The Texas Beer Scene: Then and Now
by Sheldon Johns
I was a twenty-one year old kid waiting in line at Lucky Lou’s to order a “Blastito” and a Bud Heavy; my go-to order as a young college kid with no interest in craft beer. My long time best friend’s step brother, the Denton-famous John Williams who was the general manager of Lou’s at the time, pulled me aside and asked what I was drinking. When I replied “the usual”, he suggested a Lagunitas IPA instead. Knowing nothing about anything… other than what was cheap at that age and that the suggested beer was the three dollar special that night, I gladly obliged. Right then and there, a new favorite hobby was born. I quickly became entrenched in the local and national craft beer scene.
Nine years may not seem like a very long time, but in terms of the Texas craft beer scene, it might as well have been a half century. Flashback to 2009, there were not even ten craft breweries in all of Texas; even less if you don’t count the Spoetzl plant in Shiner as a craft brewery. Not only were there less than ten breweries in the entire great state, but DFW could only stake claim to one, Rahr and Sons in Fort Worth. For a state that prides itself on bigger and better everything, the beer scene at the time definitely didn’t live up to the Texas pride we all know and love.
If there is anything Texans love more than anything, it’s a challenge (especially one that pokes fun at our state pride). Around 2010, the community quickly started building what has become an expansive and overwhelming Texas beer scene. The tally of active breweries in Texas as I write this blog now stands at just over two hundred, with roughly three-quarters of those breweries pouring and canning suds in the greater DFW, Austin, and Houston metros. And it doesn’t appear that the beer scene is showing any signs of slowing down. It seems like new plans for a brewery or brewpub are announced on a monthly basis.
Not only did Texas explode onto the national beer scene as far as volume is concerned, but people around the country quickly took notice of the quality of beer. Take Jester King from Austin and their ever evolving, funky farmhouse style — craft beer nerds will drive or fly from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away to wait in long lines in the dead of Texas Summer for a chance to buy a few bottles of their famous sours. Not only do people flock to the hill country to load up on Jester King bottles, their beers are known to trade on the second hand market for some of the most sought after bottles in the country. Saint Arnold has become highly renowned for several of their delicious brews from their barrel-aged Bishop’s Barrel series. Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth has aged just about every type of beer in just about every type of barrel possible; creating some amazingly unique and yummy beers America has ever seen. And not to be outdone by anyone, Pinthouse Pizza in Austin took note of the hype surrounding IPAs on the East and West coasts and have been busy day and night brewing a lot of great beer; most importantly super fresh, super hoppy IPAs that go will go toe-to-toe with any brewery in the country.
It has been an amazing hobby to be a part of and I have met some of the most amazing people in a welcoming, tight knit, and proud craft beer community. Texas craft brewers pride themselves on bringing good beer to the community and bringing the community together. My hope is that the growth continues… not only for the hobby, but to spur the economy of Texas to be even stronger. In ten years, we can stand around a booth at BLBFIT and talk about even more record growth and even better quality in our local beer. Cheers hop heads.