Bottle & Tap: Big Bend Brewing

Lee Nichols

As you gear up for summer vacation, no doubt many of you are dreaming of the mystical and enchanting Big Bend area. You thirst for the mountains, the desert and the breathtaking sunsets.

If you also thirst for a good craft beer while you enjoy that sunset … you’re in luck. It might seem like an unlikely industry out there, but craft beer has arrived in West Texas in the form of Big Bend Brewing.

Meet Steve Anderson. You probably already know his talent—he was head brewer at Austin’s Live Oak Brewing.

But like you vacationers, he dreamed of Big Bend—he owned a house in Sanderson where he and his wife spent free time, and where the idea of bringing craft beer to the Wild West began brewing.

“When we moved to Sanderson, I immediately thought, ‘This place needs its own brewery,’” Anderson said. “It’s such a romantic area of the country. I had no financial ability to open one then, it was just a dream, but then this investor became available.”

The investor allowed him to leave Live Oak and set up in Alpine, population 5,972. It was a bit of a gamble, but it’s clearly paying off.

“We’ve already expanded,” Anderson said. “We had to. We couldn’t keep up with demand. We have three 30-barrel fermenters and one 15-barrel. Our Tejas Lager takes up one of our 30-barrel fermenters, and our biggest seller is the Terlingua Gold, which takes up another one. The third is taken by either our Number 22 Porter or our La Frontera IPA, and the IPA takes three weeks because of dry-hopping, so we’re always running out of either the porter or IPA. We don’t even can the IPA because we can’t keep up. We’ll finally start canning it in about a month.”

Sadly for you San Antonio beer lovers, you can’t get it around here—so you better start making plans to head out there.

On a recent visit, I finally got to try Anderson’s new work, and it mirrored the reputation he had built up in his many years in Central Texas.

The weather was a bit brisk, so the rich, satisfying porter warmed me up. And the Big Bend Hefeweizen was everything you look for in a hefe, with that lovely banana-ish flavor you expect. The golden and the lager weren’t quite on the level of those two, but I suspect they will hit the spot better when the desert temperatures soar this summer and I want something crisper. (As Anderson said, probably because the porter was available, I couldn’t find the IPA.)

Anderson’s love affair with the area is proving to be reciprocal. His beer is selling, and Big Bend National Park to the south has begun stocking it in its hotel lodge. To show the love back, “We’re trying to arrange for a share of the hefeweizen’s proceeds to go to the park,” Anderson said. “It’s amazing how supportive they are.”

Lee Nichols blogs about beer at Note: I’ve really enjoyed writing “Bottle & Tap” for these past few months, but my day job is eating up my freelance time, so this is last call. Thanks for reading!

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