January 2016 drinking events calendar

Hotel San Jose’s New Year’s Day Hangover Hangout, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1. Food and drink specials, including mimosas, coffee and micheladas.

Yard Bar’s Hair of the Dog New Year’s Day Party, 12 to 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1. Food and drink specials for you all day – including mimosas and Bloody Marys – and hairy dog contests for your pup.

Uncle Billy’s Firkin Friday, 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1. A cask of Uncle Billy’s Green Room Mosaic IPA (which was dry-hopped with Mosaic hops) awaits you.

First Saturday Special at Independence Brewing, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2. Three beers for $10 at Independence is always a great way to start your month – just to get to the brewery early.

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. Craft Pride is about to become your newest video game hangout spot.

Video Game Night at Craft Pride, 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4. A new Monday tradition, this time with the Nintendo 64 that you can play “Super Smash Brothers” and other games with in a free play format.

New Belgium Glass Night at the Whip In, 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5. So much for your New Year’s diet. The Whip In will have New Belgium’s Ben & Jerry’s collaboration brew, Salted Caramel Brown Ale, as well as beer floats featuring their Salted Caramel Brownie ice cream.

Arro’s Sommelier Smackdown, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8. Three sommeliers with the ELM Restaurant Group are competing to see who’s the best; all you have to do is sample their wines and let them charm you. $50.

Supper Friends Beer Dinner at Hops & Grain, 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8. Enjoy a four-course meal paired with five Hops & Grain beers at the brewery alongside founder and owner Josh Hare.

The Driskill’s Hops & Grain Beer Dinner, 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11. Four courses with four Hops & Grain beers for only $40.

Victory Brewing Flight & Pairing at Easy Tiger, 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11 and Tuesday, Jan. 12. Taste your way through four Victory brews and an optional food pairing. $10 for 3 oz. tasting of four beers, $15 with pairing board.

Barrel Aged Battle at Waller Creek Pub House, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12. Can the defending champ Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy keep its title, or will the Karbach Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hellfighter steal its crown? You’ll help to decide.

Lakewood Brewing Debut at the Whip In, 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15. Austinites won’t have to hoard their stashes of Dallas’ Lakewood Brewing beers quite so much with its arrival to the local market. At Whip In, try the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Temptress Milk Stout and the Sin Mint Temptress Milk Stout.

Pints and Poses at Meridian Hive Meadery, 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16. Feel restored with an hour-long yoga session, then relaxed with a mead sampling in the tasting room.

Astronomy on Tap, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. Sit back with a beer and listen to the experts explain astronomy topics like dark matter. Science has never been so fun.

Steal the Glass at Eureka Austin, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20. Firestone Walker’s Nitro Merlin, a milk stout, paired with cookies from Brown Butter Cookie Company. $12.

Italic’s Wines of Tuscany tasting, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21. Sample five wines from Tuscany with master sommelier Craig Collins and purchase any you like from retail partner the Austin Wine Merchant.

Flying Saucer Austin’s 8th Anniversary Party, 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 24. This ‘80s-themed “Magnum PI” party might be out of the ordinary, but you can count on the beer list to be great as always.

Bacon and Beer Festival, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24. Yes, this brilliant pairing brings local restaurants and their meaty offerings together with local breweries. Tickets ($46.50-$160) are technically already sold out. This event has been rescheduled to a later date.

Jack Allen Kitchen’s 6th Annual Lone Star Paralysis Patio Party, 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26. Gulf of Mexico meets South Texas roadhouse fare, along with cocktails and beer from Dulce Vida Tequila, Thirsty Planet Brewing and more. $150.

“Shaun of the Dead” Pub Run, 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26. Run from the zombies toward a pint of liquid courage, then to the film screening at Stateside at the Paramount where you’ll consume popcorn and more beer. $7-$20.

Proof & Cooper Supper Club, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27. Five-course feast along with tastings of selected Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch whiskies. $123.99.

Journey through Scotland, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30. Learn about Scotch whisky with Russ Kempton, a spirits expert. $50.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Beer Dinner at Greenhouse Craft Food, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, January 31. This ultimate beer dinner will pair the boozy brews of Circle Brewing’s Devil’s Envy, Independence Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Convict Hill and more with a five-course feast. $101.

As always, remember to drink responsibly and know your limits.

