The last day of 2010 is as good a day as any to look back on what I think was a fantastic year in craft beer, and specifically craft beer in Texas. Look back to 2009 to see what I said about this year.
1) One of the big things this year in Texas was more Texas Breweries opened: Jester King, Ranger Creek, No Label Brewing all opened this year and are producing good beers. In the case of Jester King and Ranger Creek they are producing beers that aren't like any produced in the state. No Label produces one of the best Hefe's I've had. The good news for 2011 is that this trend is bound to continue with many new breweries planning to open. Established Texas brewers continued to put out great beers, notably Real Ale starting a barrel program, releasing popular beers like Sisyphus or Devil's Backbone aged in wine barrels. Saint Arnold released DR 10 a barleywine and started the interesting and educational Moveable Yeast Series where they take their regular beers and brew them with a different yeast. 512 out of Austin continues to expand their line-up brewing double IPA's, Bourbon Barrel Pecan Porter, and a Double Brown Ale. Expect new brews from all these breweries continuing to expand horizons.
2) Unfortunately with the good comes some bad. In a state with so few brew pubs its sad to lose any, and Texas lost two this year: Award winning Covey in Ft. Worth, and the Houston branch of Two Row's. I wasn't a huge fan of Two Rows, but they had installed a new brewer and things were looking up. Speaking of looking up, there is a movement to bring a branch of popular San Antonio Brewpub Freetail to Houston, so look for more info on this in the coming year.
3) 2010 may be remembered as the year that Beerfests finally made it. There were 3 big beer fests this year: Brewmasters International in Galveston, Houston Beer week capped by Monsters of Beer, and Austin Beer week. All were successful to various degrees, but the key is that they WERE successful, lessons were learned and the coming year will bring bigger and better things. We know things will be bigger from this interview that Ronnie Crocker had with Monsters of Beer founder Cathy Clark, going from 10 breweries and 600 attendees to 50 breweries and 3000 attendees. Quite a big step, but I have no doubt that Houston and Texas beer lovers will support it. Plan ahead, Houston Beer week will be the week of November 12.
4) Along with great beer festivals came an increase in restaurants holding beer dinners. There were quite a few during Houston Beer week of course (including this amazing one at Catalan). However other restaurants have stepped up and held other beer dinners most notably Vic & Anthony's where Chef Carlos Rodriguez stepped out side the usual V&A fare and served some amazing food pairing them with brews from Dogfish Head, Stone, and Brew dog on 3 different occasions. Chef Rodriguez promises more to come and has already announced that the first beer dinner of the new year will be on 11 February featuring beers from Colorado's Left Hand.
5) As with last year, more and more beer books are being released, further helping to educate and entertain beer lovers. This was my favorite book of the year, and frankly one of my favorite beer books period.
For next year, besides new breweries, new beers, bigger and better beer fests, one of the most important things is that the Texas Legislature will be in session and hopefully a new bill will be submitted to allow breweries to sell beer on site. Unlike wineries who can sell wine in their on site tasting rooms, breweries in Texas don't have this luxury. 2 attempts have been made, so maybe, just maybe the third time is the charm. The new year promises to be big one for Texas craft beer lovers and I'll be here posting my thoughts. What were your highlights of this past year? What are you most looking forward to? Leave your thoughts below.