Thursday, May 26, 2011

HB 602 Is Dead

BTW, in case you missed it: The deadline to get out of the Senate for House Bill 602 – which would have allowed Texas microbreweries to give away up to 144 ounces of beer to take home as a parting gift after paid admission tours – was yesterday. House Bill 602 is dead.

Combined with the failure of a bill that would have allowed brewpubs to distribute their beers and another bill that would have given microbrewers what they really want – the right to retail sales on brewery premises – the Texas Legislature has once again done wrong to our state's small businesses and consumers. In fact, the only thing they accomplished beer-related was to take away a tax exemption for microbrewers. Way to go, Lege.

Beer and Books (including Austin)

Just got the following press release about a series of events pairing books with Lagunitas beer. I've heard of pairing food and beer, but books and beer? My attempts to read while drinking usually just turn into naps. But this could be fun:
Algonquin Books kicks off summer with a refreshingly smooth literary series that blends choice hops and literary chops. With stops in Milwaukee, Naperville, Boston, Austin, and Oakland, the Free Beer Tour showcases three Algonquin authors introducing their incredibly entertaining new works which are perfect (especially for the dudes) for summer reading. Complementing the literary entertainment, there will be beer tastings featuring the esteemed Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California. It’s an evening of pairing great books with great beer—and it sure as hell beats cutting the grass after work.

Algonquin's Free Beer Tour Introduces:

Josh Wilker, author of the memoir Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale

“A baseball-loving loner’ deciphers his complicated childhood through his old box of trading cards . . . Wilker’s book is as nostalgically intoxicating as the gum that sweetened his card-collecting youth.[Grade:] A.” –Entertainment Weekly

Pete Nelson, author of the novel I Thought You Were Dead

I Thought You Were Dead, a novel about the bonds between dogs and humans, is heartfelt and nostalgic in tone . . . Stella’s wisdom set the luckless Paul on a brighter life path. It’s her nobility . . .
that gives the story its power.” –USA Today

David Anthony, author of the debut novel Something for Nothing

“A clever and surprisingly heartfelt debut . . . [Anthony’s] depiction of Martin as an
antihero succeeds because his ridiculous antics are laced with a yearning to belong that’s so intense it borders on deranged innocence, rendering him the most lovable
drug smuggler in ages.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

June 1: Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL, 7:00 p.m.

June 2: Boswell Books at the Sugar Maple Bar, Milwaukee, WI, 7:00 p.m.

June 3: Diesel Books, Oakland, CA, 7:00 p.m.

June 16: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA, 7:00 p.m.

June 30: BookPeople, Austin, TX, 6:30 p.m.

Check out the great poster and book and beer pairings at :

Friday, May 20, 2011

HB 602 on Today's Senate Intent Calendar

House Bill 602, the bill that would allow Texas microbrewers to give away take-home samples of their beer at the end of a paid-admission brewery tour, is on the "intent" calendar in the Texas Senate today. That means it could come to the floor for debate. If you'd like to watch the Senate session and can't make it to the Capitol, you can view it here. Also, if you live in Austin, you can watch it on cable channel 22. The session begins at 11am, but there's no way to know when 602 will come up, if at all.

If you've been following this drama, you know this has been a long, hard slog — several tries to allow actual retail sales on brewery premises have failed over the years (despite the fact that wineries are allowed to do so), and this bill is a compromise to appease the powerful Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas lobbying group, which blocked those previous efforts. This bill is not ideal, but it's a step in the right direction.

And the bill is not out of the woods yet. Although it passed the House easily, brewing big boy Anheuser-Busch objected to it in Senate committee, saying that language limiting the bill's privileges only to brewers that produce not more than 75,000 barrels per year discriminates against it. And frankly, I suspect even the slightest change in language will cause WBDT to turn against it. Also troubling: The bill was recommended for the "local & uncontested" calendar, where uncontroversial bills get sent to near-certain passage. Instead, it ended up on the "intent" calendar, which means someone wants to actually debate it.

