Over the past few years (and starting well before this state’s wines began to gain so much acclaim) one of the oldest Texas wineries has been relishing a distinction of its own. Messina Hof wines, currently the GSM and Father & Son Riesling, are available at all Saltgrass Steak House locations, a total of about 50 around the country — a nod to both the growth of Messina Hof, which now has three winery locations in Texas, and to the prestige of its wines.
The GSM (a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre) is a robust, full-bodied red with notes of blackberry, dark cherry and plum. Released for the first time last year, it’s a standout in the Messina Hof lineup, landing on Texas Monthly’s “Best Texas Wines of 2014” list for showing off “how precise and approachable this historic Texas winery can be.”
Its semi-sweet white counterpart, the Father & Son Riesling, is blended with Moscato and has fresh and delicate floral aromas and undertones of crisp apples, honeysuckle and pears.
Partnering with Saltgrass to place such a large, nationwide spotlight on Texas wine, Messina Hof CEO Paul M. Bonarrigo said, is a “great opportunity to pair an extraordinary wine with an extraordinary restaurant on a national scale to showcase the high quality (wines) that Texas has to offer.”
Messina Hof opened the most recent winery location in Grapevine, near Dallas, in December. For more information, visit www.messinahof.com.
The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas’ Toast & Roast, 2 p.m. Sunday, March 1. Taste the 20 Texas wines that made Texas Monthly’s list of Best Texas Wines 2014 – the only opportunity you’ll have to try them all together. Plus, Chef John Bates of Noble Sandwiches is roasting up a pig, goat and lamb. $100.
Texas Independence Day at Oasis, Texas Brewing, 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 2. Toast to Texas independence with OTXBC’s core beers and a special sneak tasting of the upcoming Metamodern Session IPA. WhichCraft Beer Store is also hosting a free OTXBC tasting from 6 to 8 p.m.
Arro’s First Mondays Pairing, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Monday, March 2. An exploration of wines and cuisine from the Languedoc/Roussillon region of France. $60; additional $40 with wine pairings.
Live Oak Beer Dinner at Odd Duck, 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 2. The five-course meal will include Live Oak’s Liberator and Primus. Make reservations by emailing email@example.com. $101.
Odell Brewing Tap Takeover at Banger’s, 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 4. A mix of 10 firkins and draft beers from Odell, including Wolf Picker, Barrel Thief, Loose Leaf, Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout and more.
Hops & Grain Party at Barley Swine, 6 p.m. Sunday, March 8. Mingle with the chefs and brewers and enjoy special food and drink options, in particular a limited-edition beer served only at the dinner. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to make reservations. $85.
Libations 101: History of Gin at School House Pub, 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 9. This monthly how-to about cocktails focuses on gin this time. You’ll learn how to make tonic, the difference between gin styles through a tasting of Aviation, Waterloo and Beefeater gins, and the step-by-step process of infusing spirits.
Circle’s 4th Anniversary Party, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 14. $15 gets you a pint glass and three drink tickets. Better put one of those toward a taste of the new Devil’s Envy Whiskey Barrel-Aged Amber.
#Austin360Drinks Koozie Party, 1 p.m. Saturday, March 28. Celebrate the koozie with Austin360 at Bar 2211, which has only canned beer, and bring your favorite koozie to the party.
Craft Pride’s 2nd Annual Hot Pepper Beer Party, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 28. Several pepper beers will be on draft and in casks; plus, the Craft Pride crew will run a couple of other beers through Hop Rockets stuffed full of peppers to create their own spicy offerings. Come ready to burn.
David Hulama, co-founder of Round Rock brewery Bluebonnet Beer Co., doesn’t think Austin is anywhere near a saturation point when it comes to local breweries.
“You look at other cities that have a lot more developed craft beer cultures, like Denver or Seattle or Bend (in Oregon) and you see how much ground we have to make up, how far we can go. There’s a lot of room to expand,” he said at a recent interview.
This year, we’re certainly trying to cover that ground — nearly a dozen have opened or expect to open later this year, and countless more are still in the planning stages. They’re dotted all over the greater Austin area, located both within the city’s core and outside of it in the suburbs and neighboring towns. They’re there because of a big demand for local brews.
