The chance for wine lovers to get their hands on hard-to-find bottles of reds, whites and bubbly wines returns on April 30, when the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas hosts the 31st Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction.
At the JW Marriott this year, the event — one of the largest auctions of its kind in the U.S. — “will draw more than 350 wine connoisseurs eager to bid on exclusive lots of rare and fine wines,” according to a press release. It’s an important fundraiser of the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, a nonprofit that turns its passion for good food and drink into a springboard improving the health and well-being of the surrounding community with culinary-related benefits.
Before the auction that starts at 5:30 p.m. on April 30, the foundation is also hosting a couple of other wine-friendly events, including a sold-out kick-off party at Franklin Barbecue on April 28. The other event is a winemaker’s luncheon at Olive & June on April 29, featuring California winemaker Robin Lail and some of her favorite wines from Lail Vineyards. Tickets for the lunch are $80 to $100.
The main event, of course, is the Rare & Fine Wine Auction, with proceeds this year benefiting the local organization Urban Roots. As with past years, the auction is offering lots of desirable wines and related items.
“Live auction lots include exceptionally rare and collectible wines,” among the most coveted of prizes “a duo of rare and extraordinary jeroboams from Lail Vineyards, two bottles of 2013 Harlan Estate and a five-night stay at Brownstreet Cottage in Healdsburg, California,” according to the press release. “In addition, a silent auction will feature lots including collectible wines, winery tours, private wine dinners and more.”
Tickets for the electrifying evening, which includes a four-course dinner, are available now. Individual tickets are $275; tables start at $2,500.
The latest is Lash, a Dallas-based delivery service that will bring customers food from local restaurants and alcohol from local stores in one order. (Customers will pay a $5 delivery fee no matter what, as well as an extra $2 for each additional stop per order.)
With so many of these companies jostling for your business — and lots of questions about whether there’s enough of a demand for them in the first place — it’s only a matter of time before there’s a tipping point. For now, though, on-demand alcohol service seems to be lucrative.
BrewDrop, for instance, has just been acquired by delivery.com for an undisclosed sum.
According to the acquisition announcement, “former BrewDrop users already accustomed to ordering alcohol on-demand with their phones will enjoy an easy transition to delivery.com, where they can order in much the same way from delivery.com’s website” and app. Plus, they’ll be able to order from restaurants, grocery stores and dry cleaners.
The founder of one of Instacart’s competitors, Favor, said during the SXSW panel that he truly believes “the on-demand economy is going to be a key ingredient for cities as we scale and for globalization as a whole.”
UPDATE 4/13: The Austin location of Employees Only is going to be downtown, although the exact address won’t be announced until later this fall. One of the partners of the original New York bar, Jason Kosmas, is going to have some help in getting the Austin spot up and running: Austin-based private equity company Penumbral Strategic Ventures LLC, which owns and manages the Townsend, one of the city’s best bars, is stepping in to spearhead the project.
That’s a pretty good sign that Employees Only will be just as solid here as it is in New York. Among the people involved in Penumbral and the Townsend is Justin Elliott, a bartender who has helped transform Austin into the sort of place that Employees Only would want to expand to.
“We’re bringing together an experienced team to keep up the tradition and spirit of Employees Only, but the Austin location will very much have its own unique vibe to reflect the city,” Kosmas said in a news release. “We hope that those who have experienced EO in Manhattan will enjoy the Austin location as much as the original, and also are looking forward to introducing the brand, bar and experience to an entirely new audience.”
EARLIER: One venerated New York City cocktail bar is going global with upcoming locations this year — and Austin is lucky enough to be one of the cities where it’s headed.
As the New York Times reported today, Employees Only is planning to open in Austin, Singapore and Miami Beach by year’s end. Fans of the original location in the West Village will recognize these outlying bars as part of the brand, according to Times reporter Robert O. Simonson, because they’ll preserve the soul of the New York spot.
