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Feb 14, 2010 09:28 AM

Drinking the Regional Beers of Central Texas: Austin to Blanco

The Austin area is awash in delicious beers.

Live Oak is unbelievable. Each beer they make is perfectly balanced with consistent flavor. I can't wait til they start bottling. Til then a kegerator with their Pilz is a must if you don't have access to the middle of Texas.


Real Ale in nearby Blanco is their equal. I'm not crazy about their flagship Fireman's 4 but their other beers are out of sight. A session with Devil's Backbone is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.


Independence has really improved their consistency. When I need a heavy dose of hops I head straight to the tavern for their Stash IPA.


While Uncle Billy's barbecue is nothing to get excited about they do have Brian Peters as their brewmaster. I haven't had a beer yet of his that wasn't a careful take on whatever classic style he's chosen to brew at the moment.


512 Brewing Company is the new entry in Austin's brewing field. Their Pecan Porter is delicious. It's inspired a friend of mine to start baking with beer. Pecan Porter Banana Nut loaf anyone?


Who's doing their fair share of Texas beer drinking?

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  1. Real Ale brews the Drafthouse ESB, which sells for 4.50 a pint (U.S.) at the Alamo Drafthouse. Quite a good beer for the price.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TroyTempest

      I generally agree with original post (I am newish to Austin from California, San Diego and, before that, bay area, where we take our microbrews very seriously indeed). Central Texas beers are a rapidly improving lot.

      I would quibble with the positive view of Independence. I'll retry the Stash IPA, but so far I am not a fan.

      I always will support Central Texas small breweries, but so far as Texas writ large is concerned, II haven't seen a local brewery that competes well yet with St. Arnold's in Texas (although Live Oak & Real Ale comes close).

      IMHO, Austin restaurants (those not connected to the breweries themselves) need to support actively these local beers. I get irritated by New Belgium in particular, a Colorado brewery which, while generally good, is taking bar taps from comparable/superior Texas products. Ditto their wide shelf space at Central Market and Whole Food's (In fairness, one could say the same about California, but I might say, with bias, say that this is somewhat difference -- TX ain't yet close to the very best Cali brews.

    2. Real Ale is my favorite Texas brewer, their Full Moon Pale Rye Ale is one of my current go-to's. I just tried their Phoenixx Double ESB the other day, very drinkable.

      Keep forgetting to order Live Oak when I have a chance (which isn't often, they do need to start bottling). Independence Pale Ale was (just) decent when I had it a while ago. Never seen Uncle Billy's or 512, I'll keep my eyes open.

      I know it's not Central Texas, but Southern Star Brewery in Conroe is making some good beers (and their Pine Belt Pale Ale comes in 16oz cans, very cool).

      I just find it very unfortunate that in a huge beer-loving state like Texas, the TABC makes it very difficult to start up a microbrewery.

      2 Replies
      1. re: healthyscratch

        you won't see Uncle billy's unless you go top Uncle Billy's. It is only served on the premises.

        1. re: healthyscratch

          Love the Full Moon. Great, great beer.

        2. Whats this, a Texas beer thread and no love for the Spoetzl brewery?
          Id reckon itd be considered a central beer, perhaps not since its closer to San Antonio but I digress.
          Shiner beer is always a staple in my house, Im really digging their Frost ale. Very clean and hoppy, something I look forward to in such an ale.
          Next time I go out to Austin, I'll have to remember to try Live Oak as Ive only heard good reviews about it.
          Do they bottle their beers or it is strictly on tap?

          3 Replies
          1. re: unclepat

            Live Oak is strictly a tap brewery right now. They've procured a tract of land and will be building a bigger version of their current operation at some point.

            1. re: unclepat

              I'm not a fan of Shiner beer but their current commemorative beer 101, celebrating 101 years of operation, is delicious. It's a dry Pilsener with a nice mineral finish. Easily the best Shiner I've ever tried and the first Spoetzl Brewery beer I've found that I would seek out at the market.

