Austin’s drinking events calendar, June 2017

Contributed by Olive & June. Negroni Week returns to participating Austin bars and restaurants from June 5-11. Proceeds from Negroni purchases, like this Frozen Show Pony Negroni from Olive & June, go toward good causes chosen by each place.

Thursday, June 1

Banger’s Summer Love Luau with Victory Brewing, 6 to 10 p.m. Summery outfits are encouraged at this party featuring a variety of Victory beers, including Summer Love Blonde Ale.

Boots & Bourbon at the Driskill Grill, 7 to 9 p.m.The Driskill restaurant is pairing meats from Austin’s Ranger Cattle with whiskey from Fort Worth’s Firestone & Robertson Distilling. $79.

Friday, June 2

Blue Owl Brewing Saison Puede Release, 12 p.m. Don’t miss this limited run of bottles filled with Blue Owl’s sour, spicy and fruity spring seasonal.

Uncle Billy’s June First Friday Firkin, 5 p.m. This month’s firkin is a Coffee IPA: the Green Room IPA with lightly roasted Puerto Rican Arabica coffee beans.

Saturday, June 3

Craftsman’s 2nd Anniversary Luau, 4 p.m. Pau Maui Vodka cocktails, a pig roast, hula girls and fire dancers will mark the birthday of this East Cesar Chavez bar.

Crystal Creek Distillery’s Grand Re-Opening Bash, 5 p.m. The Spicewood spirits maker has a new distillery and tasting room and wants to show it off with live music, giveaways and more.

Monday, June 5

Friends & Allies Can Release, 4 to 10 p.m. Friends & Allies Brewing is releasing its beers in cans for the first time. Pick up a six pack, but first, enjoy a draft pint of one of its limited seasonal options.

Gin Class at Bullfight, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Parkside Projects’ beverage classes continue with this study of gin, featuring gin cocktails and tapas from the Spanish-inspired restaurant. $32.50.

Astronomy on Tap, 7:30 p.m. This special edition of the monthly talks about the cosmos over beers brings in astronomers from the American Astronomical Society.

Thursday, June 8

South Lamar Negroni Stroll, 6 pm. Sip Negroni cocktails from Backbeat, Vox Table, El Burro and the Highball as part of the charity-focused Negroni Week.

Friday, June 9

Kings of Craft Series: Meet David Walker of Firestone Walker, 6 p.m. Flying Saucer is hosting a Firestone Walker tap takeover with the founder and lots of Parabola variations.

“Trappist Beer Travels” Book Release at WhichCraft Taproom, 6 to 10 p.m. The locally based authors of the new book about Trappist breweries will officially share the combination beer journal, history book and travelogue.

Saturday, June 10

Now That’s What I Call a ’90s Party at Hops & Grain, 1 p.m. Come dressed as your favorite Nickelodeon character or in straight-up ’90s garb for this old-school party at the brewery.

Reinheitsgebot Party at Orf Brewing, 2 p.m. No, Austin’s newest brewery isn’t celebrating the German purity law — just the German way of partying with beer.

National Rosé Day at Backbeat, 4 p.m. Say yes way to rosé with Backbeat, which is expanding its summer rosé list with 7 incredible rosé wines from around the world.

Sunday, June 11

Austin’s First Tequila ‘n’ Tacos Crawl, 1 p.m. Enjoy helpings of Austin’s favorite food with cocktails while exploring West Sixth bars like Star Bar and Parlor & Yard. $35.

Whisler’s 4th Anniversary Party, 1 p.m. To celebrate this boozy birthday, on-site food truck Thai Kun is whipping up something special. Plus, there will be live music, drink specials and prizes.

Monday, June 12

They’re Back! Celis Re-Launch at Whip In, 5 p.m. Celis’ iconic Celis White and new Citrus Grandis IPA will be on tap in advance of the brewery’s reopening in North Austin.

The Craft Series at 1886 Cafe & Bakery, 6 to 9 p.m. The Driskill Hotel’s beer pairing dinner series continues, this time with Blue Owl Brewing’s sour-mashed beers. $40.

Tuesday, June 13

Easy Tiger’s Celis Launch Party, 5 p.m. Raise a glass of Celis White or Celis Citrus Grandis IPA with Christine Celis, the daughter of Celis Brewery’s original founder Pierre.

Wednesday, June 14

National Bourbon Day at Easy Tiger, 5 p.m. Celebrate this most important day with a special flight of Basil Hayden’s, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek & Booker’s for $12.

Vox Table’s Shacksbury Cider & WhistlePig Whiskey Dinner, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Chef Joe Anguiano has prepared a special four-course menu to pair with the cider and whiskey. $65.

Thursday, June 15

Cannon + Belle’s Texas Winemaker Dinner Series, 7 p.m. This month’s multi-course feast will feature wines from Lubbock’s McPherson Cellars as well as the founder, Kim McPherson.

