Now that the madness of the Christmas/New Year week is over (I don't think we've ever poured so much beer in ten days) I've had time to sit down and work on last year's numbers, and I like what I see. Of our top ten drafts in 2010, six are Texas beers. Four of those are brewed in Austin and one of them isn't even alcoholic! Seven of the ten (excluding the root beer but including the Badass Tap) are from breweries that fall into the craft beer category, the threshold for which, incidentally, has just been raised by the Brewers Association from 2 million barrels production a year to 6 million, so the Boston Beer Company gets to keep their status as a craft brewery. Good news.
Here's the rundown.
1. Real Ale Fireman's #4
No surprise there really - it was our best selling draft last year too, and the year before that. We sometimes have problems keeping enough kegs of this beer in our walk-in on busy weekends, and the brewery occasionally has problems keeping up with demand for it!
2. Shiner Bock.
No surprise here either, I reckon. A Texas legend and one that we just daren't ever run out of.
3. Live Oak HefeWeizen
Rated at Beer Advocate as second best Hefeweizen, after Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. Not bad for a small brewery from Texas.
4. Maine Root Beer
It might be called Maine Root, but it's brewed in Texas, right here in Austin. Organic too. You'll find no high fructose corn syrup in this soft drink.
5. Stella Artois
Could Stella be the most well known Belgian beer that's often not recognised as being from Belgium? Sure, Chimay. Yes, Duvel. Lindemans even. But Stella Artois? Sounds French. Nope, Belgian through and through.
6 and 7. (512) Pale Ale and (512) Pecan Porter
For a brewery that's only been open a few years they've made a big impression on the Austin beer scene with some innovative and delicious beers. And let's not forget that their Whiskey Barrel Double Pecan Porter was the first Badass Tap beer. Speaking of which...
8. The Badass Tap
This really brings a tear of happiness to my eye. We've had some fantastic beers on the Badass Tap in the past year (and one or two rarities), and when I look at the list of kegs we have in storage... well, let's just say we're in for some real treats in the coming months. Several of them have been sitting there for close to a year. Your wait is almost at an end, my lovelies, we'll be tapping you soon.
There can be few beers around the world as well known as Guinness. Maybe Budweiser, perhaps Bass, possibly Stella, but none have as much lore and legend (and downright fiction) behind them.
10. Brooklyn Lager
Another one I'm really pleased to see up there. I wasn't sure how well it was going to sell when we had the first kegs delivered but it's clearly a popular beer at Lamar. Quality will always shine through.
You might be wondering where the other Austin breweries are in the list. Fret not! Independence Saison (easily our best selling seasonal of the year) is at number 13, and Austin Amber is at 15 despite the fact that it wasn't even on the menu until May! Thirsty Planet's Buckethead IPA has already become a favourite and makes an appearance at number 24.
Honourable mentions also go out to Live Oak Oaktoberfest and Big Bark, Sam Adams Summer Ale, Anchor Christmas, Sierra Nevada Celebration and our house beer, Real Ale Drafthouse ESB.
And what of the coming 12 months? Jester King is already shipping beer and will be making their debut on the regular menu later this month (after an appearance on the Badass Tap with Whiskey Barrel Commercial Suicide a few weeks ago), and there are several new local breweries waiting in the wings including Austin Beerworks, South Austin Brewing, Hops and Grain, Twisted X and Circle Brewing.
And let's not forget the brewpubs - Uncle Billy's, Draught House, NXNW, Lovejoy's, plus the country's first brewing co-op, Black Star, and I hear that Dipak over at the Whip In (already a fantastic place to get your beer and some fine Indian food) plans to start brewing too!
Is Austin the country's best kept beer secret? Not for long, methinks.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson