A Texas Craft Beer Experience

My friend Allison recently moved to Fort Worth, giving me an opportunity to visit Texas for the first time, an exciting adventure I couldn’t pass up! Like with most people, my image of Texas was formed as a young girl watching the TV show Dallas and Western movies. Upon arrival I found there is a lot more to the Lone Star State than Tex-Mex, cowboys, rich oil barons and wide open spaces. Think craft beer, friendly people, urban vibes and amazing (vegan) food. I did my best to maximize my craft beer experience and managed to visit 10 breweries and 11 craft beer bars, enough to give you a few awesome tips in case you make it to Dallas, Fort Worth or Austin. After my first taste of Texas I can’t wait to go back!

In terms of craft breweries Texas ranks 11th nationwide (with a total of 257 breweries) and – due to the large population – only 46th in terms of breweries per capita (1.4). The largest number of breweries (37) is located in the state capital Austin. Lager is still the beer of choice for most Texans. This seems to have a lot to do with the fact that after the 1840s many German and Czech immigrants began settling in the state, whereas the English settlers on the East Coast brewed ales. According to Vinepair “craft lagers began proliferating in the 1990s after a 1993 law passed allowing restaurants and bars to produce and sell their own beer on site. Live Oak, which opened in 1997, was Austin’s first lager brewery to debut after the new legislation.” We didn’t get to check that one out on this trip, but here are several craft beer bars and breweries that we did hit up and think are worth a visit.

Missing an amazing beer venue in this list? Please add it in the comment section below!

Austin

Since Austin has the largest number of breweries, it seemed fitting to start our Texas adventure here. The city is known as the Live Music Capital of the World and also for its swarming bat colony that you can watch fly out at dusk, the largest urban bat colony in North America. We missed out on both unfortunately. We were too busy exploring all the craft beer places for you! However, we did have an excellent excuse. Similar to Rotterdam, Austin is very much an outdoorsy place and the weather was crappy while we there. Windy and rainy. So walking around was pretty much out of the question. The upside is that I experienced my first electric scooter ride. What a brilliant way to get from bar to bar!

Easy Tiger
Easy Tiger

1. Easy Tiger

This was our first stop in Austin and ended up being one of our favorites. A modern and welcoming beer bar & bakery (with artisan breads, pretzels and homemade sausages) on E 6th Street downtown, this is a top-notch beer bar in the middle of the bustling Austin nightlife and must-see on your pub crawl. They have a very cool patio in the back and plenty of space inside, plus more than 30 beers on tap.

709 East 6th Street, Austin

Craft Pride
Craft Pride

2. Craft Pride
What Craft Pride lacks in space it makes up in awesome Texan craft beers. This place definitely lives up to its reputation! They have 54 on draft and if you’re not into beer, check out their Texan wines. On weekends they have live music playing and the merchandise store next door is also definitely worth a visit.

61 Rainey St, Austin

Bangers
Bangers

3. Bangers Sausage House & Beer Garden
Get ready to spend your weekend here. This is not just a place to have a few drinks, it is a full blown beer garden with an extensive food list and even longer beer bar. It’s the largest tap wall in Austin. Their site says they have 200 draft beers, while I only saw 100, but perhaps they have multiple bars. Something to explore while you’re there!

79 Rainey St, Austin

Mort Subite Belgian Beer Bar
4. Mort Subite Belgian Beer Bar

4. Mort Subite Belgian Beer Bar

When you live in Holland, drinking Belgian beer is normally the last thing on your mind when you’re on a craft beer adventure in the US. Just out of curiosity we popped in here to take a look after reading really good reviews of this place. I have to say the Belgian beer selection is excellent and for those who want to drink local, there are a few Texas beers on tap.

308 Congress Ave, Austin

Central District Brewing
Central District Brewing

5. Central District Brewing
We found this bar by chance while we were walking past in downtown Austin. It had just been open a month and the brewery wasn’t up and running yet (delay in their license due to government shut down). We had a really fun time trying Texas beers and chatting with the staff. They were super helpful in giving us tips where to go and even one of the bartenders, who had just come off duty, drove us down to our next beer stop Lazarus. I’m so impressed with the Texan hospitality! It’s unfortunate we didn’t get to try their own beers, but I read that they started brewing this month, so if you get a chance to stop by, let me know how it is!

