Austin’s drinking events calendar, October 2016

In addition to the Tequila Tour on Oct. 20, the Iron Cactus is celebrating its 20th anniversary with this special margarita featuring an extra añejo tequila.
In addition to the Tequila Tour on Oct. 20, the Iron Cactus is celebrating its 20th anniversary with this special margarita featuring an extra añejo tequila.

Flying Saucer’s Oktoberfest Beer Games Day, 12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Kick off your October with stein hoists, dachshund races and a keg race, as well as German food and beer specials.

Brew & Brew & Brew, 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Celebrate three years of the Brew & Brew with a raffle for 1400 Miles and a killer beer list. No, really, it’s a good one.

Boxers at the Brewery, 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Thousand Oaks Brewing in Cedar Park is hosting this fundraiser for Austin Boxer Rescue.

Founders Breakfast Stout Brunch at Brass Tap Domain, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2. Get a Founders-branded mug with the purchase of any Founders beer, including the breakfast stout.

Bluebonnet Oktoberfest, 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2. Delicious German beers, food, balloons, face-painting, bouncy houses, contests and more await at the Round Rock brewery. $5 online, $7 at the door.

Easy Tiger’s Pumpkin Beer Flight Nights, 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3 and Tuesday, Oct. 4. $8 flights treat you to pumpkin beers from Boulevard Brewing, Dogfish Head, Southern Tier Brewing and Avery Brewing.

12th Annual Oktoberfest at Zax, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5. Local and German Oktoberfest beers are going to taste extra good with Smokey Denmark beer brats.

2nd Annual Oktoberfest Crowler Cup at Cuvee Coffee, 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6. Ten Oktoberfest beers will enter the ring, but only one will be victor. The winner is declared based on your vote.

For First Friday Firkin, Uncle Billy's Firkin Nutz is going for $3 a pint. It's the Berdoll Brown Candied Pecan Ale with cocoa nibs and raspberries.
For First Friday Firkin, Uncle Billy’s Firkin Nutz is going for $3 a pint. It’s the Berdoll Brown Candied Pecan Ale with cocoa nibs and raspberries.

First Friday Firkin at Uncle Billy’s, 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. This month’s limited release is Firkin Nutz, Uncle Billy’s Berdoll Brown Candied Pecan Ale infused with cocoa nibs and fresh raspberries. $3 a pint.

Red River Tailgate at Treaty Oak Distilling, 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. If you can’t make it to the rivalry game, the distillery has the next best thing: a festive State Fair vibe with burgers and dogs grilled over live fire, the game on multiple screens, beer on tap, and specialty cocktails.

Taptoberfest at the Brass Tap Round Rock, 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. More Oktoberfest fun, with live music, a mug-holding contest and a beer list that will make your mouth water.

The Driskill Beer Dinner with Adelbert’s, 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10. A four-course meal from the 1886 Café & Bakery team, paired with beers from Adelbert’s Brewery. $40.

Blue Owl Brewing’s Wee Beastie Release, 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12. Blue Owl’s next seasonal is a sour Wee Heavy, lightly peated, with malty-sweet caramel notes.

Edi Kante Pop-up Wine Dinner at Italic, 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12. Wines from producer Edi Kante will be paired with Italian dishes from Chef Andrew Curren. $25-$75. There’s also a free Kante happy hour at Italic’s café.

Women in Whiskey Panel at Easy Tiger, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12. This special Whiskey Wednesday event will feature four whiskeys whose production is influenced by women – with three of those female industry stars present at an hour-long panel.

Oktoberfest at Banger’s, 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 through midnight, Oct. 15. Three days of German beers, German-inspired food, German-related games and more commence with a gun salute and a free firkin of Live Oak Oaktoberfest.

Beers on Pink at Lustre Pearl East, 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13. This fundraising event for the National Breast Cancer Foundation features photographs of the beers from participating local breweries.

Deep Ellum Brewing Pint Night at Frank, 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13. Pair Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker, a wet hop ale, with poutine waffle fries to find yourself in a delicious food coma.

Hops & Grain’s 5th Anniversary Party, 12 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. No pre-sold tickets this time; just show up and enjoy beers from an irresistible tap list.

Treaty Oak Ranch’s 1-Year Anniversary, 12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. Celebrate one year of the distillery’s new digs with games, cocktails, food trucks and even a car show.

It’s the Tits Fest at Adelbert’s, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. Adelbert’s 2nd annual fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Resource Center will have much more than 15 beers on tap.

