As the state reopens and craft beer fans emerge from their quarantine cocoons, there’s a sense of cautious excitement in the Austin beer scene. There’s also heartfelt appreciation, both on the part of the brewers and the consumers, for this steadfast community.
The CultureMap Tastemaker Awards celebrates the spirit of that community by raising a glass to our Brewery of the Year nominees for 2021. Time and time again, the Austin beer scene has proven itself resilient, resourceful, and altruistic. And that is worthy of a cheers.
Meet this year's nominees below, then join us August 5 at Fair Market when the Tastemaker Awards returns with our signature tasting event and coveted awards program. Tickets are on sale now, but in the meantime, stop by these top Austin breweries for a pint or a six-pack to-go.
Sure, Austin Beer Works has brewed the unofficial beer of the city — the instantly recognizable green-canned german pilsner Pearl Snap — for over a decade now, but no Austin bucket list is complete without actually visiting this operation’s spacious northside taproom, where craft beer geeks can enjoy a bevy of esoteric, masterfully crafted seasonal and micro releases.
Blue Owl Brewing
This is one of Austin’s most unique brewing operations. Blue Owl’s patented sour-mashing brewing technique results in a delightfully tongue-tingling sensation, one that’s just as tasty when employed in a light and crispy Mexican lager as it is in a thick and malty cherry stout. In February of 2021, Blue Owl did the unthinkable: They brewed an assortment of respectable non-sour IPAs and pilsners. But to really experience Blue Owl's specialty, opt for a mixed six-pack that showcases their sours.
Fairweather Cider Co.
With a variety of super dry, super chuggable ciders, Fairweather Cider Co. earns its spot among North Austin’s most revered brewing operations. Whether you’re looking for something super light in calories, spicy with the addition of Anaheim chili, or boozy with the addition of gin botanicals, Fairweather’s many options bring all the buzz without any of the uncomfortable after-beer bloat.
Hi Sign Brewing
In a world of outlandish, gimmicky ales, Hi Sign Brewing proves there's room for a spot that sticks to the script (so long as it does so really well). Craft beer fans will find seven fine year-round ales, including an addictively crushable Mexican lager and a lip-smacking West Coast-style IPA. There are also a few pleasant surprises up Hi Sign’s sleeve — blueberry blonde ale, anyone?
Never before has a local brewery sported such an appropriate name. Prior to its debut in 2020, local beer nerds waited years for Holdout Brewing’s promised lineup of Nordic-influenced ales, all courtesy of former Real Ale head brewer Brent Sapstead. Now, in 2021 — after months of to-go-only service — Austinites can enjoy Holdout’s converted quonset hut taproom, which also serves a quality menu of American bar fare, including burgers, curly fries, wings, and an outstanding Mexican corn dog.
Meanwhile Brewing Company
If a well-kept public park, food truck court, and family-friendly outdoor music venue all at once collided with a neighborhood microbrewery, the result would look a heck of a lot like Meanwhile Brewing Company. This relatively young operation succeeds at being many things at once, while brewmaster William Jaquiss’ tap wall manages to be one of the most diverse in the city. Where else can you find an oolong tea lager and a gin barrel-aged double IPA under one roof?
Though technically located in San Marcos, former Blue Owl head brewer Davy Pasternak’s inspired array of funky, foeder barrel-aged farmhouse ales (many of which utilize locally harvested adjuncts) is often hailed as some of the best that the Capital City has to offer. In 2021, Roughhouse took the nature-focused brewing methods to a new level and released Texas’ first cave-aged ale, a beer that was both fermented and aged within a natural limestone cave found on Roughhouse’s farmland property.
St. Elmo Brewing Co.
While one is liable to get swept away in the excitement of its numerous weekly events, where St. Elmo truly excels is in its wide and varied tap wall. From the city’s favorite summer heat-beating beverage (the one-and-only Carl Kolsch) to the latest hoppy, hazy IPA trend, they brew something for every taste, and they do so with an impressive amount of skill.
At his former gig as head brewer for Trumer Brewing Co. in California, Brent Watson brewed one thing and one thing only, perhaps the nation’s best pilsner. Now, at his recently established South Austin brewery, it’s not just his pilsners, but also his steadily expanding lineup of juicy pales, crisp American lagers, and a truly outstanding sparkling golden ale that prove Watson is anything but a one-trick pony.