People who have known me as a homebrewer for a long time often ask me what I think of professional brewing.
This is blog entry about drinking beer here, and drinking beer there.
Beer Here (Austin, Texas)
I went to the Austin ZEALOTS' (my homebrew club's) Christmas party this weekend. It's been a good year to be a ZEALOT and we had a great party to celebrate. Our Primary Fermenter, Corey Martin, and his wife, Angela, host the party every year at their house in Round Rock.
For the past several years (eight now?), there has also been a chili cook-off associated with party and this year the competition drew 29 entrants. (How much electricity does it take to run 29 Crock Pots, I wonder?) Everyone at the party had the opportunity to try each of the dishes and vote on their favorite three. This year there were a lot of interesting chilis in the mix, but the winners were pretty much straight up Texas chilis (meat, no beans), and insanely good....
Last Friday, I helped brew a batch of homebrew inside a soon-to-be-opened commercial brewery. My friend (and fellow Austin ZEALOT) Ed Peters, who will be the brewer at South Austin, invited me to brew a test batch of beer. We made an amber-colored ale (about 20° Plato/OG 1.080), which Ed pitched with Belgian Abbey yeast (Wyeast 1214).
South Austin’s brewery is almost complete, but we brewed 10 gallons on his homebrew rig, not on the brewery’s brewhouse. Here's a picture of Ed stirring the mash. (My "helping" was largely confined to sitting around drinking beer, including a sample of a test batch of their saison.)
South Austin plans to launch with two beers — a saison and a Belgian golden ale (along the lines of Duvel). The amber beer we brewed will be added to the lineup sometime later....
Most brewers will tell you that attending the Great American Beer Festival is one of the highlights of the year for them. It is a big spectacle of beer, brewers, and beer lovers. It is something for every beer geek’s bucket list.
Last Saturday, my wife and I went to Jester King’s Funk’n Sour Gravity Fest out at their brewery on the west side of Austin. That day, the brewery was serving soured versions of some their beers. Most of the soured version were aged in oak barrels with added microbes to sour the beer. Jester King uses “commercial” strains of bacteria, plus some microbes they’ve harvested at their brewery. To do that, they exposed fresh wort to the Texas Hill Country air and let the mixed culture grow. They then sent samples off to a lab to be examined and have the more promising bacterial strains isolated and cultured for them. Of their soured beers, my favorite was the oak-aged Commercial Suicide (a 3.6% ABV English dark mild).
The brewery also showed off the “farmhouse” versions of some of their English ales. For these beers, they replaced their usual English ale yeast with a saison yeast. Although the saison yeast is more finicky than their regular ale yeast, the brewers like the complexity it adds. I really liked the Wytchmaker Rye IPA done with the saison yeast.
In all, it was a great time. As expected, I ran into a few Austin ZEALOTS. I also got to spend a little time talking to Michael and Jeffrey Stuffings, the two brothers who founded the brewery. The brewery has some new beers coming out, including a beer called Noble King, which they describe as a hoppy farmhouse ale, and they’ve got a whole bunch of other ideas, too. One is to start brewing with captured rainwater -- a project that will have to wait until it actually rains here. (Central Texas experienced it’s worst drought in recorded history this year.)
The final bit of news from Jester King is that they are suing the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision (TABC), claiming the state’s ridiculous labeling laws infringe on the breweries First Amendment right to accurately describe their beer. The also have a suit claiming the the TABCs rules on beer distributing are a violotion of the Fourteenth Amendment. You can see the details at: http://jesterkingbrewery.com/blog/ (These guys might be Jesters, but they're no fools. Jeffrey was a lawyer before opening the brewery.)...