6 drink trends for 2016 from the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

SACC Whiskey Tasting
Whiskey Tasting at #SACC2016


The fifth annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) washed into the city on a wave of liquor. This year’s event had 25 percent more attendees than 2015 as well as a jump in the number of booze brands participating. More than 8,700 mixologists, brand representatives, and cocktail enthusiasts drank in information and binged on merriment at dozens of dinners and parties strewn all over town.

Notable industry experts like Houston Eaves of The Esquire Tavern in San Antonio, Jessica Sanders of drink.well. in Austin, and Alba Huerta of Julep in Houston packed hotel ballrooms with bartenders eager to learn tricks of the trade and the hottest trends for 2016. The presenters at SACC certainly have their finger on the pulse of the most important trends in the industry.

As Jason Kosmos, co-owner of The 86 Co. put it, “We are the urban shamans. We deliver the medicine. We deliver the advice.”

What do the cocktail shamans say about the cocktail trends of 2016?

1. Beer is for cocktails

Jacob Grier making a Beer Flip at #SACC2016
Jacob Grier making a Beer Flip at #SACC2016


Jacob Grier, author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, introduced a few hearty beer cocktails in his session with an academic approach to old-school drinks. In a “don’t try this one at home” moment, he superheated a metal rod to 1,000 degrees with a blowtorch to demonstrate how the earliest versions of flips were made. Rather than being a cold cocktail made with egg whites, historically, flips were made with beer, rum, sugar, and spice, served hot. Grier replicated it with a glowing red rod plunged into a malty beer, sending steam into the air and beer frothing over. The iron quickly heats the beer and caramelizes the sugars immediately. The result? A cocktail that smells like hot iron, tastes like scorched sugar in a smoky beer, and is oddly delightful.

For a safer way to make at home, and a really satisfying warm drink to fortify you against the cold, try his cognac and dark ale cocktail:

  • 2 ounces cognac
  • 12 ounces malty English ale like Samuel Smith Winter Welcome
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara raw sugar

Mix winter spices like clove and cinnamon in the beer and cognac mixture, while heating it on the stove. Serve it piping hot in a mug.

2. Whiskey is still king

Treaty Oak Distilling Whiskey Cruise at #SACC2016
Treaty Oak Distilling Whiskey Cruise at #SACC2016


No fewer than five seminars were dedicated to the caramel colored king, whiskey. In addition, there were several parties where whiskey was the featured spirit or heavily dominant. The recent surge in bourbon sales isn’t the only thing driving industry interest. Demand for rye whiskey, scotch, and Japanese whiskey is also running hot, and skyrocketing prices reaching beyond five digits will continue. The diversity of options running from rustic to elegant offer the drinking public plenty to thirst for.

3. Mezcal is the next bourbon
For the past few years, bourbon has been the hottest selling spirit, leaving many popular brands in scarce supply. Now it’s mezcal’s turn to soak in the spotlight. Mezcal was featured in a seminar on its culture, and brands like Montelobos Mezcal, Wahaka Mezcal, and Ilegal Mezcal held events to help bartenders hone their palates on the agave spirit. This is one spirit we are sure to see topping many cocktail lists this year.

Get into the spirit with this twist on the Moscow Mule, the Wahaka Mule:

  • 1.5 ounces Wahaka Mezcal
  • 3 ounces ginger beer

Stir and add a squeeze of lime.

4. Service matters
Dushan Zaric, a driving force behind the infamous Employees Only cocktail bar in New York and co-owner of The 86 Co., thinks the most important element of cocktail culture exists outside the glass. “As we grow as a profession and a craft movement, we are forced to adopt hospitality. In the culinary profession, it’s the better ingredients, the better experience. In cocktails, the quality of our drinks won’t differentiate us anymore. It will be more of the human dynamic that will set us apart. It is all about better service.”

5. Fortified factor
Jessica Sanders, co-owner of Austin’s drink.well. and soon-to-open-cocktail den Backbeat, sees the secondary players taking center stage. “Certainly, base spirits like mezcal and rye whiskey continue to be at the forefront but, above all, what you see is a very focused interest in education around modifier spirits and fortified wines — Madeira, sherry, and herbal liqueurs being particularly prevalent.”

