With community investment campaign, the Brewer’s Table aims for late 2016 opening

Rendering by Kevin Stewart. The Brewer's Table will put an equal focus on food and beer.
Rendering by Kevin Stewart. The Brewer’s Table will put an equal focus on food and beer, offering clear views of the wooden foeders where the beer will be fermented.

Only a couple of weeks after Hops & Grain launched a crowdfunded investment campaign, an upcoming East Austin brewpub called the Brewer’s Table is doing something similar: seeking additional funds through a website called NextSeed that allows anyone with the money to contribute. Both campaigns follow a new federal law that allows for this type of financial involvement from ordinary people.

The Brewer’s Table, founded by local entrepreneur Jake Maddux, has a majority of the funding in hand to open late this year. The money raised through NextSeed, according to a news release, will help finalize the interior of the brewery-restaurant and develop the large outdoor area.

It’s also got another key benefit: bringing in the community. A central component of the Brewer’s Table — named after the idea of a chef’s table, where restaurants often offer special experiences for friends, family and distinguished guests — is “community and the intersection of beer, food and hospitality,” according to the release.

“This will not be a brewery with food, nor a restaurant with beer, but an experience providing equal attention to both of these components,” the NextSeed campaign says in part. “This attention to detail and balance will be carried throughout the space and service, bringing an elevated experience to Austin’s beer scene.”

You can contribute as little as $100 to the NextSeed campaign, which aims to raise a minimum of $250,000 over the next 55 days. Once the Brewer’s Table is up and running, you’ll receive 1.5 times the amount of your original investment, as well as some fun perks based on the amount that you’ve given. Investing $500 or more, for example, gets you an invite for two to the Brewer’s table investor pre-opening party, commemorative glassware, a free hat with the Brewer’s Table logo and a $50 gift card. All investors get an invite to the pre-opening celebration.

Plus, one of the perks for higher level investments is a membership to the Cask & Coal Society, which provides additional benefits. The words “Cask & Coal” are a nod to the fundamental concept behind Maddux’s brewery-restaurant: “seasonal, locally sourced ingredients cooked over wood and paired with fresh oak-fermented ales and lagers,” according to the NextSeed campaign.

Maddux, well-known in the local beer scene, hails from Thirsty Planet Brewing, New Belgium Brewing and Anchor Brewing.

It’s been a big week for him and the Brewer’s Table. In addition to the launch of this campaign, the Brewer’s Table also announced the brewer who will help Maddux bring his vision to life. Drew Durish “has been a part of the incredible team at Live Oak Brewing where he has done an amazing job for the last several years,” according to the Brewer’s Table’s Facebook page.

The Brewer’s Table will be located at 4715 East Fifth St. For more information about the NextSeed campaign — including the terms of investing — visit nextseed.co/offerings/brewers-table/?sc=teambrewers.

It’s Italian Market brings European food, wine to Austin

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Al Fini runs the It's Italian Market with Amber Treacy. He wanted to open the shop to bring specialty Italian products, including wine, into Austin.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Al Fini runs the It’s Italian Market with Amber Treacy. He wanted to open the shop to bring specialty Italian products, including wine, into Austin.

In an otherwise nondescript shop beneath the 7East Apartments in East Austin, Al Fini has created a tribute to his beloved home country of Italy.

Along two walls of his It’s Italian Market, wines rest three or four bottles deep on shelves that stretch nearly to the ceiling. A bar serving coffee, wine on tap and other beverages stands nearby, inviting visitors to stay awhile, and two tables made from large old barrels in front of the bar make the hanging out easy.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. It's Italian Market, which is permitted as a winery, allows for people to get wines from Sicily bottled and corked on-site, whether they bring in their own bottles or purchase one there.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. It’s Italian Market, which is permitted as a winery, allows for people to get wines from Sicily bottled and corked on-site, whether they bring in their own bottles or purchase one there.

