My 5 Favorite Austin Beers at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Texas Craft Brewers Festival VolunteerOceans of beer flowed freely at the 2014 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. More than 150 types of beer were poured by 57 brewers at Fiesta Gardens. There is absolutely no way to taste all of those beers, so I took a simpleton’s approach to the beer bash this year: I tasted only what came to me in the VIP session and after that I tasted only beer that I can readily buy in Austin.

Notes on my approach:

  • VIP is the only way to go if you want to avoid the insanely long lines that come with general admission. Sure you’ll miss some of the special tappings that happen every 30 minutes going later into the day, but you will get to taste almost anything else you want without wasting all day in line.
  • It sounds counter-intuitive to drink Austin based beers when the whole state is coming to Austin. Why the hell not taste what I can’t get normally? Yes I drank other beers, but when I needed to actually seek a beer, I wanted to know that if I like it, I can buy it again after the fest. This wasn’t an exercise in total exploration.

Here are my five favorite Austin beers poured at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival:

Austin Beerworks, Sptunik

Austin Beerworks SputnikThis Russian imperial coffee oatmeal stout is as smooth as any oatmeal stout you’ll encounter with a bit of an edge from coffee from Cuvée Coffee Roasting Company. It wasn’t listed in the official program, but poured during the VIP session. This isn’t one of Austin Beerworks regular line up, but you can get it on tap around town seasonally.

 Hops & Grain Brewing, Double IPA 

Hops & Grain Double IPAThis bad boy was not listed on the official program, but was poured at the Hops & Grain booth along-side its Greenhouse IPA. Richer in color, with a bolder citrus and herbal punch, this 2X IPA cut through any beer lingering on the palate from a previous pour. I’d love to see this released in a can in the Greenhouse series.

Independence Brewing Co. Prickly Pear Stash IPA Firkin 

Amy Cartwright digs on the Stash IPA prickly pear
Amy Cartwright digs on the Stash IPA prickly pear


The folks at Independence spiked a batch of its Chinook hops Stash IPA with a dose of deep purple prickly pear juice made by heating, but not boiling, the luscious fruit. Neon pink, this beer stood out. It kept the familiar hoppy bite of Stash, with an added layer of melon flavor. Lots of fun.

Jester King Snörkel

Ron Extract pours a Jester King Snorkel
Ron Extract pours a Jester King Snorkel


This was the most interesting beer I tasted all day. The sour German Gose style beer is made with wheat, oyster mushrooms grown near the brewery and both sea salt and alderwood smoked sea salt. Funky, light and low alcohol, I could drink this stuff all afternoon. More please.

Real Ale Oktoberfest 

Erik Ogershok pours the pumpkiny goodness
Erik Ogershok pours the pumpkiny goodness


Real Ale made a traditional Bavarian style Oktoberfest with German malt, hops, and yeast and then spiked the bad boy with pumpkin pie spices. While it had the typical body and character of a Märzen, the pumpkin pie spice gave it an extra festive flavor without overwhelming it. Deelish.

Tell me what I missed. What were your favorites?

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Whole Foods Markets brings 45 beer taps to its new Domain store

Whole Foods Market Domain StoreDo you want to go to the grocery store to have a couple beers? Not too long ago that would have been an absurd question. Lately a few stores around Austin have added beer taps to let customers enjoy a pint whether they are buying groceries or not. Whole Foods Markets, which has beer taps in its downtown, Arbor Trails and Bee Caves stores, is opening a new location at the Domain on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, that will have 45 beer taps in its Draft Shack. That’s great news for beer lovers in Austin.

Austin’s fifth Whole Foods Market store will be its second largest in the area with 63,000 square feet and will of course carry the fat selection of natural, organic and locally sourced eats that we’ve come to expect. Like each Whole Foods store, the new location at the Domain will have a unique feel with art pieces by Judy Paul, a cool moss and steel wall installation above the escalator by Articulture, re-purposed wheel barrows hanging above the Wheel barrow mobil at Whole Foods Marketproduce department and neon art in beer ally made by Austin Ion Art.