Tomorrow’s Austin360 cover story takes a closer look at four of them — selected because they’re either open or so, so close to opening — with an accompanying short sidebar of others you should expect to see later this year.
I’m including the full list of all those breweries here.
Bindlestick Brewing: In Leander, co-owners Matt Bigler and Dan Kernek intend to resurrect pre-Prohibition ales and lagers, starting with a pale ale and an amber, from “a time when each town had a different beer that highlighted local ingredients,” according to Bindlestick’s website.
Bluebonnet Beer Co.: Husband-and-wife team David and Clare Hulama started up this tiny brewing operation in Round Rock after he passed the University of California Davis Master Brewers Program, and the itch to brew on a larger scale just wouldn’t go away.
Blue Owl Brewing: Founded by Black Star Co-op alums Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer, this East Austin brewery is focusing exclusively on sour mash beers when it opens later this spring.
Bull Creek Brewing: Demand quickly overwhelmed Erick Matthys’ brewery in Liberty Hill — Bull Creek brewed small batches for more than a year — but he’s hoping to open it again, this time with a bigger brewhouse, for tours in April.
Last Stand Brewing: Three avid homebrewers, Kerry and Mandi Richardson and Kerry’s former coworker Mignonne Gros, have opened their Dripping Springs brewery in the same business park as Revolution Spirits and Argus Cidery.
Orf Brewing: Focusing on so-called “hybrid ales,” this eponymous brewery from Chris Orf has found a warehouse home in Southeast Austin, not far from Independence Brewing. Orf’s got his fingers crossed for a summertime opening.
Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co.: Both coffee and beer lovers alike are sure to swarm this brewpub once it opens in Cedar Park in the next couple weeks. Co-founders Chad Misner and Jon Lamb wanted to create an all-in-one hang out for people in their neck of the woods.
Rentsch Brewing: This Georgetown-based brewing operation from father-and-son team David and Andrew Rentschler will stick to brewing according to Reinheitsgebot, or German purity law, but they won’t be producing only German-style brews. They hope to open later this spring.
Strange Land Brewery: Adam Blumenshein and Tim Klatt, also producers of pickles and sake, brew old world styles of beer in a building behind the Hat Creek Burger Co. in West Lake Hills.
Zilker Brewing: Brothers Forrest and Patrick Clark and their co-founder Marco Rodriguez have set up shop on some prime real estate on East Sixth Street, right across from the Grackle. They’re in the process of building out the brewery now, so they won’t be open for another few months.
The Mohawk still wants to be one of Austin’s most beloved live music venues — but with the recent renovation of the venue’s indoor bar area, it also wants to be the place where you can come after work and have a drink while listening to a DJ spin some vinyl.
Now with a cleaner, more open look, the bar has also gotten more draft beers and small-batch whiskeys, with options like Austin Beerworks Sputnik and Macallan 21 Year Scotch now available every day when the Mohawk opens at 5 p.m.
Mohawk staff decided to update the bar in part because of Red River Street’s transformation. As Mohawk general manager Cody Cowan noted, a hotel is being erected down the street, among other coming changes, calling for the Mohawk to have a “more presentable, more dignified” design that will appeal to a wider range of clientele.
“We’ve had, probably unbeknownst to everyone, happy hours Mondays through Fridays for several years now,” he said. “Now we’re just going to open at 5 p.m. every day. Just come in and have a drink and hang out — that’s what we want to offer.”
Leading the redesign was Kartwheel Craftmanship and Guerilla Suit, two local design firms that stripped down “probably 20 years of layers” in the bar area and added woodwork and new light fixtures, simple fixes that go a long way toward updating the Mohawk’s image (but don’t worry if you’ve always loved that enormous stuffed bear: it’s still there).
“We wanted to give this room a cleaner look,” Kartwheel’s David Clark said. “Growing up, I guess. Not exactly starched and pressed, but we’re picking a clean shirt.”
He added the goal was to create “a comfortable hang-out where you can meet up with some friends before you go to dinner and not feel like you’re completely up to no good.”