417 Red River St, Austin

Lazarus Brewing
Lazarus Brewing

6. Lazarus Brewing

This taproom is packed on Friday night. There is live music and lots of seating inside and outdoors (with a nice view of the barrels!). There is no service at the tables, so you need to order your beers at the bar, but the line goes pretty fast. The brewery and taproom opened end of 2016 and were started by a couple from Montana. There are about 15 taps, of which 7 are their standard beers and 8 are rotating beers from their brewery. And they have a food menu, too. I was really happy to find a vegan option as drinking without eating is never a good idea! Be prepared for a noisy crowd, so you may have some trouble following the conversation. Perhaps best to just happily sip your beer and listen to the music instead. I tried their English IPA “Nottingham”, just to see what a Texas brewery would make of it. It’s a solid brew!

1902 E 6th St, Austin

Zilker Brewing
Zilker Brewing

7. Zilker Brewing

Across the street from Lazarus Brewing in the heart of East Austin you’ll find the urban brewery Zilker. They have a very cool set up where the taproom (8 taps) is in the middle of the brewery. There is a food trailer on-site during opening hours. The brewery was started in 2015 by three local homebrewers who were fed up with corporate life (I hear you!). Zilker tries to make hoppy beers that still have a malt backbone and some yeast character. I tried two and loved both of them! Their Heavenly Daze IPA is amazing, I think it was my favorite one during the Austin trip. It’s fruity, but not overly hopforward, perfectly balanced. The kind you want to keep on drinking!

1701 E 6th St, Austin

Jester King Brewery
Jester King Brewery
Jester King Brewery
Beer tasting at Jester King. SPON three-year blend in the middle
Jester King Brewery
Debby showing us the copper coolship

8. Jester King Brewery

Our last stop in Austin and definitely one of the highlights of our weekend! Jester King is the only Austin brewery that I had previously heard of before coming here as it is pretty well known in Holland among the beer geeks. I’m guessing by the crowds we encountered there that Sunday that even in Austin they are in a league of their own. The brewery is located about a half an hour drive from the city. Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery committed to mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation. They started brewing and releasing their beers in 2010, but I believe their first spontaneous fermented beer wasn’t released until 2016. Recently their brewery became solar powered and they harvested the first produce from their farm (melons). There is plenty of seating outside and when the weather is nice you can make a wonderful family day of it. They have food, music, a taproom, merchandise shop and they give free brewery tours!

I learned a lot from Debby, our wonderful tour guide (it was more of an advanced master class than a regular tour though!). Interesting facts that I picked up were for example that the brewery uses the water from a nearby 700 ft deep well which provides dry and crisp water. They get their malts from the local Blacklands maltster, just north of Austin. At the moment they buy their hops (they use both fresh and dried aged hops), but they have plans to start their own hop yard! Another cool feature of the tour was the copper coolship they use for the SPON beers. I tried their 2018 SPON three-year blend (and brought a bottle home!). Amazing stuff, complex, full of fruity, oaky layers. It seems they have gotten some of their inspiration from German Zoigl breweries (which she literally referenced), where Jester King aims to create a similar culture of a complete “Stammtisch” experience.

13187 Fitzhugh Rd, Austin

Dallas

Dallas is the 3rd biggest city in Texas after Houston and San Antonio and the 9th largest in the US. For a metropolitan city it was far less daunting than I expected. There are several high rises downtown, but in contrast to places like NY and San Francisco, it’s not packed with skyscrapers and it seems to be a city that sprawls out more than it goes up. It has some really cool modern architectural highlights such as the Reunion Tower and Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. I especially loved the artsy neighborhoods like Deep Ellum (with loads of craft beer) and Bishop Arts District (great boutique shopping). From Fort Worth it’s an hour by train and the train ticket gives you free access to all public transportation in the city. The Union train station is right in the middle of the city near Dealey Plaza (where JFK was shot) and next to the Reunion tower. Getting around is easy. Hop on an electric scooter (I’m a fan!) and whizz away. Great craft beer bars and breweries, too. Below are a few I think are nice places to visit when you’re in town. 

1. Deep Ellum Brewing

East of downtown Dallas you’ll find the artsy district Deep Ellum, a corruption of the name of one of its main roads Elm Street. A lot of the buildings have a warehouse look and feel to them, just like the Deep Ellum brewery, a really fun taproom with a beer garden. The Dallas Blonde seems to be their flagship beer (or bestselling beer). I have to say their IPAs are very tasty too! 

2823 St Louis St, Dallas

Deep Ellum Brewing
Deep Ellum Brewing

2. BrainDead Brewing

This place also has a very colorful and artsy vibe to it! You can sit on a bar stool at the bar or try one of the booths if you are going to get a bite to eat. I had my first vegan mac and cheese there and it was to die for! There’s quite a big patio outside, which I am sure is packed when the sun is out. I loved That Same Old Jam, a NEIPA with tangerine and candied ginger. Their Something Sexy is a killer sea salt caramel chocolate stout. Too bad it contains lactose, or I would have probably gotten lit up on that!

