Jester King Brewery captured top honors in the inaugural Texas Craft Brewery Rankings. The Austin brewery leads an impressive list of Texas beer-makers ranked based on the input of consumers and brewing industry professionals from across the State.
Austin boasts 1st and 2nd place in Texas brewery ranking
Jester King was not only ranked top overall brewery but also voted #1 for producing the best beer in Texas. The Hill Country brewery leads an Austin-area 1-2 at the top of the ranking, appearing just ahead of Pinthouse Pizza. Whilst well known to Austin craft beer drinkers, Pinthouse has seen a huge increase in consumer interest across the rest of the State for their special release series, while their Electric Jellyfish was heavily mentioned by consumers as a favorite beer in the Texas Craft Beer Survey.
The Texas Craft Brewery Rankings were developed to showcase independent craft breweries for what they excel at. They are made up of 4 key categories; overall reputation among consumers, reputation for producing the best beer, the excitement that the market has about them for the next 12 months and their contribution to the growth of the Texas craft brewing industry.
Jester King Brewery ranked #1 overall, with many consumers highlighting the brewery even if they didn’t list them as one of their favorite for beer. Jeffrey Stuffings, owner of Jester King Brewery, was happy to hear that the brewery was recognized by the Texas craft beer community. “We’ve strived to contribute something unique and meaningful to our local scene, as well as greater beer world, so it’s wonderful to be recognized for it.”
Not Just About Beer
The fact that the ranking was not based simply on beer reflects the behavior of Texas beer consumers. Only half of the 900+ respondents to the Texas Craft Beer Survey listed the same brewery for “Best Overall” and “Best Beer” – suggesting the taproom experience plays a big part in what consumers think about a brewery.
This trend has been recognized by Brent Daniel, owner of B-52 Brewing Co. “Our philosophy is that craft beer is meant to be an experience,” Daniel says. “High-quality ingredients and processes are the foundation, but there’s so much more. You see that when you visit our brewery. We put a ton of effort into all of the elements that create a great craft beer experience. That includes everything from the chairs you sit in, to the music we play, the people you’re with, and much more.” This approach has helped the brewery develop a State-wide following and ensure that visitors to their taproom travel from far and wide. When asked what was in store for 2020 Daniel states “More experimentation, more pushing the limits, more innovation.” The brewery has developed a passionate following and consumers will be keen to get their hands on what comes next.
Clear differences in opinions of consumers vs craft brewing industry professionals
One of the most interesting things that the rankings highlight is the differences in opinion of consumers and brewers. When asked to choose the breweries they believe are making the best beer and those that they are excited about for the next 12 months, many brewers favored long-established breweries known for their high-quality and consistent recipes – however, consumers at times trended more towards breweries producing newer styles.
This difference reflects a changing Texas consumer marketplace – but one in which Brad Farbstein, President of Real Ale, thinks that consumer trust is a key to continued growth. “I think our four basic core principles : Quality, Consistency, Innovation, & Value, transcend gimmicks and trends in the market,” says Farbstein. “I believe consumers are tired of spending their hard-earned dollars on beer that tastes different from batch to batch. I believe our core customers will always be willing to try new breweries and beers, but they always come back to a brand that they can trust.” Farbstein was mentioned by his fellow Texas brewers as someone playing a key role in the growth of the overall Texas craft industry.
Best New Texas Brewery: Roughhouse Brewing in San Marcos
Roughhouse Brewing in San Marcos recently celebrated its 1-year anniversary, and was deservedly listed as one of the top new breweries in Texas in the Texas Craft Beer Report.
The Roughhouse Brewing Team
“Roughhouse is very much a family business” says owner Alex Pasternak. It was founded by Alex and her husband Davy as a project to create a Texas-centric and family-centric space. Situated on Davy’s parents’ land a few miles from San Marcos, the brewery celebrates the couples’ love of craft beer and the local community. The couple are joined by Davy’s brother Andy and have quickly established a space that consumers love to visit.
“The name Roughhouse represents the familial and playful memories of growing up in Texas, coupled with an image in the logo that more literally depicts the rustic and welcoming qualities of our brewery and beer.”
Roughhouse named one of the best new breweries in Texas
San Marcos Mayor Jane Hughson presented the “Best New Brewery” award to Roughhouse Brewing’s owners. “This award means a lot to our small team” explains Pasternak. “with only three full-time owner/employees (and the help of five part-time staff members), we cover a lot of ground each week. We do it because we believe in our product and in the general objective of providing good, honest customer service and relationships to our patrons and our industry peers”.
Roughhouse Brewing’s success is the latest in a growing San Marcos beer scene that includes Roughhouse’s neighbors Middleton Brewing, AquaBrew (identified in the Texas Craft Beer Report as a great place to eat) and top ranked brewery Hops & Grain who have expanded from their Austin location.
Roughhouse launch cave-aged beer program
Despite only selling beer in San Marcos for a little over 12 months, Roughhouse are already heavily innovating within the Texas craft beer community utilizing their unique property.
Pasternak explains “In February 2020 we started a cave-aged beer program at Roughhouse! Using a natural, underground cave on the property, we excavated for nearly a year to prepare the space to house what will start as a small cellar with eight barrels. To kickoff the new series of funkier, wild beer, we collaborated with Jester King Brewery to create a spontaneously fermented ale using Texas ingredients and aged hops. It will be at least a year before we taste the results of this first beer, but we’re excited to see what the future holds!”
Roughhouse is also working to ensure the food they serve on site at their brewery is as ingrained in their Texas roots as their beer.
“We are transitioning our on-site kitchen to fully promote and source from local or Texas farms, with a lineup of scratch-made sandwiches, soups, salads and snacks.”
