Texas Craft Brewers Festival brings more than 100 locally-made beers to Fiesta Gardens

Instead of attending the same stale tailgate with unmemorable beers this weekend, trade in crap beer for craft beer at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. Held at Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, Oct. 6, this is the place to find almost 30 Texas breweries serving more than 115 locally-made craft beers.

The festival comes at a great time for the Texas craft beer industry, which is enjoying a booming business — the Texas Craft Brewers Guild recently released a study estimating the industry could have a $5.6 billion economic impact in Texas.

Brian Swifty Peters“It’s an exciting time for the craft beer industry, and this festival is the epicenter of the industry,” says festival volunteer chairman Brian “Swifty” Peters. “The first Texas Craft Brewers Festival was held in 2003 and we only had eight brewers there. It’s really grown. This is one day that brewers from all over the state can come together and celebrate our success — it’s the single largest compilation of Texas breweries ever in one place.”

The fever for craft beer has spurred an increase in beer festivals around the state, but don’t get this one confused with the debacle that happened last spring: the Austin Beer Fest. The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is run by craft brewers for beer fans and casual beer drinkers alike.

Tim Schwartz, president of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and owner/brewer at Real Ale Brewing Company is evangelist-in-chief for Texas craft beer and takes that role seriously. “We approach the Festival with balance. In equal parts, we want to promote Texas craft beer, educate the public about beer and help the brewing community,” he says. “I’ve been brewing for 18 years. I love craft beer. I love Texas. I want to help bring craft beer to more and more people in Texas.”

Tim Schwartz, Real Ale Brewing This year’s festival will feature 10 breweries that weren’t in business — or were too new — to attend last year, including Adelbert’s Brewery, Buffalo Bayou Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing, Guadalupe Brewing, Hops & Grain Brewing, Lakewood Brewing, Old Boxcar Brewing, Revolver Brewing, Rogness Brewing and South Austin Brewing.

Brewers new and old will bring seasonal and special beers to Fiesta Gardens. In fact, the festival may be the largest collection of unique Texas beers ever presented in one place, with more than 50 taps pouring unique beers you can’t get anywhere else. There will be a rotating schedule of ceremoniously tapping specialty or cask kegs or firkins every 30 minutes, so no matter what time you show up, you’ll find something unique.

Some of the special beers to try include Scot’s Gone Wild, a sour beer from Real Ale; Bouddha’s Brew and Whiskey Barrel Rodeo, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout brewed with chipotle pepper, smoked malt and Kopi Luwak coffee from Jester King Craft Brewery; Blood and Honey, an unfiltered American wheat ale brewed with blood orange zest and Texas honey from Revolver Brewing; Hop Dead Gorgeous, a bourbon barrel aged black IPA from Uncle Billy’s; and Bourbon Barrel Aged ALT-eration, Hop’s & Grain’saward-winning German altbier style beer aged in French oak cabernet barrels.

In addition to all of that great beer, there will be food available from Red’s Porch, The Peached Tortilla and Tough Cookie Bakery, as well as live music provided by the band Sugartrain.

NXNW Beerliner Back again this year are the wildly popular beer and food pairings, held in intimate spaces on the east side of the park. For an extra $20, guests can relax and enjoy a beer and cheese pairing hosted by John Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, beer and food pairing by NXNW Chef Clint Bertrand in the tricked-out Beerliner or a beer and chocolate pairing from Nicole Patel of Delysia Chocolate. These sessions only have space for 80 people and will likely sell out as they did last year.

Organizers are expecting up to 5,000 people to attend the festival, which is up from 4,000 last year, thanks to the support of Real Ale Brewing Company and St. Arnold Brewing Company (the title sponsors) and Young Men’s Business League (the organizers) which have kept the festival growing. As in past years, proceeds from the festival will benefit Austin Sunshine Camps, which provides education and personal development for economically disadvantaged children.

The Texas Craft Brewers Festival takes place Saturday, Oct. 6 at Fiesta Gardens from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. (12 p.m. entry for VIP ticket holders).General Admission tickets are available for $20.00 ($25 at the door) and include a wristband and six tokens that are good for six 4-ounce beer samples tokens. VIP tickets are available for $65 and include a meet and greet brewers, a commemorative t-shirt and glass.

Insider tip: The best time to go to the festival is around 6 p.m., just as the sun starts to go down and the weather cools off. The crowd will be a bit mellower and there will still be plenty of beer.

This story previously ran on CultureMap Austin.

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Discover the State’s Finest Brews at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Brain Peters, Texas Craft Brewers Festival Chairman

Texas is one hell of a great state for beer. There has been explosive growth in craft breweries and demand for the liquid gold. In the past year alone, several new breweries opened including Austin BeerworksJester King Craft Brewery and Karbach Brewing Co. to name a few. There has never been a better time to be a beer drinker.