Saturday, June 17

Hi Sign Brewing’s New IPA Release Party, 12 to 10 p.m. The brewery is making its lucky number seven beer and wants to celebrate the milestone with you. Relax in Hi Sign’s on-site hammocks.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hi Sign is releasing a new IPA at the brewery, the seventh beer it has made.

Off Flavor Tasting at B.B. Rover’s, 3 to 6 p.m. Train your palate to recognize off flavors in your beer with the help of this workshop led by a certified cicerone (beer expert). $25.

Garrison Brothers’ Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner. The Hill Country whiskey distillery is hosting a dinner to celebrate filling its 10,000th barrel with booze. $25-$40

Sunday, June 18

Father’s Day BrewBCruise, 2 p.m. Feast on Uncle Billy’s barbecue and beers while enjoying a relaxing cruise down Lady Bird Lake with your old man. $40.

Central Market Cooking School: Father’s Day Beef & Beer Dinner, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Spend the evening with Dad while learning to make beefed-up dishes paired with craft beer. $140.

Monday, June 19

St. Elmo Brewing, Soursop and Lewis & LeRoy Beer Dinner, 6 p.m. This collaborative dinner between two Austin food trucks and a brewery will feature a special beer, a Sichaun Saison. $78.

Saturday, June 24

Meet the Founder of Avery Brewing, 12 p.m. Banger’s is hosting Adam Avery of the Colorado brewery and will have a variety of Avery beers on tap like Liliko’i Kepolo.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, 5 to 9 p.m. Beer Camp on Tour comes to Austin and will feature both Beer Camp collaborations and other beers from U.S. breweries. $40-$75.

Uncle Billy’s, under new ownership, will expand by contract brewing at Celis

Uncle Billy’s is no longer a brewpub in the hopes of making cans of its beer more widely available across Texas cities like Austin, San Antonio and Houston and has begun the process of moving much of its brewing operations to North Austin’s soon-to-open Celis Brewery.

Photo by Matt McGinnis. Uncle Billy’s, at 1530 Barton Springs Road, is becoming a production brewery that will begin to have a lot more experimental releases on tap.

But that doesn’t mean much will change about the Barton Springs location where people have been coming since 2006 for beer and barbecue. Uncle Billy’s Brewery, as it’s now being called, is a “taproom-restaurant” still offering food, although it can’t sell wine, liquor or beer from other breweries any longer, and people will no longer be able to pick up six-packs of Uncle Billy’s beer to go.

These are a necessary sacrifice for the growth of the brand, Rick Engel, who opened the brewpub in Austin 12 years after opening Houston’s first (now defunct) brewpub since Prohibition, said in an interview.

“You have to decide what you want to be when you grow up with the way the laws are,” Engel said. “You start out as a brewpub, and if you want to get into distribution and expansion of the beer beyond the way the limits are, you have to go to the next tier, which is what we did.”

His Austin brewpub became the first in the state to start distributing to other restaurants and stores after a 2013 Texas law loosened up this restriction for the state’s brewpubs. But when Uncle Billy’s began canning, Engel didn’t realize the expansion in production would ultimately not meet demand.

Solving that problem has meant sacrifice on his part as well: Engel is no longer tied financially to Uncle Billy’s and has sold the business to Bob Leggett, CEO and founder of Artisanal Imports, one of the largest importers of Belgian beer in the U.S. Engel owns Ski Shores Cafe and various locations of Little Woodrow’s, retail establishments in the eyes of the law, and would have been in violation of the three-tier system by also having a manufacturing brewery.

Leggett, who remains at the head of his import business, had been looking to have a local beer he could add to the Artisanal portfolio and was put in touch with Engel for something much bigger. Importing beer and making it at the same time isn’t prohibited, and he jumped at the chance to take on a new project.

Yes, Texas law is complicated.

That’s why Engel worked closely with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission when he realized he wanted to take Uncle Billy’s more widely beyond the four walls of the business. He found the solution he was looking for by moving the bulk of production to Celis Brewery, which former Uncle Billy’s employee Christine Celis is opening in tribute to her father, the venerated Belgian brewer Pierre Celis.

All of Uncle Billy’s beer for distribution — currently, the Green Room IPA, Barton Springs Pale Ale and Lazy Day Lager — will be made at Celis, while the Barton Springs location of the brewery will continue making small-batch suds for enjoying on-site. Uncle Billy’s head brewer, Trevor Nearburg, had been trying to make enough of the brewery’s three canned mainstays while also producing a small roster of brewpub-only releases, a balance that didn’t always pan out.

“We’ve been at our 4,000 barrel capacity for almost 18 months,” Engel said. “But Celis has a much bigger barrel capacity, at 50,000. Celis will be brewing original recipes from Pierre and some other ones Christine’s developed with Daytona (her daughter), and there’s a regional brewer, Atwater, brewing out there as well in addition to Uncle Billy’s. There is plenty of capacity and growth for all of those brands.”

The founder of Uncle Billy’s, Rick Engel, is no longer the owner because of the way he decided to expand the brewery. But he remains the proprietor of other local businesses like Ski Shores Cafe.

