AUSTIN’S TOP DRAFT PICKS

In Austin, we can always count on hot weather and hot and spicy food. Nothing cuts through the acrid scorch of thirst on a hot Texas day and the sear of a jalapeño quite like a cold beer. Fortunately, we’re blessed with an abundance of local craft brews and places dedicated to serving them up cold. The craft-brew mania gripping the country is alive and well in Texas. We’re enthusiastic about drinking locally made brew, which is evident in Austin’s booming beer business. An economic study commissioned by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild shows explosive growth in the number of independent Texas craft brewers, growing from 52 in 2010 to 78 in 2011. Those brewers have almost doubled the number of barrels of beer they produced in the same period. The Austin beer scene is certainly hot. The city now boasts 14 craft breweries—10 of which are new in the past two years—as well as numerous brew pubs and taprooms to slake our thirst for local brew.

BREWERIES

Austin Beerworks Austin Beerworks
3009 Industrial Terrace, suite 150
Austin Beerworks took the town by storm with its first batch of kick-ass beer, distinctive branding and plucky wit in April 2011. Founded by four partners—Michael Graham, Will Golden, Adam DeBower and Mike McGovern—the microbrewery is cranking out kegs and cans at a mad pace trying to meet demand for its highly drinkable brews.

“Our beer is currently only available in Austin. People are drinking it faster than we can make it,” Graham says.

Austin Beerworks typically brews more than 4,500 gallons a week and has new equipment on the way that will allow the business to almost double the output of kegs and cans. The company 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 is not only a match for our discerning Austin taste buds, but it also passed muster with the expert palates at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, winning a silver medal a scant four months after it was introduced. In addition, Austin Beerworks makes seasonal brews every two months. This October, the company will remake Battle Axe Imperial Red Ale, the first seasonal it’s ever released.

Tours: Periodic happy-hour tours provided. Check austinbeerworks.com for tour availability.
How to get it: Austin Beerworks beers are available at about 175 locations in Austin only, on tap at local bars and restaurants, and in cans in local retail outlets.

Celis Brewery
Christine Celis, the daughter of local brewer Pierre Celis, is reopening the family business and using the original recipe to make Belgian beers. The timing of the opening is yet to be determined, but Austinites will soon be able to enjoy the Celis White, Celis Pale Bock, Celis Grand Cru and Celis Raspberry that made this Austin brewery a local legend in the 1990s. The reestablished brewery will start with three year-round beers and one seasonal, and plans to add other beers in a later phase. Celis acquired the family brand name from the now defunct Michigan Brewing Company, which had purchased the name from the Miller Brewing Company after it had previously acquired the Celis Brewery. The reborn brewery will use a combination of older and newer equipment from the U.S. and Europe. Celis hopes to bring back the original copper kettles that were once used in the first Celis brewery.

Tours: Once open, Celis Brewery plans to offer tours and beer tastings.
How to get it: Celis will be available on tap and in bottles in bars, restaurants and retail outlets in Austin.

Hops & Grain Hops and Grain Brewing Co.
507 Calles St.
Josh Hare opened his microbrewery in October 2011 and demand for the beer has already necessitated an expansion of the facilities and the addition of new recipes. Hops and Grain is tripling 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. The current two year-round beers— Alt-Eration, a Dusseldorf-style Altbier; and Pale Dog, American pale ale—have been received enthusiastically. Alt-Eration won a gold medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup international beer competition just three months after it was introduced. The success is leading to the addition of several new beers.

“We have a third year-round beer coming out in the fall: The One They Call Zoe, a pale lager named for our Papillion dog. It’s an easy, smooth beer, like a Vienna lager with a pilsner finish,” Hare says.

The company also just opened a barrel room to make six beers in French wine and bourbon barrels called the Volumes of Oak series. Hare will introduce another series called Volumes of Funk, a sour beer line, in late fall.

