What would an all-local Texas beer look like?

0

I just got back from a vacation in Maine, where I consumed about 20 pints of Maine-brewed beer in six days. But this article is not about my holidays or my unhealthy habits. This is Maine’s commitment to truly local beer.

Pint after pint we saw and tasted beers with local roots deeper than the address where they were made. We drank beers made from seaweed or kelp and a salty Rising Tide gose brewed with seawater. Oxbow regularly creates beers with 100% Maine-grown ingredients. Maine hops, Maine malts, Maine yeast, Maine oats: all local, always. In the winter, they even brew a stout with oysters from the Damariscotta River.

One morning, in the clarity of sobriety, I asked myself: what would a truly indigenous style of Texas beer look like? How would our beer taste if Texas breweries had such a strong commitment to state products? Is such loyalty to Texan ingredients even possible?

The answer is complicated. Almost any beer ingredient can be grown in Texas. TexMalt in Fort Worth is a renowned supplier of malts, and Community Cultures Yeast Lab in San Antonio partners with many growers. Breweries across the state use locally grown additives like mesquite beans, herbs, jalapeño peppers and oats.

But that thought isn’t too common yet, and there’s a big problem: hops.

Sidebar: At the start of a road trip through another part of the country, stock up on good local beers. That way, if you’re stuck in a motel at 8:30 p.m. with no nightlife and nothing to do, you have a backup plan. This is the mini-fridge from the author’s hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine. And yes, the beer in the middle is a Barenaked Ladies joke.
Brian Reinhart

Hops are a flower grown on climbing plants and require a lot of watering. A study claims that the hops in a pint of beer are the product of 50 pints of water. The plant also needs some sunlight, no more and no less, although different varieties can tolerate different temperatures (European hops prefer cooler air than American types).

Even this problem can still be solved. Jester King, the Texas leader in beers made with local ingredients, made an “All Texas” beer in 2021 with hops grown in a friend’s garden. (I’m not sure, but this may be the very first all-native beer in the state.) Two companies have opened in previous years promising hydroponically grown hops, Dallas Hop Works and The Hopperdashery from Austin. Unfortunately, both now appear to be inactive. Circle Brewing in Austin will soon open a “brew farm” in Elgin; before the pandemic, he said his plans included growing hops on site.

Michael Peticolas, owner of Peticolas Brewing Company, thought seriously about making an all-local beer. He says the biggest challenge for an all-Texan beer in regular production is scale. While you can grow hops or source TexMalt barley (which he admires), it’s hard to get the quantities and consistency needed to put the resulting beer into regular rotation.

“We grew hops ourselves,” says Peticolas. “We used some of our hops in our cask beers. We thought of combining all this [local] elements and put them in a beer. But we’re not looking to make a beer once, we’re looking to make a successful beer, and you can’t buy ingredients in those quantities.

Today, additives are the main way for Texas breweries to connect with their home environment. Jester King’s collaboration beer with BBQ Aaron Franklin features smoked figs; just across the road, Beerburg tosses mesquite beans into dark beer and uses herbs found on its own property, such as lemon balm and mugwort. San Marcos Roughhouse Brewery estimates 85 percent of its grains and malts are in the state and makes a spring brew with flowers from its garden.

Another obvious route to local flavor is Texas’ Hispanic heritage. Tupps frequently serves a pale ale poblano, and I soon have to stop by On Rotation to try their season of jalapeño. Probably my all time favorite beer from Four Corners is its grapefruit saison queen beewhich recently featured citrus from Bayview, Texas.

“There’s a brewery in San Antonio called Islla Street that does a beer with Chamoy,” says Ruvani de Silva, an Austin-based beer writer who recently documented farm-to-glass breweries for Texas monthly. “Freetail in San Antonio used Chamoy. With the opening of the Desert Door Distillery outside of Austin, making Texas sotol, some breweries have been aging their beer in sotol casks. It was something that I thought was really interesting and a way to get a really cool, very local ingredient into beer. It kind of died out with COVID, haven’t seen one in a long time, but would love to see that again.

De Silva points out that there is one Texan ingredient, central to everything, that I had forgotten: water.

Hill Country’s limestone-filtered aquifer produces water that would make brewers in other countries jealous. She told me about a trip to another state that won’t be named, where every beer seemed disappointing – until she discovered the area’s water supply had a lot of contaminants. The only good brewery she found there did its own filtration.

“Water is a big, big thing,” she says, like the moral of the story. “Most of those [Hill Country] the breweries have wells on site. Having this water on site is certainly an important element in making a particularly local beer.

Peticolas isn’t shy about bragging about Dallas Water, either. “The mineral content of our water here in North Texas is favorable for brewing. Personally, I think the beers you get here in North Texas are on par with what you get with Oregon and Colorado because of that backbone of that water.

Ultimately, while the all-local idea doesn’t currently fit Peticolas Brewing’s focus on replicable beers with a consistent supply, its owner hopes someone else will try the concept.

“There is certainly room to do [an all-local beer]said Peticolas. “I guess it’s the hops and consistency, and making it awesome.”

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

See profile

Brian Reinhart became D Magazine’s food critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

Share.

Comments are closed.