Hops & Grain to release new mainstay beer, PorterCulture, in cans

Fresh off celebrating three years in business, Hops & Grain will add another canned beer to its permanent lineup when PorterCulture slowly debuts in the brewery taproom, stores, restaurants and bars next week.

Photo by Arianna Auber. Cans of Hops & Grain PorterCulture will start appearing in stores, restaurants and bars next week.
Photo by Arianna Auber.
Cans of Hops & Grain PorterCulture will start appearing in stores, restaurants and bars next week.

The Baltic-style porter, lighter than other beers of that style, “was a long time coming” for the brewery, owner Josh Hare said. He said that with a pale lager, an altbier, a pale ale and an IPA all in cans, Hops & Grain had been looking to release another year-round beer that would round out the portfolio — something dark, a porter or a stout, that would still be drinkable in summer’s hottest months.

It took some time for brewers to come up with just the right base recipe, but PorterCulture, originally one of the small-batch creations people can only try at the taproom, ended up being what they had been seeking. Brewed with lager yeast and blended with de-husked black malt and chocolate wheat, it doesn’t have the chalky finish that other porters can leave on the tongue; instead, it’s clean and crisp even as notes of coffee, dark chocolate and graham crackers round out only a mild hint of hoppy bitterness at the start. A couple of rounds of PorterCulture also doesn’t make you feel full.

“Porters are generally meant for wintertime,” brewer Bob Galligan said. “But PorterCulture is a good beer for the fall.”

With a 6.56 percent ABV, the beer is suited for Texas’ hotter months, too. PorterCulture’s purple cans will join the other mainstays, Pale Dog, Alt-eration, the Greenhouse IPA and the One They Call Zoe (Hops & Grain’s top-seller), on shelves all year round.

But Hare isn’t stopping there. He’s already got plans to play around with barrel-aging and other projects in the Greenhouse, Hops & Grain’s 3 barrel pilot system that’s yielded tons of one-off experimental brews.

“We’re really looking forward to the wonderful projects that will soon come from our barrel-aging program using PorterCulture as the base,” he said in a press release.

The brewery also has a handful of Austin Beer Week events scheduled between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2 — among them a Halloween party, a beer-and-cheese pairing event and a beer dinner at Hi Hat Public House.

Austin Beer Week events announced

The Austin Beer Week schedule is now live. The 10 day extravaganza celebrating all things beer-related is from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2 this year — and as usual, it’s stuffed full of events as local breweries and bars unleash their characteristic zeal for a good party.

Photo by Emma Janzen. The Rainey Street bar Craft Pride will again be the location of Austin Beer Week's opening party.
Photo by Emma Janzen.
The Rainey Street bar Craft Pride will again be the location of Austin Beer Week’s opening party.

This fifth annual round of Austin Beer Week has the beer dinners, tap takeovers and meet-the-brewer nights of Austin Beer Weeks past, but there are also a variety of more off-the-wall events (do I spy not one, but four Halloween-related parties?) on tap as well.

Here are my notes about and recommendations for the week to help you figure out what you most want to attend.

  • Oct. 25 might be the hardest day for beer fans, not because of a dearth of good events to choose from, but because of too many of them. (512) Brewing and Draught House are both celebrating their anniversaries (6th and 46th, respectively), and Austin Eastciders is hosting the long-awaited grand opening for its urban cidery. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. is also throwing a Fermentation Fest, complete with a pig roast and brats.
  • Mix it up and add some spirits to your beer at Half Step’s Circle Beertails Party at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29. Or how about coffee? Another Oct. 25 event, Real Ale’s Coffee + Beer Education at the Brew and Brew, will feature Real Ale’s Erik Ogershok discussing his philosophy on coffee, beer and when the two should meet (that’s easy: in the Real Ale Coffee Porter, one of my favorites of that style). There will, of course, be beers, coffee and coffee beer all throughout his talk.
  • The 10 days will contain more special tappings than your liver can handle, so choose wisely. I’d suggest going to Easy Tiger’s Prairie Ales and Balcones Whiskey Collaboration event on Oct. 28 — Prairie Bomb, one of the more highly coveted beers during the winter months, has been aged in Balcones Brimstone Whiskey barrels. The Brimstone Bomb will be part of a flight featuring the original beer and whiskey.
  • Jester King’s annual Funk n Sour Fest, on Oct. 30, is changing up the format this year to pair local eats with craft beers, wines and ciders. For instance, can you think of a better combination than Dai Due paired with La Cruz de Comal wines? Tickets will go on sale via the Jester King website at noon on Oct. 16, and since the brewery is making less available than in past years, be sure to secure some right at that time.
  • Halloween is on Friday this year, and several bars and breweries are taking full advantage. Adelbert’s, Craft Pride and School House Pub will all be the ghoulish scenes of some wicked Halloween costume contests that night; the ABGB is throwing “a Monsters of Rock” night on Saturday with the music of the Misfits, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Pink Floyd being brought to life by local musicians. One event prior to Halloween on Oct. 25, School House Pub’s Pumpkin Carving Contest, will feature Southern Tier’s Pumking.
  • One brewery also wants to celebrate the day after Halloween. Oasis, Texas Brewing’s Dia de Los Muertos party will focus on the release of Lake Monster in cans, as well as two new beers, the Bogue, an English-style dark session beer dry-hopped with new Tahoma hops, and Possum Porter, a sessionable English brown porter.