Jake Maddux’s the Brewer’s Table coming to East Austin next year

Photo by Tyler Malone. Jake Maddux, pictured here at the Austin Beer Guide’s Best of 2015 awards ceremony, is opening a brewpub next summer in a Quonset hut-style building on East Fifth Street.
Photo by Tyler Malone. Jake Maddux, pictured here at the Austin Beer Guide’s Best of 2015 awards ceremony, is opening a brewpub next summer in a Quonset hut-style building on East Fifth Street.

UPDATE, JUNE 20: Jake Maddux and Ned Elliott, who had been slated to run the culinary program of Maddux’s brewpub, have parted ways. Keep an eye on this blog for updates about the Brewer’s Table, including who will take Elliott’s place.

EARLIER: For the second year running, the Austin360 staff has compiled a list of people you’ll want to keep an eye on next year — creative, inspiring locals with big plans for making the city better than ever.

The person I chose for this 2016 look-ahead, which you’ll find in print on Sunday, is Jake Maddux, a beloved figure in Austin’s beer scene who’s finally about to open a brewery of his own. I’ve included the text from Austin360’s “What creative Austinites plan to do in 2016” here, as well as some additional details to get you hyped for Maddux’s space (as if you weren’t already):

If he’s being honest, Jake Maddux isn’t too fond of the word “brewpub” — at least not when it comes to the project he’s been envisioning for years and is finally going to open this summer.

The Brewer’s Table, an upcoming restaurant and brewery at East Fifth Street and Springdale Road, is putting an equal focus on the food and the beer, something he hasn’t quite seen exist in Austin yet. He’ll be in charge of crafting the beer while Ned Elliott, owner of the top-rated North Loop restaurant Foreign & Domestic, heads up the culinary side (Elliott will remain a big part of his first restaurant). And each program will center on the use of wood: wood-fermented lagers made from American oak foeders and puncheons and wood-fired cuisine from an 8 1/2-foot fire pit grill.

Rendering by Kevin Stewart. The outside of the Brewer's Table, a restaurant-brewery to be located across the street from Justine's Brasserie.
Rendering by Kevin Stewart. The outside of the Brewer’s Table, a restaurant-brewery to be located across the street from Justine’s Brasserie.

“There’s nothing like wood. It adds so much character,” Maddux said. “There’s literal history because it’s carbon from the past. I think it adds a nice bit of life to food and beer.”

In addition to the half-dozen house beers on tap, the Brewer’s Table will have about 30 guest beers as well, including three — New Belgium Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Anchor Steam — that he plans to have available at all times because they are “the foundation of the beer world.”

Maddux would know. He started out his time in the beer industry at Anchor Brewing in California and also worked briefly at New Belgium Brewing in Colorado before coming down to Austin, where he brewed at Thirsty Planet and now heads up Salt and Time’s beverage program. Inspired by the hard work he grew up seeing his aunt Julie put into her Tulsa restaurant, he has long wanted a place of his own where people come together for a good time with food and drinks.

And since moving to Central Texas a few years ago, he’s known exactly where he’s wanted that place to be: somewhere in East Austin, the side of town where he lives and works and has found kinship in the likes of Josh Hare, owner of Hops & Grain; Jeff Young, co-owner of Blue Owl Brewing; and the three co-founders of Zilker Brewing.

Rendering by Kevin Stewart. The Brewer's Table will put an equal focus on food and beer.
Rendering by Kevin Stewart. The Brewer’s Table, at 4715 E. Fifth St. will put an equal focus on food and beer.

The Brewer’s Table will join their breweries as yet another beer-focused community hangout, albeit with about 140 tables inside and outside, plus a kid’s play area and other draws to encourage people to “stay and enjoy life,” he said. One of those is an actual brewer’s table on a mezzanine level overlooking the dining area. Maddux is teaming up with Kevin Stewart, an architect who’s designed other places in town like Dai Due and Emmer & Rye, to bring this vision to life.

Right now, though, the Quonset-style hut where the Brewer’s Table will be is still an empty shell. Maddux has got quite a bit of planning left to do — and some dreaming, too, about his deeply personal project.

“Almost every day I go to my empty space and just sit there in the middle of the floor and meditate a little bit,” he said. “Look at the floor plans and envision what it’s going to become.”

