Austin's Best Breweries of 2022, Power-Ranked
It's Top of the Hops VII!
By Eric Puga,
8:00AM, Wed. Oct. 12, 2022
Craft beer has begun its redemption arc. Out are the big bourbon barrel-aged confectionary stouts, the biting quintuple IPAs, the gut-melting sours. In: lagers. Clean, crisp, confident lagers.
Yes, the era of chasing ultra-rare, saccharine-sweet candy beer all over town, brewed one pint at a time by beerhouses that inspired their tremulous fanbase to chant EXCELSIOR into their craft beer megaphones from the parking lot at the mere suggestion of extremely limited $40 bombers of beer – that was somehow the salad days of the industry. But like the awkward middle school years, those rough moments are behind us now.
These days, anyone who is still passionate about craft beer is queuing up only in the 10 Items or Fewer line at H-E-B with a pack of cold, bottom fermented delights tucked beneath their arm in maximum anticipation of beating the heat with beer-flavored beer. It’s a really nice return to reality. In turn, Austin-area breweries have recommitted to quality-driven mainstay beers supplemented by a reasonable lineup of provocative special release beers and a full calendar of wait-worthy seasonals. The evidence is tangible with the prestigious awards and accolades doled out to regional breweries from highly objective sources like the newly founded Texas Craft Brewers Cup, the World Beer Cup, and, of course, the Great American Beer Festival, among others. Buttressing the liquid merchandise, breweries have continued to expand and enhance the face-to-face experience of their taprooms and beer gardens in a way that can captivate an audience of beer fans.
So, you ask, which ones are trending the hottest right now? Which frosty lager under a leafy tree is going to beat this heat on a Saturday afternoon? Here, loyal readers, is our annual BREWERY POWER RANKINGS to guide you square and true through those weekend brewery plans, a list many people are saying is more anticipated than season 2 of Severance.
As in the past, we are generous with the boundaries we call “Austin-ish,” including all the breweries in neighboring counties that were wise enough not to be hostage to Travis County taxes. This year we included our POWER RANKINGS score, which acknowledged breweries' attention to their mainstay lineups (40%), emphasis on their taproom/beer garden vibe (30%), creativity of their seasonal and limited beer lineups (15%), their 2022 collection of beer awards and accolades (10%), and an additional 5% to any intangible features, like a notable food truck, excellent branding, live music, live art, or heck, live animals. There should be zero beer nerd debate. These are Austin’s best breweries, POWER-RANKED!
Others Receiving Votes: Draught House (69 pts.) Best of Austin: Restaurants winner for Best Beer Selection, Draught House, affectionately known to a fading few as the Draught Horse, remains the best urban brewery and beer garden in all of Austin since the dawn of time, when locals ordered from tablets – the chiseling kind… Red Horn Coffee House & Brewery (69 pts.) This northern suburbs powerhouse continues to sparkle with a quarter-century of palate-friendly options from watermelon gose to double milk stout … and pretty much any style you can imagine in between. RH took home a silver medal from the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Guild awards in February with Brushy Creek Brown Ale… Independence (68.25 pts.) An upgraded patio, a solidly early-Aughts retro taproom, and a lineup of classic recipes like Native Texas Pilsner keep Indy very relevant in the Austin beer scene… Koko’s Bavarian (68 pts.) The classic Oktoberfest fare, the lager-heavy beer menu, and the genial atmosphere hits the just-here-for-the-beer audience better than its former tenant, the spectacular but rigid Brewer’s Table… Beerburg (67.5 pts.) This forager-forward, low-ABV Hill Country hot spot combines with a shady beer garden and a stellar food menu to make Beerburg a Sunday staple.
Trend Tracker: The “AC Power Rankings Trend” moves from oldest to newest. GREEN indicates a brewery moved up in the rankings; RED indicates a brewery moved down; and BLUE indicates a new entry or no movement. Looking for previous Power Rankings? See 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 Part I and Part II, and 2017.
25 | Black Star Co-op
2022 Score: 69.25
AC Power Rankings Trend! ▶ NEW ENTRY
Best Core Beer: Recalcitrant Dockhand, a robust porter with overt notes of chocolate, coffee, and gold medal triumph. The beer recently hooked top prize in the Stouts & Porters category at the newly established 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup, contributing to its legacy as the 2015 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) national champ for robust porters.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Waterloo Apricot Berliner Weisse, a supremely overlooked legacy beer that broke into the local drinking scene a FULL YEAR before other ultralow-ABV tart ale did. Most people don’t remember it as the Grandfather of Austin Berliners.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Black Star shines bright on the rapidly improving MetroRail Red Line, a historical “Train to Nowhere” (… anyone would actually want to go) but has since become the best way to grab a basket of fish & chips and a light Pilsner on the way to Q2 to watch a bunch of Argentinians put Austin FC over the top.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Not only did Black Star take home significant hardware from the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup with Dockhand as well as second gold for Moebius Russian Imperial Stout in the Barrel & Wood Aged Beer category, but it remarkably plucked the Small Brewery of the Year (0-799 BBL group) honor away from an abundance of Texas beermaking powerhouses.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Black Star was the first member-owned, worker self-managed, fair-labor co-op brewery on EARTH! And if that mouthful ain’t Austin, then what is?