I suspect more events will be added to the calendar as Austin Beer Week creeps closer, so keep an eye on the website.

Beer writer brings new world beer guide to Austin

With so many good beers in Texas and the U.S., it can be easy to forget that we aren’t the only ones creating solid tributes to classic styles or coming up with entirely new experimental brews.

But writers Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb are well aware of all the best brews the world has to offer, and they want everyone else to be familiar with those beers, too.

Beaumont and Webb are not just big fans of beer — they also travel all around the world and have combined their two interests to document some of the best beers being made internationally, from the U.S. and Canada down to South America and then from Europe, Asia and beyond. Their research has produced “Pocket Beer Guide 2015: The World’s Best Craft and Traditional Beers,” which recently published with some 3,500 beers rated and profiled.

"Pocket Beer Guide 2015" tracks down top beers from all over the world.
“Pocket Beer Guide 2015” tracks down top beers from all over the world.

Austin beers, such as ones from (512) Brewing, Jester King and Live Oak, are among them. In fact, Beaumont has been so impressed not just by some of the local breweries, but the local community supporting them, that he’ll be in town tonight for a “local brewers summit” at Flying Saucer that will feature five Austin breweries and their beers. The brewers will walk beer fans through a tasting; then, Beaumont will offer up his thoughts on each of the beers.

“I think of these tastings as putting myself in the lion’s den,” Beaumont said with a chuckle. “I have beers that I’ve never had before and try right in front of the brewers. The idea is for me to lead people in a discovery of flavors, not necessarily the beers themselves, but styles in general. And then getting brewers to put in their two cents, and if they think I’m way off base, they may say so.”

Stephen Beaumont has written a lot of articles and books on beer, including the recently published guide to international beers.
Stephen Beaumont has written a lot of articles and books on beer, including the recently published guide to international beers.

Beaumont is certainly no stranger to tasting beers and being able to talk about their style, origin and even the history behind that style on a global level. He and Webb have half a century of writing about beer between them — they’ve additionally co-authored the book “The World Atlas of Beer” — and have cultivated extensive knowledge of what’s out there. With the help of other beer experts around the world, they regularly discover the brews other countries have to offer, but often only within their borders.

Many of the beers’ limited availability can certainly lead to a bit of a problem. Because they aren’t exactly available at the local corner store, readers can’t try them for themselves and form their own opinions.

“We make no apologies for the fact that some of these beers are going to be very hard to find,” Beaumont said, noting that he and Webb made sure readers know that in the introduction. “It’s very difficult to flip through the pages and not want to hop on a plane and go somewhere. I know not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm for flying 20 hours to try some beers, but there’s a lot of fun in imagining where you can go. Seeing what a pub crawl in Rome might be like. Realizing that people are brewing beer in Lebanon.”

Essentially part travel guide, part beer review, “Pocket Beer Guide 2015” is divided by geographical region, and the beers within each section are all rated up to four stars. Beaumont said they were very careful in giving beers that topmost rating: “It’s one of the world’s greatest beers, a champion.” Only about 50 or 60 beers in the book earned four stars.

He was in charge of compiling beers for the book from Canada (where he currently lives) all the way to the tip of Argentina.

