SXSW 2015: Panel dives into craft beer culture 

Photo by Julia Robinson / for American-Statesman. Chris Sheppard, left, Matt McGinnis, Caroline Wallace and Josh Hare hosted a craft beer panel at South by Southwest this year.
Photo by Julia Robinson / for American-Statesman. Chris Sheppard, left, Matt McGinnis, Caroline Wallace and Josh Hare hosted a craft beer panel at South by Southwest this year.

Date/time: 5 p.m. Monday

Panelists: Matt McGinnis, blogger for What Are You Drinking?; Josh Hare, owner of Hops & Grain Brewing; Caroline Wallace, blogger for Bitch Beer; and Chris Sheppard, blogger for Craft Taste

The gist: Just like any movement with fans and followers, craft beer has had its share of detractors within the industry, a vocal minority who like to tear down the porters, the sours, the hop-heavy IPAs that have redefined beer in the U.S. as much more than the light lagers originally dominating the market after Prohibition.  It’s these naysayers, who find their voice on beer review sites like BeerAdvocate and, of course, on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, that the panel largely explored — while also pointing out that the community surrounding craft beer is an extremely supportive group as a whole.

That people are talking about beer at all is progress, though. Beer used to be the catalyst of conversation, rather than the topic of it, but that’s changed a lot over the years in a generational shift that Hare said he’s seen take place in the years since he was growing up in West Texas with a friend whose father kept a constant supply of Coors Light in the fridge. “Beer was enjoyed as you talked about everything else,” he said.

But people have plenty to discuss now when it comes to their beer. McGinnis, the moderator, pointed out at the beginning of the panel that although only 44 breweries existed in the U.S. in 1980, there are now more than 3,000 today. It’s a veritable explosion that the panelists said have drawn a lot of the market share away from the macro brews. Those big beer companies are in turn firing back — buying up the smaller craft beer companies and spending millions on ad campaigns like Budweiser’s controversial Super Bowl commercial.  The ad, which the panelists played during the hour-long presentation, sparked debate about how the craft beer industry is viewed: Is it really full of snobby elitists who sniff their pints of pumpkin peach ale and muse over the mouthfeel and finish of each beer?

The crowd: SXSW Interactive’s only panel about craft beer looked like a promising one right from the start. The interest in it grew so much, in fact, that SXSW organizers decided to move it to a bigger room in the Driskill Hotel. People had no trouble filling the extra seats.

McGinnis started the talk in a very unconventional way (but after all, how else would a room full of craft beer lovers begin talking about their favorite topic?). He had brought with him eight cans of Texas beer and asked for volunteers in the audience to come up to the front and shotgun the beers without making a mess all over the nice carpeted floor. That might have been the first shotgun in the Driskill Ballroom ever.

The takeaway: The ultimate thesis of the panel seemed to be that the craft beer community as a whole is supportive, but the few who are negative, who dissect every element of a beer and find something nit-picky and mean to say about it, are giving the rest a bad name.

Sheppard noted that people don’t tell Hare in person “that his beer sucks,” but because of the anonymity of online reviews, they’re unafraid to bash Hops & Grain (or any other brewery) online — and Hare reads through these reviews, the good and the bad, once a week. He said that although he used to get offended by the negative ones, he now sees legitimate complaints as an opportunity to improve his beer.

“It’s important to say negative things, rather than all positive all the time, because there are 3,000 of us and that’s not sustainable,” he said — adding later, in perhaps the most controversial (but well-argued) statement of the night, that he “can’t wait for the bubble to burst.”

He likened the current craft beer explosion to the dot-com boom in the 1990s that eventually became a bust. Breweries today are all riding the wave of high demand and becoming successful not just because most are producing good beer, but because they have a market for craft beer period. However, Hare said, “once the bubble bursts,” only the truly excellent breweries will survive.

In the meantime, he said it’s important to welcome anyone into the community. “You can’t have anything negative on your face when someone comes in(to the taproom) and says they’re a Miller Lite drinker, so what should they drink? Because they actually came to your taproom. They made that effort,” he said.

Hashtag: #CraftElite

SXSW 2015: Panel explores coffee’s growth through technology

Date/time: 11 a.m. Sunday

A SouthBites panel during the Interactive portion of South by Southwest explored artisan coffee's growth during (and as a result of) the digital age.
A SouthBites panel during the Interactive portion of South by Southwest explored artisan coffee’s growth during (and as a result of) the digital age.

