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

Summer 2012 cover art by Michael Sieben

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

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

What are you drinking?


Austin City Guide 2012: Austin Craft Breweries

Texas is one hell of a great state for beer and Austin is its beer capital. There has been an explosion of new craft breweries with eight new breweries starting in Austin in the past year and a half. While tastes continue to get more sophisticated, brewers keep raising the bar of excellence and creativity in brewing. There has never been a better time to be a beer drinker in Austin. The city now boasts a dozen breweries and several more brew pubs. Here is a run-down of the local breweries.


(512) Brewing Co. Founded by Kevin Brand in 2008, (512) Brewing makes four beers year round and another nine seasonal brews in its microbrewery. They are well known for the (512) Pale, a food friendly ale with plenty of classic hops and citrus flavors, and for the (512) Pecan Porter. You can find (512) brews on tap at local restaurants and bars. The Pecan Porter is available in bottles in limited supply at some shops.

  • Location: 407 Radam, F200, Austin, Texas 78745
  • Tours: quarterly open houses with tours and tastings
  • How to get it: Draft in bars around Austin and in limited release bottles at select local retail outlets


Adelbert’s Brewery Scott Hovey just opened this north Austin brewery, named for his deceased brother, this winter to make Belgian-style bottle conditioned ales. Hovey brews four year-round ales and has three more in the works to introduce in the Spring of 2012. Austin’s newest brewery takes its time, conditioning each batch for a minimum of six weeks for a smooth taste. Adelbert’s first two releases, Rambler Ale , a Belgian blonde ale, and Scratchin’ Hippo, a Bière de Garde, are bringing smiles to beer lovers around town.

  • Location: 2314 Rutland Drive, Suite #100, Austin, TX 78758
  • Tours: Adelbert’s Grand Opening and Tasting will be held Saturday, March 24, 2012. Check the website for additional event and tour opportunities
  • How to get it: Draft in bars around Austin and in 750ml bottles at local retail outlets


Austin Beerworks Austin Beerworks took the town by storm in the summer of 2011 with kick-ass beer, distinctive branding and plucky wit. Founded by four partners, Michael, Will, Adam and Mike the microbrewery is cranking out kegs and cans at a mad pace in an effort to meet demand for its highly drinkable brews. Austin Beerworks makes four year –round brews including the Pearl-Snap German Pils, Fire Eagle American IPA and the recently introduced Black Thunder German Schwarz. The Peacemaker Extra Pale not only is 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.

  • Location: 3009 Industrial Terrace, Suite 150, Austin, TX 78758
  • Tours: Periodic happy hour tours provided. Check website for tour availability
  • How to get it: Widely available on-tap at local bars and restaurants and in cans in local retail outlets


Circle Brewing Co. Childhood friends and brewmasters Ben Sabel and Judson Mulherin are celebrating the one year anniversary of Circle Brewing on March 10, 2012. They make three year-round and three seasonal brews adhering to the German Purity Law of 1516, which limits the allowable ingredient to water, malt, hops and yeast. The Blur Texas Hefe, Envy Amber Ale and Nightlight Dry Irish Stout and weigh in at less than 5% alcohol by volume (ABV), so you can kick back a few pints in the Texas heat before you start trying to bed the cuttie next to you at the bar.

  • Location: 2340 W Braker Ln., Suite B Austin, TX 78758
  • Tours: The tasting room is not yet open to the public, but check the website for periodic tours and events.
  • How to get it: Draft available at Austin restaurants and bars


Hops and Grain Brewing Co. Josh Hare opened his microbrewery in the summer of 2011 where 6th street dead-ends on the east side. Demand for the beer and the opening of a cannery has already necessitated an expansion of the facilities. Hops & Grain brews two year round beers, Alt-Eration, a Dusseldorf style Altbier brewed with German malts and noble hops, and Pale Dog, American Pale Ale, made with two-row malted barley and domestic hops. In addition, they are brewing up to ten special beers annually – what they call Greenhouse – which includes both seasonal and experimental beers. Right now they offer Ruta Maya, dark Belgian style imperial stout, and will be switching to a barleywine in March. Hare keeps an eye on sustainability and even makes Brew Biscuit dog treats from spent brewing grains. Bring your pup for a biscuit while you have a brew.

