Guest article by James Lipari
On Sept. 28, 2019, at Fiesta Gardens, Austin will once again proudly host the state’s largest beer event, Texas Craft Brewers Festival.
If you’ve ever been to a beer festival, you may know what to expect. With over 75 breweries in attendance serving samples of their hard work, you are bound to find your next favorite beer. If you haven’t been to a beer festival, then this is the one you really shouldn’t miss. Even if you don’t think you like beer, it could just be that you haven’t had the right one yet.
I do believe there is a beer for everyone, and this would be your opportunity to find it with approximately 200 different brews on offer, all in one location.
Oh, and did I mention it’s going to be a whole barrel of monkeys worth of fun? Yeah, it’s definitely going to be exactly that!
I recently asked several Austin craft beer professionals for insight on what this festival means to them, their breweries, and our beloved city. Here is what they had to say.
1/ Brian “Swifty” Peters, The ABGB
Brian “Swifty” Peters, brewing extraordinaire at Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company, stated, “Austin is and will continue to be the epicenter of great breweries and knowledgeable beer drinkers in the state. There is no better city in Texas for the festival.”
He added, “The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is the best beer festival in the state. It brings a great cross section of beer lovers together, from the casual to the enthusiast. The festival allows us to reach these folks – interact with them and tell them our story. A lot of these people have not heard of The ABGB, so it’s a great way to introduce ourselves.”
Being that The ABGB is one of the most award winning breweries in town, introducing yourself is a solid idea.
➡️ Keep reading: Beer Makes It Better With The ABGB’s Hell Yes Project
2/ Matt Couch, Lazarus Brewing
“The festival seems to grow every year, and bringing in the public who appreciates craft beer is huge for the city of Austin,” shared Matt Couch, Brewmaster at Lazarus Brewing.
He continued, “Austin for a long time has been known as a beer destination, and having great brewers from around the state come to our city and serve side by side with Austin breweries is a great chance to demonstrate the quality you will find in Austin. It is a definitive way to show that what is happening in the Austin beer scene is special.”
We definitely have become a beer destination here, and Texas Craft Brewers Festivals provides you with a chance to get acquainted with so many of our fantastic breweries!
3/ Will Golden, Austin Beerworks
During a conversation over a beer, Will Golden, Co-Founder and Director of Brewing Operations at Austin Beerworks, asked, “How can you not expect a city at the creative forefront and so artistically stimulating to not have a great beer scene to follow?”
Great question. He also said the festival “is one of the coolest ways to showcase craft beer and the creative spirit of the city,” and that it serves to “prove the validity of the Texas craft beer scene. I’m always surprised when I go out there, and that’s the best surprise!” And who doesn’t love surprises?
4/ Andy Martinec, Black Star Co-op
For brewpubs that don’t distribute outside their establishments, the festival provides a way to get their beers to a larger audience.
Andy Martinec, Beer Team Leader at Black Star Co-op, said the festival “is the best way to truly get to know Texas’ craft brewing scene. As a brewpub, this is one of the few festivals that we attend. It gives us an opportunity to be with our peers in the industry and pour beers for people that may have otherwise never had a chance to try them.”
5/ Taylor Ziebarth, Oddwood Ales
Taylor Ziebarth, co-owner of another great brewpub, Oddwood Ales, echoed that sentiment. “We don’t distribute our beer, so the festival is a great way for people from around the state to try our beer.”
And in regards to what this festival means to our city, Ziebarth declared, “I think it helps solidify Austin as a hub of amazing craft beer!”
➡️ Keep reading: Oddwood Ales Delivers Brews and Bites to Growing East Austin Scene
6/ John Stecker, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op
For John Stecker, CEO of 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative, the festival is “a chance to celebrate and showcase Austin’s amazing craft beer culture. This is the one we all like to attend. Even the year there was a wait-list for breweries and we didn’t get in. (Totally on us, late to register). This festival is put on by the breweries themselves, via Texas Craft Brewers Guild. It’s our own party.”