Drink.Well’s Jessica Sanders highlighted in Imbibe magazine

Jessica Sanders and her husband, Mike, are preparing to open their second bar in Austin in the spring.
Jessica Sanders is preparing to open her second bar in Austin in the spring with her husband, Mike.

In March, Jessica Sanders and her husband, Mike, will open their second bar in Austin — and their growing booze empire has caught the attention of a national magazine.

Imbibe, all about beer, wine and spirits and the people who love and drink them, has compiled “The Imbibe 75: People, places and flavors that will shape the way you drink in 2016.” The cover story includes Jessica Sanders, as well as fellow Austinite Bill Norris, a longtime figure in this city’s bar scene.

Sanders is one half of the husband-wife duo planning to open the two-story bar Backbeat on South Lamar Boulevard, the sister spot to the Sanders’ first bar, Drink.Well. The musically themed bar, which will have a 400 sq. ft. rooftop deck with lovely views of the downtown skyline, is located in an area of Austin that’s got plenty of dining options but far less places devoted specifically to enjoying a tipple or two. It’s no doubt going to be one of the big openings of 2016 thanks to the caliber of talent the Sanders are bringing to the project.

Here’s some of what Imbibe’s got to say about Sanders.

“After moving from the publishing industry in New York City to Austin in 2010 to open North Loop’s Drink.Well with her ‘partner in business and in life’ Michael, Sanders has worked tirelessly to elevate Austin’s drinks scene… She’s co-founded and helped curate events like the annual Texas Tiki Week. Her newest focus? Backbeat, a South Austin neighborhood bar conceived by the couple and named after the natural rhythm that emerges from a night at the bar.”

For the full story on Sanders — and the 74 other influences on our drinking habits next year — pick up an issue of Imbibe’s January / February issue or visit Imbibe’s website for a digital read.

Is AB InBev coming for Texas breweries?

With Anheuser-Busch’s announcement yesterday that it will acquire Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery — the seventh beer maker to join AB InBev’s ranks, along with Goose Island and others — craft beer lovers groaned, groused and then went about their day. But many of us in Texas have started to wonder.

Many breweries in Texas, like Jester King, aren't interested in selling to bigger companies like Anheuser-Busch. (It's also worth noting that brewpubs would have to get their licensing changed for such a purchase.)
Many breweries in Texas, like Jester King, aren’t interested in selling to bigger companies like Anheuser-Busch. (It’s also worth noting that brewpubs in this state would have to get their licensing changed for such a purchase.)

Is AB InBev coming for Texas breweries, too?

In a word: yes. If it can, that is. The real question is whether Texas breweries will let it.

The brewing conglomerate’s business strategy has become obvious of late, as Freetail Brewing founder Scott Metzger points out in this must-read blog post on Freetail’s website.

“ABI’s goal is to be everything to everyone,” he writes. “They know you are going to drink beer (and by you, I literally mean almost everyone on planet earth), and they want to do everything they can to make sure it’s their beer you’re buying. This is a cutthroat, aggressive business dominance game.”

That’s why AB InBev has made three acquisitions in the past week and why we shouldn’t be surprised when news breaks of another one. These buy-outs are going to keep happening because both AB InBev and the brewery it snags up are, in the end, businesses with bottom lines, expansion goals and shareholders to keep happy. Not all craft breweries are going to be bought because of these things — and the ones that do, Metzger writes, shouldn’t get the inevitable negative reaction from beer fans.

“It’s time to stop calling them sell-outs or traitors. They are people, people who did what was best for them,” he writes.

In his “Why More Sales are Coming” essay, Metzger — who’s an economics wizard in addition to being a stellar brewer with Freetail — analyzes which breweries are probably next on AB InBev’s hit list based on which ones the company has already snatched up, the brewing capacity of the ones remaining and whether those left haven’t already done another kind of deal like private equity. And two beloved Texas breweries are on this list of AB InBev targets: Real Ale Brewing and Saint Arnold Brewing.

“I know a lot of the founders of these brewers personally, and would be absolutely floored in shock if they were ever part of a deal,” Metzger notes — so chances are, Texas beer fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Still, their focus on staying local is exactly why AB InBev finds them so appealing. Real Ale Brewing, for example, has always made clear that Fireman’s #4, Hans Pils and the lineup of other beloved Real Ale beers are only ever going to be sold in Texas. And this focus on local isn’t unique to Real Ale. Many breweries, from Jester King to Live Oak and far beyond, primarily stick to the state or region where their beers are made, meaning they don’t need the aid of a much bigger beer company like AB InBev to expand, but their limited reach also makes them perfect for AB InBev — the chance to have its hands in the local scene of every state.