  • Location: 507 Calles, Austin, TX 78702
  • Tours: The brewery and tap room are open every Friday from 2 – 6 pm and Saturday noon – 4pm.
  • How to get it: Draft available at Austin restaurants and bars and soon releasing cans


Independence Brewing Co. Relatively “senior” in comparison to all of the new breweries popping up on the Austin scene, Independence was started by Rob and Amy Cartwright in 2004 in a South Austin warehouse. Rob and Amy have not only been around for a little while, they are also actively promoting craft brewing as active members of the Texas Craft Brewers guild and volunteer organizers of the Texas Craft Brewers Festival. They make six year-round beers including the Austin Amber Ale, Bootlegger Brown Ale, Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout, Freestyle Wheat Ale, Stash IPA and my favorite, Independence Pale Ale. Independence also brews five seasonals that rotate every two-to-three months. They also make six, limited production beers, which they call Brewluminati, that are available only on tap while the miniscule supplies last.

  • Location: 3913 Todd Lane, Austin, TX 78744
  • Tours: First Saturday of each month
  • How to get it: you can find Independence on draft in local bars and restaurants and in bottles in local retailers


Jester King Craft Brewery Lawyer turned brewer, Jeffrey Stuffings, turned heads when he released highly acclaimed barrel-aged brews in late 2010. The beer caused such a clamor that the brewery’s opening party in January 2011 was over-run and sold out with thousands of thirsty Texans demanding more. Stuffings turned heads again when he won a lawsuit against the TABC allowing breweries to say where their beer is sold and call it beer on the labels. Old, weird-ass laws are dying. Jester King makes five year-round brews including Le Petite Prince, Commercial Suicide, Wytchmaker Rye IPA, Black Metal Imperial Stout and Mad Meg. Jester King also brews four seasonal beers and always has special brews in the works.

  • Location: 13005 Fitzhugh Road, Austin, but way out west Austin as in damn-near Dripping Springs
  • Tours: the tasting room is open every Saturdays from 1-4pm, with tours at 1:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm.
  • How to get it: On tap at Austin restaurants and bars and in several types in 750ml bottles at local retailers


Live Oak Brewing Co. The granddaddy of Austin craft brewing, Live Oak Brewing, was started in 1997 by Chip McElroy and Brian “Swifty” Peters (now brewmaster at Uncle Billy’s brewpub). Celebrating its 15th anniversary this April, 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 Pilsener, Big Bark Amber Lager, Hefeweizen and Liberation Ale. They also introduce new seasonal brews each quarter. This spring the Schwarzbier replaces the winter Primus.  Live Oak stays small and doesn’t can or bottle its beer. It is widely available around the state on tap.

  • Location: the corner of 5th and Allen Streets in East Austin
  • 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 to-go growlers from Whole Foods Bar Lamar


Real Ale Brewing Co. OK, so they’re not exactly in Austin and you may not even think of them as a microbrew because of the phenomenal success of their omnipresent flagship ale Firemans #4, but this Blanco-based brewery still makes the list. Founded in 1996 by Philip and Diane Conner it is one of the oldest breweries in the area, and with a capacity of 72,000 barrels (almost a million cases) a year, they are definitely one of the biggest. Real Ale brews six year-round brews including the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, Lost Gold IPA Brewhouse Brown Ale and ESB. They also make two seasonal brews each quarter such as Phoenixx Double ESB and Devil’s Backbone Tripel.  They also brew experimental barrel-aged Mysterium Verum series, which includes WT3F?!, a tripel wort fermented exclusively with Brettanomyces bruxellensis and The Kraken, aSisyphus barleywine aged for 11 months in American and French oak.

  • Location: 231 San Saba Court  Blanco, TX 78606
  • Tours: the tasting room is open on Fridays from 2 – 5 pm with tours starting at 3 and 4 pm.
  • How to get it: Widely available in draft and by the bottle.