“The world of beer today is certainly a lot different from even 5 or 10 years ago, and there’s great beer everywhere,” he said. “I spent some considerable time in Brazil — they’re improving very quickly. But it’s one of those things you have to go there to experience what’s going on because only one brewery is really exporting. It’s the same with places like Argentina and Mexico.”

And often he and Webb purposely left out the brands that people are most familiar with. “We chose to effectively ignore the biggest breweries in the world because no one needs us to tell them what a Corona tastes like,” he said.

Look for even more extensive beer discoveries in future editions. In the meantime, the Local Brewers Summit at Flying Saucer starts at 7 p.m. and features beer from Real Ale, (512), Austin Beerworks and more. Tickets are $45 and include 6 oz. tastings of each beer and food pairings. You’ll also be able to purchase “Pocket Beer Guide 2015” and have Beaumont sign it. For reservations, call 512-454-8200.

Texas breweries earn a whopping 16 GABF medals

Photo contributed by Texas Craft Brewers Guild. The Austin Beerworks team accepted their silver medal for Fire Eagle in all-denim getups.
Photo contributed by Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
The Austin Beerworks team accepted their silver medal for Fire Eagle in all-denim getups.

Texas craft breweries took home a record-shattering number of medals from the Great American Beer Festival’s competition Saturday, with a total of 16 gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to breweries and brewpubs from Austin, Dallas, Houston and beyond — the fourth most decorated state behind California, Colorado and Oregon, traditional craft beer bastions. It’s just one more sign that the state is becoming a craft beer powerhouse in its own right.

(The most medals Texas has won up to this point is 18 in 2002, but because many of those went to macro breweries located in Texas at the time, let’s say that this year at the festival has been the most successful thus far for small, independently owned Texas craft brewers.)

Photo by Arianna Auber. Co-founder and head brewer of Armadillo Ale Works, Bobby Mullins said it "felt good, really good," to hear Armadillo's Quakertown Stout take gold in the imperial stout category at GABF.
Photo by Arianna Auber.
Co-founder and head brewer of Armadillo Ale Works, Bobby Mullins said it “felt good, really good,” to hear Armadillo’s Quakertown Stout take gold in the imperial stout category at GABF.

Among the Austin winners were previous GABF victors Austin Beerworks, Real Ale and Pinthouse Pizza. Thirsty Planet and Oasis, Texas Brewing, which only started brewing earlier this year, became first-time winners this year — a distinction that Oasis founder and head brewer Spencer Tielkemeier is still “over the moon” about.

“We’d have been happy with any medal, but it makes it so much sweeter that it’s gold,” he said. “By the time they’ve announced the bronze and silver, you’ve already talked yourself out of it. I honestly don’t remember the ten seconds following the syllable “Lond-“”

He added that the fact “there are so many great beers out there” makes the win all the more gratifying. “You may not always love the beers they pick, but you can be sure they don’t suck,” he said.

Oasis’ London Homesick Ale earned the top prize in the ordinary or special bitter category. Tielkemeier said he had honestly thought Oasis’ lagers (he also submitted Slow Ride, Luchesa, Oktoberfest and Lake Monster for the competition) were the Lake Travis brewery’s strongest contenders.

Austin Beerworks, Real Ale and Pinthouse had all gotten medals last year, when Texas breweries brought back 10 GABF awards. But previous wins certainly don’t make new ones any less sweeter, as Austin Beerworks’ Will Golden noted.

“Winning a silver in the strong pale ale category (for Fire Eagle) was like Big Wave surfing on a great white shark,” he said. “It also is a reassurance we are doing the right thing at the brewery.”

Others who joined the winners’ circle this year include Dallas’ Community Beer Co. (one of two Texas breweries to receive two awards), Fredericksburg’s Pedernales Brewing and Denton’s Armadillo Ale Works.

Texas’ impressive showing at GABF is “establishing the state as a leading craft beer destination,” Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said. “Texas craft brewers clearly demonstrated that while craft beer is growing quickly in our state, quality does not take a back seat.”

How the competition component of the festival works: Breweries around the country submit their beers to any one of 90 different beer style categories for professionals in the brewing industry to judge in a blind tasting. The winners are then announced on the final day of GABF in a special ceremony. And make no mistake — breweries faced stiff competition. More than 1,300 breweries from around the U.S. submitted more than 5,500 different beers.

