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The Grain Escape: A tour of Longview, Tyler area breweries

  • 8 min to read
ETX Brewing Co.

The Skull Blossom New England style IPA at ETX Brewing Co., on Wednesday April 28, 2021, in Tyler. (Michael Cavazos/ ETX View Photo)

Craft breweries often come with great stories, a relaxed atmosphere that’s family friendly and top quality, artisan brew.

At Oil Horse Brewing Co. in downtown Longview, a casual conversation with owner John Oglesbee will reveal that Oglesbee got into the craft brewery business after finding that he could produce quality, gluten-free beer. For those who are gluten intolerant, Oil Horse offers an opportunity to have a glass of top notch beer.

At ETX Brewing Co. in Tyler, owners Matt, Brian and Annie Gilstrap have created a relaxed atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating options. The family friendly and pet friendly brewery encourages casual conversations among its patrons and has become a mainstay just off the downtown square in Tyler.

At Gilmer Brewing Co. in downtown Gilmer, Drew and Ruthy Emory and Matt and Jacqueline Collier make certain to use a reverse osmosis system for their water to help produce quality brews. Their beers pay tribute to Gilmer and Upshur County heritage with their names, helping patrons learn a bit about the history of their community while enjoying a drink.

And you’ve probably heard of True Vine Brewing Co., one of the longest serving breweries in East Texas. True Vine, which has had exponential growth since making its debut years ago, started a trend in the area that has sparked a desire for more craft breweries in the community.

If you’ve never visited a local brewery in East Texas, there are countless reasons to consider trying craft beer.

Produced by small, local, independent brewers, craft beer comes with a better taste and greater variety than mass-produced products. Breweries typically use better ingredients which can lead to improved health benefits.

The breweries themselves often become community hubs, creating opportunities for better conversations among patrons and drawing people together with a shared interest.

Visit a craft brewery and it’s likely that you’ll not only leave with more satisfied taste buds, you may even have sparked some new friendships.

As the trend continues toward supporting local businesses, more craft breweries are continuing to appear across East Texas. Though this is not a conclusive list of all East Texas breweries, here are a few of our favorites in the Longview and Tyler area that are guaranteed to delight your taste buds.

Oil Horse Brewing Co.

Five years ago, John Oglesbee first opened the doors of Longview’s downtown brewery and sold out of his product in a single day.

Since that day in 2016, Oil Horse Brewing Co. has become a landmark in downtown Longview where people come for more than just a beer. They come for community.

“Our big push has and always will be community,” Oglesbee said. “We’ve tried to open up to be a place where people can come and just comfortably enjoy themselves.”

Brewing started as a hobby for Oglesbee. When he learned he had a form of gluten intolerance, he sought to create a gluten-free beer. A certain enzyme that helps remove gluten from beer made it safe for him to drink but he also found that it tasted good – better than most gluten-free beers.

“I would brew frequently with my business partner and we would say, it’d always be fun if we opened a business. It was kind of just a joke in the background at the time but then we started looking at it really seriously a couple of years later,” Oglesbee recalled.

After a few initial meetings and securing funding, the dream turned into a reality and Oil Horse opened in May of 2016.

Since then, much has changed for the brewery from when it initially brewed on a small pallet system to the large production system it uses now. The brewery has started canning and has grown its outside sales distribution. Today, Oil Horse beers can be found around Longview but also across East Texas.

Among the brewery’s most popular beers is the 1877, an Irish red that’s smooth and malty. Another fan favorite is the Loblolly Double IPA. With slightly higher alcohol content, Loblolly features notes of caramel but finishes with a strong citrus and pine character.

Oil Horse’s beer names pay tribute to Longview and its history. For example, 1877 is named after a downtown fire that year that destroyed many buildings in Longview; however, the building where Oil Horse is located was among the few to remain.

That building has become a community hub today, thanks to the brewery.

A relaxed community atmosphere, where anyone can come, continues to be Oil Horse’s focus.

“We’ve always been proud of ourselves here for having a really strong community atmosphere, really pushing for having the ability to come in, sit and talk. It’s one of the reasons we don’t have TVs,” Oglesbee said. “We have a little bit of music in the background. Sometimes we’ll have live music here and there. We just like the space that we have.”

To learn more about Oil Horse or to plan a visit, find more information online at www.oilhorsebrewing.com.


ETX Brewing Co.

When brothers Matt and Brian Gilstrap started home brewing in college, they didn’t know their small batch beers would one day lead to a brewery that’s become an integral part of Tyler.

Today, ETX Brewing Co. is a community hub located just off the square in Tyler. Not only does the brewery produce some of the most popular craft beers in East Texas, its owners are committed to giving back and supporting the community that has shown so much love to them over the years.

“We love being a part of the Tyler community and supporting it in any way, shape or form that we can,” said Annie Gilstrap, Brian’s wife who co-owns ETX Brewing with her husband and his brother.

The Gilstraps purchased the property for their brewery in May 2016 and opened Jan. 4, 2017.

“We started with just the taproom, because we intended to be just a small taproom. We didn’t think we’d need much seating,” Annie Gilstrap recalled. “On opening weekend in cold January Texas, we realized we were not big enough. So we expanded to add the restaurant with a food component. Things have just grown from there.”