Tours: The brewery and taproom with eight different beers on tap are open every Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.
How to get it: Draft is available at Austin restaurants and bars, and cans are available at Whole Foods, H-E-B and other retail outlets.

Jester King Black Metal StoutJester King Craft Brewery
13005 Fitzhugh Road
The unconventional craft brewery started turning heads when it released highly acclaimed barrel-aged brews in late 2010. Jester King has continued to capture attention as it tinkers with its five year-round brews, including Le Petite Prince, Nobel King, Wytchmaker Rye IPA, Black Metal Imperial Stout and Mad Meg, as well as for its eight inventive limited-production beers. (The company will soon bring back Commercial Suicide with a tweaked recipe.)

Jester King brews exclusively with farmhouse yeast, wild and native yeasts. All of its beers are naturally cask-conditioned, which takes two to three months to achieve the authentic to the farmhouse style. The brewers are working on about 15 small-batch beers, including sour barrel-aged beers like Funk Metal, which is a sour Black Metal blended with pure brettanomyces yeast. The brewery has doubled capacity in the past year and plans to continue to expand.

“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?” Brewer Ron Extract says.

Tours: The tasting room is open every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., with tours at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
How to get it: Jester King beers are on tap in Austin restaurants and bars, and in several styles in 750-ml bottles at local retailers.

Live Oak Brewing Co.
Corner of Fifth and Allen streets
A stalwart of Austin craft brewing, Live Oak Brewing was started in February 1997 by Chip McElroy and Brian Peters. Live Oak is well-known for its Old World German and Czech-style beers, including its award-winning four year-round beers: Pilz, a Czech Pilsner; Big Bark Amber Lager; Hefeweizen and Liberation Ale. Live Oak also introduces new seasonal brews each quarter. While the Hefeweizen is wildly popular throughout town, the Live Oak Primus snagged a silver medal in the 2012 World Beer Cup. The brewery cranks out 6,500 barrels a year, all on draft with plans for bottling in the works.

“We will be building a new brewery soon and that will increase capacity and incorporate packaged beer as well,” McElroy says.

Tours: Available twice monthly on Saturdays. Check the website for the schedule and sign up ahead of time.
How to get it: On tap and in bars and restaurants in Central Texas, in to-go growlers from Whole Foods Bar Lamar and soon to be released in bottles.

Real Ale Brewing Co.
OK, so it’s not exactly in Austin and you may not even think of it as a microbrew because of the phenomenal success of the omnipresent flagship ale, Firemans #4, but this Blanco-based brewery still makes the list. Founded in 1996 by Philip and Diane Conner, Real Ale is one of the oldest breweries in the area, and with a capacity of 72,000 barrels (almost a million cases) a year, it is definitely one of the biggest. The company just introduced a new canning line to offer additional packaging choices. Real Ale brews six year-round brews, including the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, Lost Gold IPA, Brewhouse Brown Ale and ESB. It also makes two seasonal brews each quarter, such as Phoenixx Double ESB and Devil’s Backbone Tripel. The real showstoppers are in the experimental barrel-aged MysteriumVerum series, which includes WT3F?!, a tripelwort fermented exclusively with brettanomyces bruxellensis yeast and The Kraken, a Sisyphus barley wine aged for 11 months in American and French oak.

Tours: The tasting room is open on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m., with tours starting at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
How to get it: Real Ale beers are widely available throughout Austin on tap and by the bottle.

Thirsty Planet Brewing Co.
11160 Circle Dr.
Brian Smittle fell in love with beer while studying politics in the U.K., and earned his stripes brewing beer for almost 20 years in Colorado and Oklahoma. He chose to move to Austin after falling in love with the city during a Craft Brewers Conference. Thirsty Planet started rolling out the first keg in June 2010. Its three year-round brews— Buckethead IPA, Yellow Armadillo Wheat and Thirsty Goat Amber—are highly drinkable in the Texas heat. The company also offers special and seasonal beers like the Silverback Pale Ale, Jittery Monk and Franklin Smoked Porter. Last year, Thirsty Planet cranked out 16,000 barrels and it is brewing 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. 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.