Opening up the entrance area — which Cowan said can turn into a bottleneck of people during busy shows — was also crucial. And for a final touch, Clark and crew added the “Been There” hallway, owner James Moody’s idea, which lists on the ceiling all the various music acts who have performed at the venue throughout the years. (Moody bought what would become the Mohawk back in the mid-2000s; the venue’s previous incarnations hadn’t been particularly successful. He also co-founded Guerilla Suit.)
With South by Southwest only a couple of weeks away, Cowan said the Mohawk doesn’t plan on making a major push letting people know that the bar area is open for happy hour until after the festival is over. “We’re in the calm before the storm of SXSW, so we’ve got a lot of planning going on right now,” he said.
But rest assured that it is open every day starting at 5 p.m., and with quite an impressive beer and whiskey selection.
The owners of the Mean Eyed Cat, Gibson Street Bar and Lavaca Street Bar, as well as of Jack and Adam’s Bicycles on South Lamar, have now ventured into the eastside with the opening of the Wheel — a cozy bar on East Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd that offers craft beers and cocktails daily starting at 4 p.m.
Veteran bar owners Matt Luckie, Max Moreland and Anggay Tenney, along with bike shop owner Jack Murray (who brought a bicycle theme to the Wheel), have opened up their new bar next to sandwich shop Austin Daily Press and the most recently opened Juiceland location. The Wheel is located in the space where craft cocktail guru Adam Bryan had planned to open his long-awaited bar Motel, ultimately crippled by permitting delays; Juiceland is in the former Wet Whistle spot.
The Wheel’s owners want it to become a neighborhood spot where people can come to enjoy “a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere… with a warm interior and a charming patio with picnic tables and festoon lighting,” according to a press release.
“Our hope is that the Wheel becomes a place where people will drop in for a cocktail on their way home from work or grab a sandwich from Austin Daily Press and pair it with a beer on our patio,” Moreland said in the press release. “We love how friendly and accessible the neighborhood is.”
The Wheel is launching with a solid tap list of beers, including staples like Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap and Hops & Grain’s Greenhouse IPA and more seasonal offerings like Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout. (And according to the bar’s Facebook, Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin will be in later this week — these beers are always hot commodities.)
Plus, the Wheel offers house-made seasonal infusions, lots of whiskey and four signature cocktails to start. These drinks are all named in honor of the bar partners’ daughters:
The Avery: Knob Creek bourbon, Luxardo, Green Chartreuse and chocolate bitters
The Layla: Cazadores Reposado tequila, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh lime juice and Topo Chico
The Lyllian: Hendrick’s Gin, Lillet Blanc, Aperol and grapefruit zest
The Madison: High West Double Rye, vanilla bean syrup and orange bitters
The bar will also have a $4 whiskey that rotates each day: Monday, Jack Daniels; Tuesday, Tullamore Dew; Wednesday, Maker’s Mark; Thursday, Tin Cup; Friday, Collingwood; Saturday, Two Gingers; and Sunday, Jim Beam Rye.
The Wheel, 1902 B E. MLK Blvd. Open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. thewheelaustin.com.
Thick in the resurgence of hard cider, Austin Eastciders is fueling our thirst for the apple beverage by continuing to release new varieties — and as always, they aren’t your typical cider blends.
Already on shelves around town after rolling out this month is the cidery’s Texas Honey. The second cider to be canned, it’s a combination of two types of apples, dessert and bittersweet, that are blended with locally sourced honey to create a “subtle, rounded, mellow sweetness, balancing the astringency of the cider apples,” according to a press release.
Austin Eastciders’ take on this Old World cider style (which came about when people started using honey to sweeten their bone-dry cider during the apple drink’s original heyday) is slightly sweeter than Eastciders Original, according to the press release, but it’s full-bodied and easy-drinking, at 5 percent ABV.
Soon to come is Small Batch No. 2, the second in a series of quarterly small-batch releases that aim to showcase “rare, historic apple varieties using traditional and experimental cider making techniques,” the press release said. The cider is made with Arkansas Black, an old Southern apple varietal that’s good for turning into cider. The driest of all Eastciders’ releases thus far, Small Batch No. 2 has “prominent citrus notes” and a long finish. And with only 350 cases of it to be distributed, it might be as hard to find as the apples it’s made with.