6. Fun dominates

#SACC2016 Cocktail Tasting
#SACC2016 Cocktail Tasting


Travis Tober, who recently turned over the reigns as beverage director for Vox Table to become House Spirits Distillery’s national director of education and advocacy, is drawing on his inner Cyndi Lauper. “The biggest trend I saw at SACC this year was ‘fun.’ Gone are the days of speakeasies and rules at the door. The common citizen is hip to cocktails and they want them without pretentiousness. The cocktail scene is starting to relax and enjoy itself. And I for one am relieved.”

If the predictions of the spirit soothsayers of SACC hold true, we are in for a year of beer, dark liquor, and excellent experiences at the bars around Texas.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided a press pass allowing me to attend sessions at no cost.

What are you drinking?

What are you reading on What Are You Drinking in 2015

TexSom Tasting

I’ve been writing about beer, wine, spirits cocktails, and sometimes food on What Are You Drinking for more than five years now. The intent is to share information about great drinks, the stories of the people who make the drinks that we love, and fantastic places to enjoy drinks. In 2015 I wrote 57 new stories for the blog.

I’m always interested to see what people are most interested in reading. This year, among my top 20 most read stories, 11 were about wine or the wine industry, 8 were about cocktails and spirits and 1 was about beer. A little less than half of the stories published on the blog were originally written for another outlet and then reposted here.

It turns out that my two most read stories this year were written in 2013. A comprehensive story about whiskey has lasting interest. The second most read is about Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, which is a crazy popular brand.

WAYD Top stories 2015


Here are the top 20 most read stories on What Are You Drinking in 2015 that were written this year:

  1. 8 Texas wineries to explore off the beaten path, JANUARY 22, 2015 (extended version of a CultureMap story)
  2. Cool off with a Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka shandy, MAY 30, 2015
  3. I’m Embarrassed to be Texan, AUGUST 26, 2015
  4. Austin’s Best Bartenders: MARCH 7, 2015 (Austin Man Magazine)
  5. Texas Hill Country lands major event with 2016 Wine Tourism Conference, NOVEMBER 23, 2015
  6. Who gives a crap about wine bloggers?, DECEMBER 21, 2015
  7. Crazy good times at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival, APRIL 29, 2015
  8. Texas wine takes on the world, APRIL 29, 2015
  9. Win tickets to “The Official Drink of Austin” cocktail competition, FEBRUARY 24, 2015
  10. The 12 best places for happy hour in Central Austin, AUGUST 2, 2015 (Austin Woman Magazine)
  11. Infinite Monkey Theorem winery set to open in funky South Austin space, AUGUST 3, 2015 (extended version of a CultureMap story with added videos)
  12. Screw the New Year’s resolution — Let’s drink Franciacorta, JANUARY 10, 2015
  13. National wine pros will compete in 2015 Somms Under Fire food and wine event, JANUARY 14, 2015
  14. The Intoxicating Experiences of the 2015 TexSom, AUGUST 14, 2015
  15. The Right Wines for Summer Grilling, JUNE 3, 2015 (Wine & Food Foundation Newsletter)
  16. Real Ale Brewing has Extreme Makeover, FEBRUARY 17, 2015
  17. 3 whiskey cocktails guaranteed to keep you warm this winter, FEBRUARY 3, 2015 (CultureMap)
  18. Summery Whisky Cocktails for National Scotch Day, JULY 26, 2015
  19. These 9 Austin bartenders are shaking up the cocktail scene, APRIL 16, 2015 (CultureMap)
  20. Garage wins Official Drink of Austin competition, MARCH 11, 2015 (Austin Woman Magazine)

What were your favorite stories in 2015?

It turns out that not everyone just clicks on my site every week to find out what’s new. Here is where people find me.

WAYD Referals 2015

Not everyone who reads this blog is from the U.S.

WAYD Visitors by Country

Thanks for reading the stories on What Are You Drinking. I welcome your feedback.

Cheers to a Happy 2016!

What Are You Drinking?

