New California wine to benefit Austin-based Nobelity Project

Turk Pipkin has partnered with a California winery to produce the Turk, a red blend, that will raise money for Pipkin's Nobelity Project nonprofit.
Turk Pipkin has partnered with a California winery to produce the Turk, a red blend, that will raise money for Pipkin’s Nobelity Project nonprofit.

Turk Pipkin, the Austin-based humanitarian who’s spent the past several years aiding communities in Kenya and other countries abroad through his and his wife’s nonprofit, the Nobelity Project, certainly knows how to turn a clever phrase.

“Buy the wine and it’ll turn into water for the people who need it,” he said at the launch event of a new wine, the Turk, that will benefit the Nobelity Project’s goal of funding clean water projects at the organization’s partner schools in Kenya. All of the proceeds of each bottle purchased will go toward this objective, his wife Christy said.

They’ve partnered up with Hope Family Wines, a winery in the Paso Robles region of California, to produce the Turk, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend that is slowly becoming available for purchase in Austin. The 1.5 liter magnum bottle is currently at the Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen on Bee Caves Road and will also be at a couple of Twin Liquors stores and other retail shops soon. It’s also being sold on the Hope Family Wines website.

For more information about the Nobelity Project, visit the website and check out this Austin360 profile of the Pipkins that explores why they decided to pursue their humanitarian work.

Adelbert’s brewer launches Oddwood Ales, a barrel-fermented project

After Adelbert’s Brewery founder Scott Hovey bought about 200 well-used oak wine barrels and brought them to the brewery, head brewer Taylor Ziebarth began to become fascinated by the effects of wine and wood on aging beer.

But then he posed himself a new question: What would happen if he fermented a beer entirely in the barrels? Adelbert’s had never tried that before.

The result of that experiment is a full-blown side project he’s called Oddwood Ales, and the first beer to come out of it is a saison, now on retail shelves around Austin, Dallas, Houston and soon in San Antonio.

The Oddwood Ales bottle describes the saison as filled with “soft notes of tropical fruit, wine-soaked oak and glorious funk” — all words that barely touch on the fermentation process that yielded all those flavors.

Adelbert's head brewer Taylor Ziebarth stands in front of the barrels where his Oddwood Ales Saison, a side project brewed on-site, fermented with the help of wild yeast. Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman.
Adelbert’s head brewer Taylor Ziebarth stands in front of the barrels where his Oddwood Ales Saison, a side project brewed on-site, fermented with the help of wild yeast. Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman.

Most beers these days are fermented in shiny stainless steel tanks, a process that gives the beer both its alcoholic content and its carbonation. But the tanks don’t imbue the beer with their own flavor characteristics the way that barrels (and whatever alcoholic beverage was previously in them) do. Although many brewers will age their beers in barrels to pull in notes of oak, vanilla, smoke and more, it’s not often that they ferment the beer in them, especially because fermentation in barrels takes far longer.

Ziebarth, however, wanted to see what the wild yeast he chose to ferment with, a combination of Belgian and Brettanomyces yeast, would do in the barrels. “They had a field day,” he said.

Those wild yeast strains, used commonly in brewing to produce sour beers, are the primary difference between Adelbert’s and Oddwood and why Ziebarth wanted to make the saison an entirely separate entity.

“Adelbert’s other barrel-aging projects haven’t been interested in bringing in wild yeast, as with Oddwood,” Ziebarth said. “With those, the goal was to impart the flavor of the spirits that came in the barrels before the beer, as well as the toasty, buttery notes of the barrels themselves.”

He chose to brew a Belgian-style saison (his favorite beer style) and let it ferment for six months in the barrels before moving the beer to bottles, where it spent a month conditioning, as per Adelbert’s usual practice. (Bottle-conditioning is essentially a second fermentation, contributing extra carbonation, cleaning up any rough edges and preserving the beer more gracefully.) He’s pleased with the end result, a tart, dry and slightly fruity beer that’s been just as influenced by the barrels as the wild yeast.

Because the barrels had already seen lots of use before being brought to Adelbert’s, they don’t have as many of the wine and wood characteristics that are easier to pick up in younger barrels, a subtlety that Ziebarth sought so the light saison wouldn’t be overpowered. He also liked that fermenting beer in them made the brewing process more hands off and thus far more uncertain.

