On New Years Day, the Austin360 staff released a roundup of local rising stars to watch for this year. In my beat, those people are Jeff Young and Josh Loving, two entrepreneurs with big visions. Young is opening the country’s first brewery to focus exclusively on sour mashed beers; Loving, a longtime Austin bartender slinging craft cocktails before Austinites were regularly ordering them, is opening one of 2015’s most buzzy bars, a tiny space on the east side with as much a wine program as a cocktail and spirits program.
Here’s what went into the roundup:
When Blue Owl Brewing opens early this year on East Cesar Chavez Street, one very big distinction will set it apart from other breweries in the country. All its beers, like the sour session wheat Little Boss, will be sour mashed, a technique for brewers to make any style of beer tart without the long amount of time that usually goes into the brewing process for sour beers.
For founders Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer, launching such a distinctive project isn’t new. Both were part of Black Star Co-Op, the first cooperatively-owned brewpub in the world. Young, head brewer there, left to pursue this new passion.
“Blue Owl Brewing is a chance for me to delve into a largely ignored and underappreciated area in brewing,” Young said. “With the sour-mashing process being able to be applied to any and all beer styles, we will provide a unique and quirky twist to known styles, as well as create new styles, in an industry where you thought everything has been done.”
After several years bringing quality cocktails to Austinites at venerated spots such as Fino, Midnight Cowboy and Jeffrey’s, Josh Loving’s founding a bar of his own in the former Mike’s Pub on East Seventh Street. Like Half Step last year, it’s becoming one of the most anticipated bar openings in 2015.
Loving doesn’t have a lot to work with — the space is only 800 square feet — but along with business partner Brian Stubbs, he plans to make the most of what will become Small Victory, with “all the stuff that I like,” including classic cocktails, a small but meaningful wine list, ice from a Clinebell machine and light bites such as cheese and charcuterie.
He’s hoping to open it in February, but renovations have been “sort of like peeling a rotten onion.”
“I think the name came about when (Brian) said something like, ‘If we get it done in this place, it would be a small victory for us,’ ” Loving said.
Here’s a bit more from Loving about what to expect with Small Victory that wasn’t included in the story.
“I started in wine, so I want a healthy focus toward it. Sherry, I know is a hard hill to climb, but I love it and want to give it its due and hopefully people will respond accordingly… I like diversity with spirits, so I want to be able to try them myself and share them with people. I like brandy a lot, for example, and brandy is the least enjoyed thing both in cocktail format and by itself. Not a lot of people give it its due, so I would like to have a robust cognac, Armagnac, fruit brandy, domestic brandies supply. That’s down the road; we’re not opening with it. It’s something to grow toward.
“First and foremost (the wine program will feature) food-friendly wine. All going to be European, maybe down the road going to be domestic, but for now I plan to use French, Austrian, Spanish, German wines: those have always been my favorites, as broad as a category as that is because those are just countries. I’m really big into natural wines, meaning the ones that have indigenous yeast fermentation, are made by people, not machines, all those buzzwords you read. Organic, handpicked. Not to say they have to be those in order for me to like them, it’s just that a lot of the wines I’m into and would initially like to offer just have to be the titans of their industry in those respects. I’m not going to have a lot of wines — don’t want to mislead people that it’s a wine bar with everything for everyone. I just want them to be really good.
“I’m not going to have more cider than beer, but a higher ratio of ciders in the beer mix. I drink a lot of cider and I really like Austin Eastciders and Texas Keeper No. 1. That was a really killer cider. I’m going to have a few on the beer list. I probably drink Austin Eastciders six to one to beer.”