The artistic touches give it a cozy feel worthy of lingering a bit longer. The draw to linger is enhanced immensely with the Draft Shack, the store’s indoor oyster bar with 45 beers and four wines on tap as well as chargrilled oysters, gumbo and BBQ shrimp. The bar is located adjacent to the wine section. Both the beer and wine selections will rotate regularly with unique selections from new distributors.

Having a big selection of beer on tap gives Whole Foods the ability to sell us local brews that aren’t currently bottled to be available on the store shelves. The taps in Draft Shack will feature local beers from brewers like Austin Beerworks and wine from Duchman Winery. It will also have Abita Root Beer, house-made cold brewed coffee and hard cider from Austin Eastciders.

The Draft Shack isn’t the only place in the new store to chill with a draft beer. In front of the store, the Public Domain has outdoor seating, playground equipment for the rug rats, fire pits and a bad-ass recycled freight train shipping container that has been converted into an outdoor beer and bratwurst bar with four beers and root beer on tap. Dogs are welcome and even invited to “Yappy Hours.” The Public Domain will also have space for live music. Not bad for a grocery store.

Whole Foods Market Draft Shack BarIf you prefer to take your beer home, the Domain store will have 80 feet of beer in coolers. The beer aisle will have a four foot section that features 100 point rated beers. It will also have a selection of gluten free beers and ciders.

Krystal Angelo, the draft beer buyer for Whole Foods Market Domain and Jake Maddux, aka @BeerEvangelist, will host a Google + Hops Hangout on Tuesday, January 14, from noon to noon:30 to talk all things craft beer. This is a great chance to plan out your first beer adventure at the new Domain store.

All of those excellent beverages call for a nosh. Prepared foods will be plentiful in the Domain store. The bakery will have bread from Easy Tiger, fresh tortillas made in-store, a cookie of the, and made in-store bagels and bialys. The seafood department will also roll out do-it-yourself sushi and sashimi. My tour guide, Rachel is a huge fan of the Texas Ramen spot that will make Ramen with a Texas BBQ. There will be plenty of good chow on the hot bars and salad bars.

The store opening celebrations will start with a bread breaking ceremony (a Whole Foods Market version of ribbon cutting) at 7:30 a.m. and the official opening at 8 a.m. The first 500 shoppers in the store will receive a new Austin shopping bags filled with goodies. I wonder if it will include a local beer?

What are you drinking?

Texas Craft Brewers Festival taps booming beer market

“This has never been seen before in Texas,” mused Tim Schwartz, president of the  Texas Craft Brewers Guild and owner/brewer at Real Ale Brewing Company, as he looked around at the 39 Texas craft brewers and a growing crowd of thirsty people at the 2013 Texas Craft Brewers Festival, held at Fiesta Gardens in Austin on September 28. He was referring not only to the growth or the Festival, with 13 new breweries participating this year — up from 28 in 2012 and 18 in 2011 — but also to the vibrant development of the industry.

“We’ve more than doubled the number of brewers coming to this festival in the past few years,” said Schwartz. “That’s because there are a lot of new breweries opening up around the state. There are more breweries in Texas now than there ever have been. The increase in the number of people who drink craft beer has been fueling that growth. We see it at Real Ale. We’ve grown by 30 percent this year and will be producing more than 50,000 barrels.”

Schwartz has data from a recent study by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild to back up his enthusiasm. According to the study, Texas craft brewers produced 42 percent more beer in 2012 than in 2011.  From the looks of the expected sellout crowd of 6,000 at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, there are enough eager beer drinkers in the state to gulp down all of that brew.

More than 130 local beers were on tap at the festival. Intrepid beer fans sought out the breweries that were new to this year’s festival, including Armadillo Ale Works, Branchline Brewing, Brigadoon Brewery, Buffalo Bayou Brewing, Cedar Creek Brewery, Community Beer, Cycler’s Brewing, Infamous Brewing,  Karbach Brewing, Lone Pint Brewery and Stones Craft Brewing. Clay Wicker, brewer and owner of Cycler’s Brewing, hopes to take advantage of cyclists’ proclivity to down a few pints after a hot ride with his cleverly named beers.