Tours: Each Saturday. Visit the website to get a ticket.
How to get it: Drafts are available at finer bars and restaurants in the Austin metro area.

OTHER NOTABLE AUSTIN BREWERIES

(512) Brewing Co., 407 Radam, suite F200
Adelbert’s Brewery, 2314 Rutland Dr., suite 100
Circle Brewing Co., 2340 W. Braker Lane, suite B
Independence Brewing Co., 3913 Todd Lane
Rogness Brewing Co., 2400 Patterson Industrial Dr., Pflugerville, TX
South Austin Brewing Co., 415 E. St. Elmo, unit 1D
Twisted X Brewing Co., 3200 W. Whitestone Blvd., C1, Cedar Park, TX

BREW PUBS

Draught House PubDraught House Pub and Brewery
4112 Medical Parkway
This iconic Austin brew pub opened in 1968 and will be celebrating its 44th anniversary in October at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. Brew Master Josh Wilson has been brewing since 1994 and has brewed hundreds of recipes during the years using traditional and interesting ingredients like mesquite flowers and ground mesquite beans in his brews. The Draught House serves five of his house beers that change seasonally. Right now, Wilson is brewing a Bavarian-style hefeweizen with a ton of hops. The Draught House also has 70 beers on tap and cask, and has an additional 20 beers, including gluten-free and Belgian, in bottles. Wilson selects the lineup to support local brewers, represent the best American craft beer and to offer as many styles as possible. The lineup includes several Texas craft beers, seasonal and special releases, brewer’s reserve and small-batch beers. The Draught House keeps things fresh by varying the beer menu and changing out about a dozen taps weekly. The mix of its beers and selection of guest taps earned the Draught House a spot on “America’s 100 best beer bars: 2012,” chosen by Draft Magazine.

Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que

1530 Barton Springs Road and on Lake Travis at 6550 Comanche Trail
Whether you are looking for a decent place to eat with great beer and fantastic views of Lake Travis or just south of downtown, Uncle Billy’s is your spot, serving finger-sucking-good barbeque and award-winning craft brew. Brew masters Amos Lowe and Brian “Swifty” Peters brew seven beers at both locations, regularly rotating two or three beers. The beer menu is dominated by light, hoppy beers made with Belgian yeast like Bottle Rocket Lager Axe Handle Pale Ale and Hop Zombie. Last year, Bottle Rocket Lager garnered a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Uncle Billy’s brews 1,200 barrels at Barton Springs and 900 barrels at Lake Travis, and has the space to ramp capacity over time. The pub serves a few local beers on guest taps and has bottled beer as well.

Black Star Co-Op
7020 Easy Wind Dr., Midtown Commons, suite 100
This isn’t an average brew pub. No sir. This co-operative was started when Steven Yarak had an idea to start a neighborhood brew pub owned by the neighborhood. He gathered like-minded individuals with the panache and know-how to brew beer and operate a business. Members ponied up the money and started brewing the beer that they wanted to drink. It is reportedly the first cooperatively run and owned brew pub in the world. Born in April 2006, Black Star brews 15 rational and irrational beers and serves several other local beers on guest taps that rotate regularly.

North by Northwest (NXNW)
10010 N. Capital of Texas Hwy.
Patterned after a Pacific Northwest lodge, NXNW serves a full menu with steak, grilled duck and cedar-plank salmon. While the food is tasty, the beer is the star, with a prominently displayed grain silo and six house-made brews on tap. The Barton Kriek brought home a bronze in the Belgian-style lambic category at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival. Brew Master Don Thompson augments the menu with eight seasonal and special beers that are rotated regularly. Special cask-conditioned beers are featured on Cask Night, the last Monday of every month.

Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.
(coming soon)
The award-winning brewers at Uncle Billy’s, Amos Lowe and Brian “Swifty” Peters, are departing to start their own brewery, slated to open in January 2013. The South Austin brew pub will serve hand-crafted pizza and beer on 10 taps in a music-hall-style beer garden.

“We’re going for the Armadillo World Headquarters vibe with New York-style pizza like Home Slice,” Peters says.

The brewers will make several varieties of beer with a mainstay lineup of pilsner, pale ale and IPA. They plan to have a small canning line to sell their beer off premise. The owners are shooting for a location at Lamar Boulevard and Oltorf Street.

TAP ROOMS

Whip In
1950 S. IH-35
Don’t let the deceiving look of a convenience store on the frontage road of a major interstate highway throw you off. This shop not only offers more than 200 bottled beers to drink on premise or take with you, but it also features 58 special, seasonal and craft beers on tap, wine by the glass and plans to open a craft brewery soon. The South Austin institution, in business since 1986, has an eclectic café menu and a small beer garden to enjoy a drink and live music.

Brew ExchangeBrew Exchange
706 W. Sixth St.
Beer served from 72 taps and 60 more in bottles (with at least 25 local brews) is sold according to the laws of supply and demand at the stocktrading-themed Brew Exchange. Real-time market conditions dictate pricing, allowing you to get some unknown beers at a discount while driving the price of more popular brews higher. Owner Nick Adams paired a unique software program that interfaces with cash registers to create stock-market price fluctuations on the huge selection of beer for a distinctive experience.

Black Sheep Lodge
2108 South Lamar Blvd.
The patio on South Lamar is always packed with hipsters and beer drinkers chowing on burgers and washing them back with a good selection of beer. Black Sheep boasts 26 beers on tap and 130 bottled selections with a great lineup of local brews. It’s a great place to catch a game on one of the 20 TVs mounted inside.

Banger's Sausage House Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden
79 and 81 Rainey St.
Ben Siegel thinks of his new addition to the Rainey Street District as an American beer hall with the feel of a traditional German biergarten but without the pretense. The casual beer garden has communal seating at long tables made from reclaimed bar wood, liter beer steins, artisanal sausage and live music played in a spacious outdoor setting. Siegel aims to make Banger’s one of the best beer bars in the country with a knowledgeable staff and corpulent beer selection. The staff is required to pass the level-one Cicerone beer certification to be able to help customers make informed beer choices. It has one of the largest tap walls in the state with 103 beers on draft, more than half of which are dedicated to Texas craft brews. Banger’s has many German-style lagers and Czech-style pilsners that go really well with the 30 varieties of sausage made in-house. Banger’s offers everything from a classic Bratwurst with sauerkraut to fried-chicken sausage made with chicken thighs wrapped in chicken skin, soaked in buttermilk and fried.

Billy’s on Burnet
2105 Hancock Dr.
Billy’s is a family-friendly joint run by local beer icon Billy Forrester. The beer menu features 28 brews on tap ranging from the mundane Miller Lite and Lone Star to stand-out local, seasonal brews. It also carries 25 bottled beers. Billy’s features regular beer specials and hosts beer events on a regular basis. The menu is dominated by inventive burgers like the bad-ass cobra jalapeño bacon cheeseburger and an ample vegetarian lineup with more than a dozen dishes.

AUSTIN DREAM SIX PACK

With so many good beers made in Austin, it’s damned difficult to pick the best, but a panel of five prominent beer bloggers selected their favorites in six main categories.

Meet the Judging Panel:
Aaron Chamberlain, Austin Beer Guide
Chris Troutman, Austin Beer Guide
John Knox, Hop Safari
Lee Nichols, I Love Beer blog
Matt Abendschein, You Stay Hoppy Austin

Pale Ale
These are the copper- and bronze-colored beers that have evolved in to the piney, bitter delight of hop heads throughout the world, particularly in the IPA category. Judges’ selection: Independence Stash IPA. Tasting notes: “Piney hops dominate the scent and flavor, followed by floral and citrus flavors and a hint of sweetness.”