That’s the trend we’re going to see next year. Texas breweries might not be among the ones that join the AB InBev craft portfolio, but we’ll nonetheless “start hearing of more dominoes falling soon, and it shouldn’t shock you,” Metzger writes.

JuiceLand rated third best juice bar in the U.S.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. JuiceLand was recently rated one of the best juice bars in the U.S., and its cleanses can help you recalibrate in the new year.
Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. JuiceLand was recently rated one of the best juice bars in the U.S., and its cleanses can help you recalibrate in the new year.

With the new year approaching, we’re going to start thinking about ways to get healthy — and JuiceLand, which food and drink publication the Daily Meal recently rated as the third best juice bar in the U.S., is one of them.

The Daily Meal’s team of writers decided to evaluate some of the better-known juice shops in the country after noticing their rise. Since 2013, these shops offering people raw, unpasteurized juice without the added sugar of many store-bought juice brands like Tropicana have only become more popular because “proponents of juice cleansing believe that the process will rid your body of toxins, as well as promoting weight loss and improving health generally,” the Daily Meal drink editor Lindsey Gaterman writes.

“The juices these places serve up are bright, bracing and usually very tasty,” she adds.

To find the top 25 best in the U.S., the Daily Meal “first took a close look at 50 of the most well-known juice shops in the country and ranked them based on three categories: number of locations, menu variety and healthiest juice options,” she writes. “Then, we narrowed it down to 25.”

And JuiceLand is number three. Here’s what Gaterman and the Daily Meal have to say about our beloved hometown juice bar:

“Since it was founded in 2011, Juiceland has opened 15 locations across America (the original is in Austin). The menu consists of juices and smoothies with comical names, such as the Funky Meter, Valley Girl, Hot Pink and Cool It Now, as well as some all-natural food items. JuiceLand offers 27 juices total, which are all cold-pressed and made with locally grown organic ingredients. JuiceLand has three cleanses: the Rookie, Happy Medium and Green Reviver. Not only does it provide a plethora of delicious drinks, but it also has an Immune Booster Box, complete with a bottle of juice, a hot drink and a healthy shot.”

If you’ve never tried juice cleansing and wonder how consuming only bottles of liquid fruits and vegetables for a few days might go, read the Statesman’s Matthew Odam’s piece on his own experience with a JuiceLand cleanse. The liquid diet won’t be easy, but by the end, you’ll feel pretty good.

Flix Brewhouse creates “Star Wars” tribute beers

While you’re watching — for your first, fourth or seventh time — the newest “Star Wars” flick over the holidays, wouldn’t it be fun to have a “Star Wars”-themed beer in hand?

The Force is strong with the Flix Brewhouse beers this week, four of which are "Spaceballs"-themed in honor of the new "Star Wars" movie.
The Force is strong with the Flix Brewhouse beers this week, four of which are “Spaceballs”-themed in honor of the new “Star Wars” movie.

Yeah, that’s what the brewing team at Flix Brewhouse thought. The Round Rock movie theater and brewery now has three new beers on tap, as well as a cask, in honor of “the franchise that has meant so much to all of (the Flix team) as huge fans,” according to a publicist. Each of the three Flix Brewhouse locations are offering these beers as one-offs until they run out.

But the beers aren’t exactly “Star Wars”-related. Instead, their names have to do with “Spaceballs,” the 1987 comedy that is widely regarded as the best of the “Star Wars” parodies out there.

(This exchange is just one of the reasons why. Dark Helmet: “I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.” Lone Starr: “What’s that make us?” Dark Helmet: “Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.”)

This weekend, try one of these four options before they’re gone:

  • Dark Helmet Imperial Stout: A rich, full-bodied imperial stout. Quite a behemoth at 10.5% ABV.
  • Ludicrous Speed IPA: Dank, fruity and citrusy IPA brewed with Caliente hops. 7.2% ABV
  • Druish Wedding Farmhouse Ale: An American famhouse ale brewed with hibiscus and peach. 6.0% ABV
  • Cask: Mega Maid: Flix’s seasonal Kill Shot Scotch Ale with juniper and blackberries added. 9.2% ABV

These join the tap wall of Flix’s mainstay beers brewed by head brewer Justin Rizza. For more information, visit www.flixbrewhouse.com.

