Deep Eddy Vodka’s distillery opening tomorrow in Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs is getting another boozy addition to the neighborhood with the opening tomorrow of Deep Eddy Vodka’s new distillery, which will begin hosting tours, tastings and private events on weekends.

Deep Eddy's new distillery will include a 5,000 square foot tasting area.
Deep Eddy’s new distillery will include a 5,000 square foot tasting area.

Along with the manufacturing and production areas, the distillery will include a 5,000 square foot public space with a large tasting bar where people can try all of the Deep Eddy Vodka varieties in both cocktails and flights showcasing the four vodkas. Deep Eddy Vodka bottles and merchandise will also be on hand to purchase.

Such a big expansion is possible because of a nearly 500 percent growth since 2012, two years after the company was originally founded, Deep Eddy Vodka CEO Eric Dopkins said. “Our new distillery will support our future demand as well as our one-on-one connection with our consumer,” he said in a press release.

Deep Eddy Vodka first released Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka in 2010, the first flavored vodka produced in Texas, followed by Deep Eddy Straight in 2011. But it was Deep Eddy Ruby Red, grapefruit-infused vodka, that catapulted Deep Eddy into such a high rate of growth.

“(When we released Ruby Red) we surpassed our goals by 700 percent over our forecast,” co-founder Chad Auler said. “That’s a great problem to have. We had to turn to our distillery guys and say, ‘Time to work double shifts.’”

To create a space "both inviting and contemporary," Deep Eddy Vodka consulted with Gary Payne of the Austin-based Environplan Architects Planners and Larry McGuire and Claire Zinneker from the  McGuire Moorman Hospitality restaurant group (Jeffrey's, Elizabeth Street Cafe, Josephine House) on interior design.
To create a space “both inviting and contemporary,” Deep Eddy Vodka consulted with Gary Payne of the Austin-based Environplan Architects Planners and Larry McGuire and Claire Zinneker from the McGuire Moorman Hospitality restaurant group (Jeffrey’s, Elizabeth Street Cafe, Josephine House) on interior design.

Deep Eddy Cranberry came out earlier this year and has also done well. By the end of this year, Dopkins expects that Deep Eddy “will be heading toward (producing) 400,00 nine-liter cases” of the four vodkas.

Visitors to the distillery, in addition to stopping by the tasting room, can see how each of the vodkas are produced. But they’ll certainly want to spend some time in the tasting area. There, cocktails will be $7, drinks in Deep Eddy mason jars will be $9 and a vodka flight will be $10.

The distillery, located at 2250 E. U.S. Highway 290, will be open to the public 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 12 to p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays; tours and tastings for private groups (as well as private events) are available throughout the week by appointment.

For more information, visit www.deepeddyvodka.com.

Austin Beer Week events announced

The Austin Beer Week schedule is now live. The 10 day extravaganza celebrating all things beer-related is from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2 this year — and as usual, it’s stuffed full of events as local breweries and bars unleash their characteristic zeal for a good party.

Photo by Emma Janzen. The Rainey Street bar Craft Pride will again be the location of Austin Beer Week's opening party.
Photo by Emma Janzen.
The Rainey Street bar Craft Pride will again be the location of Austin Beer Week’s opening party.

This fifth annual round of Austin Beer Week has the beer dinners, tap takeovers and meet-the-brewer nights of Austin Beer Weeks past, but there are also a variety of more off-the-wall events (do I spy not one, but four Halloween-related parties?) on tap as well.

Here are my notes about and recommendations for the week to help you figure out what you most want to attend.