“Adelbert’s 11 year-round beers are very exact and controlled,” he said. “When we brew them, there’s a certain set of specifications that we stick to and follow faithfully. But what’s fun about this is that there’s an element I have no control over. It’s all up to the wild yeast and their time in the barrels. I check back up on them every so often and discover what the beer’s become.”

Future Oddwood Ales will also be fermented in those barrels (and a second batch of the saison is already in them). Ziebarth wants to make an 8 1/2 percent ABV sour golden ale, like Duvel, the beer that first turned him on to craft beer, as well as brews with prickly pear and wild Texas grapes.

Eventually, a new warehouse Adelbert’s recently acquired will become the place where Adelbert’s and Oddwood beers are bottle-conditioned, leaving more room in the current space to fill with barrels.

“I’m not saying this is going to become a barrel powerhouse, considering it takes a lot of time to age beers, but I do want the Oddwood Saison to be a year-round beer,” he said.

Oddwood is one of two brewing projects that Adelbert’s has been affiliated with recently (Naughty Brewing, the other one, is rolling out the first batch of Kentucky Streetwalker, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial vanilla porter, in Austin next week), and Ziebarth still isn’t quite sure how to define Oddwood because of how closely tied it is to Adelbert’s.

“I don’t really think it’s an Adelbert’s beer,” he said. “It’s brewed here, it’s distributed through us, it’s under the same license for legal reasons, but it’s very different from anything Adelbert’s does.”

LGBTQ-friendly Highland Lounge offers craft cocktails in Warehouse District

Highland Lounge is a swanky cocktail lounge with a large dance floor in the Warehouse District.
Highland Lounge is a new cocktail lounge with a large dance floor in the Warehouse District. During happy hour (which goes until 10 p.m.), that dance floor features a bunch of extra seating.

The team behind Highland Lounge isn’t crazy about calling their new downtown bar a gay bar because it’s so different from all the others that have come to define the local scene over the years.

General Manager Elaine Everett prefers calling Highland an LGBTQ-friendly bar: a place where gay, straight, young, old men and women can come without feeling excluded because they don’t fall in a certain label. “Highland is a little ahead of its time in Austin,” she said. “We’d rather focus on service, on having friendly bartenders and staff who make anyone feel welcome, rather than on having events like ‘lesbian nights’ that imply only they can be here on that night and no one else.”

Highland Lounge — named after the seven lakes that flow in and around Austin — also offers a pretty comprehensive craft cocktail menu, something else that sets the bar apart. Created by Highland’s beverage director Joyce Garrison, a cocktail maven in Austin who previously worked at the W Austin, the menu is divided into a list of signature cocktails, featuring classics like the Brown Derby (with Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh grapefruit juice, house-made honey syrup and grapefruit peel) and the Pimm’s Cup (with Pimm’s No. 1, fresh lime and lemon juice, simple syrup, ginger ale, cucumber and mint), and a list of signature shots such as the Red Snapper (with Old Overholt Rye, Amaretto and cranberry juice).

In addition to those, there’s a monthly nonprofit cocktail that staff donates a $1 of each one sold to a different nonprofit each month. November’s drink profits are going to Out Youth, a local organization that supports and provides services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning teenagers.

The concept behind Highland first developed for founder Robert Grunnah after traveling to L.A., Miami, Chicago and other cities in the U.S. that have gay bars and dance clubs beloved in the community at large. Kevin Haley, Highland’s director of marketing, said the Abbey in L.A. was a prime example of the sort of bar that Grunnah wanted to replicate in Austin, where he hadn’t yet seen a similar concept. “It’s considered one of the best gay bars in the world,” he said. “Upscale, known for its martinis, draws all kinds of people — Robert wanted to bring something like it here. He felt like there were a lot of members of the LGBT community whose needs weren’t being served.”

Highland is the latest in a long line of gay bars to occupy the space at 404 Colorado St., from Club 404 in the early 1990s to Kiss & Fly a few years ago. Haley said Grunnah decided to gut the old infrastructure that made up Kiss & Fly, renovating it to make it the sleek, open space it is now, with a blue, white and yellow color scheme that pays tribute to the water theme; plenty of seating on both floors; and a large dance floor in the center with floor-to-ceiling speakers that a live performer recently said made “Highland sound like Carnegie Hall,” Haley said. Hanging on the walls of the outdoor patio area are big posters featuring original illustrations that represent each of the Highland Lakes, from Inks to Lady Bird Lake (and some of them, because it is a bar after all, are playfully suggestive).

