By Claudia Alarcón
The United States has a long and complicated history when it comes to craft brewing. Modern U.S. craft beer history began in the 1960s, followed by an increasing popularity of homebrewing in the 1970s and the rise of microbreweries in the 1990s, which were legalized in Texas in 1993. Today, there are about 7,000 microbreweries across the country, including the Texas Hill Country and Boerne, home to a thriving craft brewery scene.
With three gold and three silver medals from international competitions, Dodging Duck Brewhaus (www.dodgingduck.com) offers a wide range of core and seasonal beers. “We typically have four brews on tap from our tanks but occasionally we have as many as six,” says Keith Moore, owner of the popular brewery. “We’ve tried to always have a variety of beers to please every palate.”
Brewmaster Ian Richmond almost always offers an India Pale Ale, but the recipe changes with every 10-barrel batch produced. The other three taps vary depending on what’s brewing. “We usually have a few batches of Duck and the Giant Peach Ale and HoneyDuckle Ale every summer, along with our Pine Road Pilsner and Pico de Pato Mexican Lager,” says Moore. Every fall they brew two batches of Ducktoberfest! and late fall usually brings the popular Quackinator Doppelbock and Zaner’s Old Geezer Pecan Brown Ale.
Richmond occasionally makes barrel-aged beers, including the newly released Down the Hatch Green Chile Ale, aged in a Devil’s River Whiskey barrel for about nine months before they tapped at the brewery’s 18th anniversary celebration on August 1, 2020. “Periodically we make cask conditioned ales which we serve at cellar temperature — around 55°F,” says Moore.
Moore says that craft brewing was coming along great in the Hill Country, with breweries popping up regularly, until COVID-19 hit. Since then, brewpubs with significant food operations have generally fared better than breweries without. “Our production has increased significantly over our history, but since we sell 100% of our production on site, our beer production has grown with our food sales,” he says. Dodging Duck also started canning small volumes of beer last year, and this has proven to be very popular with the current big increase in takeout and curbside sales.
Nearby, a group of homebrewing enthusiasts comprised of coworkers, friends and family members opened Tusculum Brewing Co. (www.facebook.com/tusculumbrewingcompany) in 2019 in the landmark Bergmann Lumber Company, along Boerne’s Hill Country Mile. The lively brewery makes 12 specialty and seasonal beers that rotate through the year, with a focus on lagers and Belgians.
“We usually try to have both our Belgian-style Big Tex Blonde and our Honeybee Blonde — a more hoppy but still light and easy-to-drink blonde — on tap or in bottles,” says co-owner Paige Matthews. “We always have a dark beer, whether it’s a porter, stout or brown ale, as well as a lager and an IPA. For our lagers and IPAs, we have a handful of recipes that may be available at any time depending on what our brewer is in the mood to make.”
Although they don’t brew seasonal beers per se, they always rotate what they have to offer, changing their summery Berliner Weisse by adding different fruits to the base recipe, and serving an Oktoberfest beginning in late September or early October.
Cibolo Creek Brewing Co. (www.cibolocreekbrewing.com) brewer Ty Wolosin likes to listen to his customers when it comes to big batch brews. They have two beers that never change — Creekside IPA and Boerne Blonde — alongside a wheat beer that changes every two months (Hefeweizen, American Wheat, Dunkel, Wit), a darker tap (Oktoberfest, Porter, Stout, Amber), and one seasonal (Pale Ale, DIPA, NEIPA, Tropical IPA). They always offer at least two small batch beers which change weekly.
“For small batches, I pretty much let myself, and our assistant brewer, Beck, do what we want,” says Wolosin. “My favorite thing to do is brew with a story in mind. An example is the New Mexico Hunting Trip IPA. My idea was to brew a beer that made you feel like you were in the pine and fir trees of New Mexico. I used piney hops, juniper berries and spruce extract. It smelled like the forest!” Another example is the Retired Space Commander, a New England IPA brewed with Galaxy Hops and space dust (edible gold dust).
Current seasonal beers include the recently released Lost Mail Pale Ale, as well as an American Wheat that will change to a pseudo Wheat Lager at the end of this month, before going back to the Hefeweizen for the fall. The Oktoberfest was brewed early this year and will stay until the end of October. Around Thanksgiving they’ll release fan favorite Streetside DIPA, and small batch enthusiasts can expect everything from Milkshake IPAs to Belgians, Coffee Stouts, barrel-aged beers and even seltzers.
Despite their popularity, Wolosin has not turned seasonal beers into year-round brews. “And I hear about it all the time! Sometimes it’s good to have patience, as it makes it that much better when it comes back. The Oktoberfest was originally a one-and-done brew, but now we do three batches of it to get us through the ‘season’ due to demand.”
Finally, Boerne Brewery (www.boernebrewery.com) honors the area’s diverse roots with four year-round and a couple of rotational seasonal offerings. Denim-Hosen is a traditional Kölsch-style Wheat Ale perfect to beat the heat while Willy’s ESB is a hybrid of an extra special bitter and a pale ale that pays homage to an Englishman who arrived in Boerne in 1878. The Old Courthouse Ale is a traditional English ale that honors the second oldest courthouse in the state, and the popular Hopstrasse is an American IPA named after Boerne’s historic main street, Hauptstrasse.