“We’re excited to marry our vision for our beer (and wine) program, which is heavily focused on local providers, to the food side of operations! We are overdue to showcase Texas food makers, and we’re excited to bring that to our community.”
Arriving in Midland on a Friday afternoon, we were met with a beautiful and massive venue, along with a very crowded parking lot. As the parking lot suggested, and despite Tall City only having been open a few months, it was a full house and not a seat to be found as we walked in the door.
I ordered a flight of four beers:
Bird Lady American Pale Ale
Hop Up Camper American IPA
Iron Orchard Stout.
Every beer was delicious, but my personal favorite was the Haboob Hefeweizen. I found this beer to be very easy drinking, it had a great flavor with notes of bananas and cloves.
Tall City’s large taproom offers both indoor and outdoor covered seating areas. We opted to hang outside under the patio heaters since it was a little chilly. It was really a great vibe; with live music, food trucks and very family-friendly.
The folks behind Tall City
I was fortunate to meet four of the five owners of Tall City Brewing Company: Jeff Thomas, Erich Schmidt, Nicholas Schmidt and Jarrod Sparks. I was truly impressed that they were either slinging beer behind the bar or bussing tables during their peak busy periods.
Once things settled down a bit, I had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with Jeff and Jarrod.
I wanted to know how the idea of Tall City Brewing was conceived. Jeff remembers a visit to Jester King in Austin with his sister back in 2016. After having 2 beers, the idea of opening a brewery back in Midland popped into his head. He then texted his two buddies Erich and Nicholas Schmidt about the idea. Their response: “We’re in!”.
The name Tall City pays homage to the city of Midland as it is known as the “tall city” of west Texas. In October 2016 the LLC for Tall City Brewing was acquired, a site was identified on West Golf Course Road and ground broke in late 2018. Tall City’s grand opening was November 15th, 2019.
When I asked about some of the goals for Tall City Brewing, Jarrod was clear that their goal for the next year is to become the top regional brewery in West Texas. With distribution in the works, the team will to continue to brew traditional beers while staying true to the craft. As Jeff stated, “we want our beer to taste like beer!”
Jarrod was gracious enough to give me a tour of the brewhouse, which is an amazing facility with state-of-the-art brewing equipment and most importantly – room to expand. The 5 hour drive from San Antonio was well worth it. I’m really looking forward to what the future holds for the folks of Tall City Brewing Company in Midland and beyond. From what I can see, it’s gonna be pretty bright!
JD Duran is a craft beer drinker who lives in San Antonio. He is passionate about both the San Antonio and wider Texas craft beer communities. You can find him on Instagram: TXBeerDude or at your local craft brewery!
One of the surprise outcomes from the Texas Craft Beer Survey was the list of upcoming and new Texas craft breweries that consumers and brewers are excited about opening in 2020.
New Texas Breweries for 2020
The list of new Texas craft breweries for 2020 is based only on write-ins in the “most excited for next 12 months” category. There was very little analysis required to compile this list – overall, 27 upcoming Texas craft breweries or new brewery concepts were mentioned in the survey but each of the breweries listed below received at least 10 write-ins from consumers or 5 from brewers.
This list is different to the Best New Breweries of 2019 list – which was based on substantial consumer and brewer input on breweries that had opened in the past 12 months – and took into account overall consumer reputation and experience category, reputation for producing best beer and the most excited for next 12 months category.
We reached out to 6 independent craft brewing projects from the list of upcoming (or very recently opened) breweries that Texas consumers and brewers are excited about for 2020:
Local Group Brewing—a 7,500 square foot brewpub—will soon serve as the newest watering hole in Hardy Yards in the Near Northside, which is a stones’ throw from Downtown Houston and Saint Arnold Brewing Company.
Head brewer James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe will work up to filling the brewpub’s twenty-plus taps, eight of which will be connected directly to ten-barrel serving tanks for optimal beer freshness, and others which will serve non-beer options like Texas wine and cold brew coffee.
With a fully equipped, on-site kitchen helmed by Executive Chef Jeff Samoska, as much importance will be placed on the culinary operations as the brewing. Visitors can expect lots of ingredients sourced from the Lone Star state.
Background: The Local Group Brewing name came from a Cosmos episode in which Neil deGrasse Tyson explained earth’s cosmic address, including the local group of galaxies. Team Local Group loves the dichotomy of investing in and brewing beer for a small area in the grand scheme of the massive universe. Since inception, the brand has enlisted the help of Texas partners including Method Architecture, GSD Construction, Field of Study Design, FMW | FabLab and more to bring the brewpub to life.
As long-time coworkers, Todd Donewar and Michael Steeves shared an interest in all things beer. They enjoyed hanging out together, trying new brews at home and at the local pubs. Eventually, the two started home-brewing, and in 2016, they brewed up a plan: They would start their own brewpub. They envisioned a place where friends, family, and pets alike could hang out, drink great beer, and eat good food.
While Todd and Michael’s homebrews were very drinkable, they decided to up their game and put out a call for a head brewer with experience, talent, and creativity. James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe was working as a brewer for Southern Star and had similar visions of a new, local brewpub. Huggy heard the call, and then there were three.
With a number of years of production and brewing experience garnered at Breakside Brewery in Oregon, industry pros Will Jaquiss and Nao Ohdera will lead the production team at Meanwhile Brewing due to open in Spring 2020 in South East Austin.
The duo plan to use their recipe design and production expertise to develop a wide variety of beer. While they’ll be primarily focused on their draught offering, which will be available in their taproom and in a few select locations around town, they will complement their efforts with monthly specialty can releases.
The team ambitiously hope to brew a total of 50 different beers in their first year and while the focus will primarily be on sessionable, hoppy ales, Meanwhile will offer a wide selection of beer; ranging from the new and experimental to the trusted and traditional.