In the month or so that Highland has been open, it’s developed into a cocktail bar with an atmosphere more like that of a casual lounge than a dance club (the dance floor doesn’t open up until 10 p.m. most nights), and Haley and Everett hope it continues to draw all kinds of people from around Austin. “We’ve got consistently good drinks, great service, a good wine list and mostly local beers — we want to be better than what you’d normally find in the Warehouse District,” Haley said.

Highland Lounge, 404 Colorado St. (512) 649-1212,

Rentsch Brewery to open in Georgetown next year

Georgetown, Austin’s neighbor to the north, is so eager for a brewery in the downtown area that the town’s Main Street Program held a recent forum to explore that possibility. Although any potential production breweries so close to the town square might fall afoul of state law and zoning codes, Georgetown residents soon won’t have to drive very far to get a beer straight from the source: Rentsch Brewery, a father-and-son operation, is opening early next year, and Bull Creek Brewing on the other side of town is reopening with a larger brewing system after producing small batches of beer for more than a year.

“Demand overwhelmed our initial capacity,” Bull Creek’s Erick Matthys said.

He doesn’t have a specific date for when Bull Creek will reopen and start brewing again. Andrew Rentschler, the 24-year-old brewmaster of Rentsch, doesn’t have a set date for his brewery opening either, although he does know that it’ll be sometime in February, once all the TABC permitting guidelines have been met.

Opening Rentsch Brewing in Georgetown is a family affair for Andrew Rentschler, left, and his father, David, pictured here with Andrew's sister.
Opening Rentsch Brewing in Georgetown is a family affair for Andrew Rentschler, left, and his father, David, pictured here with Andrew’s sister.

It’s a month he can’t wait for — and neither can the rest of the town. “Everyone keeps asking, ‘How soon?'” Rentschler said. “We’ve had a few people come over and try our sample batches, and everything I’ve heard has been positive.”

He and his father, David Rentschler, decided to open up a brewery together after dabbling in homebrewing. Their hobby wasn’t anything serious until David went to visit his son, at the time a Texas Tech student studying abroad in Salzburg and Berlin, in Europe.

“(During my time in Germany) I had a lot of German-style beers at a lot of different bars and beer gardens, and I fell in love with those kinds of beers,” Andrew Rentschler said, noting that he had never been a fan of light macro beer. “My dad came to Europe at one point, and while we were sitting at this little café overlooking the Eiger (a large mountain in the Bernese Alps), we were talking about life and had been drinking a beer local to that area — I forget which one — but we basically decided we should do this; we should open a brewery. When I came back, we did a lot of homebrewing.”

Although his father doesn’t do any of the brewing these days, he’s a happy taste-tester and acts as CEO for Rentsch Brewing. Brewing falls to Rentschler and their other employee, Stefano Alianelli, who had heard from a mutual friend about their plans and wanted to get involved. They’ve got a very specific idea of the sort of beers Rentsch will have.

So far, the brewery will open with three year-round styles: a hefeweizen, a weizenbock and a pale ale. They don’t want to limit themselves to brewing only German styles, but they do plan on brewing in accordance to Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law that dictates brewing only using hops, barley, yeast and water, the four core ingredients of beer. Austin’s Circle Brewing also sticks to that regulation; otherwise, it’s fairly rare to find a modern brewery following the ancient law.

In addition to those styles, Rentsch Brewery will have seasonals, too, including the already named Red Poppy Red, which will come out right around the weekend of Georgetown’s Red Poppy Festival, an annual celebration of the wildflower that blooms in the front yards of many of the town’s residents and has earned Georgetown the title of the Red Poppy Capitol of Texas.

It was a no-brainer for Rentschler to come back to Georgetown, where he grew up, after graduating from Texas Tech.

“Anyone who’s here lives here because it’s a small town, but it’s still close to everything,” he said. “The brewery will be something the people of Georgetown can call their own.”