The only problem is this state is so dang big, it would take weeks to drive around and sample beers from all of the fantastic breweries. To solve that problem, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild is resurrecting the Texas Craft Brewers Festival after a six year hiatus. Good god, Moses is bringing the mountain to Austin for Beer Christmas in September. This year’s Festival promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Brian Peters is the volunteer chairman of the 2011 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. He earned that honor by being a board member of the Guild and a well-known brewer in town who practices his craft at Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que – and he raised his hand to do it. I had the privilege to get an exclusive sneak peak at the Festival’s plans over a few beers with Brian so I could share the inside scoop with you.

The Stats:

  • When: Saturday, September 24, 2011, 2:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Where: Fiesta Gardens, on the east-side of Austin Texas
  • How much: $20 includes eight tokens good for a four oz. sample and a commemorative tasting glass. You can buy additional tokens for $3 for 2.
  • When you go: Visit the website for ticket information
    • The best bet is the VIP admission, which starts noon. Not only do you get 2 hours of relative calm, but you also get a rad T-shirt, a pint glass, access to the VIP air conditioned bathrooms, and an exclusive meet and greet with the brewers in the Pavilion. VIP tickets run $70 and are worth every penny.
    • You must be 21 or over to attend. It is family friendly and children are welcome with parent or guardian. Strollers are welcome, but there will not be special kids’ activities.
    • Limited parking in the Fiesta Gardens. Street parking is available in the neighborhood and the Guild is looking into the possibility of luring gangs of pedicabs to shuttle Festival goers to nearby surface lots. Ride your bike! There will be plenty of nice racks on site. Of course taxis will be available.
    • Leave your chairs, coolers, glass and dogs at home. Cool glass dogs sitting in chairs are totally out.
    • You can bring in water in factory sealed bottles.

This year’s Festival will feature 18 craft breweries from around the state, the majority of which are Guild members. The new crop of brewers will be there in force so you can be the first on your block to try beers that are just hitting the market. In fact 10 breweries are new to the festival including Alamo Beer Company, Austin Beer Works, Jester King, Karbach, No Label Brewing Co., Circle Brewing Co., Ranger Creek and Twisted X Brewing Co. These upstarts will be joined by stalwarts like Saint Arnold Brewing Co., Real Ale Brewing (both in the top 50 largest breweries in the U.S. and title sponsors of the Festival), Live Oak Brewing Co., Rahr & Sons Brewing Co, Independence Brewing Co., (512) Brewing Co. and Shiner Beers.

The beer is the star of the show with more than 75 brews on tap. Each brewer is encouraged to bring six beers and to focus on the limited releases and special beers that aren’t readily available at beer halls around the state.

With all that beer you’ll need to plan to eat something to slow the absorption of alcohol. There will be three food vendors on site including Chi’Lantro Korean BBQ, Red’s Porch and Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que. Uncle Billy’s will have its home brewed root beer free of charge for designated drivers. In addition to the vendors, there will be a Cheese and Beer pairing at 3pm and various food and beer pairings in the afternoon available for a small added cost.

It will be hot, so stay hydrated by drinking water in between samples of beer. The Festival will provide free water stations, but no plastic bottles. Use your tasting glass to chug down water while you are on your rounds from brewer to brewer. No plastic bottles means less environmental impact and fewer things for you to carry. Drink up Johnny.

Texas Craft Brewers Guild members intend to show us they know how to throw one kick-ass festival. Brian is joined by volunteers Rob and Amy Cartwright from Independence, Kevin Brand from (512), and Vickie Jones a Guild board member. This tight-knit brewer’s community will bring the authenticity of the original Texas Craft Brewers Festival and combine it with a commitment to host a world class event with the laid-back ease and friendliness that is synonymous with Austin. Fiesta Gardens has room for 5,000 people, so it won’t feel crowded. Run out of beer? Hell no! Long lines at the toilets? Not with 40 porta-potties at the ready.

I asked Brian what he’s most looking forward to at the Festival. “People saying ‘Thanks for coming back,’ and people happy to be enjoying Texas craft beers.” If you want to say thanks to him, you’ll find him walking around the beer booths in a big head dress.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the Young Men’s Business League and Austin Sunshine Camps.

If you need more information, please contact Jennie@chenergyconsulting.com. If you would like to volunteer to help, please contact @snax at http://bit.ly/nUyitT.

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Brew with a View: Uncle Billy’s Brew and Que

If you are looking for a decent place to eat, with fantastic views of the lake at sunset and live music on a sprawling deck, you’ll likely find Uncle Billy’s Lake Travis. If barbeque is your thing, you’ll feel right at home. If you like craft brew, you’ll think you’ve found Nirvana. This place has serious beer.

Brian Peters, Uncle Billy’s brewmaster, wields a fat reputation in the beer community. This guy has been around the hop block. He started his beer career as a co-founder of Live Oak Brewing Company with Chip McElroy in 1997. He spent seven years there before going to brewpub, The Bitter End. He then started Uncle Billy’s Brew and Que in downtown Austin in 2006, and added a second location on Lake Travis in 2010. 