Background: Located in SE Austin, Meanwhile Brewing Company will be a 15 bbl brewery and taproom. The founder is Will Jaquiss, former senior research & development brewer at Breakside Brewery. The 3.7 acres grounds will be a hub for gathering, playing, and creating community.
Plans for the property include a playground; bocce court; outdoor soccer snooker/pool court, other misc. outdoor games; a small recreational/soccer field, a mini “hammock forest”, and a small stage. The event room, soccer field, and entire brewery will be open to rent upon request and enough advanced notice.
Whereas Dallas/Fort Worth boasts a number of established craft breweries that consumers are excited about for next year, ODD Muse, which opened in December, also made the list of best new Texas craft breweries for 2020.
The name ‘ODD Muse’ has multiple meanings for owner Bobby Diaz. It’s a direct representation of his own personal inspiration; his daughter’s Olivia and Daniella Diaz (ODD). It’s also a nod to the idea that inspiration can come from pretty strange places and can be unconventional, abnormal and unexpected – and ODD Muse encourage everyone to recognize and embrace it.
Diaz assures beer fans that they can expect a variety of well done beers to please all pallets. “We currently have a blonde, heffe, hazy pale ale, hazy IPA, hazy double IPA, and a Russian Imperial Stout on tap with several more in the works. Our taproom is a family friendly environment to experience new beers with friends. As far as future beers go, we love to brew hazies and stouts, but also like refreshing lagers. Expect plenty of those. We have barrels on the way, so barrel aged beers are definitely coming as well. You can pretty much expect a continuation of beers across the spectrum from us. We brew what we like and we think everyone else will like it too.”
Background: ODD Muse was founded by Husband and wife, Bobby and Nickie Diaz and longtime friend Charles Roffino. Bobby is an alumni of the American Brewer’s Guild and has 13 years of brewing experience. Charles brings a strong background in bar/restaurant sales, along with client relations and knowledge of the Dallas/Fort Worth hospitality market.
Urban South – HTX is opening its doors in Sawyer Yards with the intent of producing “boundary-pushing craft beers in a whimsical & bright taproom atmosphere.” Taproom and Marketing Manager Marin Slanina explains “With can releases and 30 draft taps, there is much room for all kinds of creativity and flavors. Events and yard parties will occur often with great beverages and offerings for all.”
Houstonites are already excited for what Urban South will bring to the city and this helped identify them as one of the best new Texas craft breweries for 2020. Urban South will neighbor a number of established craft breweries including Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co, and Holler Brewing Co. who were both ranked in the Hopalytics Top 100 Texas Craft Brewery Rankings.
The background: Urban South opened its doors in New Orleans almost 4 years ago and is paving the way in distribution sales for craft beer in Louisiana. The brewery has become one of the largest independent craft brewers in Louisiana and consumers have responded well to their innovative styles as well as driving huge sales of thier Holy Roller New England IPA.
With their success and growth, Urban South founders Jacob Landry & Kyle Huling decided that opening a second location, dedicated to the taproom experience and experimental brews, would be the next step in their story – and Texans are lucky the brewery chose Houston as their second home.
Hopsquad opened recently in North Austin and have received a significant amount of interest in their first week, which could have been expected based on them being named one of the best new Texas Craft Breweries for 2020. The brewery serves a mirad of beers, not limited to any region, style or trend and will have five core beers available year-round including a Hazy Pale Ale, Roggenbier, Saison, IPA and Pilsner. The Hopsquad team will also offer a range of seasonal brews including a Dark Cascadian Ale, Watermelon Mint Summer Ale and a Copper Ale.
Hopsquad’s motto is “anything goes” – and so the team also plan on brewing an array of eclectic and interesting one-off beers that will be available in their taproom with crowlers to take home.
Visitors to Hopsquad will take advantage of their partnership with Tsuke Honten – a hybrid of Japanese street fare and reservation-only Omakase (course menu) experience. The to-go menu can be ordered while enjoying beer inside or outside of the brewery, and will consist of classic street dishes like takoyaki and chicken wings. Tsuke Honten will be open whenever Hopsquad is open.
Background: As owners, cousins Alex and Cesar Limon set out to express themselves through their brewing: ” ‘Anything goes’ will always be our calling” explains Alex “and we will never be afraid to experiment or to try new ingredients and techniques to keep our customers eager to see what we’ll come up with next. We won’t limit ourselves to a certain style, coast, or country.”
Hopsquad was created out of care and passion for beer and as a way for the cousins to express their distinct voice through malts, hops and yeast.
“We wanted every beer we had produced for Hopsquad to be its own character and have its own personality just like its distinct taste.” Limon continues “Initially we thought about naming every character a superhero, but these weren’t the people we admired. We respected physicians, scholars, artists & craftsman – specialist & experts in their respective trades. So the squad was born: a small group of beers dedicated to the sole effort of making every beer drinking experience a pleasurable one.
Opening: late 2020 but beer available now across D/FW
Toasty Bros. are currently operating as an alternating proprietorship at Hop And Sting Brewery in Grapevine, TX. Owners Brian Tiensvold (Toast) and wife Leah have been almost exclusively selling their beer in Denton.
Toast explains how their current set-up is helping them establish the Toasty Bros. brand “We are becoming known as a local neighborhood Mom and Pop brewing operation; wife and husband, Denton residents supplying quality craft beer for our community to enjoy. I brew and distribute the beer while Leah runs marketing, sales, and manages our legal paperwork.”
The partnership with Hop and Sting allows the couple time to search for the perfect place to open in Denton while still growing the Toasty Bros. brand and create a following of people who enjoy the beer, including their Random Number Generator DIPA. They are currently looking for a location to open in Denton and are hoping to find a physical space by the end of 2020.