Flying Saucer’s BeerFeast 2016, 2 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. The bar’s annual festival, with more than 50 breweries and 80 craft beers, returns. $35 in advance, $45 at the door.

Operation Steingrabber at Zilker Brewing, 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. The launch of Zilker’s Festbier wouldn’t be complete without sausage, steins and music, of course.

Sip & Savor at Swift’s Attic with Lakewood Brewing, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. Go on a culinary tour of Lakewood’s brews, which are paired with inspired small bites. $40.

Iron Cactus Tequila Tour, 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. Taste 10 tequilas of your choice from up-and-coming brands. Admission also gets you appetizers, live music and a branded snifter glass. $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

.5K Micro Marathon at Circle Brewing, 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Run with pints for 1,640 feet to help raise money for the Sustainable Food Center. Don’t spill to win. $20-$35.

Honey Fest at Texas Keeper Cider, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Two Hives Honey will be at the cidery for a day of bee education and revelry. Plus, Texas Keeper is releasing its first cyser (honey and apple fermented together). $10.

Pinthouse Pizza’s 4th Anniversary Party, 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. The Burnet Road brewpub is transforming into a 1980s senior prom for the day, with a photo booth, an ’80s DJ and special tappings. If you live south, check out Pinthouse Pizza on South Lamar’s 1st anniversary bash (a freshman prom.)

Live Oak Brewing’s Annual Oaktoberfest, 12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Enjoy polka music, smoked meats and sausages from Smokey Denmark, and fresh Oaktoberfest and Smoaktoberfest on draft at the brewery.

AustOberfest 2016, 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. The annual event doubles as Scholz Garten’s whopping 150th anniversary. Expect beers, all-you-can-eat sausage, bowling and more.

Winemaker Tasting at June’s, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26. Join the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas for this come-and-go tasting featuring Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards. $55-$70.

Infamous Oktoberfest at the League in Lakeway, 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27. Celebrate the League’s 5th anniversary with beers from Infamous Brewing.

Official Kick-Off Party of Austin Beer Week, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28. The week of beer insanity returns with a celebration at Craft Pride, which will be tapping more than 20 special releases.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. San Gabriel River Brewery, in Liberty Hill, is hosting its first chili cook-off at the end of October.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. San Gabriel River Brewery, in Liberty Hill, is hosting its first chili cook-off at the end of October.

San Gabriel River Brewery’s 1st Annual Chili Cook-Off, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. An admission ticket, proceeds of which benefit Habitat of Humanity of Williamson County, will get you a taste of any or all of the chili and a beer from the taproom. $10.

Pints for Pups at Infamous Brewing, 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. $10 donation gets you an event glass and 1 pint of Infamous goodness, with the money going toward Wags, Hopes and Healing.

Draught House’s 48th Anniversary Party, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. The beloved brewpub’s biggest party of the year will host a Beer Olympics, live music and food trucks. And lots of great beers.

East Austin institution the Longbranch Inn now closed

We have to say good-bye to another longtime Austin bar without much of a send-off at all: Longbranch Inn has shuttered after more than 80 years on East 11th Street.

Kelly West / American-Statesman. The Longbranch Inn has long been a place to go for a relaxing time drinking beer and listening to live music, but its owner was recently served an eviction notice.
Kelly West / American-Statesman. The Longbranch Inn has long been a place to go for a relaxing time drinking beer and listening to live music, but its owner was recently served an eviction notice.

The dive bar — a prime spot for live music in years past, as well as fodder for old John Kelso columns — received an eviction notice, left on the door, from Travis County stating that owner Jim Stockbauer had to be out by the afternoon of Sept. 24.

His bar isn’t the only one in East Austin to get the boot: Rio Rita, on East Sixth Street, announced earlier this month that it’s taking over the Badlands’ space on East Twelfth Street, after rent got too high. The Badlands’ last day at that address is tomorrow, but the venue’s owner has noted that he’s looking for a new location. These are just the latest signs of a changing city.

Stockbauer has been running the Longbranch Inn since 2003 — and even then, it was clear that East Austin was evolving.

Here’s what an American-Statesman freelancer, Shermakaye Bass, wrote about the dive bar in 2004, less than a year after Stockbauer and his business partner, Kevin Crutchfield, took over.