Professional soccer a wash-out in Austin: Aztex to sit out the 2016 season

While a news story about a professional soccer team doesn’t really fit on a blog about alcoholic beverages, I’m including this story about the Austin Aztex that was originally written for CultureMap because the lack of beer sales at the team’s facilities had a financial impact on the team. It is another example of the importance of drink in our recreation.  

A shot escapes the reach of Aztex goalkeeper, Cody Laurendi
A shot escapes the reach of Aztex goalkeeper, Cody Laurendi


Just as the Memorial Day Floods washed away House Park, the lack of a dedicated soccer stadium has washed away the 2016 Austin Aztex season. The United Soccer League (USL) has granted the club permission to sit out the season because it lacks a stadium that meets league standards.

If the team is able to secure a soccer-specific stadium in the next year, it intends to resume play in the 2017 season.

The team, which was promoted to the USL this year from the Premier Development League (PDL), was able to play the 2015 season on a one-year waiver from the USL allowing the club to land a soccer-specific stadium by the end of its first season. That wicked flooding on Memorial Day weekend severely damaged House Park, the club’s home stadium. The team was forced to move to a high school football stadium in Round Rock for the rest of the 2015 season.

The scramble to find a new home mid-season distracted the club from finding a permanent home for 2016; and playing on a high school football field just doesn’t cut it.

A statement issued by the team said in part that the facilities in Austin and Round Rock “have not proven to be economically viable solutions for our professional team.” “This soccer city deserves a proper venue free of football lines, with amazing sightlines, and where a cold beer can be served on a hot summer night.”

Aztex midfielder Romain Gall
Aztex midfielder Romain Gall


Club executives will spend the next year working to find a venue worthy of professional soccer. They feel strongly that Austin is a soccer city with the right demographics and enough fan to support a professional team.

In the meantime, Aztex players are busily looking for new teams for the 2016 season. As soon as the season ended, some Aztex players went out on trial with other clubs. Aztex forward Kris Tyrpak has already signed with the San Antonio Scorpions. The Dripping Springs native, former Major League Soccer (MLS), and Austin Aztex star wowed fans with nine goals and two assists for the Aztex this season. We will likely see more Aztex players sign with other clubs in the near future.

Aztex forward Kris Tyrpak
Aztex forward Kris Tyrpak


A rallying cry for a return
“By taking the year off from playing, we will have the time necessary to work with all interested parties to secure a professional soccer-friendly stadium to ensure the long-term viability of the Austin Aztex,” Aztex CEO Rene van de Zande said.

“It will be important to have the support of the community in these efforts. We encourage all Austinites to visit www.StadiumForAustin.com and register with the site so that as a community, we can make this stadium happen.”

Fans have a lot to cheer for with the return in 2017. The caliber of USL play is explosive and exciting to watch. The Aztex lured MLS teams to Austin for a preseason tournament and beat the MLS Houston Dynamo in a separate preseason match. The club finished the 2015 season in ninth place in the 12-team Western  Conference with a record of 10 wins 15 losses and three ties.

Eberly’s Army cheers on the Aztex
Eberly’s Army cheers on the Aztex


Disclaimer: I am a fan of the Austin Aztex, have attended many games on my own dime and received a media pass for the last home game to shoot photos for this story. I received no other compensation from the team.  

What are you drinking? 

What’s on tap for the Texas Craft Brewers Festival and the 6 beers you’ve gotta try

The 2015 Texas Craft Brewers Festival returns to Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, September 19, 2015. The state’s largest craft beer event serving beer made exclusively in Texas got even bigger this year with 65 breweries pouring around 170 brews.

Hops & Grain, Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter Culture
Hops & Grain, Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter Culture


There will definitely be a style of beer to suit any palate, as brewers will bring out their year-round beers, seasonals, and special beers to pour at the fest. In addition to the beers poured at each tent, there will be more than 20 special brews that will be tapped on the half hour.