South Austin Brewing Co. South Austin Brewing Company held its Grand Opening party on February 11, 2012. The newest Austin craft brewery just started delivering kegs of Belgian-style beer to local restaurants and bars in February.  Brewmaster Jordan Weeks is making specialty Belgian Style Golden Ale and Saison D’Austin for local distribution.

  • Location: 415 East St Elmo, Unit 1D, Austin TX 78745
  • Tours: Check website
  • How to get it: On tap at select sites in Austin.


Thirsty Planet Brewing Co. Brian Smittle fell in love with beer while studying politics in the U.K. After getting his brewer’s sea legs in Colorado and Oklahoma, he and his wife, Tammy, moved to Austin and started Thirsty Planet in the summer of 2010. Thirsty Planet three year-round brews are highly drinkable in the Texas heat. I’m always a sucker for Buckethead IPA, Yellow Armadillo Wheat or Thirsty Goat Amber when I see them on a menu. They also occasionally offer seasonals like the Silverback Pale Ale.

  • Location: 11160 Circle Drive, Austin, Texas 78736, near the Oakhill Y on the southwest side of town
  • Tours: Each Saturday. Visit the website to get a ticket.
  • How to get it: Draft at finer bars and restaurants in central Texas


Twisted X Brewing Co. This self-described “Tex Mex beer,” or Texas styled Mexican beer, was introduced in 2011 by Jim Sampson and Shane Bordeau. The two brewers aim to make hand-crafted beer that appeal to a broad audience of drinkers. Twisted X makes five year-round brews with unique twists. The flagship Twisted X, Premium Tex Mex Lager adds yellow corn for a Mexican taste. Fuego, Jalapeno Pilsner packs a pepper punch. Cow Creek ,Tex Mex Dark Lager will remind you of Negro Modelo, while Chupahopra is a goat sucking IPA. Senor Viejo, Imperial Black Lager is a high alcohol Schwartzbier aged in Republic Tequila barrels. They also make a summer seasonal Siesta Prickly Pear Lager with red corn and prickly pear cactus.

  • Location: 3200 West Whitestone Boulevard C#1, Cedar Park TX 78613
  • Tours: Tours will be available beginning in March 2012. Check the website for details
  • How to get it: On tap at select restaurants and bars in Central Texas

No matter where you go to drink beer or buy it to take home, you are bound to find a great selection of Austin-brewed beers. Stock up!

What are you drinking?

Beer on the trading floor at Brew Exchange

The bell rings and pandemonium ensues — the screaming traders, the mad waving of colorful stock order slips, the smell of money. Wall Street? No, last week Brew Exchange rang the opening bell on a fresh concept of stock market pricing at a new West Sixth Street location.

Here, beer is sold according to the laws of supply and demand. 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.

Nick Adams, co-owner

Owner Nick Adams, is an idea collector. He constantly takes notes on things that catch his attention and when he stumbled across the idea for a bar with a trading theme, he and his four partners (including the three co-owners of Kung Fu Saloon — Michael Dickson, Chris Horne, Ben Cantu — as well as Tim Womac) moved quickly.

He paired a unique software program that interfaces with cash registers to create stock market price fluctuations on a huge selection of beer, capitalizing on the surging craft brew movement in Texas. “No one in the nation does it like Brew Exchange,” says Adams.

So, with fluctuating pricing, is it possible to end up paying more for a Miller Lite than a local craft brew? Adams says no and explains that there is a low and a high cap for every beer. In other words, Miller Lite, the best selling beer on W. Sixth Street, won’t be going for $10 a pint even if a bachelor party stumbles in and orders it by the case. “We’re probably not going to have mainstream beers going for higher prices than a craft beer,” says Adams.

Brew Exchange groups similar beers in categories, so if a particular beer within a group goes up, its counter-parts drop. For example, if Real Ale jumps 25 percent, then Live Oak in the same group will drop by the same amount. If a Live Oak is around $4 a pint and it gets to its upper limit $6, the software will cap it and then reset the price. (These are just hypothetical prices to give an idea of the system at work.) In addition to the supply and demand fluctuations, they will simulate “market crashes” to offer fat discounts on select suds that will last all day. The insider tip: don’t buy high.

