The craft brewing industry is booming throughout Texas, but Austin is leading the charge. With our growing number of local breweries, there is always a new, interesting brew to enjoy at home or in your favorite bar.
Getting thirsty? We asked the nominees for Best Brewery in the 2014 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards to share their top brew pick, best beer pairings, favorite place to sip a local cold one.
Live Oak Brewing
Live Oak Brewing Company was founded by homebrewers Chip McElroy and Brian Peters in 1996, making it one of the oldest continually operating microbreweries in the state of Texas. Live Oak employs an old-world style of brewing rarely found in America today. The brewery is in the beginning phases of building a new facility on 22 acres east of the current location. At this new spot, Live Oak will start packaging beer in cans for the first time.
Top brew pick: New for us this year is a portfolio of limited release beers with a focus on smoked beers. Currently you can find our Weisser Rauch, or White Smoke, on tap around town. Weisser Rauch is a marriage of a traditional German Hefeweizen and a Rauchbier. The gentle smokiness plays on the spicy phenols and the fruity esters to both increase complexity and to fully integrate itself with the beer's more familiar flavors.
Best beer pairing: Believe it or not, our Hefeweizen and bleu cheese! We did a Live Oak beer and cheese tasting recently with Texas produced cheeses and hands down, the Hefe and bleu cheese was the winner.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: Well now, that's a trick question, right? Duh, we work in a brewery and while we are not able to be open to the public (except for during our tours), as employees we can drink from the source right here. A few of our other favorite places (in no particular order) would be Banger's, Austin Beer Garden Brewery (co-founded by one of our co-founders, Brian Peters), Lamberts, Contigo and Craft Pride.
South Austin Brewing Company
South Austin Brewing joined the Austin craft beer scene just two years ago, with only two beers, both Belgians. This year the, the brewery is rolling out three new flagship brews, new six-packs of 16-oz. cans, and a new tap/tasting room. The team plans to conquer South Austin first before launching a world tour (or at least expanding into North Austin).
Top brew pick: One of our favorite new brews is a little something we call “TPA.” It’s a fresh Texas take on IPA. Hoppy up front with a clean finish. Unlike traditional IPA’s, it’s just light enough it won’t stomp your palate or stop you in your tracks before the third encore.
Best beer pairing: Another one of our new beers — Kol’Beer — pairs exceptionally well with buzzing neon, guitar feedback and tinnitus. Alternately, it’s excellent with warm pizza late at night, cold pizza in the morning, or any slice you can mooch off a friend somewhere during the day.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: Anywhere vinyl albums are playing.
Independence Brewing Co.
Founded by Rob and Amy Cartwright in 2004, in a vastly different landscape prior to the Texas craft beer boom, Independence Brewing Co. has remained on the forefront of the industry. The husband and wife team has always been passionate about producing beers that they not only personally love, but that come from the highest quality ingredients. Independence makes five staple year-round beers, four seasonals and six brews that are a part of the limited Brewluminati series.
Top brew pick: The perennial favorites of the brewing team are Stash IPA and Independence Pale Ale. Stash IPA has an underlying dank and resinous hop bitterness that reveals citrusy hop flavors that end in a dry, crisp finish with some lingering hop notes. It's complex, aromatic and loaded with hop flavor. By contrast our award-winning Independence Pale Ale has a more sessionable profile. With a lighter ABV and classic Cascade hoppy notes, the pale ale is our go-to everyday beer — it's golden, crisp and totally enjoyable.
Best beer pairing: It seems like the most popular pairing over the years has been with our Convict Hill Stout and ice cream/gelato. Its dark roasted flavors are a perfect complement to the rich creaminess of ice cream. There have been several chefs over the years who've used Convict Hill as an ingredient in their ice cream.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: Since the brewery is located in South Austin, we constantly find ourselves drinking beer at the Whip In (one of the very first places in Austin to carry Independence beers) and Red's Porch. The beer selection, food, crowds and vibe at both places keep us coming back for more.
Austin Beerworks was founded by Adam DeBower, Will Golden, Michael Graham and Mike McGovern in 2011. The brewery was recognized as the No. 3 fastest-growing brewery in country by The New Yorker and has won awards at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. Black Thunder Schwarzbier, Fire Eagle American IPA, Peacemaker Anytime Ale and Pearl-Snap Pilsner are available in kegs and cans, and over 20 seasonal beers are released throughout the year.
Top brew pick: We're really excited about a new beer we brewed for our third anniversary. We're calling it "Karl," after the brewer who wrote the recipe. It's a Kölsch, which is a German style that has elements of both a lager and an ale. It's crystal clear with an amazingly bright flavor profile, low alcohol content and light body. It's a great hot weather style and we'll be drinking a lot of it when it's released in May.