24 | (512)
2022 Score: 69.5
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 16
Best Core Beer: (512)’s Pecan Porter is a legendary Austin beer wall staple and foundational member of Austin’s Mount Rushmore of Beer (never mind only bronzing at the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup in the Stouts & Porters category). Here we were gushing about lagers, lagers, lagers, and our first regional mainstay beers of note are both porters. By the way, (512) – can the stuff!
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Well, if you enjoy unleaded Pecan Porter, then its diesel version provides double the horsepower: Whiskey-barrel-aged Double Pecan Porter clocks in at a roasty, boozy 9.5% ABV.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: How does an iconic brewery like (512) dawdle around the rear of a power rankings each year? By denying us that cozy, shady beer garden in which to drink their quality Kölsch and helles; a self-imposed punt on third down.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: However, (512) massively upgraded their canned lineup this year: Oatmeal Coffee Stout, Local Crush Kölsch, the classically satisfying (512) IPA. Here’s to a nutty surprise in 2023.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: The absolute consistency of the product. Each beer that leaves the brewhouse tastes like the one prior and will taste like the one after that. (512) set a standard long ago about the expectations for local craft beer quality.
23 | Vacancy
2022 Score: 70
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NEW ENTRY
Best Core Beer: June, the aptly named 4.9% “Hill Country” Pilsner that begs to be consumed in the sweltering months, which, sure, are not only in June but basically every other month apart from the one called February, when the city becomes completely gobbled in ice.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Hoppy Hollow, a crisp, clean India pale lager that reflects on the best part of drinking old-skool hop-forward beers: grapefruit up front, orange zest in the back end, and Black Lips’ Let It Bloom providing the score.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Vacancy is an unflashy taproom. But some of the BEST breweries on the planet are unassuming holes-in-the-wall rooted to random enclaves in Seattle and San Diego and Asheville. While South Austin’s the Yard is no Ballard District, unwinding in Vacancy’s charmingly austere taproom has a touch of that hip, industrial, low-slung-hideaway vibe to it.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Vacancy was regarded by Austin Monthly as the Best New Brewery in their Best of ATX Awards while we at the AC anointed this year-old hot spot Best Pandemic Project in our Best of Austin awards (if it couldn’t go to our Lord of the Rings fan fic podcast, then this was a pretty good choice, too).
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Vacancy is still in its infancy, but its little footprints are still palpable – namely with events like Beyoncé’s Birthday Bash, a day devoted to long plays of Queen Bee’s discography each hour. But with beer.
2022 Score: 70.5
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 14, 19
Best Core Beer: Sjöfn farmhouse strawberry and lavender saison, as hallmark as a beer can get at the oft-revolving tapwall, which boasts Batch Brewing’s outstanding lineup of highly experimental beer.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Little Table table beer, a dry, lightly hopped saison with a mildly tart finish that boxes out all those BIG table beers with its full-bodied flavor.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: The shockingly already-5-years-old (what?!) Batch continues to nuzzle into their East Austin digs by upgrading their backyard with a new Mexican food truck that bumps kolache dough tortas and picadillo burritos as well as an updated turfed area with which to sequester the littles while mom and dad get their happy hour on in peace.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Batch is the bronze holder of the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup for Strong Hoppy Beer with their Double Stardust double hazy IPA, a hefty springboard swan dive into a pool of two of the tastiest flavoring hops around: Galaxy and Nelson.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Kolaches and coffee both sound like placeholders for what people really want to experience at Batch: farmhouse saisons and chewy hazy IPAs, but dammit if all three of those vital commodities aren’t top-shelf in their own right. A bakery-first cafe that slays difficult beer styles in a cozy, urban beer garden? The options are limitless!
21 | Family Business
2022 Score: 71
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NR, NR, 16, 17, 22
Best Core Beer: 2019 GABF silver medalist, Golden Age German-style Pilsner; a true grill-time classic that will suck all the momentum out of you wanting to do anything else but poke at a fire while sitting on a $5 plastic chair.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Brieux Famille Wheat with fresh lime zest and pink Himalayan sea salt, a gose-style flyweight puncher that is optimal for Austin’s 425%-humidity days.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Family Business Beer Co.’s online aesthetic is a bespoke Americana-style banjo man playing a flawless set in their elegant taproom. It's a luxury ad for people who subscribe to $35 magazines. And yet, taproom visits express a confident down-home informality; yes, a beautiful taproom, but one that opens up to a 15-acre beer drinkin' ranch with picnic tables, horseshoes, and Hill Country folks looking at ease.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: With well over 100 accounts, an FBBC fan can find their beer in packages and on draft in many more places than even just one year ago (and as far north as Georgetown!). The brewery has also integrated more variety into their canned options beyond just the flagships.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Head brewer Nate Seale is a local beermaking legend and 99.9% of the reason that driving to Dripping Springs for his ales and lagers is worth the ride. Everyone, on three: Keep Nate Working!
