Real Ale Brewing has Extreme Makeover

Real Ale Brewing New Bottles

Just in time for Texas Independence Day, my birthday and SXSW, Real Ale Brewing Company, will unveil a completely new look for its logo, packaging, and website. After 19 years of brewing craft beer and selling it in somewhat miss-matched bottles and cans, the brewery has made the bold move to update its image while retaining  elements of the brand’s heritage. Starting the first week in march, new bottles, cans tap handles and swag will start hitting stores, bars and restaurants all over Texas.

Out with the old
Out with the old

The new packaging ties the entire family of beers together with a consistent look, unlike the disparate designs currently available. At a party thrown to unveil the shiny new persona to industry types and press, Tim Schwartz and Erik Ogershok, were clearly pleased with the new design. With big grins they talked about plans to introduce the shiny new labels with the same tasty beers.

Ogershok says they have some new stuff up their sleeves with three heavyweight beers coming in April in 22 ounce bombers. Real Heavy Scotch Ale, Red King Imperial Red Ale and Commissar Russian Imperial Stout will move off the Seasonal and Special release list to become year-round brews. In addition, new seasonal beers will hit the shelves in the fall.

The new logo includes a stylized image of hops borrowed from the original logo, the sprocket from Firemans #4, and the characters “TX 96”which is a reference to the company’s Texas roots and the year it was founded, 1996. The new brand was designed by Butler Bros, a creative communication company based in Austin.

Real Ale is on heavy rotation in my beer fridge and I’m glad they are sticking with the same brewing philosophy. .I’m a fan of its new brand identity. The swag they handed out at the party looks pretty damn good. What do you think?

In with the new

 

What are you drinking? 

For the Love of Beer at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

Beer Panel at Austin Food & Wine FestivalWhat do you get when you want to talk about craft beer at a wine festival? An audience salivating to hear about brewers’ inspiration and latest brews. Bill Norris, beverage director for the Alamo Drafthouse, hosted a panel of craft brewers. Adam DeBower, co-owner and brewer at Austin Beerworks; Brad Farbstein, owner of Real Ale Brewing Company; and Terry Nance, of Alaskan Brewing Company, discussed their beers and what got them into the industry.

Real Ale, one of Austin’s oldest craft breweries poured 4-Squared, a dry hopped version of its wildly popular Fireman’s Four released for 16th anniversary of the brewery, and Blonde Barleywine Ale, a dry-hopped American and English style ale that is part of the Brewers Cut series.

Norris acknowledge Real Ale’s role as one of the pioneers of the Austin craft beer industry, having started in 1996. He asked Farbstein how business has evolved since he joined the brewery in 1998.

“We have seen the level of interest in craft beer blossom in the last five to seven years and our customers’ knowledge has increased significantly. They know what they want,” said Farbstein. “Our beers were very aggressive for the market in 1996. We made beers for beer drinkers. We realized a few years ago that we were still making the same beers for 15 years and the market was moving on. We have released more than eight new beers in the last three years to provide our customers with new styles. We want to stay current, hence the 4-Squared and Brewers Cut series.”

Beer at Austin Food & Wine FestivalAustin Beerworks, which is celebrating its second anniversary on May 4, poured its Pearl Snap Pilz, German style lager, cold fermented European hops and Fire Eagle IPA American IPA. “This was the most successful brewery launch I’ve ever seen. You started with four beers and overnight it was in every craft brew bar in town,” said Norris.

DeBower humbly acknowledged their fast success, “I give credit to everyone that came before us and created a lot of demand for craft beer. We have four partners and who each have extensive personal networks. We drink a lot, so we have a lot of relationships with bars and restaurants.”

He credits his love for beer as the reason he entered the business. “I like to work. I like to work hard, and I don’t like to get paid well. I know how to make things work on a shoe string. I used to work eight hours a day and then go to the bar and spend six hours drinking and talking about beer. I realized I didn’t want to do my day job. I just wanted to make beer,” said DeBower.

Alaskan Brewing makes its Texan brothers look downright young. The brewery, which opened in 1986 was just the 16th licensed craft brewery in the U.S. has only just ventured out of Alaska in the last 10 years. The well established northern beer outpost poured Alaskan Amber, its best selling German Alt style beer made with a gold rush recipe and Alaska Freeride APA, which brewed with Cascade, Citra and Centennial hops.

“Brewing in Alaska presents challenges. There are no roads in or out of Juneau,” said Nance. It’s also really damn cold, which can present challenges for brewing. “We generate steam to keep the brewery warm enough to ferment. We call it ‘beer powered beer.’ We use spent grain from the brewing process. We dry it and burn it in our boilers instead of fossil fuels.”

Norris turned the topic to the use of cans, which is beginning to be a more popular choice for craft brewers. Half of the beers served in the session were packaged in cans. Austin Beerworks hasn’t put any beer in glass. Real Ale just installed a canning line and packages with both bottles and cans.