  • Oct. 25 might be the hardest day for beer fans, not because of a dearth of good events to choose from, but because of too many of them. (512) Brewing and Draught House are both celebrating their anniversaries (6th and 46th, respectively), and Austin Eastciders is hosting the long-awaited grand opening for its urban cidery. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. is also throwing a Fermentation Fest, complete with a pig roast and brats.
  • Mix it up and add some spirits to your beer at Half Step’s Circle Beertails Party at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29. Or how about coffee? Another Oct. 25 event, Real Ale’s Coffee + Beer Education at the Brew and Brew, will feature Real Ale’s Erik Ogershok discussing his philosophy on coffee, beer and when the two should meet (that’s easy: in the Real Ale Coffee Porter, one of my favorites of that style). There will, of course, be beers, coffee and coffee beer all throughout his talk.
  • The 10 days will contain more special tappings than your liver can handle, so choose wisely. I’d suggest going to Easy Tiger’s Prairie Ales and Balcones Whiskey Collaboration event on Oct. 28 — Prairie Bomb, one of the more highly coveted beers during the winter months, has been aged in Balcones Brimstone Whiskey barrels. The Brimstone Bomb will be part of a flight featuring the original beer and whiskey.
  • Jester King’s annual Funk n Sour Fest, on Oct. 30, is changing up the format this year to pair local eats with craft beers, wines and ciders. For instance, can you think of a better combination than Dai Due paired with La Cruz de Comal wines? Tickets will go on sale via the Jester King website at noon on Oct. 16, and since the brewery is making less available than in past years, be sure to secure some right at that time.
  • Halloween is on Friday this year, and several bars and breweries are taking full advantage. Adelbert’s, Craft Pride and School House Pub will all be the ghoulish scenes of some wicked Halloween costume contests that night; the ABGB is throwing “a Monsters of Rock” night on Saturday with the music of the Misfits, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Pink Floyd being brought to life by local musicians. One event prior to Halloween on Oct. 25, School House Pub’s Pumpkin Carving Contest, will feature Southern Tier’s Pumking.
  • One brewery also wants to celebrate the day after Halloween. Oasis, Texas Brewing’s Dia de Los Muertos party will focus on the release of Lake Monster in cans, as well as two new beers, the Bogue, an English-style dark session beer dry-hopped with new Tahoma hops, and Possum Porter, a sessionable English brown porter.

I suspect more events will be added to the calendar as Austin Beer Week creeps closer, so keep an eye on the website.

Beer writer brings new world beer guide to Austin

With so many good beers in Texas and the U.S., it can be easy to forget that we aren’t the only ones creating solid tributes to classic styles or coming up with entirely new experimental brews.

But writers Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb are well aware of all the best brews the world has to offer, and they want everyone else to be familiar with those beers, too.

Beaumont and Webb are not just big fans of beer — they also travel all around the world and have combined their two interests to document some of the best beers being made internationally, from the U.S. and Canada down to South America and then from Europe, Asia and beyond. Their research has produced “Pocket Beer Guide 2015: The World’s Best Craft and Traditional Beers,” which recently published with some 3,500 beers rated and profiled.

"Pocket Beer Guide 2015" tracks down top beers from all over the world.
“Pocket Beer Guide 2015” tracks down top beers from all over the world.

Austin beers, such as ones from (512) Brewing, Jester King and Live Oak, are among them. In fact, Beaumont has been so impressed not just by some of the local breweries, but the local community supporting them, that he’ll be in town tonight for a “local brewers summit” at Flying Saucer that will feature five Austin breweries and their beers. The brewers will walk beer fans through a tasting; then, Beaumont will offer up his thoughts on each of the beers.

“I think of these tastings as putting myself in the lion’s den,” Beaumont said with a chuckle. “I have beers that I’ve never had before and try right in front of the brewers. The idea is for me to lead people in a discovery of flavors, not necessarily the beers themselves, but styles in general. And then getting brewers to put in their two cents, and if they think I’m way off base, they may say so.”

Stephen Beaumont has written a lot of articles and books on beer, including the recently published guide to international beers.
Stephen Beaumont has written a lot of articles and books on beer, including the recently published guide to international beers.

Beaumont is certainly no stranger to tasting beers and being able to talk about their style, origin and even the history behind that style on a global level. He and Webb have half a century of writing about beer between them — they’ve additionally co-authored the book “The World Atlas of Beer” — and have cultivated extensive knowledge of what’s out there. With the help of other beer experts around the world, they regularly discover the brews other countries have to offer, but often only within their borders.

Many of the beers’ limited availability can certainly lead to a bit of a problem. Because they aren’t exactly available at the local corner store, readers can’t try them for themselves and form their own opinions.

“We make no apologies for the fact that some of these beers are going to be very hard to find,” Beaumont said, noting that he and Webb made sure readers know that in the introduction. “It’s very difficult to flip through the pages and not want to hop on a plane and go somewhere. I know not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm for flying 20 hours to try some beers, but there’s a lot of fun in imagining where you can go. Seeing what a pub crawl in Rome might be like. Realizing that people are brewing beer in Lebanon.”

Essentially part travel guide, part beer review, “Pocket Beer Guide 2015” is divided by geographical region, and the beers within each section are all rated up to four stars. Beaumont said they were very careful in giving beers that topmost rating: “It’s one of the world’s greatest beers, a champion.” Only about 50 or 60 beers in the book earned four stars.

He was in charge of compiling beers for the book from Canada (where he currently lives) all the way to the tip of Argentina.

“The world of beer today is certainly a lot different from even 5 or 10 years ago, and there’s great beer everywhere,” he said. “I spent some considerable time in Brazil — they’re improving very quickly. But it’s one of those things you have to go there to experience what’s going on because only one brewery is really exporting. It’s the same with places like Argentina and Mexico.”