2022 Score: 71.5
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 19, NR, NR
Best Core Beer: Wit-tington Belgo ale, the 2019 GABF gold medalist for American-Belgo-style ale, making it the highest-decorated witbier in a city whose craft beer origins famously began with a witbier.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: CDB excels at kettle sours, so choose wisely when presented with seasonal options. Our current favorite: Soul’s Companion, CDB’s apricot and lemon fruited sour.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: One would assume that holding down the city’s only Downtown taproom would be glory on a silver platter, what with all the thirsty drunks on Dirty Sixth and the tourists pouring in from the Marriott, but the amount of guts it took to hem themselves into a locally inaccessible district is massive. It’s a gorgeous taproom with excellent street views and a SiriusXMU soundtrack that tracks with the Austin vibe.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: CDB had their walk-up music played twice at the Texas Craft Brewers Cup competition, once for gold in the Kölsch category for Kayaker’s Kölsch and again for bronze in the Belgian Abbey Ales category for the Saint of Lost Causes.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: It’s a Downtown brewery where few others have dared: Waterloo, Lovejoy’s, Bitter End, Copper Tank, and, well, where are they now? Thanks for holding down the fort, Central District.
19 | Hopsquad
2022 Score: 72
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 19, 15
Best Core Beer: We could shotgun Hopsquad’s Italian Pilsner, Architetto Rufinni, out of a dirty Styrofoam cup and we’d still resolutely call it one of the best beers in Austin.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Matador Watermelon Mint, Hopsquad’s summer-flavored fruit ale that clocks in at an outlandish 7.4%. How in the world? Five stars, would chug again.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Anybody with a pulse knows that this is the de facto spot for the best pre-game vibes in all of Austin ahead of a footy match. Plus, they show early morning/afternoon matches being played in far-off lands that have dragons and other cool shit when no one here in Austin will. It’s a big niche this brewery fills.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: They sell corn dogs out of the food truck now but you gotta know the secret handshake. OK, there’s no secret handshake, just don’t eat ’em all before we smash a half-dozen down our own gullets, ’kay?
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Without question, Hopsquad brings a flair to the Austin beer scene that most other breweries lack (and might think to emulate). Instead of small children throwing rocks in the parking lot, it's footballistas throwing chisme about FC Frisco.
18 | Frontyard
2022 Score: 74.25
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NEW ENTRY
Best Core Beer: We’ll go with Frontyard’s Honey Blonde ale, which comes in at a very respectable 5.7% ABV and uses Round Rock honey to impart the feeling of magnificence. It's why BIG FAST FOOD uses it in all their dipping sauces. And frankly, anyone making a honey blonde relevant in the year 2022 is doing something right.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Limited in the sense that it’s undeniably extra, and only casually referenced by the brewery, Frontyard’s homemade root beer hits like whipped cream pie to the soul. An ice-cold, homemade root beer is an absolute luxury that must always be taken advantage of and the reason why humans made it to the top of the food chain.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Frontyard is unapologetically family-friendly and yet, I feel like I gotta drop ’em a 50 spot just for letting my kids mess around on their nice turf and entertaining them for the day. But who would even want to watch their little punks when there is a billion-dollar view to gawk at over a pint of finely tuned beer that Frontyard has engineered to pair with their outdoor ambience?
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Frontyard was voted by the readers of Austin Monthly as Best Brewery in Austin over beer titans St. Elmo and Meanwhile Brewing. Could it be the root beer? Definitely.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Frontyard is toilet-training the next generation of beer snobs, making the Austin beer scene sustainable for at least the next 80 years, or until Elon burns us all up with SpaceX afterburner launching from a boat on Lake Travis.
17 | The Brewtorium
2022 Score: 74.5
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NR, 15, 16, 14
Best Core Beer: Electric Lederhosen Vienna lager; a clean-finishing, biscuity spotlight on this brewery’s magnificent lager program.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: There’re all sorts of brews that make infrequent cameos throughout the year, like the brewery’s impressive rotation of hazy IPAs. But as far as a true limited-run seasonal beer, Makin’ Love at Midnight Piña Colada IPA is the Brewtorium’s answer to DOES PINEAPPLE BELONG IN BEER? Taste the evidence!
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: We can’t get enough of the Brewtorium’s daily festival vibe: from its wide-open Munich-style bierhalle with a recently installed projection screen to showcase local footy, to its breezy biergarten with an intermittent commuter train wheezing by. So Euro!
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Year by year, the Brewtorium’s beer program – and in particular, its beer quality – continues to improve and evolve like a college radio band that eventually finds itself atop the Billboard charts. The Brewtorium is the R.E.M. of Austin beer.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: There are all kinds of food variations at Austin-area breweries, but few capture the spirit of their beer programs as well as the menu at the Brewtorium. More breweries should emphasize their food options as significantly as this one, a common practice in other major beer cities that has somehow eluded Austin’s small beer culture.