2625 Main St, Dallas

BrainDead Brewing
BrainDead Brewing

3. Peticolas Brewing

Just left of Interstate 35E and the train track you’ll find the Design District, home to several successful craft breweries. Keep in mind that it is a bit of an industrial area and parts of the roads are missing sidewalks. We learned that the hard way when trying to walk there from the train station. 

This brewery was started in 2010 and has gone on to win several prestigious beer awards. It turns out we arrived just as the game event started and got to play our first ever Murder Trivia Party. It was a blast! They have a few snacks but no food menu. You can order a food delivery however and eat it there. I believe there is a food truck at certain hours and during brewery tours. Other stellar breweries in the Design District that we didn’t get to are Noble Rey, Community Beer Company and Texas Ale Project. That sounds like a fantastic pub crawl!

1301 Pace St, Dallas

Peticolas Brewing
Peticolas Brewing
Peticolas Brewing
Peticolas tasting flight

4. Meddlesome Moth

About a 10 min walk from Peticolas you’ll find this wonderful restaurant (or gastropub as they call themselves) with an incredible taplist. I’m talking Cascade, The Bruery, Firestone Walker, Founders. Wow! And a bunch of great Texan beers, too. They must have about 40 taps in total. A huge plus for me is that they have vegan options on the menu. I had my first vegan meatballs in tomato sauce there, loved it! But there is more. What are the odds of meeting someone from your Austrian beer sommelier class in Dallas, Texas? This was turning out to be a pretty amazing beercation!

1621 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas

Meddlesome Moth
Meddlesome Moth

5. Celestial Beerworks

On the other side of the train tracks in the Medical District a new brewery recently opened in the fall of 2018. Don’t let that fool you though, their beers are out of this world. They mostly brew IPAs, but that yellow gold is divine hoppy goodness in a glass. On their website they do admit to having a “borderline unhealthy obsession with hops”. There is wonderful art on the walls and you can walk around the brewery and check out the tanks. Make sure not to miss this one when you’re in Dallas!

2530 Butler St, Dallas

Celestial Beerworks
Celestial Beerworks

6. The Common Table

A little north of downtown Dallas, close to the Katy Trail, is a nice American-style bar with good pub food and craft beer list. The bar is very long and u-shaped with several tv screens and wine on tap! Alas, no vegan options here. They do three types of flights with pre-selected beers, which include 4 tasting glasses: The Rookie (low ABV beers, $10), The Wolf (for hop lovers, $12), and Top Flight (dark, high ABV beers, $14). I counted 26 beer taps. The bottle list includes several excellent international beers like Saison Dupont, Orval, Rodenbach and Rochefort. I saw some great US breweries on there too, like Deschutes, The Bruery and Ninkasi. If you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend popping in.

2917 Fairmount St, Dallas

The Common Table
The Common Table

7. Biergarten on Lamar

We came across this bar by chance after visiting the famous Pegasus sign nearby. A true German-style indoor biergarten with a view of the city, a hidden gem! It is part of the Omni Dallas Hotel next door. They serve mainly German beer styles, both from German and local breweries, and of course German pub food. Not for the geeky beer fans among us, but a great stop after walking around the city on a hot day when you’re in need of a refreshing pint. 

665 S Lamar St #1, Dallas

Biergarten on Lamar
Biergarten on Lamar

Fort Worth

Fort Worth is about 33 miles (53 km) from Dallas. The train ride is an hour (it takes more of a detour). The city of Fort Worth was established in 1849 as an army outpost. An interesting fact I learned is that it was the center of the longhorn cattle drives (which we know from the cowboy movies!) and later the ranching industry, making it an important stop along the Texas and Pacific (T&P) railway. Dallas struck me as being a bit more modern and cosmopolitan, while I found Fort Worth to be calmer and greener. I didn’t realize when I was there that the city’s population is the same as Amsterdam’s and that it’s the 15th largest city in the US. It didn’t seem that big! Probably because downtown is quite compact and you don’t have a sense of how far the neighborhoods actually spread out. I brought a little Dutch spirit to the city when I did the grocery shopping and exploring by bike! Their bike sharing system is fantastic. And so is the craft beer scene. We had a lot of fun discovering great beer places!  

The Collective Brewing Project
The Collective Brewing Project

1. The Collective Brewing Project

This is the only place I visited twice on this trip and I think it’s safe to say it probably is our favorite bar in Fort Worth. This is the place for funky and sour beer. We had a lot of fun talking to the super friendly staff there (thanks Cesar, Kenny and Dave!). Their farmhouse ale Suspicious Delicious was one of my favorites (brought one home with me!) and reminded me of the wonderful Alvinne beers from Belgium. It’s easy to get to from downtown on foot, just cross through the T&P railway station. And there is a bike sharing station just outside for all you sporty people!