Once Rentsch Brewery open its doors in February at 2500 NE Inner Loop Unit # 3105, it’ll be open for tours and tastings on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. For more information, visit

Jester King and Franklin BBQ team up for smoked fig beer

Jester King Figlet, a collaboration with Aaron Franklin, is the latest offering at the brewery and will go on sale on Friday.
Jester King Figlet, a collaboration with Aaron Franklin, is the latest offering at the brewery and will go on sale on Friday.

Beer and barbecue are two of Austin’s favorite things, so local breweries and barbecue joints have collaborated before on making smoked beers. But perhaps no collaboration will draw quite as many crowds as the upcoming smoked fig beer produced by Jester King brewers and Franklin Barbecue’s Aaron Franklin. Figlet will be available starting Friday at 4 p.m. when the Jester King taproom opens.

The idea for Figlet (the bottle label for which features the face and limbs of Franklin within a fig) originated through the filming of an upcoming episode of KLRU’s instructional web series “BBQ With Franklin,” when Franklin decided to explore the use of smoke during the brewing process, a Jester King blog entry explained. (The episode will go into more detail about the creation of Figlet specifically.)

“We wanted to branch out beyond the traditional use of smoked malt and opted to take a local ingredient that was in season — Texas figs — and use it as a medium to impart characteristics from Franklin’s barbecue pits into the beer,” the blog post said.

Franklin’s role in making Figlet was in caramelizing local figs and cold smoking them at his restaurant. He also “charred a portion of the figs, which imparted a subtle burnt, almost leathery, character to the beer,” according to the blog post.

Figlet, a farmhouse ale, clocks in at 6.2 percent ABV, and it’ll most likely only be available at the brewery. Fortunately, Jester King has brewed more this beer than a few of their more recent ones and is offering Figlet both on draft and in 750 ml bottles — 2 per customer per day — for $12.

In the past, Jester King has also collaborated with Salt Lick on a smoked beer.

Seattle Cider Co. expands to Austin

Seattle Cider Company's two flagship ciders, Dry and Semi-Sweet, are available in cans, and these and two smaller batch ciders from the Washington cidery are rolling out at various Austin bars and stores this week.
Seattle Cider Company’s two flagship ciders, Dry and Semi-Sweet, are available in cans, and these and two smaller batch ciders from the Washington cidery are rolling out at various Austin bars and stores this week.

This week, Austin Eastciders, Argus Cidery and other small-batch cider brands won’t be the only craft ciders you can find in Austin. Seattle Cider Co., offering cans, bottles and on-draft options, is launching at various local restaurants, bars and stores throughout the week with four different ciders. Austin marks the fifth location around the U.S. for people to find the ciders.

Seattle’s first cidery since Prohibition, Seattle Cider is bringing both mainstay and seasonal ciders to town: Dry, Semi-Sweet, Pumpkin Spice and Three Pepper. The ciders have limited sweetness, cidery founder Joel VandenBrink said in a press release, and “are made using all-natural and local ingredients, including fresh-pressed Washington apples.”

He established Seattle Cider in August 2013 to “break the mold of overly sweet ciders,” according to the press release, which are currently on the rise in the U.S. (Craft cider, not craft beer, is actually the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in the country, and Seattle Cider’s Texas distributor, Keg 1, noted in the press release that industry predictions expect “cider to soon claim 3 to 5 percent of overall beer sales in the U.S.”)

“Craft ciders such as those offered by Seattle Cider Co. are changing the way people think about cider. They’re putting out some really innovative things,” Keg 1’s Phil Benvenuto said.

In the Dry cider, you’ll notice flavors of nectarine, under-ripe peach and tart cherry hit the palate with no residual sweetness; the honey-colored Semi-Sweet, the other mainstay cider coming to the Austin market, is light and crisp and will hit your tongue with hints of citrus and cinnamon. Pumpkin Spice, the cidery’s fall seasonal, has been fermented with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, and it’ll round out with just a touch of pumpkin. Three Pepper, a small-batch, limited-release cider, features the kick of poblano, habanero and jalapeño peppers.

Here are Seattle Cider Co’s launch events this week in Austin.

Tuesday:  From 6 to 8 p.m., meet the Seattle Cider team at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden while sipping their flagship ciders, Semi-Sweet and Dry, in 16 oz. cans.

Wednesday: From 5 to 8 p.m., enjoy samples, both year-round and seasonal products, and meet the minds behind the cider at East 1st Grocery, 1811 E. Cesar Chavez St. They’ll also be at Hamrick’s Market in Cedar Park from 3 to 5 p.m., and the ciders will be available in cans and through tastings at the Dig Pub from 5 to 7 p.m.