“Each will be called Employees Only and reflect the character and design of the original, which is known for its Art Deco décor, undulating bar and white-jacketed bartenders,” Simonson wrote in the article.
Austin’s Employees Only is owned by one of the five partners of the New York bar, and he’s a face that cocktail fans in this city know well: Jason Kosmas. A co-founder of the 86 Co., a spirits producer that hails itself as a business “by bartenders for bartenders,” he’s a current Austin resident who has done guest bartending spots at various local bars and serves as a foremost cocktail expert and educator here.
His Employees Only will open later this fall at a not-yet-determined location, according to the New York Times.
Expect Employees Only traditions, like the “homemade chicken soup dished out free to lingering patrons at closing time,” to continue at the Austin bar.
“The bar is going to be shaped the same, function the same,” Kosmas said in the article. “It’s kind of a machine. It’s a proven animal. Messing with it is not in anybody’s interest. And the energy it creates is very important.”
Check back at this blog for more updates about Employees Only later this week.
Although Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse remains a small neighborhood brewpub, it’s grown a lot in the 10 years since entrepreneur Rick Engel founded it on Barton Springs Road.
So much so that cans of the Lazy Day Lager are going to be in 130 HEB locations statewide. The crisp golden brew is one of Uncle Billy’s most popular, Engel says. The brewpub launched it, along with the Barton Springs Pale Ale and the previously canned Green Room IPA, in cans last summer following a redesign that updated the brand.
Now, Uncle Billy’s is celebrating a new milestone: 10 years of being opened, making it “one of the oldest brewpubs in the state,” Engel says.
The beer-and-barbecue spot is celebrating with a variety of events starting on April 16, when the 10th anniversary festivities kick off with a “Crafternoon Crawfish Boil.” There will also be a Barton Springs Full Moon Swim on April 22 and a Puppy Porter Palooza on April 23.
“Now you can go to Whole Foods or HEB or Randall’s, Twin Liquors and Spec’s, to get Uncle Billy’s,” Engel says. “It has expanded our reach and ability to get more people drinking our beer. Distribution has been the main key for growth.”
Of course, the Barton Springs brewpub, with multiple bars, outdoor patio seating and a large outdoor music stage decked out with a colorful illustration of Uncle Billy himself (the venerated Austin resident William Barton, whose love of Barton Springs in the 1800s got the watering hole named after him), remains the heart of the brand, something Engel wouldn’t change. He wants it to continue as the “one-off, iconic neighborhood brewery that it was really designed to be,” he says.
The brewpub will be the only place where locals can try Uncle Billy’s special 10th anniversary beer during the two weeks of festivities. It’s a 9 percent ABV double IPA made with 10 different kinds of hops. Head brewer Trevor Nearburg decided to make such a robust hoppy beer because Uncle Billy’s customers tend to gravitate toward big IPAs, according to a press release.
Here’s the full list of anniversary events that start April 16 and run through April 23.
Brunch of Firkins, 12, 2 and 4 p.m. April 17. Specialty beers galore at this firkin tapping, which will be serenaded with live music from Daniel Eyes & the Vibes as part of the KUTX Live Music Series.
Fresh Can Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 18. Start your week with a new experience and help can the Greem Room IPA. You’ll have the chance to purchase brand-new six-packs at a good price.
Anniversary Pint Night, April 19. Pint prices are rolling back to what they were in 2006, the year Uncle Billy’s opened — $2.50. They’ll be at this steal of a cost every Tuesday until May 10.
We Smoke the Good Stuff, 11 a.m. to close April 20. Uncle Billy’s sly 4/20 joke is this deal on 10 percent off all smoked meats.
Honky Tonk Happy Hour, 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 21. Uncle Billy’s Thursday evening live music happy hours are kicking off for the season with specials on pints of beer.
Barton Springs Full Moon Swim, sundown April 22. Meet at the brewpub for a bit of pre-gaming and return again after the swim to relax with specials on Barton Springs Pale Ale.
