The craft-beer craze has officially taken Texas by storm, with more than 70 breweries and brewpubs now adding variety to the landscape. In June 2013, Governor Perry signed legislation that enabled craft breweries to sell their beers on premises, fostering both economic growth and competition in an industry estimated by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild to have contributed more than $600 million to the state’s economy. That’s a lot of barley pop, folks!
Where there’s a brewery, there’s likely to be a brewery tour. Details may differ according to the size and location of the brewery, but there are some constants: An easygoing, garrulous crowd; a look-see at various equipment and impressive storage tanks; and an opportunity to sample both popular and experimental styles. A tour of Austin’s Austin Beer Works resembled a tailgating party of sorts—with beer aficionados milling about the brewery’s warehouse and brewing facility, sampling beers and noshing barbecue and pizza brought in from elsewhere, while a tour of Real Ale in Blanco offered more details about the brewing process and history of beer-making in Texas. Jester King Brewery, about 18 miles southwest of downtown Austin, offers an environment suited for families, with lawn games and picnic tables scattered beneath centuries-old live oaks. And a recent tour of Hops and Grain, found in a rapidly developing corner of East Austin, impressed us not only with the beer quality, but also with its recycling moxie: Spent barley goes into the brewery’s dog biscuits—called Brew Biscuits. Our dogs loved the biscuits as much as we loved the beer.