16 | Lazarus
2022 Score: 75.75
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 20
Best Core Beer: In a blistering-hot Pilsner market like Austin, Lazarus’ crisp and refreshing German-style Prodigal Pils stands out as one of the finest versions in a Pilsner-mad town.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: One of Lazarus’ low-key triumphs is their foeder beers. One in particular – Great Northern Flanders-style brown ale – radiates brighter than the rest; a slowly matured Brett beer with notes of cedar and cherry and hints of cocoa.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Lazarus’ elite-tier taproom beer garden is one that engages the street life of one of Austin’s most iconic bar districts, while also serving as the mid-neighborhood respite from the excess of East Sixth’s indie-sleaze mischief. Additionally, the kitchen is still sending out marvelous tacos that pair finely with Lazarus’ dozen beer options.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Lazarus is winner of a 2022 World Beer Cup gold medal and a 2022 GABF gold medal for their Black Pearl rice lager in the category of Herb and Spice Beer as well as bronze medalists in the Chocolate & Coffee Beer category at the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup with Jolted Phoenix. Lazarus continues making a steady habit of winning competitive awards for their brews.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: It could be said that Lazarus’ geographical stationing has led to a new generation of curious craft beer enthusiasts, given the demographics of its neighborhood. And while we’re not gonna legislate too much about what type of person is good for craft beer, I think many would agree that at present, young’uns are deigning to drink other alcoholic bevs like hard seltzers and ranch waters. Hooking them to urban brewery culture is a clever ploy by Lazarus and quite important to the sustainability of craft beer in Austin. And truly, something must be going right for Lazarus, as the very turquoise Lazarus 2 is rising quickly on Airport Boulevard in the North Loop area.
15 | Roughhouse Brewing
2022 Score: 76
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NEW ENTRY
Best Core Beer: Rare Merit is Roughhouse’s delicate, 3.3%, mixed-culture table beer that is soft and lemony in flavor, bright in color, and complex in character, like if Sigur Rós’ ( ) album was an obscenely drinkable saison.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: When we’re riding with Roughhouse, we’re likely gonna stick with their playful, yeast-driven farmhouse ales, and River Guardian witbier with strawberries and lemon zest is a sprightly little summertime bop.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: This 3-year-old POWER RANKINGS debutante is an underappreciated Hill Country firecracker that was elected Best New Brewery by the readers of Austin Monthly way back in the Golden Age of 2020 when people were still thinking right. Their beer garden is rustic and charming and offers – dare I say? – the BEST brewery pretzel in the region. That kind of declaration comes with the terror of entire school buses of grain-fiending kids coming out to the taproom next weekend.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: It’s easy to notice that Roughhouse’s presence has been amplified on the beer shelves around Austin. One can regularly find packaged cans of Roughhouse Pilsner or Hill Country Light or Pasternak Pils out in the wild, which wasn’t easy in 2021. We like convenience as much as we like good beer. Roughhouse is Texas Craft Brewers Cup 2022 gold medalist in the Belgian & Farmhouse Ales category for Treeform farmhouse IPA, while also bringing home silver to San Marcos in the Brett & Mixed Culture category with Berried, a spontaneously fermented ale with raspberries.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: If Jesterworld feels a bit daunting for a Sunday Funday four-hour excursion with the kiddos, then the 50-acre Roughhouse Brewery is your two-hour diet-Jester alternative. Many of the concepts are the same: high-quality, aquifer-fed, proprietary mixed-culture beers fermented in oak foeders, a great food menu, and plenty of wide-open space for the runts to mobilize.
14 | Southern Heights
2022 Score: 76.5
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 9, 9, 7, 9, 11
Best Core Beer: Southern Heights is a rotational brewery. This means that they don’t necessarily have a “core four” perennial mainstay lineup as many other breweries tend to have. But this also means they have a bullpen built like the goddamned Astros. Coming off the bench for a big ole loopin’ face sploosher is the semiregular hazy IPA Tahitian Dreamin’ to put in a shift of Citra, Centennial, and Simcoe fastballs.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Curiously, it is NOT a hazy IPA, which is wild coming from one of the very best in the biz at doing them. Nope. It’s their stout, Hoodie Weather, a big ol’ Russian imperial bastard brewed with vanilla beans from Revolution Spirits, dark cocoa powder from TCHO Chocolate, and coffee from Ruta Maya. It’s the first real sign of winter’s soft launch in Austin.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: A workhorse brewhouse demands a workhorselike taproom, and that's what the guts of Southern Heights deliver. Drinkers are set amongst the brewery’s own self-portrait of tanks and kettles and hoses and pipes. Combined with all the delightful New England-style IPAs on tap, one would feel right at home with all that Boston smugness, boring people around you by talking about Bill Belichick.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: What’s new at the most minimalist brewery with the tiniest social media footprint in town? [*Boston accent*] Ah don’ FACKIN know. Pretzels? It’s the consistency that plays here.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Southern Heights is your favorite brewer’s favorite brewery the way a Mountain Goats LP finds its way into your favorite artist’s tour bus. An inspiration. Southern Heights might drop an entire new lineup in one weekend. They might do a beer collab with a cartoon ghost. They might go down to Houston to pick up some Aerosmith tickets. You just never know.
