Craft Beer Tour 2017: Texas

These photos were taken over the course of three days in Texas, beginning with Grapevine Craft Brewery on October 21, Jester King Brewery, Freetail Brewing, and Pint & Plow on October 22, and finishing with Ode Brewing on October 23.

When I left Louisiana I set my sights on Grapevine, Texas and Grapevine Craft Brewery.

Grapevine Craft Brewery is a production brewery that has been around for four years. I picked it as a destination primarily because I thought Grapevine was Van Horn; which meant once again I had no idea where I was. I had meant to avoid Dallas, but there I was; at least I had a friend that lived down the road a piece and she met me at Grapevine.

Grapevine Craft Brewery has seating inside as well as a dog friendly patio; we opted for staying outside where they also offered live musical entertainment. The taproom was busy, so I did not get to ask any questions, but subsequent research leads me to believe that they are brewing beer for another brewery other than just themselves. They had nine beers on tap and three that were canned; as I was not ready to drink 16 oz of one beer, I had a flight made up consisting of their HopFest United IPA, Monarch Pilsner, Taproom Series Hydro Thunder IPA, Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout, and Taproom Series Dry Hopped Golden Ale. All were solid, but I have no specific notes as I was visiting with my friend instead of rating beer.

Grapevine Craft Brewery is located at 906 Jean Street in Grapevine; they are open seven days a week and seem to have food trucks every day except Monday. You can buy cans of various Grapevine beers in stores, but because they are a production brewery they cannot sell their packaged beer to go; brewpubs, on the other hand, can.

That evening, as I was going through photos in my motel room, I got a message from my friend Jon who is a well-respected writer for The Drinking Classes, as well as being a consultant for Guinness. The message was simple, “You’re going to San Antonio, right? Chasing all the GABF medals?”

To be honest, at that point I thought that San Antonio had to be pretty far east of me and I had not really given it any thought until Jon mentioned Jester King. I mean, arguably one could say that Jester King is the best brewery in Texas, and Freetail Brewing had just won gold at GABF; I was going to have to look at a bigger map. Upon discovering that Austin was basically three and a half hours due south of me, I decided to head to Jester King the next morning.

Jester King Brewery; what can I say about Jester King? Well, guaranteed you are not going to just stumble onto Jester King. Heck, even when your GPS says you have arrived you might have second thoughts, but yeah you want to turn onto that dirt road.

Secondly, if you are seeking a great IPA, porter or stout, you are at the wrong place. However, if you enjoy farmhouse ales, saisons, wild ales and sours, you have arrived.

Jester King is on a working farm, which I later learned plays a big part in their beers. The entire location is dog friendly, and there is seating set up almost like a big park. I wandered around taking photos before ordering an El Cedro and Reposé and sat out on the patio to enjoy the brews and beautiful weather. Just as I finished the El Cedro it was announced that they were giving tours, and yes, Buddy was welcomed to join us.

Having visited more than 200 breweries, I don’t take many tours because if you have seen 100 you have seen them all kind of thing; but something about the beer made me want to go into the belly of the beast, and I am glad I did.

The brewery seems like a two-story barn, with the stainless-steel portion downstairs; and to be honest, at that point a brewery is a brewery kind of thing; but once we walked upstairs everything began to change, for me at least.

Once you go upstairs you realize that Jester King is set up to take advantage of the natural environment of their location. Whether it is the fact that they can actually age their hops under bales of hay, or that they can open the barn windows above the coolship allowing for the breezes to supply natural yeasts of the orchard just outside to cool the wort. I could not help but think this is exactly what the original Belgian brewers did. It really gave me an appreciation for what I had in my glass.

Jester King Brewery is located at 13187 Fitzhugh Road in Austin. They are open Friday through Sunday, are dog and kid friendly and sell bottles to go. They do not sell food and you cannot bring your own, however, Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza is right next door and you can bring food from there. The tours are free and I highly recommend taking one; I am pretty sure that is the first time I ever typed that anywhere.

