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Austin, Texas, has become craft brew country.
With more than 5,500 craft breweries across the U.S., the Lone Star State is becoming a powerhouse in brewing specialty liquor. The industry contributes about $4.5 billion per year to Texas' economy, where more than 200 breweries account for 3.5 percent of the total brewing activity in the country.
Many of those are located in Austin, which has become a destination for all things hip and cultured, including the annual South by Southwest confab. For beer aficionados looking to chug specialty brew during football games (and to wash down Thanksgiving leftovers), CNBC took a look at several of the more noteworthy craft breweries dotting the landscape of Austin and its surrounding area.
Located on several scenic acres in the south Austin hills, Jester King Brewery is an authentic farmhouse outfit founded by brothers Jeffrey and Michael Stuffings. Under the direction of head brewer Averie Swanson — one of the few female brewers in a male-dominated industry — Jester King specializes in eclectic farmhouse ales with names like Le Petit Prince, Black Metal and Wytchmaker.
Depending on the time of year, Jester King Brewery actively markets around six to 18 different ales, and has brewed well over 100 different kinds.
Founded in 2010, Dripping Springs-based Twisted X Brewing Company offers up an array of small-batch craft beers. The result is a flight of high-quality craft lagers, pilsners, IPAs, as well as many others that include Austin Lager, Fuego Jalapeno Pilsner, Vienna Lager, and Chupahopra Dry-hopped India pale ale (IPA). More recent entries include Gulf Kolsch Blonde Ale (an homage to the influence of German settlers in central Texas) and Whoa-Mango IPA, as well as several seasonal brews.
The brewer's spacious grounds and inviting indoor-outdoor tasting room are an excellent excuse for travelers to stop and while away a few hours or more.
Treaty Oak Distillery, founded a decade ago by Daniel Barnes and Bruce Graham, is an award-winning maker of small-batch craft spirits that has recently expanded into the growing craft beer scene.
Located just outside of Austin, the spacious property includes a tasting room, a gift shop, a bar, and a restaurant in addition to the brewery and distillery. Treaty Oak Brewing's first brewed options include Lil' Hop Session IPA, Bright Side Blonde Ale and Fitzhugh British Mild Ale.
Nestled in a 22-acre facility close to Austin that features a taproom, several beer gardens and a nine-hole disc golf course, Live Oak specializes in European-style beers. It currently offers four beers year-round at the taproom and at retail: Hefeweizen, Pilz, Big Bark Amber Lager and Liberation IPA. In addition, several beers are featured seasonally, like Oktoberfest and Primus Weizenbock.
Despite only selling beer in Texas, Real Ale is one of the oldest and largest pioneers in the Texas craft brewing community. Under the watchful eye of Principal Brewer and COO Tim Schwartz, Real Ale currently brews approximately 20 different lagers and ales — including Han's Pils, a North German-style pilsner, Full Moon Rye IPA, and Firemans #4 Blonde Ale. The latter recently won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival.
Real Ale's facility in Blanco produces 60,000 barrels a year, and has recently commissioned a newer brewhouse intended to expand capacity up to 250,000 barrels per year.
Husband-and-wife owners David and Quynh Rathkamp came to the brewing industry through an unusual route: medical school. Both David and Quynh are licensed physicians who practiced medicine in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex for 15 years before deciding to embrace their passions for brewing and charity work.
Hence the name Save The World Brewing Co., a 100 percent philanthropic-based brewery that donates all profits to local, national and international charities. The brewery focuses on Belgian-inspired ales with Latin-sounding names like Agnus Dei Wit beer, Lux Mundi "Father's Ale," Humilus Filius Belgian pale ale and Fructum Bonum Saison. Its numerous seasonal beers and ales are such that "anyone from beer aficionados to newbies can enjoy," Quynh Rathkamp told CNBC.
Last Stand Brewing Co. typically offers between 12 and 14 different beers in its taproom. Four are offered year-round at the taproom (and commercially through retailers like H-E-B Grocery), while the rest constantly rotate.
The four year-round beers are Saaz Blonde, Simcoe Pale Ale, Citra Smash IPA and Coffee Porter. Short-term growth is focused on increasing sales volume at retail, while longer-term plans include additional Last Stand brewpubs in various communities in the Austin region.
Acopon's Brewing Co.'s core brewing competency is English-style pub ales. They serve up a new cask beer every week, and do not use any finings, or filter their beers. Current offerings include Homunculus Ale, Gaspipes Bitter, Pesta Oatmeal Stout, Pandemic Porter, American-style Merrie-Go-Down IPA, Bellibone Blonde Ale and American-style Mina (Cask) Pale Ale.
The primary goal of Principal Owners John McIntosh and Dave Niemeyer is to be a popular, hometown brewery, with revenue generated almost exclusively from the tap room.