Black/Schwarz
This bottom-fermented German-style lager gets its dark color from oodles of dark roasted malts. It has coffee and chocolate flavors similar to a stout. Judges’ selection: NXNW Okanagan Black Ale. Tasting notes: “The dark color is deceiving. This beer is medium bodied and refreshing with scents of toasted malts, bitter chocolate and nut that marry with bitter coffee and floral hops flavors.”

Stout/Porter
Both beers are robust, malty and dark brown in color. Famed Guinness and others are known for roasted coffee and chocolate flavors. Judges’ selection: (512) Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter. Tasting notes: “This is a dark, bold beer with an intense head. The whiskey barrel aging and locally grown pecans give it roasty, chocolate flavors with a slight nutty bitterness.”

Wheat
Wheat beer differs from other beer in the ample use of wheat malt versus barley malt. The result is a light colored, hazy beer with a thick, long-lasting head. Judges’ selection: Live Oak HefeWeizen. Tasting notes: “Light-bodied, with a crisp, wheat, banana flavor.”

Pilsner
Pilsners are classic golden lagers that are crisp and light. Mass-produced beers like Bud draw on the Pilsner heritage but aren’t true to it. Judges’ selection: Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap Pils. Tasting notes: “Light, crisp and dry with subtle spices, toasty bread and a hint of bitter hops on the finish.”

Belgian
This broad category is typified by strong flavors, strong alcohol (5 to 7 percent) and bottle conditioning. Judges’ selection: Real Ale Devil’s Backbone. Tasting notes: “This Belgian style has rich scents of ripe banana and lush taste of fruit, citrus and cloves followed by light hops.”

2012 TEXAS CRAFT BREWERS FESTIVAL

Oct. 6, 2 to 8 p.m. (noon entry/VIP)
Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St.
The Young Men’s Business League and Texas Craft Brewers Guild are busily organizing the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival, a day-long festival featuring Texas-brewed craft beer. Emerging and established brewers from throughout the state will bring new and special releases, seasonal offerings and rare beers to delight our taste buds. In addition to the excellent beer, there will be local food vendors, live music and educational sessions. For more information, visit texascraftbrewersfestival.org.

Know before you go:

  • You must be 21 or older to attend.
  • Limited parking in the Fiesta Gardens. Street parking is available in the neighborhood. 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.
  • You can bring in water in factory-sealed bottles.
  • Proceeds from the festival benefit Austin Sunshine Camps, which provides education and personal development for economically disadvantaged children.

This story was originally published in the Fall 2012 Issue of Austin Man Magazine. Photos by Kimberly Davis, except the Jester King and Banger’s photos which I took. 

What are you drinking? 

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!

What are you drinking?

Hops & Grain Brewery wins Gold

Hops & Grain Brewer, Josh Hare

Austin, Texas based Hops & Grain Brewery won a Gold Medal for its Alt-eration German Pilsner in the German Brown Ale/Dusseldorf Style Altbier category at the 2012 World Beer Cup international beer competition.  The competition, presented by the Brewers Association, evaluates beers from around the world and recognizes the most outstanding brewers and their beers in 95 beer-style categories.

Hops & Grain brewer, Josh Hare, is proud of his malty and classically bitter German style brown ale. “We couldn’t be happier to bring this award back to Austin. As a 6 month old brewery, and a small team of 2 brewers, we have high hopes for the attention this prestigious award will bring to the incredible craft beer scene here in our hometown of Austin. Spreading our message of sustainability and community has been our passion from day 1 and we hope that this award will bring more attention to our brand and our mission.”

World Beer Cup winners were selected by an international panel of 218 beer judges from 29 countries. This year the competition drew a field of nearly 4,000 entries from 828 breweries in 56 countries. The 2012 competition drew the largest, most international field of entrants in the history of the World Beer Cup. The World Beer Cup has been held every other year since 1996.

