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Jan 11

Something’s Brewing Here

Posted on January 11, 2016 at 4:37 PM by Cambria Jones

Toast the return of patio weather at Nine Band Brewing Co. You’ll find plenty of reasons to raise your glass, from scrumptious brews to a striking atmosphere.

The craft brewery – Allen’s first – opened in February, pumping out colorful cans of Kölsch, Hefeweizen and pale ale. Owner Keith Ashley wants Nine Band to be known as a “transitional” craft brewery, offering a flavorful, accessible alternative to mainstream American beers. 

“You can’t be too bitter, you can’t be too hoppy,” says Ashley. “You can’t be too left of Main Street.”

Despite its short history, Nine Band has become a popular party spot. The brewery has played host to quinceañeras, bar mitzvahs, fiftieth anniversary parties and baby showers. Though its beverage menu is decidedly adult, its spacious patio provides plenty of room for family-friendly celebrations. The grownups might launch a game of horseshoes on the lawn while kids line up for cake.

Because the brewery doesn’t have a kitchen, Ashley encourages people to bring their own food. Some couples have stopped by with extravagant picnics; others plop down on the patio and order delivery pizza.

“Having a beer with someone is almost like breaking bread,” notes Ashley. “I like the energy of that big group atmosphere.”

Tonight, a large group is being treated to a specially-designed pairing menu, prepared by Chef Brian Gray of Allen’s Hilton Garden Inn. Gray directs diners to bite-sized samplers, pouring Nine Band’s brews into Dixie cups on the way. Roasted pear and warm brie, folded into puff pastry, enhance the caramel and coffee notes in the Toad Choker Barley Wine. The effervescence and slight sourness of the Cactus Cat Kölsch instantly clears the kick from Gray’s fiery southwest bruschetta.

“Making beer is an art and a science,” brewmaster Ian Larsen tells the half-circle of guests who have joined him on a brewery tour. His voice echoes in the garage-like space full of tanks, kegs, hoses and gauges. He talks about time and temperature, flavors and aromas. Brewery visitors can join these presentations every Saturday, complete with samples and a souvenir pint glass.

“We offer a liquid experience,” explains Ashley. “It walks you through how beer goes from grain to mouth.”

Nine Band isn’t the only Allen business with a sweet spot for fermentation. The Brass Tap, located along SR 121, opened in August with more than seventy beers on tap; you’ll find hundreds more in bottles and cans. The Lion and Crown, now open at Watters Creek, offers dozens of draft beers and an English pub-inspired menu.

“I think it’s a phenomenal time to be in this industry,” says Ashley. “Beer in a bad economy is good. Beer in a good economy is better.”

Larsen is already tooling with recipes for new brews — a brown ale for winter and a dark beer to add to Nine Band’s regular rotation — while Ashley toys with ideas to make his brewery a regional draw.

“What I pride myself in is this Allen, Texas logo right here,” he says, pointing to the right-hand corner of a Nine Band can. “We want to see every weekend packed with events. We want to become a destination.”