Visitors also will be lured by the food: Fini has cultivated a variety of Italian meats, cheeses, pastas and other delicacies such as mushrooms and truffles, importing them to his shop. Like the wine — It’s Italian carries more than 200 Italian wine labels — the food can be enjoyed on-site or taken home. Fini, a longtime local restaurateur, just hopes his customers leave happy.

“I wanted to open a place with all items brought in from Italy,” he said. “And I always wanted to do this thing that everyone does in Europe. In Italy, you take your jug, and you go to a winery and fill your jug. Finish it and come back.”

That’s not a common practice in the U.S., but he wanted to stay true to his vision. It’s Italian is permitted as a winery so that people can come in with a bottle or a jug — or purchase an It’s Italian-labeled bottle there — and get it filled with Sicilian wine (including a rosé during summertime) served from a tap. The key to its legality, Fini said, is that he has to seal it.

“We call ourselves a wine tasting room. You can come in and enjoy wines all day,” he said. “But in order to do that, we bottle and cork them on-premises and charge you $2 for the bottle and $10 for the wine. If you bring your bottle back, we’ll refill it and only charge you for the juice. That’s the unique thing we do here.”

It’s Italian also offers wine tasting events on Fridays that have become popular in the neighborhood, Fini said. For people who want a quicker browse through the wine offerings, which span all regions of Italy, the shop has an iPad app that allows searches by region, price and varietal, whether it’s a Barbera from Piedmont (where Fini is from) or a Brunello from Tuscany.

The rest of the store shelves are devoted to food: everything from San Marzano tomatoes from Napoli, white truffles from Alba or creamy cheeses from Piedmont made from cow, goat or sheep’s milk or a mixture of all three. Having this food is important to Fini, who didn’t just want a wine shop. “Food is my passion,” he said.

He wants to impart that same love onto his customers.

“I want this to feel like your home,” Fini said. “That’s why it’s built like a kitchen. It’s very warm and welcoming. It’s meant to be more like a house than a store.”

It’s Italian Market is at 2025 E. Seventh St. #115 and open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays. For more information — or to order some of these wines and specialty foods online — visit itsitalianmarket.com.

Celebrate the return of Shark Week at the League Tavern & Kitchen

Take a bite out of Shark Week dinner and drink specials at the League starting Sunday.
Take a bite out of Shark Week dinner and drink specials at the League starting Sunday.

One of the greatest weeks in television — the Discovery Channel’s always epic Shark Week — returns on Sunday, and the League Tavern & Kitchen in Lakeway and Avery Ranch wants to make a big splash about it.

Through July 2, when Shark Week ends, the restaurant will have Shark Week food and drink specials, as well as offer the chance for diners to watch the week of deadly good television while they eat. Shark Week will play nonstop at both of the League locations. Here’s what the Shark Week specials are:

  • Shark Bait: fried mahi-mahi with fries
  • Buckets of Bait: 10/20/30 pieces of shark bait
  • Blood in the Water: cilantro-infused pineapple juice with Malibu rum, blue curacao and cherry

The League, as I wrote in a column two years ago, has been a reliable spot to get well-made cocktails outside the core of Austin. Although the head bartender who transformed the drinks program at the League is no longer there, his legacy, for the most part, continues on with the League’s current cocktail offerings. These include a small menu of tiki drinks — like the Mai Tai and the Blue Hawaiian — so if you’ve finished the Blood in the Water and are looking for something similar, the “tiki-tails” are your best bet.

Not sure when you should stop in to watch Shark Week while you feast? Here’s a list of recommendations of the shows to catch, according to a scientist who said this year’s batch of fish-filled entertainment is looking, from a scientific accuracy perspective, not so bad.

For more information about the League, visit leaguelakeway.com.

Welcome Wicked Weed and Funkwerks beers to Texas

Photo by Tyler Malone. Wicked Weed Brewing is launching in Texas with a special event at Jester King Brewery on Saturday.
Photo by Tyler Malone. Wicked Weed Brewing is launching in Texas with a special event at Jester King Brewery on Saturday.