Dallas/Fort Worth beer drinkers can expect something a little different than your typical brew pub…or bakery, or art studio – as the plan is for the location to be a hybrid of those three things.
Background: Toast and Leah started homebrewing 9 years ago, which quickly turned into passion that they looked to combine with their dream of opening a small art studio and coffee house.
Leah is an expert baker and so the couple have ideas of a combined bakery-brewpub-art studio, which they feel is a perfect fit for the college-town and growing Denton craft beer scene. The space will offer a selection of art supplies and canvas that can be purchased as well as some “free to share” community art supplies. The vision is for a creative space where people can hang out, make things, and get inspired.
Toasty Bros. have a detailed map on their website showing consumers where they can find their beer, as well as their up-to-date brew and event schedule. There are also links to Toast’s art sites – he is a local artist and every piece of art sold goes towards funding the Toasty Bros. project.
Many folks have asked us for more information on the consumer respondents to the Texas Craft Beer Survey – and although a lot of this data (and a whole lot more) can be found in the full Texas Craft Beer Report, we are happy to go into more detail:
The Texas Craft Beer Survey
The Texas Craft Beer Survey collected input from 926 craft beer consumers across Texas in September, October and November 2019. We promoted the survey through social media and paid advertising and we specifically targeting craft beer consumers across the length and breadth of Texas.
The survey consisted of 30 questions and was designed to be interesting and thought-provoking to craft beer consumers. It was purposely designed so that it could not be completed quickly in under a few minutes; and in order to complete it required respondents to stop and think about their answers. The average response time was just under 16 minutes; which we felt showed that consumers spent time considering their answers.
The survey was designed to only ask input on the things that individual consumers valued. For example, we only asked people who value live music at a brewery about which breweries they thought were best for live music. We only asked people who liked stouts and porters about the breweries producing the best stouts and porters.
Our survey targeted consumers with a wider knowledge of the Texas craft beer market. It was specifically designed to not be appealing to the general public to try and discourage any survey bias or manipulation. We were not looking to facilitate a popularity contest and we didn’t necessarily want to encourage fair-weather craft consumers – there are already enough places where you can hear from them!
Survey Completion Rate
The nature of the survey meant that a large percentage of consumers had initial interest, then started the survey but did not actually complete it. This was not necessarily a bad thing. Over 3,000 people started the survey – although this included some duplicates (for example folks who returned later once they realized it wasn’t a 2-minute completion) it mostly included consumers who dropped off and didn’t complete the survey at all.
As with any advanced survey, there were a number of reasons for consumers not completing the survey – some of which we were pleased with and some of which were disappointing. In terms of the reasons we had hoped for, we did see significantly greater drop off from consumers who felt they didn’t have enough knowledge to answer the survey. Some consumers even wrote this in the survey itself or in subsequent correspondence. These consumers felt they had been to too few breweries to be able to give qualified input or simply did not have enough experience to reference. This was positive for overall response, however in some cases it also disappointingly affected where respondents came from (and may have alienated some potential quality responders).
Where we were disappointed with the drop off of consumers is those who felt as though they had been to too few breweries not out of choice, but because of the lack of breweries in their geographical area. This meant that we failed to capture consumers in many rural or small metro areas. 92% of consumers who completed the survey resided in one of the four extended metro areas of Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. There were cities in Texas where less than 20 people completed the survey despite more than 200 starting it. Ahead of our 2020 survey we will reach out to some of those folks to understand why they started but didn’t complete the survey at a higher rate than consumers in other parts of Texas and we will make changes accordingly.
By the numbers
We were really pleased with the number of expert consumers who completed the survey and this showed in the responses.
The average consumer respondent reported visiting 29 Texas breweries, and mentioned on average 14 different Texas craft breweries in the text fields responses across the survey. 22% of consumers voted for breweries in at least 2 other major metro areas other than their own – for example someone living in Houston mentioning breweries in both San Antonio and Dallas.
Only 55% of consumers listed their overall best brewery as
the same one they listed as producing the best beer. Only 20% of consumers said
that they base brewery visits solely on beer, with taproom atmosphere being the
most important other factor in visiting a new craft brewery.
265 breweries received at least 1 consumer mention, and in total we collected over 52,000 data points that fed into the full 40-page Texas Craft Beer Report. For our first publication we were pleased with the response from the Texas craft beer-drinking public.
The Texas Craft Beer Report’s list of best new breweries of 2019 introduces new beer-makers from across the State.
Each of the breweries on the Best New Breweries of 2019 list received votes from consumers and craft brewing industry professionals in 3 categories: “Reputation for Producing the Best Beer”, “Consumer Reputation and Taproom Experience” and “Excited for the next 12 months.”
The breweries on the list are diverse in their size, approach and beer styles, but have all been able to produce high-quality beer out of the gate. “We’ve worked hard to be a quality first brewery, servicing the taproom foremost.” Said Michael Duckworth, CEO of True Anomaly Brewing Company in Houston. “We’ve released over 35 unique beers in the approximate 8 months we’ve been open, the vast majority of which are relatively unknown styles in the Houston market. Bringing quality beers in styles a bit more unfamiliar has garnered us some buzz, and we hope to continue pushing the limits this next year as we delve even further into our wild and sour program.”
True Anomaly Brewing Company were already being highlighted by consumers in Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth in the Texas Craft Beer Survey – something not easy to do in year one of operation.
New breweries able to establish themselves in competitive markets
Similarly to True Anomaly, Nomadic Beerworks in Austin are already gaining accolades for their beer in a highly competitive market. Dan Tryanski is a Co-Founder of Nomadic Beerworks “Our brew system was designed so that we could release a constantly rotating assortment of beers. This keeps our tap list dynamic and changing. With all of this variation, we get to be very creative. We often take risks on flavors and styles in order to produce beers that give people something to talk about.”