112 St Louis Ave, Fort Worth

Panther Island Brewing
Panther Island Brewing
Panther Island Brewing
Panther Island Brewing

2. Panther Island Brewing

Just north of downtown, this bar has good beers, games (like air hockey and cornhole), a big screen for sports events and live music. You could easily spend an afternoon here hanging out! The bar has about 13 taps. They offer 4 core beers available year round and brew a specialty beer every season. They also brew small batches of unique beers that they pour in-house only.

Fun fact:
The nickname for Fort Worth, ‘Panther City’, allegedly dates back to a story from 1875, when a visiting lawyer said Fort Worth was so sleepy that nobody noticed a huge, dangerous panther napping in the middle of downtown. Rather than take the insult, Fort Worth’s citizens adopted the panther as a new icon. In 1912, the Fort Worth Police Department added a panther to its badge. Panther Island is a waterfront district in Fort Worth that has been under development since 2004 and aims to support the rapid population increase and at the same time provide flood relief.

501 N Main St, Fort Worth

T&P Tavern
T&P Tavern

3. T&P Tavern

Thanks to a great tip from the guys at The Collective Brewing Project we discovered T&P Tavern inside the T&P train station, a hidden gem! The T&P Tavern is the original train station diner restored and converted into a modern day gastropub, so cool! The selection of 24 beers on tap is pretty incredible, ranging from local Texan craft beers and a several awesome US beers (Deschutes, Founders, Left Hand) to international ones from Belgium, UK and Germany. The food menu looks good, too.

221 W Lancaster Ave, Fort Worth

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

4. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

Another great craft beer stop is Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in downtown Fort Worth, a chain of craft beer bars with an excellent tap list. I think I must have counted at least 80 beers on there. Too many for them to know exactly what they are by heart (e.g. which ones contain lactose), but there is no shortage of Texan hospitality, they went and looked it up for me! That is awesome. Be sure to go on Four Buck Monday, when any draft beer (even the expensive ones) is only $4!

111 E 3rd St, Fort Worth

Brewed Fort Worth
Brewed

5. Brewed

Located on Magnolia Avenue, Brewed is a restaurant (or a local living room as they call themselves) with a nice Texan tap list. Magnolia Avenue is a fun street with lots of food places (like the wonderful vegan Spiral Diner & Bakery) and bars. I came across Brewed by accident while exploring the neighborhood. Those are always the best discoveries! Flights are $8 for four 5 oz. (15 cl) pours and you can choose from 12 taps. 

801 W Magnolia Ave, Fort Worth

Lone Star Taps & Caps
Lone Star Taps & Caps

6. Lone Star Taps & Caps

About 5 miles from downtown you’ll find Lone Star Taps & Caps, a beer store offering growlers and crowlers to go. You have a choice from 50 awesome tap beers (including whoppers like Goose Island 2018 Bourbon County Stout!). There is also a nice sit-down area where you can hang out and taste the beers, how cool is that! We popped in on a Thursday night and the place was buzzing!

6115 Camp Bowie Blvd #114, Fort Worth

Fun facts about Texas

Texas is the second largest US state after Alaska. It’s huge, about the size of France and Switzerland put together. According to the statistics (2016), if it were a sovereign country it would be the 10th largest economy in the world by GDP (ahead of South Korea and Canada). It was also the only state which was a country (known as the Republic of Texas), before becoming part of the United States on February 19, 1846. Hence its nickname ‘The Lone Star State’. And the Texans are proud of that, rightly so! That Texas swagger has resulted in the nation-wide adoption of the wonderful slogan I came to love: “Don’t Mess with Texas”.

There are also some interesting (wacky?) Texas alcohol laws, which seem to be a mix of liberal and conservative.

  • Texas prohibits the sale of liquor on specific days, such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
  • If Christmas Day or New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, the liquor stores have to be closed the following Monday. (Liquor stores cannot be open on a Sunday in Texas.)
  • Prohibition was repealed eight decades ago. Nevertheless, it’s still enforced in 10 Texas counties and several smaller communities remain dry. How to get around this? Form a ‘private’ club with free membership, which lets you order a drink with your meal.
  • As long as a legal guardian over 21 is present – and the bar permits patrons under the age of 21 – a parent can buy alcohol for a minor.
  • Before 2012 local brewers couldn’t call a beer a “beer” if it had alcohol content greater than 4 percent. Texas labeling laws required all malt beverages to be called “ale” or “malt liquor.”
*image borrowed from @whatthebobbin

All images by Tina Rogers unless otherwise specified.

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