Weekly Feature: Top Texas Beers and Brewers
By: Jason Byrd, Contributor
Texas is known for having the biggest and the best of everything. This is especially true when it comes to Texas beer. Even though current Texas law does not allow the breweries to sell directly to the public, a total of 30 different independent breweries are operating in the state. There are also 2 nationally owned breweries operating in Texas – the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Houston and the Miller Coors Brewery in Fort Worth. Our review of the independents revealed the 10 standouts (our favorites) below.
Lakewood Brewing Company
One of the newest places making Texas beer is the Lakewood Brewing Company. This Texas brewery began brewing in July and officially opened in August of 2012 with the release of two different Texas beers. These first two commercially released brews were Hop Trapp and Rock Ryder. Rock Ryder has an alcohol content of 4.8% and is a wheat beer with rye malt. Hop Trapp has an alcohol content of 6.4% and is a Belgian-style Indian Pale Ale. Their website lists five other different types of beer that will soon be available with everything from stout beer to lager beer being offered. This brewery is definitely one to keep an eye on for up and coming releases.
Jester King Craft Brewery
This Texas beer manufacturer stands out from other breweries because it has recently received organic certification by the USDA National Organic Program. This is the first Texas brewery to achieve organic certification, although hops are not currently required to be organic. This will change in 2013 and Jester King is currently working on sourcing organic hops to retain certification without sacrificing their taste. This authentic farmhouse brewery has five different Texas beers available year round and eight different types of beer with limited availability. The beers themselves have fantastic names, such as Thrash Metal and Beer Greek Rodeo, and range from draughts to stouts.
Hops & Grain
This brewery was the only one in Texas to win a gold medal at the 2012 Brewers Association World Beer Cup, although other breweries were recognized with bronze and silver medals. Located in the central region of Texas, this Austin brewery is focused on sustainable brewing. They even make dog biscuits from spent brewing grains as a way to reduce waste and lower their environmental impact. Their beers are packaged in aluminum cans because it is the most easy to recycle. They currently offer two different varieties of Texas beer, including their award winning Alt-eration and Pale Dog. There is also an experimental line called Green House which is ever-changing and only sold in limited quantities.
Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
This Texas beer manufacturer also received accolades at this year’s Brewers Association World Beer Cup by winning a silver medal for their Pumpkinator variety. Located in Houston, Texas, this brewery has eight year-round brews, five seasonal brews and three special brews that are made a batch at a time. The Pumpkinator is one of the special brews and is a pumpkin stout with 10% alcohol content. This Texas business is the oldest Texas craft brewery and uses a small crew to perform every step of the manufacturing process from brewing, filtering, kegging, bottling, serving and even drinking the beer.
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling
This Texas beer maker is the only one in Southern Texas and is located in San Antonio. They offer four different year round beers and have come up with an additional four different special brews so far this year. As an effort to support home brewers, they also have a range of home brew recipes available for free on their website with brewing guidelines. In addition to the Texas beers offered, this “brewstillery” manufacturers whiskey. These also have home brew recipes available online for those who are interested in DIY-ing their own batch.
This popular brewery is located in Shiner, Texas, and is the oldest independent brewery in Texas, founded in 1909. They have a range of eight different beers offered year round with an additional four seasonal brews offered at different times throughout the year. In 2011, this Texas beer company was ranked as the fourth largest craft brewery in the United States and tenth largest brewery overall. With over 100 years of history, this Texas brewery has even had a book published about it called Shine On by author Mike Renfro. In recognition of their centennial year, Spoetzl began producing a yearly brew named for how old it is, with offerings such as Shiner 98 being a Bavarian style amber beer.
Wicked Beaver Brewing
This Texas business has the distinction of being the only brewery in West Texas and is located in Wolfforth, Texas. This fully non-automated brewery has been producing beer since 2009. They currently have three different beers available, including Cream Weaver Ale, Timber Ale and Midnight Ale. They use pure natural groundwater enriched with essential minerals to help their ales achieve a full-bodied taste. Their line of Texas beers are only available at a few locations in Amarillo and Lubbock but are definitely worth looking for.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company
This Texas business has been brewing since 2004 and currently offers five year round beers and six seasonal beers. Their line of Texas beer has won many awards, including a gold medal in the 2012 World Beer Championships for their 9.0% alcohol content Winter Warmer brew. While this brewery has not been around for long, the family has a long and rich history of beer making. For over 160 years, the Rahr family has been making beer in the United States after emigrating from Germany in 1847. The current generation seeks to continue family tradition in Fort Worth, Texas and hopes that it will continue for many generations into the future, as well.
(512) Brewing Company
This microbrewery is located in the heart of Austin and uses old-world Belgian and English styles of brewing to craft their own Texas beer. They have four core beers offered year round including Wit, Pale, IPA and Porter. There are an additional ten brews that are seasonally offered or special brews. Beer aficionados should keep their eyes peeled for their soon to be released anniversary release, named 4, set to hit the scene in the fall of 2012. There are brewery tours available for those who want a peek behind the scenes into this facet of Texas culture.
This Texas beer company is located in Wimberley, Texas and has been in operation for 1 year. They have eight year round beer offerings as well, as several special release brews and seasonal beers. In addition to brewing beer, Middleton Brewing also sells home brew supplies for customers who are interested in making their own varieties of beer. Their first anniversary celebration in August of 2012 will involve opening a variety of specialty brews. This brewery is extremely interested in working with home brewers, as the founder was one himself for more than 20 years before opening.
The Texas beer scene is extremely varied, with everything from large and established breweries being open for more than 100 years to microbreweries who have just recently begun selling commercially. There are also a variety of brewers who are on the verge of opening, meaning that the variety of beer available in Texas is ever evolving. Texans have much to look forward to in the coming years as the Texas beer industry continues to evolve. But in the meantime, we invite everyone to enjoy the fine Texas brews outlined above and/or my own personal favorite, Shiner Bock (Spoetzl).