Panelists: Cameron Hughes, CEO/ founder of Invergo Coffee; Erin Meister, coffee educator at Counter Culture Coffee; and Lawrence Marcus, senior digital editor of Food & Wine

The gist: Thanks to the Internet and high-tech machines that both allow us to make our own cups of joe each morning and help coffee bean producers around the world speed up and better the production process, coffee has achieved the same sort of artisan status as, say, craft beer — people are realizing that the caffeinated beverage is “much more than just pouring water into a machine,” Marcus said, noting that specific parameters like the temperature of the water, the amount of beans added and other factors contribute to the ultimate steaming beverage poured into your favorite mug each morning.

Now that people are paying attention to those parameters, good coffee is on the rise both at home and in coffee shops, the panelists said, though Meister said she doesn’t think top-quality coffee will become the rule, rather than the exception, in the future. “People know what good hamburgers taste like, but they still eat McDonald’s,” she said.

But she and Hughes were ready to give the packed audience tips on how to make their coffee at home just as tasty as what they might enjoy from their favorite local barista. She emphasized being willing to “adjust your parameters… People can be like pit bulls when it comes to their coffee brewing methods.”

The takeaway: The rise of the Internet is largely parallel to the rise of artisan coffee. Myriad forums exist for total strangers to swap coffee roasting and brewing techniques, and websites from coffee bean purveyors provide access to these beans from anywhere in the world. Plus, coffee farmers, Meister said, can find new customers who are willing to pay a lot for their coffee.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I was fascinated by the talk, especially when it veered toward the similarities between coffee and beer (which both took off as craft beverages around the same time). “The beer analogy is so apt because people thought beer could only taste like Budweiser for a long time,” Marcus said. “People similarly think their coffee is too bitter to drink black, so they add milk and sugar.”

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with the pairing of these sweeteners with coffee, Marcus said, it’s not only masking the taste of overly bitter coffee but the fact that good coffee, extracted just right from the beans, shouldn’t need the sweeteners at all.

Over-extracted beans taste very bitter, under-extracted beans sour, Meister said, while a proper extraction gives an element of sweetness to the coffee.

“It’s a human problem, not a technology problem,” she said. “We have to know what good coffee tastes like.”

The hashtag: #southbites

The ABGB’s sour beer series currently features an apple sour

The ABGB just tapped the latest in their sour beer series, Fiona. Drink the beer and buy the shirt (logo pictured here) to take home.
The ABGB just tapped the latest in their sour beer series, Fiona. Drink the beer and buy the shirt (logo pictured here) to take home.

During South by Southwest, Austin wants to show off all its best stuff, from the restaurants to the live music — and beer, too. The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., which will have live music throughout the week, just put on tap one impressive new brew sure to please locals and tourists alike.

Called Fiona, the apple sour is made with more than 300 pounds of Texas-grown Honeycrisp apples, an apple variety that can be pricier at grocery stores than other apples because of its crisp balance of tartness and sweetness. Fiona is the latest in a small-batch line of sour beers that the ABGB has been releasing at the brewpub (I haven’t tried all four of the others in the sour lineup, but the sour pear beer last fall was very tasty).

“Our series of sour beers were created with a very specific goal: to create a sour with a clean, bright, citrusy taste. A lemony greeting on the palate — without adding lemons,” the ABGB’s Mark Jensen said via email. “Harnessing the power (and magic) of lactobacillus, our process took all the steps of the traditional scientific method (repeated experimentation!) to finally produce the results we wanted.”

Those results are a refreshing beer, Jensen said, that features a pound and a half of apples per gallon.

“The fruit’s aroma and tartness lead the way, delivering a refreshing flavor that marries with the lacto to create a distinct, crisp finish,” he said in the email. “Fiona pours golden and bright, like early spring sunshine.”

Business as usual for these bars during SXSW

Right in the thick of the South by Southwest madness, some local bars are going to be refuges for the weary, the tired, the badge-less — all the locals who just want their usual Austin reclaimed back from the tourists. Here are 10 such places, which for the most part don’t have any SXSW-related events going on.

(Just because they’re open, of course, doesn’t mean finding available parking is going to be that easy, even outside of the downtown core. Good luck!)

