Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Oktoberfest Time

Yes! It's that wonderful time of year when the heat finally breaks (which here in Texas only means it drops into the high 80s) and all the breweries start putting out Märzenbiers and other fall seasonals. And best of all, it's party time – every year about now, hits on this blog go way up with people searching for Oktoberfest events in the Austin area.

This year, rather than compile them here, I wrote them up as a cover story for The Austin Chronicle. Please go check it out – I hope it helps you get your oompah on.

Update: At the urging of my friends Clark and Milena, I got off my lazy butt and made it up to Walburg this past Saturday. A little video here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Black Star, Jester King up and running

Big news in the Austin beer scene:

One, Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery is open for business. It was a "soft opening," meaning they didn't make a big announcement, because they wanted to work out the new-business kinks with only members being served. So I've been holding off on announcing it. But now they've posted it to Twitter, so the cat's out of the bag. They open at 4pm-midnight each day.

I went in there last Friday to check it out. No, they are not brewing yet – some construction delays are holding that up, but they have more than 20 other beers on tap (see photo). I enjoyed a delicious Green Flash IPA and 512 Wit, and a friend had the Southern Star Smoked Porter, which was outstanding. Black Star's shrimp & grits appetizer was unusual but tasty, and I also had a nice pulled pork sandwich. I intend to work my way through the entire menu.

This is a great day for me. I now have two bars with great beer selections (the other being The Pour House) within stumbling – er, walking – distance of my home.

If you head in, be gentle with them. A business this new inevitably needs to do some troubleshooting early on. And expect long lines – a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this to happen, so enthusiasm is producing big crowds. If you're not a member of the co-op, join today – then you can have a direct voice in how the brewpub improves and grows.

Second, Austin's Jester King Brewery began producing beer last week. I'm also excited about this – they gave me a preview of their beers a few months back, and they are definitely ready for prime time. Jester King is the second new Austin brewery this year to begin rolling out commercial product, the first being their neighbors in the Oak Hill area, Thirsty Planet. I featured those two and other wannabe pro brewers earlier this year in this Austin Chronicle article.

Here's a press release from Jester King on what they're currently making:

Austin, Texas – Jester King Craft Brewery is now brewing! Located on 200 acres of farmland in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery started by brothers Michael and Jeffrey Stuffings and their friend Ron Extract. On Thursday, September 23rd, five months after breaking ground at the site, the brewery began production of its first batch. Appropriate to the farmhouse setting, the inaugural brew is farmhouse ale called “Boxer’s Revenge”, in honor of the stalwart, hard-working farm horse in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Boxer’s Revenge is an oak barrel aged wild beer First Brew that is golden in color and brewed with Belgian pilsner malt, American hops and French Saison yeast. Following the initial fermentation, it will be dry-hopped with a blend of Cascade and Centennial hops and transferred to neutral, French Oak wine barrels for additional fermentation and aging with a blend of wild yeasts. The finished beer will be quite dry and effervescent, with an anticipated ABV of 7.5%.

Boxer’s Revenge is the strongest of three Franco-Belgian inspired farmhouse ales that will be part of Jester King’s year-round lineup. Along with Boxer’s Revenge will be Das Wunderkind! – a “session-strength”, unspiced, farmhouse saison at roughly 4% ABV and Cocksure – a slightly darker, stronger, heavily-hopped farmhouse pale ale brewed with all European noble hops. All three beers will be aged in French oak barrels with the addition of wild yeast. The starting lineup will also include two Anglo-American inspired beers brewed with English ale yeast – Commercial Suicide, a 3% ABV British-style dark mild, partially fermented in new, American oak barrels and Wytchmaker, a 7% ABV Rye India Pale Ale.

Along with our commitment to making artisan beer, Jester King uses sustainable brewing practices. The brewery is equipped with two large rain water collection barrels, which will soon be connected to gutters surrounding both the brewery and a nearby 8,000 square foot rustic beer hall. The collected water will then be passed through a reverse osmosis filtration system, which is already in use. We are also striving to make use of organic ingredients whenever possible and will be using organic two-row malt as the base for several of our beers.