New owner Leggett sees the Barton Springs location becoming a sort of “testing ground” for beers that may eventually join the three canned products beyond the brewery, and Nearburg is excited to expand his boozy repertoire.

“The beauty about taking production volume out of this facility to a place that is made to produce volume is that it will free up the brewers here to be creative, to make new things — stuff maybe they’ve wanted to make but haven’t had the time or the brewing capacity to do,” Leggett said.

That might eventually apply to other alcoholic beverages as well. Another future plan is for Uncle Billy’s to apply for a distiller’s permit and maybe even a winemaker’s permit, to bring back some of the drinks the brewery has had to abandon in its quest for greater distribution.

In the meantime, Leggett is just trying to transition Uncle Billy’s to a much bigger Texas footprint and getting customers across the state primed to the idea of having it available at more retail locations like HEB. The beer industry veteran certainly knows how to sell beer, having been involved in that side of the business since 1977. He was one of the first Shiner Bock distributors and began his import company in 1978 (a career move that eventually led to his meeting Pierre and Christine Celis at Hoegaarden in about 1986).

For Engel, it didn’t take long to see that Leggett was the right man to grow Uncle Billy’s into a much bigger brand. Engel will simply be a customer at the brewery now but believes the change was necessary.

“It was a big decision to make, but it was the right thing to do for the brand,” he said. “For me, it’s not about the money. It’s about the success of the brand and being able to watch it grow from what it was 11 years ago. It’s a dream to see your beers hit the market outside of your establishment and have people keep buying it.”

10 Texas beers to enjoy all summer long

Texas brewers know just the kinds of beers we need to combat the heat. Here are 10 mostly Austin beers (and a cider-wine hybrid because it’s divine) to keep you cool all summer long.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Brazos Valley Brewery, in Brenham, has made a peach wheat with a couple of sneaky musical references.

Austin Beerworks Einhorn: The essential summer beer of Austin was recently put into powder blue cans decorated with unicorns (‘einhorn’ means unicorn in German) and sent all over town. Crisp, a little tart and very refreshing, the Berliner Weisse-style brew might not be as rare a find as the mythical horned horse now, but it’s not any less beloved. The North Austin brewery has even helpfully supplied a map to help us locate a six-pack, although you don’t have to rush out to find it: Einhorn will be available throughout the summer.

Live Oak Hefeweizen: A lot of the beers on this list are new, seasonal or small-batch, or some combination of the three. This one’s on here because it’s trusty — easy to get both in cans and on draft and always the straw-colored, aromatic gem we expect — and we should never take it for granted. Go get some.

The ABGB’s Rocket 100 Pilsner: This one is another reliable Austin brew and one of the beers that helped to cement the ABGB’s win as the Great American Beer Festival’s Brewpub of the Year. A pre-Prohibition example of a pilsner, it’s brewed with corn, one of the ingredients that German immigrants to our country would have used. Take it home in a growler or, better yet, a three-pack of crowlers.

Hops & Grain River Beer: Modeled after light lagers like Coors Banquet, with corn in its grain bill, River Beer is intended to accompany you on all your boat rides on Lake Travis, your tubing trips down the San Marcos River, anytime you are in or over a body of water in Texas. With it, Hops & Grain is hoping to attract people who drink the likes of Coors and Budweiser, but it’s flavorful (even a little sweet, thanks to the corn) and will no doubt be the favorite of regular craft beer lovers, too.

Adelbert’s Mango Wit: As I noted in a roundup of beers suited for springtime imbibing, the year-round Mango Wit is especially suited for the spring and summer months thanks to its sweet tropical notes. Now that it’s summer, let me just go ahead and quote myself: Adelbert’s made the Mango Wit with lemon peel and real, true, juicy mango, and let me emphasize the word “juicy” again. That’s exactly how this beer tastes: as if Adelbert’s filled cans with the sweet liquid squeezed from pounds of mangoes, threw in some citrus for balance and carbonated the result.

Brazos Valley Millions of Peaches Peach Wheat: Probably, the Brenham brewery is making a reference with the name and the can design to the Allman Brothers’ “Eat a Peach” record. But the six-pack I stumbled on at Whole Foods immediately made me crack a grin because Millions of Peaches is, to me, a nod to the insanely catchy ’90s diddly “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America.

I bought the cans for the memory of belting out “millions of peaches, peaches for me” the summer in between high school and college and that alone, without knowing a thing about the beer, but fortunately it’s delicious. In the wheat beer, the sweet nectar of one of Texas’ most beloved fruits is preserved without being overly cloying, a danger that some fruit beers can face.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Got any outdoor summer activities planned? Don’t leave your six-pack of Oasis at home.

Oasis, Texas’ You May All Go to Helles and I Will Go to Texas: Are your Texan heartstrings tugging yet at this Davy Crockett reference (and well-placed beer pun)? Even if they’re not, the Lake Travis-area brewery has crafted a beer, light and thirst-quenching, that seems tailor-made for our state. The cans are a limited release, so don’t miss them.