Make merry with holiday cocktails from around Austin

Icenhauer's You'll Shoot Your Eye Out is a holiday cocktail available this season.
Icenhauer’s You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out is a holiday cocktail available this season.

With only a few more days left until Christmas, we’ve still got plenty of time left to cozy up to holiday cocktails — from classics like spiked eggnog and hot chocolate to more original concoctions — while making merry with friends and family.

Austin bars and restaurants have exactly those kinds of drinks for the next week or two. Here’s a roundup of them to keep your spirits bright this holiday season, as well as a couple of recipes in case you’d prefer to make them at home.

Warm up with Contigo's Classic Hot Toddy in the days leading up to Christmas.
Warm up with Contigo’s Classic Hot Toddy in the days leading up to Christmas.

Contigo: This East Austin restaurant focused on ranch-style dining has a hot toddy menu that will keep you warm and toasty as you enjoy dinner inside Contigo’s outdoor tent. The menu includes a classic toddy for the traditionalists out there — made from lemon, honey and allspice and your choice of bourbon, rye or aged rum — but more adventurous drinkers can also seek out a cocktail called the Teacher’s Pet, with applejack brandy, apple cider and cinnamon.

East Side Showroom: Indulge in East Side Showroom’s special Holiday Toddy, which comes in a large mug and has El Dorado 5 Rum, lemon, cinnamon syrup, allspice dram, angostura and chocolate bitters, as well as a clove-studded orange zest garnish. It’s large enough to be the only cocktail you enjoy that night and tasty enough that you won’t mind.

Half Step: The seasonal drink at Half Step will remind you why ’tis the season for not counting calories. The Rainey Street cocktail bar is offering the Orchard Warmer, with Cognac, 100 proof apple brandy, maple syrup, unsalted butter and hot water for your yuletide merriment, not for your waistline.

Treat yourself to an Italian-style eggnog at Hotel Granduca Austin.
Treat yourself to an Italian-style eggnog at Hotel Granduca Austin.

Hotel Granduca Austin: You’ve probably already had plenty of eggnog by now, but have you enjoyed it Italian-style? That’s what you’ll get at the relatively new Hotel Granduca, off Loop 360, whose bar and restaurant are serving up two holiday drinks: the Zabaglione and Vin Brulé. The Zabaglione, made with egg yolks, sugar and fortified with Cynar, will renew your appreciation for eggnog’s cold sweet grip, while the Vin Brulé, served hot, will keep you warm. It’s an Italian spiced mulled wine made from Paolo Scavino Rosso, a blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto grapes. You can try both of these even on Christmas Eve and Christmas because Hotel Granduca’s Visconti Ristorante & Bar isn’t closing for the holidays.

Icenhauer’s: Only a few days after Thanksgiving, this Rainey Street bar goes full Clark Griswold with Christmas decorations galore. Even the trees in the front courtyard are decked out with colorful ornaments. And the cocktail menu, of course, is similarly festive. You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, with candy cane-infused chocolate vodka and Bailey’s Irish Cream, is a maddeningly easy sipper, as is Griswold’s Eggnog, spiked with spiced rum and Kahlua and topped with freshly grated nutmeg (recipe below). You’ll have to remind yourself both of them have lots of booze; otherwise, you’ll find yourself turning into the Grinch the next day.

Lustre Pearl: Among the cocktails at this newly resurrected bungalow bar is a trio of winter warmers. You can sip on the classic Hot Toddy, made with Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey, lemon and honey, or go for something a little more original, like the Far East Tea, an herbal blend of Grand Marnier, Luxardo Amaretto and Earl Grey Tea. Another option is the Spiced Apple Cider.

Punch Bowl Social: Holiday parties with lots of people can try drinks in large batches at this Domain entertainment space. Among them is Punch Bowl Social’s holiday punch: Grandma Got Run Over by a Punch Bowl. It’s a bittersweet treat of Averna Amaro, Old Forester Bourbon, apple and lemon juices, and cinnamon syrup. If you’d like it for at-home entertaining, the recipe is below.

The Broken Spoke is one of the Four Seasons' wild west-themed holiday drinks.
The Broken Spoke is one of the Four Seasons’ wild west-themed holiday drinks.