Later this fall, Jester King will begin hosting festivals and special events at the brewery and beer hall with plenty of live music, good food and, of course, hand-crafted artisan beer.

Hot Hot Women and Cold Cold Beer

That's the title of one of my favorite songs ever by one of my favorite bands ever, Goober & the Peas. If you like those things too, be sure to check out one of my favorite blogs, Oktoberfest Girls. It's adding a new photo every day throughout Oktoberfest.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NXNW Cask Night

It's the last Monday of the month, which means cask night at North by Northwest. I normally don't mention cask night too much on this blog, because I don't want you there. The cask only holds so many beers, and I hate it when it runs out early. More drinkers = less beer for me.

However, I don't feel up to going tonight, so I'm gonna let you have it all. Don't let me down. According the NXNW Twitter feed, tonight's offering is "
Okanogan Black dry hopped with whole leaf chinook hops. Cask gets tapped at 7pm."

Brewtopia at Central Market

Sorry, I've been neglecting the blog lately. I've been on vacation in Orlando at Disney and Universal (more on that later), so I'm late in telling you about Brewtopia, a thing currently happening at Central Market. Not sure if I'll get around to attending any of the events, but for what it's worth, here is the press release that I should have posted about a week ago. I was in there today and saved 20% on some Brooklyn Oktoberfest and Boulevard Bob's 47 Oktoberfest. It's gonna taste good with this cool front that just blew through Austin.

Visit with Brew Masters from across the country and local favorite Chef Kent Rathbun, owner of Abacus, Jasper’s and Rathbun’s Blue Plate.

Central Market

Only Central Market has a beer selection so large it can be called “Brewtopia.” With a vast selection of over 350 beers on any given day, Central Market offers something to please every beer lover’s palate. From September 22 to October 5, Austinites are invited to celebrate their love for hops at Central Market’s first Brewtopia event.

Discover new beer favorites as experts from America’s favorite breweries share their products and knowledge. Brew Masters from across the country, including Terence Sullivan of Sierra Nevada, Steven Pauwels of Boulevard Brewing Co. and Brad Farbstein of Real Ale, will partake in two weeks of classes in the CM Cooking School and samplings in the Beer Department.

Celebrate beer from pint to plate in a special class with winner of “Iron Chef America” and James Beard-nominee, Kent Rathbun. Chef Rathbun will teach participants how to cook with beer and demonstrate how easy it is to pair beer with a variety of flavors. With dishes like Pan Roasted Striped Bass, Bourbon Cream Corn & Texas Peach Barbecue Sauce, he will delight you with his rustic home-cooked style with a touch of elegance.

Brewtopia runs Wednesday, September 22 through Tuesday, October 5

Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78756, 512-206-1000
Central Market, 4477 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78745, 512-899-4300

Friday, September 03, 2010

And the Winner Is, Part 2

The alt-weekly newspaper for which I write, The Austin Chronicle, just published its 21st Annual Best of Austin Awards. Our readers poll always gives an interesting glimpse into what Austinites love best about their city (and yes, to answer your next question, we work hard to weed out the ballot-stuffers), and through our critics picks, we on the Chronicle staff try to turn Austinites on to some stuff we dig.

There were three specifically beer-related awards this year.

In the readers poll, under Food & Drink, The Ginger Man won "Best Beer Selection," and the Spec's liquor store chain won "Best Beer/Wine Prices" (as well as "Best Liquor Store.") Not specifically beer-related: "Best Convenience Store" in Shopping category went to Whip-In, which loved by beer geeks for its selection.

In the critics picks, under Food & Drink, we gave "Best Brewery" to Live Oak – perhaps a controversial choice, seeing how (512) won in the I Love Beer poll? Well, next year I think we'll let the readers decide for themselves – now that the Austin professional brewing scene is reaching something of a critical mass, I've lobbied our BOA guru to put a "Best Brewery" category in the readers poll, and she said that sounds like a good idea.