Leaving Austin I headed south to San Antonio and Freetail Brewing Company. Freetail was recommended because they had just won gold at GABF for their La Muerta, an imperial stout. Freetail has two locations, both in San Antonio. They have their primary brewery and tasting room at 2000 S. Presa; and they have a brewpub located right off the freeway. I needed food, so the brewpub is where I headed.

After visiting Jester King, Freetail seemed to be the polar opposite as far as locations go. While Jester King was in the hills of Austin, Freetail was tucked away in the corner of a pretty large shopping center.

As it was Sunday afternoon, the inside dining area was pretty busy with people enjoying their beer, food and football. Since they have a dog friendly patio, Buddy and I headed out there for lunch.

While it would have been nice to try their gold winning La Muerta, it won in the Aged Beer category which pretty much eliminated the possibility of getting it on tap. Fortunately for Freetail regulars, they bottled La Muerta; unfortunately for me it wasn’t being released for a couple more days. Timing is everything.

On the day of my visit, Freetail had about 15 beers from their main location, four beers they brewed for Ghost Pixel Beer Studio, and six beers that they brewed in-house. As La Muerta was not available, I made up a flight consisting of their Peace Frog Pils, I Hop It That Way Black IPA, Soul Doubt IPA, and Frag Out, an IPA that Freetail brews and cans as Ghost Pixel. Frag Out was good enough that I had to pick up a bunch to go.

The Freetail Brewing Company location I visited is located at 4035 N Loop 1604 W in San Antonio. They are open seven days a weeks, have a dog friendly patio, and sell bottles and cans to go.

As I was finally on I-10 I headed west hoping to find a motel with a laundry that was close to a brewery. I made it an hour west before finding Kerrville; not only did it have a national motel chain that almost always has a laundry, but there was a brewery right around the corner.

While the motel did not have a laundry, I was not going to let that ruin my evening; Buddy and headed over to Kerrville’s first, and only, craft brewery, Pint & Plow Brewing Company.

Pint & Plow is a small and relatively new craft brewery; they have a restaurant that adjoins the brewery that serves salads, pizza and sandwiches. When I say they are small, they are one of the smallest I have come across in that they only serve five beers; naturally, I went for a flight of all five. The flight consisted of the San Y’Bon Lager, Bluestem Wheat, Off-Season Amber, Tchoupitoulas IPA, and La Madrugada Porter. All the beers are relatively low ABV, but the San Y’Bon Lager and Bluestem Wheat were my favorites.

Pint & Plow Brewing Company is located at 332 Clay Street in Kerrville; they are open every day except Tuesday and have a dog friendly patio.

When I got up Monday, I had one primary goal, make it through Texas. Usually, the long part of Texas is a little over 800 miles; I had already driven over 500 and had another 500 to go before I hit El Paso. All I can say is that I am thankful for 75 and 80 MPH speed limits; and since I was going west, I would gain an hour. I set my GPS for Ode Brewing Company in El Paso.

I feel I need to mention something that happened as I got close to my destination; and I am not really sure if I experienced this because I was westbound or because I was using Verizon for my Google Maps. Just as I got close to where I should get off I-10, my phone started pulling in its signal from Mexico. Rush hour in a city you are unfamiliar with is probably not the best time to lose navigation, but I did. I found a university parking lot to pull over in while I rebooted my phone and eventually got my navigation again.

Ode Brewing Company is a brewpub located over by the University of Texas at El Paso. They have a small brewhouse that had eight beers available at the time of my visit. As this was my meal of the day, I ordered a crispy chicken sandwich and a flight consisting of LA Gringa Blonde, Juicy J Pale Ale, The Senator IPA, Das ist Gruit, and Honey Baby Sugie Cookie Brown Ale. All the brews were solid, but you really have to try the Honey Baby Sugie Cookie.

I mentioned the crispy chicken sandwich by name because it was delicious. I was so impressed with the roll it was on that I asked if it came from a local bakery; that is when I was informed that everything that comes out of the kitchen is made from scratch. On my sandwich that included the creamy slaw and cheddar biscuit.

Ode Brewing Company is located at 3233 N. Mesa Street in El Paso. They are open seven days a week, offer growlers to go, and have a dog friendly patio. Cheers!

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Back to Photos of Craft Beer Tour 2017: Texas

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