13 | Hi Sign
2022 Score: 77
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NR, 15, 13, 15, 17
Best Core Beer: Hi Sign’s Hi-C double dry hopped hazy IPA with its juicy, tropical flavor profile is an Austin beer heartthrob. But it’s Travis to Electric Jellyfish’s Coldplay, and Hi-C just kind of got buried under EJ’s momentum. One might wonder: If Hi Sign had come with better financial backing and multiple storefronts, would fans be paying $18 per pint of Hi-C just to splash each other with it at Austin FC matches? Maybe.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Super Astronaut double IPA is a 9.5%, dank, but astonishingly drinkable classic West-Coaster that was twice named runner-up in the Alpha King Challenge, the zenith competition to crown the best IPA in America.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: It’s been a heck of a victory lap for Hi Sign, who was once presumed dead and buried under endless Bastrop Highway construction. Not only did Hi Sign arise from the clay with a splendid, shiny new brewery on the cool part of the Eastside, but it brought with a brand-new cultural identity as well. Hi Sign rebranded as one of Austin’s only neighborhood-embedded breweries, directly engaging street life with approachable beer styles in a charming taproom.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Hi Sign rechristened with a fanciful logo and updated can art that corresponds faithfully to a more dapper image from the beer company once they left the rusted-out stockroom beneath ABIA’s flight path. The taproom interior and finish-outs are impressive, including a spectacular wallpaper choice that provides 90 seconds of mindless entertainment when it’s needed most.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Hi Sign proved that unyielding determination can save a brewery despite overwhelming odds. But also, moving into a very sexy building and neighborhood is always the right move in the first place.
12 | The ABGB
2022 Score: 79
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 8, 1, 1, 5, 6, 7
Best Core Beer: Hell Yes Helles, ABGB’s double GABF-medaling (gold 2018, bronze 2016) Bavarian-style lager that is subtle yet elegant.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Velvet Revolution Pils, ABGB’s 2017 GABF gold medal-winning Bohemian Pilsner that is strikingly blond, bright, and spicy with an assertive upfront, hoppy bitterness.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: For the old taproom purists who enjoy shuttle-launch-decibels of ambient beer guy conversation bouncing off the cinder block walls while squeezing your round of pints onto decaying wine barrels, ABGB changed the taproom game. ABGB’s beer hall is no less a place to booze than it is a place to RAWK, paying almost daily homage to Austin’s infatuation with the auditory arts by hosting (mostly) local acts. They also make a damned good white clam pie.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: It’s been nine years since ABGB set roots in South Austin with intentions to blow everyone’s hair back with pitch-perfect lagers. They’ve accomplished exactly this for nearly a decade without signs of letting up. In 2022, Craft Beer & Brewing magazine named the Industry Pils, the 2022 and 2016 GABF gold medal winner for German Pilsner (are you sensing a trend here?), as one of the 20 best beers in the entire country.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: ABGB raised the standards for what Austin breweries could achieve, not only as one of the most decorated breweries in the Austin area, but in how it approaches consistency and quality in its beer. The ABGB is full-sprint, chin-to-chest running the Pilsner game in Texas.
11 | Hold Out
2022 Score: 83.5
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 10, 9
Best Core Beer: All that said, Ol’ Gil Euro Pils is the best current Pilsner in the Austin area. No notes.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Anyone who calls themselves a professional beer researcher, as we do at the AC, knows that finding a low-ABV pearl in a veritable ocean of high-ABV beers is considered a successful hunt. Hold Out’s dark mild ale Mildly Impressed (a misnomer, to be sure), is a uniquely British style that is made with sure-handed confidence and levies a mere 3.8% tax on your sobriety.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: The novelty of urban beer gardens will never wear off, especially one as festive as Hold Out’s, with its exposed-beam exterior patio adjacent its Quonset hut interior taproom that bustles alongside its similarly fervent sister cafe, Better Half. The backdrop of Austin's western edge of Downtown looms interestingly with an air-punch of heavy rail that screams past beer-lovin’ diners at least once per service, giving the entire scene a sense of energetic appeal.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: A year after taking home the AC’s Best New Brewery award, Hold Out continues to dazzle by being named one of Hop Culture magazine’s Best 12 Breweries of 2021. That seems pretty good. The brewery also nicked a gold for their hazy IPA Leaf Peeper at this year’s Texas Craft Brewers Cup.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: We’ve said it many times before, but Hold Out’s entire front- and back-of-house crew is topflight: from the brewers to the service team to the social media specialists to the owners. Who else but Hold Out could execute a takeaway beer flight consisting of 8-ounce cans of hazy IPA, double IPA, table beer, and pastry porter? No one else, we say!