Zilker Brewing’s Parks & Rec Pale Ale: Brewed in collaboration with the Austin Parks Foundation to celebrate Zilker Park’s 100th anniversary, the seasonal pale ale, now in cans, doubles as a good cause. A portion of the proceeds from the beer, made with old-school hops like Centennial to emphasize bright citrus notes, is being donated to the Austin Parks Foundation for Zilker Park’s upkeep. Not that you needed an extra reason to go buy it, right?

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Zilker Brewing’s newest canned beer was made to highlight Zilker Park’s 100th anniversary.

Jester King Foudreweizen: The brewery’s big and boozy Boxer’s Revenge, a a barrel-aged sour strong ale, releases this weekend, but it’s not exactly conducive to summer drinking. Buy a few bottles of that to go, since it ages so nicely, but don’t miss out on Foudreweizen. The collaboration between Jester King and Live Oak Brewing is also back and so nicely captures what both breweries do best.

It was made when wort brewed at Live Oak and inoculated with its hefeweizen yeast was taken to Jester King to transform at the hands of the native yeast and bacteria, alive in the walls of the farmhouse brewery’s foudres, and the resulting Foudreweizen tastes in essence like a funky wheat beer — bonkers good.

A crowler of Pinthouse Pizza’s latest IPA: Both locations of the brewpub are producing fresh examples of the hazy, juicy IPA they’ve perfected, from the This Is Juice at the flagship on Burnet Road to the Electric Jellyfish IPA that the South Lamar brewpub can’t seem to make enough of. IPAs generally aren’t my go-to style on hot summer days, but Pinthouse makes the beer low in bitterness, albeit with the aroma and flavors that hops can impart. Like the ABGB, both locations have crowlers.

Texas Keeper Cider’s Grafter Rosé: The best drink of 2016 is back in bottles and available at the cidery starting tomorrow afternoon, where you can sip it while enjoying barbecue from the new LeRoy and Lewis. This year’s Grafter Rosé, dry, spritz-like and tart, is made with Rome Beauty apples and Texas-grown Tempranillo and Carignan grapes.

On World Turtle Day, drink a beer, save (and meet!) a turtle or two

After a full day of tagging turtles in and around Bull Creek in an effort to study their habits and overall health, the nonprofit Turtle Survival Alliance wants to have a beer with you this evening at County Line on the Lake, a barbecue restaurant that has attracted the reptile visitors for years.

Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Eric Munscher, director of the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group, will be back at Bull Creek to tag turtles for long-term research. He said the group chose the area near County Line on the Lake after hearing about the massive turtle congregation at the restaurant.

Proceeds from the beer, of course, will go toward the organization’s efforts at turtle conservation in the U.S. Hops & Grain’s River Beer, an extra premium lager aimed at attracting Budweiser fans, will be $10, with additional pours $4.

The North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group arm of the Turtle Survival Alliance noticed how plentiful the turtles living in Bull Creek have become — perhaps because customers at the County Line have been giving them snacks of the restaurant’s homemade bread for years. The group made its first research study in the area last year and have returned to do so again, according to Jordan Gray of the Turtle Survival Alliance.

People are welcome to watch the group in action as they capture turtles, including those tagged last September, to measure and weigh them, tag new ones and determine their health and sex. They’ll be released back into the water. The scientific effort will run from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, which not coincidentally happens to be World Turtle Day.

Afterward, join the turtle researchers and their reptile friends for Turtlemania, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., at County Line. You’ll get a souvenir pint glass with an order of the River Beer.

Here are some important facts from Gray to know about the Central Texas turtles that have so enamored County Line customers and staff over the years.

  • Texas has more species of turtles than most countries in the world, a number that totals to 37 if you count subspecies. That “puts us in a hot spot of turtle and tortoise biodiveristy,” Gray says. Central Texas specifically has about a half-dozen common here, such as the Texas map turtle, the Texas cooter, the Eastern snapping, the red-eared slider everyone is most familiar with, and a subspecies called the Guadalupe spiny soft-shell turtle.
  • Unfortunately, before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department banned the commercial harvest of the state’s turtles in 2007, many of them had their populations dwindle because of the national and international pet and food trade. Ten years later, populations are rebounding in certain areas, while in others, other factors like fire ants and urbanization have kept their numbers low.
  • The North American Freshwater Research Group has now engaged in “long-term population monitoring in Austin, which gives us lots of valuable insight into how these turtle populations are doing in their freshwater habitats,” Gray said. In one word: well. Central Texas’ freshwater springs are filled with mollusks, snails and clams, and the turtles like to dine on them, helping to keep some of these invasive species at bay. The turtles’ heads have actually grown larger as a result of their new diet.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hops & Grain’s River Beer is on draft and now also in cans at many local restaurants, including County Line at the Lake.

Texas brewers lose legislative fight over taproom bill, headed to governor’s desk

Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman. Self-distributing breweries like Austin Beerworks will be affected by HB 3287, which just passed the Senate and now just needs Governor Greg Abbot’s pen to become law.

