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.

Seven local products to buy for the booze lover in your life

Photo by Kevin Hobbins. Real Ale has now bottled two beers in the elusive Mysterium Verum series: Tenebra Aeterna and Benedictum, the most recent one now on sale at Texas retailers.
Photo by Kevin Hobbins. Real Ale has now bottled two beers in the elusive Mysterium Verum series: Tenebra Aeterna and Benedictum, the most recent one now on sale at Texas retailers.

Not sure what to get your picky friend or family member for Christmas? Chances are good that they’ll be happy to receive a bottle of booze — especially if it comes from an Austin-area producer.

Here are a handful of suggestions with a seasonal focus. With many of these, you won’t want to delay in grabbing a bottle.

Texas Keeper Cider's winter release was aged in oak with pecans and orange peels.
Texas Keeper Cider’s winter release was aged in oak with pecans and orange peels.

Texas Keeper Cider’s Cider Noir: Apples are a key fall flavor, but the fruit hadn’t displayed its full potential so well this time of year until the trio behind the far South Austin cidery got a little inventive.

For Texas Keeper’s winter release, Cider Noir, they decided to age Baldwin and Idared apples on oak. That’s not all they’ve done to make the cider a seasonal stunner — the apples are first double-fermented with Belgian candi (which is typically used in dubbel and tripel ales) and then aged with toasted pecans and orange peel. As a result, it’ll pour as dark as a porter and as boozy as many a stout, at a robust 10.1 percent ABV.

You can find it at the cidery at 12521 Twin Creeks Rd. or at one of the many retail shops where Texas Keeper can be found.

Real Ale Benedictum: The Black Friday release of Tenebra Aeterna, the first Mysterium Verum beer to be bottled, seemed to indicate Christmas had come early for many fans of the Blanco brewery. Now, it really has, as Real Ale is releasing another in the series of sour and barrel-aged brews this week.

Benedictum, an award-winning sour brown ale with cherries, can now be found in stores across the state. Or, if you want to get it closer to the source, Real Ale is hosting a bottle release party on Saturday encouraging you to pick up Benedictum at one of two nearby stores and then driving to the brewery to get the bottle signed by the people who made it. That’s an extra special touch if you want to gift it to a lucky loved one.

Pedernales Cellars’ Stonewall Glögg: Mulled wine is a popular seasonal beverage that many people like to make themselves. But this year, let a wine expert do it: Texas Hill Country winery Pedernales has bottles of its glögg, a traditional Swedish dessert wine, on sale in the tasting room and at both locations of sister winery Armadillo’s Leap.

I wrote about the glögg for a seasonal drinks story running in Friday’s Austin360, if you want to learn more information about it.

Adelbert’s Brewery’s Barrel of Love trio: The North Austin brewery clearly knows how great the gift of beer is because it’s offering a whole ready-made gift pack of one of its rarer offerings.

This branded gift box, available at the brewery at 2314 Rutland Dr., has a trio of beers inside of it — three different versions of the Barrel of Love, Adelbert’s whiskey barrel-aged quad.

First up is the 2015 Barrel of Love, which has had an extra year of bottle-conditioning to develop deeper, richer flavors. Then there’s the 2016 Barrel of Love, full of “complex fruity notes of figs, raisins and plums with a soft whiskey bite,” according to the brewery. Bottles of this beer are being separately shipped out to the Texas market; only this version is leaving the brewery.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Put this gift box of Adelbert's beers under your tree for the special beer lover in your life.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Put this gift box of Adelbert’s beers under your tree for the special beer lover in your life.

Rounding out the pack is the Blackberry Barrel of Love, the first taproom-only bottle release since Adelbert’s switched to a brewpub license early this year. Yes, it’s got lots of blackberries and tastes as such.

Revolution Spirits’ Chocolate Cafecito Liqueur: Although this distillery on the road to Dripping Springs has become recognized for its Austin Reserve Gin, Revolution also makes a variety of experimental products — chief among them the Cafecito Coffee Liqueur, liquid gold for any coffee fan out there.