To help you narrow your quest at the fest, CultureMap has selected six top beers to seek out at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival. Here are our picks:

Blue Owl Brewing: Spirit Animal Sour Pale Ale

Blue Owl Spirit Animal
I’ve been salivating with anticipation of the brews from Blue Owl Brewing and now we have our first chance to taste them at the Texas Craft Brewers Fest. This sour pale ale is made with a mix of GR Magnum, Crystal, Centennial, Citra, and Galaxy hops along with pale, Munich, honey, and Carahell malts. Blue Owl calls it “the marriage of sour-mashing and dry-hopping” to create a “truly unique animal.” This quenchy, low alcohol (5.1 percent), citrusy hoppy ale will be great on a hot summer afternoon and will be released at the upcoming grand opening.

Independence Brewing Co.: Reaper Madness

Independence ReaperMadness_front
Independence always brings out something interesting for the Craft Brewers Festival. Head brewer Brannon Radicke brewed a black IPA for Independence’s ninth anniversary party way back in October 2013; the beer was so popular that it was resurrected and reincarnated into Reaper Madness. A gorgeous blend of Columbus, Summit, and 07270 hops and Vienna, Carafa III, and Midnight Wheat malts give it dark and bold, piney and hoppy flavors balanced with mild biscuit and roasted-malt flavors. Its moderate alcohol of 6.1 percent won’t be crippling in the afternoon, and it’ll pair well with boudin balls from the Red’s Porch food truck at the festival.

Hops & Grain: Volumes of Oak Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter Culture
The Volumes of Oak series is all about bringing out complexity in beer with oak aging. The brewing shamans at Hops & Grain converted their delicious Baltic porter, called Porter Culture, into a lush brew with layers of chocolate, coffee, oak, tobacco, and vanilla with a velvety smooth finish by aging it in heavily charred American Oak barrels that were previously used to age bourbon whiskey. It’s made with pale and Munich malts with a touch of chocolate wheat for a smooth vanilla and coconut flavor to balance the heat of the bourbon booziness. Speaking of booziness, this one packs a punch at 9.4 percent ABV, so stick to just one 3-ounce taster of it.

Jester King Brewery: Amicis Mortis
Jester King is well known for its creative beers made with atypical ingredients. This year Jester King is bringing Amicis Mortis to the fest. It’s made in collaboration with the brewers from Brasserie Dunham in Quebec and inspired by a sweet potato, chili pepper, and coconut dish the folks at Jester King enjoy with Dunham. The unfiltered, unpasteurized, and naturally conditioned farmhouse ale is made with Zythos, Saaz, and Cascade hops along with organic pilsner and raw wheat malts fermented with a mixed culture of brewer’s yeast, native yeast, and bacteria harvested from the air and wildflowers around the brewery. The dry, mildly tart, earthy, funky, and mildly spicy beer is versatile and food friendly. Only 2,400 750-milliliter bottles of this were released last month, and the fest is one of the few occasions where it is available outside of the Jester King tasting room.

Save the World Brewing Co.: Froctum Bonum Saison Ale
This 1-year-old philanthropic brewery is starting to show up in more locations around Austin, but it’s still one to grab at the festival. Its Saison, made with Czech Saaz, East Kent Goldings, and Perle hops and Dingemans Pale, Dingemans Cara 20, and Briess Red Wheat malts, is a refreshing example of the traditional farmhouse ale. It’s a robust and versatile ale with assertive aromas and sweet malts, zesty citrus, and peppery spices with a hint of earthiness followed by a crisp dry finish. This will go great with The Knuckle Sandwich at the Nobel Sandwich food truck at the fest. If you miss it on Saturday, it’s available in cases of 12 22-ounce bottles year-round in stores, bars, and restaurants in Austin.

Whole Foods Market Brewing CompanyNo Escape Imperial Coffee Stout
What’s that? A grocery store brewing beer? Yep! Whole Foods Market has an in-house brewmaster, David Ohmer, who will pour a massive stout, billowing with molasses, vanilla, and milk chocolate flavors. It has more than enough hops to keep it from being too sweet with a blend of Horizon, Pacific Gem hops, and pale, Special B, Carafa II, Crystal 77, and roasted barley malts to give it those rich chocolatey flavors. If the initial rush of flavors doesn’t wake you up, the blitz of coffee will: It’s made with Ethiopian Suke Quto espresso beans for a big coffee flavor. Speaking of big, this bruiser packs a 10.8-percent ABV punch.

