Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End.

This is it.  This is the end.  The glorious fucking end of [An Avenue].

As my good pal Steven Morrissey likes to advise, 'Every proper band should have the decency to split' -- and I have always taken that to mean that every successful run should meet its sudden, yet permanent demise; requiring far more backbone to be undeterred by the unfinished dissection of the grand illusion and exit smiling.

Yes, I am off to do just that.  These are the metaphoric last bars of the closing anthem, a vow to extreme hiatus because, well, its the decent thing to do.  This place has done all that it can.

Leaving is really very easy.  The site's original intent was to help build awareness for small, local beer, and perhaps it has done just that.  The ancillary effect, however, is what made [An Avenue] great: The support of the local brewing industry for it.  Writing this blog has revealed the radiant insight into the culture of craft beer and those who proliferate it. Talent abounds at all stages, from production to publication, but even more notably, talent is supported.  Enthusiastically.  And for a state as enormous as this one, it still feels as if there is so much room for even more imagination.  The saturation perimeter is still so very, very far from being breached.

Craft beer's narrative has gone from the libatious outlier, to the unfriendly beer snob, to the consumer standard.  Its nearly infeasible that an establishment who cares anything about its clients wouldn't offer something artisinally crafted regionally or nationally -- often times strictly locally.  That is not a fad at all, that is a trend.  And trends tend to become habits.  One that we will all happily hang on to.

Financially, small beer in Austin -- and as a whole nationally -- appears to be entirely sustainable, which makes the silliness of writing a dinky blog about it a bit like the tail wagging the dog.  We had our fun here, our disagreements, our public grievances, our linguistic triumphs.  Most importantly, we've developed our friendships with people we will end up caring about for the rest of our lives. There are so many to recognize, and so whenever I see you again, I will have to shake your hand to let you know how much I appreciated the time you invested in what has happened here.  Without being too much of a loin-licker, sincerely, thank-you.

I do, however, have to single out my wife, Mrs. [An Avenue], because she was my dearest supporter and best research assistant, which is just one of the trillions of reasons why I am head over feet about her.  People always mention how she "let me do this", but she never saw it that way.  She was unbridled with encouragement, and that kept this place going for two years. Almost to the day.

So, yeah, this blog is leaving me in a better place than it found me 24 months ago.  It improved me.  It didn't help me fulfill an immediate dream to write professionally, but I discovered that such a thing doesn't even matter anyway.  What did matter were the millions of tiny triumphs along the way.  Like craft beer, I too am in a good place.  Perhaps the writing industry isn't as keen on small beer as the rest of us.  That remains to be seen.  They certainly aren't paying close enough attention to it, and they most certainly aren't paying many people to adhere.

And with that, Avenuelings, I leave you all with a few unresolved items on the way out:

1) This is, in fact, NOT the end.  If you haven't braved an episode of Draught Punk (Twitter) yet, you might be surprised how enraptured you might be by a depraved indie music + indie beer podcast.  It is where I will be for the foreseeable future.  We think it kicks ass.  We have almost no restraint, and we can show you the proof if needed.

2) In fact, [AA] began as an indie music + indie beer blog.  If you poke around the site, you will still see remnants of that.  As such, we are publishing our 9th Annual Top 101 (of 2013) at the bottom of this post.  Music is the lubricant that drives our desire to go next-level on getting breaded on great beer.

3) Will [AA] ever come back? Bitch, it might.

4) Yes, I do consider Goose Island to still make craft beer.  At least what they do on Fulton Street.  Its still made with artisinal commodities by people versed in small batch.  They've just got major funding to protect from insolvency, like that one team from little league who wore the pro-style New Era jams.  Yeah, fuck that team, but they were still 9-year-olds just like the rest of us.  You want to beat em at their game?  Do it better.

5) 2014 just might be better than 2013 in regards to statewide distribution of beer -- as well as the influx of nationally fapped-to brands reaching Texas. 

6) Thank-you for reading right now and in the past.  Do enjoy the music.  And drink what you want.

7) Yes, it is indeed celebration time.  Now I'm going to get fucking drunk, as one does.  Sounds like a pretty can't miss plan.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Where to Watch Football (World) and Drink Beer (Local) in Austin, Texas for the 2014 World Cup

So, um, fuck yeah. 

In less than a week’s time, everybody on the planet will be giving out exactly zero shits to work obligations, and instead, actively seeking out a nice, cozy pub in which to drink their burdensome nerves under the table, all the while, meshing curse words into superlatives and urging his favorite football hero to save this fucking country or else!

Here in The States, the tension is a bit more muted, but only just! 

Lately – at least over the last several years dating back two Cups now – has the broad valley of American ethnocentrism and cultural indifference been bridged by the curious marvel and metered patriotism for The Beautiful Game –  just as the rest of the world does for one month out of every 48.

Further still, this year's tournament is a merciful two hours time difference between where we stand right at this moment, and where the games will be played; a veritable reprieve from the unholy wake up calls when the World Cup was held in South Korea/Japan and South Africa.  

