I swear by the beers I love. For this reason, it’s difficult for me to stretch beyond my usual suspects to sample all the exploding craft beer market has to offer. This article was an exercise in getting outside my comfort zone.
For the last two months, I, along with my courageous tasting team, dove gullet deep in Austin’s bombastic brew culture. We ventured into the cruel and recently very wet traffic to satisfy our insatiable desire to find the best beer flights in Austin.
Why beer flights? Beer flights are about relationships. They force you to consider not just what’s within the glass, but what’s between them.
We let our bartenders dazzle us with their selections, giving each one the same instructions. We did not give a limit on the number of flights. We gave no input on our personal preferences, even when asked. We wanted to know why they chose and ordered the beers they did.
In each flight, we chose one beer we felt stood out, either because it represented a bartender’s creative choice or because it was really, really, good. In our results, we carefully evaluated our brews based on the most highly advanced scientific tools available: our faces.
After hours of attempting to drink beer like classy beer critics, devolving into the frat boys we really are, we compiled a list we believe represents some of the best brew flights Austin has to offer. We did the work, so you don’t have to.
You’re welcome, Austin.
#5 Zilker Brewing Company
- Pale ale
- Honey saison
- Extra special bitter
- Session IPA
Let me introduce you to this little brewery nestled in the heart of just East Austin. A uniquely Austin blend of urban class and industrial sweat, Zilker Brewing Company boasts bold flavors sure to satisfy casual drinkers and critics alike.
Starting with a classic pale ale, the four-beer flight finishes with a fantastic entry level IPA if you want to get your feet wet. The stand-out beer is easily the Extra Special Bitter, a brew you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
1701 E 6th St – Website
#4 Wright Bros. Brew and Brew
- Hops & Grain – Ampersand Coffee Porter
- Cortado espresso – rotating blend out of Portland
- Dogfish Head – Festina Peche
We didn’t limit ourselves to the bars we chose. Our selection criteria were somewhere between familiar haunts and Yelp. So when we rolled up to Wright Bros. Brew and Brew, we had no idea they were one of Austin’s recently installed beer/coffee combos.
Serving us an Espresso with an off-menu stout, Matthew – a managing partner and bartender – added a third palate cleansing sour that was missing the foot-in-mouth taste that sometimes accompanies deliciously tart beers.
The stand out in the flight was undoubtedly the Hops and Grain Ampersand, a coffee porter that doesn’t kick you in the teeth, but still gives you an excuse to drink beer when you wake up.
500 San Marcos St #105 – Website
#3 Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. (The ABGB)
- Hell Yes – Bavarian Style Lager
- Big Mama Red – Imperial Red Ale
- Rocket 100 – Pre-prohibition pilsner
- Chevelle SS – Hoppy Amber
- South Austin Speedball – Coffee Stout
I’m not sure you can go wrong with a flight that starts off with a beer called “Hell Yes.” This five-beer flight impressed us all the way from the Bavarian-style lager to the Coffee Stout that leaves you uncertain as to whether you should sleep for an hour or run a marathon.
What really knit this excellent flight together was our bartender’s energy. Stephania served us three specialty beers The ABGB had tapped at the moment, a bold selection that didn’t disappoint. The stand-out was the Chevelle SS, a medium-bodied hoppy amber beer that lingered after each sip.
1305 W Oltorf St – Website
#2 Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden
- Independence – Red Bud
- DeSchutes – Twilight Summer
- Southern Star – Buried hatchet
- Karbach – Hop Delusion
I tried. I really tried not to choose Banger’s. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because every beer review ever written in Austin lists Banger’s somewhere. Perhaps it’s because I have a vain need to be different. Whatever the reason, I tried.
But when it comes to beer, Banger’s does it right.
To me, the notion of choosing four beers from among 100 with no flavor input from your patrons seems like an impossible task. But our bartender, Lana, didn’t bat an eye. She seemed to capture the heart of what we were about, selecting three local brews bookended by a crisp lemony wheat beer and a hoppy delight.
Banger’s was made for the flight experience. Each beer is carried in an aged crate-wood construction with numbers chalked on the outside. The stand-out was Karbach’s Hop Delusion, a delectable evergreen and citrus hopped seasonal IPA. It’s enough to make a beer lover weep.
79 Rainey St – Website
#1 Whip In
- Deschutes – Black Butte Porter
- Independence – Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout
- Infamous – Sweep The Leg Peanut Butter Stout
- 512 – Whiskey barrel aged double pecan porter
- Duvel – Golden Ale
- Live Oak – Pilsner
- Hops & Grain – Zoe
- Whipin – Kamala brewed Pale Sahib
Where do I begin? We entered this pleasantly dank Indian pub not sure what to expect. I’m the kind of beer drinker who can find a pairing for almost any food. I don’t know why I never considered that a Texas imperial stout couldn’t accompany a spicy curry. Why not?
This eight-beer flight was what flights are all about. Jeremy, our beertender, didn’t hold back. He told us he couldn’t choose between dark and light beers, so he brought us two flights.
That suited us just fine.
We knew we were headed for trouble when he hadn’t even started our second flight before we had to finish a whiskey-barrel aged double pecan porter. Bring on the Naan. Our second flight of lighter beers included our stand-out, a delicious house brewed Pale Sahib, a beer so complex I don’t even know how to describe it. But that could be the curry talking.
1950 South Interstate Highway 35 – Website
So there you have it. If you didn’t already know, Austin is a playground for beer lovers. So get out and explore, and enjoy safely.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Where can we find your favorite beer flight in Austin?
Mathis Kennington is a local couples therapist and Austin enthusiast. To learn more about Mathis, visit his website.