brew competitions. Members of the club also made numerous trips to microbreweries in America and Europe. Morris became a BJCP certified beer judge through the AHA/BJCP (American Home Brewers/Beer Judge Certification Program).

Among the many new friends that were made through the brew club was Laron Cheek. He was born in the small west Texas town of Floydada and joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from high school. During his six-year service, he did three tours in the Persian Gulf and one tour in Somalia. After his honorable discharge, he moved to the DFW area and earned a degree in Computer Information Systems from DeVry University.

While Laron did not profess to have as much skill in home brewing, he did appreciate good brews and also possessed strong experience in management, sales and human resources.

The trio felt the time, the place and area population growth was right to start the micro-brewery. Plans were laid out, funds were raised and the tortuous paperwork was completed to get state and national approval to brew and sell beer legally. Modifications were made to the building in which the new brewery would reside. Also the necessary equipment was carefully selected and ordered.

After a period of about 18 months, Rabbit Hole Brewing is now open for business. Rabbit Hole is only the second microbrewery to operate in Denton County.

The new Justin brewers plan to distinguish Rabbit Hole Brewing by focusing on beer styles that are not well-represented in the area. The company selects the finest grains and hops available from around the world. They have reverse osmosis filtration equipment that provides them with water purity much higher than any natural source, as well as the purest yeast strains, each one tailored to the style being brewed. With their state-of-the-art brewing equipment and temperature controlled fermentation system, they promise to bring very high quality beers and ales to select local pubs and restaurants.

The new facility will be concentrating its production on three diverse beers, but promises that this number will soon increase. Currently, the three Rabbit Hole brews are: “Rapture,” a Fusion Brown Ale; “10/6” (Ten and Six), an English India Pale Ale; and, “Modano’s 56l” a Kolsch-style beer inspired by legendary former hockey player Mike Modano. Yes, the Mike Modano, who played many years for the Dallas Stars and who also happens to know a lot about fine craft beers. 

Tours of the facility will be available each Saturday starting in January.  More details on the company’s beers and tour times can be found at www.RabbitHoleBrewing.com.

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