This past weekend in Denver, the Great American Beer Festival announced the best beers made in the U.S., and the Lone Star State certainly scored our share of recognition. In fact, the results show how Austin craft brewers are continuing to raise the standards of Texas beer.
A total of nine Texas breweries received awards for their beers in various styles, and two Austin breweries left the Rockies with gold. Austin Beerworks won the gold medal in the German-Style Schwarzbier category for their Black Thunder, and the Whip In’s newly-founded Namaste Brewing won gold in the Herb and Spice Beer for their Bitterama, a classic ESB made with bergamot.
Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham believes that Austin breweries are on the right track to help put Texas beers on the map.
Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham expressed the excitement he and his fellow brewers felt winning Austin Beerworks second award from the festival, which this year received more than 5,000 entries for competition. It’s not only a boon for the local brewery, but also for their underrated Black Thunder.
“It’s one of our slowest sellers,” Graham tells CultureMap. “But it’s been one of our favorites here. I guess a lot of people are often put off by darker beers, especially during the summer.” Perhaps the gold medal can finally convince a few patrons to bypass the Pearl Snap and order up a Black Thunder the next time they’re at the bar — although they're both great choices.
Four other Austin-area breweries joined Austin Beerworks and Namaste in receiving medals at the festival. Real Ale Brewing Co. located in Blanco, Texas received silver for their Brewers Cut Altbier, Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery received bronze for their Elba in the Herb and Spice category, Jester King Brewery received bronze for their Atrial Rubicite for Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale, and Pinthouse Pizza received bronze for their Blind Jake in the Brown Porter category.
While Texas was well represented in the competition, it still comes up short compared to other states like Colorado or Oregon with a longer tradition of small craft brewers. Graham believes that Austin area breweries are on the right track to help put Texas beers on the map.
“[This win] helps us to get more recognition and for Texas to get more recognition,” says Graham. “Many states have a head start and we’re catching up. Right now Texas is ranked at #42 for breweries per capita by state.” But Graham also noted how many of the Texas winners at the festival are fairly young, with Austin Beerworks having opened just a few years ago.
That growth should continue over the next several years, thanks to recent changes in legislation over whether breweries can sell their beers on-site. Austin Beerworks is planning on expanding their bar and tasting hours to take advantage of the new laws.
So the next time you’re enjoying happy hour after work, consider raising a pint of award-winning Austin beer to celebrate and continue rolling out the barrel of crafted cheer. Do it for the sake of Texas.