Summer has hit San Antonio with a vengeance. There’s no better way to cope than with a cold, refreshing beer, and Central Texas craft breweries have what we need. We sampled seven brews perfect for summer days or nights hanging by the pool, floating on the river, or cooling off after mowing the lawn. Several are available at your local grocery stores, while others require a short (but worthwhile) trip to the Austin area.
Shiner Beer ¡Órale!
This Mexican-style lager – with a name that roughly translates to “hell, yeah!” – is brewed with agave and has an earthy, mildly sweet flavor that matches well with summer classics such as tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, and BBQ. The idea for ¡Órale! came from Carlos Alvarez, CEO of Gambrinus Company in San Antonio, which owns Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas, where all Shiner beers are made. Alvare grew up in Mexico and has worked with iconic Mexican cerveza brands such as Corona. He noted a spike in the popularity of craft-brewed Mexican-style lagers and had this one crafted just in time for summer. Available at stores nationwide and in the brewery taproom, which is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 12-6 pm.
Barking Armadillo Brewing Strawberry Poptart Hefeweizen
This Georgetown brewery combined 40 pounds of the filling from Georgetown Pie Company’s handmade strawberry poptarts with a Hefeweizen to make this beer. It has a light refreshing flavor with just a hint of sweetness. (If they’ve run out of it, try El Guapodillo, a light Mexican-style lager, or the refreshing GTX Cream Ale, made with a dash of corn flakes.) A family-owned operation that started in 2013, the Barking Armadillo says it is committed to using carefully selected ingredients in fresh and tasty pours. Available onsite only, along with a menu of staple brews, rotating guest taps, hand-selected wines, and non-alcoholic beverages. There are daily food truck offerings, and dogs and kids are welcome. Open Wednesday through Friday from 4-10 pm, Saturday from 12-10 pm, and Sunday from 12-7 pm.
Beerburg Prickly Pear Milkshake IPA
Beerburg Brewing produces classic styles, seasonal beers, and an experimental Wildcraft Series, made with ingredients sourced as locally as possible (except for hops, which don’t grow well in Texas). Owner/brewmaster and native Texan Trevor Nearburg and head brewer Gino Guerrero have made this seasonal IPA over the years, despite multiple rattlesnake encounters while foraging the fruit. They use vanilla beans, lactose sugar, and lots of oats and hops with melon and berry flavor profiles to boost the earthy melon flavors of the prickly pears. The beer is pink, hazy and delicious, perfect for the summer. It will be available onsite starting June 16 for several months. The brewery features an outdoor deck and wooded beer garden with a fenced-in kids play area and a dog park. Also onsite, Taqueria la Violete, which has an extensive antojito, taco and a la carte menu and an ice cream stand with homemade ice creams and sorbets. Open Thursday from 3-8 pm, Friday and Saturday from 12-9 pm, and Sunday 11 am-7 pm.
Austin Eastciders Passion Fruit Cider
Austin Eastciders uses real fruit in its ciders (including pulp). Passion Fruit Cider, available through August, evokes tropical places with a sweet and tart passion fruit flavor and notes of grapefruit, citrus, and mango. It started as a fan favorite in the Austin tasting room and has a decided summertime flavor, says vice president of marketing Dave Rule. “It pairs well with some of the season’s favorite foods, including Hawaiian BBQ, coconut curry, mascarpone, and sorbet, making it perfect for summer.” Austin Eastciders products are available at major retailers including HEB, Kroger, Target, and Whole Foods and in bars and restaurants, as well as by online ordering or at the Springdale Road tasting room. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 1pm to 10 pm and Sunday from 12pm to 7 pm.
Fitzhugh Brewing Hefeweizen
Texans love their Hefeweizens, a yeasty wheat beer, cloudy due to the yeast. The one from this brewery in Dripping Springs is “a perfect beer for sipping on the porch or by the pool on a hot summer day,” according to head brewer Nathan Rice. “Hefeweizens are light-bodied, low in alcohol content and won’t leave you feeling heavy.” He actually set out to create a Kristallweizen, a beer with the flavor profile of a Hefeweizen but clear rather than hazy, but the yeast had other ideas. “It still has excellent flavor and body, it’s just hazy, like a traditional Hefe.” Rice says the brew was inspired by Fitzhugh customers. “While I like brewing obscure historic styles, I’m also very open to customer feedback and requests. The two biggest questions we get at the bar are ‘What’s your lightest beer?’ and ‘What do you have that’s like a Hefe?’ I think people know and enjoy the style, so I thought bringing one to the table was the only smart choice.”
Available on site and to-go through July 4th or until customers drink it all. Featuring a large family- and dog-friendly outdoor garden, a menu of smoked meats, comfort foods and seasonal sides served by PEJ Kitchens, Fitzhugh Brewing is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-8 pm, Saturday from 11-9 pm (kitchen closes at 8 pm), and Sunday from 12-7 pm.
Lazarus Brewing Black Pearl
A summer offering from Austin's East Sixth street brewery, Black Pearl is a rice lager brewed with a special mountain peppercorn native to Taiwan called Maqaw, which lends notes of lemongrass, ginger and citron to the beer. Black Pearl was inspired when general manager Marcus Ten Harmsel discovered the exotic spice at a local Gin Bar in Taiwan and realized it would lend itself well to a beer. “At 4.9% ABV, it's one of those beers you can drink several of and is immensely refreshing on a hot day,” he says. “And, we won a gold medal for Black Pearl at the World Beer Cup just a couple of months ago. We currently have a little bit left on tap at the brewery, but will have another batch coming soon.” (If they’re out, try East of Eden, a farmhouse-style wild saison with peaches inspired by the ales commonly produced in Belgium and France). Available on tap and in four-pack tallboys to-go. Lazarus features a large shaded patio and deck, and is dog-friendly. Open weekdays from 7:30 am to 11 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm and Sunday from 9 am to 10 pm.
Zilker Brewing Killer Light
Fermenting with a hybrid German yeast and cold conditioning for three weeks gives this German Kolsch a super smooth experience, says Patrick Clark, one of the co-founders of the East Sixth Street brewery in Austin. “We wanted a clean and simple Kolsch to stave off the mid-summer heat,” Clark says. “This is a super clean, simple, easy drinking light beer.” Available on draft and in cans in the taproom starting June 25th and at H-E-B, Whole Foods, and Specs stores on June 28. Zilker features a food truck on site, as well as an outdoor seating area, and its taproom is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11-9 pm, Thursdays 11-10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-11 pm, and Sunday from 11-8 pm.