But this year we, and many others like us, will take full advantage of our geographic fortune and proceed to get shitfaced during normal business hours!  And because of this regional advantage, bars (actual fucking bars!) will be in full operation to help us be participant in our personal pursuit to massacre our vital organs and unreasonable stresses with alcohol.  Namely beer.  Good beer. (Because what kind of asshole would drink a gin and tonic during a football match?).

Because of these integral conditions of having world football on the television and good beer for consumption, we cannot entrust just any old bar to meet our (typically low, but for just this once) high standards, now could we?  This is a very rare event after all, and all of the macro american lagers in the country won't do it a lick of justice.  No not at all.

What we are requiring is a pub that will heed the gravity of The World Cup.  Bars with beer choices that compliment the importance of animate art.  But also bars that, while holding the form of good potables, also allow for the pledging of allegiances to the men of Argentina, or Cameroon, or by God, the USA.  And besides, do any of us really need more of reason to say fuck it when it comes to work than sports and beer?

So here are a hand-selected grouping of bars who meet the caveats of maximal World Cup viewing, which are 1) good beer, and 2) sound amplification of the televisions.  And while bar specials are nice, bar specials are merely fluff as long as they meet our first two stipulations.  

The Brew & Brew [500 San Marcos St. | 512.493.0963]

A craft beer bar (and café!) will head this list because it hits on all the proper elements like an upper-90 golazo from the top of the 18.  If that sentence is literally gibberish to you than know this, B&B serves 38 craft beers on draft to make you talk like a cleft-arsed English supporter by the 60th minute.  And if this paragraph still means nothing to you, then go and have yourself a latte, sit in the corner, and watch how the self-loathing Brits do it.  B&B promises projection for all matches with sound, a blackened viewing area for maximal viewing of Wayne Rooney’s poor touch, and Hops & Grain specials for every game!  Smashing!

B.D. Riley's Irish Pub [204 East 6th | 512.494.1335]

B.D. Riley’s also caters to the craft savvy, but functions far more as a sports bar in the rad-est part of downtown.  We won’t hold the fact that they typically operate as a Notre Dame and New England Patriots bar against them, because in doing so, they seem to both love and loathe America at the same time, which is essentially what the whole rest of the world does everyday.  To us, that is very World Cuppish.  B.D.’s promises to show all matches with sound on their big 70” screen.  They will have pint specials on semi-local, sorta-craft Shiner beers and others.

Haymaker [2310 Manor Rd | 512.243-6702]

NEVERMIND.  AVOID AT ALL COST. Mismanagement on crowd control and short pours on pints.  We gave them enough chances.

Hopfields [3110 Guadalupe St | 512) 537-0467

Apart from being one of our favorite every-day pubs, Hopfield's also assured that ...

which is pretty much all the convincing we need to take in a few matches at this campus area joint.  

Holy Mountain [617 E 7th St]

In every World Cup, there is always a breakout star whom sets the place ablaze with flair and aplomb.  My José Mourinho senses are telling me that Holy Mountain is this year’s Diego Forlan.  Just listen to their self-promo from their website:  

World Cup Watch Parties are happening on the Mountain starting on June 12th!  We will be open for all other matches, from those fabled early (long) lunch breaks (11am kickoff) and the “leave work a little before 5” efforts. Special guests will be joining our host Adi Anand to discuss all the action. Trivia before the matches and at halftime with chances to win drink tickets and more! We’ve got drink specials from Jim Beam, Thrilled Cheese food truck to ensure we stay the course, DJ sets & live bands, and plenty more fun and games!”

They’ve done so much of the writing work for me, that I can’t help to give them one of those above-head, post-game hand clap addressed to the supporters section.  Oh, and this:

“Ghana vs USA at 5pm. Happy Hour prices all night AND complimentary Jim Beam shots for everyone (21+) at the bar for EVERY US Goal.”


Mr. Tramps [8565 Research Blvd | 512.837.3500]

If Holy Mountain is the young upstart, then Mr. Tramps is the Zinedine Zidane of Austin soccer pubs; not flashy, but makes those around it better and has an excellent work rate.  A real winner.

They must be so busy being awesome over there that no one answered the phones to update us on their Cup specials.  But does it really matter anyway?  You are going here while your wife shops at SuperTarget.

The Mohawk [912 Red River St | 512.666.0877]

Will the best music venue in Austin become the best place to catch a footy match in Austin?  

We can’t say for sure just yet, but the idea of Mohawk displaying The World Cup in all of its glory to supporters fixed atop their concrete vistas is a supremely romantic and lets face it – engagingly European – way to show the games, what with the backdrop of downtown and plaza-style viewing.  We're in.

Mohawk promises signature cocktails, “bubbles for ladies” (ed: how WAG), IPAs lagers, stouts, and ales in the holy trinity of draft, bottle, and can.
 There will be craft hot dogs by Frank, and of course, multiple screens (indoor and out) with surround sound.  Please note, however, 21+.

