November drinking events calendar

Photo by Emma Janzen. Pinthouse Pizza is celebrating two years in business in November.
Photo by Emma Janzen.
Pinthouse Pizza is celebrating two years in business in November.

Pinthouse Pizza’s 2nd Anniversary Party, 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1. Special Pinthouse beers from the cellar as well as a bunch of hoppy guest beers, swag giveaways, surprise entertainment and more.

Dia de Los Muertos Party at Oasis, Texas Brewing, 12 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1. Lake Monster’s release in cans and two new beers, plus live music, beer-and-cheese pairings from Antonelli’s and more.

“Whiskey Distilled” author at BookPeople, 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3. Learn helpful facts about whiskey – how to drink it, store it, pick out good brands and more – from expert Heather Greene.

Jeffrey’s Wine Dinner, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4. Winemaker Christian Moueix’s first trip to Austin includes this four-course dinner paired with some of his favorite wines from the various vineyards he owns. To RSVP, email reservations@jeffreysofaustin.com. $300.

Brooklyn Brewery Cheese Pairing at the Draught House, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5. Eight beer and cheese pairings with Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and cheese provided by Antonelli’s. $40.

Gypsy Collaboration Beer Launch at Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6. Christine Celis and Uncle Billy’s made the Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter together, and it’s launching in limited release.

Bitter(s) Dinner at Lenoir, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6. A five-course pairing dinner demonstrating how to cook with bitters. Bad Dog Bar Craft co-founder Lara Nixon will be in attendance. $125.

Chicago House’s Beer Never Sounded So Good, 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6. A special Fun Fun Fun Fest edition of this beer-and-music-pairing event will match up five songs from this year’s lineup with beers on tap at the bar. $20.

Deep Eddy Vodka’s Grand Opening Weekend, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8 and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9. An open house-style weekend of cocktail specials, food trucks and live music, including a concert Saturday night featuring G. Love, Dan Dyer and Tameca Jones, at Deep Eddy’s new Dripping Springs distillery.

Brown Distributing’s 4th Annual Brew Review Tailgate, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8. Sample some of the beers in Brown Distributing’s portfolio, such as Grapevine, Firestone Walker and Sixpoint. Must RSVP in advance.

Whip In and Wine for the People’s 1st Annual Tower of Bubbles, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9. Sparkling wines from around the globe paired with brunch. $30.

Licha’s Cantina’s Tequila Fortaleza Dinner, 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9. A five-course dinner paired with tequila. To RSVP, email allison@lichascantina.com.

Epicerie and Argus Cidery’s Thanksgiving Dinner, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9. Family-style, five-course Thanksgiving meal paired with Argus ciders (and even some whiskey). $75-$93.

Easy Sunday at Easy Tiger, 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16. The Brooklyn Brewery Mash edition features $1 cans of Brooklyn Lager and East IPA as well as drafts including Sorachi Ace, Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Black Chocolate Stout and Vintage Monster Ale (a special 2012 release aged in the brewery’s cellar).

Wine Workshop: Wines for the Thanksgiving Table at Central Market North Lamar, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17. A selection of wines that pair well with November’s biggest feast.

Lenoir’s Monthly Wine Tasting, 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19. This month’s tasting with in-house wine expert Chris Kelly explores the Gamay grape and the different regions it’s grown in. $25-$30.

Banger’s Founders Beer Dinner, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19. Four-course meal paired with the likes of Founders All Day IPA, Dirty Bastard, Kentucky Breakfast Stout and more. $75.

“Whiskey Distilled” author to speak at BookPeople

"Whisk(e)y Distilled" by Heather Greene is a comprehensive guide to whiskey from all over the world, addressing how it's made and how to drink it.
“Whisk(e)y Distilled” by Heather Greene is a comprehensive guide to whiskey from all over the world, addressing how it’s made and how to drink it.

When Heather Greene first moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, with her husband, she didn’t know much about whiskey; she was a struggling musician who’d shown great promise in the states but overseas couldn’t get her label to pay what they owed.

“During one of my lavish pity parties, my husband turned to me and said that I really needed to do something. So I went out drinking,” she writes in the introduction of her new whiskey guide, “Whisk(e)y Distilled” (Viking Studio, $25).