And even if it does pass, then it has to get past the veto pen of Gov. Rick Perry. Yes, there are still plenty of landmines still in the path of this bill becoming law. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

'Austin Chronicle' Restaurant Poll: Beer

In today's Austin Chronicle, we proudly present the results of our 2011 Restaurant Poll. Here are the specifically beer-related awards:

Readers Picks:


Draught House Pub & Brewery

Red's Porch
Honorable Mention
Flying Saucer, The Ginger Man, Zed's, Vivo, Paggi House

Beer Selection

The Ginger Man

Flying Saucer
Honorable Mention
Draught House Pub & Brewery, 24 Diner, Whip In

Critics Picks:

Bavarian Bliss and Beer

Nuernberg Brauhaus

Best Michelada


'Statesman' Reviewer Insults Jester King

I was fascinated by this Austin American-Statesman review of Barley Swine, until Mike Sutter described Black Metal Stout as "a surprisingly dull-witted beer from Austin's Jester King, so out of balance you'd think it got drunk on its way out of the bottle." Wow.

Oh well, I guess we're all entitled to our own opinions. Even ones that are completely, utterly wrong. I can assure you I won't be relying on Sutter for beer reviews any time soon.

I bet he wouldn't say that to this guy's face.

Austin Chronicle 'Beer Flights': Twisted X

The latest edition of "Beer Flights," my brewing news column in The Austin Chronicle, is on the news stands today. Featured: My review of Twisted X, the first brewery in Cedar Park (an Austin suburb). Please give it a read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Alive! HB 602 Moves Out of Committee

I reported last week that House Bill 602, which would benefit Texas microbrewers, ran into serious trouble week at the Legislature. Well, good news: Somehow (I'm still chasing the story), the bill moved out of Senate committee this morning, reported favorably without amendments, and has been recommended for the "Local & Uncontested" calendar. I have more details on The Austin Chronicle's Newsdesk blog, please go give it a read.

Next up: It needs to pass the Senate. If the Senate makes any amendments — presumably it won't, if it's on Local & Uncontested [UPDATE: I've been told by the office of bill author Rep. Jessica Farrar that being on "local and uncontested" is not a guarantee of smooth passage. It could also end up on the "intent" calendar, which meanst it will be debated. The spokesman said "some senators are not fully convinced." — it would have to go to conference committee to iron out the differences with the House version, and then to the governor's desk for passage or a veto. This bill definitely isn't out of the woods yet, but this is a hopeful sign.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

American Craft Beer Week in Austin

As I noted, I made a lengthy post on American Craft Beer Week, but Blogger deleted because of some technical issues they were having. Thankfully, an alert reader still had the text saved (minus the links, unfortunately), so I'm cutting and pasting it here. Thanks Brian!

I'm sure there's a lot going on around Austin for American Craft Beer
Week (May 16-22), but here's the three I've been alerted to.

(UPDATE: Black Star Co-op also has some ACBW events. See their calendar here).

First, from the Ginger Man:
We'll be tapping a unique limited-release American Craft Beer each day at 7pm
Monday - (512) Cask-conditioned Cascabel Cream Stout
Tuesday - Real Ale The Kraken (barrel-aged Sisyphus)
Wednesday - Independence Thinker's Ale (from their Brewluminati Series)
Thursday - Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel
Friday - St. Arnold Cask-conditioned Divine Reserve 11
Saturday - Real Ale Empire (barrel-aged Lost Gold IPA)
Sunday - Ommegang Gnomegang (collaboration beer with d'Achouffe Brewery)
The second is from Independence Brewing:
Just wanted to give you all a heads up on a cool event we are doing
for American Craft Beer Week . It's called Draught Sessions and it is
a revival of a concept Amy and Rob pioneered when they actually had
time on their hands to do fun things! Really simple concept: live
music and hand-crafted beer at the brewery. We will be doing them at
least quarterly and starting with the next one we will be recording
every session. When we get enough tracks together we will release a
compilation of live tracks from the brewery! May 21st, doors at 7pm
music promptly at 730. $10 gets you in the door and each 21+ guest can
sample up to 3 16oz brews free of charge! Hope to see you all there!
The third is from the Draught House:
Hello craft beer fans,
ACBW (May 16th-22nd) is almost upon us and though we've been late to
get it together, we have a few things happening.