For more information about the ciders, visit

Events: Austin Home Brew Festival, Brooklyn Brewery Mash

If you aren’t too busy exploring the East Austin Studio Tour this weekend (and supplementing all that art with some of the liquid variety at nearby bars), these beer events are kicking off Saturday.

The Austin Home Brew Festival started out as a small fundraiser for a private school in Central Austin six years ago, but the organizers are now making it much bigger to bring in more homebrewers, small-batch beer lovers and also commercial brewers as judges. From 6 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, 15 beer brewers and two kombucha brewers will offer one to three of their creations for 3 oz. tastings. You’ll be able to try up to 12 of them (with the possibility of receiving more tasting tickets) while the judges — brewers from the ABGB, Live Oak Brewing, South Austin Brewery and Hops & Grain — will make their selections for gold, silver and bronze awards, as well a prize for the judges’ favorite brew. You’ll have a say in the People’s Choice Award: the brewer who receives the most votes from everyone tasting the beers.

When the festival organizers decided to make it a public event this year, they got in touch with the Austin Zealots, a local homebrew club, to see if some of its members would be interested in participating, said head organizer Wendy Salome (whose husband, Nick Salome, will be providing his kombucha at the festival). “This is the crowd that really loves competing,” she said. “We actually had to turn people away because there were more applying than we had room for.”

She added that as a result, there will be more of a variety of homebrew this year. “We have a wide range of homebrewers,” she said. “One won the Sam Adams Long Shot competition; others just brew for their friends, so it’s cool that all of them get a shot at the competition.”

Among them are a few who want to one day open their own professional brewing operations. You can read about each homebrewer on the festival website.

The Austin Home Brew Festival, at the Getaway Motor Club (3700 Thompson St.), will also include a VIP chef tasting, with food provided by Frank paired with beer provided by the judges’ breweries, a silent auction and a lounge for people to watch football.

If you want to go, there’s a suggested donation of $40 that you can give ahead of time or at the door. All donations are going toward the AHB Community School, the private school that started the festival six years ago.

Brooklyn Brewery Mash will give Austinites plenty of chances to try some beloved Brooklyn brews and meet the folks behind them.
Brooklyn Brewery Mash will give Austinites plenty of chances to try some beloved Brooklyn brews and meet the folks behind them.

New York’s Brooklyn Brewery is bringing a week-long celebration of beer, food and fun, the Brooklyn Brewery Mash, to Austin starting on Saturday with a special Dinner on the Farm, a laidback late-afternoon barn party featuring food from Brooklyn Brewery chef Andrew Gerson and chefs from Odd Duck and Barley Swine, drinks from Treaty Oak and Cuvee Coffee, and sweets from Yeti Frozen Custard and Blackbird Bakery. That’s at 3 p.m. at the Simmons Family Farm, 2483 Holz Rd. The cost to attend is $55.

Additional Brooklyn Brewery Mash events include a talk with Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy and local brewers. Twenty-five years into running one of the top craft breweries in the U.S., Hindy looks back with his fellow craft beer comrades — including brewers at Black Star Co-op, Real Ale and Austin Beerworks and beer blogger Caroline Wallace — to discuss the circumstances and ambitions that allowed a handful of people across the country to challenge one of the largest corporate dynasties in American history. Hindy’s new book, “Craft Beer Revolution,” tells the stories of these pioneering brewers. The 8 p.m. talk is at Austin Beerworks, 3009 Industrial Terrace, and costs $6 to attend.

For the full list of Mash events, visit The week will offer Austinites ample opportunities to try Brooklyn’s favorite, rarest and newest brews at various local spots, such as Flying Saucer, Easy Tiger and Liberty Bar.

And for those who love wine but don’t know how best to pair it with Thanksgiving turkey, Vino Vino is throwing TurkeyFest Wine Tasting on Nov. 22 from 11 to 1 p.m., providing 40 turkey-friendly wines for people to taste. Visit for more information.