Bar 96 [96 Rainey Street | 512.433.6604]

Bar 96 is probably our favorite “dedicated” sports bar in Austin because it is so unapologetically not a sports bar, but your step-father-in-law’s beach bungalow that has been lent out for the summer to his Jaycees frat mates.  Its old and new in many, many ways, with a few dozen TVs and a first rate garden area for lounging in the remorseful summer twilight.  

Bar 96 is also the unofficial (future MLS franchise – we hope) Austin FC World Cup viewing area.  Their beer is craft, but we would be remiss if we didn’t add that their very reasonably priced Lone Star Lite is a sometimes treat for us.

Black Sheep Lodge [2108 S Lamar Blvd | 512.707.2744]

The (older) sister restaurant to Haymaker is not as perky as her sibling, but she gets by very well on congeniality.  There are very ample swaths of viewing areas and a superior food menu to Haymaker, but sometimes Black Sheep slips up when it comes to providing sound for lesser matches.  Still, they do promise sound-on for bigger matches, a wide selection of craft beer, $1 off for wearing a team jersey, and a buck off any beer from the countries of origin who are currently competing on-screen.  For those Amstel Light meatheads, Holland takes the stage on Friday, June 13.
The Tavern [922 W 12th St | 512) 320-8377]

At a time not terribly long ago, The Tavern was a sports-veiwing dinosaur in terms of television quality, but dude, have they upgraded!  The Tavern boasts 55 TVs and promise full sound upstairs.  They report to have "beer bucket specials", which sounds menacingly like macro beer to us, but whatever, they have loads of craft taps and a general electricity that has been privy to all of the greatest sporting moments of the television era.  Oh, and they are also versed in dealing with the boisterous soccer crowd, as they host the Austin Aztex supporters group before every home match.  Good enough for us. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Right in the Stones: Camo Pale Stout by 5 Stones Craft Brewery

Over the last several years its been compulsory for many start-up breweries to inaugurate the chalk-boards above their freshly-printed tap handles resting behind their gorgeously repurposed bartops with an impotent India Pale Ale of sorts, maybe an inoffensive version of the brewmaster's collegiate go-to *Amber Ale (cloned from the 90's-alt-glamor of Fat Tire), and if the brewery is particularly plucky, perhaps a Belgian Blonde Ale, so that the company can deliver its most insipid pun to the bourgeois on the other side of the counter.

For pedantic beer jerks like myself, we often require a huge reminder that all of that is completely and totally acceptable.  Utterly and positively okay; encouraged, in fact.  These operations are dependent on the tit of sustainability throughout infancy -- especially considering that a brewery's distant success is gauged on the the immediate impact of angel investors, a motivated staff, and the dousing of the community's desirous thirst.  I'm cool with that.

As 'Ye informs, 'Ya gotta crawl before you ball'; and for those breweries shooting for preservation and survival before their desire for beer nerd rep -- a totally useless currency by any measure -- self-gratification comes in the form of the little things, like paying employees a consistent wage and, you know,  avoiding total insolvency.

Eventually, sure, the expectation of most beer zealots like myself, i guess, is for the brewery to progressively impress us and help us vent our livers during the nights and weekends.  Perhaps even surprise us with something hypeable or flashy or imperial or cellarable or something aged in a European hornets nest fermented with 100% Brettanomyces.  Nobody desires that surge of hype more than the brewers themselves.  It just takes a bit of patience from everyone, is all.

But every now and again comes a real non-conformist brewhouse who is sneaking illicit materials into the Freshman dorms and enduring to brag about it; a brewhouse whose creativity bypasses skepticism because our boundaries of doubt are breached by their compass of imagination.

5 Stones is a brewery located in the gray area of Pre-San Antonio, where one has to ease on the accelerator of the Honda or risk cavity spelunking by one of Texas' infamous highway patrol outfits.  It is also a geographical oddity for having produced turbo-boss runningback Malcolm Brown, right there in the middle of goddam nowhere.  Its one of life's big mysteries -- like how poor people all own iPhones -- that Cibolo has churned out both an exceptional football player and an exceptional brewery in 5 Stones.

5 Stones originally debuted with a wise little saison -- a very clear departure from the average amber ale -- cleverly named "0 Anniversary" to denote the fact that they intend to tear up your back 7 with the Power-I for many, many years to come.  That was their warning shot.

Since 0 Anny, 5 Stones has maintained its resistance to the IPA seduction, and has instead formulated a red ale, a quadruplet of Autumnal fruit beers, and the beer I am talking about specifically in this piece: Camo Pale Stout.

¿Pale wat?


For a brewery with its head down and focused -- so much so, that their website is painfully neglected of good info about their beer (how many people do they have over there, exactly?) -- 5 Stones has the worldly awareness of similarly insular artists, like a Francisco Goya or maybe a Win Butler.

