San Antonio beer enthusiasts and new brew hunters will go to great lengths to take breweries outside the city for a test drive. And with the buzz around Austin’s exploding brewery scene, it’s even tempting to brave the inexcusable traffic morass of the Capitol City to get a taste.
But don’t be so fast to zip through the other cities along your I-35 path — both New Braunfels and San Marcos are worth a relaxing beer day-trip without the traffic jam.
Not only has the Faust Brewing Co. reopened with its own beer after a long hiatus, but the New Braunfels brewpub has also brought food back with a creative and often beer-inspired menu.
The German-influenced Altered States Altbier is an almost-chocolaty interpretation thanks to a higher dose of dark malts than found in a textbook alt, but it stands well on its own with smoked meats and dessert.
Faust Golden Ale is a refreshing brew with some gentle spice notes from the hops that keep it interesting.
And the Mike Crowe IPA is all about the hops hitting the taste buds. There isn’t much here in the way of aroma hops, which I intended to enjoy, but the brewer’s intent was to let the bittering hops do all the talking. A half-gallon growler of this elixir was just the right antidote to the only-got-Bud Light blues at a New Braunfels wedding in May.
Brewer Ray Mitteldorf, a graduate of the highly regarded Siebel brewing school in Chicago and former brewer at Boerne’s Dodging Duck and the defunct Two Rows in Houston, is working on additional seasonal quaffs and is a fixture on the customer side of the bar in his off hours if you feel like chatting about all things beer.
Faust Brewing opens at 4 p.m. every day.
Another 15 miles up the line is San Marcos’ Darkside Fermentation brewery, located inside The Root Cellar Café on the main square and a short walk from the hamstring-stretching hills of Texas State University.
The brewing equipment of Silas Parker is hidden from view, but 750 milliliter Belgian-style beer bottles on the table subtly advertise that this is a serious beer place.
On a recent visit, a beer presented as a hefeweizen was actually more of a Belgian-style witbier combined with the dry notes of a Belgian pale ale. Either way, it flattered a trio of tilapia cakes from the kitchen.
None of the house brews were on draft that day, but bottles are available for drinking in-house or carryout with a $1 deposit. At this writing, a bottle of Mark of the Yeast quadruple hits the spot. It’s bottle-fermented with a tantalizing concoction of raisins, elderberries, sage, wormwood, yarrow, and the introduction of the funky brettanomyces yeast.
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. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.