Monday the 16th- Cheese pairing with Real Ale Lost Gold (free with
beer) + tapping of Ranger Creek Cabernet Barrel Aged Mesquite Smoked
Tuesday- Free glass available with purchase of Boulevard Single Wide
(randallized with El Dorado hops), Wheat or Tank Seven. Brewery rep.
on hand sampling Boss Toms Bock.
Wednesday- Glass available with purchase of Southern Star Walloon,
Pro-Am Smoked Porter, Bombshell Blond or Creme Brulee Buried Hatchet.
ALSO, tapping of Maui Imperial CoCoNut PorTer, made with cocoa nibs.
Thursday- Ommegang glass free with purchase of Gnomegang or Rare Vos.
Free cheese sample with Rare Vos. The brewery rep. will also be
sampling Hennepin.
Friday- Left Hand Brewing Co. will debut Sawtooth Nitro to Texas + get
a free glass with Sawtooth, Milk Stout or TNT Weizenbock, Free cheese
sample with Sawtooth and the brewery rep. will be sampling Stranger
Pale Ale. PLUS for Firkin Friday we will tap a cask of Jester King
Black Metal.
Saturday- Austin Beerworks first tapping. The brewery boys from up
Burnet (sorry) will have their first beer to sell and be here to
answer questions about their wares. Come out and taste Austin's newest

Antonelli's Cheese Shop pairs cheese for us. If you like their work,
check out their shop on Duval. They have an amazing selection.

Also, this Firkin Friday (the 13th) we will tap Southern Star Creme Brulee.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Well, crap. Thanks, Blogger.

I had a post with lots of stuff about American Craft Brewing Week on here. But Blogger had some sort of malfunction and deleted it, as well as some other posts that I had scheduled to post over the next few days. Sorry about that. If I have time over the weekend (and I probably won't), I'll try to recreate them and re-post.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

HB 660 Is Dead, HB 602 Hits a Hurdle

I'm really sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but brace yourself: House Bill 660 is dead. And HB 602 is in trouble.

HB 660 is the bill in the Texas Legislature that would have allowed Texas brewpubs to sell their beer off-premises. Right now, they can only sell at the pub — a frustrating situation, since out-of-state brewpubs can bottle their product, send it to a distributor, and get it on store shelves in Texas, while Texas brewpubs cannot. As Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing, one of the leaders of the HB 660 movement, told me: "
If I wanted to increase the reach of my beer in Texas, the best thing for me to do is move out of Texas."

The bill is stuck in committee due to completely idiotic opposition from the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas (WBDT), which so fears any change to Texas' "three-tier" system — which mandates legal separation between producers, distributors, and retailers — that they're willing to kill a bill that would bring them more business. (A more sensible distributor group, the Beer Alliance of Texas, supported the bill.)

At this point, being stuck in committee is a death sentence — the official deadline for House bills to get out of committee was Monday. That's because the legislative session ends May 31, and there wouldn't be time between now and then to move the bill through the House, then through the Senate committee, and then through the Senate, and then through conference committee. (The Texas Lege only meets for 140 days every two years.) The only hope left now is to attach the bill as an amendment to another bill, and a spokesman for HB 660 author Rep. Mike Villarreal told me that he doesn't anticipate that happening.

Now, for the bad but not-yet-tragic news: HB 602 is in a bad place. That's the bill that would allow Texas microbreweries to kinda-sorta "sell" their product on-premises. As I've explained before, the bill wouldn't really allow retail sales, but would allow up to a 12-pack of beer to be given away to visitors at the end of a paid-admission brewery tour, thus technically preserving the three-tier separation and procuring WBDT support. But also
to get WBDT support, the bill was amended in House committee to limit this privilege to brewers who produce no more than 75,000 barrels a year. That change, unfortunately, has brought opposition from another big power in the beer world: Anheuser-Busch, which feels the law discriminates against them. The bill has been left pending in Senate committee while the involved parties haggle things out.

I'll have a more detailed report on the HB 602 situation tomorrow in the News section of The Austin Chronicle.

(UPDATE: The Chronicle report is here.)

(photo copyright Lee Nichols)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Best Convenience Store for Beer (Austin)

Hey Austinites I'm curious: What Austin convenience store do you think has the best beer selection? Yes, I already know about Whip-In. And the Sunrise Mini-Mart on Anderson (which is near my house). And of course, I'm aware of Hyde Park Market. So what else you got? Let me know in the comments section.

  • I'm only interested in the Austin area.
  • Only convenience stores, not liquor stores or supermarkets.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Twisted X Won Me Over

I was pretty skeptical about Twisted X, the new brewery based in Cedar Park (an Austin suburb). Their focus is Mexican-style beers, which is not my first choice. But I checked out their debut party at the Dig Pub last week, and I admit it — I'm impressed. Even by the jalapeño-flavored beer. No, seriously. I'll have more on this soon in my Austin Chronicle "Beer Flights" column. (Pictured: Twisted X owners Jim Sampson and Shane Bordeau.)