Returning breweries brought special and seasonal beers that aren’t readily found in bars, restaurants and retail shops.Independence Brewing Co. broke out a Muggles Double Cask dry hopped with Galaxy, Live Oak Brewing Co. introduced its Smoaktoberfest, Austin Beerworks tapped its Einhorn, Hops & Grain poured its Greenhouse Baltic Porter and the always inventive Jester King Brewery dazzled with Atrial Rubicide. The biggest crowds queued up for the special tappings that happened throughout the day.

With a mind-numbing variety of beer styles — from Czech, to Belgian, to German, to Texan — there were too many fan favorites to crown one king. A few that garnered audible oohs and aahs were Adelbert’s Brewery Barrel Aged Dancin’ Monks,No Label Brewing Black Wit-O, Pedernales Brewing Lobo Oktoberfest and (512) Brewing Company Whiskey Barrel Double Pecan Porter.

Despite the oppressive humidity early in the day and the sudden downpour in the afternoon, the crowds were in good spirits, luxuriating in barrel after barrel of locally made craft brew. It’s a good time to be a Texan beer lover.



This story was first published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to attend the Festival free of charge. 

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For the Love of Beer at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

Beer Panel at Austin Food & Wine FestivalWhat do you get when you want to talk about craft beer at a wine festival? An audience salivating to hear about brewers’ inspiration and latest brews. Bill Norris, beverage director for the Alamo Drafthouse, hosted a panel of craft brewers. Adam DeBower, co-owner and brewer at Austin Beerworks; Brad Farbstein, owner of Real Ale Brewing Company; and Terry Nance, of Alaskan Brewing Company, discussed their beers and what got them into the industry.

Real Ale, one of Austin’s oldest craft breweries poured 4-Squared, a dry hopped version of its wildly popular Fireman’s Four released for 16th anniversary of the brewery, and Blonde Barleywine Ale, a dry-hopped American and English style ale that is part of the Brewers Cut series.

Norris acknowledge Real Ale’s role as one of the pioneers of the Austin craft beer industry, having started in 1996. He asked Farbstein how business has evolved since he joined the brewery in 1998.

“We have seen the level of interest in craft beer blossom in the last five to seven years and our customers’ knowledge has increased significantly. They know what they want,” said Farbstein. “Our beers were very aggressive for the market in 1996. We made beers for beer drinkers. We realized a few years ago that we were still making the same beers for 15 years and the market was moving on. We have released more than eight new beers in the last three years to provide our customers with new styles. We want to stay current, hence the 4-Squared and Brewers Cut series.”

Beer at Austin Food & Wine FestivalAustin Beerworks, which is celebrating its second anniversary on May 4, poured its Pearl Snap Pilz, German style lager, cold fermented European hops and Fire Eagle IPA American IPA. “This was the most successful brewery launch I’ve ever seen. You started with four beers and overnight it was in every craft brew bar in town,” said Norris.

DeBower humbly acknowledged their fast success, “I give credit to everyone that came before us and created a lot of demand for craft beer. We have four partners and who each have extensive personal networks. We drink a lot, so we have a lot of relationships with bars and restaurants.”

He credits his love for beer as the reason he entered the business. “I like to work. I like to work hard, and I don’t like to get paid well. I know how to make things work on a shoe string. I used to work eight hours a day and then go to the bar and spend six hours drinking and talking about beer. I realized I didn’t want to do my day job. I just wanted to make beer,” said DeBower.

Alaskan Brewing makes its Texan brothers look downright young. The brewery, which opened in 1986 was just the 16th licensed craft brewery in the U.S. has only just ventured out of Alaska in the last 10 years. The well established northern beer outpost poured Alaskan Amber, its best selling German Alt style beer made with a gold rush recipe and Alaska Freeride APA, which brewed with Cascade, Citra and Centennial hops.

“Brewing in Alaska presents challenges. There are no roads in or out of Juneau,” said Nance. It’s also really damn cold, which can present challenges for brewing. “We generate steam to keep the brewery warm enough to ferment. We call it ‘beer powered beer.’ We use spent grain from the brewing process. We dry it and burn it in our boilers instead of fossil fuels.”

Norris turned the topic to the use of cans, which is beginning to be a more popular choice for craft brewers. Half of the beers served in the session were packaged in cans. Austin Beerworks hasn’t put any beer in glass. Real Ale just installed a canning line and packages with both bottles and cans.

