Adelbert’s becomes a brewpub, with plans to can beers

Nearly five years after opening, Adelbert’s Brewery is making a big change and becoming a brewpub.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. With a brewpub license, Adelbert's Brewery will be able to focus more on experimental beers like its burgeoning barrel-aged program.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. With a brewpub license, Adelbert’s Brewery will be able to focus more on experimental beers like its burgeoning barrel-aged program.

With that kind of license, the North Austin brewery known for its Belgian ales and barrel-aged beers can expand its experimental and seasonal offerings, as well as be able to have fans take Adelbert’s beers home with them from the taproom.

Adelbert’s founder and brewmaster, Scott Hovey, decided to pursue switching to a brewpub license this year to “embrace some of those specialty beer projects,” Adelbert’s general manager Sarah Haney said. “We also really wanted to be able to sell beers to-go.”

That’s unusual for many breweries to make a switch from one license to another years after launching, with full-scale distribution to boot but for Hovey, it was a necessary move.

“We’ll be able to do one-off beers like the mango wit, which is our wit combined with mango puree. Little variations like that,” he said. “They may be just on tap here; they may be in bottles to go the brewpub license gives us the freedom to do that. We also want to have more barrel-aged beers and increase our sour program. Do fruited sours. We’ll have more flexibility to brew these things.”

The brewery was granted the brewpub license sooner than expected a couple of weeks ago, so Hovey has still been figuring out some of the new beers that Adelbert’s will start producing just for the taproom.

“We’ve got a cucumber wit that we’ve been playing with,” he said. “The cucumber is a delicate flavor that has been fading fast, so that one would be good as a taproom-only beer because it preserves better that way… We’re starting to think about recipes for summer limited releases.”

Summer will be a good season for Adelbert’s in more ways than one. The biggest one, arguably, is the cans that Hovey hopes will start hitting retail shelves for the first time in May or June. Adelbert’s plans to release Naked Nun, its witbier, and the Whimsical Hibiscus Saison in cans first, and they’ll eventually comprise 20 to 30 percent of total production, depending on the season, Hovey said.

So many Adelbert’s fans had been clamoring for cans, Haney said, that doing them became a no-brainer.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Adelbert's Brewery hopes to offer more one-off brews in the taproom with a brewpub license. People will also be able to take beers to-go.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Adelbert’s Brewery hopes to offer more one-off brews in the taproom with a brewpub license. People will also be able to take bottles or growlers to-go.

“We’ll offer low-alcohol, sessionable beers in cans, generally. Our Castaway Blonde Ale or our Wild Pale Ale would be good candidates in the future,” Hovey said. “But beers like Tripel B and Flyin’ Monks I prefer to keep in bottles, since they age well. In summer, you want something refreshing in a can; then, in the wintertime, with more dinners and entertaining, you’ll want the cork and basket, something a little more meaty, a little bit bigger.”

The cans are going to be more colorful than the bottles, Haney said, with lots of yellow for the Naked Nun and pink for the Hibiscus Saison, including a pink breast cancer ribbon. (That cause remains tied to the saison; part of the proceeds from each purchase of the cans will still go toward the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas.) The cans “are consistent with our brand, but we wanted them to be sisters or cousins. Different from the bottles,” she said.

Adelbert’s had been self-distributing up until last summer, when Ben E. Keith took over as distributor. Having another company getting the beers into bars and stores, Hovey said, cleared the last obstacle that prevented Adelbert’s from becoming a brewpub sooner.

“Once we started using them, there became no reason not to do a brewpub,” he said.

He’s already discovering plenty of additional brewpub benefits, too. Soon, Adelbert’s will start offering cider and wine “for the crowd who might not like beer as much as their other buddies who wanted to come to Adelbert’s. You’ve got to have a couple consolation prizes for the non-beer drinkers,” he said.

Plus, he’s hoping to bring in a couple of guest taps for “cool beers or wines we discover. There are a lot of opportunities that a brewpub brings up that I hadn’t considered before. It opens up a lot of fun options for us to explore.”

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