She ended up getting hired on her first day in pursuit of a job by Scotsman Douglas McFarlane, manager of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a private membership bar for Scotch whisky lovers — and the gig that originated from a Help Wanted ad in the local paper quickly became much more. Greene is now a foremost expert on whiskey around the world, from Scotch to bourbon to rye to Irish whiskey and beyond, with a hefty resume surrounding whiskey to boot. She currently works as the director of the Whiskey School at the Flatiron Room in Manhattan and is teaching the same sort of lessons in the book as she does in her classes.

“My goal is to demystify whiskey and answer questions like: How do you taste whiskey? What are you supposed to smell? Do you swirl whiskey like wine? Can you put ice in a whiskey? Water? What does ‘small batch’ mean? Why is Johnnie Walker Blue so expensive? What is moonshine? Why does this bottle say non-chill filtered? How do you store it? Can you make money by investing in it? Can women drink it?” she writes in the introduction.

Throughout the book, she answers all those queries and more — it’s truly one of the more comprehensive books you’ll find on whiskey, written in a knowledgeable, engaging and accessible manner.

But sometimes hands-on instruction can be the best way to discover something new. Greene will be discussing “Whisk(e)y Distilled” at a book signing at BookPeople on Monday, and part of the event starting at 7 p.m. will feature a whiskey tasting. She might offer some of her tips on how to sample a new whiskey (and believe it or not, “All whiskey pretty much tastes the same,” she writes in the first chapter. “By taste, I mean our ability to detect sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami … through the receptors on our tongues. We simply cannot appreciate or even identify different whiskeys without using our noses.” So prepare your nose because you’ll need it).

37 West 26 Street is one of the original cocktail recipes published in Greene's whiskey guide.
37 West 26 Street is one of the original cocktail recipes published in Greene’s whiskey guide.

Or, if you’ve already got a pretty solid background on whiskey, the book also offers a variety of cocktail recipes, both classic and original, such as the 37 West 26. The Scotch-based cocktail will have a smoky but sweet personality, “a little mysterious yet approachable,” and I’m including the recipe here.

37 West 26

2 dry figs
1/2 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 to 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1/2 oz. Drambuie2 oz. whiskey

Muddle the figs in a shaker with the simple syrup. Add the lemon juice, bitters, Drambuie, and whiskey and ice. Shake vigorously. Strain and serve on the rocks. Garnish with lemon peel, open fig and lemon round.

— “Whisk(e)y Distilled” by Heather Greene

Troy & Sons brings moonshine whiskey beyond Appalachia

Asheville Distilling Co. has created a variety of cocktail recipes for their Troy & Sons' three whiskeys, including this Strawberry Blonde drink.
Asheville Distilling Co. has created a variety of cocktail recipes for their Troy & Sons’ three whiskeys, including this Strawberry Blonde drink.

When Troy Ball and her husband moved their family to Asheville, North Carolina, she never expected to get into the business of making hooch. They’d relocated from Texas and other parts of the country to keep her boys healthy, not to open up a distillery making whiskey — but after discovering the local moonshine makers’ habit of keeping the best of the spirit for themselves and selling the rest of it, she became intrigued by the “keeper” moonshine.

“I finally had some and was shocked at how smooth it was, nothing like the throat-burning stuff outsiders typically got,” she said.

She and her husband soon decided to open up a legal distilling operation of their own, naming it after their three sons. The Asheville Distilling Company produces Troy & Sons Platinum, an heirloom corn-based white whiskey; Blonde Whiskey, made using heirloom Turkey Red Wheat and white corn and aged in charred oak barrels; and Oak Reserve, made with heirloom white corn like the Platinum but aged in bourbon barrels. These have recently begun selling in Texas.

(It’s worth noting that the whiskey is ‘moonshine’ in name only. Moonshine by definition is illegally distilled alcohol — but legal whiskey producers like Ball often add it to their labels because it’s a folksy reference to Appalachia’s history of making the burning corn alcohol.)

The Troy & Sons website has a variety of cocktail recipes for moonshine newcomers to try the whiskey with. One such recipe, called the Strawberry Blonde, calls for the Blonde Whiskey. Having aged two years in oak, it will taste more like bourbon than either of the others.

Strawberry Blonde

1 1/2 oz. Troy & Sons Blonde Whiskey

1/4 oz. simple syrup

1/2 oz. Fragoli strawberry liqueur

3 dashes Angostura bitters

1 lemon rind

Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.

— Asheville Distilling Co.