Since finally opening his eastcide cidery late last year, Eastciders founder Ed Gibson hasn’t slowed down much, with plenty of plans for more of his favorite beverage. Also on the cider horizon, according to the press release, is another small-batch variety: a bourbon barrel-aged cider, featuring French bittersweet apples, that spent time in Woodford Reserve barrels. Look for Small Batch No. 3 later this spring.
A small business park in the Drippings Springs area, not far from Jester King Brewery, now houses a distillery, a cidery and a brewery — a boozy trifecta that you’ll be able to visit once the brewery, Last Stand Brewing, opens on Saturday.
(Off the same road that connects them to Jester King is Solaro Estate Winery. Perhaps one day, the Last Stand Brewing co-founders muse, there will be a bus tour allowing you to explore them all.)
Kerry Richardson founded the brewery with his wife, Mandi, and former coworker Mignonne Gros after realizing his high-tech job just wasn’t fulfilling anymore. He went back to school, getting an entrepreneurship degree at St. Edward’s University three years ago, and began his hunt for a building that would house the brewery. Gros, a longtime homebrewer like him whom he’d hung out with outside of work for poker games, came on-board with her own beer recipes when they realized they shared the same dream.
Now, the three co-founders and their employee, brewer John Allison, are finally ready to open Last Stand starting this weekend, with taproom hours 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays.
This Saturday’s opening will correspond with Last Stand’s neighbor Revolution Spirits celebrating its one-year anniversary in business. “We plan to be open when the distillery is open, and people can mingle in the middle and hang out,” Richardson said.
Last Stand will also have a beer garden with seating for about 50 to 60 people, a taproom featuring the two flagship beers (a Belgian-style pale ale and a coffee porter) and a food truck out front called Greaux Specialties and featuring Gros’ Cajun recipes, including her father’s gumbo.
For more about the new brewery, visit Last Stand’s website and be on the look out for my Austin360 cover story next week about Last Stand and other breweries that have been opening outside of Austin’s core (they are many).
One of Texas’ first craft breweries has just updated its look, with a new brand design that reflects the brewery’s heritage.
Real Ale Brewing Co. now has a more consistent design for its website and packaging and a logo that unifies the Real Ale brand. When bottles, cans and tap handles start rolling out with the makeover the first week in March, they’ll help to keep straight exactly which beers in the flooded craft beer market belong to the Blanco brewery — something that hasn’t always been clear because of dissimilar designs on Real Ale bottles and cans.
“We often hear people say they’ve been drinking one of our beers for years and didn’t realize it was Real Ale,” Real Ale’s owner and operator Brad Farbstein said in a press release. “We decided it was time to make it a little easier on our customers to see and try the beers we offer, as well as understand who it’s coming from.”
At the heart of the redesign is the new logo, which features three elements — a hop, a sprocket and the words “TX 96” — nodding to Real Ale’s 19-year history. A simple graphic of a hop was part of Real Ale’s old logo, and the brewery wanted to keep the hop as an homage, according to the press release. Farbstein and company also wanted to nod to the original tap handle and label of Real Ale’s bestselling year-round beer, Fireman’s #4, which they did with the sprocket. TX 96, of course, refers to where they brew and when they got started.
The redesign, which launches in early March in Austin and San Antonio (and other markets to follow in the weeks and months after that), was spearheaded by Austin-based creative communication company Butler Bros.
Speaking of new looks…
Independence Brewing has also gone through a makeover of its own, with a newly renovated brewery tasting room. It will be ready to go at Saturday’s big party unveiling the new look, which was done to make it a more comfortable, inviting place for the myriad fans who visit the eastside brewery on weekends.
With the support of these fans — an Indiegogo campaign helped to fund the renovation — Independence has fixed the holes in the walls, installed a new tap system and created extra seating areas. From now on, it’ll be open on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 7 p.m., with beers available for purchase by the pint and sampling flights.