DeBower thinks the stigma that cans are for lower quality beers is starting to fade. “Cans protect beer better,” he said. “Light is the second worse spoiler of beer after oxygen. We need to give our beer a fighting chance by protecting it.”

Farbstein likes the flexibility that cans provide. “We chose to use cans because there was a demand for our product in areas where you can’t take bottles, like the beach, the river or on a boat. It’s a keg that fits in a koozie.”

This story was originally posted in a different format on CultureMap.

Disclosure, I was provided a press pass to cover the festival.

What Are You Drinking? 

Texas Craft Brewers Festival brings more than 100 locally-made beers to Fiesta Gardens

Instead of attending the same stale tailgate with unmemorable beers this weekend, trade in crap beer for craft beer at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. Held at Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, Oct. 6, this is the place to find almost 30 Texas breweries serving more than 115 locally-made craft beers.

The festival comes at a great time for the Texas craft beer industry, which is enjoying a booming business — the Texas Craft Brewers Guild recently released a study estimating the industry could have a $5.6 billion economic impact in Texas.

Brian Swifty Peters“It’s an exciting time for the craft beer industry, and this festival is the epicenter of the industry,” says festival volunteer chairman Brian “Swifty” Peters. “The first Texas Craft Brewers Festival was held in 2003 and we only had eight brewers there. It’s really grown. This is one day that brewers from all over the state can come together and celebrate our success — it’s the single largest compilation of Texas breweries ever in one place.”

The fever for craft beer has spurred an increase in beer festivals around the state, but don’t get this one confused with the debacle that happened last spring: the Austin Beer Fest. The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is run by craft brewers for beer fans and casual beer drinkers alike.

Tim Schwartz, president of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and owner/brewer at Real Ale Brewing Company is evangelist-in-chief for Texas craft beer and takes that role seriously. “We approach the Festival with balance. In equal parts, we want to promote Texas craft beer, educate the public about beer and help the brewing community,” he says. “I’ve been brewing for 18 years. I love craft beer. I love Texas. I want to help bring craft beer to more and more people in Texas.”

Tim Schwartz, Real Ale Brewing This year’s festival will feature 10 breweries that weren’t in business — or were too new — to attend last year, including Adelbert’s Brewery, Buffalo Bayou Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing, Guadalupe Brewing, Hops & Grain Brewing, Lakewood Brewing, Old Boxcar Brewing, Revolver Brewing, Rogness Brewing and South Austin Brewing.

Brewers new and old will bring seasonal and special beers to Fiesta Gardens. In fact, the festival may be the largest collection of unique Texas beers ever presented in one place, with more than 50 taps pouring unique beers you can’t get anywhere else. There will be a rotating schedule of ceremoniously tapping specialty or cask kegs or firkins every 30 minutes, so no matter what time you show up, you’ll find something unique.

Some of the special beers to try include Scot’s Gone Wild, a sour beer from Real Ale; Bouddha’s Brew and Whiskey Barrel Rodeo, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout brewed with chipotle pepper, smoked malt and Kopi Luwak coffee from Jester King Craft Brewery; Blood and Honey, an unfiltered American wheat ale brewed with blood orange zest and Texas honey from Revolver Brewing; Hop Dead Gorgeous, a bourbon barrel aged black IPA from Uncle Billy’s; and Bourbon Barrel Aged ALT-eration, Hop’s & Grain’saward-winning German altbier style beer aged in French oak cabernet barrels.

In addition to all of that great beer, there will be food available from Red’s Porch, The Peached Tortilla and Tough Cookie Bakery, as well as live music provided by the band Sugartrain.

NXNW Beerliner Back again this year are the wildly popular beer and food pairings, held in intimate spaces on the east side of the park. For an extra $20, guests can relax and enjoy a beer and cheese pairing hosted by John Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, beer and food pairing by NXNW Chef Clint Bertrand in the tricked-out Beerliner or a beer and chocolate pairing from Nicole Patel of Delysia Chocolate. These sessions only have space for 80 people and will likely sell out as they did last year.

Organizers are expecting up to 5,000 people to attend the festival, which is up from 4,000 last year, thanks to the support of Real Ale Brewing Company and St. Arnold Brewing Company (the title sponsors) and Young Men’s Business League (the organizers) which have kept the festival growing. As in past years, proceeds from the festival will benefit Austin Sunshine Camps, which provides education and personal development for economically disadvantaged children.

The Texas Craft Brewers Festival takes place Saturday, Oct. 6 at Fiesta Gardens from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. (12 p.m. entry for VIP ticket holders).General Admission tickets are available for $20.00 ($25 at the door) and include a wristband and six tokens that are good for six 4-ounce beer samples tokens. VIP tickets are available for $65 and include a meet and greet brewers, a commemorative t-shirt and glass.

Insider tip: The best time to go to the festival is around 6 p.m., just as the sun starts to go down and the weather cools off. The crowd will be a bit mellower and there will still be plenty of beer.

This story previously ran on CultureMap Austin.

What are you drinking?