10 | Vista
2022 Score: 84
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 11, 12, 12, 13
Best Core Beer: Dark Skies black Pilsner, Vista’s roasty, complex, yet light-bodied and low-ABV dusky lager that features characteristics of coffee and toasted marshmallow. It’s camping in a can.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Vista’s extraordinary barrel program is a fearless outfit built on freshly emptied wine barrels sourced from neighboring wineries in the Hill Country. The standout? Laissez Faire, Vista’s slightly acidic, pinkish ale aged 12 months with Brettanomyces yeast that erupts with massive notes of red grape, berries, and apple.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Aside from the architectural glass-and-concrete marvel that is the Vista taproom, the brewery features a sprawling, 21-acre rustic beer garden that makes its guests look like beautiful props in a Howler Brothers ad.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Vista continues to clean up the Good Food Foundation Awards in the Beer category, taking home a pair in 2022 for Stonewall lambic-style ale with Texas peaches and the above-mentioned Dark Skies.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: As a mostly outdoors brewery, Vista sells the high-fiving glee that comes with day drinking outside in the woodsy sunshine. Vista’s Outside the City Limits is a fall festival that focuses on local music between two stages, hyperlocal food options, and fresh Vista beer.
9 | Austin Beerworks
2022 Score: 86
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 3, 5, 4, 1, 3, 4
Best Core Beer: Life according to Austin Beerworks is a Pearl Snap German-style Pils in every glass and a taco in every pocket. That’s why ages ago (2015), a panel of beer knowers convened by the Chronicle emphatically dubbed Pearl Snap as “The Official Beer of Austin.” And it still applies.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Given the fact that ABW runs the town’s best seasonals program with slappers like the Super Awesome helles, Einhorn tart wheat beers, and the revered Sputnik Russian imperial coffee oatmeal stout, picking just one was almost unfeasible. Until we remembered that they relegated 2013 GABF gold medalist and liquid junk food medley Black Thunder schwarzbier to an October-only release.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: ABW is simply a reliable go-to taproom. It’s easily accessible; parking is ample; Can-tina, ABW’s in-house food truck, offers elevated street meat; there’s a playspace to ignore your own kids; and there’s always somewhere to sit.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: An Austin Chronicle Best of Austin: Restaurants Best Brewery nominee, ABW upped its game by putting Fire Eagle IPA and the beloved Pearl Snap into 16-ounce tallboys. They also snagged a bronze at the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup competition in the Specialty Hoppy beer category for Bloodwork Orange IPA, as well as saved Hops & Grain’s Zoe from the cutting-room floor.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: The premiums paid into Austin’s brewing endowments by ABW are countless, from being the first can-friendly brewery in the region, to popularizing that packaging medium to the point of standardization, to engaging the community as its primary quality control specialists.
8 | Oddwood
2022 Score: 87
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 10, 10, 8, 8
Best Core Beer: Oddwood doesn’t abide by the normal rules, man. This bustling 10-barrel brewhouse keeps its beer board fresh with frequent rotational beers and defies common tactics like mainstays. They never miss on their hazy IPAs like Ethics & Standards and Cold Night for Alligators.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Swinging toward the other side of the pendulum, Oddwood is severely underrated as a lager depot. Pro Tip American Pilsner and Pool Dad Pils are among the best in town.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: In this era of 1980s nostalgia, Oddwood passes the time warp vibe check with retro gaming consoles hooked into cathode-ray tube TVs, cheesy pepperoni pies, and ice-cold draft beer.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: This year Oddwood snagged the silver for Her Black Wings schwarzbier in the Session and Standard German & Czech Lagers category at the Texas Craft Brewers Cup. A morsel of a sentence for a beer with a great bite.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Oddwood is the progeny of Adelbert’s Brewery, proving that the student can become the master and that dreams of opening a small urban brewery feeder program in an abandoned disco in the middle of a nightlife desert are not unfounded.
7 | St. Elmo
2022 Score: 90
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 7, 7, 5, 4, 4, 3
Best Core Beer: We’re still workshopping our molten-lava take about Carl Kölsch being Austin’s best beer, but we think we’ll need to try a dozen more sixers of it on the footgolf course to be ready to give that statement to our lawyers.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Sabro hops are having their moment in the sun right now, so we suggest seeking out whichever beers you can that are made from this complex little green sprout. St. Elmo’s juicy, tropical Canopy double dry hopped IPA is Austin’s best example of its usage.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Everything about St. Elmo’s space is relentlessly beguiling, quirky, and balanced, from individualized beer marquees on the tapwall to the brewery’s colorful label art.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Penelope passion fruit sour is the bronze medalist of 2022’s North American Brewers Association (NABA) International Beer Awards and co-headlines what has become one of Austin’s most inconspicuous tart beer programs along with Roxanne pink guava sour and Rosa raspberry sour. Great way to batten down the chile-seasoned chicken from the Spicy Boys Fried Chicken truck out back.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: This heavily decorated South Austin brewery continues to impress beer drinkers with its work rate, delivering multiple styles to its tapwall at any given time, then replenishing those with entirely different batches of ice-cold baddies.