That’s what one local brewery now faces. Oasis, Texas Brewing Co. is being sued by New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, because both claim to have the right to the name Slow Ride.
Oasis, Texas Brewing has been producing a pale ale under the name Slow Ride since the spring, when the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission gave the Lake Travis-area brewery label approval for the name. New Belgium also has a Slow Ride, this one a session IPA, that will be sold in Texas as the New Belgium Session IPA for the time being, until the lawsuit is settled, according to a post about the trademark dispute on New Belgium’s website.
The longtime Colorado brewery isn’t looking for money. Mainly, according to the post, New Belgium wants to clarify where either brewery can use the name Slow Ride (if one or both of them can).
Although Oasis didn’t register the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until Nov. 5, several months after New Belgium filed for the trademark with the USPTO, the Slow Ride Pale Ale “hit the market in mid-May, prior to (New Belgium’s) application for a trademark. Their assertion that brewing activities didn’t begin until August is simply untrue,” Oasis, Texas Brewing’s general manager Max Schleder noted on Saturday in a blog post titled “Stolen Ride.”
Because “(Oasis, Texas Brewing) now claims exclusive nationwide rights in the mark,” New Belgium’s post said, “New Belgium has filed a claim in Federal District Court requesting a declaratory order from the Court that sorts out the rights of the parties.”
While New Belgium isn’t using Slow Ride on any of the session IPA labels in Texas, Oasis, Texas Brewing is continuing to produce its pale ale with that name. “We plan to keep making authentic and original craft beers, including Slow Ride…” Schleder wrote. “However, we now find ourselves having to spend large amounts of money on legal fees to protect what we believe to be rightfully and obviously ours — money that should be put towards the growth and support of a small, growing business.”
Oasis, Texas Brewing’s Slow Ride Pale Ale is a 4.8 percent ABV “American muscle beer at its finest,” according to the Oasis, Texas Brewing website, “super-charged with Chinook, Cascade and Columbus hops.”
South Austin Brewery has been doing collaborative tours with neighboring Casa Brasil Coffees since summer 2012, inviting people to learn about both beer and coffee-making processes at each of their locations, but the beverage producers hadn’t combined to make a coffee beer until recently.
Look for the brewery’s Crossroads Coffee Stout, made with fresh-roasted Brazilian beans from Casa Brasil, in stores today and in the coming week. It joins another new beer from South Austin, the Six String Saison, that was released last month. South Austin Brewery also cans the TPA, a Texas pale ale; Kol’ Beer, a kolsch; and Luckenbock, a bock.
Both of the new beers cap off a series of changes to the almost three-year-old brewery that includes a higher brewing capacity, a renovated taproom and new leadership (Eric Wolf, who started working as South Austin’s assistant brewer in late 2012, has taken over the brewmaster role along with Rus Hall). Part of those changes last year included a bit of a brand revamping — but live music is still central and will play often now that the taproom is open again on Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
(Music is so important to the brewery, in fact, that instead of listing recommended food pairings with each of the beers on the brewery website, South Austin offers musical pairings. Ray Wylie Hubbard and Bob Schneider songs should be consumed with the TPA, for instance.)
The Crossroads Coffee Stout, according to a press release, is big and robust and showcases Casa Brasil’s Brazilian coffee, but, at 6.8 percent ABV, it won’t leave you feeling too full. It’s “a beer that we’ve been developing for quite some time with our friends at Casa Brasil,” Wolf and Hall said in the release.
The Six String Saison, actually higher in ABV at 8 percent, is “a non-traditional take on the Franco-Belgian farmhouse ale,” and its Belgian yeast strain “produces complex flavors such as peach and black pepper, making the beer refreshingly spicy, citric and funky,” according to the press release. These can be found at Whole Foods, HEB, Central Market, Spec’s and myriad other area bars, restaurants and retailers.
And once the weather warms up, they’ll be joined by small-batch experimental beers available only in the taproom.
On Fridays from now on, South Austin Brewery, located at 415 E. St. Elmo Rd., will host a free tour with Wolf and Hall starting at 5:30 p.m.; then, their “Meet the Brewer” event will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. with live music from local and regional bands.