Texas brewers were dealt a blow this afternoon when House Bill 3287, which seeks to limit breweries that grow beyond a certain size or become owned by a larger beer company, passed the Texas Senate by a 19-10 vote.

The bill will now head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, but the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, representing the state’s breweries, isn’t ready to give up yet and has announced that it will continue to fight against it in the hopes of a veto from Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“This bill will put a ceiling on success for the 200+ craft breweries operating in Texas and will slow the future growth of what has become an important burgeoning manufacturing industry in our state,” the guild wrote in a statement published on Facebook shortly after HB 3287 passed.

HB 3287, pushed by wholesalers through the trade groups Beer Alliance of Texas and Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, will change the Texas beer code in the following ways.

  • Breweries making 225,000 barrels of beer per year (a calculation that includes the amount of barrels from any affiliate brewery with a 25 percent or more stake in the company) cannot operate a tasting room.
  • There are exceptions to this rule, however. Current breweries over this limit have been grandfathered in and will still be able to keep their taproom doors open, but they and future breweries eligible for exception have to pay their distributor for all beers they sell in their taprooms. Austin’s Oskar Blues Brewery is affected, and any future taproom locations of breweries like Houston’s Karbach Brewing — now owned by Anheuser-Busch — will also have to pay up. They can have up to three tasting rooms.
  • Self-distributing breweries can only self-distribute a total of 40,000 barrels across all locations; anything above that has to be sold through a distributor. In other words, single-premises breweries like Austin Beerworks and Live Oak Brewing can only expand so much if they want to keep their independence from the wholesale tier.

Given that Texas brewers had hoped 2017 would be the year Texas allows its breweries to sell beer directly to customers for off-premise consumption, HB 3287, which they see as taking some of their rights away, has been a big blow.

“To say that today’s outcome was incredibly disheartening would be to put it mildly,” the Texas Craft Brewers Guild said it in its statement on Facebook.

But wholesalers argue that the bill prevents large multinational breweries from “gobbling up” Texas’ small craft breweries and having “access to multiple taprooms across the state,” Rick Donley, representing the Beer Alliance, said at a previous committee hearing. That sort of access would be a violation of the three-tier system.

It’s “a system that “has allowed for an incredibly competitive marketplace and allows smalls breweries to thrive in a way that other commodities can’t do because of the inability to get to market without a distribution tier,” Keith Strama, counsel for the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, later said in the same hearing.

The only hope now for brewers to be able to sell beer to-go from their taprooms is a lawsuit that Dallas-Fort Worth’s Deep Ellum Brewing and others have lodged against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, a case currently still tied up in the courts. Texas remains the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t permit its breweries to offer packaged beers for off-premise enjoyment.

Zilker Brewing’s Parks & Rec Pale Ale named for one of Austin’s favorite things

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Zilker Brewing’s newest canned beer was made to highlight Zilker Park’s 100th anniversary.

The name of Zilker Brewing’s latest canned beer suggests that the brewers have a particular fondness for the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” — but it’s actually a nod to something a little more homegrown.

Urban brewery Zilker Brewing, co-founded by brothers Patrick and Forrest Clark and their friend Marco Rodriguez, is about to release a limited liquid homage to Zilker Park, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Parks & Rec Pale Ale is the result of a collaboration between the brewery and the nonprofit Austin Parks Foundation and officially debuts at the Yeti Flagship store on May 25.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of the beer will go toward the Austin Parks Foundation to maintain Zilker Park, “the crown jewel of our parks system,” according to the foundation’s CEO Colin Wallis.

Giving back to a community-oriented organization like the foundation was an easy decision for Rodriguez and the Clarks to make, who “make it a priority to enrich the neighborhood we’re in however we can,” Patrick Clark said. “A big part of Austin is our outdoor spaces. If we can help those stay beautified, that’s a no-brainer for us.”

The brewery has taken its cues from namesake Andrew Zilker, an important figure in Austin’s history who gifted Barton Springs and the surrounding land, formerly part of his 40-acre ranch, to the city to be used as public parkland. He was both a philanthropist and an entrepreneur, but he got his start in Central Texas, as the story goes, with just a few cents in his pocket.

Also significant to the founders of Zilker Brewing is that during his successful career, he had ties to the beverage industry, with an ice-making business and bottling company, using the clean water from Barton Springs itself to make the ice.

The Parks & Rec Pale Ale, light and refreshing but still full of citrusy flavor, is intended to be enjoyed somewhere outside this summer.

Rodriguez, who oversees the brewing program at Zilker Brewing, made the beer with “old-school” hops like Cascade, with Centennial, he said, being the most pronounced in honor of the 100th anniversary of the park. These more established hops have fallen in popularity thanks to newer, more exciting varieties like Mosaic and Citra, which means the former hops’ aromas and flavors are becoming unfamiliar and thus “like new again,” he said.

“It’s a hop formulation we really loved and thought was appropriate for the beer: bright and citrusy, crisp and refreshing, rather than dank and bitter,” Patrick Clark said. “It’s nice when people say they would drink it outside, and they tell you that unsolicited. Because that’s exactly what we were going for — something to be enjoyed outdoors.”