If you are looking for the No Escape Imperial Coffee Stout, you’ll only find it in the “Whole Foods Market presents: What’s Brewing?” interview series. Austin American-Statesman drinks-writer Arianna Auber and I will each interview brewers throughout the afternoon, including Ohmer.

What’s Brewing? Interview Schedule

Moderator: Arianna Auber (Liquid Austin, Bitch Beer)

  • 1 p.m. – Chip McElroy, Live Oak Brewing
  • 1:30 p.m. – David Ohmer, Whole Foods Market Brewing with Tiffany Cunningham, Whole Foods Market talking Beer & Cheese
  • 2 p.m.  – Jeff Young & Suzy Shaffer, Blue Owl Brewing
  • 2:30 p.m. – Scott Metzger, Freetail Brewing

Moderator: Matt McGinnis (CultureMap Austin, What Are You Drinking?)

  • 3 p.m.  – David Ohmer, Whole Foods Market Brewing with Tiffany Cunningham, Whole Foods Market talking Beer & Cheese
  • 3:30 p.m.  – Marco Rodriguez, Zilker Brewing
  • 4 p.m.  – Trevor Nearburg, Uncle Billy’s Brewery
  • 4:30 p.m.  – Quynh & Dave Rathkamp, Save the World Brewing

The event starts at 11:30 am for VIP ticket holders and 2 pm for general admission and closes at 6:30 pm. VIP tickets are sold out. General admission tickets sell for $30 on the Festival site and entitle guests to admission, eight 3-ounce sampling tokens, and a tasting cup. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

This story was originally published on CultureMap and has been slightly modified for the blog.

Disclosure, my marketing communications agency, Pen & Tell Us, represents Uncle Billy’s Brewery, which is mentioned in this story.

What are you drinking?

Real Ale Brewing has Extreme Makeover

Real Ale Brewing New Bottles

Just in time for Texas Independence Day, my birthday and SXSW, Real Ale Brewing Company, will unveil a completely new look for its logo, packaging, and website. After 19 years of brewing craft beer and selling it in somewhat miss-matched bottles and cans, the brewery has made the bold move to update its image while retaining  elements of the brand’s heritage. Starting the first week in march, new bottles, cans tap handles and swag will start hitting stores, bars and restaurants all over Texas.

Out with the old
Out with the old

The new packaging ties the entire family of beers together with a consistent look, unlike the disparate designs currently available. At a party thrown to unveil the shiny new persona to industry types and press, Tim Schwartz and Erik Ogershok, were clearly pleased with the new design. With big grins they talked about plans to introduce the shiny new labels with the same tasty beers.

Ogershok says they have some new stuff up their sleeves with three heavyweight beers coming in April in 22 ounce bombers. Real Heavy Scotch Ale, Red King Imperial Red Ale and Commissar Russian Imperial Stout will move off the Seasonal and Special release list to become year-round brews. In addition, new seasonal beers will hit the shelves in the fall.

The new logo includes a stylized image of hops borrowed from the original logo, the sprocket from Firemans #4, and the characters “TX 96”which is a reference to the company’s Texas roots and the year it was founded, 1996. The new brand was designed by Butler Bros, a creative communication company based in Austin.

Real Ale is on heavy rotation in my beer fridge and I’m glad they are sticking with the same brewing philosophy. .I’m a fan of its new brand identity. The swag they handed out at the party looks pretty damn good. What do you think?

In with the new


What are you drinking? 

Beer for lunch at Porter Ale House and Gastropub

Some days you just need a beer at lunch. When that mood hits, Porter Ale House and Gastropub has you covered. The south 1st Street bar and restaurant, which opened in January 2014 has gathered a lot of attention for its food and excellent beer selection. It recently started serving lunch, which makes it a fantastic destination for a beer lunch.

Porter Ale HouseStarted by owners Owners Joe Bixel, Neil Joiner and Trevor Lane, who met in the restaurant business serve upscale pub food, stellar  beers and solid cocktails in a bright, clean and modern bar. The fine dining experience and the quality of the food landed the Porter Ale House in the upcoming Bravo TV Series, “Best New Restaurant,” hosted by Top Chef judge, Tom Colicchio. They will compete against 15 other restaurants from around the country in the reality show.