Although I’ve always been thrilled to have Jester King Brewery’s farmhouse ales only a relatively short drive away, I’ve also wished I lived in places where other lauded sour beers are available — like Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing and Fort Collins’ Funkwerks.

Wish no longer.

Both breweries are launching in the state this weekend in a limited number of places, including Austin bars. Wicked Weed, which focuses on West Coast-style hoppy ales and open-fermented Belgian beers in addition to barrel-aged sours, plans to have a release event at noon on Saturday at Jester King, offering a small amount of its barrel-aged sours and brett farmhouse ales. Wicked Weed owner and head blender Walt Dickinson will be there.

“It’s a huge honor to be a part of the ever-growing craft beer movement in Austin,” the North Carolina brewery said in a Facebook post Tuesday. “We can’t wait.”

Neither can we. If Saturday seems so far away, there’s also an event at the Brew & Brew on Friday where both Wicked Weed and Funkwerks, a saison-focused brewery that has also explored Belgian-style beers, will be available for the taking. The Brew & Brew will have mostly bottles from Wicked Weed and only kegs from Funkwerks.

Among the beers you’ll want to get your hands on: Wicked Weed’s Oblivion, a sour red ale aged with dates and blackberries for 8 to 10 months in red wine barrels, and Funkwerks’ Saison, a staple of the brewery’s that is full of passion fruit, tangerine, lemon verbena, ginger and black pepper notes, according to Funkwerks. (But what am I saying? You want all the beers from both of them. How’s your bank account looking?)

Wicked Weed’s collaboration with Jester King, the Parking Lot Grisette, is also among the releases.

The distributor for both breweries is Flood Independent Distribution, responsible for bringing us the goods from other notable breweries, like the Bruery in California and Cantillon in Belgium. Flood noted on its Facebook page that the shipment of Funkwerks is starting small, but “in early July, we’ll have a full-scale launch with draft and 4pk bottles of Saison, Tropic King, Nelson Sauvin and Raspberry Provincial, as well as launch events with the Funkwerks crew featuring some really limited items.”

Wondering where else Wicked Weed and Funkwerks beers will be in Austin? Keep an eye on this blog post, which will get updated with those places once I have them.

Tito’s Vodka to match donations to Pulse Victims Fund

Tito's Vodka is not only a big producer of vodka, but a generous contributor to multiple causes.
Tito’s Vodka is not only a big producer of vodka, but a generous contributor to multiple causes. At a Sunday fundraiser, $1 of every Tito’s drink sold will go toward an Orlando victims’ fund.

Although Tito’s Vodka has always been philanthropic — with a big focus on pet-friendly causes, for instance — Texas’ first distilling company is nonetheless doing something pretty special: Tito’s plans to match donations up to $25,000 to Equality Florida’s Pulse Victims Fund.

The fund was created following the shooting rampage of an LGBT nightclub in Orlando on June 12, when 49 people were killed in what has become the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Equality Florida, a civil rights organization founded in 1997, has been raising money to help the victims and their families in the aftermath. So far, the GoFundMe donation campaign has raised almost $6 million.

To donate, visit gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund. And to guarantee that Tito’s doubles your give, type “Tito’s Match” in the comment field.

“Funds raised will go to those affected by Sunday’s horrific acts to cover medical needs, funeral arrangements, counseling, bills, food and whatever is needed to help the victims get through this terrible time,” according to Tito’s Vodka’s Facebook page.

Tito’s Vodka is also helping in fundraisers in Florida and around the country, including a couple in Austin, “to not only raise funds but build awareness and tolerance in all communities through events at local restaurants, bars, and clubs,” according to the Facebook page. Although one of the local fundraisers has already passed, Austinites can show their support at another one.