This approach might have been seen as risky, but Dan and his brother Bryce moved to Austin with extensive brewing experience and have been able to release award-winning beer in their first year – with their Peak Season IPA winning “best new beer” in the 2019 Austin Beer Guide “Best of 2019” awards.
In a competitive Austin market, 12 Fox Beer Co are another brewery making noise – as much for their tap-room experience as their high-quality beer. Located in Dripping Springs just outside of Austin, 12 Fox have been able to quickly establish themselves amongst both locals and consumers further afield. “We like to think that our biggest contribution to the beer industry for consumers would be that we created a destination brewery that is focused on family, Veterans, quality brews and community.” says owner Stacey Hogge “We want all of our Hill Country neighbors to feel like they have a location that is inviting and gives them a sense of community.” Head Brewer Aaron Luelling emphasizes the need for combining great beer with a welcoming atmosphere “I believe we give the consumer an experience outside of beer while they are here.”
In crowded Texas metro markets, many of the breweries who have made an impact just after opening have understood the importance of first impressions with craft beer drinkers. “If someone walks into a brewery for the first time and tries a beer that isn’t delicious, how can we expect that person to keep coming back?” asks Molly Reynolds, co-owner of Celestial Beerworks in Dallas. “We try to keep that in mind when we are brewing and never let a beer touch the lips of the public unless it is exactly the beer that we intended.” Celestial have already developed an excited local consumer base despite being only a few miles from established breweries such as Peticolas Brewing and Community Beer Company. Co-owner Matt Reynolds is looking forward to building on their success in 2020, “Our goal is to constantly improve the quality of our beers, as we are always trying to push ourselves to be better brewers. Expect to see more collaborations and many super fresh IPAs!”
Tall City Brewing Co first movers in Midland-Odessa
Unlike breweries opening in dense beer-drinking metro centers with plentiful consumers looking for a new beer experience, Tall City Brewing was one of the first breweries to open in Midland – something which brought opportunities and challenges “We are the only brewery in the area with a taproom and combine that with the booming area of Midland/Odessa it has created a great opportunity for us.” says Jeff Thomas, owner of Tall City Brewing. “This has allowed us to build a one-of-a-kind facility that locals have been itching for.”
Like 12 Fox Beer Co., Tall City has prioritized building relationships within the community. Thomas continues “We have strived to create a welcoming atmosphere that’s kid-friendly and community-oriented. Many young families and professionals reside here and it has quickly become a destination for them after work and on the weekends.”
Licensing delays common complaint from new brewery owners
Many of the breweries on the best new craft breweries list were happy to have simply opened in 2019 and know all too well the delays caused by licensing and approval issues.
“Obviously opening a brewery in 2019 was ripe with hurdles.” says Trenten Relles, General Manager of Central District Brewing in downtown Austin. “We had to deal with what felt like the longest government shut down in history and delays in our TTB Approval.” Central District had actual potholes in the road cause potential delays but have still seen great response from consumers “Our street being closed down for a year for redevelopment hasn’t helped! But I think it speaks to the styles of beers we produce and constant development within our taproom that we have had an impact.” Central District Brewing capped a great first year by winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October.
Along with the focus on beer, establishing themselves in the community and their shared frustrations by licensing delays, each brewery has had one thing in common when we asked them about the highlights of opening a brewery in 2019 – “The most rewarding thing was opening weekend” says Grant Guidry, Co-Owner of Bear King Brewing in Marble Falls. “Seeing the place filled with people who were excited to be there, having a good time. People who weren’t just ourselves, or builders, but friends, neighbors, locals who had all been waiting, finally enjoying themselves.”
I’m really proud of Austin for being so well represented in the top 100 best craft brewery rankings. As a long-time resident in Austin, I can attest to the crazy amount of growth of craft beer in the area. In fact, when I first moved here in 2006 there were only around five craft breweries in the area, and so having 32 of the top 100 breweries in Texas is an incredible feat!
The Overall Brewery Rankings – no surprise Jester King #1
It’s no surprise that Jester King took the top spot. While I don’t really dig on their beer personally, it’d be a crime not to recognize the impact they have had on the craft beer scene. I am really stoked to see that both Pinthouse Pizza and Austin Beerworks made the top 10! You have to love the IPA that Pinthouse puts out on a regular basis and it is crazy that it has taken this long for them to get State-wide recognition. Austin Beerworks consistently puts out great beers that are super drinkable, and the seasonal beers that you can get in their taproom are the best around.
Outside of Austin, I see Brash sitting in the top 20 and that pleases me. That place just oozes rock and roll. Their beer is adventurous and… well, Brash. On the disappointing side; I am definitely surprised that Tupps didn’t rank a little higher. Their DDH Series beers are pretty amazing and definitely deserve attention. Overall though the top 10 is a list of great breweries and I’ve noted a few places that I need to seek out!
Zilker Brewing is ranked too low! Ranked 23rd doesn’t do them justice. Their IPA game is spectacular.
It’s good to see Hops & Grain right there with the likes of Oddwood Ales, Zilker, and St. Elmo. I think they are an underrated brewery that does a lot for the beer community. They are also super into sustainability, which is pretty rad.
I’m a little sad to see that Skull Mechanix Brewing didn’t crack the top 50. They are a highly underrated brewery that kills the lighter styles. Their Lager/Pilsner game is on point!
And where the hell is The Brewtorium on this list!? The only explanation is that people don’t know about them yet. If not for their beer, the ambiance is high on the list. Wake up, people!
Texas Top 10 New Breweries
The New Breweries List – if you have been, you agree!
In the “Best New Breweries” list Austin comes through with strong representation as well. As far as ambiance 12 Fox Beer Co. really can’t be beat. If you’re ever headed to Jester King, do yourself a favor and drive the extra 5 miles or so – it’s a pretty little spot with great beer.
