After the gains made by Texas independent brewers in 2013, when the Eighty-third Legislature finally overhauled outdated laws controlling the sales and manufacturing of beer, 2014 turned out to be a watershed year for the state’s craft brewing industry, which saw unprecedented growth. For beer lovers that growth largely meant a bunch of new breweries, more local beers in bars and on supermarket shelves, and an explosion of beer festivals.
Prognostication, of course, is a tricky business, but with a new year underway, we expect 2015 will see Texas zymurgy continue to bloom. Here are a twelve-pack’s worth of items that represent some of the headiest offerings from our craft brewers.
One of Texas’ most anticipated openings–perhaps the most anticipated–is Blue Owl Brewing, a taproom and canning operation that aims to do for sours—beers seasoned with wort to give them a tangy bitterness—what the vaunted Driftwood-based Jester King gang has done for Texas farmhouse-style beers. The brewery is expected to open no later than June 2015.
Joining the fun on Austin’s East Side is Zilker Brewing Company, which promises Belgian-influenced suds and a 1,100-foot tasting room in the old Harlan Motors warehouse on Sixth Street. Opening dates TBD.
Up Highway 183, in Cedar Park, you will soon be able to have a bite, grab a pint or enjoy a cup of coffee at Red Horn Brewing.
Live Oak Brewing Company in Austin will get a new home not far from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport before the end of 2015. The eighteen-year-old company broke ground this December on that project, which will include a 22,000-square-foot brewhouse and a taproom with a nearby beer garden. The expansion will also provide Live Oak the ability to can its sixteen beers, which to date have only been available on tap and in Central Texas.
THE DALLAS AREA
In Dallas, Brain Dead Brewing pairs certified cicerones from the popular Rodeo Goat icehouse and the Common Table gastro-pub with the Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Drew Huerter for what may be the first dedicated brewpub in the metroplex. Expect tasty results.
In the Lakewood area of Dallas, the award-winning home-brewing husband-and-wife team Lindsay and Jacob Sloan are close to opening a taproom and tasting room called On Rotation. The couple has said they will serve their own small-batch beer and a variety of additional craft beers, with growlers to go.
Also in Big D, Peticolas Brewing Company has restarted its stalled expansion to increase capacity by 33 percent, aiming for rollout by late summer. But with a lawsuit against the state over distribution rights, it may be some time before Peticolas expands its delivery beyond North Texas.
WHAT’S DOWN IN H-TOWN
With help from former Saint Arnold’s brew-master Vince Mandeville, Ben Fullelove, of the popular northside taphouse the Petrol Station, will re-open Brash Brewing in Houston this winter. Until recently, Fullelove contract brewed his beer in New England, while a wrinkle in the old Texas beer code prevented him from selling Brash in his home state. The apt name of his brewery also describes how Fullelove likes his rich, high-octane beers, which are likely to anchor the taps at his new brewhouse and canning operation.
In the Heights, Town in City Brewing is taking its civic duty seriously, decking out the brew house—capable of producing more than 2,000 barrels for year—with a 1,400-square-foot, outdoor beer garden and gated bicycle parking. Beer will be sold on site Wednesday through Sunday, but as Town in City is licensed as a production brewery, there is no take-out.
Houston’s fast-growing Karbach Brewing is close to completing a year-long, $15-million project that will see its operation nearly triple its overall production capacity to 60,000 barrels of beer annually. Even better, the makers of Hopadillo, which has been working with Silver Eagle Distributors in the past year to deliver its canned products to Austin and San Antonio, will also add a kitchen and tap room to the new 19,000-square-foot facility.
Beyond new brews and brand expansions, the Texas beer world is abuzz with a handful of sophisticated styles that reflect the willingness of mature beer hounds to embrace novel tastes and step away from the hop bombs of the last couple of years.
BE A SOUR-PUSS
Notwithstanding the hotly anticipated market entry of sour specialists Blue Owl Brewing in Austin, this style of beer is poised for flight. Often compared with tart, fruit-based lambics that originated in Belgium, American sours rely on bacteria—such as “friendly” lactobacillus similar to the microbial component of yogurt—and wild yeast that can contribute a tangy or funky finish to many assortments. Examples include Saint Arnold Boiler Room, a low alcohol brew (3.7 %) formed from sour wort to achieve a mild tartness; and last year’s lemonade-like Waterloo from Black Star Co-op made with peaches and only available in Austin.
ROLL OUT THE BARREL
During the past couple of years, brewers nationwide have been aging beer in bourbon casks to impart dark charcoal notes and sweet whispers of the liquor. As as 2015 flows forward, trend watchers expect this may now become a sort of standard practice. Fort Worth-based Rahr & Sons has brewed a winner with its Aged Winter Warmer, and Community Brewing Company, in Dallas, released a bourbon-infused Legion Imperial Stout last fall. Something else to look for is brewers using drums formerly dedicated to the production of rum and tequila. In some cases, it’s already happening: in December, Houstonians enjoyed a collaboration between local cocktail king Bobby Huegel and his business partner, Kevin Floyd, of the Hay Merchant, who soaked a Saint Arnold barley wine in an añejo barrel from Mexico’s Sembra Azul distillery.
FESTIVALS ON THE HORIZON
February 25: Underbelly Beer Dinner
This Houston-based event will feature ten beers from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head, and eight courses from Underbelly’s chef, Chris Shepherd, and glassware giveaways. Only 36 tickets ($150 plus tax and gratuity) are available.
March, TBD: Second Annual Firkin Fest
A fundraiser for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild that focuses on cask-conditioned beers from across the state. These are limited-release concoctions, and ticket sales for the Houston festival are limited.
April 18: Untapped Festival
The successful indie music and craft beer festival, which got it’s start in DFW four years ago, expanded to Houston and finally makes it to Austin, where it should have been all along. When it comes to both music and beer, the selections skew heavily towards local favorites, but there are national selections as well. The Dallas line-up for 2014 included California rockers Cake and hometown heroes Polyphonic Spree. Details TBD.
April, TBD: Firkin Fest
This festival in North Texas builds on the Houston event mentioned above and functions as another brewer’s guild fundraiser. The cask-conditioned format is likely to be the same, but the offerings and some breweries may vary. News of the location and participants should be revealed shortly.
May 9: Untapped Festival
This music and beer event returns to Fort Worth (Dallas, San Antonio and Houston will host Untapped in the fall). Last year’s festivities were held at the Panther Island Pavilion, and headliners included Justin Townes Earle and Deer Tick. Breweries included Sierra Nevada, Harpoon, Ballast Point, and a bunch of Texas-based brewhouses. Details are still forthcoming, but if 2014 is any indication, it ought to be another good year.
(Photo from Blue Owl Brewing’s Facebook)