The cans of Parks & Rec Pale Ale — largely designed by the brewery’s design firm Zocalo with a special Zilker Park 100th anniversary commemoration on it — launch during happy hour, 4 to 8 p.m., on May 25, at the Yeti store, 220 S. Congress Ave. Buy a special Zilker Brewing-branded Yeti Colster and you’ll get a free can of the beer. All sales from the Colsters will also be donated to the Austin Parks Foundation.

Zilker Park’s 100th anniversary is a year-long celebration with more things to come. For more information, visit zilker100.com.

Inaugural Index Fest successfully mingled music, beer and art in Austin

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The very first Index Fest rocked by combining music, art and craft beer.

The first rays of the incoming summer sun were blisteringly hot at times, but the beer, at least, was good and cold at the debut of Index Fest this weekend.

Also coming to Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Dallas throughout this year, the festival is a slightly spruced-up version of the now-defunct Untapped Fest — offering games, art installations and a small roster of food vendors in addition to the usual focus on music and craft beer.

But make no mistake: Index Fest still kept the spotlight squarely on the latter two, with brewery booths scattered across the lawn and parking lot in front of the Austin American-Statesman and a large stage erected in one corner for live performances from Austin City Limits Music Fest veterans Local Natives of Los Angeles, as well as electronica duo Frenship, indie-rockers Grizfolk, local stage-spectacle Calliope Musicals and DJ Mark Markus.

The setup of the festival kept those there for the music partitioned, for the most part, from those drinking beer out of 2 oz. taster glasses. I can’t say how the music was — I was not an active listener as I made my way down the lines of brewery booths with friends — but I appreciated that sound levels from the stage never reached an overwhelming level.

Implementing electronic wristbands that kept track of how many pours each person had gotten of beer (tickets allowed for a certain number, though you could purchase more) was also smart and efficient.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Fredericksburg’s Altstadt Brewery launched only a couple of months ago, so Index Fest was likely many beer lovers’ introduction to its light, easy-drinking beers.

Here are some of the standout beers from the festival, many of which are available in larger quantities around town.

From Austin:

  • Pinthouse Pizza’s Zappy Squid IPA (which was exciting to try for the first time in part because I’d just published a story about the brewpub’s stellar IPA program)
  • Hops & Grain’s Pellets & Powder IPA
  • Independence Brewing’s Illustrated Man Dark Sour
  • North by Northwest’s Mr. Rogers Imperial Pale Lager

From Texas and around the country:

  • Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer Imperial Red Ale
  • Firestone Walker’s Luponic Distortion, a rotating hop series
  • Jolly Pumpkin’s No Ka Oi Wild Ale
  • BrainDead Brewing’s Idle Playthings Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Austin brewpub Pinthouse Pizza to open third location in Round Rock

After finding a niche in Austin as a family-friendly brewpub selling beer and pizza, Pinthouse Pizza is moving a little north of the city for its newest location in Round Rock. Construction will start this summer at a plot of land at Old Settlers and Interstate 35.

It might take longer to get this third brewpub up and running because Pinthouse is starting from the ground up, erecting an entirely new building rather than simply retrofitting an existing one, as with the first two on Burnet Road and South Lamar Boulevard. The team behind Pinthouse, which includes Director of Brewing Operations Joe Morhfeld, is excited to put their stamp on the project from the start.

“We’ll have more space to do what we want,” he said.

Deborah Cannon / American-Statesman. Pinthouse Pizza will be making many more beers at an upcoming Round Rock location.

And why Round Rock? The town is appealing because it’s become an outpost of other Austin chains like Hopdoddy and the site of new restaurants from established Austin chefs like Jack Gilmore, who opened Salt Traders Coastal Cooking there last year to strong reviews.

“It just kind of made sense for us to move there, looking at the other restaurants around there and how they’re doing and the demographic,” Mohrfeld said. “With the population shift and everything, it seemed like a natural fit for us. And there’s still open land that we were able to grab.”

For his part, Mohrfeld plans to approach the brewing program there in the same way he has the other two: offering new and different beers at it with Pinthouse’s indelible balanced style.

“You’ll never find Man O’ War (Pinthouse Burnet’s flagship beer) at the south location, just like you won’t find Electric Jellyfish (Pinthouse Lamar’s flagship beer) at the north location,” Jacob Passey, head brewer at the South Lamar brewpub, said. “We might make similar beers with some crossover recipes, but for the most part, if you always go south and you want to go north, we want you to be able to try new beers. Or vice versa.”

That will be the case at Round Rock: Morhfeld is considering making Training Bines, another Pinthouse IPA, the flagship at Round Rock. People at the Burnet pub have already gotten to try it, as he and the brewers work to perfect it.

“It’s same thing we did with Lamar,” the second Pinthouse location to open, he said. “We had been working on a lot of the beers for Lamar for a year plus leading up to it. We just took the stuff that worked and took it down there. So it’s not like we’re starting completely fresh. We’re able to incubate the beers at the two locations and see what works.”

