My top 3 picks to celebrate Austin Beer Week

What in the hell is going on? Every time I turn around there is another reason to drink silly amounts of fantastic craft beer. A couple weeks ago it was the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, last week the Great American Beer Festival and next week its the Austin Beer Week with more tap draining events than you can shake a stein at. More than 45 breweries and brewpubs are participating with special keg tapings, tastings, tours and dinners. Silliness.

A couple of the absurdly awesome things to hit up are:

  1. The Banger’s Beer College: This is a series of sessions hosted by beer experts like Matt Abendschein of You Stay Hoppy Austin, Chip McElroy of Live Oak Brewing, Caroline Wallace of Bitch Beer, Ron Extract of Jester King, Josh Hare of Hops & Grain, John Brack of Austin Homebrew Supply, Chris Booth of Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden and John Sikes, Independence Brewery all teaching us about the beauty of various styles of beer. Bliss!
  2. The Uncle Billy’s Wild Game Brewer’s Dinner: Fresh from winning a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival, the hot shot brewers are going to show their swagger by pairing five beers with five courses of Texas wild game at the Lake Travis Location on Thursday, Oct. 25. My mouth is watering already.
  3. The Austin Beer Guide Presents – Ultimate Fanboy Showdown Bike Pub Crawl: who can resist the potty-mouth bitches that write the fantastically awesome Austin Beer Guide? If you’re not a fanboy yet, one look into their dreamy eyes and you will be for life. Put on your skinny shorts, mess up your beard and straddle your single speed bike on Sunday, Oct. 21 for a ride you’ll never remember.

There are a ton more gut bustingly good events to check out all week. Drink up!

What are you drinking? 

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?


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?


Specialty Drinks for Livestrong

My Mellow Yellow Benefit is coming up on Saturday, September 25. I you want to be one of the lucky ones on the invite list, all you have to do is make a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation on my page.

Entertainment will be provided by legendary DJ el john Selector of Thievery Corporation fame. Bring a wad of cash for the silent auction with lots of goodies like art, Mellow Johnny’s bike stuff, jewelry and more. We’ll of course have mouth-watering drinks provided by several sponsors including the Austin Wine Merchant, Live Oak Brewing Company, Republic Tequila, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Treaty Oak Rum and Graham’s Texas Tea.

 The good folks at Treaty Oak Rum and Graham’s Texas Tea have some great concoctions for us to try. Here’s what we’re making:

2 oz Treaty Oak Platinum Rum
1 oz agave nectar
1 oz fresh lime juice
3 fresh jalapeno slices
3 oz club soda

Shake first three ingredients with two of the jalapeno slices.  Strain over ice, top with club soda and garnish with remaining jalapeno slice.

Texas Fuzz:
2 oz Graham’s Texas Tea
2 oz still water
3-4 Fresh Mint leaves, torn
1 Fresh Peach, sliced into 8 slices

Muddle peach slice and mint leaves in 2oz Graham’s Texas Tea. Top with still water and serve over ice.

I’ll of course get some reviews of the drinks written up after the party, but thought I’d get you good and thirsty now. If you want to try this out at home, check out this video of Eric Thorton mixing a Pepperita.

Let me know if you want to come and I’ll send you an invitation.