Instead of attending the same stale tailgate with unmemorable beers this weekend, trade in crap beer for craft beer at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. Held at Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, Oct. 6, this is the place to find almost 30 Texas breweries serving more than 115 locally-made craft beers.
The festival comes at a great time for the Texas craft beer industry, which is enjoying a booming business — the Texas Craft Brewers Guild recently released a study estimating the industry could have a $5.6 billion economic impact in Texas.
“It’s an exciting time for the craft beer industry, and this festival is the epicenter of the industry," says festival volunteer chairman Brian “Swifty” Peters. "The first Texas Craft Brewers Festival was held in 2003 and we only had eight brewers there. It’s really grown. This is one day that brewers from all over the state can come together and celebrate our success — it’s the single largest compilation of Texas breweries ever in one place."
The fever for craft beer has spurred an increase in beer festivals around the state, but don’t get this one confused with the debacle that happened last spring: the Austin Beer Fest. The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is run by craft brewers for beer fans and casual beer drinkers alike.
Tim Schwartz, president of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and owner/brewer at Real Ale Brewing Company is evangelist-in-chief for Texas craft beer and takes that role seriously. “We approach the Festival with balance. In equal parts, we want to promote Texas craft beer, educate the public about beer and help the brewing community,” he says. “I’ve been brewing for 18 years. I love craft beer. I love Texas. I want to help bring craft beer to more and more people in Texas.”
This year's festival will feature 10 breweries that weren’t in business — or were too new — to attend last year, including Adelbert’s Brewery, Buffalo Bayou Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing, Guadalupe Brewing, Hops & Grain Brewing, Lakewood Brewing, Old Boxcar Brewing, Revolver Brewing, Rogness Brewing and South Austin Brewing.
Brewers new and old will bring seasonal and special beers to Fiesta Gardens. In fact, the festival may be the largest collection of unique Texas beers ever presented in one place, with more than 50 taps pouring unique beers you can’t get anywhere else. There will be a rotating schedule of ceremoniously tapping specialty or cask kegs or firkins every 30 minutes, so no matter what time you show up, you’ll find something unique.
Some of the special beers to try include Scot’s Gone Wild, a sour beer from Real Ale; Bouddha’s Brew and Whiskey Barrel Rodeo, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout brewed with chipotle pepper, smoked malt and Kopi Luwak coffee from Jester King Craft Brewery; Blood and Honey, an unfiltered American wheat ale brewed with blood orange zest and Texas honey from Revolver Brewing; Hop Dead Gorgeous, a bourbon barrel aged black IPA from Uncle Billy’s; and Bourbon Barrel Aged ALT-eration, Hop’s & Grain’s award-winning German altbier style beer aged in French oak cabernet barrels.
In addition to all of that great beer, there will be food available from Red’s Porch, The Peached Tortilla and Tough Cookie Bakery, as well as live music provided by the band Sugartrain.
Back again this year are the wildly popular beer and food pairings, held in intimate spaces on the east side of the park. For an extra $20, guests can relax and enjoy a beer and cheese pairing hosted by John Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, beer and food pairing by NXNW Chef Clint Bertrand or a beer and chocolate pairing from Nicole Patel of Delysia Chocolate. These sessions only have space for 80 people and will likely sell out as they did last year.
Organizers are expecting up to 5,000 people to attend the festival, which is up from 4,000 last year, thanks to the support of Real Ale Brewing Company and St. Arnold Brewing Company (the title sponsors) and Young Men's Business League (the organizers) which have kept the festival growing. As in past years, proceeds from the festival will benefit Austin Sunshine Camps, which provides education and personal development for economically disadvantaged children.
The Texas Craft Brewers Festival takes place Saturday, Oct. 6 at Fiesta Gardens from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. (12 p.m. entry for VIP ticket holders). General Admission tickets are available for $20.00 ($25 at the door) and include a wristband and six tokens that are good for six 4-ounce beer samples tokens. VIP tickets are available for $65 and include a meet and greet brewers, a commemorative t-shirt and glass.
Insider tip: The best time to go to the festival is around 6 p.m., just as the sun starts to go down and the weather cools off. The crowd will be a bit mellower and there will still be plenty of beer.