Austin is blessed with some fantastic beer bars like the Draught House Pub, the Flying Saucer, The Gingerman and Black Star Co-op, and now this Beer Exchange will compete for our attention. It will carry 72 beers on tap and 50 to 60 more in bottles and cans, with at least 25 to 30 local brews including (512) Brewing Company, Austin Beerworks, Circle Brewing Company, Jester King, Live Oak Brewing Company, Thirsty Planet Brewing, and Real Ale Brewing to name a few. They will carry several more American craft beers, a selection of Belgian beers and many other European porters, stouts and ales. Brew Exchange plans to carry a rotating stock of seasonal selections and will even carry gluten-free beers. The menu is refreshed regularly based on customer input with up to 15 to 20 percent of the selection changing to keep things fresh.

Brew Exchange has a few added touches to keep beer aficionados happy. They have installed a glycol beer cooling system that keeps the beer crisp from cooler to tap via refrigerated copper pipes. Not only that, but they are fanatical about keeping the glasses clean with a four compartment washing system that allows for extra rinse. Of course the glasses are cold.

Who’s buying it?

Beer aficionados and Austinites pride themselves in their Portlandia-like reverence of anything authentic. Will a concept bar smack people as too gimmicky? Will protesters come to Occupy Barstool? Why in the hell would I want to pay more money for a beer just because it’s selling particularly well on a given night?

There are some skeptics. Chris Troutman, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Austin Beer Guide says, “I like going to bars where I know how much I’ll be paying for my evening out. The success of a new beer bar really depends on how many of those 72 taps they dedicate to better beers, and how many of those they allot to local craft beer. I’ve observed that the beer bars that work at keeping their selection fresh and up-to-date with national and regional seasonal and special releases tend to be more popular with the craft crowd. Better beer drinkers in Austin are looking for bars that consistently secure new seasonals, special one-off releases, and actively work with the brewers to host special cask tappings or other rare beer events.”

Matt Abendschein, the You Stay Hoppy Austin beer blogger, is more enthusiastic, saying, “How could I not be excited about a bar with that kind of offering? That just sounds like I’d be walking into an adult candy store. If the beer bar is truly passionate about the beer they serve and especially puts a high focus on local beer, then I see no reason why the craft beer community shouldn’t or wouldn’t support it. Having an authentic vibe of community is what the beer world is all about. It’s definitely a unique idea, one I have never heard of in the beer bar world. I’m not sure I fully understand it but hey, if I can get a good local craft brew for $2, bring it on.”

Adams believes the Brew Exchange key to success is interactivity. Bartenders study beer bibles and are trained to maintain a conversation with the customer on the pricing concept and on all the beers. “This is a way to influence people to take the leap and try new beer. If someone orders a Blue Moon, our bar staff can say ‘Hey if you like Wit Bier, we have four others that might blow your mind,’” say Adams.

Perhaps the time has come for a concept beer bar in Austin. “People expect a little more in a bar than a hot location with great beer,” says Adams. “They want a great design with a cool feel, not a corporate feel. We put a lot of imagination into Brew Exchange.”

The architecture has unique elements, like copper bar backs and beer bottle light fixtures, keeping it fresh and giving it a 1960s stock market motif. Prices scroll on a ticker that runs 62 feet across the perimeter of the bar and on TVs. While employees won’t be required to wear a uniform, like one of those blue smocks popular on stock trading floors, they have the option of wearing the iconic red suspenders made popular by Bear Stearns Partner, Liam Dalton. Adams wore them on opening night.


This article also appeared on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?


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.   

What are you drinking?

What to Drink after a Day at Legoland: Karl Strauss Brewing Company

I’m the best father on Earth. Really! Just ask my son. But do it quickly, because the thrill of being taken to Legoland in California for his eight birthday may wear thin soon. If you have young children, chances are this theme park is on their radar. If you are like me, you will relish a day of watching your kids go nuts over every new Lego adventure. If you are like me, you will want a beer in a big, bad way when the sun starts to set.