And there ain’t no party like a 4th Tap party because a 4th Tap party…okay, I’m sure you know the rest. 4th Tap has a real wrestling ring in a semi-secret back room, for crying out loud. If you haven’t gone to see this, then you need to. Will they bring the ring to the festival? I seriously hope so!
7/ Jeff Young, Blue Owl Brewing
Even if a live wrestling ring isn’t in the cards, we festival-goers can still expect big things from our local beer heroes.
Jeff Young, co-owner of Blue Owl Brewing, shared, “Every year Blue Owl focuses on a theme. This year is the Year of the Fruited Sour. We can’t give away any specifics, but if you come to our hut…I mean, tent, you’ll get a taste of everything Blue Owl can do with sour fruited beers!”
If you’re not yet familiar with this brewery, Blue Owl takes normal beer styles and kettle sours them, while still maintaining the flavor profile of the original style. This process makes these local beers some of the most interesting I have personally had anywhere, both in and out of Texas.
Young shared more about the event, “Our number one goal for Texas Craft Brewers Festival is to make an impression on everyone who visits our tent. We aren’t there to just let them sample a few ounces of our beers, but rather to give them the Blue Owl experience. From thoughtful, unique beer styles to engaging, friendly servers (often our brewers and owners), we want the same experience at our tent as we would have in our tasting room.”
8/ Sarah Haney, Last Stand Brewing
New beer releases and limited releases can be found at the festival, as well. Sarah Haney, Marketing Director at Last Stand Brewing, announced they will be releasing “Texas Forever, baby! We’ll be highlighting our new highly crushable, anytime lager! And, of course, Citra SMaSH IPA because it’s what we’re known for.”
She also said, “I have grand plans of making a cool beer garland of our brand spankin’ new can designs we’ll be launching before the festival. Come check them out in our booth!” Sounds fun, I’ll be there.
The brewers’ favorite parts of the festival are all very similar. They enjoy the opportunity to hang out with their peers they may not get to see often enough, due to the demands of running a brewery. But mostly they love the opportunity to meet the people who love their products. Several of the owners and managers I talked to will be serving samples right along with the volunteers.
What to Watch for at Texas Craft Brewers Festival
The Partners in Craft event is held the night before the festival. Texas Craft Brewers Guild describes it as “a uniquely Texan celebration of collaboration, this intimate evening sampling event debuted in 2017 to highlight the close-knit camaraderie and community-oriented spirit of the Texas craft beer industry.” Expect collaboration beers, musicians, nonprofits, artisans, local farms, and more.
Unique collaborations? I’m in! Joe Mohrfeld, Director of Brewing Operations for Pinthouse Pizza, told me, “We had the opportunity to brew with our friends at ABGB this year for the Partners in Craft event held Friday night before the fest. We are so excited about our collab Pizza Party, a post-Prohibition lager brewed with corn and a new experimental hop ADHA1940 grown in Yakima, WA by Roy Farms, which was bred to be an American substitute for European grown noble hops.”
I’ll take two, please. I’m also looking forward to the collaboration beer Austin Beerworks made with Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden for Bangers’ recent anniversary party. It will be on tap at this event, as well.
Festival Protips From the Experts
I asked our brewers whether they had any tips for us, the thirsty festival patrons. This was the unanimous protip across the board: stay hydrated! Drinking and rinse water stations will be set up throughout the festival grounds, and you can bring your own empty water container so long as it isn’t glass.
It’s going to be hot (duh), and you don’t want to be falling out early. There are far too many beers to try, so pace yourself accordingly.
John Stecker from 4th Tap recommends laying down a solid bread base in the stomach. Food vendors will be onsite, and no outside food is permitted. Pro tip: The beer festival staple of pretzel necklaces will be allowed. I wear one to every festival and it is always eaten by the end of the event. Even if you feel silly donning one for the first time, you’ll be glad you did.
Texas Craft Brewers Festival is definitely one of Austin’s can’t-miss events, and certain ticket segments do sell out. So go ahead and get your ticket now, and prepare for a magical day of enchantment…and beer!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite craft beer event to attend in Austin?
James Lipari is a Certified Cicerone®, an avid homebrewer, and lover of all things beer. You can find him in brewery taprooms and beer bars around Austin, and across the country.