At Austin Homebrew Fest, get a first taste of upcoming brewery

A big part of the Austin Homebrew Festival are the awards for best homebrews. Judges have selected the winners beforehand, and a People's Choice Award will be given afterward based on your votes.

A big part of the Austin Homebrew Festival are the awards for best homebrews. Judges have selected the winners beforehand, and a People’s Choice Award will be given afterward based on your votes. (For the second year running, I’ve been representing the Austin American-Statesman as one of the judges.)

All too often, homebrewers with modest brewing operations in their garage or kitchen move onto more professional gigs at working breweries — which is partly what makes the Austin Homebrew Festival so fun. There’s an enticing chance that it could provide your first taste of an upcoming brewery, as it was last year.

Tomorrow, the festival returns with beers, meads, ciders and kombuchas from 20 local homebrewers. You’ll be able to vote on your favorite one of these beverages for the People’s Choice Award, as well as scarf down grilled cheese from Melted and original hot dogs from the Evil Weiner. And it’s all for a good cause: Proceeds, once again, go toward the AHB Community School, a small progressive nonprofit.

Here’s the exciting part (as if all that wasn’t cool enough). If you purchase tickets for the VIP section at the fest, you actually will be able to meet the owners of an upcoming brewery in Liberty Hill called Hedgehog, which last year was announced as a bottle shop but has been delayed in finding a retail location. You’ll also be able to taste Hedgehog beer.

Hedgehog Bottleshop & Barrelhouse is still in the plans for local couple Dash and Jonathan Harris. But now, they’re also going to open a brewery on family land in Liberty Hill. It could be ready in as soon as six to 12 months, Dash Harris said via email, depending on how quickly the licensing and permitting process goes (and that never tends to be quick).

“The building for the brewery is going up next week, and then there will be a few months of build-out,” she said. “Once we get all our licenses in place, we will have the biergarten and tasting room ready. I’m excited to host people for tastings, live music and fun events.”

Even though opening the bottle shop and bar aspect of the business has been harder than the Harrises had expected, they haven’t given up hope for it.

“Once we have the retail space, we will be supplying our own brews, in addition to hundreds of other beers we are excited to offer,” she said. “We are also planning to sell Hedgehog beers to other shops and pubs in town.”

Got any leads on a good location for the bottle shop? Hedgehog Bottleshop & Barrelhouse wants to hear from you. The space needs to be zoned properly, the right size and configuration, and not needing massive upgrades. Those requirements in a tight real estate market like Austin have made the hunting process all the harder.

In the meantime, make sure you’ve purchased your tickets to Austin Homebrew Festival. These range from $35 for general admission and $50 for VIP and come in the form of memberships to the Austin Homebrew Membership Society.

For more information, visit ahbfestival.org.


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