Best beer pairing: Cheese alert! Our favorite thing to pair beer with is good company. Actual cheese is also good.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: There are great new beer bars opening up in Austin pretty much every month. It's hard to keep up, which is a great problem to have. Still, nothing beats drinking beer straight from the tank it was brewed in. That's one of the perks of visiting the brewery.
Thirsty Planet Brewing
Founder Brian Smittle was studding British politics in England in the spring of 1990 and fell in love with British beer. In 1991, after finishing his degree, he moved to Vail, Colorado to ski and stumbled into a brewing job. Thirsty Planet opened in mid-2010 as an all-draft brewery with beers available only in Williamson, Hayes and Travis counties. Thirsty Planet also has a tasting room that is open on Saturdays from 11 am - 4 pm.
Top brew pick: The Thirsty Goat is our flagship beer. It kind of starts like an Oktoberfest. We change out the lager yeast for ale yeast. This gives it a slightly fruity ester. We then add more hops to give it a light, spicy bitterness. After all of these changes it has its own unique soul.
Best Beer Pairing: I love the Buckethead with spicy Mexican foods. The strong hop character battles the spiciness of the peppers. Your taste buds are the winner. The seasonal beer we have out now is the Wandering Wood smoked porter. This beer really, really complements barbecue: smoky, meaty and a slight hint of sweetness.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: There a lot of great places in Austin to drink a Thirsty Planet beer. Watching a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, the Black Sheep any day of the week, Red's Porch patio on a spring day, Top Golf with your friends. I think the best place to enjoy a Thirsty Planet beer is in our tasting room after a long day's work. Getting to sit down with the guys who make the beer, it just seems to taste better.
Real Ale Brewing
Real Ale brews over 20 different beers a year, including year-round, seasonal and specialty brews. Distributed only in Texas, they are available across the entire state. Real Ale's tasting room is currently open Fridays from 2 pm - 5 pm.
Top brew pick: Not a cop out, but I really don’t play favorites with our beers. Typically I’m excited by what we are about to make.
Best beer pairing: My favorite of the moment to pair with is Devil’s Backbone. It goes great with soft cheeses and a charcuterie, but it really shines with Asian food.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: Another tough question, but I’ll say Craft Pride since they let me take over the stereo there.
Hops & Grain
Hops & Grain makes four year-round offerings that are available around Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Beers range from a dry-hopped pale lager, The One They Call Zoe, to a German style Altbier. The brewery and tasting room are open to the public every week with free tours of the brewery. The tasting room hours are Wednesday - Friday, 2 pm - 10 pm and Saturday, 12 pm - 8 pm.
Top brew pick: Favorite beer that we're making right now has got to be our Baltic-style porter called PorterCulture. It is rich with dark chocolate, raisin and light roasted malt character and finishes clean and crisp with a slight touch of bitterness.
Best beer pairing: A large bowl of ice cream with a brownie and fresh strawberries paired with PorterCulture.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: Yellow Jacket Social Club for sure.
Twisted X serves up Mexcian-style, craft lagers from its Dripping Springs outpost. Four of the brewery's eight flavors are served in kegs and bottles around Central Texas.
Top brew pick: Our favorite beer we make is Señor Viejo, an imperial black lager (schwartzbier). Aging this unique beer in tequila barrels adds subtle flavors of vanilla and oak while the tequila adds a mild citrus/agave sweetness. Señor Viejo is one of our strongest, most seasoned beer.
Best beer pairing: Twisted X Fuego - Jalapeno Pilsner, paired with the all-you-can-eat plate of barbecue (ribs, sausage and brisket) from The Salt Lick.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: The Craft Pride back patio is the perfect place to sip a cool Twisted X Tex Mex Beer or any Texas-made craft brew.
Adelbert's Brewery serves seven year-round, Belgian-style ales, plus several special releases throughout the year. Currently, Adelbert's distributes statewide in Texas and California, with a growing presence in in New Mexico, South Florida and New York.
Top brew pick: Tripel B, our tripel, is definitely a favorite! It's elegant in its simplicity and is the perfect platform for the Trappist yeast to express itself. This complex, straw-colored ale has clove and pear aromas. A marriage of spicy and fruity flavors help perfectly balance its elegant malt profile.
Best beer pairing: We actually have recommended food pairing for every beer on their bottle. Philosophizer, our saison, goes really well with brie, grilled chicken, spicy Asian dishes or fruit desserts, like peach cobbler or a lemon tart.
Favorite place in Austin to sip a cold one: I'm a big fan of Black Star Co-op's patio! I love to go there with a few friends and the dogs to enjoy some great food and delicious beers.
512 Brewing Company
Built on the foundation of old world English and Belgian styles, 512 Brewing crafts fresh brews in small batches from as many local and organic ingredients as possible. The core four beers include 512 Wit, 512 Pale Ale, 512 IPA and the ever-popular 512 Pecan Porter.
The winner of the Best Brewery award will be announced at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards on May 7.