One thing you can count on at the Round Rock spot: lots more exciting IPAs, Pinthouse’s specialty style. The brewpub was founded in 2012 and quickly established itself as the place to go for fresh takes on the beloved beer.

For more information about Pinthouse Pizza, visit pinthousepizza.com.

In Texas Senate, craft brewers fight for off-premise sales, try to ward off taproom tax

Kyser Lough for American-Statesman. Texas breweries with financial backing from other larger breweries, like Independence Brewing, pictured here, might have to pay distributors for every beer they sell in their taprooms under a proposed law making its way through the Senate.
Texas is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t allow its breweries to sell beer directly to consumers for their enjoyment off-site. Texas also ranks 46th in breweries per capita.

Those two facts were repeated often during a morning Senate committee hearing in which a number of people involved in the brewing industry — brewers and distributors alike — voiced their thoughts on Senate Bill 1217 and Senate Bill 2083, two craft beer-focused bills with very different aims.

SB 1217 would allow breweries to join Texas wineries, distilleries and brewpubs in selling their products for off-premise consumption, while SB 2083, the companion bill to House Bill 3287, would seek to limit breweries that grow beyond a certain size or become owned by a larger beer company. To sell beer in their taprooms, these breweries (which include Austin’s Oskar Blues and Independence Brewing) might have to first sell the beer to their distributor and buy it back.

The Texas House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly this weekend not to legalize taproom beer purchases for off-site consumption and also voted in favor of the limitations on larger breweries, those making 225,000 barrels or more of beer per year.

Proponents of the latter bill, namely distributors through the trade groups Beer Alliance of Texas and Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, argue that it prevents large multinational breweries from “gobbling up” Texas’ small craft breweries and having “access to multiple taprooms across the state,” Rick Donley, representing the Beer Alliance, said during the committee hearing this morning.

That would be in violation of the three-tier system, Keith Strama, counsel for the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, added in later testimony, a system that “has allowed for an incredibly competitive marketplace and allows smalls breweries to thrive in a way that other commodities can’t do because of the inability to get to market without a distribution tier.”

In that way, SB 2083 protects small craft breweries in the state, according to the bill’s author, State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

But that’s not how the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the organization representing these brewers, or the Texas Association of Manufacturers, the organization representing the state’s small businesses, see it. Both came out against SB 2083 at the hearing, along with numerous brewers, including Chip McElroy of Live Oak Brewing and Amy Cartwright of Independence Brewing, one of the directly affected breweries.

They argue that SB 2083 and the already-passed HB 3287 — which at the moment directly affect only a small number of brewers, mainly those owned by larger breweries like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors — would discourage investors and limit their businesses’ growth.

Josh Hare, owner of Hops & Grain Brewing and board chairman of the guild, spoke out against the proposed payment larger breweries would have to make to distributors for their taproom beers, calling it a tax. His brewery is in the process of opening a new location in San Marcos.

“If we exceed the collective 225,000 barrel limit, we would be forced then to sell our beer to a wholesaler, buy it back to sell in our tasting room, and it would dramatically cut into our margins and ultimate profitability. I would also like to emphasize here that the beer would never leave our brewery. It would just be paper moving around,” he said. “The wholesaler would place a dock bump tax on that transaction, receiving payment for no added value to what we’re doing on-site.”

Sweeping 2013 legislation allowed, among other things, for production breweries to sell up to 5,000 barrels of beer to consumers for on-site consumption. Breweries aren’t asking for that number to increase but do want to be able to also sell a six-pack to a customer to take home. That’s where SB 1217, from State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, comes in.

The bill restricts monthly purchases to 576 fl. oz. per consumer, the equivalent of two cases of beer. Brewers are in support of it; distributors are not.

“Data from other states shows that off-premise sales leads to more brewery openings, more beer tourism and more retail sales across every tier,” Michael Graham, co-founder of Austin Beerworks, said.

Donley, representing a wholesalers’ group, did not outright discuss why the group is against the bill but pointed out the issue of off-premise sales will be resolved in court because of an ongoing suit Deep Ellum Brewing, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has raised against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The question of taprooms selling beer to-go “involves some intricate points of federal law, including commerce clause issues, equal protection clause issues, but it also strikes at the very core of the 21st Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Donnelly said, referencing the amendment that repealed Prohibition and gave the states total control over alcoholic beverages.

State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, asked for clarification about the amendment — how allowing Texas breweries to sell beer to-go, something 49 other states do in some capacity, would “strike at the core” of the U.S. Constitution.

“We repealed Prohibition and extended the right of every state to regulate our alcohol,” Donley said in reply.

“Right. And so we’re the only state that doesn’t allow this, though, right?” Estes said of off-premise sales.

“That is correct, but that’s a policy decision made by you as a legislature,” Donley said.

Neither of the bills have moved out of committee yet.

This post has been corrected to reflect the spelling of Donley’s name. 

Orf Brewing finally arrives, making ‘hybrid’ ales in East Austin

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Chris Orf is slowly getting kegs of his beers to local bars and will open the tasting room of Orf Brewing very soon. His brewery has been a long time coming.

