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Travis Poling rates new Texas microbrewery beers 

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Shiner broke from its lager roots more than a year ago when it introduced an English-style ale called Wild Hare. Now that the rabbit is out of the hat, San Antonio-owned Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner isn't holding back and introduced a second ale this winter in the form of FM 966. Named for the farm-to-market road through land just south of the brewery, the new beer is patterned after farmhouse ales of Europe. In this case, they're going for a springtime provisional ale. The dosing of hops (Golding, Sterling and Meridian varieties) strikes just right balance with a little malty sweetness and a medium body.

Wild Hare wasn't bad, but Shiner takes just the right road with FM 966, offering the drinker a little more complexity and, for me, repeat buys.

Branchline Brewing Co., the newest microbrewery in San Antonio, is now on tap at more than a dozen bars in San Antonio and New Braunfels where finer beers are poured. The standards of a honey amber, a blonde, and a Rye IPA are among the first offerings, but expect Oyster Stout and Eggnog stout to hit before cold days are gone.

Ranger Creek Small Batch No. 4 is out in bottle. This time, it is an imperial mesquite smoked porter aged in Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling's own used bourbon barrels. Vanilla and smoke flavors are easy to pick out, but don't overtake the rest of the ingredients. Freetail Brewing Co. has brewed up a batch of Tim, a dark lager that will ferment for several weeks at cold temperatures before it is declared ready to drink. It pays homage to Tim Schwartz of Real Ale Brewing Co., a pioneer of the now-thriving Texas brewing scene.

New Braunfels Brewing redux

For more than a year, New Braunfels Brewing Co. spread a little wheat beer love all over its namesake city with home-brewed test batches of its German Hefeweizen LuftWeiss, a malty interpretation of Dunkelweizen and a hop spicy brew they dubbed FeuerWeiss. But when the downtown brewery became a reality, so did the harsher side of reality. The bigger batches of beer weren't coming out right, and bars in New Braunfels weren't adequately supplied with the local stuff.

Owners Kelly and Lindsey Meyer made the tough decision to shut it down and take a do over. A new and larger brewing system has made its way from Germany to the Texas town founded by Germans and new batches should be available by the end of February.

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