Taking a look back just four years to former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh's list of Top 10 Texas beers from 2008 shows what a difference a few years make.
While the list holds some very solid selections, like Pale Moon and Live Oak Pilz -- as well as one carry-over to this list-- the sheer diversity and depth of what is available now highlight the slim pickings on that list. Need further proof? His No. 1 pick, Elissa, isn't even the second-best IPA that Saint Arnold brewed this year.
To compile this list, we looked through hundreds of Texas-brewed beers available this year, researched beer review sites like Ratebeer and Beer Advocate as well as the Great American Beer Festival medal results for Texas breweries the past two years. Then, after careful consideration, we took all that useless crap, threw it out and picked our ten favorite beers this year.
Honorable Mention: Deep Ellum Darkest Hour
The beer that put Deep Ellum on our radar late last year also happens to share its name with a completely awesome metal band -- a band with a Houstonian as a member, no less. We've been waiting for the re-release of this seasonal for ten months. The last batch lasted about a week in Houston and with good reason: It rocks.
10. Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 12
This years's Divine Reserve release gets props for a couple of reasons. Much like DR 11 (which has been re-released as Endeavour)f Divine Reserve that was enjoyable for the casual beer drinker yet complex enough to satisfy the beer nerds. It's also enjoyable fresh -- something we simply don't feel DR 9 and DR 10 can claim -- as well as being suitable for aging.
9. Austin Beerworks Peacemaker
As we remember it, a handful of ABW's year-round brews could have made this list, but since Austin Beerworks pulled out of Houston, we can't really remember what they taste like. A friend was nice enough to bring back a stash of our favorite, Peacemaker, recently. Drinking the white can was kind of like hooking up with our ex: It turns out she was as awesome as we remember, but the whole experience kind of just stirs up bad memories, so we just stopped halfway through and cried ourselves to sleep.
8. Live Oak Hef
Texas's strong German heritage isn't quite dead yet, especially if Live Oak has something to say about it. This is the old standby. The only carry-over mentioned in Walsh's original article, Live Oak Hef isn't just one of the best beers in Texas, it's arguably one of the best Hefeweizens in the entire country. If you don't like this, you don't like beer.
7. Jester King Le Petit Prince
It seems Jester King may have started to really get a grasp on its wild yeast and souring bacteria flavor profiles. We've seen some great stuff in their last three or four releases. We all know Jester King brews great beer, but things have been a bit uneven the past ten to 12 months, and -- if we are being honest -- we aren't quite over the death of Black Metal. If Le Petit Prince is any indication, Jester King is headed in a good direction.
6. Lakewood Temptress
This beer shot onto the scene with a bang recently and considering we can't get The Temptress here in Houston just yet, we still hear a lot of buzz about it. Velvety and smooth as silk, it reminds us of our very first Southern Star Buried Hatchet. This one is bound for bottles very soon, so you should see it at bottle shares soon, we imagine. Or just have someone from Dallas ship you some; it's worth it.
5. 512 Pecan Porter
The once and future king of Texas craft beer -- first one to explain that reference in the comments wins a cookie. It's rare to find a beer drinker who doesn't enjoy Pecan Porter. If you do come across one, it's more likely they've simply never had it. Famous for offering myriad one-off variants of their beers, 512 produces a bourbon barrel-aged double pecan porter that is not to be missed.
4. Peticolas Velvet Hammer
Royal Scandal is the beer that earned fledgling brewery Peticolas their gold medal at GABF this year, but we can't get past our love affair with Velvet Hammer. There is nothing quite like it in Texas right now. Plus, everyone loves a good phallic reference. Look out for big things from these guys in 2013.
3. Karbach Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hellfighter
The first keg we had of this beer was a muddled mess, so its turnaround in later kegs is a drastic improvement. Subsequent pints of Barrel-Aged Hellfighter were far more composed and despite our qualms over Karbach's style issues -- this beer isn't a porter by most definitions -- it's hard to deny this is a fantastic barrel-aged beer.
2. Southern Star Buried Hatchet
One might think the four-year-old brewery in Conroe -- you can find an early mention of them in the Robb Walsh article above -- is resting on their laurels, but that's not the case. Instead of rolling out seven or eight new beers a year, the brewery has been content to slowly add seasonals and to release its popular Pro-Am series yearly. When you make a beer as good as Buried Hatchet, you don't have to get wild. On that note, look for Southern Star to unleash some crazy in 2013...you've been warned.
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1. Jester King Beer Geek Rodeo
Jester King made waves early in its existence by collaborating with gypsy brewing legend Mikkel Borg Bjergsø in 2011 to produce Drink'in the Sunbelt. For their second stint with Mikkeller, the guys out in Austin produced three variations of this Imperial Oatmeal Stout with coffee and pepper notes: Beer Geek Rodeo, Weasel Rodeo (brewed with Kopi Luwak) and Whiskey Barrel Rodeo, which -- you guessed it -- is a whiskey-aged variation. The "original" version is our favorite, as there is really no need to mess with a beer this good.