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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story was first published on CultureMap.

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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.

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“Brontosaurus ribs” by local chef win the Greenling Fan Favorite award at Live Fire! meat-cooking competition

In Forrest Gump, Bubba rattles off over 20 different ways to prepare shrimp. It turns out that beef is pretty damn versatile too. On a beautiful April night at the rustic Salt Lick Pavilion, roughly 550 people gathered to grub on beef prepared in creative ways by 16 chefs at Live Fire.Iron and fire and Live Fire

In its second year, the celebration of Texas cuisine hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance hit its stride with hot chefs, inventive dishes, delicious drinks and entertainment; The Elana James Trio had people dancing to western-swing in the pavilion while fire dancers mesmerized the crowd on the lawn — even the bugs lit up in the waning light of dusk.

Alliance executive director, Mariam Parker says, “It’s a really fun event that lets people sample the great flavors of Texas and a twist of the red-hot culinary scene.”

Live Fire started as part of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival and continues as a legacy event held on the eve of the new Austin Food & Wine Festival. This year, chefs were given  leeway to come up with their own recipes as long as they used beef as the main ingredient. After all, the Texas Beef Council was one of the primary sponsors.

While most of the participating chefs were from Austin, the event also drew chefs from culinary destinations like Portland and San Antonio, where commitment to local ingredients and innovative culinary trends is a shared passion.

The longest line at the event was unsurprisingly for Franklin Barbecue. People in Austin are accustomed to waiting for hours on end for a helping of the barbecue that Aaron Franklin serves at his East Side eatery.

Inspired by local cocktail scenester, David Alan, Franklin presented a sumptuous sandwich with chopped brisket and sausage, purple coleslaw and pickles spilling over a slider bun called the Tipsy Texan. Franklin explained why he participated in the event, “The people putting on Live Fire are so awesome. I can’t imagine not doing this event. It’s for a great cause.”

Not shying away from the exotic, Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo prepared cured beef heart with chicory salad. Why beef heart? Wiseheart quipped, “Because the lungs were already taken. That, and we wanted something unexpected that people would enjoy.”

I was instantly drawn to Beast for the name alone, but when I saw what chef Naomi Pomeroy created, I wanted to set up camp. A rare Texas waygu strip loin roast with wild ramp butter (ramps are in season in Oregon right now) was paired with bone marrow and caramelized tomato tarts. “Bone marrow is the foie gras of beef.”

Her sentiment was shared by meat aficionado and butcher blogger, Reece Lagunas of Whole Foods Market, who made barbacoa with bone marrow butter. “Barbacoa is a staple in Texas. What’s not to like about something that has twenty-five percent fat that cooks down. It’s bound to be good.” Sliced avocado slid over the top gave it extra silkiness.

In one of the most visually stunning displays, John Bullington of Alamo Drafthouse, roasted a 407 pound half cow over an open fire pit and served it with corn mescal pudding. The hulking beast cooked for 20 hours on a specially made rack before it was carved up and served to the crowd.

In his second year making the trip from Portland for Live Fire, Adam Sappington of The Country Cat, created grilled beef shanks tossed in roasted garlic and sherry vinegar with (again) bone marrow butter and Maker’s Mark sauce. “I love beef shank. We do all-around butchery at the restaurant, and I fell in love with the shank because it has a great gelatinous texture. It’s a hidden gem in the cow.”

Local tail-to-snout enthusiast, Ned Elliott of Foreign & Domestic, created a Reuben-like sandwich of beef tongue pastrami on rye with chicken liver mousse and Maker’s Mark onion jam. Maker’s Mark was a sponsor for a second year in a row, which explains why it shows up in multiple recipes.

Drawing on his Hawaiian and Californian roots, Jonathan Gelman of The Driskill served fire-grilled and smoked beef tri tip along with cast-iron cornbread puree. “Tri tip isn’t a very popular cut in Texas. I wanted to introduce it to a broader audience. It’s touchy to cook. If you over cook it, it gets tough. If you under cook it, it gets tough. I cooked this for 12 hours before the event and then finished it on the grill.”

Participants were able to choose their favorite dish in a text-vote. The winner of this year’s Greenling Fan Favorite was Josh Watkins of The Carillon. Watkins prepared two dishes, fried beef cheeks and beef ribs served with corn pudding and pickled vegetables. He braised the beef cheeks ahead of time and then fried them on-site to and served them with Brussels sprouts. The monstrous ribs, which Watkins called “brontosaurus ribs,” were smoked for 48 hours before the event.

There were plenty of good cocktails, local beer and fine wines to wash all of that cow down the gullet with 19 wine and spirit makers and four local craft breweries participating. Texas wine pioneers, Ed and Susan Auler, who were the original founders of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, were on hand to pour Fall Creek Vineyards wines. Always affable up-and-coming craft brewer, Josh Hare, had cans of his Hops and Grain brews at the ready. The Pale Dog ale went particularly well with Franklin Barbeque. April Collins poured a selection from wines from her portfolio flanked by her hubby, Master Sommelier, Craig Collins.

Proceeds from Live Fire will let Austin Food & Wine Alliance support the local culinary community through a vibrant Culinary Grant Program for chefs, farmers, artisan producers and nonprofits. The Alliance, which is dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas food and beverage community, plans to raise enough money with Live Fire to award two to four grants of $5,000 each.

“A grant of that size makes an impact to the beneficiary, allowing them to do things like buy equipment,” says Parker.

Awards will likely be announced around the time of the Alliance’s next big event, a pig roast, in the fall. I may be hungry again by then.

This story was first published on CultureMap.

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