It’s moody and welcoming inside the Longbranch Inn, with a handful of regulars perched at the bar shooting the breeze, glad to be cold chillin’ and unmolested by the outside world. If you didn’t know the corner spot was there, between a liquor store and a car wash on East 11th Street, you might miss it. But in a neighborhood where redevelopment creaks down the street as steadily as the streetcars that once trundled through, the Longbranch remains a fixture.

From all accounts, it’s one of the oldest, continuously operating taverns in Austin. Originally Pike’s Place (1935-1949), then James Tavern (1950-1964) and then Longbranch Inn (1965 to present), this old joint has seen East 11th through various stages: from the early 20th century when it was a multi-ethnic working class neighborhood and the Schieffer family owned Pike’s Place and a grocery across the street; to the heyday of Samuel Huston College, where Jackie Robinson once taught P.E. (in 1944) and Nat King Cole played the Artist’s Series and stayed over at President Carl Downs’ home; through the 1950s-’60s zenith of jazz/blues clubs Charlie’s Playhouse and Victory Grill; through the neglect of the 1980s and ’90s; to the current renovation, which has sidewalks, homes and old buildings undergoing transformation and new loft/office buildings springing up.

So when James and Sharon Stockbauer took over the lease for the Longbranch last summer, change was bound to come to the little bar that once served grilled meats from the rear kitchenette and sold Falstaff, Pearl and Grand Prize to thirsty customers.

And change has come: The new people behind the bar are white and there is an influx of younger clientele, most of them white. The ornate, antique bar was refurbished and a false ceiling pulled down to reveal high wood beams. On Monday nights, jam sessions with J.T. Van Zandt have Gurf Morlix, Calvin Russell, Wayne the Train Hancock and others dropping in. The jukebox sprouted a few punk bands; Hank Williams and Bob Wills took up residence alongside Etta James and the Isley Brothers.

But something else happened: The Longbranch became one of the few neighborhood bars in Austin with a fairly regular mix of black and white patrons, working folk and fast-trackers, young and old.

Some evenings the place is almost mouse-quiet, with customers lounging on the tall cushy bar stools, cold Lone Stars resting on the massive bar, listening to Billie Holiday flow into Blondie while billiards clack in back of the room. Other nights, Van Zandt’s crew packs ’em in or guitarist Clarence Pierce soothes the house with his virtuoso blues. Most of the times, though, the Longbranch is just a place to hang — and one of Austin’s quietly emerging hot spots.”

Hey, Longhorns: the Austinite Pilz now comes in burnt-orange cans

Contributed by Strange Land Brewery. Here's your new tailgating beer: the Austinite Pilz is now in burnt-orange cans.
Contributed by Strange Land Brewery. Here’s your new tailgating beer: the Austinite Pilz is now in burnt-orange cans.

Strange Land Brewery’s Austinite Pilz debuted in cans this summer as a tribute to the people of this town who love good beer.

The cans, with gold lettering and a fire-engine red background, were hard to miss on shelves, and the easy-drinking pilsner — a much more recognizable style than some of Strange Land’s more esoteric brews — quickly became Strange Land’s bestselling beer, allowing the Westlake Hills brewery to plan a big expansion.

Now that UT football is in full swing, Strange Land is releasing the Austinite Pilz in burnt-orange cans.

That’s in keeping with why the brewery’s co-founders, Adam Blumenshein and Tim Klatt, named it the Austinite Pilz in the first place: because what is Austin without our beloved Longhorns?

“We named it ‘the Austinite’ because it pairs so well with all things Austin: food trucks, tailgating, hiking-and-biking, etc,” Blumenshein said in a release. “It was a perfect fit. We love and are inspired by Austin, so we wanted to craft the perfect beer for Austinites.”

For the pilsner, Klatt and Blumenshein had cracked open history books and discovered “a rich tradition of pilsner brewing that pre-dated the modern approach of low-temperature lagered beers,” Blumenshein said in the release. The result was instantaneous, Klatt said this summer: “We’ve gotten a tremendous response in the taproom where people come in and say, ‘Oh, I hate pilsners, but I love this.’”

The color change is supposed to be temporary, just as a fall release, but don’t those cans look nice? Find 12-packs of the burnt-orange Austinite Pilz exclusively at HEB stores.

With new añejo and branding, Tequila 512 seeks major expansion

Tequila 512 now comes in three different expressions. A local design firm has outfitted the bottles in bright new labels.
Tequila 512 now comes in three different expressions. A local design firm has outfitted the bottles in bright new labels as well.