Puppy Porter Palooza, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 23. Bring your dog to the patio and you’ll receive a four-pack of Gypsy Dubbel Coffee Porter. You can also take advantage of brunch specials on Bloody Marys and mimosas.
You don’t really need a fake national holiday to enjoy a good beer, but local bars and restaurants are taking advantage of the excuse and offering specials today, which has been designated as National Beer Day.
For what it’s worth, National Beer Day is not as arbitrary as some of the other dubious national holidays out there: April 7 is the day the sale of beer became legal again in the U.S. in 1933, several months before the official repeal of Prohibition.
Cool, huh? Toast to American history at one of these places recognizing National Beer Day. (You could’ve also started celebrating yesterday, which is apparently considered New Beer’s Eve. These holiday things can’t go overboard enough, really.)
Black Sheep Lodge, 2108 S. Lamar Blvd. It’s hard to think of a better beer to enjoy on this day than (512) Brewing’s SMaSH (which means it’s been brewed with a single malt and hops, in this case Cashmere hops). Buy the beer and keep the glass.
Crown and Anchor Pub, 2911 San Jacinto Blvd. Uncle Billy’s (which is just about to start celebrating a big day of their own) will be at the campus-area bar pouring Lazy Day Lager at post-Prohibition prices from 7 until 7:33 p.m.
Growler USA, 609 W. 29th St. This fairly new beer bar in the campus area is going all out for National Beer Day, with an all-day happy hour that includes 10 percent off growler fills, $2 off all Texas beers, $3 off kombucha and a free plastic growler per person.
Hat Creek Burgers, 5902 Bee Cave Rd. and 5400 Burnet Rd. All locations of this burger joint (including two additional ones in Round Rock and Georgetown) are offering $1 beer throughout the day, which is also when the restaurant is launching Strange Land Brewery’s newest beer, a pilsner called the Austinite.
Haymaker, 2310 Manor Rd. Stop in for a pint night from 7 to 9 p.m. with Hops & Grain, which will have A Pale Mosaic and the Dispensary IPA on tap.
Independence Brewing, 3913 Todd Ln. Ste. 607. Anyone can stop in for a pint of Bootlegger Brown Ale infused with Third Coast Coffee, but teachers have it especially lucky — Independence is letting them show their school ID for $3 beers.
Jack & Ginger’s Irish Pub, 11500 Rock Rose Ave. The new beer bar at the Domain, with more than 80 beers on tap, is offering a deal hard to pass up: $7 beer flights from 3 to 7 p.m. and $4 specials on Texas brews from 7 p.m. to close.
North by Northwest, 10010 Capital of Texas Hwy. N. One of Austin’s oldest brewpubs is celebrating with a playful beer: Framboyz in the Hood, a raspberry lambic, is being tapped just for the occasion.
Red Horn Coffee House & Brewing, 13010 W. Parmer Ln. Ste. 800, Cedar Park. Although Red Horn wants to make clear every day is a good one for beer, the brewpub will play along and offer beers from Deep Ellum Brewing starting at 7:30 p.m., when a brewery rep will have swag to give away.
Trace at the W, 200 Lavaca St. The hotel restaurant is hoping to draw in locals and tourists alike with $4 Circle Brewing beers, like the Hop Overboard Session IPA.
This is just a starting list; keep an eye on it throughout the day for additional bars and restaurants wanting to toast to our beer-drinking independence.
Although people can order the traditional lattes and espressos at the new Fleet Coffee on Webberville Road, many of the coffee shop’s early regulars are venturing into something most cafes don’t offer: drinks where coffee is one ingredient of several.
Co-founders Lorenzo Perkins and Patrick Pierce have created this original menu — which they call “Coffee And…” —as a way to explore coffee’s full potential, something they both find important in a time when coffee shops are prolific and found at nearly every street corner. The menu is at the heart of their philosophy to continually innovate and shift the boundaries that have defined what coffee can be.
