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Ranking the best breweries in Texas

Texans like to do things big -- and the brewers that call this state home are no exception (incidentally, they also play a part in making Texans increasingly big). The state has seen a steady stream of new breweries in recent years, but which of them reigns supreme?

That's far too big a question for just one individual to handle, so we put together a panel of beer lovers to pick the 10 best breweries in Texas. Each panelist (see below for bios and beer cred) submitted a ranked list of breweries from 1 to 10, with first place votes receiving 10 points, second place votes receiving 9, and so forth. Individual votes were kept anonymous to ensure the kind of brute honesty that often also accompanies drinking lots of beer.

On with the ranks!

Real Ale Brewing Company
10. Real Ale Brewing Company, 29pts
Blanco
The Hill Country brewers have been brewing since 1996, and they have definitely passed the test of time. While their primary lineup consists of fairly simple, classic styles, they've begun to show a bit more of an exploratory side in recent years, which happens to some folks as they get older.

Beer Picks: Iron Swan Ale (seasonal), Devil’s Backbone, 4-squared, Coffee Porter (seasonal)

Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
9. Deep Ellum Brewing Co., 30pts
Dallas
Their slogan is "Love Runs Deep", and this North Texas brewery is undeniably putting plenty of love into their beer. Don't worry -- they also include hops and all that other important stuff. With something bordering on disgust for common commercial beers, Deep Ellum strives to put out flavor-forward beers to please true brew diehards.

Beer Picks: Deep Ellum IPA, Chocolate Cherry Double Brown Stout (seasonal), Dreamcrusher 2X Rye IPA (seasonal).
Southern Star Brewing Company
8. Southern Star Brewing Company, 32.5pts
Conroe
When Southern Star first hit the market, their Bombshell Blonde represented a subtle and refreshing way for people to ease their way into craft beer -- but once their Buried Hatchet Stout hit the shelves, people really started to take note. And take beer.

Beer Picks: Buried Hatchet Stout, Pine Belt Pale Ale, Valkyrie.
No Label Brewing Co.
7. No Label Brewing Co., 33pts
Katy
No Label started out on a small scale and has quickly found its beers in high demand. In the beginning, they found it hard to keep the bars stocked, but with an upgrade of their facilities -- which (hooray!) included adding a bottling line -- they have been able to expand in the Texas markets and experiment with new brews.

Beer Picks: Pale Horse Ale, Elda M. Milk Stout (seasonal), Don Jalapeño Ale (seasonal).
Revolver Brewing
6. Revolver Brewing, 35pts
Grandbury
If you've spent any time in Texas during the Summer months, you know that the heat can literally cook an egg on the sidewalk. And possibly a ham steak. For days like that, you need something crisp and refreshing. Knowing this, Revolver Brewery is putting out full-flavored beers that you can still easily spend all afternoon drinking.

Beer Picks: Blood & Honey, Revolver Bock, Mothers Little Fracker (seasonal).
Freetail Brewing Co.
5. Freetail Brewing Co., 35.5pts
San Antonio
Freetail has to be one of the hardest working brewpubs in Texas. With an extensive list of beers that reads like an encyclopedia, it can be really hard to pick favorites. Also to their credit, Owner Scott Metzger was one of the leading voices in getting the Texas beer laws changed last year. The beautiful thing about Freetail is that they are continually experimenting with beer recipes, so you never really know what to expect.

Beer Picks: Old Bat Rastard, La Muerta, 3Tail.
Karbach Brewing Co.
4. Karbach Brewing Co., 36pts
Houston
While Karbach has only been around for a few years, they have made a name for themselves as one of the fastest growing breweries in the state -- fast enough to be in the midst of a $15 million dollar expansion, because you all just keep drinking their beer too damn quickly, apparently. Their entire lineup is solid, which has earned them a loyal following.

Beer Picks: Rodeo Clown Double IPA, Weekend Warrior, Sympathy for the Lager, Hellfighter Imperial Porter (seasonal).
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
3. Saint Arnold Brewing Company, 37pts
Houston
Texas’s oldest craft brewery keeps gaining strength every year and they are one of the only breweries that can bring your workday to a halt. That's because every time they release one of their specialties, like the Bishop’s Barrel or Divine Reserve, you can find lines of people on the hunt for the rarities. If lady luck isn’t on your side and you can’t score one of their special releases, then your taste buds are safe with their year-round brews.

Beer Picks: Pumpkinator, Endeavour, Santo.
Austin Beerworks
2. Austin Beerworks, 38pts
Austin
This brewery is one for the hop heads. The Austin brewers are putting out hop-forward beers -- but not so much as to scare off the novice pale ale drinkers. Austin Beerworks are advocates for canning their beer to ensure freshness and full flavor, so keep that in mind when you're stocking up for the river.

Beer Picks: Fire Eagle American IPA, Peacemaker Extra Pale Ale.
Jester King Brewery
1. Jester King Brewery, 47pts
Austin
This Hill Country brewery is the only farmhouse brewery in the state that allows natural yeast to ferment their beers. This process gives their beers sour notes, low carbonation, and bold flavors. A visit to this brewery in the Springtime looks like a postcard, with a wide-open field of wild flowers to appeal to the eyes while the beer arouses your mouth.

Beer Picks: Black Metal Farmhouse Imperial Stout, Commercial Suicide Oaked Farmhouse Mild, Boxer's Revenge Barrel-Aged Wild Ale.


The Judges

Jeremy Banas -- Jeremy runs Ruination Press and writes articles for the San Antonio Current. He is also the co-founder of San Antonio Beer Week.

Mike Cortez -- Mike is an advocate for Texas craft beer and runs Texas Beer Guide. He also covers the Austin bar and restaurant scene and is currently writing a book about Texas beer.

Matt Dixon -- Matt is the co-founder of the Dallas Brew Scene and the Dallas Brew Bus. He is a supporter and tour guide of the Dallas craft beer scene.

Timothy Hudson -- Founder of the Houston Beer Fest, which is one the largest beer festivals in Texas. This year’s festival will take place June 7-8th.

Stephen Nancarrow -- Stephen is a craft beer aficionado that started the Texas Let’s Talk Craft Beer group on Facebook that has now spread across the country.

James Simpson -- James is a radio personality that runs What’s on Tap for KPRC 950AM in Houston.

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