Never fear! If you go to Legoland, there is a treat for you at the end of the day. After a full day of giggling on kiddie rides, you can head across the street to the Karl Strauss Brewing Company brewpub in Carlsbad, Calif. It is one of five Karl Strauss brewpubs in Southern California, which opened its original location in 1989 – the first brewpub in San Diego since Prohibition. It has 10 beers on tap with full menu of forty-some rotating beers including six regulars, seasonals and special release. They also have a full gastro-pub grub menu, including kids’ eats.

Before I had even got the kids into the door of the pub, Beautiful Wife was already bellied up to the bar and ordered a Karl Strauss Amber Lager for herself and a Red Trolley Ale for me, both classic beers on the menu. She must have been thirsty because the sample glasses they provided and a three-finger measure of her beer had already evaporated. Both of our beers were Legolicious.

Red Trolley Ale

Look Deep copper red-head with a finger depth of creamy off-white head and decent lacing.
Smell Full snout of malt, caramel and grainy mown grass dried in the sun.
Taste It packs a wallop of malt like a toasted oat sweetened cereal with toffee, brown sugar and slight fruitiness. The rich color and full maltiness doesn’t mean this is a bold beer. It’s actually quite light in body and flavor. It has fizzy effervescence, but it doesn’t quite equate to a smooth or creamy mouthfeel. It’s a good beer to suck back after a long day in the sun.


I also had a pint of the Pintail Pale Ale, a citrusy, floral session beer that went really well with seared tuna. It had just enough Cascade hops to give it a crisp, dry quality. Quite refreshing.

When you are done with Dune Raiders, DUPLO Village, Lego Technic Coaster and The Dragon, go grab a beer. You’ve earned it.

What are you drinking?

Happy Fifth Anniversary Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery

Do you have a vested interest in beer? Are you involved with beer? Is your ego connected to beer, like it is a part of who you are? Is beer important to your life? Do you have a favorite style or brand? You might be a beer geek or even a beer aficionado, but until you have skin in the game, you don’t really have a vested interest.

 The folks over at Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery have a vested interest. This isn’t an average brew pub. No siree. 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. With an idea for ownership and operation by people who love beer, Black Star was born in April 2006. Happy Anniversary!  

 My friend Jennie Chen, the genius behind the celebrated culinary blog MisoHungry, invited me to join her for a few pints at Black Star on a Friday evening. The place was packed inside and outside on the porch. There were two order lines stretching from the bar to the front door. Apparently neighborhood brew pubs that are owned by the neighbors are popular. The line was actually a good thing. It gave me time to read the fantastic beer selection of 20-some craft brews and their own beers.

Black Star brew master, Jeff Young, makes eight beers that are divided into two categories: Rational and Irrational. The Rational Beers are brewed with simple ingredients and the Irrational Beers employ additional complexity. This kind of selection can make a beer lover salivate and then freeze in indecision. I ordered a pint of Vulcan, an IPA made with rye and a healthy dose of hops. This is what it’s like:

Look Hazy, orangey amber with a slight head and little bit of lacing.
Smell This beer has typical IPA scents with plenty of fruity hops and the rye gives it a French bread scent to make it a bit unique.
Taste Hops and yeast define the taste with pine sap bitterness, citrus and biscuits. Its smooth and easy drinking, but not the finest beer they have on tap.
Price $4.50/pint


 I knew I couldn’t drink a full pint of all eight beers on tap, so next I chose a beer flight. Black Star offers a selection of four pours to let you taste your way through the menu. I had the High Esteem (Rational), crisp pale ale with a bit of rye and honey, Recalcitrant Dockhand (Rational), roasted malty porter, House Brown, robust brown ale and Moontower (Irrational), black malty stout with a big kick of alcohol. I could have had a few more Moontowers to light my way into the night.

You don’t have to have a vested interest in beer to go to Black Star. You don’t even have to be a beer geek or a beer aficionado. The place was filled with people from the neighborhood, parents and kids eating fat hand-cut French fries, downtown business people jumping off the train at the Crestview Metro Station, hipsters and dorks alike. It’s a casual setting furnished a step up from a fast food place with an Ikea-like feel. They had food on the menu, but that’s not why I went.