Chris Orf might have the smallest professional brewing system in town, but that hasn’t stopped him from opening Orf Brewing after 11 years of dreaming and planning.

The former homebrewer, comedy writer and chemistry teacher wanted to start a brewery since moving to Austin in 2006 and seeing the potential for his own operation. Although there are far more breweries now than there were then, he believes he’s maintained a niche by offering what he calls hybrid ales — beers that don’t stay true to style — and pairing them with live comedy shows in Orf Brewing’s modest taproom at Burleson Road and East Ben White Boulevard.

“That’s why I say ‘creativity in ale forms,’” Orf said, pointing to the pun on his branded Orf Brewing T-shirt. “That’s my goal, to be part of that community of both beer brewers and entertainment comedy. Combine them so that you can enjoy my beer while you’re having a good time at maybe my show or somebody else’s show.”

For now, he’s just wanting to introduce locals to his beers. The four that he makes are slowly going on draft at bars and restaurants like Craft Pride, Tamale House East and the Whip In, and they’ll also be available when he opens the Orf Brewing taproom for the first time on May 20 for tours and tastings.

Orf said he’s lucky to have gotten the 1,500 sq. ft. warehouse for his brewery — they can be hard to come by in Austin nowadays, and his has plenty of room for growth. He acquired it more than two years ago, demolished the interior (which formerly housed a very illegal hotel) and rebuilt it into a brewing facility. Although he’s had help from friends, he’s done most of it all by himself.

“This is pretty much a one-man DIY operation,” he said. “I’ve been working on this idea for years and years and finally just started doing it for real, slowly as it goes, because when there’s one person and no money, it’s just what you have to do.”

He brews using a 55-gallon system, which is “really, really sweet for a homebrewer and really, really tiny for a professional brewer,” he said, and has bootstrapped together other aspects of the beer-making process that require technology he hasn’t been able to afford yet. He’s hoping for investors who will help him purchase a bigger system and better equipment.

In the meantime, the former University of Texas chemistry instructor — who said he gets joking comparisons all the time to Walter White in “Breaking Bad” as a result — continues to spread the gospel of hybrid beers. He started making beers purposely off-style after growing tired of the likes of pilsners, hefeweizens and pale ales. Orf Brewing take elements from these and other styles and combines them to make beers that he said aren’t quite like anything else on the market.

Here’s what he has to say about each of the four Orf beers.

  • Salutation Ale: “I would consider this one, a golden ale, to be my flagship. It’s got the grains of a pilsner, the hops of an American pale ale, and the yeast of a German kolsch. So it’s not quite any of them but somewhere in between.”
  • Honey Roast: “Honey Roast is exactly what it sounds like: I wanted something not as sweet as an amber but not as smoky and toast-filled as a black schwarzbier or black IPA. So this has a little bit of roasted barley and a little bit of honey, and it’s somewhere in between the two styles.”
  • Hoprocker India Irish Red Ale: “Hoprocker is my response to IPAs getting more and more bitter. I can’t handle this peel-the-enamel-off-your-teeth bitterness. And I like Irish reds. So I took an Irish red and hopped it like an IPA, giving it the malt body of the red with the hops of an IPA. It comes out a little more malty than an IPA does, but it’s a lot more hoppy than a typical red.”
  • Oocheemama Asian White Ale: “This is the one getting the most attention because it’s the most distinct. Oocheemama is what I call an Asian white ale because it’s a hybrid of a Belgian white and an Asian or Thai rice lager, specifically spiced to go with Asian food, like sushi. It’s got wheat and rice in the grain bill (usually you get one or the other), and then I spiced it. Instead of spicing it like a Belgian wit, which is usually coriander and orange peel, stuff like that, I used a little bit of orange peel, nutmeg, a bunch of ginger, and then I dry-hopped it, for lack of a better term, with jasmine flower petals. “

He got the idea for Oocheemama, he said, after talking to a former beer buyer for Uchi, who was frustrated about not being able to find a beer that would pair with Uchi cuisine.

With the Oocheemama, he found one. Its use of a dry English ale yeast mixed with a Belgian-style wheat beer and Asian-style spices makes the beer perhaps the best example of the sort of hybrid beers that Orf likes to make, but you won’t particularly notice the science when appreciating the art: the alluring aroma of the jasmine flowers followed by the earthy, sweet and spicy flavors of the other ingredients.

“Because it’s a lighter-than-normal wheat beer, that kind of lets the spices come through in a way that pairs really well with the food,” Orf said, noting that he hopes to have it at the Whip In so that people can enjoy it with Indian cuisine.

Orf Brewing will be open 1 to 6 p.m. May 20 at 4700 Burleson Rd., F. For more information, visit orfbrewing.com/home.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Orf Brewing has a small beer garden outside, tucked around a massive oak tree that owner Chris Orf estimates is 250 to 300 years old.

This post has been corrected to reflect the beer buyer who helped to inspire the creation of Oocheemama.