“A lot of the inspiration for these drinks comes from the restaurant world, the food world, the larger beverage world,” Perkins says. “Coffee is a fantastic beverage in its own right, but it’s so incredibly complex and dynamic that we should utilize it in these ways that showcase the uniqueness of coffee as an ingredient.”
He and Pierce, who worked as baristas at Caffe Medici and other coffee companies in Austin before deciding to team up for their own space, developed the four-drink “Coffee And…” menu to play with different flavor profiles.
“We had this challenge of looking at them more as cocktails than as espresso drinks,” Perkins says, noting they use much of the same kinds of ingredients that bartenders do: bitters, citrus and botanicals like chicory root.
The “Coffee And…” drinks include the E.T., made with espresso, lime simple syrup and tonic water, and the Morning Ritual, which comes with a glass of doughnut-infused milk, a chaser of espresso and a doughnut hole. Pierce’s personal favorite is the Flip-Top with espresso, root beer spices, chicory root and nitro, and as an intricate, layered delight, it exemplifies the sort of experimental coffee program they’re seeking.
So far they’ve been incredibly popular with Fleet’s customers, but the coffee shop also excels at the more traditional offerings. Espresso, lattes, iced coffee and drip coffee are all on the menu.
At the moment, the coffee is made using a rotating trio of roasters, with Madcap Coffee Company from Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Fleet’s anchor. The others, which are being brought in for three-month increments, are local roaster Wild Gift and Washington state’s Olympia Coffee Roasting. They’ll change out in the future for other roasters that Perkins and Pierce love.
“We initially cupped through 50 roasters from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada,” Perkins says. “Based on the double-blind cuppings, we picked the ones we thought tasted the best. Beyond that, we also considered whether they had a consistent roasting aesthetic, used ethical practices in sourcing their beans” and were able to connect on a personal level.
Visitors to Fleet Coffee can either order a cup of joe to enjoy in the coffee shop’s cozy 10-seat space or purchase a bag of coffee to go. In the coming months, Pierce and Perkins also hope to offer a subscription coffee service for Austinites.
Fleet Coffee is located at 2427 Webberville Rd., across the street from the new Dog & Duck Pub, and opened from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.fleetcoffee.com.
That’s only increasing with the launch of a patio whiskey bar this week that will offer visitors an even more curated selection of the dark aged spirit: everything from Old Potrero, a rye whiskey from Anchor Distilling, to Four Roses Small Batch 2014, a hard-to-find bourbon from the pre-Prohibition distillery Four Roses.
On Wednesday starting at 4:30 p.m., Easy Tiger is offering food and drink specials to celebrate, including $3 Manhattans and Old Fashioneds and a $12 bourbon flight.
The new menu includes a “shot board,” with a list of whiskeys ranging from $3 to $8, that people can order for quicker sipping. The whiskeys on it feature the likes of Elijah Craig 12 Year and Rittenhouse Rye, and although they’re all good options, whiskey lovers will want to spend more time perusing the rest of the menu, divided into bourbon, rye, Irish, Japanese, Texas, Scotch and outlying whiskey categories. It’s got something for every type of drinker — maybe even those who don’t fancy themselves whiskey fans.
Uncle Billy’s First Friday Firkin, 5 p.m. Friday, April 1. Try this limited beer, a special 10-year anniversary double IPA made with 10 different hops, as well as pineapple, cantaloupe, and tangerines, while you can.
Brew Hop in Downtown San Marcos, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 1. A boozy new addition to San Marcos’ popular Swing on the Square event, it’ll have beers from San Marcos and Hill Country breweries, including the Root Cellar Café and Brewery.
Yoga in the Yard at Parlor & Yard, 10 a.m. Saturday, April 2. The $13.65 tickets include two mimosas, and once you finish up your relaxing hour-long session, you can get started on brunch.