Oasis, Texas, helmed by Live Oak and Uncle Billy’s veteran Tielkemeier, wasn’t the only first-time brewery to take part in the festival and competition. According to the Brewers Association, the organization in charge of putting GABF together every year, 35 percent of GABF participants were newcomers.

Here’s the full list of Texas winners.

Gold medalists:

  • Armadillo Ale Works for Quakertown Stout in the imperial stout category
  • Community Beer Co. for Public Ale in the extra special bitter category
  • Grapevine Craft Brewery for Sir William’s English Brown Ale in the English-style brown ale category
  • Oasis, Texas Brewing for London Homesick Ale in the ordinary or special bitter category
  • Peticolas Brewing for 2012 Great Scot! in the aged beer category
  • Real Ale Brewing for Benedictum in the Belgian-style lambic or sour ale category

Silver medalists:

  • Austin Beerworks for Fire Eagle in the American-style strong pale ale
  • Pedernales Brewing for Lobo Negro in the German-style schwarzbier category
  • Saint Arnold for Summer Pils in the Munich-style Helles category
  • Thirsty Planet for Yellow Armadillo in the American-style wheat beer category
  • 5 Stones for Aloha Pina in the herb and spice category

Bronze medalists:

  • Community Beer Co. for Ascension in the coffee beer category
  • Pinthouse Pizza for Jaguar Shark in the wood-and-barrel-aged strong stout category
  • Rahr & Sons for the Regulator in the German-style doppelbock category
  • Saint Arnold for Weedwhacker in the German-style wheat ale category
  • Spoetzl Brewery for Shiner Bock in the American-style dark lager category

This post has been corrected with the year Texas had the most wins at GABF.

Texas brewers bring beer, high spirits to Great American Beer Festival

While Austinites gear up for two rambunctious weekends of live music at Austin City Limits Festival, beer enthusiasts from all over the country have swarmed into Denver, Colo., for three days of a very different festival.

Photo by Arianna Auber New Belgium's enormous brewhouse in Fort Collins, Colo., can almost be mistaken for a church, if not for the fermenters running down the middle of it.
Photo by Arianna Auber
New Belgium’s enormous brewhouse in Fort Collins, Colo., can almost be mistaken for a church, if not for the fermenters running down the middle of it.

The Great American Beer Festival brings together hundreds of breweries around the U.S. that have been creating quality craft beers, some for more than 30 years, others for as little as a few months, and their thirsty fans for beer tastings and other related events through Saturday, when the big awards ceremony announcing winners of GABF’s competition is announced.

I have been in Colorado since Sunday visiting breweries in Colorado Springs, Golden, Fort Collins and Denver with my friends in Bitch Beer (a blog, full disclosure, that I also write for), and I’m looking forward to also covering my very first GABF, the largest beer festival in the U.S., for Liquid Austin. The festival starts today with the first of three tasting sessions in the Colorado Convention Center, and with thousands of beers being poured for thousands of people, I’m expecting to be a little overwhelmed but still determined to discover some innovative brews and talk to some of the passionate minds behind them.

Leading up to the festival, I’ve been asking festival veterans if they’ve got any tips for festival newcomers like me. Josh Hare, Hops and Grain’s founder and a recent participant in 1400 Miles, a 1,400 mile bike ride from Austin to Denver to raise awareness about prostate cancer, had this piece of advice to offer: “Take it slowly.  There is plenty of beer to go around and the altitude will sneak up on you, especially coming from sea level. ”

Middleton Brewing’s Clayton Rahmberg didn’t have a particular tip about GABF for me, but he did say that the festival is “a great place to culture new relationships and gain inspiration for new recipes, events, etc.” At the festival, Middleton will have Pepperhead IPA (“an American style-IPA that we dry hop with a variety of Texas peppers”) and the Texas Pecan Amber (“our American-style amber that we dry hop with a large amount of Seguin pecans”).

To get the full list of beers that will be at GABF’s big tasting sessions (and a map of where they are), download the GABF app. The breweries are divided by region, so it’s a good idea for festival-goers to plan ahead and know which parts of the crowded convention center they’ll want to get to first.

black bottle brewery
Photo by Arianna Auber. Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins makes one of my favorite beers of the Colorado trip thus far, a tequila barrel-aged IPA called the Mexican Hipster.

