77 Degrees, a rooftop rum bar, opens at Domain’s Rock Rose

The Rock Rose entertainment district at the Domain offers a little something for everyone — a sophisticated wine lounge in Saint Genevieve, a casual Irish pub in Jack & Ginger’s and, starting today, a rooftop bar for fans of exotic tropical drinks.

77 Degrees Rooftop is a new bar that offers fun rum drinks that bring the tropics to Austin.
77 Degrees Rooftop is a new bar that offers fun rum drinks that bring the tropics to Austin.

77 Degrees Rooftop opens this afternoon as the third of four original bar concepts from the Union Venture Group, one of the development companies transforming the Domain into such a North Austin hot spot.

“With cocktails designed specifically to make guests feel like they’re on vacation, 77 Degrees is the perfect addition to Rock Rose,” Jeff Van Delden, co-owner of Union Venture Group, said in a press release. “Partying on the roof will be a must for everyone who stops by Rock Rose — the sunsets are a great way to end any day.”

So are the cocktails, which 77 Degrees’ Ryan Baird designed to make visitors feel like they can enjoy tropical fun all year round (and not just at Texas Tiki Week). The drinks include El Niño, with Myers’s Dark Rum, Bacardi Oakheart, lime and ginger beer and the Norman’s Cay with Bacardi Cocnut, Bacardi Mango Fusion, coconut water and lime.

The bar also pays homage to some of the tasty tropical classics, like the Singapore Sling with Bombay East Gin, cherry heering, Bénédictine, pineapple and lime juices, and soda.

Although the drinks are quite boozy, the bar offers bites that will keep you feeling fine. Try the fresh ceviche with lime juice, red onions, avocado and diced sweet plantains served with a spiced wonton chip or the Chickpea Lettuce Wraps with ancho spice mix, lime crema, pickled onions and jalapeño.

And if you stop by from 3 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, you’re just in time for happy hour. According to the press release, happy hour includes $5 appetizers, $5 wells and $4 Mexican beers. 77 Degrees also has a Party on the Roof event on Sundays from 3 to 8 p.m. And don’t worry about the rain, either: There are both covered areas and open-top spots on the rooftop bar.

The bar is opened daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is located at 11500 Rock Rose Ave. (The entrance is located between Jack & Ginger’s and Saint Genevieve.) For more information, visit 77-degrees.com.

Make your Austin summer plans with these boozy choices

Photo by Tom McCarthy for American-Statesman. Visit Austin Beerworks this summer as part of a North Austin brewery crawl.
Photo by Tom McCarthy for American-Statesman. Visit Austin Beerworks this summer as part of a North Austin brewery crawl.

With Memorial Day weekend almost here, it’s time to start making your summer plans — and the Austin360 staff wants to help. We’ve put together a guide of ideas for a summer of adventure in Central Texas that we’re calling Camp Austin360, with everything from day trips to live music included.

Here’s my contribution — five things you can do at local bars, breweries and wineries throughout the summertime. Happy imbibing!

Explore North Austin’s booming brewery scene. Although local breweries are turning into neighborhood haunts all over town, one area in particular could make for a fun afternoon brewery crawl. Start at Austin Beerworks, off U.S. 183 and MoPac Boulevard, then make your way to Adelbert’s Brewery, 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative, Circle Brewing and the soon-to-open Oskar Blues, all within a couple minutes’ drive — or bike ride — from each other.

Take a day trip to a few Hill Country wineries. Although any time spent outside might not sound ideal in a hot Texas summer, making the drive to picturesque Fredericksburg and the wineries along U.S. 290 is well worth it. The grapes are at their fullest in the summertime, and the wineries — such as Pedernales Cellars, Becker Vineyards and William Chris Vineyards — are happy to pour several tastes of their best varietals. And did we mention that it’s rosé season? To plan your road trip, visit texaswinetrail.com.

Photo by Jay Janner / American-Statesman. Escape the summer heat at one of Austin's hidden-away speakeasies, like Firehouse Lounge.
Photo by Jay Janner / American-Statesman. Escape the summer heat at one of Austin’s hidden-away speakeasies, like Firehouse Lounge.