Photo by Emma Janzen / American-Statesman. You can count on Craft Pride to be a refuge from the SXSW madness. Relax in the bar or out in the patio area with a Texas beer.
Photo by Emma Janzen / American-Statesman. You can count on Craft Pride to be a refuge from the SXSW madness. Relax in the bar or out in the patio area with a Texas beer.

Bar Congress: The cocktail program, from respected bar veteran Jason Stevens, is one of the best in the city, and at the intersection of two busy downtown streets, it’s going to be the spot to watch SXSW unfold from a safe distance, drink in hand.

Craft Pride: Yet again, the Rainey Street beer bar is purposely choosing “not selling out.” Stop in to satisfy your thirst for a good Texas brew (no out-of-state suds here). And pair your pint with one of those irresistible Detroit-style pies from the pizza trailer, Via 313, out back.

Easy Tiger: The bar overlooking Waller Creek has some stellar downtown views, plus good beer, ping pong and food supplied by the in-house bakery. The cafe will be opened throughout the festival, but the beer garden will be closed all day tomorrow and until 6 p.m. March 20.

Garage: So named because it’s literally tucked away in the American National Bank parking garage at Colorado and Fifth streets downtown, it’ll be a darkened haven distracting from the ruckus outside with lots of good classic cocktails — one of which was recently named the Official Drink of Austin.

Hops & Grain: This East Austin brewery is throwing a St. Patrick’s Day party on Tuesday, so come in green and ready to enjoy Hops & Grain’s version of a dry Irish stout. The taproom, opened the rest of the week, often has small-batch brews not distributed beyond those walls. (Plus, it’s just been renovated, so you’ll want to come see the brand-new bar.)

Isla: You might need something strong after battling the crowds, and a nice stiff (and very colorful, well-garnished) drink is a particular specialty of this tiki bar and restaurant, opened in the evenings, that lets rum reign supreme among the spirits. Right next door is French-focused sister bar Peche.

La V: The extensive wine program at this upscale French restaurant on East Seventh gets all the attention, but its cocktails and aperitif/ digestif options are just as stellar. The bar staff even makes their own amer picon, a French aperitif that isn’t available in the states.

Weather Up: The New York-bred bar has gained its own Austin identity in the two years or so that it’s been opened. Renovations to the East Cesar Chavez-located bar’s outdoor area will make it a big springtime haunt soon — although it’s already a popular spot now. Save for one SXSW Music event Wednesday, it’s a guaranteed safe bet if you’re staying away from the fest.

Whisler’s: East Sixth Street is guaranteed to be packed, especially during the five days of SXSW Music, but the capable bartenders at Whisler’s are used to crowds and preparing top-notch cocktails quickly. The bar will be hosting an RSVP-only SXSW party Saturday night; otherwise, it’s open with a big patio suited for people-watching.

Argus Cidery debuts six-packs of cider, ginger ale this month

Fans of Argus Cidery’s dry cider styles have long been clamoring for a smaller, more accessible way to drink the cider, and their wishes are about to be granted.

Argus, which has always distributed cider in 750 ml bottles, is releasing six-packs of Ciderkin and Ginger Perry this month — and the new Argus Fermentables line is also going to be available in kegs, the first time for Argus to be offered on tap.

Owner and winemaker Wes Mickel “wanted to enter the single-serve market with a product that’s unpasteurized and unsweetened, and very much in the same vein as the ciders we have produced before,” he said in a press release. Ciderkin, he said, was the answer “both for its year-round availability and price point.”

Argus Cidery is releasing a line of six-packs, Argus Fermentables, made from internationally sourced fruit. The line includes a cider and a pear-and-ginger drink.
Argus Cidery is releasing a line of six-packs, Argus Fermentables, made from internationally sourced fruit. The line includes a cider and a pear-and-ginger drink.

It’s going to be like many ciders Argus Cidery has already produced, with a “straightforward apple palate… (that) finishes dry and crisp, not sweet,” according to the press release.

Ciderkin is a sessionable style historically “made from reconstituted apple pomace,” which is “pressed and fermented wild to produce a low ABV,” the press release said, and Argus’ version (clocking in at 4.5 percent ABV) stays true to the tradition by using a house yeast blend that yields a prominent stone fruit nose, strong apple flavor and a dry finish.

