The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is back! Well, it was back and now it’s gone. Don’t worry, you can always catch it next year. It happened this past Saturday, September 24th at Fiesta Gardens in Austin–the first time the festival had been put on since 2005. There have been other craft beer festivals held around the state since then, but this is the “original” put on by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. 18 Texas brewers were in attendance, with 75+ beers (including many rare and special beers). All the old school Texas craft brewers were there, like Shiner, Saint Arnold, Independence, Rahr & Sons, and Live Oak. They were mixed in with the fresh young bucks of Texas brewing such as (512) Brewing, Circle, Southern Star, No Label and Ranger Creek. VIP ticket holders were allowed to enter at noon, while general admission was at 2pm. Early on I was worried the heat would keep festival goers away (I don’t think I was the only one with that thought). By 4pm, that idea seemed ridiculous. Beer and food lines started stacking up, bands were playing and smiles were broadening. Twisted X, a new brewery out of Cedar Park, seemed to be wildly popular, with one of the longest lines of the afternoon, which never seemed to shorten. New Republic and No Label are also new breweries, but unlike Twisted X, their beers are not available in Austin, so attendees made the best of this opportunity. A few standout beers: Jester King Das Wunderkind! – funky and tart (My favorite beer of the day) Thirsty Planet Smittlefest – a hoppy, yet malty (balanced!) Oktoberfest/Märzen style lager Twisted X Señor Viejo – a tequila laced dark lager, heavy for such a hot day, but something I definitely want to try again Real Ale Empire –  IPA aged in oak wine barrels for 7 months – winey, hoppy New Republic Skylight Dunkelweiss – a classic example of a wonderful style; wish we had this in Austin Austin Beerworks Battle Axe– an imperial red ale showcasing aggressive hops In addition to just drinking beer, they also offered beer and food pairing sessions, for $10 per session. I attended the cheese and beer pairing featuring Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and a smattering of local breweries. Our group agreed that the best match was the Independence Saison and the gouda. The saison had a distinct spiciness, but not enough to overwhelm the hard, mild cheese. What, you haven’t paired beer and cheese? Put away the wine, beer is king when it comes to cheese pairings. Google it. <!––>

(Brewer Nate Seale preparing cask of (512) TWO Double IPA)

The festival (which was also organized and produced by the Young Men’s Business League of Austin, with proceeds benefitting the Austin YMBL Sunshine Camps) will return next year (hopefully). But until then, great craft beer is right around the corner. And if it’s not, it probably will be soon. Be patient — it’s worth the wait. The Texas craft beer scene is booming right now, so there are few excuses not to be drinking something tasty and Texas-born. – AARON CHAMBERLAIN (Read more from Aaron Chamberlain at Austin Beer Guide)