Porter Ale House Sliders

If you want to get a taste of their cuisine before the TV series starts in January 2015, try it for lunch. Porter Ale House and Gastropub has 8 entrees all priced at 10.99 on the lunch menu. The signature Polish Pierogies and the delicious Porter Burger Sliders are can’t miss items. The Iceberg Slab may sound like a light salad, but this huge mound food is more than I could eat in one sitting.

Polish Pierogies at Porter Ale House

The food is great, but you can’t pass up the beer. The bar has 30 taps, 2 for wine, 3 for cocktails and 25 for a regularly rotating line up of craft beer. Trevor, a home brewer, selects the beers to have a wide variety of excellent and unique brews from places like Belgium, Oregon, California and of course Texas. The bar has cycled through 270 different beers in less than a year, but there are always a few regulars like Pauwel Kwak from Belgium, Staropramen from the Czech Republic and Real Ale Hans Pils from Blanco, TX. Check the Facebook page for the current beer list.

Porter Ale House is on allocation with its beer distributor, so it is able to snag hard to find beers that you won’t see at most other beer bars in Austin. Firestone DBA caught my eye. They also make beer cocktails, like the Peanut Butter Jelly, a  mix of Infamous Peanut Butter Stout and Lindeman’s Raspberry Lambic served with banana chips.

cucumber G&T at Porter Ale House

If you’re not a beer lover, try the Cucumber-lemongrass gin & tonic on tap made with Austin Reserve Gin. Its incredibly refreshing and goes great with the pierogies.

Whether you go for a beer, for lunch or beer for lunch, Porter Ale House and Gastropub is a great place to meet friends.

Jette Momant

What are you drinking?

17 Things that Start with B Seen at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Yes, there is a firkin lot of great beer at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival (see my 5 favorite beers) , but if that’s all you go for, you are missing half the fun. The people watching is where its really at. Here are 17 things that start with the letter “B” that you can see at the annual beer bash.


One of the best things about the Brewers Fest is the opportunity to meet so many of the people behind the creation of the beer. Most of the 57 breweries send the brew master and other brewers who are happy to talk about their craft and their babies with guests.

Beer Scientists


Bree Clark the beer scientist at Hops & Grain
Bree Clark the beer scientist at Hops & Grain


Bree Clark uses her smarts, education and experience to ensure the consistency and quality of Hops & Grain Brewery’s beers. She developed the know how by earning a master’s degree in bio chemistry and as a high school chemistry teacher and now serves as one of only a very few brewery lab technicians in Texas. Quick with a smile and a pint, she’s a great person to have in the industry.


Beer dudes and beards. Duh.

Bright Red Mohawks

Bright red mohawks are a gender-neutral fashion statement among beer lovers.


Bitchbeer.org bloggers
Jessica, Caroline and Ari from Bitchbeer


The ladies from the influential and insightful beer blog, Bitchbeer, are a fixture at most major beer events, gathering information at mixin it up with the brewers. Want to get the inside scope on the best beers around, check their blog.


Speaking of bloggers, the Texas Craft Beer Festival draws some of the best beer writers around from sites and publications like Austin Beer Guide, Craft Taste and Stay Hoppy Austin among others.  These guys may be excellent beer bloggers, but they sure as hell are not easy on the eyes. Especially the dudes from Austin Beer Guide. You’ll thank me for not posting a photo.



Twin Peaks found it appropriate to bring beer babes.
Twin Peaks found it appropriate to bring beer babes.


The craft beer industry is all about keepin’ it real. Brewers show up at events in t-shirts and jeans. Let the beer speak for itself. This year Twin Peaks, a breastaurant chain that brews its own beer, stood out in the crowd with attractive women with bare midriffs pouring their beer. It seemed a bit off to me, but maybe it worked.



My buds Beth Thornton and Jessica Dupuy
My buds Beth Thornton and Jessica Dupuy


There is nothing better than drinking beer and sharing laughs with good friends. The Fest was filled with groups of friends comparing notes on beers and telling stories. Makes for a lovely afternoon.