For me, the best-tasting beer from a new craft brewery in Austin is definitely Nomadic Beerworks. The brothers that run the place are super cool and they are cranking out some tasty brews. They have picked up some awards already this Fall. They are on their way to being one of the best craft breweries in Austin and thoroughly deserve to be named one of the top 10 Best New Breweries in Texas.
Breaking down the ranking data
Reputation for Producing Best Beer – I’m 50/50 on this
The Beer Reputation section is really interesting. I love that it’s broken down between consumers and brewers. I was actually shocked to see it was not unanimous in favor of Jester King! It’s pretty great to see that brewers put Pinthouse in the top spot, I agree with that placement! On the flip side of that, I am really surprised to see Real Ale and Saint Arnold representing in the top five from both brewers and consumers. I love both of those places, but with everything trending towards new and daring beer styles it’s surprising to see some of the oldest craft brewers in the state representing so highly. It warms the heart!
I am legitimately shocked to see Austin Beer Garden and Brewing ranked #3 from brewers in Beer Reputation. It’s not that I dislike their beer at all, I just don’t see how they beat out places like ABW, Zilker, Celestial, B52, Brash, or TUPPS. But hey, brewers are professionals and I’m just a guy with an average palate that loves his beer!
Excited for the next 12 months – some surprises here
If I’ve learned anything at all in this report it’s that I need to seek out Martin House Brewing beers! The fact that they unanimously took the top spot for new beers in the next year is pretty telling. I will definitely be looking out for their stuff… can I get it here in Austin!? And if so, where?! The biggest surprise in the “Excited about the next 12 months” area is definitely Live Oak Brewing! There is definitely a “trend vs tradition” argument brewing here – how can consumers rank them 62nd but brewers ranked them 8th!? It makes me wonder what Live Oak has up their sleeves in 2020. I’ll be watching, that’s for sure.
Contribution to Texas craft beer – they got this one right
It’s great to see Austin Beerworks tied with Saint Arnold for the top spot here. ABW did so much to change the beer laws here in Texas. It was awesome to have such a big supporter of “Beer to Go” here in the Capital City. If there’s one thing that I know about ABW, it’s that they truly care about the beer scene in Texas. They are one of my favorite breweries for reasons other than just their beer.
Breaking down the rest of the report
Best craft breweries in Austin by atmosphere – depends on what you mean by atmosphere!
This “Breweries by Atmosphere” list is perfect for Austin. All of the places listed absolutely ooze with ambiance. If I could add a few to this list I’d definitely add 12 Fox and Oddwood. Oddwood is super clean and they have Mario Kart on N64. How can you beat that!?
Seeing Brash listed as one of the breweries with the best atmosphere in Houston is amazing! It makes me laugh a little though, because that place is super rock and roll. If you like clean streamlined spaces Brash will be a shock to your system. It’s all in the name… The whole experience is pretty Brash! Heavy Metal music and gnarly beers all day. Rock on Brash!
Real Ale out of Blanco is a great visit. Nestled out in the middle of nowhere it makes for a perfect day trip out of Austin and has everything that you need on site.
Kid friendly – it’s important to some of us!
I have kids so this category is pretty crucial for my beer-drinking habit. The fact that 12 Fox isn’t on this list is a travesty. They have a full-on hand-built playscape out there! Plus there’s plenty of open space for the kiddos to run around without worry. It’s not too far from Treaty Oak and Suds Monkey who both did make the list and so that’s a great day out for you and the kiddos!
Austin Beerworks is also suspiciously missing from the list. They are notoriously known for being kid friendly. Hell, they even put in a small play area for the little ones recently!
Live music – lots of places in town to rock on
It’s great to see Skull Mechanix representing with the Live Music! Their setup is similar to Oskar Blues, but 100% local (no offense OB). It’s really a perfect setup for watching music. Definitely go there to catch a heavy metal show.
I’ve been to a couple of shows at ABGB and can vouch for it being a great spot for music as well. I believe they even do old-school Texas two-step once a week!
So to wrap it up…
I love the craft beer scene and I am happy we have some of the best craft breweries here in Austin, but it’s also fantastic to learn more about the beer scene around the rest of the state. I really could go on and on about the beer in Texas and how it has absolutely boomed in the last 10 years or so, but I now need to get out there and visit more of these great breweries that I’ve been able to read about.
When I came here from Minnesota (Surly represent!) in 2006, Texas was sadly lacking in craft beer (shout out to the OG Austin brewers: Real Ale, Indy, Live Oak, 512, etc), and so the fact that craft breweries have taken off and grown so quickly here is incredible. It appears to be sustainable at this point as well, which is really great to see. I am curious to see how much more it can grow before it gets too competitive.
If the rankings have made me think about one thing, it’s that I’d really love to see more Texas breweries collaborate with out of town partners. Come on guys and gals… let’s get ABW and Celestial together, or have Zilker and B52 mixing it up!
You can follow Chris on Instagram and Facebook at @atxbeerguy
Craft beer in North Texas is thriving, which was why it was surprising to see the lack of representation of Dallas/Fort Worth area craft breweries in the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings top 5.
Impressively however, Dallas/Fort Worth boasts 3 out of the top 4 craft breweries that Texans are most excited about for 2020. This signifies something that a lot of North Texans already know about their craft beer market – that Dallas/Fort Worth breweries are producing some of the best beer in the state. At the top of this list is Martin House Brewing Company in Fort Worth. Martin House is the brewery that consumers and brewers unanimously agreed on – with both groups voting them #1 for what they are most excited about in the coming year.