And often he and Webb purposely left out the brands that people are most familiar with. “We chose to effectively ignore the biggest breweries in the world because no one needs us to tell them what a Corona tastes like,” he said.

Look for even more extensive beer discoveries in future editions. In the meantime, the Local Brewers Summit at Flying Saucer starts at 7 p.m. and features beer from Real Ale, (512), Austin Beerworks and more. Tickets are $45 and include 6 oz. tastings of each beer and food pairings. You’ll also be able to purchase “Pocket Beer Guide 2015” and have Beaumont sign it. For reservations, call 512-454-8200.

Texas breweries earn a whopping 16 GABF medals

Photo contributed by Texas Craft Brewers Guild. The Austin Beerworks team accepted their silver medal for Fire Eagle in all-denim getups.
Photo contributed by Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
The Austin Beerworks team accepted their silver medal for Fire Eagle in all-denim getups.

Texas craft breweries took home a record-shattering number of medals from the Great American Beer Festival’s competition Saturday, with a total of 16 gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to breweries and brewpubs from Austin, Dallas, Houston and beyond — the fourth most decorated state behind California, Colorado and Oregon, traditional craft beer bastions. It’s just one more sign that the state is becoming a craft beer powerhouse in its own right.

(The most medals Texas has won up to this point is 18 in 2002, but because many of those went to macro breweries located in Texas at the time, let’s say that this year at the festival has been the most successful thus far for small, independently owned Texas craft brewers.)

Photo by Arianna Auber. Co-founder and head brewer of Armadillo Ale Works, Bobby Mullins said it "felt good, really good," to hear Armadillo's Quakertown Stout take gold in the imperial stout category at GABF.
Photo by Arianna Auber.
Co-founder and head brewer of Armadillo Ale Works, Bobby Mullins said it “felt good, really good,” to hear Armadillo’s Quakertown Stout take gold in the imperial stout category at GABF.

Among the Austin winners were previous GABF victors Austin Beerworks, Real Ale and Pinthouse Pizza. Thirsty Planet and Oasis, Texas Brewing, which only started brewing earlier this year, became first-time winners this year — a distinction that Oasis founder and head brewer Spencer Tielkemeier is still “over the moon” about.

“We’d have been happy with any medal, but it makes it so much sweeter that it’s gold,” he said. “By the time they’ve announced the bronze and silver, you’ve already talked yourself out of it. I honestly don’t remember the ten seconds following the syllable “Lond-“”

He added that the fact “there are so many great beers out there” makes the win all the more gratifying. “You may not always love the beers they pick, but you can be sure they don’t suck,” he said.

Oasis’ London Homesick Ale earned the top prize in the ordinary or special bitter category. Tielkemeier said he had honestly thought Oasis’ lagers (he also submitted Slow Ride, Luchesa, Oktoberfest and Lake Monster for the competition) were the Lake Travis brewery’s strongest contenders.

Austin Beerworks, Real Ale and Pinthouse had all gotten medals last year, when Texas breweries brought back 10 GABF awards. But previous wins certainly don’t make new ones any less sweeter, as Austin Beerworks’ Will Golden noted.

“Winning a silver in the strong pale ale category (for Fire Eagle) was like Big Wave surfing on a great white shark,” he said. “It also is a reassurance we are doing the right thing at the brewery.”

Others who joined the winners’ circle this year include Dallas’ Community Beer Co. (one of two Texas breweries to receive two awards), Fredericksburg’s Pedernales Brewing and Denton’s Armadillo Ale Works.

Texas’ impressive showing at GABF is “establishing the state as a leading craft beer destination,” Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said. “Texas craft brewers clearly demonstrated that while craft beer is growing quickly in our state, quality does not take a back seat.”

How the competition component of the festival works: Breweries around the country submit their beers to any one of 90 different beer style categories for professionals in the brewing industry to judge in a blind tasting. The winners are then announced on the final day of GABF in a special ceremony. And make no mistake — breweries faced stiff competition. More than 1,300 breweries from around the U.S. submitted more than 5,500 different beers.

Oasis, Texas, helmed by Live Oak and Uncle Billy’s veteran Tielkemeier, wasn’t the only first-time brewery to take part in the festival and competition. According to the Brewers Association, the organization in charge of putting GABF together every year, 35 percent of GABF participants were newcomers.

Here’s the full list of Texas winners.