DeBower thinks the stigma that cans are for lower quality beers is starting to fade. “Cans protect beer better,” he said. “Light is the second worse spoiler of beer after oxygen. We need to give our beer a fighting chance by protecting it.”

Farbstein likes the flexibility that cans provide. “We chose to use cans because there was a demand for our product in areas where you can’t take bottles, like the beach, the river or on a boat. It’s a keg that fits in a koozie.”

This story was originally posted in a different format on CultureMap.

Disclosure, I was provided a press pass to cover the festival.

What Are You Drinking? 

Meet the Tastemakers: 5 of Austin’s top breweries and their award-worthy beers

Craft beer is on fire in the U.S. and passion for local brews is stoked by a growing number of breweries in town. Austin now boasts 14 craft breweries —10 of which are new since 2010 — and with more in the planning stages. Not only do we have more choice, but local beers are winning awards on a national stage.

On Thursday, April 11, the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards will honor five of the top local breweries which were selected by a panel of culinary and beverage experts. Here is a look at the award-worthy nominees and the beers that inspired them to create their current brews.

Austin Beerworks

Austin Beerworks poured onto the Austin scene in April 2011 with its first batch of golden magic sealed in distinctive cans emblazoned with an iconic “A.” Comrades, founders and brewers Michael Graham, Will Golden, Adam DeBower and Mike McGovern are cranking out more than 100 cases an hour trying to meet demand for its highly drinkable brews. (Speaking of demand, sales rose 400 percent in 2012 over the previous year.)

“My dad used to give me sips of Heineken when I was a kid. I hated it. I remember it tasting like I imagined pee would taste. The first beer I really enjoyed was an Oatmeal Stout by Alaskan Brewing Co. The Oatmeal Stout was so different from any beer I’d ever tried — dark, roasty, full-bodied and silky smooth. It really opened my eyes to what a diverse beverage beer can be,” says Graham.

Austin Beerworks makes four year–round brews including the Black Thunder German-style Schwarzbier, Fire Eagle American IPA, Peacemaker Extra Pale Ale and Pearl-Snap German-style Pils. The Peacemaker has not only built a following among Austin beer lovers, but it also wowed the expert palates at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, winning a silver medal just four months after its introduction.

“Our beer is currently only available in Austin. People are drinking it faster than we can make it,” Graham states. Austin Beerworks is available in about 175 locations in Austin only: on tap at local bars and restaurants and in cans in local stores.

Hops and Grain Brewing Co.

Hops and Grain Brewing Co. opened its doors at the terminus of East Sixth Street in October 2011, and demand for its beer has already necessitated an expansion of the facilities. The brewery tripled the capacity to about 4,000 barrels and added an automated canning line making it possible to move from all kegs to packaging 95 percent in cans.

Running enthusiast turned brewer Josh Hare currently makes three year-round beers, ALT-eration, a Dusseldorf style Altbier; Pale Dog, an American pale ale; and The One They Call Zoe, a pale Vienna lager with a pilsner finish named for Hare’s Papillion dog.

“Our ALT-eration won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2012 and we are incredibly proud of that,” Hare says. “We are also very proud of our third year-round beer that will be released the first week of April, The One They Call Zoe. I don’t take myself very seriously but I take very seriously the art-form that I’ve chosen as a career and we look for consumers that share the same inspiration.”

“The first craft beer that I fell in love with was Dale’s Pale Ale,” Hare continues. “When I lived in Boulder, I had a group of friends that I would rock climb with and, at the time, that was the only quality canned beer we could find. Since the parks and open spaces prohibited glass we had to go for cans, or not take beer with us, which wasn’t really an option! Our Pale Dog resembles Dale’s in that it’s a pale ale and it’s packaged in a can, but the flavors are very different.”

On any given Friday or Saturday, the tap room is packed and the brewery’s events are always crammed with enthusiastic craft beer aficionados and casual drinkers alike. The brews’ success has led to the addition of several new beers. Last year Hops & Grain opened a barrel room to make six beers in French wine and bourbon barrels called the Volumes of Oak series and a sour beer line called Volumes of Funk.