              Live Oak is no longer making their IPA. They've replaced it with their Liberation Ale, a beer that had vanished for almost 3 years as the brewery couldn't procure the hops crucial to production.

              Real Ale's seasonal Devil's Backbone is back and this year's batch is incredible. Enjoy it while you can as a couple Austin bars have already sold out of their allotment. I love it mixed 3:1 with Live Oak Pilsener. I'm sure it's heresy but one of my bartenders made this [Devil Pill] for me a couple nights ago and the bone dry Pilz married nicely with the sweet ale.

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                They're bottling Devil's Backbone now. Saw some in an HEB.

            2. Friends who are Austinites served lots of Real Ale at their wedding and a great time was had by all.

              That said, I miss Celis. Still have a few glasses that've survived and fond memories of going on the tour a couple of times during visits to town.

              7 Replies
              1. re: ted

                The Celis story is indeed a strange one. Do they sell the Michigan-brewed Celis in TX these days?

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  I've seen it in local stores. I've also heard that the Celis family doesn't really endorse it heartily.

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    The couple times I had the MI version, it definitely lost something in the translation.

                    1. re: ted

                      Supposedly Pierre Celis chose Austin to brew his beer because the mineral content in the water was similar to that in his native Belgium. If this is so, and not just something they made up for the benefit of Austinites, then I'm assuming that would be one of the major things that didn't translate well.

                      1. re: TroyTempest

                        How about a little love for Saint Arnold's?

                        Texas Wheat
                        Brown Ale
                        Summer Pils

                        I know they make others but those are the only ones I have had to date. I will have to check out Real Ale. Didn't even know it was a Texas beer. I have drank a few of the Shiners and they are okay too. I am all about supporting our local brewers and keeping the money in the state. Great thread!!!

                        1. re: Liveitloud

                          The St. Arnold's Elissa is an excellent IPA. Sometimes they have it in the cask at the Gingerman. Haven't been there in a while, so i don't know if it is still there, but definitely worth checking out if you get a chance.

                        2. re: TroyTempest

                          This story is not likely true. In the past, brewers were limited (or blessed) by the natural water sources available to them. Today, water chemistry is pretty well understood and modern commercial breweries can alter the mineral content of water to suit the style being brewed.

                2. Real Ale and St. Arnold are definitely in my top 3. Lost Gold IPA changed my life by tuning me into cask beer and I really miss Divine Reserve 5. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the Freetail brewpub in San Antonio, who I'd consider the very top. The yearly release of barrel aged La Muerta is the closest thing we have to Dark Lord Day.

                  The Austin area is looking exciting since there are actually at least five or so start-up breweries. Some are planning or acquiring capital while there are a couple ready to open their doors.

                  Thirsty Planet provided a progress report.
                  I've heard their IPA may pop up at the Austin saucer as early as later this week.

                  Jester King have made some good progress on their building as well.

                  Here's info on the others:

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: air

                    Since this thread has morphed into statewide who's tried Southern Star in Conroe?


                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                      I just felt the need to add Freetail into the mix considering their significant contributions to the Texas beer scene, and they're also really not that far away from Austin. All in all I would agree the better brewers are based towards Central Texas. Bottom line, more people (especially fans of craft beer) should be aware the folks at Freetail are innovating and working hard to produce a quality product. IMO their brewpub is the best place to drink a beer in the whole state. They have even been covered by CNN.

                      I've only had the canned offerings from Southern Star. Whenever I go out of state, I've obliged a few requests to trade for the Buried Hatchet stout. I really want to try out their Pro-Am series, which are the winners of their homebrew competitions. Sort of like how Saint Arnold picks up the Divine Reserves. Last year's was a saison and if I remember right, the Libertine tapped a keg of it.

                      Freetail and Real Ale are having a barrel-aged mini beer festival on July 17 if anyone is interested. I'll be there for sure. What an impressive line up of beers.