Notes From the Texas Craft Brewers Festival
* It was an easy shot from our house to the festival by bike. A ~20min ride, Manor->Chestnut->Rosewood->Chicon, all with bike lanes (which make Austin a pretty sweet city to cycle around, btw). The thing was, it was very hot again yesterday. 99 or something. We balked. But then there’s always the argument that you create your own wind on a bike, so it can actually be cooler than riding in a car with no a/c, and plus something about “local craft brews” felt like it needed to be biked to. So I went out to the shed and made sure the tires were pumped, and they were, and we biked there.
* While I rode I had Home by Glasser on repeat in my head, a palimpsest from my dishwashing mix earlier in the day. Maybe it’d be fun to listen to while you read the rest of this.
* Most weekends, Fiesta Gardens is full of large groups of Mexicans camped out under pavilions, pumping Tejano and stringing up pinatas. Yesterday, it was full of talkatively buzzed young to middle-aged white people wearing ironic beer t-shirts and hip interpretations of the cowboy hat. I saw one Austin goth with a very spooky Tim Burton-esque umbrella. I had on a Crankworx tee, cycling shorts, cleated shoes, and a camera pouch around my chest. If I owned a hip cowboy hat, I would have worn it; instead, I rocked some helmet hair. A few bands played country-rock-bluegrass under the main-stage pavilion, the echoy acoustics of which made the whole production a bit too loud, in my opinion, but most people seemed not to mind.
* The ground at Fiesta Gardens typified that of outdoor public gathering spaces this summer in Austin: brittle brown grass stamped to a fine dust, mixed with good ole Texas dirt. The end result, for me, was a surprisingly airborne-ready allergy cocktail. I sneezed ~40 times in three hours, but managed to spill relatively little of my beer.
* Circled around the outside of the central pavilion were 18 individual brewery tables. Most of the festival was spent standing in lines to reach the tables and get your 4 oz. 2011 Texas Craft Brewers Festival commemorative plastic glass filled with microbrew goodness. Some of the lines were long, but most moved pretty fast. While waiting, you could overhear talk of how to grow your own yeast, how shitty it is that it’s almost Oct. and still hitting 100, what the fuck was up with the Twisted X jalapeno lager…; or, perhaps engage in conversation with your fellow tipsy craft enthusiast re: the weather, the allergic dust, the overcrowding of the Austin mircobrew market and what this means for your future enjoyment of delicious beer. Within 10 feet of the table, you got your first look at the tap list — some were exciting, with beers I hadn’t heard of, like the Draughthouse Mumbai IPA. Some tables tapped special batches at pre-announced times; others, like New Republic out of College Station, seemed to have only shown up with one beer. C’mon guys. The moment of truth happened fast — get your glass filled, witty-banter the brewer/volunteer for 4.5 seconds, decide whether to go stand in the shade and drink or move immediately to the next line.
* Trucks from Red’s Porch, Chi’lantro, and some unbranded bbq place served food over by the bathrooms. The saddest moment of my day came when I realized that, in my attempt to wait out the lines at Chi’lantro, I’d delayed too long and they were closed. No Korean taco for me.
* Highlights from our 16 sample pours were the aforementioned Mumbai IPA (already got the growler prepped for more this week), the Ranger Creek Double IPA (yeah San Antonio!), Stormcloud from Rahr & Sons, and probably a couple others that I can’t remember. The big winner on the day — according to the line-length index — was definitely Twisted X. We were a little bummed after waiting 20 minutes to find out the jalapeno lager keg was floated, but good on ’em.
* It took longer than expected to work through those 16 tickets ($20 at the door got you the glass + 8 sample tix). The evening turned gorgeous when the sun sank, the lines dwindled, and (most of) the beer was still pouring. But then we remembered we’d brought no lights for the bikes, and it was already well into dusk, so it was a quick final chug and a mad pedal of a ride homeward down dark streets. Per usual, we made time to stop for tacos on the way.