Hops & Grain brews about three different beers every week on its Greenhouse system, which is a three barrel pilot brewery that allows the brewery to continually experiment with new and innovative recipes. Hops & Grain available at 175 Austin bars, restaurants and retail stores like Whole Foods and HEB.

Jester King Craft Brewery

Jester King Craft Brewery started turning heads when it released highly acclaimed barrel-aged brews near Dripping Springs in late 2010. It has continued to capture attention as it tinkers with its year-round brews — Le Petite Prince, Nobel King, Wytchmaker Rye IPA, Black Metal Imperial Stout, Mad Meg and Commercial Suicide — as well as for its ever-changing lineup of limited production beers.

“The first beer I fell in love with was Dogfish Head Raison d’etre. It was the first beer I had with great depth of flavor,” says co-founder Jeff Stuffings. “The beers we brew at Jester King don’t actually resemble a beer like Raison d’etre, however. Our flavors and aromas tend to be less driven by malt and adjunct ingredients and more so by fermentation with a diverse array of organisms that include brewer’s yeast, native wild yeast, brettanomyces and souring bacteria.”

Jester King brews with farmhouse yeast, wild and native yeasts to achieve unique flavors and aromas, and naturally cask-conditions its beers for two to three months for complexity and the authentic farmhouse style. The brewers are currently making 22 small batch beers (and counting), including sour barrel aged beers like Funk Metal, which is a sour Black Metal blended with pure brettanomyces yeast.

“Our motto is to brew what we like, drink what we want, offer the rest to those who want it. Why would we want to make beers that everyone else is making,” says brewer Ron Extract.

“I think what sets us apart is our use of wild yeasts from the Texas Hill Country that give our beer a unique sense of place. The two beers I’m most proud of are our Funk Metal Barrel-Aged Sour Imperial Stout and RU-55 Barrel-Aged Sour Red Ale. These beers have interesting flavors and aromas and are well balanced and very drinkable in my opinion,” Stuffings remarks.

The Jester King tasting room is open Saturdays from 1-4 p.m., with tours at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Its beers are mostly packaged in 750ml bottles and sold at local retailers, but it is also available on tap at some Austin restaurants and bars.

Real Ale Brewing Co.

Real Ale is well known beyond the Austin city limits because of the phenomenal success of its flagship ale, Firemans #4. One of the oldest breweries in the area, founded in Blanco by Philip and Diane Conner in 1996, it is one of the largest with a capacity of 72,000 barrels (almost a million cases) a year.

“There wasn’t one moment or beer that led to an epiphany. It was kind of a cumulative effect of inspiration,” says Erik Ogershok, brewmaster and woodmaster general. “Back in the mid-’80s, the beers would have been Spaten Oktoberfest, Paulaner Salvator, Duvel, Chimay, Hoegarden, Young’s, Fuller’s, Sam Smith’s, Anchor Liberty and Steam, and Sierra Nevada if you were lucky enough to find any of them. The memories of these early experiences live on in the beers we brew.”

The homework of tasting many excellent beers for inspiration has paid off with a lineup of inventive and award-winning beers. Real Ale brews at least 10 beers at any time; eight of them are year-round brews including the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, Lost Gold IPA, Brewhouse Brown Ale and ESB. Firemans #4 and Hans’ Pils both brought home Silver medals from the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

It also brews two seasonals each quarter such as Phoenixx Double ESB and Devil’s Backbone Tripel. The experimental barrel-aged Mysterium Verum series is where the brewers show their creative flair. Recent brews include WT3F?!, a tripelwort fermented exclusively with brettanomyces bruxellensis yeast; and The Kraken, a Sisyphus barleywine aged for 11 months in American and French oak.

“If forced to pick a favorite beer, from our regular line up I’ll pick 15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout and Hans’ Pils. They were game changers for us. From Mysterium Verum, I’ll pick Imperium and Scots Gone Wild. They were beers that took years to come to fruition and the final product didn’t disappoint. I also like the fact that we were able to incorporate native yeasts in the beer to bring focus to the Hill Country terrior,” says Ogershok.

Real Ale is widely available around Austin: on tap at locations such as Easy Tiger, Draughthouse, Hopfields, Barley Swine and by the bottle in stores such as Whole Foods, HEB, Central Market, Spec’s and Twin Liquors.

