Quality beer producers have been popping up all over the nation, and Texas certainly hasn’t been left out of this brewery explosion. But how exactly is a beer fan supposed to keep track of all the new brews?
That’s where Austinite Mike Cortez comes in. As founder of the beer-centric website Texas Beer Guide, he’s recently published a book that will help you sort through the top-tier of Texas beers. “Beer Lover’s Texas: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars” is now available online at Amazon.com and in stores like BookPeople — where Cortez will talk about the book at 7 p.m. on Friday.
His author’s talk will no doubt include a look at some of the state’s stellar breweries. He’s come to know them through the Texas Beer Guide, which he’s currently working on overhauling and updating with new information now that the book is on shelves. His BookPeople event will also include beer, of course, from Fort Worth’s Rahr & Sons Brewing and Austin’s own Infamous Brewing.
Get to know him before Friday evening with this Q&A.
What is the Texas Beer Guide, and how did a full-fledged book spring from that?
Texas Beer Guide is a project that I started almost 6 years ago. I was a writer and photographer in Houston who was known for supporting the local culinary scene, but I always had a passion for beer. I started to see that people didn’t realize that there were many breweries in Texas so I started to work on a website, with no clue about web design, to showcase all of the Texas breweries and brewpubs. Texas Beer Guide officially launched in March of 2012, and I was one of the first blogs to feature a map dedicated to all of the breweries and brewpubs in the state. It took me a couple of years to do all of the research and build the website to my liking. I hosted a launch party in Austin in September of 2012, and the week after I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It took a big toll on me and I spent most of 2013 recovering.
Last year I received an email from a publisher who liked my website and said they were looking for someone to write the Texas book in the series of Beer Lover’s books. After that, I spent nearly every weekend traveling Texas to write the book from March through October, all while juggling/organizing/hosting the Texas Tequila & Margarita Festival.
Tell me about the book. What should craft beer fans expect in your guide to Texas’ craft beer scene?
Texas is such a large state and there is so much to see and do. With the book, you can navigate the state and see where you can find great beer all over Texas. The book is split up by the geographic regions of Texas, so if you’re traveling through the Hill Country or the South Texas Plains, you can see what breweries, brewpubs and craft beer bars are in your area. There are also pub crawl suggestions for some of the larger cities. With the massive explosion of breweries that have opened up, some of the newer breweries are not listed in the book. As fast as the scene is growing, this book can never truly be complete.
What was the research process like? How did you decide what should be featured and how to tell their stories?
I spent a lot of time just hitting the road. I used my website to plan out my trips and used social media to reach out to people in the beer community for suggestions of bars to check out. I wanted to feature all of the breweries and brewpubs in the state but found out quickly that it’s kind of an impossible task with as fast as everything is growing. I spent nearly every weekend driving to different cities to visit breweries and speak with the breweries about their history and the story behind their beers. I did quite the share of sampling as well.
What are some of your favorite Austin beers right now?
Picking a favorite beer is nearly impossible because there are so many great beers brewed around Austin. There are a few that hold a special place in my heart. I am a really big fan of Senor Viejo from Twisted X Brewing Company and I am usually quick to recommend that. The Green Room IPA from Uncle Billy’s is always a great go-to, as is Christine Celis’s Gypsy Series beers. I’m a big fan of Adelbert’s Dancin’ Monks and I really love what the guys at Infamous Brewing have done with Double Tap IPA and Sweep the Leg.