I'll say this about Austin Beer Week, it is like the post-break-up sex of GABF, following just one abbreviated week after it on the events calendar -- and at just the cusp of time when one is easing out of those liver pangs that have been troubling you since two Thursdays ago.
Whoever conceptualized the timing of a week devoted to the Austin beer scene is a bleeding genius on account of the timing of this thing; one more caucus of the willing without having to delve right back into the deranged commitment of another beer festival of such GIANT proportions or worse yet, swearing off getting wasted forever. Its just one more hit, one final hit while the Valium takes effect; the casual buffer between pandemonium in Denver and the dying of the light in Austin. The party is crashing us, and we are thankful we won't have to move very far at all to enjoy it.
The timing is also very punctual in that everyone around town associated with the industry -- in whatever capacity, large or small -- is still plenty abuzz with enthusiasm following the high school senior trip, grabassery that is GABF. Its as if those of us who were present for those few days in Denver witnessed a legendary Donkey Show that we couldn't wait to share the details of our with our less fortunate friends back home.
What is more, is this is about the time when some of Austin's -- and by extension, the
rest of the US -- best beer styles are made: pumpkins, porters, stouts,
old ales, imperial reds, autumnals, rauchbiers, and Pre-Christmas ales;
chocolate nibs, hazelnuts, coffee, malts, figs, cherries -- you dream it, they make it. If any of these styles make you feel like bundling up in 79° weather, than your well will surely be poisoned during this week.
And around town during this magnificent décade of beer events is something to be keen on behind every heavy wooden door: rare-beer tappings, one-off specialty casks uncorked by local brewers, panels devoted to specific beer styles, collaborations between innovative local brewhouses, noteworthy appearances by legendary sensory specialists from historically important craft breweries, anniversary parties for iconic beer bars, the grand opening of others ... and so on.
One of these events that I was particularly fortunate to attend due to a generous friend in the brewing industry, was the pre-screening, first pour, and IPA panel at the newly rooted Pinthouse Pizza, which sits amongst the polished grime of Burnet Road like a handsome ex nihilo basilica to beer worship.
Past its distinguished façade from street level is a narthex of spotless steel kettles before giving way to a positively stunning nave emulating the flirtiest of Munich bierhalls. Here, the open and vaulted interior is very obviously devoted to communal gatherings amongst the familiar and unfamiliar. Get friendly because you will likely have table mates -- however, for the proximately-challenged, there are a couple of bar stools for semi-private imbibing.
But the message here is very clear: Don't be a pussy. Visit your neighbors. Drink fine ales. Be jovial. Its the message that Crown & Anchor, another legendary Austin beer bar, preached to us as far back as the ancient American era of the 1990s -- long before the avante-garde practice of communal situating amongst strangers was a concept cautiously accepted in this city.
And if sharing personal space with strangers intimidates you, then there is somewhere in the galaxy of 50 beers on the tap wall from local, regional, and national craft brew houses sure to get you feeling more comfortable. More importantly -- and here is the subject of this article before I start to Yelp it into shit -- there are four mainstays from former Odell (CO) brewer Joe Mohrfeld, which I consider amongst my favorite breweries in the country due to my belief that they make their staple beers better than anyone else in the industry.
The beer I had the privilege of tasting on this night was Joe's Man o' War IPA.
One thing we talk quite a bit about on [AA] is the concept of beer culture, and like any other concept that suggests an exclusionary lifestyle preceded by a modifying noun, it tends to sway dangerously close to dickish marginalization, like hipsterdom, or to a nerdy social disadvantage, like being a Jimmy Buffet fan. But what beer culture means -- at least me -- is the simple ideal of classic antiquity, using quality substances to promote progressiveness beyond just beer, but also things like agriculture, transportation, horticulture, architecture, and so on.
And what propagates this cultural movement towards better standards -- particularly for Americans inundated with fillers and additives, mollifying the tight fists of cheap detriments, like glass buildings and macro brewing, is the simplest, most unintentional, and least assuming of premises: better beer. The style that beget this beer culture: The India Pale Ale.
While IPAs remains craft beer's most popular -- but also most-polarizing styles -- there is enough nuance and variety for everyone in this country to have a preferential style, which is typically based on region (West Coast IPAs tend to be heavily bittered by hops, while East Coast IPAs tend to be more traditionally in-line with English Ales deported to India during colonialism).
The style that I prefer is somewhere in between those two regions -- the Midwestern IPA -- and Joe's Man o' War IPA was right in my strike zone. Man o' War only dips its big toe into the warm piney resin of the Pacific, while also resisting the urge to dive full on into the malty Atlantic. Its nose was as bright as a Colorado pale ale, but had the nuanced malt bill of a Michigan IPA. The front was deftly citric and finished with a carefully hopped and lightly floral note (I'm guessing Citra and Cascade hops?).
One can taste the master-work of restraint and quality ingredients by a knowledgeable brewer from an esteemed brewery; classic antiquity, control, quality ingredients.
My immediate impression was to think and feel very fortunate to have this brewer land in my town. And that frequent visits will be necessary. I haven't even tried the fucking pizza yet.
Glad tidings to you on this 2012 Austin Beer Week. May you track all the whales you intend to hunt and may you spear them dead in their wake.
Acquired Pinthouse Pizza, derp.
Can I Find This in Austin? Yeah, starting today!
Album Akron/Family | Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free (2009)