But Argus Cidery doesn’t just stick to making ciders. Joining Tepache Especial, a wild-fermented sparkling pineapple wine Argus released last year, is another apple-less beverage. The Ginger Perry was “developed because Jules (cellar master at Argus) and I really, really love spicy ginger ales,” Mickel said in the press release. “So we decided we would put one in a small-format bottle, booze included.”

The 4.5 percent ABV Ginger Perry, Argus’ first unpasteurized fermentation, features pear and ginger in a dry “balance of ginger, stone fruit and citrus flavors,” according to the press release. It’s an easy-sipper you can drink straight from the bottle or add to a drink as a mixer.

One distinct difference between the Argus Fermentables line and the other beverages that Argus releases is the fruit in the Ciderkin and Ginger Perry. They’ve been internationally sourced so that the six-packs will be available all year round.

Look for more of the regional apples Argus Cidery likes to seek out in an upcoming cider this fall. The 2014 Argus Cidery Perennial consists of apples from Bandera County, according to the press release.

The Ciderkin and Ginger Perry are going for $9.99 a six-pack once they hit shelves this month. For more information, visit www.arguscidery.com.

Boozy events during SXSW 2015

Photo by Julia Robinson / for American-Statesman. Chris Sheppard, left, Matt McGinnis, Caroline Wallace and Josh Hare will host a craft beer panel at South by Southwest this year.
Photo by Julia Robinson / for American-Statesman. Chris Sheppard, left, Matt McGinnis, Caroline Wallace and Josh Hare will host a craft beer panel at South by Southwest this year.

This year’s South by Southwest probably won’t have as many free drinks pouring as past festivals have, but that’s a good thing. Take it easy on the alcohol by going to just a few events this time that center specifically around beer or spirits. You’ll appreciate them all the more.

Here’s a sampling of some of them, along with a couple of St. Patrick’s Day-related festivities, which take place right in the middle of SXSW. Note that the panels will require a badge to attend and some of the other events ask for an RSVP.

“Next Wave Coffee: Technology and the Way We Drink,” 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sunday, March 15 at the Driskill Hotel. An exploration of the next wave of innovative coffee gear and how people can brew coffee at home that competes with the best from any coffee shop.

“You Can’t Sit With Us: Craft Beer Subculture,” 5 to 6 p.m. Monday, March 16 at the Driskill Hotel. A talk from local beer bloggers Caroline Wallace, Matt McGinnis and Chris Sheppard about what it’s like to be a member of craft beer’s close-knit community. For more about what to expect, read this preview piece about the SouthBites Interactive panel that’s running tomorrow in the paper.

Late Night Cocktails with Dave Arnold, 10:30 p.m. Monday, March 16 at Odd Duck. Arnold, author of the cocktail-making guide “Liquid Intelligence,” will be making cocktails with the Odd Duck bar staff using the innovative, science-based techniques that have set him apart in the culinary world. He’s also a speaker at this SouthBites panel. $50.

 The Feast of Saint Patrick, 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 at Hops & Grain. Raise a toast to the Irish holiday with a pint of Hops & Grain’s Dry Irish Stout. $20 gets you a pint glass and four pours.

St. Patrick’s Day at North by Northwest, 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 at both NXNW locations. The brewpub’s offering Irish fare and beer, as well as live Irish music. The beer includes cask-conditioned versions of the dry-hopped Irish Stout and dry-hopped Red Zeppelin Irish Red Ale.

NxNW at B.B. Rover’s, 6:30 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 through Saturday, March 21. For those who don’t live or work close to downtown and don’t want to deal with the SXSW crowds, the North Austin beer bar B.B. Rover’s will have live music and some really good beer, too.

Big Bend Brewing Co. Unofficial SXSW Showcase, 12 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 20 at Stay Gold. This live music showcase will draw a lot of beer fans, too: West Texas’ Big Bend Brewing, helmed by former Austinite Steve Anderson (brewer at now-defunct Waterloo and ever-growing Live Oak Brewing), is returning to give locals an alluring first taste of Tejas Lager and La Frontera IPA, which are, along with other Big Bend brews, releasing in Austin this summer.

Real Ale’s Tenabrae Aeterna Release Party, 12 p.m. Saturday, March 21 at the ABGB. The debut of Tenabrae Aeterna, a sour porter, plus tappings of special Real Ale casks throughout the day, including Real Heavy Scotch Ale, the Commissar Russian Imperial Stout and the Red King Imperial Red Ale.

Look for updates to this round-up throughout the week as more events pop up (because the SXSW madness is only beginning).

