We've resolved to get more familiar with our favorite beverages this year. Whether whiskey, coffee or wine, Austin merchants, bars and sommeliers are constantly offering new and innovative ways to learn about the drinks that shape our day. It can be truly enlightening to take a few hours to learn more about your drink of choice. You'll shop smarter and appreciate it more, and the process itself is often great fun. Read on for the best January beverage events in Austin.
National wine pros compete at Somms Under Fire
Figuring out the right wine to go with your dinner can be daunting for just about anyone. Just try doing it in front of a live audience with a panel of wine experts judging you. That is exactly what three wine professionals will do when they compete in the 2015 Somms Under Fire, a wine and food pairing event held January 18 at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center.
In its fourth year, the sommelier competition organized by Keeper Collection, LLC has drawn national talent for competitors and judges. The event will challenge sommeliers to match classic wines with dishes prepared by Chef David Bull of Congress Restaurant and Chef Jason Stude of the soon-to-open Boiler 9 + Bar in front of an audience of 250 people and a panel of judges. The best news is that the audience gets to taste the pairings.
Three Advanced Sommeliers with the Court of Master Sommeliers will compete: Luke Boland, sommelier at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City; Eric Crane, director of training and business development for Empire Distributors, Inc. in Atlanta; and James Watkins, beverage director at Cordúa Restaurants in Houston. VIP Tickets are $125 and general admission are $60 through Keeper Collection.
Easy Tiger serves coveted Pappy flights
A few years ago, your favorite liquor store could set aside a bottle of Pappy if you were a good customer. Not any more. As the popularity of the whiskey has boomed, speculators, bars and restaurant accounts have taken nearly all of the wheated bourbon out of play. Enter Easy Tiger, who has stashed its Pappy and will pour flights of four — yes, four — different bottles for a small number of lucky guests on January 26-27. While the flight isn't cheap, for $50 you can sample a full range of the Pappy line and see what all the fuss is about without dropping $300-plus on a resale bottle.
Only 32 tickets will be available for each night and they go on sale two hours prior to the start of the event. Monday's tasting will include the 10, 12, 15 and 20 year, while Tuesday's event doubles down with the 10, 12, 20 and 23. Our favorite is the 20 year, so you'll win regardless of which night you choose. ELM's beverage director Craig Collins is often on hand at these events to discuss the drinks with guests, but this is not a seminar — it's simply a chance to try Pappy for yourself.
Austin Wine Merchant pours a world of wines
Perhaps one of Austin's best kept wine secrets, the Austin Wine Merchant offers weekly opportunities to learn about wine for free ... in a pressure-free setting. Each Saturday from noon to 3 pm, the shop pours anywhere from three to five eclectic wine selections from around the globe. Last week's samples included a Douro Port from Dow's, a Washington Syrah, an Italian Brunello, and an Australian Cabernet.
Selections are often focused on a particular brand, country or importer, and can range from $8 porch sippers to $100 trophy wines — it all depends on the week's focus. Best of all, there's no pressure; the shop simply wants to expose customers to new wines and some curated picks. For those seeking better knowledge of the beverage, it would be tough to find an easier or more economical point of entry. For information on this week's offering, subscribe to the shop's newsletter.
Houndstooth teaches you to brew like a pro
Coffee education has always played a role in Houndstooth Coffee's business. The shop offers free "cupping" events at the downtown store most Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 pm, and also does alternating tastings and cuppings at the North Lamar store on Mondays and Thursdays at 1:30 pm. This month Houndstooth is targeting the home coffee maker for a seminar to improve your at-home coffee experience.
The $30 "Clever Dripper" class will offer instruction on using the fun, inexpensive device and a hands-on workshop from the Houndstooth staff to help get you comfortable. The bonus: you'll be sent home with a bag of coffee to utilize your new skills. Reservations can be booked on Houndstooth's Square page.