Sneak into one of Austin’s cozy speakeasies. The idea of the speakeasy has changed a little over the years — since we no longer have to hide alcohol consumption — but the obvious allure of such a hidden haunt has endured and turned places like downtown’s Firehouse Lounge into a darkened getaway. Austin’s newest speakeasy, the Milonga Room, is beneath the Buenos Aires Café and combines cocktails with tango music and dancing. To visit, find the current passcode on the Milonga Room’s Facebook page.

Enjoy a rare pour with the Townsend’s Break-Even Bottle Night. Tasting hard-to-get and expensive spirits isn’t something we can do every day, but Congress Avenue bar the Townsend has a solution: the Break-Even Bottle Night, styled after a tradition from Houston’s Anvil. Every Sunday, the bar pours 1 oz. of something rare and good, like Del Maguey Iberico Mezcal or the Balvenie Portwood 21 Year Single Malt Scotch, for a marked-down price. To find out what the latest special bottle will be, follow the Townsend on Instagram.

Don’t forget old neighborhood standbys for a pint or two. Exciting new bars are opening up practically every week in Austin, but some of the best ones remain the places we’ve always loved. Turn to the Draught House for a funky brew from some of the country’s most renowned beer makers or to the Little Longhorn Saloon for the Sunday afternoon tradition of chicken bingo. Or pair a glass of wine with some spicy Indian food at the Whip In.

If you visit any of these places, use #CampAustin360 with any of your social media posts to share the fun.

Real Ale Brewing extends summer taproom hours

Real Ale recently celebrated 20 years in business. Throughout the summer, the brewery is offering extended taproom hours.
Real Ale recently celebrated 20 years in business. Throughout the summer, the brewery is offering extended taproom hours.

Starting on June 4, Real Ale Brewing will prove to be a fun drinking destination in Blanco with extended taproom hours for summertime.

The brewery will be opened from 12 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 12 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

And once there, day drinkers have lots of beer options.

You can build your own flight to try several of Real Ale’s 14 beers on top, or if you’ve brought friends, you can “share one of the six beers available in 22 oz. bombers,” according to a release. “Eight taps of year-round favorites and six rotating special taps means fans are likely to stumble upon a rare barrel-aged Mysterium Verum or your first taste of the salty summer seasonal, Gose.”

Plus, Real Ale specializes in cask-conditioned beers and tends to have at least one in the cask engine on weekends, offering fun beers like the Real Ale White with grapefruit or an Ancho Chili Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery recommends bringing your lunch to make a day of it. Or, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, enjoy barbecue from a Blanco food truck, Old 300.

To view the latest beer list at Real Ale ahead of time, visit realalebrewing.com/brewery/tap-room-tours/.

Downtown bar Small Victory adds wine-filled happy hour

Contributed by Small Victory. This tiny bar on Seventh Street, off Congress Avenue, is introducing happy hour soon.
Contributed by Small Victory. This tiny bar on Seventh Street, off Congress Avenue, is introducing happy hour soon.

Austinites are serious about our happy hour deals — and we’ve got another one to try out starting on Tuesday.

The downtown bar Small Victory, which has been making its mark on the local bar scene with a curated list of classic cocktails, is launching happy hour that will run 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Happy hour will feature half-priced fortified wines — sherry, madeira and port — as well as sparkling and rosé wines by the glass and by the bottle. It’s an opportunity to try some off-the-beaten-path wines that don’t always make traditional wine lists.

“The wine program at Small Victory is small, but thoughtful, and focused on quality above all else,” according to a news release. “All of the wines are ‘natural,’ small production, authentic examples of their particular regions from producers considered to be best-in-class by journalists, merchants, sommeliers, and other members of the wine trade.”

While you’re there, you’ll probably be lured into try Small Victory’s cocktails as well, in particular the martinis that you can order based on your exact specifications with the help of a flowchart on the menu. Longtime Austin bartender Josh Loving opened Small Victory as a way to shine renewed light on lesser-known classic drinks like the Artists’ Special, with Scotch whisky, sherry, grenadine and lemon juice.

The tiny 800 sq. ft. bar is located at 108 E. Seventh St. For more information, visit facebook.com/smallvictorybar/.

Juice Society bought farm to make ingredients for juices

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Soon, Juice Society juices like this Root Down will be made from fruits and vegetables grown at the juice company's nearby farm.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Soon, Juice Society juices like this Root Down will be made from fruits and vegetables grown at the juice company’s nearby farm.

A local cold-press juice brand isn’t simply content to source the ingredients for each of the juices from organic farms around the country.