As more beverage brands crowd the shelves, it’s increasingly important for them to have a logo and overall look that will catch our attention — which is why Tequila 512 recently underwent a design overhaul that helps it stand out. The redesign comes as the tequila company releases its first añejo and hires a veteran in the spirits industry, with the goal of deeper expansion across Texas and beyond.

The label design is the work of Austin-based brand studio the Butler Bros., which took inspiration from the hand-painted signs visible on buildings in Tequila, Mexico, near the distillery where Tequila 512’s blanco, reposado and añejo are all produced. A bold yellow stripe across Tequila 512’s packaging serves as the signature design element, both drawing our eyes to the bottles and paying subtle homage to the colorful culture from which tequila comes.

Tequila 512 founder Scott Willis wanted the design to reflect Austin, too — since the company is based here, after all, in new headquarters off South First Street.

“I took one of the Butler brothers down to Mexico with me, and he was just blown away by all the signs and the buildings down there,” Willis said. “The task for them was to do something that was Austin cool in the way that Hotel San Jose is, the way that Hotel Saint Cecilia is. It’s cool, but it doesn’t have ‘Austin, Texas’ all over it. So we played that down with this yellow look and decided to carry it through all three product lines.”

Having a sophisticated look is especially crucial for Willis, who hired Christopher Cain, formerly of Dulce Vida Tequila, to help expand the business and get the tequila into more places across Austin and the rest of the state. He’s also debuting Tequila 512 Añejo, and with a full product line under his belt, he recognizes the need for a design on the outside of the bottle that matches the quality of the liquid inside.

“It’s the same good juice as we had before, but we just brought our packaging up to par,” he said.

The añejo, which Willis promises is “crazy good,” was aged for 13 months in barrels that previously housed bourbon. As a result, this third addition to the lineup builds sweetly to a peppery body and a mango finish, he said. If that sounds like a good addition to your tequila supply, don’t delay in grabbing a bottle: Tequila 512 only has about 350 cases on the market, and once they’re gone, the añejo won’t be available again until next fall. You’ll be able to find it for $35-$37, an approachable price for the aged spirit.

“I’m just excited to get it out there and have the line complete for awhile,” Willis said.

He has built the tequila company from the ground up, pouring everything he’s had into it since founding it four years ago. All that hard work paid off last year, when Tequila 512 Blanco earned double gold and the “Best in Show” award at the prestigious 15th Annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Willis was then able to raise more than a million dollars in funding in a campaign that ended earlier this year.

Finally, Tequila 512 is in the right place for a proper expansion and the chance to continue spreading the agave love.

“We’ve had great product; we’ve always had great product. We’ve won one of the biggest awards you can win,” he said. “We just felt like we needed the packaging to match and the personnel to match. And now we have it. All the pieces are there now.”

A primer on bourbon from Vince Young Steakhouse

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Four Roses is a bourbon brand that is "good from top to bottom," according to Vince Young Steakhouse's executive chef.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Four Roses is a bourbon brand that is “good from top to bottom,” according to Vince Young Steakhouse’s executive chef.

Although the executive chef at Vince Young Steakhouse, Phillip Brown, is mainly in charge of the kitchen at the downtown restaurant, he also has a deep love of bourbon and has taken charge of putting together the considerable list of whiskeys there.

As a result, it’s one of the best selections of bourbon in the city (containing the likes of Jefferson’s, Four Roses and even Pappy Van Winkle). With just about one week left of National Bourbon Heritage Month, Brown offers these tips about what to look for when selecting a quality bourbon and how to drink it for maximum enjoyment.

Bourbon is made based around a few basic rules — it’s got to be comprised of at least 51 percent corn, for one, and aged in new charred oak barrels — but these regulations leave lots of room, as with any spirit, for both good and bad examples of the distinctly American whiskey. For that reason, whiskey drinkers have to be discerning about their choices. That doesn’t mean forking over half a paycheck for a few ounces of it at the bar is necessary, however: Brown emphasizes that good bourbons can still be affordable.

When browsing the list of whiskeys at your corner bar or the shelves at your neighborhood liquor store, you should seek out these regularly good brands. (Some will be easier to find than others.)