Camo is indeed as white as a Montreal hipster, but because it was brewed with the traditional characters of a properly-pigmented stout, cocoa nibs, and espresso beans, it catches you off guard like a fucking butt slap.  Upon first pour, the beer is an open throttle of bombast: heavy aromatics, grounded bitters, and sweet carbohydrates.  It begins as a crazy foreign chocolate, may even a crazy foreign coffee.  It was really impressive.  Fucked up in the brain, but impressive.

But as I climbed through it, and examined its elevations and volumes and layers and valleys, it becomes a bit fat-tongued and a little clumsy.  Carbonation continues to be a fickle old fucking bastard, too.  Perfectly acceptable given the explanation on its window dressing - "Batch Number 1" and the presumed chemistry that had to be laid out to make it all possible.  Fuck.  This is really impressing me -- but in the way that you can see the depth of this brewery and the potential for its excellence despite its inexperience; squeaky laminate butting up to the groaning ancient floorboards, contemporary ideas in brewing meeting the wise old narrative of beer.

Camo is bursting with optimism, novelty without kitchiness, interesting and culturally satisfying.  I'm assuming that beyond impressing me with a developed amber ale from college, they'll instead impress me by improving a ridiculously fun beer.

And I'm down with that too.

Follow [AA] on twitter and listen to Draught Punk.

ABV 7.8o%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? Not widely, best bet is the place mentioned above.
Album Pairing Neutral Milk Hotel | In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
☆ (in 2013)

*dibs on calling my start-up's first beer "You Remember Amber.  From College."  Too wordy?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What the Hell Happened at GABF?

Yeah, the title of this post is a bit misleading because it implies a singular event that might have dominated the interests of those who were in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, when, in actuality, it was a compound of mind-melting events and zany antics for sure -- a festival, in the truest interpretation of the word: a feast of celebrations honoring saints and gods in which the liturgical calendar of everyone in attendance is (mostly) based, and partook by in every angle of the city: convention halls, nationally esteemed beer bars, Beerliners, bottle shops, and extraordinarily enough, ancillary pop-up festivals within the festival.     

GABF is like Christian Mingle for fat, bearded, drunky louts, iffin you can affiliate something like Rio Carnival as something religiously-based at all, which is to say that here, in the center of this country's beer Mecca, amongst the gassy cool dads making their annual retreats and turbo-millennials with at least three others from their Facebook, stand the Monsters of Brewing; the Gods of Fermentation, if you will.

In the center of the Great Hall, amongst the constant droning of its besotted human mass and against the complexions of 3,100 individually imagined beers, resembles the circus of repentant sin before the season of Last Suppers and enlightened reformations -- at least whatever tame mess a Space Shuttle hangar worth of drunks geeking out to something called "Sparkleberry" can get themselves in to.  The enthusiasm is both sweetly infectious and slightly disturbing.  But that is GABF.  It should be their fucking motto.

One of my favorite little occurrences in life -- and I don't want to misrepresent myself here as a person who desperately achieves lumps in the throat from simple, daily routines -- but one of my favorite little occurrences in life is when a beer glass can't take the girth of my 12 fluid ounces, and so to achieve maximum value from the beer purchase, I just kinda slam the final 1oz sip right out of the bottle. Fresh. Cold. 

Its like tricking a life rule -- final sips from their respective vessels are supposed to be sickly warm, not bright and biting, indicative of the beer's pasts and present.  Its a fucking glorious phenomenon.

That too, is GABF.

One ounce samples of greatness, one after the next, as many as your skill for breathing involuntarily allows.  Brisk and tricking life.  Its a world class experience.  Try it at home, then go ahead and book your flight to Denver for 2014.

My absolute favorite thing about GABF this year was the massive and proud representation we had from The Great State.  Texas represented 37 of the festival's 624 breweries, which, according to fuzzy Google calculations, is more than half of the state's active breweries, and like, a shitload more than many other states had there in this massive chamber of dreams.

In that, nine of those Texas breweries took home a grand total of 10 medals, including favorite sons, Austin Beerworks & StepCrew (see reference above) for their Black Thunder Schwarzbier.  A fucking gold medal beer, available right in your living room.  And they're bringing it all the way back to Awstin, Texas, baybee. -- Vince Young.

Beyond that, five other Austin-area breweries took home impressive hardware for their prodigious efforts, especially amazing in the fact that five of the six medal breweries of Austin are in their infancy.

Gold to Namaste Brewing for Bitterama in the Herb & Spice Beer category
Silver to Real Ale* for Brewers Cut Altbier in the German-Style Altbier category
Bronze to Black Star Co-Op for Elba in the Herb & Spice Beer category
Bronze to Jester King for Atrial Rubicite in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category
Bronze to Pinthouse Pizza for Blind Jake in the Brown Porter category

* old ass, Texas flagship brewery

It is clear that Texas is improving their ability to compete, and above that, expecting to compete.  There was a clear and significant buzz around the Southwest Midway -- which in the past several years has expanded from a blinking stoplight town to a megalopolis of beer -- largely on the strength of Texas brewing. Texas Brewing.  I like the way that sounds.