The Four Season’s Lobby Bar: Each year, the hotel has offered holiday cocktails that pair thematically with the large gingerbread village displayed in the lobby starting in November. This time around, the Four Seasons has gone a little country with a “Wild, Wild West” theme, and the drinks are no different. Through Dec. 31, try the likes of the Broken Spoke, featuring Ron Zapaca rum, brown sugar and lime juice, or the Rock & Rye with holiday spice-infused Rittenhouse Rye that’s accompanied only by a rock candy garnish. The rock candy will melt as you sip, imbuing the boozy treat with even more sweet flavor.

Griswold’s Eggnog

1 1/2 oz. spiced rum

3/4 oz. Kahlua

2.5 oz. eggnog

Add all ingredients into a shaker over fresh ice. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass. Top with freshly grated nutmeg.

— Icenhauer’s Stuart Thompson

Grandma Got Run Over by a Punch Bowl

6 parts Averna Amaro

2 parts Old Forester Bourbon

4 parts apple juice

1 part lemon juice

1 part cinnamon syrup (see below)

Use 1 oz. as your 1 part to yield a bowl that serves 4. Mix all of the ingredients and pour over ice. Serve in a large punch bowl and garnish with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry.

Cinnamon syrup

Boil 1 cup of water for each cinnamon stick for 1 hour. Add equal parts sugar to the cinnamon water to make the syrup.

— Punch Bowl Social

In Avery Ranch, the Rotten Bunch offers unpretentious wine experience

The owners of a restaurant and wine bar in the Avery Ranch area are on a mission to make wine more accessible.

The Rotten Bunch is a new wine bar in the Avery Ranch area that seeks to make wine a laid-back beverage.
The Rotten Bunch is a new wine bar in the Avery Ranch area that seeks to make wine a laid-back beverage.

That’s why they’ve named their eatery, which is officially opened for happy hour and dinner six days a week, the Rotten Bunch — to convey the idea that, at the end of the day, “wine shouldn’t be intimidating. It is, after all, just a bunch of rotten grapes,” co-owner Arik Skot Williams said in a press release.

Along with Alan Thomas, he’s opened the Rotten Bunch Wine Bar & Kitchen to serve residents in Avery Ranch and Cedar Park who don’t have as many restaurant options to choose from in their neighborhood, least of all ones offering “downtown dining experiences without the drive.” (The team behind the eatery is also in charge of Bartlett’s on West Anderson Lane.)

At the Rotten Bunch, the menu of small, shareable plates — crafted by Williams, who’s also the executive chef — was just as carefully put together as the wine and beer lists. Try them out at happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

“Wine can be intimidating,” Williams said in the press release. “Wine labels have lots of secrets that disguise whether or not you are going to like the wine. We arranged our list not by region or variety, but by style. In other words, we make it easy for you to find a wine you will like and communicate that in plain English.”

Plus, the Rotten Bunch pours about a dozen Texas brews on draft and offers a retail area in the front, called the Bodega, that sells bottles of wine for diners to take home with them.

The Rotten Bunch is open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays and 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 14900 Avery Ranch Blvd., Ste. B100. For more information, visit therottenbunch.com.

Hops & Grain bottles up barrel-aged PorterCulture

Finding Christmas gifts for beer lovers can be pretty easy if you know where to look — lots of local and national breweries alike are coming out with their best boozy brews, the dark porters and stouts that dominate this time of year.

But you’d also better hurry because they won’t stay on shelves long. That includes the likes of Hops & Grain’s newly released Bourbon Barrel-Aged PorterCulture, now in stores in limited quantities.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hops & Grain has just released its Bourbon Barrel-Aged PorterCulture on draft and in bottles.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hops & Grain has just released its Bourbon Barrel-Aged PorterCulture on draft and in bottles.

The 9.6 ABV brew is only the first beer to come out in Hops & Grain’s new bottled series, Volumes of Oak, which showcases the brewery’s barrel program. The sour beer-focused Volumes of Funk is another upcoming series of beers that will be released in bottles.

“Our decision to release the Bourbon Barrel Porter first was mainly due to those barrels being ready first,” Hops & Grain founder Josh Hare said. “My favorite thing about barrel aging is that you don’t get to decide when the barrels are ready; they tell you when they’re ready. And this one just so happened to be ready first.”