Congratulations Josh and Meg! I’ve got a six-pack at home ready to celebrate.

What are you drinking?

Welcome Adelbert’s, Austin’s newest craft brewery

Hundreds of people gathered beneath the beautiful sunshine in North Austin to celebrate the grand opening of Adelbert’s Brewery on Saturday.

Scott Hovey, Adelbert's brewmaster

Brewmaster Scott Hovey opened the doors to the public and poured gallons of his Belgian-style ales in commemorative tulip glasses (among them: Triple B, a hefty triple ale, and Naked Nun, a crisp wit ale) to a relaxed crowd taking in the live music of Honey Baked Soul, Lads in Plaid and Jack Levinson.

Hovey brews seven year-round, bottle-conditioned ales — a method of carbonating beer by re-fermenting it in the bottle, which provides that silky texture and classic haziness of a European ale. “I believe brewing is like cooking,” Hovey says. “No one component of a recipe should overpowering, but a balance of different flavors that compliment each other. So I always shoot for middle profile of major variables for a style.”

The brewery’s first two releases, Rambler Ale, a Belgian blonde ale, and Scratchin’ Hippo, a Bière de Garde, are already being stocked at bars and retail shops around town.

It is a great time to be hankerin’ for a beer in Austin. Adelbert’s is the eighth new craft brewery to open in town in the past year and a half. The city now boasts a dozen breweries and several more brew pubs. Austinite’s tastes continue to evolve, and brewers keep raising the bar of excellence and creativity in brewing.

Hovey thinks there is plenty of opportunity for his Belgian brews and more: “I would like to see Austin become a craft beer hub like Chicago or Portland. I believe there is still plenty of room for more breweries.”

  • Location: 2314 Rutland Drive, Suite #100, Austin, TX 78758
  • Tours: Check the website for additional event and tour opportunities
  • How to get it: Available on tap in bars around Austin and in 750ml bottles at local retail outlets

 

This photo essay also appeared on CultureMap.

What are you drinking? 


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.

What are you drinking?

Beers is from Mars, Wine is from Venus

Recently Matt at You Stay Hoppy Austin posted a tongue-in cheek list of reasons why beer is better than wine. It struck a chord with me. While I’m a huge fan of both fine wine and craft brew, I see differences in the cultures of the aficionados. Let’s be honest, beer is from Mars, wine is from Venus.

Beer is the drink of the masses, which is why we have Joe Six-pack. Wine is the drink of kings. After all, it’s made from Nobel grapes. Really? Actually it’s not as straightforward as the old stereotypes. But still, aren’t there differences? Here’s how I see it.

When I go to a bar that draws beer devotees, I always know what the crowd will look like before I open the door. It will be 90% men, the majority with beards, wearing bicycle messenger shorts and either beer or ironic t-shirts. They hold up fat goblets of sour beer made by Trappist monks and describe the fruitiness with no sense of irony. These guys will dazzle each other with their encyclopedic knowledge of beer history, beer production, beer taste profiles and the coolest dudes making craft brew in the coolest places. They speak of finger width head, lacing, the scent of sourdough and pine sap flavors with the fervor of as recently converted Pentecostal. Beer geeks can be a little cliqueish and reserved with you until you demonstrate that you have hop cred. These semi-elitists certainly are no Joe Six-packs.

When I go to a wine bar or a wine tasting, I also know what I’m going to find. The over-stuffed couches and chairs will be populated by couples or small groups of girlfriends engaged in lively dialog about fashion, the arts politics and economics while eating artisan cheeses and organic fruit. They’ll pause occasionally to comment on how the wine is opening up as it breaths (even though the bottle was opened yesterday) and to recount how it reminds them of the oh-so-off-the-beaten-path boutique winery they discovered in Anderson Valley/Willamette Valley/Bordeaux/You Name The Region – all in a breathless conspiratorial tone of someone who has discovered the covenant of the lost arc. They aren’t above it all royalty. In fact, they are looking for wine that is still in touch with the earth; and speak of it lovingly as terroir.  

