For the latest issue of Imbibe, I take a deep dive into Texas’s burgeoning beer scene. These days, nary a month passes without a Texas brewery expanding or starting up. Long-running operations, such as Live Oak and Spoetzl, are increasing capacity, while Austin is exploding with breweries and brewpubs, such as Hops & Grain, Austin Beerworks, South Austin Brewing and community-supported Black Star Co-op. Dallas is also booming with Deep Ellum and Peticolas Brewing, which won gold at 2012’s Great American Beer Festival for its Royal Scandal pale ale, while Houston recently welcomed Buffalo Bayou and Karbach. And with their wild and barrel-aged ales and style-defying mash-ups—care for a smoky, subtly sour Chipotle Lichtenhainer?—experimental breweries, such as Jester King and Freetail, are making drinkers look at the Lone Star State in a brand-new light.
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My Current Top 5 Beers
1) Deschutes Brewery Red Chair NWPA: Step aside, Sierra Nevada Celebration. My new favorite hoppy winter seasonal hails from Deschutes. Red Chair pours out radiant copper, releasing a heady perfume of citrus and fresh-baked biscuits. It's a touch of spring in the depths of winter.
2) Allagash Coolship Cerise: I feel guilty writing about Cerise. The spontaneously fermented beer is bottled in insanely small batches and is only sold at the brewery in Portland, Maine. But if someone offers you a taste of Cerise, greedily accept it. Made with cherries, the beer is tart, fruity perfection.
3) The Alchemist Heady Topper: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the East Coast's answer to Russian River's Pliny the Elder. Vermont-brewed Heady is a dank, deeply resinous double IPA. It's a fresh, unfiltered exploration into the almighty power of hops.
4) Maine Beer MO: Over the last few years, this little Maine brewery has made big waves with its hop-forward ales such as Peeper and the resinous Lunch IPA. My pick? MO, a piney, citrusy pleasure with a surprisingly dry finish.
5) Smuttynose Wheat Wine: Forget barley wines: This winter, I'm drinking wheat wines, which are boozy beers made with a measure of smooth, calming wheat. Smuttynose's citrusy, vanilla-scented offering is among the best of the bunch. It drinks with a pinch of caramel sweetness, while crisp bitterness and smooth oak balance out this luscious slow sipper. One note: It gets even better with age.