Red Horn bringing craft coffee and beer to Cedar Park

Chad Misner and Jon Lamb, two young married dads living in Cedar Park, don’t have many choices to pick from when it comes to a hang-out in the area with good beer or coffee. There’s the Dig Pub or the League Kitchen and Tavern for beer, Roasters Coffee Cafe for coffee. But they’ll soon be adding another option for both beverages when they open Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co., a brewpub on Parmer Lane that will roast its own coffee and offer live music, small plates and about 15 to 20 mostly local guest beer taps in addition to the six or so in-house brews.

From left to right: Zack Gardner, Jon Lamb, Chad Misner and Jared Hill are opening Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co. in Cedar Park.
From left to right: Zack Gardner, Jon Lamb, Chad Misner and Jared Hill are opening Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co. in Cedar Park.

Along with Zack Gardner and Jared Hill, the beer and coffee gurus involved, Misner and Lamb hope to open Red Horn, which is currently under construction and awaiting a couple permits, by Christmas — a date that can’t come soon enough for them. “All I want to do is bus tables and talk to people,” Misner said.

Although they won’t be able to start brewing until all the proper equipment and permitting comes in, they already know exactly what beers they plan to brew year-round: a blond, a red ale, an IPA, a brown ale and a coffee milk stout.

“We’re rolling out with these to start,” Gardner said. “We didn’t want anything too outlandish because Cedar Park is still a growing beer market, but we also know there are some craft beer fans that live here.”

That’s why they’ve got a blond ale “to act as a crossover,” he said. “It’s clean and light, akin to Bud Light or Fireman’s 4,” and it’s sessionable at under 5 percent ABV. Their goal with this beer, he said, is also to lower the gluten content in it using a method that some other breweries have been experimenting with; they’ll test every batch and note the parts-per-million of gluten in each on the beer menu.

But for beer enthusiasts who are already into hops and unusual ingredients, Red Horn will offer the others, as well as a rotational tap featuring seasonals and off-the-wall beers — maybe some with fruit and others that have been sour-mashed, Gardner said. The IPA, clocking in at around 7 percent ABV, will be the brewpub’s only high ABV beer. The brown ale will be a nod to a lesser known version of the style, the Texas brown ale, “a surprising marriage of dark maltiness with high hop aroma and flavor.” And the coffee milk stout, to be served on nitro, will incorporate (what else?) the beans that the Red Horn baristas will roast.

The Red Horn guys have been producing small test batches of these beers with Gardner’s homebrew equipment to get them ready for commercial production. He’s been homebrewing (which means, for him, tweaking the homebrew recipe and making it his own) for five years now, ever since the University of Texas professor teaching his class on Czech culture took him and his classmates to Live Oak Brewing.

He didn’t know he’d be able to take his brewing skills to the next level quite so quickly, however, until Lamb, his former coworker at a home building company, reached out to him on Facebook.

The idea for Red Horn had been percolating at the back of Lamb’s mind for a few years before his and Misner’s families took a 15-hour road trip to Destin, Florida, together two summers ago. Sitting up in the front seat with a long drive ahead of them, the two friends “brainstormed probably a million different business plans,” Lamb said. His old dream was among them, and it wouldn’t simmer quietly in his head any longer. He and Misner, entrepreneurs at heart, wanted to own and run a business. Specifically, they thought Cedar Park could use a bar that put both beer and coffee front and center, rather like Austin’s Brew & Brew and Radio Coffee & Beer have done.

In addition to the beer and coffee, Red Horn will have sandwiches, cheese plates provided by Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and other light fare. There will be live music on certain days and a large outdoor seating area overlooking a wooded expanse. And you can expect to see the two co-founders, Lamb and Misner, always helping out behind the scenes.

“We had other jobs, but there was an entrepreneurial fire in us that wouldn’t stop,” Lamb said. “This is what we want to do.”

Red Horn Coffee House & Brewing Co., 13010 W. Parmer Ln. Ste. 800.

New book shows off merit of shrubs in cocktails

You might not enjoy slurping down a glass of straight vinegar, but throw some fruit and sugar in with the vinegar and the resulting shrub, as it’s called, makes any drink — alcoholic or not — a refreshing thirst-quencher.

Although vinegar-based syrups haven’t been common in the days since canning and refrigeration were invented, they’ve been making a comeback in the craft cocktail world lately as bartenders bring back pre-Prohibition recipes and ingredients. Writer Michael Dietsch has been right in the center of shrubs’ resurgence, and he’s written a book, “Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times” (Countryman Press, $24.95), to help people make them in their own homes, much as they would have done at the height of shrubs’ popularity in the late 1700s through the 1800s, when there were just as often alcohol-laced shrubs as vinegar-based ones.