Swift Distillery introduces a single malt Texas whiskey

A small distillery in Dripping Springs is joining the ranks of Texas distillers who have been demonstrating since 2009 that Kentucky isn’t the only state making good whiskey. Swift Distillery, owned and run by Nick and Amanda Swift, is introducing a single malt to the market this week — a smooth, buttery spirit, they said, with notes of ripe peaches, rose and chocolate.

The Swifts, who have single-handedly produced a new single malt whiskey in the Dripping Springs area, have a family of foxes living on the distillery property, earning the animal a prominent place on the Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey label.
The Swifts, who have single-handedly produced a new single malt whiskey in the Dripping Springs area, have a family of foxes living on the distillery property, earning the animal a prominent place on the Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey label.

The couple decided to open a whiskey distillery together after noticing their jobs were forcing them to spend a lot of time apart.

“We cook together every night, always have,” Amanda Swift said. “We always have a drink when we do that, and that’s sort of how the idea formed. It was our dream to do something together and not be apart for 80 hours a week.”

Of course, they didn’t know much about making whiskey. Nick had just finished grad school at St. Edward’s University and was starting a career in fundraising. Amanda spent long hours working at a biology lab at the University of Texas, where she had gone to school. Regardless, they had their dream and spent a few years trying to make it happen, traveling to the world’s big whiskey epicenters of Kentucky, Scotland and Ireland and learning tricks of the trade from 30 different distilleries, then returning home and testing their knowledge of the craft. They wanted to make a single malt because they noticed that’s a style of whiskey Texas distilleries haven’t ventured into as much, and they both like Scotch.

After about three years getting their distillery up and running (in the old space that San Luis Spirits used to inhabit), they’ve finally got a product they’re proud of. Another big point of pride for them is that they’ve done each part of the process themselves.

“We probably tried a couple hundred different options of grains, barrels, yeast,” Amanda said.

Thanks to her science background, they’ve been able to make the single malt with water that’s been controlled to match the composition of Scotland and Ireland’s water. They’ve also imported the Scotch tradition of aging the whiskey in bourbon barrels and a Spanish sherry cask, the latter of which was particularly key for the flavor they desired. “It adds its flavor that we love. Lightly sweet like peaches and a subtle floral nose like roses,” Nick said. “Bourbon, you get more toasted vanilla, more of a one-note profile.”

The Swifts had hoped for slightly more time aging the single malt but needed to start turning a profit. Maybe once the bills are paid, Nick said, they’ll let future batches of the whiskey age longer.

They’ve turned over about 230 cases to distributors and are now working on getting more out. Their daily routine these days is to cook the grain, run the stills and cooper the barrels, and afterward, Nick visits the store owners who have picked up Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey to thank them for their business.

“It’s hard to do every single step with just the two of us, but I’m glad that we went that route,” he said.

Swift Single Malt Texas Whiskey is 43 percent ABV and retails at $55. For more information, visit the Swift Distillery website.

Fall Creek Vineyards opening new location in Driftwood

Fall Creek Vineyards is expanding to Driftwood and will soon have two idyllic places where people can enjoy their wines. Pictured is the Tow winery.
Fall Creek Vineyards is expanding to Driftwood and will soon have two idyllic places where people can enjoy their wines. Pictured is the Tow winery.

Texas’ third oldest winery is expanding early next year with a new tasting room and production facility in Driftwood, right across the street from Salt Lick Barbecue.

Fall Creek Vineyards’ second location on FM 1826 — the original Tow winery will remain open — includes 17 acres adjacent to Onion Creek. The tasting room will have a variety of Fall Creek wines for tasting and purchase by the glass, bottle or case.

Plus, the Driftwood facility will also debut a new series of single-vineyard wines, “Terroir Reflections,” kicking off with the releases of 2013 Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay (from the Certenberg vineyard) and the 2012 Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo (from the Salt Lick vineyard).

Fall Creek co-owners Susan and Ed Auler, who opened the winery 39 years ago, said in a press release that an expansion was necessary to continue growing. They chose opening the second location in Driftwood not just because it’s “a gorgeous area and becoming a food and beverage destination with wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants in the vicinity,” Susan Auler said, but because it’s near one of Fall Creek’s vineyards.