Juice Society, which founder Danielle Sobel took to the next level last month by opening a brick-and-mortar store, recently announced that it had purchased a farm east of Austin for the express purpose of growing its own ingredients, the fruits and vegetables that go into each of the 14 juices.

Twenty-five “minutes east of the city we will begin planting and growing our own organic vegetables and fruits, using them in our juices, and composting back at the farm,” according to a Facebook post Juice Society shared last week. “We have a lot of work to do but we are so excited for what the future holds. The possibilities are endless and we can’t wait to share this new part of our business with the community.”

With the farm, Sobel’s Juice Society is again demonstrating how much the company wants to do more than sell cold-pressed juice.

“My goal with Juice Society is to center it more around bringing people into the shop and doing things besides just serving juice and going. It’s much more of an experience,” she said in this mystatesman.com story earlier this month.

The farm will need volunteers to help it get off the ground and stay running, with tasks including everything from planting to landscaping to harvesting. If you’re interested in getting involved, fill out this farm volunteer form.

For more information, visit juice-society.com.

Banger’s named as one of America’s best beer bars

Photo by Banger's Austin. On July 8, a new event is kicking off at Banger's: a brewers roast that will feature the beer and brewers of Austin Beerworks, Hops & Grain and Pinthouse Pizza.
Photo by Banger’s Austin. Banger’s is one of Austin’s beloved beer bars.

No arguments here: USA Today published a list today of some of the best bars in America for beer lovers, and Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden is sitting pretty on it.

The publication had the following to say about this beloved Rainey Street spot: “There’s no shortage of cool beer joints in Austin, Texas, but Banger’s tops the list with craft beer, great food and a massive outdoor seating space. This beer garden has a seriously impressive beer resume. With the third largest draft system in the state, Banger’s has 104 brews on draft and another 50 in cans and bottles. In addition to great beer, Banger’s offers 30 house-made sausages.”

In the story, writer s notes that drinking has become “a sophisticated pastime,” with lots of natural curiosity and the desire to share as just two reasons why craft beer, in particular, has caught on so much.

It’s not hard to see why Banger’s made the cut — for having as many beers as it does, the bar does a solid job of making sure the bartenders and waitstaff are well-educated about craft beers and can bring you out a perfect pint. Banger’s also hosts regular events like Mega Mutt Monday, Smoke Out Saturdays and special firkin tappings.

The article also featured watering holes like Bob’s Bar in Columbus, Ohio, and Bay Street Biergarten in Charleston, South Carolina.

Upcoming Austin brewery plans to open strong with former Victory brewer

One of the country’s most successful breweries, Victory Brewing, is about to lose a big member of its team: Matt Couch is coming to Austin to open Lazarus Brewing, on East Sixth Street, as its new brewmaster.

Photo from Lazarus Brewing's Facebook. Matt Couch is bringing his brewing experience at Victory, a big U.S. craft brewery, to help open a new Austin brewery, Lazarus, on the east side.
Photo from Lazarus Brewing’s Facebook. Matt Couch is bringing his brewing experience at Victory, a big U.S. craft brewery, to help open a new Austin brewery, Lazarus, on the east side.

That’s quite a coup for the small upcoming brewery, which plans to make less than 2,000 barrels of beer each year, according to a news release. Right away, Lazarus might come to fruition with the brewing chops to compete with some of Austin’s more established beer makers.

“When the brewery opens this fall, Couch will take the helm of a 10-barrel system that produces a mere 1,500 barrels of beer annually,” the news release said. “Yet with coffee, a kitchen, and 16 house taps at his disposal, he inherits an opportunity that would be the envy of many large production breweries: Couch gets to create the taproom of his dreams, with a wide range of eclectic beers designed exclusively for local patrons.”

In many respect, Lazarus Brewing is the very opposite of Victory Brewing — opening with the intention of staying small and offering a mostly taproom-only experience. Victory currently distributes to 35 states and nine countries, considerable growth that Couch, as brewing manager, helped to cultivate.

At Victory, he “helped guide research and development, recipe formulation and special projects — like planting their own experimental hop yard (a messy project he tackled alongside his girlfriend Alexis Grieco, who also worked for Victory),” according to the news release. “He also helped design, install and achieve Victory’s signature consistency on a massive new 200-barrel brewhouse — valuable experience for a new company opening a startup brewery from scratch.”

