- Arianna Auber American-Statesman Staff
As it is in just about every other city in the U.S., the brewery and brewpub scene in Austin is booming and shows no signs of slowing down — which means we’ve got lots of local beers to choose from at our favorite bar or bottle shop.
Consider this guide your go-to list for beer recommendations. We’ve chosen beers that, in our opinion, best represent their breweries and say something meaningful about those operations.
Real Ale Brewing
Even before developing a cult-like following in recent years, this German-style pilsner named after the owner’s German shorthaired pointer proved to be an Austin staple — crisp, brightly hoppy and the perfect antidote to hot, sticky summers and dreary winter days alike. With this beer and many others, Real Ale Brewing has proven why, after 20 years, it’s a top local beer maker.
Hops & Grain
Also named after a brewery owner’s dog — in this case, an energetic papillon — The One They Call Zoe is a pale lager that arguably put Hops & Grain on the local beer map when the beer launched in 2013. Although its recipe hearkens back to Old World German lagers, the East Austin brewery adds dry-hopping for additional complexity.
Live Oak Brewing
Now that one of Austin’s oldest breweries has moved into a much bigger space with room to grow, the straw-colored Hefeweizen, rich with flavors of clove, banana and vanilla, is thankfully much easier to find. Pour the wheat beer from one of Live Oak Brewing’s new cans to appreciate its golden good looks, including a fluffy white head that persists to the bottom of the glass.
Jester King Brewery
The maker of many sour farmhouse ales, Jester King Brewery has an allure that goes beyond the beer with its destination brewery in the scenic Hill Country. While there, start with the light-bodied 2.9 percent ABV Le Petit Prince, affectionately known by Jester King staff as “Teeter.” It’s modeled after the table beers of northern Europe — flavorful and easy-drinking.
The North Austin brewery renamed the bright, balanced Peacemaker two years ago with the genius marketing gag of 20 99-packs of beer. The extra pale ale gets its current name from how much the Austin Beerworks brewers want to drink it: all the time, anywhere. Crisp and sessionable, it’s a beer you’ll want to drink 24/7, too.
Rob and Amy Cartwright, the husband-and-wife team who introduced 2004 Austin to beer styles that were lesser-known at the time, couldn’t have picked a better beer than their amber to launch with. Over the years, Independence Brewing’s Austin Amber has become a dependable local staple, full of toasted caramel notes from three types of malts and balanced with subtle, citrusy hops.
The addition of Texas-grown pecans to this midnight-brown brew — contributing a mild nutty aroma — is enough to make (512) Brewing’s Pecan Porter a local favorite. But the full body and a slight sweetness from lots of malt — crystal, Baird’s chocolate and black — have a lot to do with the beer’s revered status as well. Trust us: The year-round porter can keep away your winter blues.
Thirsty Planet Brewing
Thirsty Planet Brewing has become practically synonymous with the playful goat whose image, complete with a pink tongue sticking out of its mouth, adorns the labels of the brewery’s amber ale. And Thirsty Planet couldn’t have picked a better beer to become so tied to — the disarming, malty mixture starts sweet and finishes with a nice gulp of spice.
You’ll notice these striking beer cans, which look as though the bright stripes of a Mexican blanket have been draped around them, well before you’ve reached the beer aisle at the store. They serve as a colorful tip of the hat to one of Zilker Brewing’s founders, Marco Rodriguez, because he created the IPA, imbuing it with a powerful, hoppy punch from El Dorado and Simcoe hops.
Blue Owl Brewing
Although a pale ale is not typically thought of as tart, Blue Owl Brewing co-founder Jeff Young wanted to turn the style — and many others — on its head with his special sour-mashing process that produces a tart version of common beers. The Spirit Animal is no exception and, with a balance of hoppy citrus and light sourness, is a good introduction to this unusual brewery.
Hailing from one of the nation’s best breweries, Odell Brewing in Colorado, Joe Mohrfeld was eager to establish his brewing chops in Texas. He’s now got two locations of the maritime-themed Pinthouse Pizza under his care, but the quality of beers like the Bearded Seal has not waned. This dry Irish stout, with notes of roasted coffee and dark chocolate, will have you craving it year-round.
Another pizza-and-beer brewpub, the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. is the brainchild of two longtime Austin beer makers, Amos Lowe and Brian Peters. They’ve perfected their preference toward bold, hoppy beers, and Big Mama Red is no exception. At 7. 9 percent ABV, she’ll be in your face from the start with lots of full-bodied flavor.
Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse
Named after one of Austin’s early settlers, William Barton — whose name is also tied to the famous local swimming hole Barton Springs — Uncle Billy’s made the beer history textbooks by becoming the first brewpub in the state to distribute. So far, the Lazy Day Lager, a light and dry golden brew, has proven the most popular, especially for relaxing poolside afternoons.
The North Austin brewery has distinguished itself as a maker of Belgian-style and barrel-aged beers like the Tripel B and its wood-aged counterpart, Tripel Treat. The Tripel B is one of Adelbert’s Brewery’s bigger beers, at a robust 9.3 percent ABV, but you won’t taste all the booze. The tripel is an elegant tribute to Old World ales, full of notes of cloves and pears.
Last Stand Brewing
Unfussy and reliable, Last Stand Brewing only opened last year but quickly established itself as a Dripping Springs-area destination. The taproom is the best chance you have at trying beers like the surprisingly light 6.3 percent ABV Coffee Porter, a robust offering that features cold-brewed coffee from local roaster Summer Moon for extra smoothness.