Lookout for lagers
It should come as no surprise that with German immigrant brewmasters launching the Texas beer industry in the mid-1800s, Bavarian and Bohemian lagers ruled the roost. And mass produced variations on pilsner lagers were the mainstream beer of choice.
But the better-beer movement has mostly delivered us a lot of ale styles from lighter golden ales to big, dark, and sweet Scotch ales. There’s nothing wrong with a well-made lager and the market is coming around.
Of the Texas lagers you can get in San Antonio, Live Oak Brewing Co. of Austin was in the forefront with a pils, and European-style pilsner also graced the menu at San Antonio’s Blue Star Brewing Co. for many years. Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth came out of the gate with the three lagers: a red, a black, and a blonde. And, of course, Shiner’s Spoetzl Brewery has specialized in lagers from the beginning.
But the microbrew world of Texas was decidedly ale-centric until recently.
In recent years, unfiltered, or keller, helles lagers from Fredericksburg and Austin have won awards at the Great American Beer Festival. Real Ale Brewing Co. of Blanco brewed its first pilsner this summer, and new breweries in the San Antonio and Austin areas have lagers in their lineups.
Pedernales Brewing Co. is opening a microbrewery in Fredericksburg that is early in construction but already including a bock (although maybe more a sweeter märzen from a taste test last year), a light lager, and a schwarzbier, or black lager beer.
Recent interviews with several new brewers opening early next year in Austin (with plans to distribute in San Antonio) revealed still more lagers. Circle Brewing Co. is planning a blonde bock. Austin Brew Works, with canned beers in the lineup, will have a German pils and a schwartzbier. Likewise, the fledgling Hops & Grain brewery is making a black lager.
Eugene Simor of Alamo Beer Co. reports he recently toured 15 breweries in the Pacific Northwest and then the regional brewery in Shiner to get a feel for how his San Antonio brewery should be laid out.
“The mistake I don’t want to make is to not think big enough from the start,” Simor said. He is waiting for the city of San Antonio to finalize a decision on a definition of microbrewery in its code. The state defines it as being under 75,000 barrels a year. •
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current and is author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State. Please send beer news and event information two weeks in advance to [email protected].