Although the tasting sessions are a large component of the festival, the awards ceremony on Saturday that will announce the winners of the competition is what I look forward to the most.

Think of the competition as the Academy Awards of craft beer, if you will. It’s an honor to receive a medal, a gratifying signal of breweries’ hard work and ability — and Texas beer makers have been increasingly taking home the gold (or the silver or bronze) in the past few years. At last year’s festival, they won a combined 10 medals, with Austin breweries in particular earning the most at six.

Hops and Grain, Hare said, is entering The One They Call Zoe in the Experimental Beer category, PorterCulture in the Baltic-style Porter category and their adjunct lager Pils Party in the Premium American Lager category. PorterCulture is going to be the next beer the brewery will can; look for it later this fall.

And check back on the blog in the next few days for more GABF updates.

Drizly brings another alcohol delivery service to Austin

Earlier this year, a startup called BrewDrop made it possible for locals to get alcohol delivered straight to their front door via an app for Android and iPhone users. Already, there’s about to be two apps for that service.

Drizly is debuting in the Austin market on Thursday in the Barton Springs, downtown, South Congress, Tarrytown, West Campus and Zilker neighborhoods, with the possibility for expansion out of the core part of town, Drizly CEO Nick Rellas said.

To get beer, wine or spirits delivered to your door, simply order what you want from the Drizly app or website . It'll be at your door in less than one hour.
To get beer, wine or spirits delivered to your door, simply order what you want from the Drizly app or website . It’ll be at your door in less than one hour.

Coming to Austin was an easy decision for his company to make. “Austin is an obvious choice because it is full with forward-thinking, tech-savvy people who like to have a good time,” he said. “It is the embodiment of who Drizly is.”

The app that’s already in six other cities around the U.S., including Boston, Chicago and New York, is expanding into Austin through a partnership with Wiggy’s Liquor, “an iconic Austin retailer who has the infrastructure in place to offer reliable deliveries,” Rellas said, as well as a large inventory of beer, wine and spirits. Drizly’s app can offer Austinites more than 1,200 products at the same price that’s paid in-store, and they’re delivered in an estimated 20 to 40 minutes.

As with BrewDrop (to heed state liquor delivery laws), a person from the store, rather than from Drizly, will arrive at your doorstep with your order in that time and check your ID. (And people with fake IDs, beware — Drizly can authenticate them.)

A lot of work went into making Drizly so good at what it does, Rellas said, noting that he and co-founder Justin Robinson “worked hard to learn the business and and figure out a way to legally and responsibly make alcohol delivery a reality.”

In 2012, he and Robinson “were curious why we couldn’t get beer delivered when nearly everything else had become so readily available through technology,” he said. “That casual curiosity quickly evolved into a fascination on why technology hadn’t been able to integrate into regulated industries like alcohol.”

A special promotion will go through the first seven days of Drizly’s launch in Austin. When you place your first order on Drizly from Thursday through Oct. 8, your delivery fee, normally $5, will be waived on your next seven orders. To download, visit your Android or iPhone app store or go to drizly.com.

Austin beer events this weekend include Oktoberfest celebrations and more

For many Austinites, the beginning of fall heralds the arrival of big festivals like Austin City Limits Fest, Austin Film Fest and Texas Book Fest. For craft beer fans, it means counting down to (and preparing for) a whole week’s worth of beer events at the end of October. Although Austin Beer Week is still a good month away, this coming weekend seems to be a bit of a crash course in what’s to come, with a solid roster of Oktoberfest celebrations, Texas’ biggest craft beer festival and more. Here’s a round-up.

Banger’s Oktoberfest. The third year of Oktoberfest at this Rainey Street bar might be the most ambitious Oktoberfest celebration around, with a full 10 days left of scheduled events. The fun includes — in addition to the requisite beer, of course — live music, Oktoberfest-inspired food specials, and games such as hammerschlagen (I’m not sure what that is, either), human pinball, chicken shit bingo and stein races. But let’s go back to the beer. Each week, the bar is featuring a different local brewery (Thursday and Friday will be all about Live Oak, whereas Saturday and Sunday highlight Hops & Grain), along with a bunch of German beers. Banger’s will carry on with Oktoberfest through Oct. 5. 11 a.m. Thursday-Sunday. 79 & 81 Rainey St. bangersaustin.com.

