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Five Beers to Try at the Big Texas Beer Fest

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Don't forget: Big Texas Beer Fest is 1 to 6 p.m. tomorrow, and noon for the VIPs who paid $25 more for the opportunity to be first at the taps and close down the event at the Deep Ellum Brewing Co. after-party. 

But if you haven't gotten around to obtaining a pass, you've still got a few hours to buy general admission tickets online at $35. If you're the last-minute type (or a stripper, drug dealer or paranoid type who trade in cash) you can buy them at the gate for $40. Designated-driver tix are $20 apiece online or at the gate, but the VIP tickets ($60) are only available online. 

Bring a few singles with you to buy extra sampling cards, which are good for another dozen 2-ounce samples, for $2 apiece. (TABC regulations limit beer events from providing more than 24 ounces per purchase. Thank you for protecting us from ourselves, Lone Star Nanny State.) 

Download and peruse a digital version of the program here for the schedule and map. And a glance through the list of participating breweries ought to convince any beer lover that it's a worthy event. 

A few things for attendees to remember: Bring a valid ID. Do not bring anyone younger than 21 -- not your kids, not even your infant. If you're driving, enter the fairgrounds at Gate 5 or 6 and be prepared to pay $10 cash. I'd recommend instead taking the DART Green Line to Fair Park; all-day DART passes are in most cases less than the parking cost ($4, $7 or $10, depending how far) and could save you from having to bring a designated driver or limit your consumption. Bring a printed copy of the Eventbrite ticket, which should have been emailed to you. And bring cash for food, sample card refills and merch. The grounds have ATMs, but do you really want to stand in another line? 

The event has a few beers that are rare, new to Texas and even some festival-only exclusives. Here are five beers or breweries worth seeking out and standing in line for. 

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company Vanilla Pug firkin.

Firkins are smaller, holding only a quarter barrel, or enough for 72 pints, so this could run out early. While connoisseurs may not consider Ugly Pug an especially interesting beer because of its year-round local ubiquity, it is nonetheless a solid black lager, and the vanilla addition and cask-conditioning should make it taste like a different beer altogether. Unfortunately, the brewery pulled its Sorachi Ace dry-hopped Belgian IPA.

2. Jester King Beer Geek Rodeo. This will be the first time the Imperial Oatmeal Stout brewed with smoked malt, chipotle peppers and Vietnamese coffee, a collaboration with Mikkeller, will be available outside the Austin brewery. That may sound like a lot of crazy things to add to a stout, but Mikkeller has a way of making a beer that sounds like a train wreck on paper work in your mouth.

3. Rochefort. This Belgian Trappist brewery recently re-entered the Texas marketplace. It makes only three beers, 6 (strong dark ale), 8 (a dubbel) and 10 (quad), and they're all incredibly good and incredibly expensive. This is a good chance to try them without shelling out $5 to $9 for a single 11.2-ounce bottle.

4. Ballast Point. The San Diego brewery's Sculpin is considered by many, including Beer Advocate users, to be among the top IPAs in the world. I'm not so sure, but I look forward to comparing it side-by-side with Deep Ellum's IPA, which I think may be even better. Try it before paying as much as $16 for a six-pack.

5. Deep Ellum and Peticolas brewing companies. Aside from just showing support to the locals, both these breweries make some great beers. Deep Ellum's IPA, Rye IPA and Rye Pilsner are all outstanding, and Peticolas' Velvet Hammer is as well. While a final beer list still isn't available (and if it isn't by this point, I'm doubtful it ever will be), they're sure to bring some special offerings. Fellow newcomers Lakewood Brewing Company and Denton's Armadillo Ale Works will be on hand, but unfortunately will not be pouring samples (though Armadillo will have sodas).

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