At different points in my career, friends have said that as as a leader I was like a “velvet hammer.” The gist is that when I hit, it still “feels good.” I have always laughed at that, but at the same time, have acknowledged some truth behind it.
Imagine my surprise today when I saw that one of the final 4 in the micro-brew challenge here in DFW was called the “Velvet Hammer.” Since I have not tried it, it makes me wonder if it too, hits and makes a person feel good. I will let you know!
Here is the description from the judges: (to read about the final 4 click here).
Like a lot of craft brewers, Michael Peticolas of Dallas’ Peticolas Brewing Company puts a lot of thought into the names of his beers. Cleverness counts, but with the Velvet Hammer, Peticolas found a name that perfectly describes this brew that starts smooth, even a little sweet, then hits you with its hoppy punch and 9 percent ABV.
“Although it has as much hops as your typical imperial pale ale, it has a very serious malt backbone to it,” Peticolas says during a phone interview. “The inspiration is balance. When you drink it, it doesn’t necessarily come across as a hoppy beer would, but it doesn’t come across as a malty beer, either.”
And like a lot of craft brews, it started as a backyard beer — something Peticolas made at home, to strong response from friends.
“They’d say, ‘You’ve made some good beers, but this is awesome,’” Peticolas says. “[But] when I started on the road back in 2010 to [having] a brewery, I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what I was going to brew. My model at the time was to try to brew two different brews a quarter till the market picked a flagship.”
But because the imperial red ale had been so popular at home, Peticolas decided to make it one of the brewery’s first two beers.
Despite its promising background, it did have doubters. A representative from beer distributor Ben E. Keith told Peticolas that red ales don’t sell in North Texas.
“My response was, ‘Oh, my gosh, here I am, talking to a distributor — these folks sell beer for a living, they know what they’re doing — [and] his immediate response is that it’s not gonna work!’” Peticolas says, with some mirth in his voice. “But I went ahead and brewed that beer anyway. … That rep and I have become friends, and he said, ‘You know what, I need to amend that. Reds don’t sell — except for one of them.’”
Yes, this one does. Servers at Fort Worth’s Rodeo Goat Ice House and Little Red Wasp have sung the beer’s praises to us, and it also received high marks from the bartender/proprietor of Dallas Beer Kitchen. We thought maybe they were being prodded a little bit, but Peticolas says he doesn’t do a lot of touting of his beers at local bars, but rather lets their reputations develop on their own.
“I’m kind of unconventional in my approach,” says Peticolas, who adds that he has no immediate plans to bottle or can his beers. “I haven’t walked into a bar in more than a year and a half and said, ‘Hey, here’s my product.’ The only way you get my beer is if you call me. Everywhere I’ve ever taken a beer, those guys call me up. And it’s all about taking care of those guys. I am much more concerned with them than finding the next guy.”
Peticolas, whose brewery celebrated its second anniversary this month, launched Velvet Hammer in January 2012 with an event at Dallas’ Meddlesome Moth, which isn’t too far from his brewery. It was a cold, rainy night, but the event was well-attended, and bartenders told Peticolas that they were selling one Velvet Hammer about every 30 seconds.
“So after a three-month period came and I thought about brewing something else, I’d already said, ‘Well, shoot, I should probably give this beer a little more life,’” Peticolas said. “It had already generated a bit of a buzz on its own. And then after six months, it was clear that there was no way I could stop brewing that. To this day, it still sells better than anything else I have out there.”