And it was pretty awesome to witness the enthusiasm surrounding Texas' preferable positioning at this year's festival, which was probably not coincidental based on its 2013 hype.  I think everyone there probably delivered on that promise of something special.

I've mentioned it before, but Texas Row, including its satellite branch of free 12oz pours at the Beerliner -- a mobile beer bar driven from Austin, over the mountains, and planted in front of the venerable Falling Rock Taphouse -- resembles more of a Senior Trip than a Beer Fest.  We won't say we are sorry.

And with 5,000 total beer submission for judging between all the competing breweries, it appears that there is a ton -- I mean a fucking ton -- of confidence in craft brewing at the moment, not only with experimental beer, but with, as my pal Mike likes to say, "Keep the Lights On Beer", just as Black Thunder exists so that seasonals and exploratories like Sputnik and Einhorn can go all the way with me.  Oh, and along the way, why don't they  just pick up a Gold Medal while they're at it?

And while there were only a sippycup's worth of flops -- Odell Fernet Barrel Aged Porter stand out as the biggest offender -- there were gallons upon gallons of liquid salve that stopped the hemorrhaging from such a brain beating (Mikey liked it. No he did. He brought a bottle home to kill wasps with, presumably.).

An thus, the collaborate effort of mining GABF's best beers between two dudes on a 9am flight back to Texas with every other brewer and enthusiast and blogger hiding behind their Audio-Technica headphones ignoring hangovers.  Happily feeling shitty.  Knowing that we'd do it all over again.

10.  Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale | Cigar City Brewing | Tampa, FL
09.  White Chocolate Wheatwine | The Bruery | Orange County, CA
08.  Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout | Mother's Brewing | Springfield, MO
07.  Gone Commando Vienna Lager with Currants | Short's Brewing | Bellaire, MI
06.  Lobster Stout | Dogfish Head Brewing | Milton, DE
05.  Empire Spear Beer Asparagus Ale | Right Brain Brewing | Traverse City, MI
04.  Black Note Imperial Stout | Bell's Brewing | Kalamazoo, MI
03.  Duck Duck Goze | The Lost Abbey | San Marcos, CA
02.  Mosaic IPA | Community Beer Company | Dallas, TX
01.  Mexican Chocolate Siberius Maximus Russian Imperial Stout* | Wrecking Bar Brewpub | Atlanta, GA 
(*Major HT to @carlosarellano for pointing us into the brewpub pavilion)

(follow [AA] on twitter @anavenueblog, and @draught_punk for best in life podcast)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Symphony of Craft Beer and Football

This country yearns for the razzle-dazzle of sports entertainment, feasting on spectacular step overs and end zone tumbles with recreational hunger, chomping on the hot guts of point aggregation and victory with the unbridled emotion of unburied zombies buffeting at a senior living center.

We feast our faces on the spoils of breads and grilled meats, natural bedfellows to this nation's primary pastime potable: BEER -- and unless you are reading this article from Kiev or Krakow -- we, as Americans rely mainly on beer to take us from compliant office drone on Friday to defiant middle finger wagger by Saturday.  Its science.

And yet, the single-most confounding abnormality about sports culture in the United States is the propensity to demonstrate all of this courageous backbone and undeniable intensity -- pounding fists to stone in hopeless despair, barking with spirituous celebration in glory, and enduring subzero climates in shirtless solidarity -- but then choose to drink a light beer with absolutely no fucking balls at all.

It just makes no sense.  Its like ordering a double bacon burger with a couple of veggie patties.

The collective sports enthusiast -- most notably 'football fan' -- appears to willfully endorse a spectacularly bland version of boiled lettuce as a means to invoke home team mania, and, of course helping along any social barriers one might experience with opposing fans in the parking lot of some shitty, back-road wilderness like Manhattan, Kansas or Ames, Iowa.  The protocol for survival is typically a 24-count case of American corn lager, a Styrofoam cooler from the party store, and $1.49 bag of ice.  Now just what in the ....

[Oh, hey!  Did you like that so far?  Do yer wanna read more about how perfectly craft beer pairs with football season?  Be sure to pick up an Austin Beer Guide during its release party tomorrow, October 3rd, at Craft Pride on Rainey Street and read the rest of this insightful shit.  Beyond that, you're on your own to scavenge the Fall 2013 issue from the Draught House crapper.]  ... or just keep reading below if yr not in Austin ...

... fuck?

By all means, if tradition is your flavor, far be it from me as a horribly superstitious sports fan to alter your team's good fortune with the suggestion of alternative beer brands.  

But if economics is your barrier, or quality your question, or laziness your impedance, or even intimidation your fear, allow us at the Austin Beer Guide to try to take your pre-game to the next level.  After all, this is Autumn; the season of receiving sweets and giving thanks, cooling off despite the sun shining brightly through depleted branches, raging benders on the patio.  And football.  Some might even call it "The Best Season".

