MEET THE TASTEMAKERS
Austin's 7 best breweries barrel the industry forward
No other beverage embodies Austin's shorts-and-Havaianas ease as readily as beer. That made choosing the nominees for the prestigious CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Brewery of the Year no easy task. Each of these breweries and brewpubs not only excels at their craft but keeps the ever-changing heart of the city pumping.
We raise a glass to them all, but only one can win the coveted trophy. Read up on the contenders below, then plan a few visits to sample their brews firsthand. There are still a few weeks before we announce the winner at Fair Market on May 11. Early Bird tickets are on sale now.
The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. (ABGB)
Almost every Austin hophead has an ABGB hat — a testament to how much street cred this brewpub has in the community. It's easy to see why. The outfit continually wins awards, including a recent bronze at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival. Fanfare or not, its mostly German styles are the types of easygoing sippers that have come to define Austin as a beer town. That they are served with some of the city's best pizza is just a bonus.
Independence Brewing Company
A fixture of Austin's brewing scene, Independence maintains its reputation for excellence with a 19-year track record of creating consistently outstanding beers. Stalwarts in the core collection, including the well-balanced Austin Amber and crushable Native Texan Pilsner, have become part of the city's post-work rhythm — never spending too much time on the refrigerator shelf. But the old dog still has more than a few new tricks. The Redbud Berliner Weiss series continues to surprise with flavors like pomegranate lychee.
Jester King Brewery
Nestled in the picturesque Texas Hill Country, Jester King Brewery stands as the region's original farmhouse brewery and continues as one of the most innovative. Snörkel has been around for a while, but drinkers are still gobsmacked that sea salt and oyster mushrooms can be so quaffable. Newer releases like Landive continue the tradition, conjuring tropical languor with lime, grapefruit, and wildflower honey.
Lazarus Brewing Co.
Owned by a Presbyterian pastor, the two locations of Lazarus wink to Christianity throughout with apocalyptic stained-glass installations and beer names like Walks on Water. Secular Austin still can't get enough of the boozy, most European brews — including rarer styles like Kellerbier and Belgian Dubbel.
While all of Pinthouse's hoppy IPAs are noteworthy, Electric Jellyfish inspires the most hosannas. Beer cultists can worship the half-dozen hops, while the average drinker can transcend with the burst of citrus and tropical fruits. We're sure the brewery's Old Beluga ale and Bearder Seal stout have their own apostles; this hazy really takes Austin to church.
St Elmo Brewing Co.
It's easy to get swept up in this South Austin brewery's atmosphere. Dogs sniff about, live music fills the air, and folks happily much on Spicy Boys, the on-premises food truck. But that would ignore the stunning tap wall. A variety lover's dream, the selections dip into almost every imaginable style. Pucker up this spring with the Chuck berry sour, or get the jitters with the Vaya coffee cream ale. Then spend the summer crushing the always refreshing Carl Kolsch.
Zilker Brewing Company
This East Austin brewery has a well-crafted sense of humor. Just look at seasonal releases like the grapefruit and jasmine-scented Excuse to Get Loose IPA. That matters not only as a marketing strategy (the pink-canned Icy Boys particularly tap into the moment) but as a guiding force that continues to inspire innovation. Sure, describing Feels Right hazy as a pillowy creamsicle is a lark. It also expands the city's beermaking possibilities.