It seems the world is obsessed with booty right now. Some people at the Fest chose to call attention to theirs with really short shorts (see mention of Twin Peaks babes) or by slapping a sticker on their ass. Made ya look.


Big Belly

Come on, its a beer festival. Big bellies are almost as ubiquitous as beards.


It hasn’t been that long since Oktoberfest in Munich ended. Its hard not to roll out the traditional beer drinking garb and make believe your 4 ounce plastic tasting cup is a liter stein.



Bands played all afternoon in the pavilion. Live music is always a welcome touch.

Bros in Kilts


There were more than a few groups of guys sportin’ kilts at the Fest – and not just brewers promoting Scottish ales.

Beer Socks

Lots of people were decked out in beer themed fashion. My favorite is the beer socks that is prevalent year after year.



The bankers from Craft Royalty Partners
The bankers from Craft Royalty Partners


The insane growth of the craft beer industry has several breweries scrambling to expand to meed demand. The dudes at Craft Royalty Partners set up a bank dedicated to funding the growth of Texas craft breweries. Sounds like heroes in pinstripes to me.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Texas Craft Brewers Festival Snacks

Sure there are tons of great things to eat from several food trucks at the Fest, but why stand in line when you can bring your own snack. These people went for convenience with pretzel necklaces. Brilliant.

Big Ass Lines


Big ass line at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Once the gates open for general admission, the lines start to form at all of the beer tents with insanely long lines forming for the special tappings that happen every 30 minutes. The biggest line of the day is the one to get into the park. It snakes for blocks from the gate to the lake. My advice, spring for the VIP if you can, get there as early as possible or just be prepared to wait.

What did you see that was really interesting at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival?

My other posts on the Fest:

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary media pass.

What are you drinking? 


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?

What are you drinking? 


Biggest beer bash ever: 120 brews on tap for Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Texas Craft Brewers Festival FanIt seems like there is a new brewery or brew pub opening somewhere in Texas every month. It would be a daunting (but fun!) task to try to visit all of the breweries; fortunately the Texas Craft Brewers Festival will bring 57 of the best brewers in the state together for its biggest event ever.

This year, 120 different beers will be available at the annual event, which takes place at Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, September 27. The festival’s growth mirrors the booming Texas craft beer industry — the Texas Craft Brewers Guild reports that beer production increased 44 percent in 2013 with around 225,000 barrels brewed in Texas.

“One of the big draws of the festival is the opportunity to taste beers that are hard to find or that are made specifically for the event,” says Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Build. “We will feature a Rotating Tap list of 20 special beers that will be poured each half-hour throughout the festival. We’ll publish the list before the event so people can be on the lookout for specific beers. One beer I’m excited about is the Revolver Brewing Fracker Barrel #1, a barrel-aged beer.”

In addition to the special brews, there will be a slew of Indian pale ales, pale ales, sours, saisons, farmhouse ales and a bunch of pumpkin ales to wet your whistle. Local brew pubs (which are now allowed to sell and distribute their beer off premises) that will be pouring at the festival include Black Star Co-op Pub & BreweryKamala Brewing at the Whip In, Oasis Texas Brewing Company and Uncle Billy’s Brewery & Smokehouse.

The beer bash starts at 2 pm and goes until 6:30 pm. General admission tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate. That will get you six 4-ounce sampling tokens and a commemorative tasting cup. Extra tasting samples are available for $3 a pair.

The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is put on by the Young Men’s Business League of Austin and the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. Proceeds benefit Austin Sunshine Camps, a nonprofit providing mentorship, education and personal development for high-potential, low-income girls and boys throughout Central Texas.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Bitch Beer at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

What Are You Drinking? 

Beers to go: 3 Texas breweries introduce new canned beers for spring

The  warmer days of spring lure Austinites to the lake, to the green belts and swimming pools around town. All of that fresh air and healthy activity works up a mighty thirst that can only be quenched by a cold beer. Thankfully three Texas brewers — Independence Brewing Co., Hops & Grain Brewing and Spoetzl Brewery, makers of Shiner — understand are introducing new beers in cans suitable for enjoying in the great outdoors.