“One of the many reasons we chose this beautiful location is because it is adjacent to Salt Lick Vineyards — where the grapes for some of our single-vineyard designation wines are grown… This location and its soil are well-suited for additional vineyards,” Ed Auler said.

He added that “nothing will change at the winery in Tow,” where people can visit 7 days a week to enjoy private tastings, monthly events and nature walks.

“It is a mere 25 minute drive from Austin, yet still feels like a peaceful country getaway,” Susan Auler said about the Driftwood winery. “The property is currently undergoing minor interior renovation and we are excited to soon open the doors of our second winery tasting room to fans, friends and wine lovers.”

Texas Book Festival authors explore historical, scientific sides of booze

"Of All the Gin Joints" features illustrations of Hollywood celebrities by Edward Hemingway, who chose to draw them in a style that he wanted to look a little tipsy, in keeping with the subject of the book.
“Of All the Gin Joints” features illustrations of Hollywood celebrities by Edward Hemingway, who chose to draw them in a style that he wanted to look a little tipsy, in keeping with the subject of the book.

Among all the fiction and nonfiction authors coming to the Texas Book Festival this weekend are a variety of food writers, making the festival a big draw for anyone who loves to cook and eat — and drink. Three of these writers have penned books centering around booze: Mark Bailey and Edward Hemingway collaborated on “Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History,” and Adam Rogers published “Proof: The Science of Booze.”

Bailey and Hemingway’s compulsively readable book, which I wrote about for today’s food section, explores old Hollywood’s dependence on alcohol through bite-sized biographies, anecdotes and cocktail recipes (including the one below) that often originated in the very bars where the boozed-up stars engaged in their anecdote-worthy antics.

The authors will be at the festival on Saturday for two events surrounding “Of All the Gin Joints.” First up is the 11 a.m. “Drinks and a Movie” panel with Anne Helen Peterson, who wrote “Scandals of Classic Hollywood”; then, at 9:30 p.m., they’ll participate in a “Lit Crawl” event at Clayworks with other Algonquin Books writers.

Rogers’ time at the festival is on Sunday, when he’ll talk about fermentation and other scientific processes that produce the beer, wine and spirits that we love in an accessible, easy-to-follow manner.

“Some archaeologists and anthropologists have argued that the production of beer induced human beings to settle down and develop permanent agriculture — to literally put down roots and cultivate grains instead of roam nomadically,” he writes in “Proof.” “The manufacture of alcohol was, arguably, the social and economic revolution that allowed Homo sapiens to become civilized human beings. It’s the apotheosis of human life on earth. It’s a miracle.”

The Brown Derby

The origin story of many cocktails has gotten blurred over the years as myths take over — for example, did author Ernest Hemingway really invent the Bloody Mary after his doctors told him to stay away from alcohol? (The tomato juice and other ingredients helped to mask the taste of the vodka, the story goes.) Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped people from giving him credit.

Similarly, the Brown Derby cocktail has a murky backstory surrounding it, one that “Of All the Gin Joints” touches on briefly. Was it created at the now-defunct Los Angeles restaurant of the same name, both of which were wildly popular in the 1930s? Or did another nearby restaurant christen the cocktail after its neighbor? Or is it called the Brown Derby simply because it looks like a brown hat? Wherever it came from, the bourbon drink remains a staple in classic cocktail repertoires.

2 oz. bourbon

1 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

1/2 oz. of honey

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

— “Of All the Gin Joints”

Swift’s Attic puts cocktails within ice for speed, innovation

When Swift’s Attic bar manager Jeff Hammett would visit downtown bars and order a cocktail, he noticed two important trends. The drinks he ordered would take 15 minutes to make and would often contain outlandish ingredients that had no business being in cocktails. They also featured large artisanal ice cubes cut into squares, spheres or long rectangles, products of an increasing number of ice programs at bars and restaurants seeking to heighten the quality of their cocktails (this ice takes longer to melt, which means the cocktail won’t be diluted by excess water).

“I found the scene getting too pretentious in some ways,” Hammett said. “At the same time, I saw all the different types of ice programs being done and decided to see what I could do with one here.”

Photo by Arianna Auber. The Ice Ball Oldie and Strawberry Fields are among the most popular of Swift's Attic's ice ball cocktails, an easy way to provide customers with speedy, innovative cocktails.
Photo by Arianna Auber.
The Ice Ball Oldie and Strawberry Fields are among the most popular of Swift’s Attic’s ice ball cocktails, an easy way to provide customers with speedy, innovative cocktails.