North Texas consumers heavily influenced the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings by voting for the best craft breweries across the state, however their support at home ensured three Dallas/Fort Worth area breweries made the overall Texas top 10: Martin House (#6), Turning Point Beer (#8) in Bedford and Peticolas Brewing Co (#10) in Dallas.
When asked why he thinks consumers and craft brewers voted his as one of the best breweries in Texas, Michael Peticolas says it is about two things: “Our beer and our people.” Peticolas reflects on the journey that his brewery took to get to that point “During our first 5 years, it was absolutely all about the beer. Quality of beer was number 1. Beer. Beer. Beer. But in year 5, it dawned on me that it’s all about the people: our crew. And since then, it’s remained all about the people.” Peticolas’ approach to people and community has served them well in creating a loyal and engaged audience. “Our crew deserves all the credit for continually raising the bar and enhancing the experience our beer provides; we don’t want to be big, we want to be great!”
And all eyes will be on the North Texas beer scene in 2020. TUPPS Brewery in McKinney joined Turning Point and Marin House as 3 of the top 4 breweries in the state that Texans are most excited about for 2020. TUPPS President and founder Kevin Lewis is keen to take advantage of the excitement around their brand. “In 2019, it all seemed to come together.” explains Lewis. “We advanced our product offerings by adding several hazy beers that have gained traction with a broad base of customers. We have also strengthened our relationship with our distribution partners, we have added several major retailers to our portfolio, we advanced our operating excellence, which will allow us to continue to grow and we have been able maintained a small hometown feel to the brand.” That small-town feel seems to go over well with both Dallas/Fort Worth-area consumers as well as those in the rest of the state.
Three other North Texas breweries made the overall Top 25 of the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings, with Celestial Beerworks and Community Beer Company in Dallas joined by Lakewood Brewing Company in Garland. Celestial were voted as #6 in the state by Texas craft brewing industry professionals when asked who they were excited about in 2020.
Along with established North Texans breweries that are generating excitement for 2020, consumers are also excited to hear from newer and soon-to-open Dallas/Fort Worth breweries. Brutal Beerworks in North Richland Hills was voted one of the top 10 new breweries in Texas. Brutal Beerworks had their grand opening in June 2019 and their small-batch brews have caught the eye of the North Texas consumer and they are building a reputation further afield. Texas Craft Beer Survey respondents also mentioned upcoming or recently opened breweries Odd Muse Brewing Company, Second Rodeo Brewing Company and Toasty Bros.
Houston’s best craft breweries are quickly gaining a State-wide following. Saint Arnold Brewing Company has been brewing beer in Houston since 1994 and for many years was the only thing that consumers thought about when hearing about Houston’s craft beer scene. However, as the craft beer consumer market has grown, a number of craft breweries have established reputations for themselves as some of the best in the state.
B-52 Brewing, based in Conroe about 40 miles North of downtown Houston, is seen by many as the top destination brewery in Texas. B-52 owner Brent Daniel and his team have put a lot of work into ensuring that a day at the brewery is not only about drinking their beer. “When you visit you’ll see that we put a ton of effort into all of the elements that create a great craft beer experience. That includes everything from the chairs you sit in, to the music we play, the people you’re with, and much more.”
When it came to beer, consumers across Texas were particularly positive about B-52’s fruited sour series as well as a number of their traditional-styles beers. For those excited to hear about what is next for B-52, Daniel said about the next 12 months “We have a lot of great beers almost fully matured in the barrel, so you can expect to see some new things from our barrel program. And on top of that, we have some exciting collaborations in the works.”
Like B-52, SpindleTap Brewery had an extremely successful 2019 which was recognized by consumers and brewers with their standing in the top 10 ranked breweries in Texas. The brewery won a silver medal for their Honey Hole ESB at the Great American Beer Festival in October and introduced their barrel-aged program in the form of an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels in November at their 4th anniversary party.
Brody Chapman, CEO and co-founder of SpindleTap Brewery credits much of their recent success to their constant engagement with their consumers “We place all of our focus on producing the highest-quality beer possible, and on our customers. Without the passion, enthusiasm and excitement of our dedicated customers, we simply wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today.”
As well as being enjoyed by Houstonians, SpindleTap beer has become one of the hottest commodities in other cities across Texas and Chapman says they have plans to make 2020 even better. “We’ll continue to brew as much beer as possible to serve our customers throughout Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas. We’ll add more coffee offerings; continue to expand on our barrel-aged release program; and further experiment with new beer styles.”
Innovation has been key to SpindleTap’s success in Houston; an approach also used by Ingenious Brewing in Humble. Ingenious has quickly become a “must-stop” spot on the Houston craft beer circuit by changing up their offering on a regular basis. “We were home brewers and beer nerds before we started Ingenious,” says Justin Gyorfi, Co-Owner and General Manager. “We had a good grasp on the exciting things that were happening in the craft beer world that were at the time unavailable to the Houston market. Because of this, we decided to forgo the expected “core” beers and instead focus on offering a large variety of small-batch constantly changing brews; many of which were non-traditional and adjunct.”
Brash Brewing were also named in the top 25 in Texas and while their unique tap room is not for everyone, the quality of their beer is on par with the best brewers in the state. Brash, like the other top breweries, have contributed heavily to what is now a thriving craft beer scene in Houston and based on a number of Houston-area breweries making the top 10 best new breweries in Texas, the growth of the scene does not seem to be slowing.
The three Houston-area breweries to make that best new breweries in Texas list were: Astral Brewing, Megaton Brewery, and True Anomaly Brewing Company. All three breweries opened in 2019, and Michael Duckworth, CEO and co-founder of True Anomaly is pleasantly surprised at how they have been received. “We certainly didn’t expect to be awarded any kind of accolades as a new brewery in 2019, and we’re very humbled to hear that we’re recognized as a brewery to watch out for in the coming years. We’ve worked hard to be a quality first brewery, servicing the taproom foremost. We’ve released over 35 unique beers in the approximate 8 months we’ve been open, the vast majority of which are relatively unknown styles in the Houston market. We hope to continue pushing the limits this next year as we delve even further into our wild and sour program.”