Independence White Rabbit AleIndependence Brewing Co. introduces its first beer in cans  
Independence Brewing Co. is pulling a new trick out of its hat with the introduction of White Rabbit Ale in cans. This Belgian-style white ale was previously only available seasonally on draught.

“We tested several special release beers last year to see which would be the next we would package based on popularity,” said Independence president and co-founder Amy Cartwright. “People loved White Rabbit and were asking if we would release it as a year-round beer. We knew we had to release it.”

This is the third spring release of White Rabbit Ale, which has evolved from a hybrid-style saison to a traditional-style saison and now to a traditional Belgian-style witbier made with Belgian wit yeast. Head Brewer Brandon Radicke’s current recipe uses orange zest, coriander and peppercorns, along with Nugget and Styrian Goldings hops and Two-Row Pale, White Wheat, Pils and Munich malts.

“We wanted a refreshing beer with creaminess to the body, some fruitiness and a super dry finish,” said Cartwright. “The creaminess is based on the yeast we selected and the orange zest gives it some fruitiness. It’s medium bodied and perfect for drinking in the spring. We will probably have it available from February to August because summer is long in Austin and people want a summer beer for that long season.”

Cartwright acknowledges that packaging Independence in a can is a great way to help people enjoy a cold beer in their favorite outdoor spaces outside, but the decision to introduce cans has a more practical reason.

“We have a four head bottling machine that we bought in 2005 and we abuse it every day just trying to keep up with the production of our regular beers,” she said. “To put out a new beer was hard to do with the limits of our bottling line. We started talking with American Canning, a local company that has mobile canning equipment that they bring right to our site. It is a great way to try out cans without buying the equipment.”

The name White Rabbit ties in with the Independence vibe with a wink and a nod to the free-your-mind ethos of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. Six-packs of White Rabbit are available for about $11 at the usual places you find Independence Brewing, including Specs, Central Market, Whole Foods and HEB stores in Austin.

Hops and Grain Green House IPAGrab Hops & Grain Greenhouse IPA in cans while it lasts
Recently Hops & Grain Brewery released the second version of its Greenhouse IPA series. In January Hops & Grain released Greenhouse IPA as a year-round beer in a can after experimenting with many recipes for it over the past year. Brewer, Josh Hare, settled on the recipe for the canned version to have plenty of heft from the hops and just a hint of malt flavor.

Greenhouse IPA is unique in an industry known for consistency, because every month Hops & Grain will release a slightly modified version using different hop varieties. The January release featured Mosaic hops and the February release employed dry-hopping of 60 percent Falconer’s Flight hops grown in Washington, and 20 percent Chinook and 19 percent Centennial hops from Oregon.

The beer has a hazy, light caramel color with a full head that lasts a long time. The variety of hops gives it a green, grassy smell with plenty of floral, pine and bread scents. While it’s not an over-powering hop-bomb, it has floral hoppy flavors with citrus and a punch of pine complemented by a hint of caramel from the malt. It’s complex, but still an easy drinker after a long hike.

Hops & Grain is only releasing 300 cases each month — each store receives only 10 cases — so it sells out fast. Greenhouse IPA is also available on draught at just two Austin bars: Star Bar and Haymaker.

Shiner Farm House 966Spoetzl Brewery releases Shiner FM 966 Farmhouse Ale in cans
For the first time, Shiner is introducing its spring seasonal in a can. Shiner FM 966 Farmhouse Ale, made in the style of European seasonal provision farmhouse ales, is an easy drinking beer made to be knocked back in the sun.

Reminiscent of a saison style, FM 966 is made with boiled Sterling Golding hops, with Meridian hops added in the whirlpool and then dry hopped with Meridian. It has an 80/20 two-row malt to wheat ratio.

FM 966 is a good beer for your first tubing trip of the season. It’s got plenty of carbonation to keep you buoyant. The hazy gold brew has fresh floral, orange and bread dough aromas and tastes fruity, grassy and a bit hoppy along with yeast, bready and soft malt flavors.

The FM 966 spring seasonal is available through March at central Austin HEB, Central Market and Whole Foods Markets locations.

Whether you are chilling on your back porch or headed down the river, you have excellent options of Texas beers in cans to take with you.

This story was first published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?