Sour beer-focused Blue Owl Brewing launches at Craft Pride Sunday

At long last, Austin’s brewery focusing solely on sour mash beers (the first and only one in the country) is close to opening.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Blue Owl Brewing is opening this fall but is first launching its beers at Craft Pride.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Blue Owl Brewing is opening this fall but is first launching its beers at Craft Pride.

After officially debuting at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival Saturday, Blue Owl Brewing is gearing up to open in East Austin in October with an initial release at Craft Pride on Sunday. The Texas-focused beer bar on Rainey Street will have three Blue Owl beers on tap: Spirit Animal, a sour pale ale; Van Dayum!, a sour red ale and Professor Black, a sour cherry stout.

Spirit Animal in particular might give you pause. Breweries these days release plenty of pale ales and increasing numbers of sour beers, but a combination of both is far less common. That’s exactly why Jeff Young, co-founder and sour mash visionary, wanted to brew exclusively using the sour mash process.

It’s much faster (and more consistent) than the traditional method of souring beers through barrel-aging. Plus, it produces tart versions of approachable styles, making the somewhat polarizing flavor profile of tartness much easier to swallow for sour beer newcomers. If Blue Owl Brewing can convert them to die-hard sour beer fans, that’ll be all the better for Young and the three other Austinites who have worked hard to make the brewery happen.

He and co-founder Suzy Shaffer thought, during brainstorming for the brewery they wanted to open, that a brewery centered on sour mash beers isn’t just a tantalizing hook for beer lovers — it’s almost a necessary addition to today’s thriving beer scene.

“Sour mashing makes sour beers accessible and more common styles like pale ales more complex,” Young said Saturday at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival during one of the brewers’ talks I moderated at the Whole Foods tent.

To produce the Blue Owl beers, Young changes up key parts of the brewing process — mainly to harness the innate ability of lactobacillus bacteria to convert sugars into lactic acid. That might not sound so tasty; lactic acid, however, is key to producing clean, bright beers with a subtle complexity and an appealing level of sourness.

During the sour mashing process, lactobacilli is introduced into the sour tun where the wort is and held there for up to 72 hours before the wort gets boiled, hopped and moved into another tank for fermentation. These final steps are normal in the brewing process.

Shortly after Sunday’s launch party at Craft Pride, Blue Owl Brewing plans to open on the east side, at East Cesar Chavez and Pedernales streets, in early October. The brewery plans to release Spirit Animal, Van Dayum! and Professor Black in colorful cans in addition to kegs.

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