Getting wild at Uncle Billy’s

Uncle Billy's Wild Game Brewer's Dinner Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que is well known for its its excellent craft beer. It’s notoriety grew when Hell In Keller Pilsner won gold in the 2008 Great American Beer Festival. Their beer street-cred just got a big bump with another gold for the Bottle Rocket Lager at this year’s GABF.

Being a BBQ joint, they are not well know for their haute cuisine. They’ve always got a good selection of smoked goods, but you’d never confuse them with a white linen table cloth kind of place.

So what is Uncle Billy’s doing by throwing a five course Wild Game Brewer’s Dinner during the heart of Austin Beer Week? They certainly aren’t going to transform the place into a rival of Hudson’s on the Bend. Nope.

My guess is that they are eager demonstrate that the new brewer, Spencer Tielkemeier, has what it takes to follow in the enormous footsteps of out-going brewer, Brian “Swifty” Peters. Peters is taking his gold medals with him to start the new Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., which he describes as having an, ” Armadillo World Headquarters vibe with New York-style pizza like Home Slice.”

Tielkemeier worked with Chef Ludlow to create interesting pairings of wild game that bring out the most in their beers. Here is what they served:

  • Course 1: Smoked Texas quail from Broken Arrow Ranch, stuffed with blueberries, fresh sage and orange rind paired with Uncle Billy’s Agave Wit.
  • Course 2: Rabbit consommé made with rabbits from Countryside Farm and plenty of  fresh tarragon, thyme and rosemary paired with Uncle Billy’s Axe Handle Pale Ale. Plenty of bitter hops to go with the rich broth.
  • Course 3: An arugula and spicy micro greens salad topped with fresh berries and Pure Luck local goat cheese paired with the gold medal winning Uncle Billy’s Bottle Rocket Lager. I love this beer and its great with a salad.
  • Course 4: Wild boar loin chops from Black Hill Ranch grilled with a sweet and spicy prickly pear glaze and served with pine nut polenta and greens with bacon. This was a fantastic loin and it went really well with Uncle Billy’s Vienna Lager.
  • Course 5: Vanilla bean ice cream made with local duck eggs from Countryside Farm paired with Uncle Billy’s Cask Lake Monster Imperial Stout.

The event felt a little bit like a dress rehearsal rather than a polished tasting dinner. There were areas where the food didn’t dazzle and the pacing of the event was off. If they wanted to show that Uncle Billy’s is a culinary destination and not just a BBQ place, they have more work to do. If they wanted to show that Uncle Billy’s has a passion for locally sourced food paired with excellent beer, then they did a pretty good job. If they wanted to show that Tielkemeier has the chops to follow Peters as the brewer, then they certainly showed off the right beer.

Tielkemeier learned the craft from his home-brewer dad. He honed his brewing skills working at (512) Brewing Co. alongside local brewing stars Kevin Brand and Nate Seale. He showed off his first non-house recipe Uncle Billy’s beer with the cask conditioned Lake Monster Imperial Stout. Tielkemeier brewed it with English brown malt, black malt, and roasted barley and fist full of Texas brown sugar. Its a bad-ass with creamy, sweet roasted malt profile and coffee, molasses, chocolate flavors. It makes a statement with 10 percent alcohol  and 70+ IBU. Its a damn fine first beer for the new brewer and heads all around the tasting table nodded their approval. Welcome to Uncle Billy’s Mr. Tielkemeier.

Reportedly, Uncle Billy’s plans to do more brewer’s dinners in the future. I’d go again. If you go, check your fine dining expectations  at the door and enjoy the beer and the company.

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Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que gets new Brew Master

The Austin beer world was a buzz this summer when word leaked that award winning brewers at Uncle Billy’s, Amos Lowe and Brian “Swifty” Peters, were leaving to start their own brewery. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. plans to open its doors in south Austin in January 2013. They will have 10 beers — like Pilsner, Pale Ale and IPA — on tap and serve hand-crafted pizza and in a music hall-style beer garden. That means Swifty won’t have to make the long drive in his Bitchin’ Camero out to the Uncle Billy’s Lake Travis location anymore.

According to Swifty, its an amicable split with plenty of notice so Uncle Billy’s can have a smooth transition. Right on cue, the Que announced a new brew master for the Barton Springs location. Michael Waters, previously the head brewer at Independence Brewing Company, will start brewing the Uncle Billy’s recipes on premise immediately. He is a fan of hoppy and Belgian-style beers like the ones currently made at Uncle Billy’s and will keep favorites on tap for now.

“I plan to carry on the beer philosophies, theories and outlook of Uncle Billy’s, hopefully continuing to make great beers while adding my signature brewer’s touch to them,” Waters said in a press release.  “I’m really looking forward to having an opportunity to be more creative and make better and better beer.”

Waters, a Florida native, started his career in veterinary medicine, and brewed beer as a hobby. He was hooked on home-brewing from his very first batch of English-style pale ale. After his move to Austin in 2009, he decided to turn his home-brewing passion into a job. He started volunteering at Independence Brewing Company, then began working in the brewery’s cellar, and eventually became head brewer in 2011.

“The pride and accomplishment, the history and tradition of making beer are important. There’s a bit of prestige that comes with being a brewer,” Waters says. “It’s something I take seriously.”

Not only does Waters bring creativity and a strong resume to Uncle Billy’s, but he also brings an impressive beard. This is a huge bonus in the beer scene. I’d venture to say that his beard is even better than one Dr. Seuss could draw.

I’m looking forward to tasting some of Uncle Billy’s classics, like Hop Zombie, and new brews under Waters’ direction. Cheers to his success!

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