Drink Up

Going Up & Down: Casa Brasil Coffee and South Austin Brewing host new craft coffee and beer tours

Going Up & Down: Casa Brasil Coffee and South Austin Brewing host new craft coffee and beer tours

austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
Exploring the coffee roasting process Photo by: Claudia Alarcon
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
Each participant gets a selection of coffee beans of various qualities and processing techniques Photo by: Claudia Alarcon
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
Barista trainer Ryan Hall answers questions as Joel and Lizi Shuler watch Photo by: Claudia Alarcon
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
Joel Shuler from Casa Brasil and Jordan Weeks of South Austin Brewing, hosts of the Up & Down Tour Photo by: Claudia Alarcon
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down
austin photo set: news_aug_claudia up and down

I had the opportunity to go on the trial run for Casa Brasil and South Austin Brewing's Up & Down Tour, and I can tell you for sure there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in town.

If you love coffee and beer — and who doesn’t, really — this is the best way to spend a Saturday morning and early afternoon. Considering that the inaugural tour sold out way in advance, I must not be the only one who thinks so.

 By the time you leave, you’ll know so much about coffee and beer production that you’ll impress yourself. And you’ll be smiling ear to ear. 

Much more than just a walk-through tour, the Up and Down Tour imparts industry-level knowledge and first-hand experience of the companies' production and evaluation processes. Coffee and beer sessions are broken down into three segments: raw materials, production process and tasting and product analysis. Although the atmosphere is informal and casual, these guys are serious.

By the time you leave, you’ll know so much about coffee and beer production that you’ll impress yourself. And you’ll be smiling ear to ear.

At Casa Brasil, owner Joel Shuler and his team warmly welcomed everyone with amazing coffee, pastries and ice-cold Topo Chico. After a few minutes of light conversation, the group of around 15 people assembled at “the lab” around an L-shaped bar as Shuler, a charming and well-spoken fountain of knowledge, explained the fundamentals of coffee history, harvesting, processing methods and production.

“Coffee is full of stories that are probably not true, but they are really nice,” he said smiling.

After the theory session, we moved to the roasting room, where we learned the different stages of roasting and the preciseness it takes to get it just right. We returned to the lab where barista trainer Ryan Hall gave us an overview of brewing methods, from cold brew to French press and manual drip.

Next, Shuler and roaster Eric Detablan schooled us on cupping and sensory analysis — the coffee equivalent of a sommelier's evaluation of wine — then gave us our own blind test, which I am proud to say I passed! The excellent lunch provided by Parind Vora’s upcoming Bar Mirabeau included meat, fish and vegetarian options. For future tours, Shuler has tapped an A-list of local restaurants including Foreign & Domestic and Noble Pig.

By this time, I was so jacked up I could barely write and was talking a million miles per hour; I was ready for the Down portion of the tour. We crossed the parking lot of the industrial complex to South Austin Brewing Company where happy-go-lucky events director Chris Oglesby welcomed us with a refreshing glass of South Austin’s Golden Ale (just what I needed to balance out the coffee jitters).

A soft spoken but enthusiastic speaker, owner and brew master Jordan Weeks gave us the best beer making presentation I’ve ever heard. With the careful attention of a scientist, he covered everything from malting, mashing and boiling to hop addition, fermentation and bottle conditioning.

South Austin Brewing specializes in craft Belgian-style beer that is meant to be fresh, a truly local endeavor, as these beers will only be available in Austin and surrounding areas. Weeks arranged a tasting of his two beers against a variety of high-end, store-bought Belgian Trappist ales, which were served at the right temperature and in the proper tulip glasses to appreciate aroma and flavor.

In my humble opinion, these well-regarded imports have nothing on South Austin’s Golden Ale, with its uncanny freshness clearly the winner.

In addition to the Up & Down Tour, Casa Brasil will soon offer Coffee Masters Classes, bringing the world’s top coffee experts to Austin, as well as courses on Coffee 101, home brewing, home roasting, barista training, coffee cupping and Q Grade preparation. South Austin Brewing also hosts Groovy Sundays, which pair fresh beer with live music and a rotating selection of food trucks.

The Up & Down Tour is uniquely Austin, incredibly enlightening and, of course, tasty. Tours take place on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 415 East St. Elmo Road.

The $75 ticket includes locally-catered breakfast and lunch, an Up & Down Tour course booklet, Casa Brasil t-shirt, 8oz bag of Casa Brasil micro-lot coffee, South Austin Brewing glass, and the most amazing legal high your money can buy.

Register online today and reserve your spot before September's tour sells out.