As a result of his and bartender Curtis Hansford’s trial-and-error experimentation — Hansford said his roommates were very happy for awhile getting to try new drinks every night — Swift’s Attic added six cocktails to the menu earlier this year, but they aren’t spread among the others already there, including one on tap and another that’s been barrel-aged. Instead, they’ve got a page all to themselves because they’re as unusual as some of the ingredients Hammett didn’t like seeing in his drinks at local bars.

Swift’s Attic calls them ice ball cocktails, and that’s exactly what they are. Most of the components of each cocktail are built into spherical ice molds with water and then frozen overnight; once a customer orders one of them, the icy orb containing those ingredients is added to a cocktail glass and the requisite spirit poured over it. They have the benefit of eliminating time without diminishing quality, one of the problems that Hammett had noticed at other places.

When you have a sip of your first ice ball cocktail, it might seem to be overly boozy because all you’re tasting while the ice melts is the spirit, whether it’s rye, tequila, bourbon or gin. But Hammett said that’s partly the idea. “They’re supposed to be big and boozy, supposed to give you a little hit,” he said, adding that if you like the alcohol in your drinks disguised by the other ingredients, you can let the ice ball cocktail sit for a bit — or, as one couple does, share it so that one person has the first shot and the other person has a second, once the ice ball has melted.

The ice balls also don’t dilute the characteristics of the traditional cocktails, he said. The ice ball cocktails include an Old-Fashioned (called the “Ice Ball Oldie”), a Manhattan, an Apple Mint Julep and a Sazerac (a “Sazer-rock”), as well as a couple of original drinks: Strawberry Fields, which contains a sherbet ice ball, and Stage Name, a favorite of Hammett’s that will be more savory than the others. These are all $12.

Besides being eye-catching, the ice ball cocktails have a real purpose for Swift’s Attic bartenders, especially during busy nights. Hammett said that because most of the cocktail is prepared ahead of time, they’re able to deliver them much faster to customers than they normally would. “You’re able to get a nice craft cocktail in 10 seconds,” he said. “While you’re still at work, stuck in traffic on the way home, getting ready to go out for the night, I’m doing all the prep work to help you have a good experience.”

I tried a couple of them recently, the Ice Ball Oldie and the Strawberry Fields, and noticed how easily drinkable they are. The Oldie unfolds slowly, with the cherry heering, orange and lemon zest and juice, and luxardo maraschino cherry taking their places beside the Knob Creek Rye after a few minutes, an effect that allowed me to relish each element on its own and then as a complement to the whole. Strawberry Fields was far less boozy from the start thanks to the sherbet ice ball, filled with strawberry, kaffir lime and toasted coriander, and the prosecco that accompanied the Santo Azul Blanco Tequila — it’s a cocktail you’ll find yourself drinking all of without even realizing it (and that sherbet ball is also very edible).

Along with the others, both cocktails prove that the ice ball program at Swift’s Attic isn’t simply a gimmick; it’s an innovative way to produce craft cocktails quickly without compromising quality.

10 things I love about Austin

Today’s Austin360 cover story was about the 175 things that our writers love the most about Austin. A lot of my reasons, unsurprisingly, have to do with the thriving beer and cocktail communities, from the cozy mezcal bar above Whisler’s on the east side to the city’s very first craft beer bottle shop, WhichCraft, on South Lamar. Narrowing my favorites down to a list of 10 was incredibly hard to do, testament to just how much Austin has to offer, but all of them are particularly near and dear to me. (Note that the list, save for the number one spot of Hi Hat Public House, isn’t in any particular order, however.)

We’ve also compiled a photo gallery of 170 of these things, so have fun exploring our favorites.

WhichCraft Beer Store is Austin first craft beer-only bottle shop.
WhichCraft Beer Store is Austin first craft beer-only bottle shop.

What do you think? Do you have a top 10 list of your favorite things about Austin, and what would be on it?