His brewing philosophy also seems to line up with the types of beers — and overall experience — that Lazarus Brewing is aiming for.

“I love trying to find a beer that fits a time and place that someone will remember forever,” he said in the release. “The connection you make with people over what you’ve created, that is what drives my creativity in brewing. Finding a beer for everybody.”

For more information about Couch, check out Lazarus Brewing’s Q&A with its new brewmaster. For more information about Lazarus Brewing, visit lazarusbrewing.com.

Bad weather? Head to the W for rainy day drink specials

The W Austin doesn’t want you to sing the rainy day blues.

The downtown hotel is bringing back its happy hour based around the weather. Anytime it’s raining (and at a decent hour for drinking), guests of the W Austin’s Living Room Lounge will get half-priced specialty cocktails.

Stop into the W Austin's Living Room Lounge whenever it's raining and you'll get happy hour pricing on cocktails.
Stop into the W Austin’s Living Room Lounge whenever it’s raining and you’ll get happy hour pricing on cocktails.

That’s not a bad deal at all. Normally, the W Austin’s happy hour, which the hotel calls “Primetime,” runs from 7 to 9 p.m. each weeknight with half-off deals on cocktails and $5 to $9 bar bites like goat cheese artichoke dip and loaded fries. With the May showers special, guests can enjoy happy hour whenever it’s raining, period. The offer is valid through the end of this very wet month.

So when it rains, let them pour.

For more information about the W Austin or the Living Room Lounge, visit www.waustinlivingroom.com.

Barley Swine’s cocktail program keeps it seasonal

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Barley Swine is as faithful to seasonal ingredients in its cocktail menu as the Burnet Road restaurant is with its food menu, so drinks like this one are often changing out in favor of fresher fare.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Barley Swine is as faithful to seasonal ingredients in its cocktail menu as the Burnet Road restaurant is with its food menu, so drinks like this one are often changing out in favor of fresher fare.

When the farm-to-table restaurant from venerated chef Bryce Gilmore moved to Burnet Road earlier this year, one element in the larger space was new: Barley Swine’s cocktail program.

And like the food, it’s kept as seasonal as possible.

Barley Swine hired Robert Stevens as the bar manager last year, and one look at his resume makes it clear why: Stevens hails from Knoxville’s Blackberry Farm, a visionary resort where much of the food is grown within feet of where it is eaten. He’s got the background to know that a cocktail calling for Meyer lemons won’t stick around past March and that if the small garden at the back of the restaurant is growing something for the kitchen, he might be able to use it behind the bar, too.

In today’s American-Statesman, my column about using fresh ingredients in spring cocktails featured Stevens and the Swipe Right, one of Barley Swine’s current cocktails with St. George’s Dry Rye Gin, Herbsaint and a house-made strawberry shrub. (No, no, not one of those stubby plants that tufts out of the ground. A shrub is a vinegar-based concoction that’s deliciously tart and sweet at the same time.)

But the Swipe Right isn’t the only cocktail to seek out right now at the restaurant that’s forever changing up the menus.

Bartender Dustin Bolf is the creator of a couple drinks made from Mexican-based spirits, the Chucho with Chihuahua sotol reposado, pine needle-orange and lime acid and the Mangolada with blanco tequila, mango puree, sangrita and the Brooklyn Summer Ale. At least one of them was inspired by his background; his mom grew up in the Rio Grande Valley.

“I spent some time down there in my early 20s and they had these little candies we used to buy in Mexico that were mango-flavored with tamarind chili powder,” he said. “So (for the Mangolada) we take Texas mangos, tequila, and sangrita (which is a sweet hot sauce-based palette-cleanser from Mexico) and top it with Brooklyn Summer Ale. I’ve made a salt from umoboshi (dried, salted, cured strawberries), dried golden tomato peel and kosher salt. Think shandy meets Michelada.”

Like Stevens, he isn’t afraid to get creative and turn to Barley Swine’s back garden when a customer is looking for something fresh and off-menu.

“We use a lot of things from the garden,” he said. “Sometimes people just want something they’ve never had. I made a cocktail from begonia leaves, gin and ice plant for a customer one time. I use several different flowers for garnish.”

For a look at the current cocktail menu — which you can expect to change out with the availability of seasonal ingredients — visit the Barley Swine website. Have you made your happy hour plans yet?