If you want to be truly vested in beer, you can buy in. If you just want to drink with people that care enough to start a co-op, try Black Star.

What are you drinking?

From Mistress to Wife: Jester King Brewery

Texas welcomes a new craft brewery to the neighborhood today with the opening party for Jester King Brewery. And a party it was. Traffic was backed-up more than 2.5 miles to get in. The 2,000 pint glasses ordered for the party ran out in the first hour and half. What do you expect? Texans love a party, and Texans love beer.

Have you ever dreamt of turning your hobby into your job? That’s just what Jeff Stuffings, owner of Jester King, did. He was gracious enough to spend a little time with me at the end of the opening bash to spin a yarn about the birth of his brewery. Jeff started home brewing back in aught three. He fell in love. He was obsessed. After a while, he couldn’t pay attention to his day job. His mistress soon became his wife.

Jeff found a 200 acre working ranch that needed a 6,500 square foot brewery to complete its own life goals, and soon Jester King had a home in the Texas hill country just outside of Austin. The brewery started operations with its first brew day on September 24, 2010 and began shipping kegs of beer to bars in Austin, Dallas and Houston in October.


In a typical brew day, Jeff and his brother Michael produce 930 gallons, or 30 barrels, or 60 kegs of glorious beer. From the fermenter, the beer is kegged, bottled, or barrel aged.  Yeah, Jester King ages three of its five beers in oak barrels. They source barrels from George Dickel whiskey for Commercial Suicide and wine barrels for the farmhouse ales, Boxer’s Revenge and Das Wunderkind!.

The barrels are stored in a temperature controlled room to let the yeast do its best work. The same goes for the 750ml bottles of Black Metal Imperial Stout. This bad ass stout is bottle conditioned, with yeast and sugar added to the bottle for additional fermentation in the bottle. Size matters and these beers don’t come in a puny 12 oz bottle.

Speaking of bottles, the 130 cases of Black Metal is just the first round of bottles produced. It’s hand-bottled, which is pretty damned time consuming. It is available now in good beer stores around Texas. The next batch of beers in bottles will be in stores in late February.

Here’s what you can expect to taste when you get your hands on Jester King beers.

Wytchmaker Rye IPA

Look Tawny amber, hazy with a bone cream head.
Smell Like a bag of sticky weed in a pine forest. Fresh hops and juniper berries burst in the nose.
Taste The British army would order extra of this IPA. Grapefruit rind and pine sap mingle in smooth effervescence and linger for a long, bitter finish.

Black Metal Imperial Stout

Look Black espresso with a rich brown crema head that subsides quickly. Black Metal is as opaque as its name.
Smell A coffee shop a few hours after roasting. Warm coffee beans, chocolate and toasted malt.
Taste Breakfast or desert? Lush, creamy dark chocolate with French roast coffee spiked with tingly bubbles, finishing in a long oak and coffee bean finish.

Commercial Suicide Dark Mild

Look I was never good at telling the difference between burnt sienna or burnt umbra Crayolas, but this beer is one of those. Its dark brown veil is translucent enough to let light shine in through the edges.
Smell A lazy afternoon rolling in dry leaves and straw in the hot sun, with sweet malt and fresh baked bread on the breeze.
Taste Have you had a buddy’s home brew and you know it has potential, but it’s not completely balanced? That’s Commercial Suicide. The yeast is a bit too prominent and overcomes the mild citrus and toasted malt. It finishes quickly, making no excuses.

If you think the darkest, richest beer made in Texas is Shiner Bock, you are in for a treat. Jester King brings rich, hearty brews to the Texas craft brew fraternity. Jeff, I’m glad you gave up your first one to marry your mistress.


Unfortunately I got to the opening party late and was unable to try the beer at the brewery. Samples were provided free of charge by The Draught House Pub and Brewery.

What are you drinking?An interview with Jeff Stuffings, owner Jester King