  • Maker’s Mark. It’s one of the most prolific bourbons out there, and Brown recommends it for any bourbon novice who is uneasy about the spirit’s big, boozy flavors.
  • Blanton’s: The Original Single Barrel Bourbon was reputedly the first bourbon to be drawn from a single barrel, rather than blended from many others of the same year, as most whiskeys are.
  • Old Forester: Of the bottles to buy or try, keep an eye out for the special-edition birthday bourbon that rolls out in the fall each year after aging for 12 years. It yields mellow notes of butterscotch and candied fruits. And though it’s become so prized, Vince Young Steakhouse offers it at $10 a glass.
  • Herman Marshall: Vince Young Steakhouse carries mainly bourbon brands from Kentucky — the state most known for making bourbon — but Brown also likes this whiskey from North Texas. It’s the first bourbon to be made in Dallas County since Prohibition.
  • Garrison Brothers: This whiskey from nearby Hye, in the Hill Country, is another bourbon worth seeking out. The flagship, full of coconut, vanilla and nutmeg, is easiest to find and the one available at Vince Young Steakhouse, although the distillery has other alluring ones, too.
  • Buffalo Trace: There’s nothing particularly fancy about the Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, but there doesn’t need to be. If you see it on a menu, order it, Brown says, noting that “it’s a really good bourbon for its price point.”
  • Four Roses: Brown can’t rave enough about the Four Roses brand and especially loves the small-batch barrel-strength option, which clocks in at a whopping 108 proof but is remarkably smooth, carrying notes of cinnamon, orange peel and vanilla straight through to the long finish. You can’t go wrong with any of the Four Roses selections you choose, however.
  • Pappy Van Winkle: You won’t find any of the Van Winkle bottles in the liquor store, so your best bet is finding it a bar like Vince Young Steakhouse that takes care to stock up on the various expressions each year. The Old Rip Van Winkle 10-Year is the most common and thus the cheapest, $15 at the steakhouse, but if you can locate an elusive bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, get a glass of it. That one is Brown’s favorite.

“We’ve had guys come in just to drink Pappy,” Brown says, adding that it’s always a treat when a new customer walks in and sees the selection of elusive whiskeys on the top shelf at the bar.

Contributed by Vince Young Steakhouse. Drink whiskey neat or with an ice ball. The spirit pairs rather well with the food this restaurant does best: a nice juicy steak.
Contributed by Vince Young Steakhouse. Drink whiskey neat or with an ice ball. The spirit pairs rather well with the food this restaurant does best: a nice juicy steak.

Whatever whiskey you settle on, he recommends drinking it neat or with an ice ball that the bartender will drop into the glass. Sipping sans ice can truly draw out all nuances of the aroma and flavor, but sometimes diluting with the ice is helpful for people who don’t want the full blast and heat of the whiskey, especially if it’s at a higher proof (thus containing more alcohol).

Take a moment to gently nose the glass, drawing in the aroma of the liquid within before you take a sip. The senses of smell and taste are so linked together that this little sniff will help you form a more complete perception of the bourbon’s flavors.

Taste a little sweetness? That’s common for corn-heavy bourbon, whereas spice is the more dominating characteristic of rye, another type of American whiskey, and smoke is prevalent with Scotch.

But you’ll also taste characteristics of the barrel that bourbon was aged in: flavors like caramel, vanilla and toffee. Because bourbon is required to mature in new charred oak barrels — versus used ones whose wood has softened over time and through the influence of previous spirits — it doesn’t need long in them.

“You don’t see a whole lot of bourbons aged more than 10 or 15 years because of that,” Brown says. That’s what makes Pappy a special bourbon in his eyes — one best served neat, without anything that will dilute it.

In the end, of course, “there is really no right or wrong way to drink bourbon. Just enjoy it,” he says.

Where to go for boozy election-themed fun in Austin

The Flying Saucer has made playful pint glasses for the presidential election. One depicts Hillary Clinton, the other Donald Trump. Drink out of one tonight while watching the first presidential debate.
The Flying Saucer has made playful pint glasses for the presidential election. One depicts Hillary Clinton, the other Donald Trump. Drink out of one tonight while watching the first presidential debate.

We’ll most likely be watching the first debate tonight between the two main U.S. presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, with a mixture of horror, glee and triumph — and maybe a good stiff drink, too, depending on their answers and performance.

A few places in town are offering election-themed drinks, and still other places are hosting presidential debate watch parties where we certainly don’t need a themed beverage to get us in the mood for a rousing back-and-forth between the candidates. Here’s a roundup of where to go tonight if your couch simply won’t do. The big debate begins at 8 p.m. and runs for about 90 minutes on all the major networks and cable channels.

