Sunday, September 6, 2009

Beer Across Texas

Even though Texas has a history of brewing as long as the state’s existence, it is a relative newcomer to the national craft beer movement currently in progress. Compared to other states like Colorado and Oregon, the number of Texas brewers is minor but growing. Nevertheless, some sort of guidebook for Texas breweries has been long overdue.

This story begins about two years ago with a casual correspondence between myself and my long-time friend, Travis Poling. Until recently a business reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, Travis’ typical beer-related conversation on one occurrence yielded this item: He was working on a guidebook for Texas breweries, and already had a publisher interested.

I responded by saying that I, too, was working on a book for Texas breweries, and thus a collaboration was born. The state was divided up and some tasty research was conducted, with the result finally to be released this week as Beer Across Texas: A Guide to the Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State.

The “Golden Age” of modern Texas brewing occurred soon after brewpubs were legalized in 1993. With that new idea in the marketplace and the wealth generated by the emerging dot-com industries, we saw dozens of microbreweries and brewpubs pop up like weeds from entrepreneurs and enthusiasts flush with cash.

But craft brewing is not an easy business and (to be honest) not all those who jumped into the fad should have been there. Craft beer was a hard sell early on, especially in a state with two national breweries and a population that once considered Lone Star and Shiner “specialty” beers. Combined with the financial downturn of the late 1990s and early 2000s, a scant handful of those early brewers have survived until today.

Now that the adolescent batch of brewers has come and gone, we are currently experiencing a Renaissance in the Texas craft beer scene. Although not as numerous as the previous wave of brewers, today we have more active—and financially stable—brewers than at any time since 2001, some 9 microbreweries and about 23 independent brewpubs spread across the state. Even more are planned for 2010.

Mine and Travis’ hope is that Beer Across Texas can become the “official” guide for beer tourism in the State of Texas. Included in it are all details, descriptions, original photographs and contact information for all currently operational craft brewers and brewpubs in our state, as well as a few notable beer-centric locations. We also have a short history of Texas brewing and a guide to a few beer styles and commercial favorites brewed here.

Beer Across Texas is published by Maverick Publishing of San Antonio, who also publish a similar book for wines, The Wine Roads of Texas by Wes Marshall. Work is ongoing to keep this beer guide updated and current, so that subsequent editions can best reflect the growing craft brewing industry of Texas and this book can continue to be an effective travel guide and reference.

The book should be available this week at Amazon or at any commercial book store such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, with a list price of $12.95. It is suitable for both the casual craft beer drinker, reader and traveler as well as those who work in the craft brewing industry. You should buy two, because you might spill beer on one.

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