Fortunately for many, living in Austin entitles its townspeople to good football and great beer.  And while the city's brewing tradition isn't as legendary as its gridiron past, it is made up for with the talent and speed of a youthful upstart turning heads across the land.

One way for Austin to immediately impart its brewing cachet on locals, was to create historically relevant and regionally appropriate beer.  This is where many feel the local brew scene excels, and they are probably right in this sense; sessionable, yet flavorful beers that pair suitably with our unmerciful subjective temperatures -- the summer-into-fall weather that appears to be every Austinite's pet-hate. 

Here are a few of our recommendations to get you through the residual hot months before transitioning into the briskness of late Fall and early Winter.  Most of these beers are easy on the alcohol percentage for sustainability, but remain bold on the palate for quality.  But sometimes -- just sometimes -- you have to break out the big guns to get you through the tenuous moments.  We included those too, because in incidents of high emotion, craft beer is almost as serious as football.


Kickoff (August - September)
Austin is quickly becoming a city that is easily out-drinking its provisions in beer, and this is because local brewers are absolutely nailing it with mild-bodied American style ales and lagers.  What is abandoning shelves city-wide are spruced-up version of classic American styles that once defined the country's beer culture -- sessionable swills like PBR and Bud Light, for example -- and empowering them with quality ingredients like hops and all-malt profiles.  This leads to approachable, palatable, and flavorful beers that allow for daylong imbibing without too much concern for falling out of your chair by game time.

These are the Arial fonts of beer: simple layout, nice packaging, not too fussy, but imparting plenty of impact on your social game. These are best enjoyed during the hot-Fall, which, in geographic anomalies like Austin, extends well into the football season's first rivalry week.

Austin Beerworks Peacemaker
Style: Extra Pale Ale
ABV:  5.0%
Available: In cans, on draught.

Peacemaker Extra Pale Ale is as bright and merciful as an Adele/Taylor Swift duet.  It has long washes of citrus and crystal clear notes of flavoring hops.

Hops & Grain The One They Call Zoe
Style: Pale American Lager
ABV: 5.2%
Available: In cans, infrequently on draught.

Austin's defacto gateway beer, Zoe is considered a pale lager -- the same style as a Bud or a Coors -- but as similar technically as Toby Keith is to Keith Jackson.  Try this robust homage to badassery.

Real Ale Hans Pils
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5.3%
Available: In cans, on draught.

Hans Pils is the 2012 Great American Beer Festival Silver Medalist in a very difficult category.  If Texas is to become as synonymous with Czech and German Pilsners as fried chicken is to Kentucky, then Hans Pils is the hearth that bears that flame.

Live Oak HefeWeizen
Style: Wheat beer
ABV: 5.2%
Available: Draught only.

Considered Austin's first (and as of yet, only) "World Class" beer, Live Oak HefeWeizen is the cornerstone of north campus pre-gaming at places like Crown & Anchor and Posse East.

The Second Half (October - November)
Late Autumn in Austin is not the unremitting gray drizzle of football hotbeds like the Northwest or the blustery mix of the Midwest, however, this time of year delivers to our city the sweet relief of cooler temperatures. 

We can feel thankful that our mild Falls allow for us to be outside much more than our northern counterparts because of the lack of moisture, however, we still need to find something weighty to dig our heels into as the subjective temperature dips all the way into the frosty 70s.  Beer selection at this juncture is typically less bittered and more malt-driven with a slightly higher ABV to cushion against local hypothermia.
Independence Oklahoma Suks
Style: Amber
ABV: 4.8%
Available: Very limited in bottles seasonally. (Austin Amber available year-round in bottles, draught)

Oklahoma Suks is just Independence's Austin Amber dressed in Texas gear ahead of the Red River Rivalry in early October, but with a mild, roasted finish and low ABV, its a beer that will pal around with you through the emotional ebb-and-flow of a typical Texas-ou match up like a familiar friend.

Hops & Grain Alt-eration
Style: Altbier
ABV:  5.1%
Available: In Cans, draught

Alt-eration was the 2012 World Beer Cup gold medalist for its category, which at that time, made it the best Altbier one could buy, anywhere, after only a few months in production.  With that kind of hardware and credibility, its an safe bet to draft this one for your weekend plans.

Austin Beerworks Black Thunder
Style: German Schwarzbier
ABV: 5.3%
Available: In Cans, draught

Grainy and malty, chocolatey and nutty -- none of that matters because Black Thunder sound football-y as fuck.  Just buy it.  Its a perfect fall beer.  Actually, its perfect any time.

