In a sign of how much Circle Brewing has grown in six years, the North Austin brewery is launching redesigned branding, a line of canned beers and a new spring seasonal during the anniversary party this weekend.
Circle co-founders Ben Sabel and Judson Mulherin decided last year that it was time to move on from bottles to cans and, while they were at it, to redesign their brand to a more sophisticated look. Now, they’re ready to showcase the big changes at the party from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, when the brewery will have live music, games, food trucks the Evil Wiener and Rebel Pizza Bar, and new merchandise to boot.
The six-year anniversary party will also offer a first taste of Circle Brewing’s M’Lady English IPA, a historical style that American breweries have made far more hoppy than had been traditional.
Like all of Circle’s beers, the English IPA is made with beer’s four main ingredients — malt, hops, yeast and water — and nothing else. It remains important to Sabel and Mulherin to continue their practice of following Reinheitsgebot, the ancient German Beer Purity Law dictating how beer could be made.
“We’re not changing who we are, just polishing the way we look,” Sabel said. “Working with those ingredients presents innumerable possibilities, and I think it’s shortsighted to think you can’t do enough with them. You don’t need to add orange and lemon into this beer to make it taste orange and lemony.”
M’Lady English IPA isn’t overly hoppy, although the East Kent Golding hops in the beer contribute a strong citrus characteristic. The beer is “emulating the original British style with English ale yeast, with dried fruit notes present, but mostly what you’re getting is a good malt base,” Sabel said. That might sound contrary to what an IPA typically tastes like, but Circle is drawing from Old World IPA recipes that offer more balance between the hops and malts.
It’s not the first time that Circle Brewing has turned to history to make an IPA. Last year, the brewery won a World Beer Cup gold medal in the historical beer category for its Archetype Historical IPA, made so authentically that Circle collaborated with local maltster Blacklands Malt to recreate a now-nonexistent malt called Burton White Malt.
The 2017 version of Archetype will also be at Circle’s six-year anniversary party this weekend. Although the brewery is transitioning its year-round brews — the Alibi Blond, Envy Amber and Blur Texas Hefe — from bottles to cans, the Archetype will remain in large-format bottles.
Circle Brewing, Sabel said, also plans to can one more of its beers, but he and Mulherin haven’t decided which one it will be. They do know it’s going to be “a battle royale” between the three IPAs: current fall seasonal Tuxedo T-Shirt Black IPA, M’Lady English IPA and an upcoming American IPA that will borrow qualities from both West and East Coast styles.
Once the American IPA is released, they’ll decide which IPA is going to be the biggest hit to put in cans based on their supporters’ reactions to each.
Sabel said that once the brewery chose to start canning, it only made sense to rebrand as well, something that they’d long wanted to do. Circle enlisted the design services of Trina Bentley of Make & Matter, which has been behind the sleek looks of companies like Hat Creek Burger Co. and Swift Single Malt Whiskey.
“When we made the decision to move into cans, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to polish the brand and make it more representative of us,” he said.
Each of the cans are decked out in bright colors and feature the geometric shape from which Circle Brewing took its name. Also present on the can are images of the four ingredients found exclusively in Circle beers, still important for the brewery to emphasize.
“We wanted the four ingredients to be represented,” Sabel said.
To attend the party Saturday at Circle Brewing, at 2340 W. Braker Ln., you’ll pay $15 at the door and receive a collectible 6th anniversary glass and three drink tickets.
This post has been corrected to reflect that Archetype Historical IPA was made with Burton White Malt.