We're at a historic moment. As of 2016, there are more breweries open and operating than at any point in American history. That's 5,301 breweries nationwide, and 825 of them opened in 2016! Craft beer is simply booming, and as an industry that employs over 424,000 people, it's become a serious American economic force.
With the repealing of archaic beer laws in Texas paving the way for new breweries and craft pubs to open, craft beer growth is up. Texas is on a steady increase of brewery openings, increasing by 100 breweries since 2013 to rank 8th in the nation for total number of craft breweries. Craft brewers are flocking to Texas and they're throwing their hat into the ring to compete at festivals like the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).
This festival started as a small homebrewers' festival and turned into a three-day mega event that takes place each fall in Denver, Colorado. Over 50,000 people flock to the festival to eat beer pretzel necklaces and sample from the nation's best beer. For the festival attendant, it is an opportunity to try craft beer not distributed to their part of the nation. For the brewery, it is an opportunity for bragging rights.
In the early years, the vast majority of medals are awarded to breweries in places like Colorado, California, and the Pacific Northwest, locations that rank first through fifth for overall number of breweries. With each year breaking a record number of entries, it's more prestigious than ever to win an award at this competition.
Here's where Texas beer proves it's up to the challenge!
These local brewers are hell-bent on success! They have three medals under their belts between 2011 and 2014, including a gold medal for their German-Style Schwarzbier Black Thunder. They also won the very prestigious Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the year in 2016.
When visiting the brewery, you can drink their beer straight from the tank. Their beer is only available in recyclable cans because of their low impact on the environment.
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company
This project was dreamed up in 2006 when a group of homebrewers smuggled their beer into the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Their dream grew into a reality when they teamed up with former Bitter End brewers (who won five GABF medals before they closed their doors in 2004).
Add that to the three medals that ABGB has won and that's a recipe for success! Their gold-winning Hell Yes Munich-Style Helles beer is available on tap and to-go in growlers.
Celis Brewery Inc
This Austin-based brewery won multiple medals in the Belgian-style categories 1992-1998. They really excelled in this category: five of their nine award-winning beers earned a gold medal! Unfortunately for enthusiasts, Celis sold to Miller Brewing Company in the early 2000s and the brewery was closed by the Big Beer giant.
After the founder passed away, his daughter recovered the name and trademark and it's set to re-open in July in North Burnet. We look forward to seeing them on the GABF medal list again!
Jester King Brewery
Jester King may have only won 1 GABF medal (and a bronze at that), but they are winning awards and acolades on Ratebeer.com.
Their Atrial Rubicite, which won that bronze in 2013 for Sour Ale, won the top Texas beer of 2016, as rated by the website's users. This farmhouse brewery has been fermenting their beers with wild yeasts since 2010 on a 200-acre ranch.
Real Ale Brewing Company
Real Ale has been brewing since 1996, but they've only been winning medals since 2010. Since then, they've earned seven medals in a variety of categories, including Scotch Ale, Sour Ale, and Ordinary or Special Bitter.
This family-owned brewery grew out of the garage and into a massive production facility. They now brew a special series called Mysterium Verum, barrel aged and sour beers. In addition to their popular beers, they also have a distillery.
Humperdink's Big Horn Brewing Company
These guys are a restaurant, sports bar, and brewpub chain with multiple locations throughout Dallas. Between their many locations, they've won nine medals from 1998-2012 for their American Style Amber lagers, most notably their popular beer Uberbrau.
They also won Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewmaster of the year in 2001, an extremely hard-to-win and prestigious award.
Community Beer Company
Community Beer Company is a relative newcomer to the medal game, winning two golds and two bronze medals between 2013 and 2016. After Covey Restaurant & Brewery of Fort Worth closed its doors, the head brewmaster teamed up with a homebrewer to open the Design Disctrict's first brewery.
They're proud to be part of the North Texas community so much so that they named their brewery after it. If you add the three medals Covey earned before they closed, these guys have seven medals under their belts.
Fort Worth, Texas
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company
While Rahr & Sons Brewing Company has only been open since 2004, the family has been brewing beer in America since 1847. Their four medals from 2012-2015 are mostly German-style Marzen and Doppelbock, an homage to the family's original German-style brewery, The Eagle Brewery.
Rahr & Sons Brewery is open for very limited hours, only on Wednesday and Saturday. They provide free samples and $10 brewery tours that includes an exclusive pint glass. But don't worry if you can't make it when they're open because they are widely distributed throughout the state.
Fredericksburg Brewing Company
While they only won five medals between 2002-2008, three of them were gold. They opened in 1994 right after the legalization of brewpub operation in the state of Texas, making them the oldest brewpub in the state.
They're located in a beautiful, restored 1890s building that houses a "Bed & Brew" facility, allowing you to stay in one of the unique rooms. Sidewalk consumption is legal in the city of Fredericksburg so you can take one of their award-winning brews for a sidewalk stroll. I think I might need to take a road trip here in the near future!
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Saint Arnold Brewing Company has won more medals than any other Texas brewery, boasting 21 medals since 1999. They excel in the German style category, winning multiple times for German-Style Wheat Ale and Munich-Style Helles.
They first started brewing in 1994, making them the oldest craft brewery in the state. If you're unsure of what to try first, start with the the Weedwacker, the Summer Pils, or the Fancy Lawnmower beer.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company 2000 Lyons Ave, Houston, TX 77020
Seven Points, Texas
Cedar Creek Brewery
They've only won 1 medal in 2013, but it was a gold medal for the Belgian Style Dubbel. This small brewery opened its doors in 2012. Their production facility is located 60 miles southeast of Dallas along the Cedar Creek Lake.
Sustainability is important to Cedar Creek: Their beers are only sold in cans, which are more easily recycled than glass. They're topped with black plastic holders that are safer for birds and small animals than the traditional plastic six-pack holders.