SXSW 2016: Interactive brings back focus on beer, spirits

As more South by Southwest Interactive panels are revealed for this year’s festival, one stands out for the beer and spirits lovers out there: a SouthBites panel called “Drinking Wisely in the Craft Beer and Whiskey Boom.”

Panelists Tom Thornton of CultureMap, Michael Graham of Austin Beerworks, Jason Kosmas of the 86 Co. and Emma Janzen of Imbibe magazine are discussing an important topic for people who buy lots of small-batch brews and bourbon: When is exclusivity worth paying for, and how can you enjoy these drinks on a limited budget? That’s an issue as demand for both drives the price of these items upward, almost beyond affordability.

At a beer and whiskey-focused SXSW panel, Austin Beerworks brews will serve as an example of something well-made but still affordable, an increasing rarity in this high-demand market.

Photo by Emma Janzen. At a beer and whiskey-focused SXSW panel, Austin Beerworks brews will serve as an example of something well-made but still affordable, an increasing rarity in this high-demand market.

It’s the second panel in two years to explore facets of drinking culture. Last year, a group of bloggers and a local brewer discussed craft beer culture specifically and whether it’s too closed off to outsiders.

Thornton helped to put together this year’s panel — which will take place March 14 at the Driskill Hotel — because he saw it as an “industry hot button” topic worth exploring.

With bottles of Pappy trading at four-digit prices and some new beer bombers topping $30, the ‘craft’ market is in uncharted waters,” he said. “We thought it relevant to discuss what a smart beer or sprit enthusiast can do to choose well-made products at reasonable pricing. We’ll also discuss what may be worth a special occasion splurge.”

He said he thought Graham and Kosmas (whose company, the 86 Co., produces spirits like Ford’s Gin and Caña Brava Rum) were both good fits because “each have tried to walk a line between quality product and bar-friendly price points with their respective offerings.” Janzen, formerly of the American-Statesman, can offer a perspective on both the Austin and national markets.

The session is in conjunction with another Austin Food & Wine Alliance-curated panel, “Changing Times: Restaurant Survival in Real Time.” More than 9 panels total are involved in the SouthBites Interactive portion of SXSW.

SXSW Interactive runs from March 11-15.


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