The Bruery Beer Dinner at Hopfields, 7:30 to 10:30 Monday, April 4. A 4-course meal and 5 Bruery beers, including the collaboration with Jester King, the Imperial Cabinet, based off the Ramos Gin Fizz cocktail. $80.
The Bruery Launch Party at the Flying Saucer, 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 5. Welcome the Bruery to Texas with this launch party that will have some of its beers tapped and bottled and Bruery reps available for a meet-and-greet.
National Beer Day at Growler USA, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, April 7. An all-day happy hour that includes 10 percent off growler fills, $2 off all Texas beers, $3 off kombucha and a free plastic growler per person.
Single Barrel Series Release 2 at Revolution Spirits, 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9. The second barrel-aged gin at Revolution is being released after having aged for just over 11 months in a barrel that formerly housed Jester King’s RU-55 Farmhouse Red Ale. In other words, it’s going to be very good.
The Onezie at Zilker Brewing, 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 9. Zilker’s one-year anniversary is being celebrated with a special SMaSH beer, food from Veracruz All-Natural, ice cream, music and more.
90s Bar Crawl, 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 9. Relive the 90s glory days at this bar crawl through downtown spots, starting with Parlor & Yard, with each bar playing 90s music favorites. $20 and up.
Real Ale’s 20th Anniversary Party, 12 p.m. Saturday, April 16. A party you won’t forget with a bunch of specialty and year-round beers to choose from, as well as live music, food vendors and nostalgic memory-swapping.
Beers & Best Friends at Independence Brewing, 1 p.m. Saturday, April 16. A day of events for dogs and their humans, with activities including a doggy kissing booth and cake walk. And beer, of course. It’s all to benefit Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Dog Alliance.
Brunch of Firkins at Uncle Billy’s, 10 a.m. Sunday, April 17. Celebrate Uncle Billy’s decade of brewing with a variety of different firkins and live music, as well as all-day brunch.
Austin Food & Wine Festival, 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 22 to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24. A weekend-long celebration of food, wine and spirits with the usual tasting panels and evening events.
Real Ale’s Pre-Levitation Fest, 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 22. The Brew & Brew is getting you psyched for the music festival by offering a handful of beers from this year’s fest sponsor, Real Ale, including the funky Lux Aeterna.
Oskar Blues’ Burning Can Festival, 10 a.m. Saturday, April 23. In advance of Oskar Blues’ new Austin brewery opening, celebrate canned beer, music and sports with the Colorado brewers. $35-$70.
Bruichladdich Scotch Experience, 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 26. Find out why terroir matters so much with Scotch whisky at this tasting, which will also have blues music and light bites. The event is at Tellers on Trinity. $55.
Taste of Mexico at Brazos Hall, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 27. Mexic-Arte Museum’s festival of Mexican cuisine and beverages from more than 30 of Austin’s most eclectic restaurants, food trucks and drink purveyors of tequila, mescal, wine, beers and other beverages.
St. Genevieve’s Grand Opening, 8 p.m. Thursday, April 28. The Domain’s new wine lounge in the Rock Rose entertainment district is officially opening with happy hour prices all night and DJ sets.
Pinthouse Pizza’s Jaguar Shark Bottle Release, 10 a.m. Saturday, April 30. Consider this your warning: People will likely be camped out to get their hands on a bottle of Jaguar Shark Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout, so head to the brewpub early. The bottles go on sale at 11 a.m., but the doors open an hour before that.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen Cookbook Signing at Treaty Oak Distilling, 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 30. Jack Allen’s Kitchen’s executive chef and owner Jack Gilmore is signing copies of his first cookbook, “Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas.” Sip on Treaty Oak cocktails while you wait in line for his signature.
31st Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30. The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas’ charity event features a four-course dinner followed by a spirited live auction offering irresistible reds, whites and bubbly wines.