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.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Austin's Jester King Celebrates Zwanze Day 2013

Apart from the nonstop luxury flights into other exotic international ports, what do the following worldwide alpha-cities have in common with our modest, southwestern hamlet of Austin, Texas: San Francisco, Brooklyn, Chicago, Seattle, D.C., Montreal, Tokyo, Rome, Brussels, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, and London?

Zwanze Day.


Zwanze Day: a perfectly imaginative mandate that designates a singular afternoon across the world to drinking a very rare, very desired, one-off beer made by Belgian brewing demi-gods Brasserie Cantillon.  Of these 46 global cities, which appear to be scattered indiscriminately across the face of the Earth, Austin's Jester King Brewery will host a single 30-liter keg shipped directly from Brussels to be distributed at their will to Central Texas beer fans on Saturday, September 14th.  That beer is called Zwanze.

Apart from a complimentary keg of Brasserie Cantillon's Fou Foune handed out at Jester King's 1st anniversary celebration, this will be only the second time that Austin has witnessed the brewery's very limited distribution to the state, and the first keg of Zwanze in Texas overall since its inception in 2008.  Its kind of a big deal.

Although Zwanze is typically a pure lambic beer, this year, Brasserie Cantillon concocted a Tripel in an 'abbey style', blending inoculated natural yeast from the brewery and 10% lambic at different stages of fermentation. 

Because interest for a taste of the beer outweighed Jester King's actual supply, the Texas brewery held random lottery for individuals to win the opportunity for a free, four-ounce sampling (comped because Brasserie Cantillon does not hold a license to be sold in the Lone Star State).  So, check all your email accounts and spam folders, because those who have won the opportunity should hold their golden ticket by now.  According to Jester King, the keg will be tapped at 2PM and will be available until their tasting room closes at 6PM.

If you are not one of the 150 selected for sampling, Jester King stresses that Zwanze Day is not a private event for the brewery, and they will be open for any beer fan wanting to celebrate on their grounds with Jester King beers.  Commemorative Zwanze 2013 glassware and t-shirts will be available for purchase to all.