Real Ale Brewing taproom now open Fridays and Saturdays

For Austinites who have found it difficult to drive out to Blanco on a Friday afternoon to visit Real Ale Brewing, the only day that the brewery had previously been open, Real Ale is making a big change. The new taproom, with 14 beer taps, an outdoor balcony and a view of the packaging area, will now also be open on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting this weekend.

Real Ale's new taproom is now opened Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Real Ale’s new taproom is now opened Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Plus, visitors are able to buy beer now for $4 (rather than the old tradition of buying the glass and receiving free pours in return). Mainstay Real Ale beers will come in 16 oz. pints, while specialty offerings are going to be served in 8 oz. half-pours. Beer flights with four 4 oz. pours are also available.

“The new taproom allows visitors both a behind-the-scenes look at our packaging and brewing process, plus a view of the magnificent landscape,” Real Ale owner Brad Farbstein said in a press release. “We’re excited to become another destination for visitors to the Texas Hill Country.”

Real Ale is certainly making a very good argument for the expanded brewery to become a regular day trip spot: according to the press release, it’ll be the “first place to buy and try specialty releases and limited edition beers, like Real Ale’s Mysterium Verum series.”

That’s just one of the updates the Real Ale crew has been making this year in a push to make the brand more recognizable and beloved for recent craft beer converts. Last month, the brewery announced a complete design overhaul of the brand, including bottles, cans and tap handles, to give them all a more unified, consistent look, with a simple logo that nods to Real Ale’s 19-year heritage.

Real Ale's Full Moon Rye IPA is going to have the same malt bill but a lot more hops for a more citrus-y, tropical aroma and flavor.
Real Ale’s Full Moon Rye IPA is going to have the same malt bill but a lot more hops for a more citrus-y, tropical aroma and flavor.

Full Moon full of hops

Even one of Real Ale’s beers is getting freshened up. A hopped-up version of the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, Real Ale’s first beer and original flagship, is hitting store shelves Friday here and in San Antonio.

As it did in 1996, according to a press release, the Full Moon recipe (now an IPA) “challenges the status quo,” with two extra hop varieties, Citra and Simcoe, brought in “to add bright citrus and tropical notes to the flavor” that Cascade previously contributed to alone. The Full Moon Rye IPA is also dry-hopped now for a hoppier aroma, and it clocks in at a higher 6.2 percent ABV.

Real Ale had introduced the rye pale ale in 1996, when rye beers weren’t widely made. “A bold choice,” it was often left off the beer lists at many restaurants and bars because they found it too intense, the press release said, but it was long a brewery favorite. With craft beer fans now clamoring for hoppy IPAs, Real Ale brewers have adapted it to reflect current beer tastes.

They’re also releasing a few new year-round beers later this spring, both on draft and in bottles, including the Real Heavy Scotch Ale, the Commissar Russian Imperial Stout and the Red King Imperial Red Ale. If you want a taste of all of those and a new sour porter, the Tenabrae Aeterna, the ABGB is throwing a special Real Ale party on March 21, the tail-end of South by Southwest.

Real Brewing Co.’s taproom is now open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 231 San Saba Ct, Blanco. For more information, visit realalebrewing.com.

Peche’s sister rum bar, Isla, now a tropical paradise next door 

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Isla, taking over the old Pleasant Storage Room space, is now open downtown with a focus on rum-centric island culture. Zombies and mai tais are on draft; other cocktails include the Rum Runner, left, and the Blue Hawaii.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Isla, taking over the old Pleasant Storage Room space, is now open downtown with a focus on rum-centric island culture. Zombies and mai tais are on draft; other cocktails include the Rum Runner, left, and the Blue Hawaii.

When Pleasant Storage Room closed unexpectedly late last year after less than a year in business, Austin lacked a good rum bar where colorful island culture, complete with bright Hawaiian shirts, coconut-shaped mugs and drinks with names like the Zombie, could be regularly celebrated.

But the bar’s next door neighbor, the French-centric Péché, decided not to change the focus of the space very much when Péché’s owner Rob Pate bought it — now Isla, it’s all about tiki, all the time, the only bar in Austin to fully embrace the tropical-themed bar trend currently on a resurgence across the country. Tiki bars have been opening all over the U.S. thanks to the earlier mythologizing influences of Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic’s and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Isla has joined their ranks. (The previous extent of Austin’s participation in the tiki movement had been through Texas Tiki Week for the past few years.)

