As I returned to Texas from my recent trip, I took a right turn off Interstate 10 at Van Horn, Texas to visit what’s been called “The most remote brewery in America,” Big Bend Brewing, in Alpine.Alpine is a tiny place with a population just short of 6,000 people.Unlike its artsier neighbor, the quirky Marfa, it’s got a blue collar feel to it. At a comfortable 4450 feet of elevation, it also has something missing in west Texas, pleasantly cool temperatures for much of the day, even in July!
Big Bend is the latest venture for Steve Anderson, who was long a staple of the Austin craft beer scene, first at the late Waterloo Brewing Company and then at Live Oak Brewing before he made his move out west.Steve took a moment out of his day off to share a beer or two with me and talk about Big Bend. Housed in an unassuming grey metal building along US 90, you’d never know it was a brewery if not for the big grain silo painted with the company logo out front.
Inside, there’s no doubt.Stainless tanks line the walls and all of them seem to be happily bubbling away as their contents become beer.The newest tanks are big, 120 barrels, which speaks to their success, although when I asked Steve why the newest tank is named Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steve shakes his head, “I have no idea.”
His beers are very straightforward, nothing quirky, no special ingredients, simple names, easy to remember and loaded with west Texas symbolism.Tejas Lager, Terlingua Gold, Big Bend Hefeweizen, La Frontera IPA and Number 22 Porter are their year round offerings.Each are very true to style, but being a hop-head I favored the Terlingua Gold’s pleasant Cascade bite and subtle citrus aromatics and the more assertive Frontera’s hop bite.Anderson is a big fan of lagers though and the delicate maltiness of the Tejas Lager lets that love shine through.
The latest expansion has allowed their beers to reach as far east as Steve’s old stomping grounds in Austin, a scant 403 miles away. The brewery does make a few seasonals (an Oktoberfest is up next) but they are also known for their annual takeover of the tiny town of Valentine, Texas around February 14th, effectively tripling the size of the town for a night of beer, music and romance at the old General Store.They craft a special beer for the occasion, most recently Pasión Peppermint Porter. I’ve visited on a workday, when the brewery is all business, with the canning line running and the aroma of mashed grain in the air, but the Saturday tour is a different vibe, with a few beer tourists dropping in to sample the beers and learn about the brewing process.I was sorry to have to hit the road for Houston instead of staying for a few pints, but left happy, with a collection of brewery-fresh cans in my back seat, letting me savor Steve’s “beer from out here” back in steamy Houston.
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
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