The community has shown overwhelming support to the brewery since it opened. Today, ETX Brewing has a sizeable production area, indoor seating and an outdoor patio. The brewery is family friendly and the patio welcomes four-legged friends.

“The vibe is just a relaxed, chill atmosphere. So many people have told me they just love the atmosphere and it gives them an Austin vibe. It makes them feel like they’re in another city,” she said. “This is the new Tyler.”

Some of the brewery’s most popular beers are the Park Ranger, an orange creamsicle milkshake IPA, and the Brickstreet Blonde, a classic American blond ale that’s light and crisp. The 1846 IPA, which is named after the year Tyler was founded, also is extremely popular.

As it’s grown in popularity, so has ETX Brewing’s distribution. The brewery’s products can be found all across East Texas from Texarkana in the north to North Houston in the south and from the Louisiana border in the east to Rockwall in the west. Matt Gilstrap said the brewery wants to continue expanding its footprint in the future, hopefully working its products into the Dallas and central Houston.

While it continues to grow, giving back remains a focus for ETX Brewing. Each year, the brewery partners with PATH, a social service agency, for its Mardi Gras Celebration. Additionally, each month ETX Brewing hosts Pints & Pups in conjunction with the SPCA of East Texas. During Pints & Pups, held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, ETX Brewing gives back a percentage of its sales to the SPCA and hosts pet friendly vendors.

To learn more about ETX Brewing or to plan a visit, find more information online at etxbrew.com.


Gilmer Brewing Co.

Though one of the newest craft breweries in the area, Gilmer Brewing Co. already has made an impact on its city.

Gilmer Brewing Co. opened in November 2018 as a business co-owned by two couples, Drew and Ruthy Emory and Matt and Jacqueline Collier. Drew Emory is a Gilmer native while Matt Collier grew up in nearby White Oak.

Emory and Collier began brewing together around 2017. As they and their wives became more interested in the craft brew scene, they thought it would be fun if Gilmer had a craft brewery.

In 2018, they began renovating a space downtown that served for decades as Hadden’s Sandwich Shop, a formerly beloved Gilmer restaurant. Since opening, it’s quickly grown. It has helped attract a younger crowd to Gilmer and helped spark a revitalization of the downtown area that’s proven beneficial for the entire city.

“Gilmer’s a really cool town. There’s so much community and taking care of your community here,” Ruthy Emory said. “People take care of each other and support each other. It’s really been great.”

What helps set Gilmer Brewing apart is the use of its reverse osmosis water system, Emory said.

“We basically take everything out of the water and then we add back in the elements, the minerals, the ions – everything that you need to make a drink stick in your mouth,” she said. “We focus on making sure that everything is pure and just has a good taste in your mouth.”

Names of the craft beers pay tribute to Gilmer and Upshur County history. For example, the Buckeye Blonde, which tends to be the brewery’s most popular beer, pays tribute to the school’s football team. The Peacemaker, a pilsner, recalls a cannon named Peacemaker that was being tested by Abel Upshur and Thomas Gilmer when they were on the USS Princeton. The test didn’t go well and both men, along with many others onboard, died in the explosion. That explosion created much shrapnel, from which the brewery derived the name for its Shrapnel IPA.

“We were mindful of our brew names. We wanted to have an overall cohesiveness and we learned a lot about Gilmer in the process,” Emory said.

Gilmer Brewing Co. recently acquired its self-distribution license and is hoping to expand in the near future. Emory said they’d like to start getting on tap at local restaurants and perhaps begin selling cans in stores soon.

With live music and a children’s corner, the brewery is family friendly and relaxed. It’s a place where the owners and staff know the names of their loyal patrons and make everyone feel welcome.

To learn more about Gilmer Brewing Co. or to plan a visit, find more information online at gilmerbrewing.com.


True Vine Brewing Co.

Since 2014, True Vine Brewing Co. has been a mainstay in the East Texas craft brew scene and with a new location combined with fresh products, it’s on track to continue being a force for years to come.

Owners Ryan and Traci Dixon began home brewing years prior. What started as a hobby in Dixon’s garage grew to 10-gallon batches of beer and developing some of the first recipes that would go on to become part of True Vine’s mainstay lineup of beers.

The Dixons partnered with friends to officially launch True Vine in 2014, marking Tyler’s first craft brewery. True Vine first opened in a micro-warehouse on Englewood Avenue, but quickly outgrew the space.

In 2017, the brewery acquired its current property on Earl Campbell Parkway that would become its flagship location. True Vine opened the doors to the Earl Campbell location in March 2018. With live music and weekly events, ample space for production, and indoor and outdoor seating, the Earl Campbell location has quickly become a community hub where people visit to enjoy a quality drink and conversation with friends.

The Earl Campbell location also provided adequate space for the brewery to grow its distribution and today True Vine products can be found on store shelves across East Texas.

In February 2020, the brewery again expanded and opened an additional location. A taproom and wine bar on the square in downtown Tyler now attracts even more patrons.

As True Vine’s reach has grown, so have its beer offerings. However, some of its most popular remain some of its oldest. The Daddy’s Juice Box is a double IPA that’s juicy and hoppy. Meanwhile, Mermaids & Unicorns is a blonde ale with a hoppy finish.

To learn more about True Vine Brewing Co. or to plan a visit, find more information online at www.truevinebrewing.com.

 
 

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