It’s essentially Hops & Grain’s Baltic Porter dialed up a notch. According to the brewery’s tasting notes, the beer was aged in “freshly emptied bourbon barrels for 4 months and artfully blended to deliver a beer with rich aromas of vanilla, coconut, dark chocolate and toffee, and a flavor that follows the aromas with a touch of alcohol heat and a pleasingly smooth finish.” It won’t overwhelm you with booziness — the Bourbon Barrel-Aged PorterCulture is a well-balanced delight.

Other Volumes of Oak brews to look out for in the coming months include the Oak and Alt, aged half in bourbon barrels and half in red wine barrels, and the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Alteration.

They’ll be on draft in the Hops & Grain taproom off and on in addition to being in bottles. Enjoy them with a burger from Kick Drum Burgers — a trailer stationed at Hops & Grain Thursdays through Sundays — and you’ll find your new favorite pairing. Kick Drum Burgers is a food truck from the owners of Hi Hat Public House, a beer bar down the street from the brewery.

Other beers to look out for this holiday season:

  • Last Stand’s Coffee Porter: This disarming robust brew features cold-brew coffee from local roaster Summer Moon Coffee, and it was bottled, along with Last Stand’s other mainstay, the Belgian Pale Ale, just in time to be stuffed in your stocking.
  • Real Ale’s Ghost Eye Oatmeal Stout: The Blanco brewery’s latest boozy collaboration with the band the Sword draws you in with compelling bottle art and aromas of roasted grain, chocolate and coffee.
  • Strange Land’s Dewi Sant: Straddling the line between mead and beer, the Braggot style that Strange Land is emulating is full of honey sweetness and vivid hoppiness anchored by a malty backbone.
  • Adelbert’s Sundowner: Brewed with champagne yeast, this crisp, effervescent beer is a solid alternative to toasting the new year with a glass of bubbly. It’s got the body and the mouthfeel of a sparkling wine while still maintaining its craft beer soul.

Two new flavors of Austin Cocktails launch as ready-to-drink options

Two new flavors join the Austin Cocktails' lineup of ready-to-drink beverages.
Two new flavors join the Austin Cocktails’ lineup of ready-to-drink beverages.

The line of ready-to-drink cocktails that two sisters launched a couple of years ago is getting a couple of new flavors, just in time for holiday entertaining.

Bergamot Orange Margarita and Fred’s Ruby Red Cocktail are joining the three other bottled cocktails of Tea Twister, Paradise Found and Cucumber Vodka Mojito. Each of these were developed by Jill Burns and Kelly Gasink after a family vacation with disastrous drink options inspired them to get into the beverage business.

“Leveraging our beverage development experience and long-lived family cocktail tradition, we saw an opportunity to develop drinks that tempt the palate with complex ingredients rather than heavy sugars and neon colors,” Burns said in a press release.

The two new Austin Cocktails flavors stay true to Burns and Gasink’s philosophy of creating authentic booze options that aren’t overwhelmingly sweet, according to the press release.

One of them, the Bergamot Orange Margarita, isn’t quite the same as the others. The drink has branched out from the Austin Cocktails tradition of using vodka as the base spirit — because a margarita, of course, can only have tequila. (A fact that Burns and Gasink seem to have concluded as well, as they’ve discontinued the Vodkarita, one of the original Austin Cocktails flavors.)

Although the tequila is a plus, the ingredient that makes the drink is the bergamot orange, according to the press release: a winter-grown Italian orange that “is more sour than sweet,” providing “slightly more complex accents to the orange notes inherent to the classic margarita, while the brighter citrus and lower sugar produce a cleaner, smoother finish.”

The Bergamot Orange Margarita also features lime juice, agave nectar and a triple sec that Burns and Gasink created themselves.

The other addition to the Austin Cocktails lineup is Fred’s Ruby Red Cocktail, a boozy homage to the sisters’ Grandpa Fred. He was integral in establishing their family’s “cocktail time” every summer evening at 5:30 p.m., according to the press release.

“Kids got Shirley Temples and adults got something a little stiffer,” the two sisters recalled.

Fred’s Ruby Red Cocktail is a mixture of vodka, grapefruit juice, lime juice, mint and agave nectar — ingredients that show off their grandfather’s “appreciation for the bounties of the land,” according to the press release.

Each bottle is going for about $15 on retail shelves. For more information, visit www.austincocktails.com.