The State of American Craft Beer – Texas

With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.

In case you missed the last 42 states, we’re doing this thing alphabetically and after 2 plus years, we’ve made it to #43 on the list, The Lone Star State, Texas. The single star flag was a prominent theme in the early days of the Republic of Texas. Some say it represented the wish of many Texans to achieve statehood in the United States. Others say it represented Texas as the lone state of Mexico that was attempting to uphold its rights under the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Regardless, it clearly represents the independent spirit of this large republic.

Texas ranks 2nd in total population (nearly 29 million residents), ranks 26th in population density and houses 201 craft breweries as of 2016 (an increase of 142 since 2011) who are represented by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. The state ranks 8th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 46th in breweries per capita as of 2016, according to the Brewers Association.

History

A state known for having a large Germanic population, it’s no surprise that the first breweries were founded and flourished under the tutelage of German immigrants. While there appears to be some dispute as to which brewery was the first in the state, according to our research, The Kreische Brewery in La Grange was the first commercial brewery in the state back in 1855. The other claimed by some to be first was the The Menger Brewery in San Antonio, founded in 1856.

Other prominent brewers within the state, pre-prohibtion include the oldest brand in the state, the “National Beer of Texas,” Lone Star Beer (originally the Alamo Brewing Company). We have a hard time calling it the oldest brewery in the state, being that it’s now owned by Pabst, brewed by Miller in Fort Worth, and founded by Adolphus Busch in 1884. The oldest independent brewer in the state, the Spoetzl Brewery – better known as Shiner, was founded in 1909 and named after their second brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl. Today’s it’s owned by The Gambrinus Company and produces over 400,000 barrels annually.

But before the brewing even started in earnest, the republic, in 1843, had already passed what some consider the first local prohibition option for municipalities. Then in 1845, they banned saloons, though this measure was rarely enforced and repealed in 1856.  By 1895, fifty-three of the state’s 239 counties were dry, with seventy-nine partially dry as a result of the local-option. At least 16 major breweries in the state folded before, or as a result of prohibition, never to open again.

The first modern craft brewer to open up shop in the state was Pete’s Brewing Company in 1986. They were wildly successful until the late 90’s, when it was acquired by The Gambrinus Company in 1998, then closed in 2011. One of the most prolific and to our knowledge the oldest microbrewrey in the state would be Saint Arnold Brewing of Houston, which opened in 1994. In all, brewers in the state have garnered an astounding 241 medals at GABF since 1987. With so many stellar breweries opening over the past 5 years, it made creating the list below a tough task.

10 Texas Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out

8th Wonder Brewery (Houston) – Their name an homage to the Houston Astrodome, 8th Wonder set up shop under a smaller dome of their own back in 2013. In that time they’ve crafted roughly 50 different recipes and are best known for their Rocket Fuel Porter and Dome Faux’m Throwback Cream Ale. Located near the heart of downtown, their space is unlike most, evoking more the energy of a basketball arena than a brewpub.

Blue Owl Brewing (Austin) – One of the youngest breweries on this list, these guys have been creating some of the most unique offerings you’ll ever try, since 2014. A unique breed, they sour mash all their beers, including their delicious Little Boss Berliner Weissbier and Spirit Animal Pale Ale. Any brewery that offers an SU or Souring Unit rating for each of their brews, yet has never used the word sour in one of their brand names is a keeper in our book.

The Collective Brewing Project (Fort Worth) – It’s hard to call one brewery on this list a favorite, but if we’ve found any to be close to one, it’s the amazing work that’s been done by The Collective since 2014. They’re best known for their Petite Golden Sour (yeah the one with the punk baby chick on it…) and various funky, sour and barrel-aged delicacies. In the short time they’ve been open, they’ve created over 50 unique beers and are certainly not to be missed.

Community Beer (Dallas) – Operating under the mantra of “Beer for the Greater Good,” Community has flourished in the Design District of Dallas since 2013. Best known for their sumptuous Barrel Aged Legion Russian Imperial Stout and Mosaic IPA, they’ve also won 4 GABF medals, including 2 golds for their Public Ale ESB. Arguably the leader of the youngest class of brewers in the state, Community has become a model of how to run a brewery in Texas.

Deep Ellum Brewing 
(Dallas) – Located in the colorful Dallas neighborhood of the same name, Deep Ellum have been holding things down with their own ninja style since 2011. There are a many great beers to love here, but the standouts include their Dream Crusher Double IPA and their Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout. With an unvarnished, no-holds barred attitude and a passionate commitment to their neighborhood that’s reflected in their regular events, Deep Ellum is a destination worth seeking out.

Jester King Brewery (Austin) – When it comes to authentic Farmhouse Style ales, made with only the purest Hill Country ingredients, Jester King can’t be beat. Specializing almost exclusively in funky and sour concoctions via barrel aging mixed culture and spontaneously fermented ales, Jeff Stuffing’s juggernaut has been one of the leaders the wild/sour movement since 2010. With over 130 varieties generated during that time, it’s hard to choose which ones we love most, but we recommend getting your hands on their GABF medaling Atrial Rubicite, something from the SPON series or the Fēn Táo peach sour.

Lakewood Brewing (Garland) – Founded in the outer suburban reaches of Dallas by Belgian born homebrewer Wim Bens in 2012, Lakewood has been a model of consistency and variety. With roughly 60 varieties under their belts, including their amazing The Temptress Milk Stout (and many variants), Zomer Pils and barrel-aged versions of everything, Lakewood definitely brings the flavor. They also have heart, having worked with over 200 charitable causes since their inception.

Live Oak Brewing (Del Valle) – In existence since 1997, Live Oak has become an institution, thriving primarily on German styles within the Lone Star state. It’s no wonder, being that they utilize classic European methods to brew their classic styles including lengthier mash times, open fermentation, and the secondary lagering process. And if you haven’t had their HefeWeizen yet, you definitely haven’t had what many consider the best version brewed this side of the Atlantic. And you can miss their beers, as they’re always found in white cans highlighted with golden yellow.

Real Ale Brewing (Blanco) – One of the state’s most awarded breweries with 7 GABF medals to their name, Real Ale has been setting local taste-buds a-flame in the small, remote town of Blanco, just north of San Antonio. Open since 1996, they’ve crafted over 120 styles during that time, including their delicious variety of one-off specials including the Mysterious Verum series and the Hans Pils. It’s worth the drive into the rolling High County to seek out this gem.

Texian Brewing
(Richmond) – Last, but not least, Texian has been creating a number of beers since their inception in 2013 in Richmond. Best known for their Charlie Foxtrot Berliner Weissbier, not to mention their retired favorites like FM 359 fruited sour and Black Jesus dark wild ale. Make a pilgrimage or just a basic road trip into Richmond to find out what they’re all about.

 


Still looking for more breweries? Check out the interactive map via the Texas Brewers Guild site.

About Warren Wills

Warren is the former Assistant Editor & Portland Correspondent for American Craft Beer. Creator of "The State of American Craft Beer" series, he now maintains his own site at craftbeerscribe.com.
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