North Texans at Austin’s Craft Brewers Festival

You may not have realized that Texas has its own annual state craft beer fest. Held in or near downtown Austin since the dawn of time (late 1990s, with a couple of gaps), the Texas Craft Brewers Festival (TCBF) was always intended as a statewide version of Colorado’s national Great American Beer Festival (GABF), which just wrapped up its 40th year a month ago.

The original TCBF was more of a private enterprise, conceived and sponsored by a few Austin breweries long since closed. It has always been a showcase for specifically Texas craft brewers and is now administered by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, our state’s commercial and political advocacy body for all things in the business of craft beer. (The detailed history of the festival itself can be spotty, as it has passed from hands to hands, sponsor to sponsor over the years, as well as a few competing regional festivals vying for the title.)

However, in 2011 the Guild took ownership of TCBF and moved it out of the downtown block party format and into the nearby Fiesta Gardens, an historic public park east of downtown and bordering the Colorado River, where it has been held ever since (with an understandable pandemic hiatus). This year’s event occurred this past October 1st, drawing about 5000 attendees to sample the wares from over 80 breweries from around the state, from Amarillo to Galveston.

North Texas brewers were well-represented in Austin this year, with those in attendance including:

Larger feature booths were sponsored by Deep Ellum Brewing and TUPPs Brewing, as well as another half-dozen Austin and Houston breweries. Note that membership in the Texas Craft Brewers Guild is required for breweries to participate in the festival.

Special releases were timed throughout the day, and long lines formed for some of the more popular or anticipated beers like Slackers Ghost Pepper Porter, or features made especially for the fest like Brewtorium‘s Berrystar Galactica (a barrel-aged sour brewed with strawberries and beets).

My tastes always lean more toward traditional and historic styles instead of modern twists that rely on gimmicks, but I stand behind any well-crafted beer regardless of ingredients. My personal list of standouts/beers of note for 2022 includes:

  • Saint Arnold Tarnation (Houston) – An “unreasonably strong” ale (ABV 9%) reminiscent of a young barleywine.
  • Pink Boots Valkyrie – A Voss kveik Scandinavian beer style brewed with juniper, a collaboration with Fitzhugh Brewing (Dripping Springs).
  • Beerburg Roggenbier (Austin) – A heavy rye-based beer, and one of my favorite styles.
  • Live Oak Grodziskie (Austin) – Desperately missing Live Oak’s fantastic old-world German styles ever since they pulled out of the North Texas market.
  • Blue Owl Strawberry RhuBOB (Austin) – Sweet, tart and refreshing beer with fruit and rhubarb; very well executed.
  • Second Pitch Hometown Lager (San Antonio) – A light hybrid California Common style (also known as “steam beer”) that is very underrepresented by today’s breweries.
  • Willard West Coast IPA (Austin) – A clean, crisp example of a fundamental craft beer style.
  • Oddwood Le Pacte de Loups (Austin) – A “French-style pilsner” brewed with all French malt and hops for a unique take on a traditional Czech style.
  • Pinthouse With Pulp (Austin) – A hazy IPA aged on viognier wine casks.

Although the TCBF does tend to skew heavily in favor of Austin-area brewers, that is not necessarily a bad thing as it provides an annual “heartbeat” for one of the strongest craft beer regions of the Lone Star State. Combine that with music, food trucks, (hopefully) good weather and the simply outstanding food available around the Austin metro area, and this yearly festival is not one to miss. PH


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