Photo by Austin Humphreys. Wright Bros. Brew & Brew is celebrating one year in business this weekend.
Photo by Austin Humphreys.
Wright Bros. Brew & Brew is celebrating one year in business this weekend.

The Brew & Brew’s 1st Anniversary Party. The owners of this equal parts coffee shop and beer bar on the east side of town have been stocking up on both draft and canned beers for this celebration on Thursday evening, so they’ll have lots of solid options to choose from, including Real Ale Scots Gone Wild, Prairie Cherry Funk and Hops & Grain Wet Hop. There will also be music by Punctum Records that starts at 7 p.m. And just in case you aren’t done commemorating one year of the Brew & Brew after only one night, other events there this weekend include Friday’s Rare Beer, Rare Blends night. Co-owner Grady Wright will pour pairs of beers left over from the heavy-hitting tap list into each other, producing intriguing results. 6 p.m. Thursday. 500 San Marcos St. Ste. 105. www.facebook.com/thebrewandbrew.

Jester King’s Aurelian Lure release. The second batch of Jester King’s barrel-aged wild beer refermented with apricots (the first blend was released during the last Austin Beer Week) will go on sale, one bottle per customer per day, starting when the brewery opens on Friday afternoon. There will be more bottles of this release available than the recent Fen Tao, but there is also a new policy in the works ensuring that people stick to the bottle limit: “We will be applying a small, inconspicuous mark to each purchaser’s wrist in semi-permanent ink,” said Jester King’s blog. “We’d prefer not to have to do this, but unfortunately the number of people who snuck through the line multiple times (sometimes wearing a disguise!) at our recent Fēn táo bottle release was quite significant.” 4 p.m. Friday. 13187 Fitzhugh Rd. jesterkingbrewery.com.

Oktoberfest at Easy Tiger. Easy Tiger’s first big Oktoberfest celebration even includes a collaboration beer that the beer bar and bake shop has done with Austin Beerworks, called Montecore. But that’s not the only beer that will be featured — Oktoberfest draft selections include Left Hand Oktoberfest, Ommegang Scythe and Sickle and Live Oak Oaktoberfest. Expect special German-style foods for the two-day event as well. One such offering is an Oktoberfest board that has knackwurst with curry ketchup, griddled onions and sauerkraut and much more. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free. 709 E. Sixth St. 512-614-4972, www.facebook.com/EasyTigerATX.

AustOberfest. Dust off your lederhosen and dirndls — it’s time for Austin’s version of Oktoberfest. The authentic celebration of all things German will bring you all the beer and sausage you could want, along with bowling, live music and dancing, and other fun activities. The German-style sausages will be provided from some of Central Texas’ top meat purveyors, including La Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats and Hoover’s Cooking, and German beers will be available from award-winning breweries like Paulaner and Hacker Pschorr. Expect the live music to range from polka to honky tonk to big band. The sausage tasting will go through 5 p.m., while everything else will last until 11 p.m. 1 p.m. Saturday. $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd. www.austoberfest.com .

Texas Craft Brewers Festival. I’ll have a preview of the festival in Friday’s Austin360 with beer recommendations, so be sure to check out the longer piece then. In the meantime, know that it’s probably Texas’ biggest beer event; this year’s will feature almost 150 beers from 57 Texas breweries and brewpubs. 2 p.m. Saturday. $10-$25. Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St. texascraftbrewersfestival.org.

And in case you’re more of a cocktail drinker: Imbibe Magazine and exceptional craft cocktail bar Half Step will host a pig roast on Saturday. And you know there will be drinks. Bar owner Chris Bostick and his crew will serve four Aviation Gin cocktails, including a classic gin and tonic, along with the whole pig and homemade sides. Tickets for the event, which runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rainey Street bar, cost $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and can be purchased online at imbibehalfstep.bpt.me. — Matthew Odam

Local breweries, bicyclists team up for 1400 Miles ride

Although it’s too late now to join the ride, it’s not too late to donate to the cause.

Davis Tucker of North by Northwest is once again leading the two-week journey on bicycle from Austin to Denver to help raise awareness of prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. The ride, called 1400 Miles to mark the distance between the two cities, is not quite a week in — and the riders, most of them local brewers or brewery employees like Tucker, are still seeking donations. All money raised will be split between Pints for Prostates and the Prostate Conditions Education Council.