Gold medalists:

  • Armadillo Ale Works for Quakertown Stout in the imperial stout category
  • Community Beer Co. for Public Ale in the extra special bitter category
  • Grapevine Craft Brewery for Sir William’s English Brown Ale in the English-style brown ale category
  • Oasis, Texas Brewing for London Homesick Ale in the ordinary or special bitter category
  • Peticolas Brewing for 2012 Great Scot! in the aged beer category
  • Real Ale Brewing for Benedictum in the Belgian-style lambic or sour ale category

Silver medalists:

  • Austin Beerworks for Fire Eagle in the American-style strong pale ale
  • Pedernales Brewing for Lobo Negro in the German-style schwarzbier category
  • Saint Arnold for Summer Pils in the Munich-style Helles category
  • Thirsty Planet for Yellow Armadillo in the American-style wheat beer category
  • 5 Stones for Aloha Pina in the herb and spice category

Bronze medalists:

  • Community Beer Co. for Ascension in the coffee beer category
  • Pinthouse Pizza for Jaguar Shark in the wood-and-barrel-aged strong stout category
  • Rahr & Sons for the Regulator in the German-style doppelbock category
  • Saint Arnold for Weedwhacker in the German-style wheat ale category
  • Spoetzl Brewery for Shiner Bock in the American-style dark lager category

This post has been corrected with the year Texas had the most wins at GABF.

Texas brewers bring beer, high spirits to Great American Beer Festival

While Austinites gear up for two rambunctious weekends of live music at Austin City Limits Festival, beer enthusiasts from all over the country have swarmed into Denver, Colo., for three days of a very different festival.

Photo by Arianna Auber New Belgium's enormous brewhouse in Fort Collins, Colo., can almost be mistaken for a church, if not for the fermenters running down the middle of it.
Photo by Arianna Auber
New Belgium’s enormous brewhouse in Fort Collins, Colo., can almost be mistaken for a church, if not for the fermenters running down the middle of it.

The Great American Beer Festival brings together hundreds of breweries around the U.S. that have been creating quality craft beers, some for more than 30 years, others for as little as a few months, and their thirsty fans for beer tastings and other related events through Saturday, when the big awards ceremony announcing winners of GABF’s competition is announced.

I have been in Colorado since Sunday visiting breweries in Colorado Springs, Golden, Fort Collins and Denver with my friends in Bitch Beer (a blog, full disclosure, that I also write for), and I’m looking forward to also covering my very first GABF, the largest beer festival in the U.S., for Liquid Austin. The festival starts today with the first of three tasting sessions in the Colorado Convention Center, and with thousands of beers being poured for thousands of people, I’m expecting to be a little overwhelmed but still determined to discover some innovative brews and talk to some of the passionate minds behind them.

Leading up to the festival, I’ve been asking festival veterans if they’ve got any tips for festival newcomers like me. Josh Hare, Hops and Grain’s founder and a recent participant in 1400 Miles, a 1,400 mile bike ride from Austin to Denver to raise awareness about prostate cancer, had this piece of advice to offer: “Take it slowly.  There is plenty of beer to go around and the altitude will sneak up on you, especially coming from sea level. ”

Middleton Brewing’s Clayton Rahmberg didn’t have a particular tip about GABF for me, but he did say that the festival is “a great place to culture new relationships and gain inspiration for new recipes, events, etc.” At the festival, Middleton will have Pepperhead IPA (“an American style-IPA that we dry hop with a variety of Texas peppers”) and the Texas Pecan Amber (“our American-style amber that we dry hop with a large amount of Seguin pecans”).

To get the full list of beers that will be at GABF’s big tasting sessions (and a map of where they are), download the GABF app. The breweries are divided by region, so it’s a good idea for festival-goers to plan ahead and know which parts of the crowded convention center they’ll want to get to first.

black bottle brewery
Photo by Arianna Auber. Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins makes one of my favorite beers of the Colorado trip thus far, a tequila barrel-aged IPA called the Mexican Hipster.

Although the tasting sessions are a large component of the festival, the awards ceremony on Saturday that will announce the winners of the competition is what I look forward to the most.

Think of the competition as the Academy Awards of craft beer, if you will. It’s an honor to receive a medal, a gratifying signal of breweries’ hard work and ability — and Texas beer makers have been increasingly taking home the gold (or the silver or bronze) in the past few years. At last year’s festival, they won a combined 10 medals, with Austin breweries in particular earning the most at six.

Hops and Grain, Hare said, is entering The One They Call Zoe in the Experimental Beer category, PorterCulture in the Baltic-style Porter category and their adjunct lager Pils Party in the Premium American Lager category. PorterCulture is going to be the next beer the brewery will can; look for it later this fall.

And check back on the blog in the next few days for more GABF updates.