Walk in and you’ll see how easily the new bar, now open seven days a week, lives up to its name: Isla’s cool tropical vibe, highlighted by vintage art in mismatched frames and teal, yellow and burnt coral seating, “will bring the paradise to you,” as Isla’s general manager Trey Jenkins put it.

So will the drinks, of course.

For Jenkins, transferring from Péché’s absinthe-tinged bar program (he was the assistant bar manager there) to Isla’s rum-soaked one wasn’t a big transition. He had been spearheading Péché’s Tiki Sundays for the past seven months, after all. He and a couple of regulars would pick out a cocktail to make from one of Beachbum Berry’s tiki books — Berry is essentially the historian of the modern tiki movement and has now opened his own tiki bar in New Orleans — before the weekly night of rum became official, with a menu featuring a mix of Berry’s staples and some riffs on them.

“I like rum because it’s a rogue spirit,” Jenkins said. “Rum doesn’t play by the rules like the other spirits do. It just has to be made from sugar. No specifications on aging or where it has to be made. Not even any rules on how it has to come from sugar. No wonder the pirates drank it so much.”

Isla will have about 105 different rums on the shelves once all the bottles Jenkins ordered come in, the selection representing the full range of flavors and complexities that rum can have, from Martinique’s rhum agricole, a very grassy and vegetal version, to Guyana’s Demarara rums, full of spice and vanilla notes. (Quick rum lesson: Rhum agricole, or rums from French-speaking islands, he said, are produced from pressed sugarcane juice. These preserve the soul of the sugarcane flavor more than the rums from English-speaking islands, such as Jamaica or Guyana, which will have a fuller-bodied taste more reminiscent of molasses. And these are just two of the regional varieties you’ll see on shelves.)

Contributed by Thien-Y Hoang. To transform Isla into such a vibrant island-inspired bar, interior designer Lilliane Steckel found a bunch of tiki pieces to accent the space's bare bones of brick and dark wood.
Contributed by Thien-Y Hoang. To transform Isla into such a vibrant island-inspired bar, interior designer Lilliane Steckel found a bunch of tiki pieces to accent the space’s bare bones of brick and dark wood.

Because all these rums can taste so wildly varied, cocktail recipes often specify which type of rum should be used, Jenkins said.”With a lot of tiki drinks, you can’t replace the rum with another because the ingredients are meant to complement the characteristics of that rum, whether it’s Puerto Rican gold rum or Jamaican rum or Demarara rum,” he said.

The drinks menu at Isla is no different, with every item detailing what rum should be used. He’s divided the bar menu into three sections: classics, featuring timeless favorites like mojitos, daiquiris and a Rum Old Fashioned; tiki drinks popularized by the mid-20th century’s love affair with cocktails full of fruit juices and topped by lots of garnishes, like the Zombie or the Painkiller; and Isla drinks created by Jenkins, like the Isla Barrel of Rum with house-spiced rum, 12-year Nicaraguan rum, grapefruit juice, lime juice, passionfruit syrup and Angostura bitters.

Within the tiki drinks section are two cocktails offered on draft, the Mai Tai and the Zombie. Jenkins is batching them ahead of time, he said, because the Zombie has a whopping eight ingredients, far too many to be whipping up one at a time each night. And the Mai Tai is sure to be popular, so it’s also a good one to have prepared early.

One of the bar’s original concoctions is the Kill Devil Cobbler, made with 12-year Jamaican rum, sherry, sugar, pineapple and orange juices, and nutmeg sprinkled on top. It’s an ode to Isla’s original name, the Old Kill Devil (a 17th-century moniker for rum), that Jenkins said “is more the name of a basement tiki bar where men in tattoos serve you” — not exactly the sort of exotic island paradise Isla hopes to transport visitors to, he said with a laugh, but worthy of a cocktail all the same.

Isla also has island-inspired food, such as grilled octopus and a Caribbean seafood pepper pot of shrimp, scallops and more cloaked in a spicy broth. That’s yet another prominent reason Isla is the place to go if you’re wishing for a tropical sojourn, Mai Tai in hand.

“Not many places in town are doing tiki on this level,” Jenkins said. “We’re proud to be one of them.”

Isla, 208 W. Fourth St. C. Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays. http://www.islaaustin.com.