Overtime (December - January)
Ah, yes, finally you have to wear a hoodie to get your mail, and you begin driving to work while its still dark outside.  Your team has either struggled mightily and its time to cash-in on caring -- OR -- you're team is thriving and its whats keeping your pumping heart from rude health, despite overindulgence on holiday office party lamb and the trendy macarons your kid left for Santa in hopes of a Robo Fish.  All this while your size 34 belt mimicks a tourniquet to your lower extremities.  All of them.
These are demonstrative times, and demonstrative times call for bolder beers.  Its time to go big.

(512) Pecan Porter
Style: Porter
ABV:  6.5%
Available: Draught only.

Besides Live Oak HefeWeizen, (512)'s Pecan Porter might be Austin's most iconic beer.  If you got on your knees and licked Zilker Park's earth, I don't know if you could get a better sense of how Austin might literally taste.  This should be it.

Independence Convict Hill
Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 8.0%
Available: In bottles, on draught.

Lovely, and chocolatey and smooth and boozy before swirling back to lovely. The kind of beer that makes it nearly impossible for your bottom-dweller team to harsh the mellow.

Jester King Black Metal
Style: English Imperial Stout
ABV:  9.3%
Available: In bottles, draught rarely.

Well, now we're talking about a ball-bustin' beer beast.  Drinking a Black Metal during the BCS Championship or Super Bowl would be like driving a Testarossa to Senior Prom.  If you want to be a badass, you've gotta drink the badass.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Say Yes! To Beer Fest Season!

As a community of beer enthusiasts, I think we need to be pretty fucking proud of ourselves at how vulnerable we've made Big Beer.  How easily we've managed to turn the worm on itself where desperation and pandemonium seem to be actual marketing techniques for the men and women inside the corporate boxes at Busch Stadium and Miller Park.

Wherein MillerCoors LLC is willing to shave profits to the slimmest of margins at Wal fucking Mart and Costco for the sole reason of skewing unit sales for a more attractive position on the worldwide market share chart.

Wherein Big Beer's naughty little parody of genuine craft beer, Blue Moon, begins howling about the "lack of respect" from the now, better-informed beer drinking proletariat, like a Facebook-defriended pre-teen -- yet continue attempts to fleece their target market by publishing "Brewed by Tenth & Blake" on their packaging as if to substitute misrepresentation with integrity.

Wherein, one of America's largest music festivals -- Austin City Limits -- has decreed market space for the vending of small beer under the shadow of mega-sponsors Budweiser, a homegrown dual-fingered salute to corporate trespassing and the overall dilution of Austin as a whole.

And, wherein the competitiveness of craft beer's volume and dollars compared to the big boys has rocketed from absurdly-small way up to only shamefully-small.  But this is okay, because craft beer's perception has surpassed the flame-out of "fad", and progressing to "trend".

The overall message sent to Milwaukee, and Golden, and St. Louis, is that Americans -- at the very least -- are open to exploring new ranges of experimentalism, an ideal that has been stripped from the American psyche since 60's modernism.  Not only do we as a society just fucking love an underdog, but tend to become apocalyptic when we know deep inside, that the longshot is actually the superior product: The '68 Jets, Harry Truman, Bueller vs. Rooney.  In the historical context of this country, it is the very philosophical and cultural foundation in which it was established.

And yet still, with many American microbreweries deprived of important little marketing details, like say, advertising budgets and distribution range, the primary source of sales and popularity still rely primarily on old fashioned word-of-mouth. 

(and technological word-of-mouth ... so, hey! follow me on twitter @anavenueblog, and oh, @draught_punk for our podcast).

So, what would be the best way to gather these eager, enthusiastic, and thrill-seeking Americans for the opportunity to coalesce with some of the country's best brewers?

Craft beer FUCKING festival season.  That's how.

September 28 | Texas Craft Brewers Festival 

But I mean, seriously, can you really just picture in your head the thought of InBevMillerCoors trying to throw some sort of beer fest?  The mental image of curiously similar straw-colored pale lager being poured into two ounce vessels, as patrons discern its tint by the sunlight, while Silverchair plays a reunion gig on the Heineken stage just cracks my shit up.

Coincidentally, Austin host EXACTLY the opposite of that festival, called the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, held ceremoniously in Fiesta Gardens at the foothills of the city's gorgeous downtown skyline.

It is completely devoid of light lagers and "Frogstomp".

But what the Texas Craft Brewers Festival does offer, is 39 breweries pouring 132 beers made right here in the Great State, ensuring that TCBF is the Daytona 500 of Texas Beer Festivals -- local beer's grandest stage, right there on week one.

We here at the [AA] offices polled our opinions and decided that the following are the most anticipated pours from the festival:

Karbach: Cherries of Fire
5 Stone: Rhubarb Cherrylicious
*Buffalo Bayou: Watermelon Wit
Circle: Smokin' Beech
Real Ale: Scots Gone Wild
Hops & Grain: Volumes of Funk
Jester King: Atrial Rubicite
Saint Arnold: 2012 Pumpkinator (right)

... and of course,
Austin Beerworks: Einhorn

* [AA] 2013 Rated Rookie

Rubbin's racin'.  Better get your extra drink tickets before I buy them all.

