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Brews to Do

Libations expert spotlights his favorite breweries
Written by Anthony Head. Photographs by James Fraher.

St Arnolds JF St Arnolds JF DSC 5509In our May 2015 issue, we explore tours of Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewery, which has expanded its offerings recently to include chef-prepared lunches. Since the craft-beer movement has gained momentum in recent years, Texas boasts around 100 breweries, and most of them offer tours and tastings.

We asked writer Anthony Head, who covers libations in Texas for the publication Tasting Panel, to highlight some of his favorites. To learn more about the scene, see www.texascraftbrewersguild.org.

Jester King, Austin

Every Saturday visitors pour into Ceres Park on the Travis/Hays County line to taste the latest offerings from Jester King, which brews almost exclusively farmhouse-style sour beers. These are tangy, sometimes fruity and, yes, sour-tasting beers that are exceptionally refreshing and very food-friendly, especially with a slice of Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, located on-site. After the brewery tour, take advantage of the wide-open grounds to toss around the old pigskin or play lawn games.

Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., Houston

Both the indoor and outdoor tasting areas at Buffalo Bayou are rather intimate size-wise and picnic table seating is very limited. Bring your own lawn chairs to better relax after taking the brief Saturday brewery tour and to better appreciate the creamy and uniquely spiced Gingerbread Stout. A food truck (or two) is typically parked out back to help round out the afternoon enjoyment.

Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, San Antonio

Calling itself Texas’ only “brewstillery,” Ranger Creek not only produces several year-round and seasonal beers, it also distills genuine Texas bourbon. The Saturday afternoon tour covers both sides of this boozy production line, and there’s something supremely satisfying about tasting a sample of the smooth and approachable .36 Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey followed up with a woodsy-accented Mesquite Smoked Porter chaser.

Revolver Brewing, Granbury

Made with Texas honey and blood orange, Revolver’s Blood & Honey Wheat Ale has caught the attention of craft-beer enthusiasts in every market it moves into. Tasting it and other Revolver brews fresh from the tap after a Saturday brewery tour is even more of treat. Pet-friendly and child-friendly, the large outdoor grounds have picnic tables and lawn games; there’s also live music and barbecue.

Real Ale Brewing Co., Blanco

Real Ale received great national attention when it debuted its Firemans #4 Blonde Ale, but there are other great discoveries waiting at the brewery’s open house on Fridays that are so limited they’ll never make it off the grounds. The tour is lengthy and very informative about cask conditioning, barrel-aging, and other Real Ale programs—a must for serious beer-drinkers and budding home-brewers.

Independence Brewing, Austin

Brewery tours are available during the Thursday and Friday evening indoor “Hoppy Hours” as well as the Saturday parking lot parties. Live music and food trucks enhance these Saturday gatherings, but you’ll definitely want to bring your own lawn chairs to better enjoy the Austin Amber and other Independence favorites.

Southern Star Brewing Company, Conroe

Saturday tours let tourists see where and how Valkyrie—the brewery’s robust Double IPA—is produced (along with several other seasonal and specialty beers, of course). The family-friendly tasting area is located right next to the tanks, so it’s a short walk from learning to sampling. A hotdog stand is on-site, but visitors can also bring in their own snacks. (www.southernstarbrewing.com)

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company, Fort Worth

Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon tours take guests behind the scenes of one the state’s most popular beer brands. There are always limited-edition releases as well as year-round favorites, like Texas Red Amber Lager, Ugly Pug Black Lager, and Stormcloud IPA. Food from various area restaurants is available, and works by local artists are frequently displayed.

Deep Ellum Brewing, Dallas

Tours are available on Thursdays and Saturdays at this urban brewery, named for the historic arts and entertainment neighborhood it’s a part of. Sit inside the taproom, where board games are offered, or enjoy the small outdoor beer garden with live music and food trucks parked nearby.

Cedar Creek Brewery, Seven Points

Smooth-tasting, less hoppy beers (often referred to as “session beers”) are the specialty of the brewery at Cedar Creek. The soft, malty, and smoky Scruffy’s Smoked Ale is quite popular, and is a perfect fit for the laid-back indoor and outdoor tasting areas. Open for tours on Saturdays, Cedar Creek welcomes families and pets.

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