Garrison Brothers’ new bourbon highlights traits of the barrel

For Garrison Brothers’ new bourbon, the barrel it ages in has never been so important.

Garrison Brothers has released a new whiskey, the Single Barrel Bourbon, a 94-proof big brother to the distillery's flagship bourbon.
Garrison Brothers has released a new whiskey, the Single Barrel Bourbon, a 94-proof big brother to the distillery’s flagship bourbon.

The Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon, already available for purchase at the Hye distillery, is coming to liquor store shelves soon — and a bottle at one store might not taste quite like a bottle at another store. That’s a deliberate result of the distillery, helmed by Dan Garrison, choosing to use only one barrel per batch of bourbon to highlight all the different tasting profiles and flavor complexities that an oak barrel can impart on whiskey.

A three-year-old, 94-proof big brother to the distillery’s flagship bourbon, the Single Barrel Bourbon is “made from organic Panhandle corn, soft red winter wheat, two-row malted barley and pure, clean Hill Country rainwater,” just like its predecessor, according to a press release.

Unlike the Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, however, the single-barrel version is being sold by the barrel to any interested Texas liquor stores or whiskey lovers (and if any barrels are left over, they’ll be available to retail shops outside the state).

Each of the 342 15-gallon barrels Garrison devoted to the project can produce anywhere from 48 to 81 bottles of bourbon, depending on the angels’ share, or the amount of whiskey lost to evaporation during its maturation in barrels, and if a store wants one, they ” must agree to acquire every bottle that a particular barrel yields,” according to the press release.

However, they’ll only be charged for the number of bottles produced from their chosen barrel — and the price tag isn’t cheap.

“It’ll set you back a little,” Garrison said in the press release. “The cost of a barrel could range from $5,300 to $8,900, depending on how many bottles each barrel yields.”

Despite the cost, he noted that “the response to our Single Barrel Bourbon has been overwhelming,” outselling the flagship bourbon at the distillery even though it’s more expensive — perhaps because the idea of having such a distinctive whiskey is a big draw for fans of the dark aged spirit.

If liquor store owners or whiskey connoisseurs are interested in purchasing some Single Barrel Bourbon, they can drive out to the Garrison Brothers distillery, taste samples from different barrels and pick out the one they like the best. But the whiskey won’t be ready right away: according to the press release, it can take up to 4 months to get the bourbon bottled (with custom silver labels featuring the buyer’s name) and shipped off.

Of course, whoever placed such a large order can keep the barrel they chose, too.

The Golden Goose moving into old Horseshoe Lounge location

This classic neon sign is going with the Horseshoe Lounge, opening in a new location on East Riverside Drive, but a new bar is taking its place. The Golden Goose has an anticipated opening of May this year.
Photo by Aubrey Edwards. This classic neon sign is going with the Horseshoe Lounge, opening in a new location on East Riverside Drive, but a new bar is taking its place. The Golden Goose has an anticipated opening of May this year.

The old Horseshoe Lounge location on South Lamar Boulevard isn’t going to be vacant long. Taking over the space, which housed the 50-year-old bar until mid-February, is a new bar concept called the Golden Goose.

Local bar owners Jason Steward, of Bungalow and Bar 2211, and Sean Fric, of J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen and Lounge, are planning to offer in the Golden Goose some of the same things that made the Horseshoe Lounge such a popular spot, such as a custom shuffleboard table — but the new bar, which Steward and Fric hope to open in May, will also take credit cards and sell liquor (which the new Horseshoe Lounge, opening up on East Riverside, will do too, once it opens sometime this summer).

The Golden Goose, according to a press release, will be “unpretentious and comfortable,” with a classic jukebox, ice-cold beer and “strong, hand-crafted cocktails.”

Steward and Fric have been friends since meeting 15 years ago during the opening of the original Eddie V’s, and they’d wanted to partner on a new spot but needed just the right place, according to the press release.

“As an Austin native, South Lamar has been a huge part of my life,” Steward, who most recently opened Bar 2211 last spring, said in the press release. “It’s my goal to keep the area’s roots alive and well amongst all the change and growth.”

That’s why he and Fric are going to make the shuffleboard table such a big feature of the new bar. It’s “an ode to the Horseshoe Lounge and its loyal customers,” according to the press release.

For updates about the Golden Goose, located at 2034 S. Lamar Blvd., follow the bar on Twitter at @TheGooseAustin.