Brian’s credo: “Brew beer that you like to drink.” That principle guided him starting out as a home brewer as it does today. He’s a big fan of Czech Pilsner, German Hefeweizen and Lagers. He likes drier, hoppier, crisper beers and not huge and chewy beers. That explains a lot about the Uncle Billy’s brew menu, which is dominated by lighter style, crisp beers.

I toured the shiny new brewery on Lake Travis with a group of bloggers. Brian showed off his 20 barrel fermentation system with a brew capacity of 4,000 barrels. That’s about 80% larger than any other brew pub in the state, because this brewery was built to sell off-premise beer too. There is even space for a bottling line, should the State of Texas ever abolish its arcane laws that prohibit selling packaged beer to take home from a brewpub.

Uncle Billy’s is content with making plenty of beer to keep thirsty boaters happy. Brian only makes unfiltered beer with quality Amarillo, Simco, Cascade and German hops, malts and grains and no other adjuncts. He’s obsessed with yeast, reusing his precious Fullers yeast for up to 20 batches to ensure it has the right build-up. The brewhouse is built on the third floor, which means there is no pumping required for the gravity-fed taps to get the precious beer served at the bar.

After checking out the process, I had to taste the goods. I was in luck. I was able to sample my way through the menu to give you insight into what’s on tap. Here’s what you can find at Uncle Billy’s.

Agave Wheat

Uncle Billy’s makes this witbier with traditional ingredients such as, coriander, orange peel and 50% red wheat that leaves a nice protein sheen in the cloudy beer. But hey, this is Texas, so Brian throws in a measure of Agave to help the fermentation along. Be careful with this one, because before you know it you could throw back three or four while relaxing on the deck. Clocking in at 4.6% alcohol, you won’t knock yourself out in the sun with this, but you still shouldn’t get behind the wheel.

Look Relaxes in the glass like a piña colada, opaque whitish yellow with a frothy white head.
Smell Sweet nose with sourdough, citrus, and banana.
Taste This is an easy drinking, crisp light citrusy beer with no bitterness and a slightly spicy finish.


Bottle Rocket Lager

With a brewpub situated on a lake, a brewmaster has to think about the type of beer people hanker for after a day of skiing, tubing and baking in the sun. A light, easy drinking beer with only 4.8% alcohol, its thirst quenching and gets its number called often. Brian chose to make an American pre-Prohibition style lager with 10% corn, German Pilsner malt and German hops. It has a taste profile like a serious batch of Budweiser. It won’t scare the casual drinker away from the brewpub.

Look Bashful yellow so light you might mistake it for a Bud, if it weren’t for the unfiltered haze. It has a fine white head with little lacing.
Smell The Bottle Rocket Lager smells of cucumber, wheat and dough.
Taste Dignan and Anthony should have celebrated the escape from the mental hospital with this highly drinkable beer. It has more hoppy bitterness than a mass produced domestic, with a creaminess that blends well with the energetic carbonation.  


Hill Country Organic Amber

This amber is brewed with organic barley, no corn, Cascade hops and Munich Malt for complexity. It’s sessionable with slightly over 5% alcohol content so you can have more than one in a sitting.

Look Weathered copper, cloudy with a light tan head and thin lacing.  
Smell It has a nice scent of brown sugar, caramel and toast.
Taste The Amber tastes of butterscotch, dried grass and toasted almonds. Its medium bodied with smooth fizziness.  


Hell In Keller Pilsner

You could be blind and deaf and it would still be easy to recognize that this is a good beer. Kellerbier is an unfiltered German lager and Brian won the Silver Medal with this style beer at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival.  This was definitely one of my favorites of the evening.

Look A glass full of hazy lemonade with a fine white head.
Smell It had a grassy scent with light malts and a hint of nutty bread.
Taste Refreshing, pleasant herbaceous and lemon zest taste with mild hoppiness. Lively effervescence extended a slightly bitter finish. This is a damned good beer to drink in the Texas sun.


Wood Eye Rye IPA

The Wood Eye is made with 50% rye, a finicky grain that’s a bitch to brew, but makes for a malty spiciness, that makes it a subtle “hops delivery vehicle.” It might be hard to brew with rye, but it’s easy to drink. If you are expecting a pine laden bitter IPA, keep looking. This one is smooth and balanced.

Look Cloudy dark auburn with a khaki head of fine foam that settled quickly.
Smell Not an overly strong aroma with toasty oats, spicy, sweet malt and a hint of pine sap.
Taste The dry spicy rye pairs well with the caramel maltiness, a touch of citrus and subtle bitterness of the hops. I wanted a second one of these.


I tasted a few more beers that night, including the Ax Handle Pale Ale and the Hop Zombie IPA, but stopped taking notes by the time I got to them. Somehow I think my writing wasn’t improving with each beer.

Whether you’re just looking for a casual place to enjoy a spectacular view of the lake or you’re looking for a top-notch craft brew, you’ll find it at Uncle Billy’s Lake Travis. Taste your way through all of the taps and let me know which beer is your favorite.   

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