While I might hold these perceptions, I wondered if others people see it this way too. So @stayhoppyaustin and I contacted some wine and beer experts to ask what they think of beer culture compared to wine culture. Do they seem them as Cat people and Dog people? Here’s a sampling of what I heard from the winos.

  • Rollin Soles, wine maker, Argyle Winery and Roco Winery“Beer is a refreshing beverage to enjoy after a serious wine tasting for many winemakers. I call beer Khaki Champagne. I’ve got a lot of respect from the best brewers as the good ones know the difficulties of making a great, balanced fizzy beverage, and sparkling wine is the pinnacle. The respect is mutual.

The best winemakers and brewers have a lot in common. We want to know the source of our ingredients, we want to play with and control those ingredients, we understand balance and the power of subtlety, we take our craft seriously but not ourselves. The ‘universe’ of beer and wine has never been broader nor better!”

  • Rick Bakas, founder of Bakas Media, and author of Back to Bakas a Sommeliers Guide to Wine + Food, Facebook.com/sommrickbakas – “Beer aficionados are more brand loyal and tend to stick to a style or brand through thick and thin.  Wine aficionados will whore themselves out to anyone and I mean that in the best way possible.  There are more than twice as many wineries in the world as there are breweries, so there are more wine brands to sample.  It might seem like wine folks are more serious about wine, but in my opinion, beer geeks are more serious about their drink of choice.  Part of that may be that home brewers find beer to be more accessible and easier to be part of than wine.   It’s not real easy to make good wine at home like you can with beer. The beer community is more collaborative because of the added home brewer demographic.  I’ve been part of home brew forums that share brew recipes whereas wine doesn’t have that added layer of interaction.

Both communities have their elitist demographics.  Both have people that are serious about their craft.  For the wine crowd, they have experts such as Master Sommeliers.  There are beer somms but they don’t carry the same cache, or aren’t as well-known as wine somms.  Technically, a good sommelier knows their beer and wine equally along with any other adult beverage but wine gets more focus than beer.

The beer crowd is weighted heavily towards men.  Last time I went to the GABF it was about 80% males….real sausage fest.”  

  • Husband and Wife team the beer guy, William Fraser, and Denise Fraser, the mind behind the Texas Wine Gal blog gave me a he-said, she-said on beer and wine – “A beer geek is happy to enjoy a pint (or better yet, several half pints) in a bar that’s hot, got lousy food, and a pitiful wine list.  Oh yeah, and it’s probably got flat screens blaring sports. (wink!)”

“A wino frequents bars and restaurants where she can order something other than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and she wants to enjoy good food – even if only an artisan cheese plate – with her glass or bottle of wine.  Oh yeah, and she wants a decent pour. (clink!)”

Collaborative? “Beer geeks collaborate on meaningless fodder, intended to humor one another.”

 “Texas winemakers and growers are super collaborative and helpful in order to support the overall industry. They share knowledge, equipment, and other resources in order to move the industry forward. And the wine community here is also collaborative with the local foods movement, illustrating ‘what grows together, goes together.’  Wine people also stick together.”

Inclusive? “Wine people are inclusive only if you possess an adjective vocabulary larger than a kitchen panty, blessed with a nose comparable to that of a dog and with an understanding that tannins is what the hot blond at the end of the bar has been doing all day.”

“Wine may historically had a bad rap for being exclusive or snobby, but no more.  Today’s wine consumers, particularly Millenials, don’t really care what the Winestream media (I’m stealing this term from Wine Curmudgeon Jeff Siegel) say about wines.  They care less about scores and more about what their friends suggest.  There’s nothing more inviting or inclusive than enjoying and talking about wine with friends”. 

Elitist or egalitarian?  “Egalitarian is a big word for a beer drinker.  We prefer to share our beer.”