6 | Meanwhile
2022 Score: 91.75
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 13, 12
Best Core Beer: 2022 GABF silver medalist Secret Beach, Meanwhile’s San Diego-style IPA, dispenses rich wisdom on the greatly underrepresented West Coast IPA scene. We appreciate Meanwhile for calibrating Austin’s New England juice nukes with some traditional California dank.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: For an IPA-leaning brewery, Meanwhile puts out some savage lagers. One that caught our attention this year was its Czech Pilsner It’s Not Even That Far, which tastes like sliding down an ice shelf and into a delicious glacier. This beer slid into a bronze at the 2022 NABA International Beer Awards for Bohemian-Style Pilsner.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Somehow, Meanwhile made drinking in an industrial park feel like camping at a Kampground of America. We enjoy all 4 acres of its leafy backyard, cedar playscapes, local-act-sized stage, coffee bar, trendy food trucks (including Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ spot Distant Relatives), and turfed football pitch.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: The accolades were frequent for Meanwhile this year, most importantly, Best Brewery co-champs in the AC’s Best of Austin: Restaurants poll. The brewery also snagged gold for its namesake lager in the 2022 World Beer Cup and a second gold for Secret Beach at the Texas Craft Brewers Cup. The brewery also released its three flagship brews to retail: Tender Robot, Secret Beach, and Meanwhile Pilsner, each in 16-ounce cans.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Meanwhile’s lager game is strong and confident while also reintroducing well-calibrated West Coast IPAs back into our diets. The brewery’s attention to the beer garden experience is second to none, especially for families looking for an inclusive outlet.
5 | Zilker
2022 Score: 93
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ NR, NR, 7, 6, 5, 5
Best Core Beer: Zilker’s rich and robust, Spokesman-infused Coffee Milk Stout is one that we drink by the quartful, and there doesn’t even have to be a February blizzard outside to match the cozy feeling it provides.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Wunderbier, Zilker’s toasty, biscuity take on the official brew of Munich’s Oktoberfest has been scientifically proven to improve our dance moves, comedic timing, and cartoonish German accent by up to 73%. Veddy goot bee-ah.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Zilker bravely kicked off the urban taproom movement in pre-bougie East Austin by dutifully integrating Sixth’s grimy-but-touristy street life with Zilker’s innovative patio IPAs, music, art, and spicy chicken utopia.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Zilker scored four NABA International Beer Awards medals in June; one gold apiece for Camp Beer hazy pale ale and Icy Boys light lager, a silver for Heavenly Daze hazy IPA, and a bronze for Mad Citra hazy IPA.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Zilker has set the local standard for retail workmanship in small breweries, canning one highly creative freshie per week, slapping an alluring label on the outside, and alighting a burning desire to snag some weekend porch beers.
4 | Real Ale
2022 Score: 93.25
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 2, 6, 6, 9, 11, 10
Best Core Beer: Crispy Business gets the nod here since Small Victory low-cal IPA went away this year because life is unfair. This crisp, clean helles admirably fills the discontinued beer gap as one of Real Ale’s patented, precisely on-style midweek brews nonetheless.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Coffee Porter is an unmissable autumn tradition in Austin, like our 87-degree Halloweens and the Longhorns conceding their sixth loss of the season. The rich, robust, Katz coffee-infused dark ale drinks like a cold brew that can be enjoyed any time of day, especially during those 11am heartbreakers.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Real Ale’s taproom captures the Hill Country spirit with grand overlooks of Blanco’s arboraceous terrain. There’s also a shady beer garden with an abundance of picnic tables and the O.G. Threadgill’s stage.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: In February, Real Ale was named the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup Large Brewery of the Year (800+ BBL group), while also bringing home three shiny medals: gold in the Strong German & Czech Lagers category with River Baptism; silver in Golden, Blonde, & Light Ales with Firemans #4; and silver in the Pilsner category with Hans’ Pils. The brewery also snagged a bronze for Real Heavy scotch ale at the World Beer Cup and a gold for Firemans #4 at GABF.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Over 26 years, Real Ale has retired more smash-hit beers (Phoenixx double ESB, Full Moon pale rye, Small Victory, and more!) than some breweries have Untappd reviews. Still, the list of its exemplar beers grows by the year: Swifty pale ale, Firemans Light, Blakkr imperial black ale (and more!) even as other beers quietly quit.
