Story by Sean Armstrong / Pictures by Ralph Yznaga
For many, these recent, uncertain weeks have been a time to reflect on what matters most. They’ve been a time for video conferencing, hand sanitizing, homecooking, homeschooling, to-go tacos and binge-watching Tiger King. They’ve been a time for solidarity with family, friends and neighbors.
And they’ve been a time for cold beer. Specifically, delicious, locally crafted beer.
As most bars and restaurants remain indefinitely shuttered, local breweries, along with the entire industry, have struggled to cope with the crisis, too. Luckily for beer aficionados, canned and bottled brews still remain widely available. Many breweries are also offering growlers, crowlers and other to-go options straight from the taproom.
Along with washing your hands, social distancing and tipping delivery people generously, enjoying tasty beer has become a matter of civic duty. In the interest of public health, here are 10 stellar local brews to bring you some much-needed cheer during these uncertain times.
Pecan Porter, (512) Brewing Company — 6.2% ABV
Porter fans, rejoice. This bonafide Austin classic is finally available in bottle form. Brewed with organic Texas pecans, the hearty concoction’s robust, nutty aromas are well balanced with sweet, malty notes and hints of chocolate lurking within its delectable depths. Its impenetrably dark pour and otherworldly flavor profile make this longtime favorite the perfect pairing for starry Texas nights and long bouts of quiet contemplation.
Hans’ Pils, Real Ale Brewing Co. — 5.3% ABV
Blanco-based Real Ale may be best known for their wildly popular Firemans #4, but their crisp and refreshing Hans’ Pils is truly spring in a can. Fresh, bright and leafy overtones hit with a tickling carbonation that quenches thirst in the Texas heat like nothing else. Toss in an eye-opening amount of hops for an otherwise traditional pilsner, and you’ve got yourself the ideal companion for freshly cut lawns, overworked grills and long, lazy hours in the hammock.
Blood Orange IPA, Austin Beerworks — 7.0% ABV
There is nothing subtle about Blood Orange. One look at its iconic white and orange can, and you’ll know you’re in for a unique experience. Normally, when we’re all taking showers and attending social events, this fashionable six-pack would be one to accessorize with. These days, we can still appreciate its bright bursts of citrusy hops and dangerously deceptive drinkability all on its own. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.
Dale’s Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Brewery — 6.5% ABV
Since opening a brewery here in 2016, Austinites have been proud to welcome this Rocky Mountain import as one of our own. The generously hopped American Pale Ale has long been a favorite in the craft beer scene, and its eyebrow-raising balancing act of floral, headstrong hops and pale malts fully back up its reputation. With its endless swiggability and unpretentious packaging, Dale simply can’t fail.
Hefeweizen, Live Oak Brewing Co. — 5.3% ABV
Launched decades before the craft beer boom, Live Oak’s much celebrated and sought after hefeweizen remains a paragon of traditional German brewing sensibility. This easy-drinking brew brims with sweet clove, banana and vanilla flavors matched by a healthy dose of wheat malts and, refreshingly, nary a hint of hops. One sip makes you yearn for simpler times — when we didn’t have to think twice about running into H-E-B for a case to bring to our buddies’ cookouts. The way I see it, Live Oak Hef is the official beer of Texas summer — and maybe fall, winter and spring, too.
A Pale Mosaic, Hops & Grain — 5.9% ABV
If beer is to be considered art (and it surely must be), then A Pale Mosaic is art in its highest form. True to its name, this very drinkable IPA is made up of a magical mosaic of Old World malts and New World hops. The result is a crisp, complex whirlpool of flavor that is right on the money.
Urban Chicken Saison, Friends & Allies — 4.9% ABV
As the name implies, old country values mingle casually with refined, city slicker sensibilities in this modern take on the classic farmhouse ale. Saaz and Magnum hops, notes of fruit and spice and a low alcohol content make this a saison for all seasons.
Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout, Independence Brewing Co. — 8% ABV
Good morning. The sun has risen over the Hill Country, and you’re famished. Thankfully, Independence Brewing’s stoutest of stouts has you covered. Dense and dark Convict Hill’s heady, rich, roasted malts, sweet chocolate aromas and undeniably smooth, oaty finish make it an integral part of a well-balanced brunch.
Parks & Rec, Zilker Brewing Co. — 5.3% ABV
Some beers are just meant to be enjoyed outdoors. With a portion of every sale going toward the Austin Parks Foundation, the aptly named Parks & Rec certainly pairs well with a fresh breeze. A bright burst of hops (led by the Centennial variety in honor of Zilker Park’s recent 100th anniversary) makes this pale ale an appropriately fresh and vibrant go-to for spring.
Mr. Mingo,Jester King — 4.5% ABV
Who is Mr. Mingo? It’s a mystery known only to the mad geniuses behind one of Jester King’s latest — and perhaps most pleasant — concoctions: a lighthearted farmhouse ale artfully brewed with roselle hibiscus flower. As with all their beers, Mr. Mingo is unfiltered, unpasteurized and entirely unconventional. The funky, lipstick pink brew’s initial tartness is well matched by its vivacious carbonation and high guzzlability, making Mr. Mingo a great choice for a daytime drinking partner. Despite the audacious color, the promised hibiscus arrives almost as a whimsical afterthought — a refreshing dessert to showcase the mysterious Mr. Mingo’s flowery personality.