The most recent release is even sweeter. For the Chocolate Cafecito Liqueur, a new seasonal bottling available from December through February each year, the distillers have macerated fair-trade OKO Caribe cacao nibs from SRSLY Chocolate, adding them to the coffee beans Revolution receives from local Cuvee Coffee.

There’s a lot more coffee than chocolate in the mix, but the chocolate is present enough to satisfy any sweet tooth over the holidays. Pick up a bottle at the distillery during open Saturday hours.

Last Stand Brewing’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout: Located just yards from Revolution Spirits, the small-batch Last Stand doesn’t bottle many of its beers, which makes the special release Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout extra special.

The brewers have had this project in the works for awhile. They “filled two freshly emptied Donner-Peltier LA1 Whiskey barrels one year ago with our first batch of Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout,” according to the brewery, and debuted the results of it last weekend at the taproom at 12345 Pauls Valley Rd. Bldg. I.

Only 200 bottles are available, so if this one looks like the winning stocking stuffer you’ve been looking for, stop by Last Stand during weekend taproom hours to grab one.

Austin Beerworks Sputnik: The seasonal necessity is only on draft for now, as it has been in winters past, but any day now — pending TABC approval — local stores will also receive six-pack cans of the Russian imperial oatmeal stout. Austin Beerworks has been in the midst of a large expansion that has allowed the North Austin brewery to start canning some of its seasonal beers, including Sputnik.

Keep an eye on Austin Beerworks’ social media accounts for news of the can launch. Once the six-packs are in stores, there’s no doubt they’ll go fast.

Austin cideries named among Food & Wine’s best places to drink cider

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Argus Cidery now offers its Ciderkin and Ginger Perry in six-pack cans.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Argus Cidery now offers its Ciderkin and Ginger Perry in six-pack cans.

Cider, like all alcoholic beverages, is experiencing a boom right now, with many makers across the country hastening to put their stamp on the alcoholic apple beverage.

Austin is home to a few of them — and two of these local cideries have made it onto Food & Wine’s “Best Places to Drink Ciders” list. Argus Cidery, on the road to Dripping Springs, and Texas Keeper Cider, south of Austin in Manchaca, have both received a worthy mention.

Of Argus, Food & Wine’s Joe Stanek writes that the cidery had trouble finding an identity at first but quickly found fans of quirky, well-made fruited beverages.

“When Wes Mickel applied for the first cider license in Texas, the question of whether his dry ciders were more like wine or beer came up a lot,” Stanek writes. “Sourcing a majority of apples from Texas and Arkansas — with other varietals brought in for use in special fermentation lines that produce as few as just 300 bottles — allows Mickel to press fresh juice year round.”

The cidery has grown its fan base with six-packs of Ciderkin and Ginger Perry, two of its most bestselling products. These originally came as 750 ml bottles but are now in cans.

Texas Keeper Cider is similarly doing small-batch ciders in its picturesque cidery and tasting room, as it’s been doing since 2013, Stanek writes.

These include a recent collaboration with the ABGB, as well as a cider and wine blend, Grafter Rosé, that is quite frankly one of the best drinks I’ve enjoyed all year. For a taste of something new that Texas Keeper is producing this time, a honey and apple blend called a cyser check out the Honey Festival at the cidery on Saturday.

Texas Keeper Cider to release a cider and wine blend

Photo by Ben Sklar. Texas Keeper Cider's cidery in the Onion Creek area of South Austin isn't opened with regular hours yet, but the cider release party on June 20 is a good opportunity to visit the scenic cidery in the meantime.
Photo by Ben Sklar. Texas Keeper Cider’s cidery in the Onion Creek area of South Austin isn’t opened with regular hours yet, but the cider release party on June 20 is a good opportunity to visit the scenic cidery in the meantime.