3 | Live Oak
2022 Score: 95
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 1, 3, 8, 8, 7, 6
Best Core Beer: Live Oak Hefeweizen is an all-timer; a top-tier portrait of a German weissbier that should hang in the Gemäldegalerie. This locally beloved hefe, widely regarded as one of the best hefeweizens on planet Earth, was ranked first in Paste magazine’s list of best wheat/hefeweizen beers, rated the second-best hefeweizen worldwide by BeerAdvocate, and took (gasp!) bronze at the 2019 GABF. It is Austin’s most iconic beer.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: We can’t bank on everyone having the same Pilsner palate as we do, and everyone’s mileage will vary on which of the 700 Pilsners Live Oak produces per year is their favorite, but we’re going with Live Oak Gold, the brewery’s ever-crisp, bright, north German-style Pilsner that glitters like bright sunshine off a farm pond.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Live Oak’s leafy beer garden is the perfect setting for taking big swallows of their globally famous smoke beers, like Bamberger beechwood-smoked lager, Schwarzer Rauch, or the brewery-resurrected Lichtenhainer smoked sour weissbier.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: Pilsners are so highly regarded in Texas that Category 1 of the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup competition was dedicated to the beer style. Coincidentally, the gold for that category went to Live Oak’s, uh, Gold. Pre-War Pils took a gold for itself at the Aro Rojo international beer competition in Mexico in the Pre-Prohibition Lager category, while the brewery’s flagship Czech-style Pilsner, Pilz, took silver in the 2022 New York International Beer Competition. That same competition declared Live Oak the Texas Pilsner Brewery of the Year.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: Live Oak is the relentless main character of Austin’s brewing lore. The 25-year-old brewery is regarded as the granddaddy of Austin lagermakers. Live Oak also preserves recipes lost to time and trends, like Grodziskie Polish wheat smoked beer.
2022 Score: 96
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1
Best Core Beer: No Austinite alive has escaped the ubiquitous hazy thunderbolt of Electric Jellyfish IPA, even at $18 per can at certain entertainment venues. In 2021, Austinites ordered more than 2 million pints of Jellyfish on draft and drank more than half a million cans.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: While we’re mostly IPA traditionalists who dabble in haziness only time and again, we’d be selling ourselves short to not enjoy the full spectrum of PHP’s New England IPA platform. Our favorite this year, Tiki Time IPA: a hazy, liquified pineapple upside-down cake in a pub glass.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Last year’s No. 1 AC power-ranked brewery thanks to the beer company’s dedication to opening new storefronts and swiftly populating them with pinnacle-grade beer. While each PHP certainly has its own distinguishable culture of IPA perverts along different outposts around town, we’re currently digging the Ben White store for its Miami Beach industrial softcore vibe.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: This year, publications and beer guilds have been lining up to hand PHP a variety of medals, trophies, and big engraved platters to hang on the wall like an Upper Peninsula grandma. The most recent is a silver medal at the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup competition for Strong German & Czech Lagers with Straight to Crackle and a GABF bronze for Training Bines. The brewery’s creative/design team also won four awards in the Craft Beer Marketing Awards and Muse Creative Awards.
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: PHP has Austinites wholeass sprinting to order full-bodied IPAs in the dead of summer, so their imprint on the local beer scene has been one of reckless abandon. Delicious, hazy abandon.
1 | Jester King
2022 Score: 97
AC Power Rankings Trend ▶ 4, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2
Best Core Beer: Le Petit Prince, Jester King’s low-ABV flagship farmhouse table beer that recently found its way into 16-ounce cans, but in our opinion should have gone straight to IV bags since we can’t get it into our bloodstreams fast enough.
Favorite Seasonal or Limited Run: Sure, we could posit that it’s the limited release that put Jester King on every beergoof’s bucket list – Atrial Rubicite raspberry sour – with its perfect 100 rating on BeerAdvocate and crazy messiahlike adoration. But it’s actually Montmorency vs. Balaton, Jester King’s barrel-aged wild ale re-fermented with Michigan cherries, you line-standing suckas.
Extraordinary Taproom/Beer Garden Feature: Jesterworld’s 165-acre ranch is no longer just a brewery [cue Jurassic Park theme music]: IT IS AN EXPERIENCE. This internationally esteemed monolith has made it a priority to accommodate an excessive amount of earthly cravings. World-class beer? Check. Gourmet kitchen and bakery? Check. Cedar log playground fort? Check. On-premise harvested cider and wine? Check, check. Jester King is really why all student debt should be forgiven.
Significant 2022 Upgrade: This year, the brewery continued to decorate its space with a gold from the World Beer Cup and GABF bronze for Atrial Rubicite in the Belgian Fruit Beer category along with a bronze medal at the 2022 Texas Craft Brewers Cup competition for its 2021 SPON Three Year Blend in the Brett & Mixed Culture category. Locally, readers of the AC voted JK as the co-Best Austin Brewery (along with Meanwhile), and who are we to disagree with our brilliant readers?
Contribution to Austin’s Beer Scene: JK’s impact on the Austin beer scene is absolutely unrivaled. JK is a dominant research lab for mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation in the Texas Hill Country, culminating in an unmatched yield of the brewery’s semi-frequent SPON series, JK’s ode to authentic Belgian lambic and gueuze. They are also curators of one of the best on-site beer festivals in the country with food/wine celebration Funk n’ Sour. Jester King, you’re our top-rated brewery!