Photo by Jessica Fradono. These cocktails fit for a president are available at the W Austin, which is keeping track of the "votes" for each.
Photo by Jessica Fradono. These cocktails fit for a president are available at the W Austin, which is keeping track of the “votes” for each.

For themed cocktails/glassware: 

  • The W Austin: This downtown hotel hopes you’ll make an informed decision about who should be the next U.S. president, but while you’re at it, vote for which drink is your favorite as well. The W has crafted three election-themed cocktails to choose from — the Pantsuit, with Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon, lemon, mint, sugar, grapefruit juice and Angostura bitters; the Comb Over with Hudson Manhattan Rye, Lillet Rose, sugar, a lemon twist and orange bitters; and the Independent, with Combier, Elyx Vodka, Regan’s Orange Bitters and Angostura bitters.
  • Omni Barton Creek: This resort in West Austin has created a veritable menu of Republican and Democratic cocktails, as we noted a couple of weeks ago. The Omni group of hotels wants guests and restaurant visitors to try the likes of the Trump-tini and the Hilla-rita, decide which one they like best and vote on it, in the hopes of discovering whether these boozy beverages serve as a predictor of the next president.
  • Flying Saucer Austin: Although the chain of beer bars hasn’t created a drink based around the election, the Flying Saucer has something else to offer: themed pint glasses adorned with the cartoon-like faces of Trump and Clinton. These are available for purchase online as well as at your nearest Flying Saucer location. Like the W and the Omni, the Flying Saucer keeps track of how many of each are bought, and for good reason: Since the Saucer election glasses debuted in 2004, sales of the glasses have accurately predicted the outcome of the last three presidential elections. Like it’s the Ohio of bars or something.

For presidential debate watch parties: 

Our political reporter has compiled this list of options — including Scholz Garten, where the Travis County Democrats will be, and the Republican Party’s Victory Texas office for GOP faithfuls — but these other places are also screening the big debate.

  • Flying Saucer Austin: Yep, you can nurse a beer out of one of those presidential pint glasses tonight while watching the political face-off. Free popcorn will be available at this one alongside the glasses.
  • The North DoorNo matter your political leanings, watch the debate on the East Austin venue’s 25 ft. HD screen with drink specials and more. The doors open at 7:30 p.m., so get there early for a seat.
  • The Whip In: Beer, Indian food and good company. What more could you want out of your debate viewing experience?
  • The Liberty: This East Sixth Street bar has a fancy new projector on which to show the all the action — but get there early to guarantee a spot.
  • Black Star Co-op: The brewpub will have its house-made beers for you to sip on while you watch, as well as a variety of snacks fit for a president. Including taco bowls. Remember Trump and taco bowls?
  • Little Woodrow’s: All Austin locations of the beer bar will be showing the presidential debate — as well as Monday night football, in case you were worried about missing your weekly sports tradition.

The Beer Plant opens as veggie-focused gastropub in Tarrytown

Photo by Jessica Attie. The Beer Plant is softly opened in the Tarrytown neighborhood, putting an equal spotlight on craft beer and vegetables.
Photo by Jessica Attie. The Beer Plant is softly opened in the Tarrytown neighborhood, putting an equal spotlight on craft beer and vegetables.

Vegetarians and beer lovers, take note: the Beer Plant is softly opening this week with beer, botanical cocktails and plant-based cuisine.

When the Tarrytown concept was announced last year, co-owners Ray and Sarah McMackin made one element of their space very clear. The Beer Plant wouldn’t be the sort of place for carnivores, with no meat in sight. That’s still the primary goal for them.

“We are ensuring that all food and beverages will be 100 percent plant-based, using no animal products,” Sarah McMackin, who introduced the gastropub last year by noting she and her husband wanted to take the concept of ‘farm-to-table’ a step further, to ‘garden-to-table, said via email.

They’re putting craft beers and vegetables in equal focus. While you’re enjoying “copious salads, gourmet sandwiches, inventive entrees like a BBQ plate featuring pulled spaghetti squash,” you’ll be able to wash it all down with one of the 30 beers on tap. The Beer Plant, according to McMackin, will also have kombucha, nitro coffee and three types of wine on draft, as well as a small selection of bottles and bombers.

“We will feature exciting beers from the front lines of the craft beer revolution, with a particular emphasis on sours, farmhouse styles and session beers,” she said. “We’ll also offer a well-curated wine list. For the more spirit-orientated, there will be a full bar with an emphasis on fresh and creative cocktails using botanical mixology.”