“Shrubs might be trendy right now, but the idea of drinking vinegar is ancient,” Dietsch writes in the section of the book that delves into shrubs’ long history. “Vinegar, of course, is made from wine… Wine has been around for at least 8,000 years, and because wine naturally turns to vinegar as it ages, vinegar then must be nearly as old as wine.”

Booze-based shrubs gained a following in the 1700s, when rum was still a young, rough beverage that didn’t go down so easy and needed sugar and the juice of an acidic fruit like oranges or lemons to taste better. But shrubs as we know them today center around vinegar, and they don’t always have to go into an alcoholic beverage.

In addition to the history section, Dietsch’s book includes nearly 50 shrub recipes, as well as a variety of cocktail recipes that feature them. Shrubs often add an extra element of flavor — they can just as easily be tart and savory as sweet, with many containing herbs and vegetables rather than, or in addition to, fruits — to cocktails like the Ultramodern, a twist on the Old-Fashioned.

And if you’re not looking to make your own shrub — but still like the idea of having a quality mixer in your cocktails — you can also find bottled syrups on the market such as the Austin-based Liber & Co. line. Liber & Co.’s Texas Grapefruit Shrub is a particularly delicious example of what shrubs can do, combining Rio Star grapefruits, coconut vinegar, cane sugar and a hint of allspice to create a mixture that’s equal parts sweet and tart.

combine Rio Star grapefruits, coconut vinegar, cane sugar and a hint of allspice. The shrub is sweet and tart, with the zesty grapefruit flavor backed by the subtle allspice note.
The Ultramodern is one of the cocktails in Michael Dietsch’s book “Shrubs” that features the vinegar-based syrups he’s so fascinated with.


2 oz. bourbon

1/2 oz. Scotch, preferably something smoky, like Laphroaig

1/2 oz. Fig-Cinnamon Shrub (see below)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir to combine.

Double-strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.

Fig-Cinnamon Shrub

1 pint purple figs, puréed in a blender

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1-2 cinnamon sticks (depending on how subtle a flavor you want)

1 cup turbinado sugar

Combine puréed figs, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon in a container. Allow to steep on the countertop for two days. Taste. If you started with one cinnamon stick and you want more cinnamon flavor, add a second stick and allow to steep another day.

Strain off fig solids and cinnamon. Pour liquid into a bottle or jar, add turbinado sugar, and shake. Allow to sit for at least a week before using.

— Michael Dietsch, “Shrubs”

Adelbert’s releases Texas’ first bottled bière brut

Sundowner is the latest Adelbert's release.
Sundowner is the latest Adelbert’s release.

For holiday toasts this year, beer lovers will have another bubbly option besides champagne: Adelbert’s Brewery has recently come out with a bière brut (also known as bière de champagne), a rare style that not many other breweries in the U.S. have experimented with yet. With Sundowner, Adelbert’s is the first brewery in Texas to bottle the style, and it’s been released just in time for the upcoming holiday season.

“It is our hope that this crossover style will give beer lovers and non-beer fans something to enjoy together,” Adelbert’s general manager Sarah Haney said in a press release. “Plus, it’s the perfect New Year’s drink for craft beer fans.”

From the first pour, it’s clear how much Sundowner resembles champagne. The golden-colored brew shimmers as bubbles dart, comet-like, up the glass, an effervescence that Belgian breweries (the most common creators of this style) have achieved by letting their bière bruts mature for a lengthy period of time. Adelbert’s stuck to the tradition of aging by bottle-conditioning Sundowner for three months before it was sent to store shelves.

Sundowner, according to the press release, “is a blend of the spicy, fruity notes of a Belgian ale balanced with the mouthfeel and body of a sparkling wine. Brewed with champagne yeast, this effervescent ale possesses hints of white grape and green apple with a crisp, bone-dry finish.” And its striking similarity to champagne does indeed mean that people who don’t like beer might find themselves sipping on Sundowner. Just keep in mind that like champagne, the beer is 12 percent ABV.

Only about 105 cases of the beer were shipped out to Austin stores, but if people clamor for the style, Haney said, the brewery might consider making more in the future.