Thirsty Planet Brewing Co.

Thirsty Planet introduced its first keg in June 2010. Its beers quickly gained popularity, and it has been brewing at full-tilt with the expectations of doubling the production this year. That increase in capacity isn’t keeping up with demand in thirsty Austin, so the Planet is having four fermentation tanks made.

Owner and head brewer Brian Smittle had been brewing beer for almost 20 years in Colorado and Oklahoma before he chose to move to Austin. He fell in love with beer while studying politics in the U.K. “There was a pub in the basement and naturally I did a lot of ‘studying’ down there. To this day British style beers are my favorites,” says Smittle.

Thirsty Planet makes three year-round brews — Buckethead IPA, Yellow Armadillo Wheat and Thirsty Goat Amber — that are highly drinkable in the Texas heat.

“Our best selling beer, Thirsty Goat Amber, is a medium body beer with a beautiful reddish hue, a malty profile and a light spicy hop finish. This is my favorite beer because it goes great with lots of different food, and it’s a great session beer,” says Smittle.

“Buckethead IPA is a big, aggressive IPA. The beer is 8.75 percent and 82 IBU. We use Magnum, Columbus, Summit and Cascade hops to brew it. Our Yellow Armadillo has a yellow straw color, a crisp tangy wheat taste, and a citrus finish.”

Thirsty Planet also offers special and seasonal beers like the Silverback Pale Ale, Jittery Monk and Franklin Smoked Porter. Its beers are available on draft in 250 bars and restaurants in the Austin area. In addition, Thirsty Planet recently purchased a pre-owned Italian bottling machine with plans to sell 12-ounce six packs of all three year-round beers and 22-ounce bottles of specialty beers in local stores.

If you want to check out the facilities, tours are offered each Saturday starting in the spacious tasting room.

The 2013 Tastemaker Awards takes place Thursday, April 11 at The Driskill. Tickets are available now. 

This story was originally published on CultureMap. All photos by Bill Sallans.

Disclosure: I am a CultureMap Tastemaker Award Judge.

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Liberty Tavern reopens with fresh Austin vibe and focus on Texas-made brews and cocktails

I recently wrote about the newly renovated Liberty Tavern for Austin Man magazine. Today I published a follow-up Q&A with the Liberty Tavern general manager, Michael Creecy, on CultureMap Austin. I guess I can’t get enough local craft beer. 

lot of people complain about the “Dallasification” of Austin. Oh how people go on about big oil moneyed, overly made up, aesthetically-challenged Dallasites (or is it Dallasonians?) crossing the border into our city with the reprehensible intent to plow through our “weird.” One only has to go to the Domain to understand just how insidious this threat is to our way of life.

When will it stop? The Hilton Austin just brought in a new general manager from Dallas to run its recently renovated Liberty Tavern. But wait: Dallas transplant Michael Creecy is bringing an Austin focus to a previously non-descript restaurant that was mostly just a breakfast buffet place. Now that’s a twist.

The Liberty Tavern reopened its doors this month with the newly added Austin vibe, which includes a new bar with a menu of seven Austin craft brews out of the 12 beers on tap and 20 bottles. CultureMap had a beer with Creecy to get a feel for the reborn Liberty Tavern, learn what Creecy brings to the table and hear what guests can expect from the new menu.

CultureMap: What brings you to Austin and the Liberty Tavern?

Michael Creecy: I left banking several years ago for a more exciting and dynamic career in restaurants. I love the fast pace and dealing with new customers all the time. I worked at the stylish Neighborhood Services in Dallas under Nick Badovinus, who was nominated for the Outstanding Restaurateur James Beard Foundation Award. He was a great mentor and taught me a lot about having an attention to detail. Every picture must be straight and not a crumb on the floor.

I had a great four-year run with Nick, and then we decided to relocate to Austin because we wanted to raise our son here. The timing was right for Liberty Tavern, and the owners and I met just before the remodeling started. The renovation brings a great new atmosphere with the Texas beer theme, but the bar is still evolving to meet my high standards.

CM: What’s new at the Liberty Tavern?   

MC: The first thing that’s new is the bar. Although it was called “Tavern” before, it didn’t have a bar. We know that people who come to Austin want an authentic taste of what the town has to offer, so we have introduced a menu focused on Austin and Texas-made beer, cocktail and bar food.