Those cocktails will feature house-made ingredients, including bitters, syrups, garnishes and infusions, and the main spirits in them are local or organic (or both) whenever possible.

If you want to check it out this week, reservations are recommended starting Tuesday, when the Beer Plant will be open for full food and bar service from 5 to 10 p.m. (with bar service extending until midnight). Within the next couple of weeks, lunch will also be available, and hours will shift from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily. The gastropub is located at 3110 Windsor Rd.

For more information, visit thebeerplant.com or facebook.com/thebeerplant.

Balcones Distilling in Waco named best whiskey distillery in U.S.

The popular HGTV show “Fixer Upper” isn’t the only thing making our neighbor to the north, Waco, a cool place to visit. So is the whiskey distillery Balcones Distilling, which recently received the honor of being named the top craft whiskey distillery in the country by readers of USA Today.

The publication’s “10Best set out on a mission to find the best craft and small-batch spirits producers — family-owned distilleries, grain-to-glass operations or distillers using only the best local ingredients in their products,” according to the 10Best editors.

To find them, USA Today asked spirits experts, from bartenders to judges to journalists, to nominate distilleries in a variety of different categories based off the spirits they make: whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, tequila and specialty spirits. Then, readers chose their favorites from each list. The Waco-based Balcones, which moved into a much bigger facility this spring to make a lot more whiskey — or, as the distillers there spell it, whisky — ultimately topped the other nominated whiskey distilleries.

Balcones' Texas Single-Malt is just one of the brand's award-winning whiskies.
Balcones’ Texas Single-Malt is just one of the brand’s award-winning whiskies.

And for good reason, according to 10Best.

“When you pick up a bottle of Balcones whiskey, you’ll notice it has been individually stamped in wax and labeled with a handwritten batch number,” the 10Best editors wrote. “Balcones Distilling’s whiskey lineup includes a Texas Single Malt, Baby Blue blue corn whiskey and Brimstone Texas Scrub Oak Smoked corn whiskey. Limited-release single-barrel whiskeys highlight unique variants and experimental whiskeys found nowhere else.”

Balcones also wasn’t the only Texas whiskey distillery to make the list. Garrison Brothers Distillery, in the Hill Country, earned the sixth spot. As I noted in a column last year, the state’s whiskey makers have been producing top-notch aged spirits that are only getting better each year.

In the tequila category of USA Today’s 10Best list, the Austin-based Dulce Vida Tequila placed ninth. The company (whose distillery is technically located in Mexico, where all tequila is produced) makes award-winning, 100-proof tequilas like the Lone Star edition of its añejo. Recently scooped up by the former makers of Deep Eddy Vodka, the distillery has branched out to make a line of flavored tequilas.

Each distillery was ranked after four weeks of voting. And for Balcones Distilling, being selected as number one was humbling.

“It was an honor be nominated by a respected panel of whisky experts, and to win the national vote speaks highly of our friends and fans,” Balcones head distiller Jared Himstedt said in a statement. “We are humbled by the outpouring of support that was given to us throughout the voting.”

Update: Deep Eddy Vodka is not leaving Dripping Springs, spirits company officials say

Get an early taste of Deep Eddy Peach at the Dripping Springs distillery starting on Thursday, when you can try it in cocktails like the Peach Lemonade.
Deep Eddy Vodka, the producer of flavored spirits like this peach vodka, offers them in cocktails at the Dripping Springs tasting room.

UPDATE: Deep Eddy Vodka is not leaving its new production facility in Dripping Springs, although the company is looking for space for more production to keep up with rapid growth. An announcement from the City of Buda on Wednesday said the distillery planned to move to an almost 200,000-square-foot space on 15 acres in that city after an incentive package was passed by Buda City Council. Later Wednesday, Deep Eddy clarified what’s happening with the spirits company, including that the company is in negotiations for a possible spot in Buda but that no plans have been finalized.

The producer of flavored spirits was sold last year to Kentucky’s Heaven Hill Brands, one of the biggest players in the liquor industry, and has plans to continue its skyrocketing growth.

Deep Eddy also will keep its tasting room at the Dripping Springs facility for now, according to the company. The 5,000-square-foot tasting room is along U.S. 290 West, not far from where other distilleries and breweries, such as Treaty Oak Distilling and Jester King Brewery, are located.

For more information about the vodka maker, visit deepeddyvodka.com.

This post has been updated throughout.