October 3 | Austin Beer Guide Release Party

In the cutthroat world of Austin beer bloggin', the dudes at ABG cut the deepest, and leave only a scattered assemblage of skanky beer groupies for the rest of us, like breadcrumbs for pigeons.

But they've earned their elevated reputation by making craft beer important enough to burn most of their free time just so you can have something to flip through on Black Sheep Lodge's shitter.  The content is unique and deliberate, and depending on how much respect for my opinion you have, by far the best beer guide in Austin.

But such myths are only confirmed by reading one, and this quarterly publication appears to be an excuse to host Austin's most consistent beer event: the Austin Beer Guide Release Party.  This time, the guys slum it for once below the Capitol Corridor and into the catacombs of the Central Austin's Rainey Street District.  And if you've ever been to Craft Pride, you'll undoubtedly know that they will have something local and something special to commemorate this work of literature.

And be sure to ask any one of these very helpful Austin Beer Guide guys for a release.

Oct 10 - 12 | Great American Beer Festival

Hey, you like bright sunshine without the nastiness of summer heat?  Like dabbling in barrel aged barley wines to keep hydrated?  Do you believe that #EverySeasonIsStoutSeason?

Well, I hope that you've booked your October flight to Denver, and found a companion you are only mildly repulsed to bunk with during craft beer's version of SXSW.

And really, I couldn't think of a better venue for the masterpiece that is GABF than Denver, particularly because of the city's indigenous mentality of embracing artisinal goods and disseminating positive vibes.  It feels so damn great to be in the freshest air any one of us will breath all year, in a walkable city, with like-minded enthusiasts.  Its has a perpetual senior-vacation affect in that you will run into your favorite local brewers, a thousand miles from home, and have an instantaneous desire to shout shit like "YeeHAW!"  "Fucking TEXAS!" and "How many fucking Plineys should I order this round, bros?!".  It is a pretty amazing experience.  And I couldn't imagine engaging in social media for weeks out of depression if I missed it.   

And as of yet, GABF is still remarkably chaste and NOT a carnival of commercialism, despite the obvious SXSW comparisons.  The glory of this festival is celebrating small-enterprise, which, for the most part has kept the really big sponsors at bay as much as they would just really fucking LOVE to be involved (and guess who doesn't miss out on a booth despite the built up vitriol: Budweiser, Shock Top, and Blue Moon -- erm, Tenth & Blake Brewing Co).  I know the end of craft socialism might be in the mail, but in the meantime come enjoy it like its the OLD Black Keys.

But that said, I am also trying hard not to go with ambitions to work -- because that would be a fruitless endeavor, like trying to wank to math. Like the rest of the GABF media, [AA] will be there to support our friends and local brewers, and let the stories all write themselves during the hangover moments -- over some more pints, of course.  You can read about [AA]'s GABF 2012 experience here.

Plus, I'm pretty sure its like $200 to fly there from any corner of the planet.  Denver is cheap and it is fucking boss.  If you can't make it this year, really try to do it at some point in your short life.

October 19 | Flying Saucer's BeerFeast

This will be my maiden voyage to BeerFeast, which is hosted by Flying Saucer Austin, and will be one of four around the country.  The event features 40 breweries pouring over 60 beers, plus, you know, austin-style grub from food trucks because EVERYTHING is better with street meat -- most especially, craft beer.

Ticket purchase includes admission to the festival, a tasting card that is good for choice of 12 samples of any of the 60 festival beers, and a 2013 commemorative BeerFeast tasting glass.

VIP ticket holders will also receive the taster glass and sampling session, as well as early admission to the festival at noon and access to the VIP-only line for rare tappings.  In addition, VIPs will get food vouchers redeemable at any of the festival food trucks, a 2013 BeerFeast T-shirt and a pair of BeerFeast sunglasses.

Oct 25 - Nov 3 | Austin Beer Week

In addition to killing you all month with various liver disorders, Austin delivers the death blow with an entire week to beer festivities across a number of platforms and venues in the city.

Now, during Austin Beer Week, there really is something for everyone -- like Amsterdam or bath salts -- but undoubtedly, our favorite festivity is Draught House's Anniversary -- its 45th this year -- which is truly remarkable because literally nothing in Austin is 45 years old, Draught House excluded.

This is no place for amateurs.

Here is the full lineup of Austin Beer Week events.

So, in conclusion, it can be said that sure, a lot of these Big Beer types have worked hard to get rich, despite the privilege of major budgets and lineage and thousands of employees, et cetera, et cetera.

But the majority of people in beer won't get rich no matter how hard they work, and I think the idea of a craft beer festival embraces that fascinating notion, while helping to stabilize an industry in its infancy.  These festivals support some of the hardest working individuals whose executives-in-charge crack less than a teacher's salary.  And I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to depreciate small business and/or education. 

Consider that when you're deciding between a Chilada and a Pearl Snap.