We have a great bar menu with our Beer Dinner, a roast pork shank served with cheese spaetzle and a flight of Austin beers, as well as Texas inspired dishes like our seafood ceviche made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. We also have installed three long communal table and 14 high-definition TVs. The vibe is younger and more exciting, particularly with the focus on beer. Our evening crowd has really picked up.

CM: What local beers are you serving?

MC: We have one draft beer tower that is completely dedicated to Texas craft brews like (512) Brewing Pecan Porter, Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap, Real Ale Fireman’s 4, Thirsty Planet Buckethead and Austin Amber, Stash IPA and Saison from Independence Brewery. We also have Hops and Grain Pale Dog in cans, Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug by the bottle and Jester King Noble King and Drink’in the Sunbelt in the 750ml bottles.

The reception for local craft beer has been really good in the past couple of weeks since we reopened. Our guests have loved our emphasis on local beer, have explored a wide selection of beers and have delved into the exotic bottle selection. In fact Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap has been a best seller beating both the traditional big sellers, Bud Light and Blue Moon sales.

CM: What are you most excited about with the newly refurbished Liberty Tavern?

MC: I’m most excited to bring new attention to service to the Hilton Austin; I’m bringing my experience in four-star dining service to the Liberty Tavern. Our staff will pay a lot of attention to aspects of refined service to make sure customers have a good experience.

I’m also excited about introducing new creative ideas from the stand-alone restaurant world, such as unique signature cocktails that change to meet the fast moving desires of guests. I experienced the craft cocktail explosion in Dallas and have a passion for making excellent drinks with Texas spirits.

At the Liberty Tavern, our cocktail menu features Texas spirits like Dulce Vida Tequila, Rebecca’s Creek Whiskey, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Treaty Oak Rum. We also have a selection of 15 Scotches and 10 small batch bourbons. We plan to refresh the cocktail list seasonally month to match the weather. As soon as we get the first cold snap, we’ll introduce heartier cocktails and heavier beers like stouts.

Liberty Tavern is located in the Hilton Austin downtown on 500 East Fourth St. in between Red River and Neches Streets. The tavern is open from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. daily with a special reverse happy hour from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. featuring $2 off Texas specialty cocktails and beers. Reservations are available by phone (512) 682-BREW (2739), or through

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Release party for Austin Beer Guide Summer 2012 issue set for June 28

Summer 2012 cover art by Michael Sieben

Do you need an excuse to drink beer this week? Got one. The beer-swilling potty-mouths that put together the stellar Austin Beer Guide are throwing a release party for the Summer 2012 issue at 7pm on Thursday, June 28, 2012 on the patio of Billy’s on Burnet, 2105 Hancock Drive.

Whether you are an ironic-t-shirt-wearin-over-grown-beard-sportin-yeast-strain-braggin beer geek or just someone who wants to know where to get a good beer in Austin, the Austin Beer Guide is the best source for information on the craft brew scene in Central Texas. The Summer 2012 issue explores Austin’s dive bar culture, looks into the future of packaged beer, has brewers’ opinions on wheat beer, describes the best and worst drinking holes of New Braunfels, has a profile on Austin’s newest brewery, Rogness Brewing, and has an interview with award winning brewer, Brian “Swifty” Peters of Uncle Billy’s.
The brilliant editors of Austin Beer Guide are calling the release party “PATIO-BEER-MAGEDON!”  The bash will, of course, feature a sea of casked, kegged and canned rare and special beers. Austin Beerworks will be debuting their Summer seasonal berliner weisse Eisenhorn, Hops & Grain will bring a keg of Barelywine, a first of the Volumes of Oak series, Jester King will have a cask of their Drinkin’ the Sunbeltcollaboration beer with Danish Gyspsy brewer Mikkeller and Live Oak will bring a rare, secret and unnamed cask of mystery beer.
I can’t imagine you need an additional reason to go grab a beer than the amazing line up of brews the good folks at Austin Beer Guide have lined up, but they are also throwing in free, collectible Austin Beer Guide #Brewmore or BeerTownAustin ‘Stache glasses.

What are you drinking?