Like local beer makers, the cideries in this town are adventurous, playing around with funky apple varieties, heirloom apples that are rarely sourced these days and blending apples with other, occasionally off-the-wall ingredients (remember Austin Eastciders’ brisket cider made with meat from Micklethwait Craft Meats?).

Texas Keeper Cider, the youngest of the trio of local cideries, is no different. Since releasing Texas Keeper No. 1 last August, Texas Keeper co-founders Nick Doughty, Lindsey Peebles and Brandon Wilde have gone on to produce an additional four — including the latest, a cider-and-wine blend debuting at a special release party on June 20 at the cidery.

Called Grafter Rosé, the new cider is made primarily from heirloom Rome Beauty apples. But 7 percent of the beverage is Pedernales Cellars’ Texas Tempranillo that was blended in to bring “a slightly riper fruit profile to the finished cider,” Peebles said via email.

“We think experimentation is at the heart of any good craft, and cider/wine blends are not really being done yet,” she said. “Apples and wine grapes work beautifully together — the chemistry of the fruits are really very similar.”

Introducing wine into the cider wasn’t a stretch for Doughty, a former winemaker. His background with grapes has always brought a “wine attitude” to Texas Keeper’s ciders, Peebles said.

“That’s why our ciders are typically very clean and dry, like an aromatic white wine, and why we seek out interesting heirloom apples,” she said. “Just as you wouldn’t typically make a great wine from Thompson’s seedless, ciders are more interesting when they come from apples that have a bit more tannic weight and better acid structure.”

Photo by Bret Gerbe for American-Statesman. Pedernales Cellars' Texas Tempranillo was used in Texas Keeper Cider's latest cider release, a cider and wine blend using heirloom apples.
Photo by Bret Gerbe for American-Statesman. Pedernales Cellars’ Texas Tempranillo was used in Texas Keeper Cider’s latest cider release, a cider and wine blend using heirloom apples.

The cider makers originally got the idea for the Grafter Rosé — which is going to be just the first in a series of cider and wine blends — when they pressed the Rome Beauties and noticed the juice was a pretty pale orange color, perfect for making a summer rosé with. Peebles said they chose to use Tempranillo grapes for this initial pairing “because it’s a grape variety that grows well in Texas, ripening with notes of strawberries, plums and a hint of vanilla.”

But the next grapes to be used for the Grafter series will be very different: Blanc du Bois grapes from Haak Winery in between Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. For Grafter Blanc, they’ll be co-fermented with Texas Winesap apples.

“With the Grafter series we get to help showcase the great fruit that’s being grown in Texas,” Peebles said.

Try the Grafter Rosé on June 20 at the Texas Keeper cidery. It’s not quite opened with regular hours yet — Peebles said they’re looking at an official fall opening — but the Texas Keeper trio has been throwing fun Saturday parties there for the past couple months to provide fans with a sneak peek of the scenic space in the Onion Creek area of town.

“It’s a beautiful spot, a little reminiscent of Jester King, with lots of live oaks and a great view of Onion Creek,” she said, adding that in addition to having all of the Texas Keeper products available for tasting there, the cidery hopes to cultivate “a list of our favorite ciders from across the U.S. and internationally in order to expose folks to all the exciting things that are happening with cider.” Food pairings will also be a focus when Texas Keeper opens with weekend tours and tastings.

In the meantime, next Saturday’s event will have much more than cider. The Grafter Rosé release will feature live music as well as a brisket dinner and sides. The ingredients for this feast will have originated from Central Texas farms that were hit hard by the Memorial Day weekend floods. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will go toward Green Gate Farms, which lost a number of animals, roads and crops in the devastating flooding.

Tickets to Texas Keeper’s events tend to sell out in advance, so make sure to grab yours soon.

Texas Keeper Cider Release and Supper, 5 to 9 p.m. June 20. $10-$50. 12521 Twin Creeks Rd., Manchaca. www.texaskeeper.com.