Duckworth continues “We have a literal ton of liquid aging in various barrels that we can’t wait to start releasing. It’ll still be a little way out, but by mid next year we hope to have a more regular bottle release program for the number of wild and sour beers currently aging in our cellar room.” And Houston consumers will be excited to hear: “We’re also slated for a few upcoming collaborations.”
Along with the best new breweries of 2019, two soon-to-open breweries were also mentioned in the Texas Craft Beer Survey: Local Group and Urban South Brewery.
San Antonio, at times overshadowed as a Texas craft beer destination, gave a strong showing across the top 100 of the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings that suggests its growing number of craft breweries are ready to compete at the high standard set by the rest of the State.
Whilst not having any craft breweries appear in the overall top 10 of the rankings, the appearance of Weathered Souls at #13, Guadalupe Brewing at #16, 5 Stones Artisan Brewery at #20 and Islla Street at #22 gave the San Antonio-area a strong enough showing in the top 25 to suggest the city is well positioned as a craft beer destination.
From a consumer perspective, the rapid recent growth of the craft beer scene has been exciting to watch. San Antonian resident and craft beer fan JD Duran (@txbeerdude) was initially skeptical of the resurgence “over the last few years, we’ve seen breweries shut down in the region and it started to feel as though we were on a slow downhill slide towards craft beer ambiguity.” He says “but what in fact has transpired has been a pleasant surprise with a huge upward trend in great craft beer locations that we are now extremely excited about!”
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to consumers outside of San Antonio was the strong showing in the overall ranking of Islla Street Brewing. Not quite having been in business a full year, the young brewery to the North East of the city has quickly gained a huge following and taken advantage of both a passionate and growing San Antonio craft beer crowd and collaborative San Antonio craft brewer community.
Islla Street is owned by brothers Joshua and JD Pena. “What we love the most about the San Antonio beer community is the camaraderie. We are a pretty small and young beer market compared to a lot of others and in that, we have learned to lean on each other. Everyone in the market does something a little different and for being as small as we are, I feel like we provide a very broad spectrum with something for everyone.”
Islla Street have joined a community of innovative craft brewers in the San Antonio community, many of who performed well in the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings. Weathered Souls, who ranked particularly high from consumers across the Texas Craft Beer Survey, have built a strong reputation for their stout program which often has consumers lining the block to score on release day.
Guadalupe Brewing (#16 in the overall rankings) were highlighted by consumers from multiple metro areas. That said the ‘Guad Squad’ are just as focused on their local community as they are on consumers who pass by. “We are adding avenues for our VIPs for beer dinners and bottles releases” they told us when asked about plans for 2020 “we will also add more barrel aged projects and encourage the creative juices of our brewing team.”
5 Stones Artisan Brewery ranked #20 in Texas and were joined in the Top 50 by other San Antonio-area breweries Kunstler Brewing (#34), Cactus Land Brewing Company (#39) and Freetail Brewing Company (#41). JD Duran, who has been to breweries across Texas agrees with the representation and said of Cactus Land “Their sour beers are fantastic, and their stouts are some of the best I have tried.”
Other San Antonio-area breweries that made the top 100 rankings included Alamo Beer Co and Roadmap Brewing in San Antonio, BS Brewing in Seguin, Cibolo Creek in Boerne, Faust Brewing and New Braunfels Brewing, both in New Braunfels. Additionally, recently opened Back Unturned Brewing was cited as a brewery that consumers and brewers are both excited about for 2020.
The Craft Brewers Conference will be held in San Antonio in April and will be a great opportunity for the growing craft beer scene to showcase itself after a strong showing in the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings.
Austin-area breweries hold a heavy presence in the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings top – with Jester King ranked as number 1 in Texas. Along with Jester King, Pinthouse Pizza and Austin Beerworks both made appearances in the top 10 and others such as Live Oak Brewing Co, The ABGB, Lazarus Brewing and Hops & Grain featuring heavily throughout the Texas Craft Beer Report.
Austin consumers voted for breweries who focus on traditional styles more so than their counterparts in the rest of the State. And in a competitive Austin market, there is much support for breweries such as Live Oak who pride themselves on brewing traditional beer at a world-class standard. “We have an international reputation for making high-quality classic beer styles,” says Chip McElroy, President of Live Oak. “Our beers are very drinkable because we do not cut corners.” He continues “Even Bavarian brewmasters have acknowledged that we could sell our HefeWeizen in Bavaria and satisfy the persnickety Bavarian Hefeweizen consumers!”
Along with its top performers, the Austin-area has the most breweries in the top 50 of the Texas Craft Brewery Rankings with 15, and also the most in the top 100 with 32. However, it is the presence of newer breweries and those on the horizon that are proving there cannot be too much of a good thing.
Central District Brewing, Nomadic Beerworks, and 12 Fox Beer Co were named in the 10 best new breweries of 2019, and 4 out of 10 breweries opening in 2020 that Texans are most excited for will also be in Austin. In fact, within the booming Austin beer community, it is easy to see a brewery such as a Lazarus Brewing Co as a veteran of the beer scene despite them having not yet celebrated 3 years in East Austin. Like other thriving Austin breweries, it is their relationship with the community that has driven their success. “I believe that deep down, the craft beer movement isn’t just about beer.” says Christian Cryder, owner of Lazarus “it’s about folks taking a leap of faith and going on adventures together – old friends, new friends, sharing life in amazing places. And Austin has proven to be an amazing place for that!”