Josh Hare, second from right, and Davis Tucker, far right, on their bike journey from Austin to Denver to raise money for prostate cancer education.
Josh Hare, second from right, and Davis Tucker, far right, on their bike journey from Austin to Denver to raise money for prostate cancer education. Photo from @1400_Miles.

Tucker, Josh Hare of Hops and Grain, Todd Ewing of Odell Brewing and Jim Sampson of Twisted X, as well as Bryce Randle and Stephen Bontempo, are hosting community rides and beer events throughout the remaining week through New Mexico and Denver. They’ll be in Albuquerque tomorrow, in Salida, Colo. on Wednesday, and in the Lyons/Boulder area Sept. 27. The final stretch is in Denver on Sept. 28, where most will remain in town for the Great American Beer Festival that kicks off on Oct. 2. (It’s no coincidence that Tucker, who first came up with the idea for the 1400 Miles trek last year in honor of NXNW’s brewmaster Don Thompson’s recovery from prostate cancer, has timed the ride to finish up just before GABF.)

Each community bike ride and beer event along the way will also feature a much larger means of transportation: NXNW’s Beerliner Bus, a 1974 refurbished bus with four beer taps, three video screens and a commercial kitchen used to cook up beer-inspired food.

Hare has been keeping Austinites up-to-date on their progress through daily blog posts on the Hops and Grain website. His post today seems to sum up the 1400 Miles ride pretty accurately: “We’re raising money for a fantastic cause every step of the way, bringing up the awkward conversation that is prostate health with a bunch of guys that we’ve never met before.  Makes the miles seem a little less rough when, at the end of the day, we’re riding for something bigger than ourselves.”

Blue Owl Brewing to open in East Austin with focus on sour mashing

The logo and cans of Blue Owl Brewing have all been designed by local graphic designer Jessica Deahl.
The logo and cans of Blue Owl Brewing have all been designed by local graphic designer Jessica Deahl.

Perhaps the most intriguing detail about the fall arrival of Blue Owl Brewing, an eastside venture from former Black Star Co-Op employees Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer, is that the beers — which have names and can designs displayed beautifully (and tantalizingly) on the brewery’s Facebook page — will all be sour mashed, making Blue Owl the first brewery in the country to focus solely on that approach.

Sour mashing is a process that distillers use to produce most bourbon, but it’s also sometimes a technique for brewers to make sour beers without the long amount of time that brewing those types of beers typically requires. As Young and Shaffer noted on Blue Owl’s press page, “it’s a non-traditional approach to producing highly approachable beer.”

The brewing version of sour mashing results in “tart, fruit-forward beers that closely mimic their native style,” the press page said. In other words, a sour-mashed wheat beer still closely resembles a wheat beer, even though one part of the brewing process is altered to allow for some sourness to come through.

Essentially, the wort (the malty liquid extracted from the mash) is left in with some grains for up to several days after the mash, allowing bacteria naturally found in the grain to consume some of the sugars in the wort. That produces lactic acid, and that’s where the sourness comes from.

So Blue Owl’s brews will be “tart from the start, instead of being aged over years, often with the addition of fruit,” Young and Shaffer said in the press page. “(Sour-mashed beers) yield a highly consistent, straightforward product that can be easily reproduced, unlike barrel-aged sours that are by nature unpredictable.”

The two co-founders — who are currently getting the brewery on East Cesar Chavez ready to open — have tapped into this distinctive process for a reason. They believe their brewery is opening just at the cusp of a heyday for sour beers.

This style, they said, might be going the way of IPAs: sourness as a flavor is now a sought-after beer quality, rather like bitterness, which was itself once undesirable. Currently similar to the sorts of sessionable beers Blue Owl will produce are Austin Beerworks Einhorn and New Belgium Snapshot.

Blue Owl has four beers in the works. There’s Little Boss, a sour session wheat (Berliner Weisse); Spirit Animal, a sour pale ale; Professor Black, a sour cherry stout; and Van Dayum!, a sour amber.

These will be canned from the start. Beer lovers will have the chance to try them at the brewery’s on-site tasting room, as well at local bars and restaurants.

For updates — including an exact opening date — visit the Facebook page or blueowlbrewing.com. The brewery will be located at 2400 East Cesar Chavez St.