  • Sipping on any one of the 24 thoughtfully curated craft beers on tap at Hi Hat Public House. This little eastside bar, with always friendly service and a menu of gourmet comfort food, helped develop my love of beer and discover the welcoming community surrounding it here. Try Hi Hat on a Tuesday, when you can get two tacos and a pint for $10. (hihatpublichouse.com)
  • Hiking at Emma Long Metropolitan Park. The dog-friendly Turkey Creek Trail is especially a joy to explore during the quiet early morning hours when the world is waking up around you, the sun just beginning to peek through the trees and the birds starting to serenade you with their song. (austintexas.gov)
  • Even on summer scorchers, dozens of people will cluster around the benches outside Jester King Brewery, in the Dripping Springs area, enjoying whatever new farmhouse ale (a peach sour? a gose-like beer with oyster mushrooms and alderwood smoked sea salt?) the inventive brewery has created. These always pair best with the wood-fired pies of Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza right next door. (jesterkingbrewery.com)
  • Any one of the restaurants along Manor Road’s thriving row of eateries are a treat, but I like to visit School House Pub for a beer (or any one of their school-themed cocktails) with mac-and-cheese on weekdays or El Chile for a brunch of chilaquiles verdes and a spicy, salt-rimmed Bloody Mary on weekends. (schoolhousepub.com, elchilecafe.com)
  • Zipping along RM 2222 between MoPac and Loop 360. This scenic drive reminds you to look up and enjoy the ride every now and then — a very fast one, that is. During rush hour, it’s also a breather from all the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads it connects.
  • Visit Whisler’s on Thursday through Saturday nights and chances are Cesar Aguilar is there in a jaunty hat to show off the cozy tribute to Oaxaca and mezcal in the upstairs room. Mezcalaria Tobala is his pride and joy — and after sipping mezcal in clay copitas while music plays through vintage speakers, you’ll understand why. (whislersatx.com)
  • Austin restaurants have plenty of outdoor patios, but one of my favorites is Blue Dahlia’s shady back patio, something of a secret garden that will transport you while you’re feasting on the bistro’s light French cuisine. (bluedahliabistro.com.)

    Of all of Austin restaurants' patios, Blue Dahlia's shady little oasis might be my favorite. Photo by Alberto Martinez/ American-Statesman.
    Of all of Austin restaurants’ patios, Blue Dahlia’s shady little oasis might be my favorite. Photo by Alberto Martinez/ American-Statesman.
  • Feel like rum? How about absinthe? The downtown bars Peche and Pleasant Storage Room both have their specialties, and best of all, they’re right next door to each other. (pecheaustin.com, pleasantrumbar.com.)
  • If you’re looking for a solid selection of craft beer — from the rare release to the comforting mainstay — the knowledgeable and cheerful Jody Reyes, Nic De La Rosa and Zach Flaten at WhichCraft Beer Store will help you find what you’re looking for and probably talk you into other treats, too. (whichcraftbeerstore.com)
  • Although local brewers and bars constantly offer top-notch new brews, Austin Beer Week at the end of October is when they really show off, with events and tastings galore. From Oct. 24 through Nov. 2 this year, it’s also curiously timed with a lot of anniversary parties. Just be sure to pace yourself. (austinbeerweek.com)

Christine Celis, Uncle Billy’s brew up new Gypsy collaboration beer

While Christine Celis, daughter of renowned Belgian brewer Pierre Celis, continues to develop a new brewery that will honor her father’s memory, she’s also been busy crafting original beer recipes with local brewers.

The Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter is a collaboration between Christine Celis and Uncle Billy's.
The Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter is a collaboration between Christine Celis and Uncle Billy’s.

This year’s Gypsy beer, done in collaboration with Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que and Austin Java, is quite different from the Gypsy collaboration, a Belgian IPA, that she partnered up with former Celis brewmaster Kim Clarke last year to create. The Dubbel Coffee Porter will feature organic cold-pressed Guatemalan and Peruvian coffee, a Belgian yeast strain and American hops and malts — “a nice blend of three different cultures,” Celis said.

It’ll be available first on draft at about 10 to 15 bars around town, including BB Rover’s, Hi Hat Public House and the Dig Pub, before it’s released in four-packs of 16 oz. tallboy cans. Like the IPA, only a limited amount of this Gypsy beer is being brewed, an intentional decision that hearkens back to the long-ago days when “brewers would travel around and experiment with other enthusiasts,” Celis’ Consulting CMO, Cindy Montgomery, said last year. “The beers they created together were typically produced for their personal enjoyment, and often brewed only once or twice.”

The Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter will debut at a special launch event at Uncle Billy’s on Nov. 6 with all collaborators behind the brew in attendance, including Celis, Uncle Billy’s owner Rick Engel, brewers Clarke and Brad Mortensen, and Austin Java coffee roaster Patrick Palmer. Teaming up with the Uncle Billy’s and Austin Java folks (Engel owns both businesses) on a new Gypsy beer had been a no-brainer for Celis.

“Celis (my father’s brewery) was the first craft beer brewery in Texas, and Rick opened Houston’s first brewpub since Prohibition,” she said. “I just knew I had to work with him to create another first.”

That first, the 7 percent ABV Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter, is “a robust yet smooth, deep chestnut-colored porter with demure chocolate undertones from the infusion of organic, cold-pressed Guatemalan and Peruvian coffees,” according to a press release.

There might be other Gypsy beers one day — but Celis ultimately looks forward to being able to brew her’s father’s old beer recipes here in Austin, in the same city where he originally lured people toward craft beer in the 1990s.

“I want to carry on (my father’s) legacy. That is the ultimate goal,” Celis said.

Keep an eye on the Gypsy Collaborations website and Facebook page for updates about when and where more Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter launch events will take place.

UPDATE: Here are the Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter launch events at various Austin bars. All start at 6 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, Nov. 6: Official launch party at Uncle Billy’s, 1530 Barton Springs Rd.

Friday, Nov. 7: BB Rovers, 12636 Research Blvd. B101.

Saturday, Nov. 8: Hi Hat Public House, 2121 E. Sixth St.

Tuesday, Nov. 11: Flying Saucer, 815 W. 47th St.

Wednesday, Nov. 12: Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, 500 San Marcos St.

Thursday, Nov. 13: Hopfields, 3110 Guadalupe St., at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 14: Craft Pride, 61 Rainey St.

Tuesday, Nov. 18: Little Woodrow’s, 520 West Sixth St.

Wednesday, Nov. 19: Little Woodrow’s, 5425 Burnet Rd.

Thursday, Nov. 20: School House Pub, 2207 Manor Rd., at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 4: Billy’s on Burnet, 2105 Hancock Dr.

Friday, Dec. 5: Draught House, 4112 Medical Pkwy.

Hops & Grain to release new mainstay beer, PorterCulture, in cans

Fresh off celebrating three years in business, Hops & Grain will add another canned beer to its permanent lineup when PorterCulture slowly debuts in the brewery taproom, stores, restaurants and bars next week.

Photo by Arianna Auber. Cans of Hops & Grain PorterCulture will start appearing in stores, restaurants and bars next week.
Photo by Arianna Auber.
Cans of Hops & Grain PorterCulture will start appearing in stores, restaurants and bars next week.

The Baltic-style porter, lighter than other beers of that style, “was a long time coming” for the brewery, owner Josh Hare said. He said that with a pale lager, an altbier, a pale ale and an IPA all in cans, Hops & Grain had been looking to release another year-round beer that would round out the portfolio — something dark, a porter or a stout, that would still be drinkable in summer’s hottest months.

It took some time for brewers to come up with just the right base recipe, but PorterCulture, originally one of the small-batch creations people can only try at the taproom, ended up being what they had been seeking. Brewed with lager yeast and blended with de-husked black malt and chocolate wheat, it doesn’t have the chalky finish that other porters can leave on the tongue; instead, it’s clean and crisp even as notes of coffee, dark chocolate and graham crackers round out only a mild hint of hoppy bitterness at the start. A couple of rounds of PorterCulture also doesn’t make you feel full.

“Porters are generally meant for wintertime,” brewer Bob Galligan said. “But PorterCulture is a good beer for the fall.”

With a 6.56 percent ABV, the beer is suited for Texas’ hotter months, too. PorterCulture’s purple cans will join the other mainstays, Pale Dog, Alt-eration, the Greenhouse IPA and the One They Call Zoe (Hops & Grain’s top-seller), on shelves all year round.

But Hare isn’t stopping there. He’s already got plans to play around with barrel-aging and other projects in the Greenhouse, Hops & Grain’s 3 barrel pilot system that’s yielded tons of one-off experimental brews.

“We’re really looking forward to the wonderful projects that will soon come from our barrel-aging program using PorterCulture as the base,” he said in a press release.

The brewery also has a handful of Austin Beer Week events scheduled between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2 — among them a Halloween party, a beer-and-cheese pairing event and a beer dinner at Hi Hat Public House.