Weedwacker Returns Today

Press release from Saint Arnold:
Saint Arnold Weedwacker Returns to Taps Today, in Bottles in June

HOUSTON, May 9, 2011 – Saint Arnold Brewing Company (, the oldest craft brewery in Texas, today announced the return of Saint Arnold Weedwacker. A cousin of the brewery’s top-selling Fancy Lawnmower Beer, Saint Arnold Weedwacker debuted in August 2010 as the inaugural brew in Saint Arnold’s Movable Yeast series. The limited supply of Weedwacker was greeted with strong demand and quickly sold out.

While Weedwacker features Bavarian hefeweizen yeast, it is not a classic hefeweizen. It is exactly the same recipe as Fancy Lawnmower Beer, a Kölsch, except for the yeast. Both are brewed with pale malted barley and a dash of malted wheat. The brewery uses imported pils and wheat malts to create the light yet rich malt body followed by four separate additions of Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops. Weedwacker is Saint Arnold’s first unfiltered year-round beer, pouring a hazy blonde. The Bavarian hefeweizen yeast gives the beer a pleasant clove spiciness and a hint of banana.

Saint Arnold Weedwacker will be available on tap (starting today) and in 12-ounce bottles (in early June) sold in six-packs and cases throughout Texas.

The introduction of Saint Arnold Weedwacker to the brewery’s lineup of year-round beers will coincide with the retirement of Saint Arnold Texas Wheat, supplies of which are expected to be available through May. Originally known as Saint Arnold Kristall Weizen, Saint Arnold Texas Wheat has been part of the brewery’s core beer lineup since shortly after opening in 1994. The recipe was tweaked and the beer renamed in 2005, but has remained a small part of the brewery’s overall product mix.

“While we would love to just keep adding beers, we also considered the production logistical issues, limited shelf space as well as how to ensure that all of our beers in the market are fresh.,” said Saint Arnold Founder/Brewer Brock Wagner. “Our conclusion was it would be best to stop Texas Wheat production. We understand that we have disappointed some fans of this beer, but we hope that having Weedwacker will more than make up for that.”

Saint Arnold Weedwacker joins top-selling Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower Beer, Saint Arnold Elissa IPA, Saint Arnold Amber Ale and Saint Arnold Brown Ale in the brewery’s core year-round beer lineup. The brewery also has five seasonal beers, periodically releases single-batch offerings of its Saint Arnold Divine Reserve series and tweaks its existing beer recipes with different yeast to create new beers as part of its Moveable Yeast series.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

'A Perfect 90-Minute Beer'

No, not Dogfish Head. This is funny.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Awesome Show Coming to Jester King

Jester King is really on fire right now, brewing up some mind-blowing beers. I didn't really need any more incentive to that to visit their brewery, but near the end of the month, they're gonna throw in two of my very favorite bands to sweeten the deal. Dale Watson is pure honky-tonk country to the bone. As someone in Nashville once told him, if he'd been born 40 years earlier, he'd have been a superstar. Nashville's loss is our gain: I'm so happy I get to hear him in Austin just about any time I want. And Hot Club of Cowtown is like Grappelli & Reinhardt meets Bob Wills. Put them out at that great events pavilion on Jester King's beautiful Hill Country ranch property, and that's heaven. Details:
Jester King Craft Brewery is proud to announce:


...will be performing on the beer hall stage at the Jester King Craft Brewery on May 28th, 2011!

Enjoy great cuisine from some of Austin's fine food trailers, tour the Jester King Craft Brewery and dance under the chandeliers in our old barn to the swinging country sounds of Dale Watson and Hot Club of Cowtown!

-Tickets $22 (kids under 12 get in FREE).

Gates open at 5pm – 13005 Fitzhugh Rd, Austin, 78736
Dale Watson at 6:15pm – hardcore country & honkytonk

Hot Club of Cowtown at 8:30pm – traditional western swing
Feel free to bring chairs
Parking is limited, so please carpool!
All on-site sales will be cash only.
No pets, glassware or coolers allowed into venue.
Follow us on Facebook for event updates

Questions? Please contact