“Beware the wino who gets into his geek mode when describing wine….barnyard, band-aid, wet socks, gasoline or cat pee. That can be a little boorish.  For me, I like simple, easy descriptors – a cherry Jolly Rancher maybe – and people who realize that everyone’s palates are different. I may love a wine that you don’t like at all…and that’s OK.”

Gender differences? “Yes, they both have cleavage, but one is more likely to show you theirs.  Guess which one?”

“I’d have to say that wine is pretty 50-50.” 

  • Jessica Dupuy, freelance writer, http://jessicadupuy.com/ – “A beer aficionado is someone who not only enjoys beer for taste, but someone who has a level of understanding of what it takes to make good beer. Having this understanding allows beer lovers to try and taste different beers-which can have anywhere from 30 different ingredients influencing the flavors–with a better awareness for what they like and don’t like.

I’m a wine fan, but I think the community of beer makers are very collaborative. Because of how beer if made, it requires more of a process that artisans can really learn from by working with other craft beer producers.

There are beer geeks and there are wine enthusiasts, both can have an elitist streak if you get them drinking enough beer or wine. ; ) but I’ve found that people that really are aficionados on either beverage is well past the point of being pedantic just for the sake of showing off a little knowledge.

I see more women in the wine crowd, but honestly both are still good ole boy communities…”

  • Katy Jane Bothum, Creator/Producer of the Austin Wine & Music Festival,  – “I find them both to be die hard loyal with exploratory natures if you will.  Beer seems to hover on the inclusive side of enjoyment where wine can sometimes rest on the exclusive side. I believe in both there are subcultures that welcome and fit the education level or groove of anyone looking to imbibe.

Both go to both (beer and wine festivals) because they are always friends with, dating and or married to the other.  Which is why Austin Wine and Music Festival chose to add Craft Beer in its third year so that we too – even as a wine event could rest on the inclusive side. Imbibing should come without pretense and with unadulterated joy for what your heart and palate crave.” –

  • Jeremy Parzen, Ph.D., Italian wine aficionado and author of Do Bianchi – “There is more social engagement in the wine community only because the unique nature of how wine is bottled, labeled, and shipped creates more opportunity for human engagement. There is a tendency toward elitism in the wine community, if only because of the historical stigma and cliché of wine. Historically, beer has always had a more proletarian appeal (but only in the U.S.; in Europe it’s the opposite). There are more women in wine for sure. Women have superior palates and are better at evaluating and discussing wine than men.”

 

  •   Diane Dixon, co-founder, Keeper Collection, LLC and Somms Under Fire – “(Beer aficionados are) enthusiastic about their brew; adventuresome to taste lots of different beer. Wine aficionados love their wine; tend to like certain wine regions and stick with those.”

 

  • @Sassodoro, Italian wine aficionado – “The thought that wine and beer enthusiasts are like Cat people and Dog people certainly applies to me. I know that beer can be tremendously complex and interesting, and pair fabulously with food, but I just never got all that excited about it.  I find the wine crowd to be a very congenial bunch, both among people in the business and ‘civilians.’ Perhaps it isn’t surprising that ‘civilian’ enthusiasts would be a fun crowd. That’s probably the case for any group of people that come together to share their hobby.

What I found more surprising was the degree of helpfulness and collegiality among people in the wine business who are ostensibly competitors. I was once an investor in a retail wine store and within the first month or so that we were open, another retailer came up to me at a trade tasting and offered his help, advice, and good wishes. I know a couple of importer-distributors who share warehouse space, sometimes conduct joint portfolio tastings, and celebrate each other’s successes. Among sommeliers and aspiring sommeliers, the mutual support and mentoring is truly impressive. And I see on Twitter all the time where people are supporting others with whom, at some level, they are competing.”

I don’t know. It sounds like people have differing opinions on this. Some think they are cut from the same cloth, some people think they are different. Take a look at what the Beer Geeks have to say on this matter over on You Stay Hoppy Austin.

What do you think? I have to know.

 What are you drinking?