Alcohol has long been used to ward off the cold. Long swigs of whiskey helped the bitter nights of a cattle drive feel not so cold, and a hot toddy in a warm bar can make any gray and drizzly day disappear.
So, it should come as no surprise that despite the cold, gray and blustery weather on Saturday afternoon, hundreds of beer lovers gathered at Black Star Coop for the Local Brew Fest, the close of Edible Austin’s Eat Drink Local Week.
Attendees tasted brews from mostly Austin breweries and a few from as far as Katy and Fort Worth, Texas.
When it comes to tasting and evaluating beer, Jeff Young, the brewmaster at Black Star Coop, suggests three essentials to focus on:
- Aroma - Smelling a beer is the only way to capture its volatile organic compounds
- Saturation of the palate - Let the beer hit all over your mouth
- Relevance - How appropriate is the beer for the current weather, company (alone or with friends), and situation (Is it served at the end of a meal, or by itself?)
But, what tasting a beer all comes down to, much like with wine, is: do you like it?
“At the end of they day, it either tastes good or it doesn’t,” says Tony Drewery, a beer peddler for Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth. “That’s all that matters.”
After tasting many, many beers, here are some of our favorite local brews for the holidays:
Silverback Pale Ale, Thirsty Planet, Austin - Made for the second time this year, the Silverback Pale Ale is a charity beer to raise money for the Silverback Gorilla Foundation. It came out on Dec. 5 for a limited release. The copper-colored beer is a hoppy and lively ale.
Ridgeback, No Label Brewing Co., Katy - The Ridgeback is a red amber ale with a bitter finish. It’s not too heavy and not too light, the perfect fall beer. Brews from No Label Brewing Co. have only recently arrived in Austin and can be found at Black Star Coop and the Whip In.
Winter Warmer, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company, Fort Worth - Malty, dark and sweet, the Winter Warmer, an English ale, is a full-flavor and delicious beer. Each year, Rahr & Sons, Fort Worth’s only brewery, takes a portion of the Winter Warmer batch and ages it in bourbon barrels to add a kick for a special limited release. The non-bourbon aged version is available at Bar Lamar in Whole Foods on North Lamar.
Fire Eagle American IPA, Austin Beerworks, Austin - Hoppy, bold and American - Fire Eagle American IPA from Austin Beerworks is a West Coast-style IPA, which means it is hoppy and has a clean, dry finish. Michael Graham, one of the brewery’s founders, suggests pairing it with stews, curries and strong cheeses.
Also, keep a look out for Austin Beerworks' new release, Sputnik, a Russian Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout, made with cold-pressed Cuvee Coffee. It is ready today, but will be available on draft at the end of the week.
Black Metal, Jester King Craft Brewery, Austin - With its 9 percent alcohol level, a glass of Black Metal, a Farmhouse Imperial Stout is bound to warm you on the coldest winter Austin day. The beer is roasty, full of chocolate and very smooth, as velvety as a beer can be.
Coffee Porter, Real Ale Brewing, Austin - Real Ale Brewing has been making its Coffee Porter for about 8 years. Made with organic fair trade coffee from Katz Coffee Roasters, the beer is not overwhelmed with coffee flavor and goes very well with desserts. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema serves a Coffee Porter Float with Amy’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Real Ale’s Coffee Porter.