TexAgave hopes to become Texas’ substitute for tequila

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. TexAgave, made from agave nectar, is ideal in a margarita.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. TexAgave, made from agave nectar, is ideal in a margarita. Just swap the tequila out for this new Texas spirit.

Although Texans love our margaritas, we don’t make them with regional ingredients — the main spirit in them, tequila, comes from Mexico, the same place where the cocktail originated.

But now, thanks to a small Leander distillery, there’s a Texas-made alternative produced from agave nectar: TexAgave Blue Agave Spirits.

So far, it’s the only spirit made at Square Peg Distilling, which Scott Calame founded when he realized his idea was worthy of mass-market consumption. A longtime homebrewer, he stumbled across agave nectar — a sweetener made from the agave plant, like tequila, and often regarded as a more palatable sugar substitute than honey — and decided to bet on its potential as a distillate, after first fermenting it into a dry white wine.

“Once I saw the nice, drinkable products I could make with agave nectar, I started realizing, ‘I think there’s an opportunity for a truly Texas-made alternative to tequila.’ That was where I came up with the idea and went from there,” he said.

When he introduces TexAgave to new customers, however, he makes a couple of things very clear: TexAgave isn’t tequila and isn’t trying to be. Mexico’s regulations defining what tequila is and how it can be made also protect the spirit from being produced in another country, in a law called denomination of origin. That means Calame can’t even use any variation of the word ‘tequila’ in the name of his agave nectar spirit.

He also stresses that his intent in making TexAgave has nothing to do with his feelings toward tequila. On the contrary, he is like many Austinites and simply prefers locally made goods that find a piece of their identity in where they come from.

“I don’t disparage or dislike tequila. It was the inspiration for this product,” he said. “But I wanted to celebrate life in Texas and give Texans the opportunity to make their margaritas with a liquor made in Texas.”

The 80 proof spirit is distilled primarily from agave nectar that Calame receives in bulk from a California company with connections to agave farmers in Mexico. Before the distillation from a long column still, he adds a couple of other sugars, including cane molasses, into the fermentation process to guarantee that the sugars are fully converted into alcohol. (Agave nectar isn’t a favorite food of yeast, he said, so having the molasses helps them eat up the rest of it.)

Another benefit of the cane molasses and corn sugar, he said, is that they contribute “a more complex and nuanced flavor.” Because agave nectar is the result of juice from the agave plant being boiled into a syrup — losing some of the natural elements that give tequila its taste — it’s not quite as flavorful as Calame would want.

“When you taste the product, you’ll probably pick up a little bit of a rum characteristic, just a little bit of a tropical note, as a result of the cane molasses,” he said. “Also notes of vanilla and coconut. None of those things are in the product, but that’s just what comes to mind when people smell and get a little taste of it at the tastings that I do.”

Don’t worry, tequila fans: TexAgave’s agave characteristic is apparent, too. That’s what makes it so good in a margarita, which Calame whips up for customers who stop into liquor stores and don’t expect to appreciate a new type of spirit so much.

The price point probably persuades them into buying a bottle as well — most stores carrying it (the biggest one being Total Wine & More, with two locations in Austin) sell it for less than $20. Calame likes to keep it so accessible because “I wanted something Texans would gravitate toward at a price point where they could feel good about dumping it into the margarita pitcher,” he said. “That’s something I hope you wouldn’t do with a $60 or $70 bottle of tequila. I even hesitate to throw a $30 bottle into the margarita pitcher.”

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Scott Calame has been a longtime homebrewer but has turned distilling into a business, making an agave nectar spirit in Leander.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Scott Calame has been a longtime homebrewer but has turned distilling into a business, making an agave nectar spirit in Leander.

Soon enough, there will be another TexAgave bottle that you’ll be able to make those margaritas with. Square Peg Distilling is releasing a triple sec under the TexAgave brand at only 15 percent ABV, and it’s sweet without being cloying.

“So you’d be able to make a margarita with almost entirely Texas-made products,” Calame said.

He’s also got something a little more secret in the works. All he can reveal about it, for now, is that it’s a high-end orange liqueur. And that he’s very excited about it.

“I can’t believe how close we came to some of the other products in the category,” he said.

Although Square Peg Distilling isn’t yet opened for tours and tastings, look for that to change sometime in the future, when Calame will transform an outdoor space outside his Leander facility into the perfect place for sipping cocktails.

For more information, visit facebook.com/TexAgave.