American Craft Beer Week in Austin, May 2016

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Try a taproom-only beer at Blue Owl Brewing for American Craft Beer Week.
Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Try a taproom-only beer at Blue Owl Brewing for American Craft Beer Week.

Throughout this week, bars and breweries around the country are celebrating a big occasion in beer: American Craft Beer Week. Austin is no different, with multiple events each day through Sunday this week that will offer lots of good brews and good times.

Here’s a round-up of some of the ones you won’t want to miss, starting with a couple of events today.

Tuesday

Avery Sour Flight at Easy Tiger: Sample a flight of four tart brews from Avery Brewing in Colorado for $8: the Avery Lunctis Viribus; the Avery Fortuna; the Avery Dihos Dactylion; and the Avery Oud Floris, a Flanders Oud Bruin. The fun starts at 4:30 p.m.

Austin Beerworks Tap Takeover at Pinthouse Pizza South Lamar: Stop in throughout the day, starting at 11 a.m., for some of Austin Beerworks’ specialty beers, including Sputnik Russian Imperial Stout, the Red Snapper Sour Ale and the Gringo Mexican lager, the brewery’s fifth anniversary beer.

Wednesday

Bishop’s Barrel Beer Dinner at the Dig Pub: This five-course feast features rare beers from Saint Arnold — Bishop’s Barrel brews 7, 8, 10, 11 and 13. The lucky diners will also be able to purchase Bishop’s Barrel 9 (Pumpkinator in bourbon barrels) and 12 (Christmas Ale in sauvignon blanc barrels with cherries and brettanomyces) to take home with them.

Tiny Barrel Release at Blue Owl Brewing: The East Austin brewery is releasing a tasting-room exclusive: a blend of pre-raspberry Dapper Devil, Blue Owl’s Belgian Strong Ale, with the new Saíson Puede, that’s been barrel- aged with the addition of Meyer lemon and pink peppercorn. The beer taps at 3 p.m.

Thursday

The Hops & Grain Experience: The brewery is hosting a first-ever cold brew and brew event, featuring a panel with Hops & Grain founder Josh Hare and three top Austin baristas, as well as six beer styles with added cold brew. The $32.46 ticket gets you a commemorative gold-rimmed tulip glass with the brewery’s new coffee logo.

The new Growler USA is opening in the campus area with 100 taps, primarily of local and Texas beers.
The new Growler USA is hosting a tap takeover with 4th Tap during American Craft Beer Week.

4th Tap Brewing Co-op Tap Takeover at Growler USA: In addition to $1 off all beers at the campus-area pub, there will also be a 4th Tap brewery rep handing out samples and free glassware.

Friday

The Pinthouse Pizza, Hops & Grain and Austin Beerworks Dry-Hopped Kettle-Soured Collaboration. At Pinthouse Pizza South Lamar, try three different kettle-soured beers dry-hopped with various hop combinations that the trio of local breweries have put together and discover which one you like best. The beers all tap starting at 6 p.m.

Kamala Gardens at Waller Creek Pub House: Miss the Whip In’s house beers? The Whip In’s Dipak Topiwala has started a new brewery, Kamala Gardens, and is offering an early taste on Friday evening. Try the Bitterama — a new incarnation of an old Whip In brew.

Saturday

The ABGB’s Ruby Bottle Release: Tour the brewpub while securing your bottle of Ruby, an American sour that is part of the ABGB’s You’ll See, Baby series of sour beers. Reserve your spot for $6; only a limited number of spots are available for the tour, so you’ll want to do it early.

Barrel-Aged Beer Party at Craft Pride. The Rainey Street bar is tapping more than a dozen barrel-aged offerings and releasing bottles from the cellar. Some of the beers not-to-miss at this event include Community Barrel-Aged Legion, Real Ale Lux Aeterna and Buffalo Bayou Red Wine Barrel-Aged Red Velvet. The tapping starts at 1 p.m.; live music starts at 1:30 p.m.

Brewery District Bike Tour. Round out your American Craft Beer Week with this event postponed from the previous week because of rain. You’ll ride to Adelbert’s Brewery before heading to 4th Tap Brewing Co-op and finishing up at Circle Brewing.

Austin Steam Train Beer Flyer with Red Horn. The Cedar Park brewpub is pairing up its beers with a dinner from Greenhouse Craft Food in an unusual venue: aboard a train pulled by a diesel locomotive. It’s a three-hour round trip with limited seating and plenty of fun.