Texas beer can’t match Colorado, but it ain’t bad, y’all

by DGO Web Administrator

One of the most interesting things about Durango is how vastly the population changes during the summer. Walking around looking at license plates, one might think that Durango was on the border of Texas. Listening to people talk, you might think that “y’all” is a normal part of the southern Colorado dialect. And when you eat out around town, there is so much Texas influence, you would not miss the food if you were from the Lone Star State. Yes, Texans are very influential in Durango, and Texans may bring good food, tourists, and drive too many big trucks, but they are not importing a lot of beer or weed. Those are the cultural icons that Colorado firmly holds onto.

I don’t know anything about smoking weed in Texas, but when I think of drinking in Texas, I will always think of Lone Star. (Ed. note: As a native Texan, I tip my humongous cowboy hat to both you and Lone Star, the real king of beers.) The crisp, clean, easy-drinking lager goes perfectly with the hot, humid summer days in Texas. Texas is an entire country to itself, and it has a beer to drink from the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the high plains of the Pan Handle, and from the Rio Grande to the Bayou. Lone Star is the perfect go-to.

And, when you eat Texas food – spicy Tex-Mex, traditional Southern chuck wagon cooking, Texas BBQ brisket, or Cajun cuisine – Texas has another perfect beer for food: Shiner Bock, an amber lager with the perfect amount of malty goodness to compliment all the different styles of cooking.

Even though Texas is known for these traditional lager beers, that’s not all Texas has to offer. More and more, Texas is jumping into the craft beer world with both feet. Every corner of the state has craft breweries, and some that are world-class.

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, a brewery located in the Deep Ellum neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, is a brewery growing super fast and super deep, and recently joined CANarchy, the craft brew collective started by Oskar Blues and funded by Fireman Capital. According to a recent article in The Full Pint, the majority of Deep Ellum’s 44,000 barrels of production are sold within 20 miles of the brewery. They brew some really solid mainstream beers, but the interesting stuff, to me, is coming out of the barrel program.

Freak Flag, a Flemish-inspired sour red ale, is a really rad beer. It has layers of flavors and aromas that seem to contradict each other, yet it all comes together to create a complex and cohesive whole. It starts with a deep red-brown color with some off-tan foam, if you pour a little aggressively. The smell is immediately cherry cordial with a little oak, and some noteworthy but not overbearing barnyard funk (not so much horse blanket or chicken coop, but more leather straps of horse-drawn plow). When you get to tasting, there’s figs-dates-plums, both dried and fresh versions, then notes of sherry, sweet vermouth, and other fortified wines, and as it warms up there’s the obvious bourbon barrel notes of vanilla, cocoa, wood, and fusel alcohol.

Freak Flag sounds like a pretty weird beer for Texas, but Texas is home to one of the most wild and creative breweries in the country. Jester King, a farmhouse brewery in the Hill Country outside of Austin, Texas, knows what it’s doing and is leading the way in brewing sour and wild beer in the United States. They are one of the founding members of SWAG, Sour and Wild Ale Guild, a collection of breweries producing sour and wild ale, whose goal is to promote and educate consumers on the category.

I recently opened a bottle of Noble King, a hoppy farmhouse ale (the description from the bottle). This description doesn’t really do this beer any favors, because it’s so much more complex than that, and you will be very let down if you’re looking for hops and farmhouse funk. It pours a nice golden-yellow color, with a sleek white foam that will lace if you let it pour hard in the glass, but it’s got plenty of hidden C02 when you swirl. The aroma is white grape, with notes of potted flowers, unripe vine and stone fruit, with a slight note of kombucha in the background. On the palate, it’s got a clean biscuit/cracker start, with lime pith on the mid-swallow and a pleasant hop bitter finish. Noble King is such a good beer, but only hoppy if you wait til the bitter end.

Texas beer probably isn’t up to par with Colorado, but they are up and coming, and hopefully excellent home state beer means fewer Texans overstaying their vacations.

*Full disclosure: The author is half-Texan and still visits his family’s farm in Haskell County every summer.

Robbie Wendeborn is the head brewer at Svendæle Brewing in Millerton, New York. He is also a former beer plumber at Ska Brewing.

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