On Sunday, A Peaceful Pulse will kick off at Cheer Up Charlies with a march, an open mic forum, a moment of silence and a “big ole gay dance party.” Drink sales will go toward Equality Texas, according to the Red River Street bar, and participants will have the chance to donate to Equality Florida throughout the event. Plus, $1 from every Tito’s drink sold, as well as donations from the raffle items, will be donated to the Equality Florida GoFundMe page.

For more information, visit prnewschannel.com/2016/06/15/titos-handmade-vodka-to-donate-25000-to-victims-of-orlando-shooting/.

Still Austin Whiskey Co. to become Austin’s first urban whiskey distillery

Visiting distilleries in the Austin area often means a day trip to Dripping Springs or other nearby towns — but driving the distance won’t be so necessary with the opening of a new urban distillery by the end of this year.

Still Austin Whiskey Co., which is transforming an industrial space just south of Highway 290 off South Congress Avenue, is going to make it easy for locals to try Texas-made spirits right from the source. It’s one of the businesses opening at the Yard at St. Elmo, a collection of creative spaces that will include artist studios, a recording studio and offices, as well as other boozy producers. The two-year-old Austin Winery is moving in, and St. Elmo Brewing also plans to launch there.

The distillery, as its name suggests, will focus exclusively on making all types of whiskey — from bourbon to rye to single-malt to a moonshine-like whiskey called new make, which will come fresh off the still and go into bottles without time in barrels. Named for the 50-foot column still stretching upward in the center of the distillery, with the capability of producing a barrel of whiskey an hour, Still Austin Whiskey plans to both bottle and serve the spirit onsite.

And if the founders of Still Austin Whiskey have their way, their whiskeys will be made with as many Texas grains as possible. Farmers in Central Texas grow many of the necessary ingredients, including corn, wheat and even rye.

“Everything is here in Texas,” Lisa Braunberg, head of marketing for Still Austin Whiskey and one of the six founders, said. “So we thought it was not only a huge opportunity to connect with those resources and meet farmers around Central Texas and beyond, but also see if we could do something interesting with the grain bill, which is (head distiller) Kris’ specialty. He takes some really unusual, sometimes even heirloom, grains and sees what we can do with them. Because they taste really different.”

Photo by Arianna Auber. Kris Bohm, left, Chris Seals and Lisa Braunberg are opening the Still Austin Whiskey Co. later this year. The project is in the construction phase now, although fermenters are already in place.
Photo by Arianna Auber. Kris Bohm, left, Chris Seals and Lisa Braunberg are opening the Still Austin Whiskey Co. later this year. The project is in the construction phase now, although fermenters are already in place.

Because most whiskeys require barrel-aging, the distillery will launch with the new make whiskey that Kris Bohm, as the mastermind behind each recipe, has already started to craft and gotten good results with so far.

“It doesn’t have any color, like vodka, but it does have a lot of flavor where you can taste the grain that went into it, the fermentation,” he said.

He joined Still Austin Whiskey after Braunberg and her husband Andrew, along with Chris Seals, his father Cleveland and another couple, Sal and Joanna Salinas, formed the business upon taking a whiskey class together and finding they had a similar passion for it. They patched together a business plan and searched the city for a viable place to put their distillery — a tricky find until the Yard came along.

Similarly difficult for the business partners was coming up with a name that represented their dream. They chose Bohm, who had distilling experience, to run the production side because of his desire to make whiskey “all the way from the grain to the glass,” Chris Seals said, and they wanted a name that denoted this concept.

“There are so many whiskey distilleries that buy whiskey already made, already aged, already ready, and then they say they made it,” he said. “So we wanted a name that would nod at our authenticity without spelling it out. We wanted something that was also fun, letting people know they could be part of it. We went with ‘Still Austin’ and added ‘Whiskey,’ so people know that’s all we make.”

Once Still Austin Whiskey is open — which the founders anticipate might be later this fall — visitors will be able to come in and help make the whiskey. They’ll also get to enjoy cocktails and whiskey tastings inside in the tasting room or outside in the whiskey garden.

In addition to the new make whiskey available at the start, Bohm wants to offer a handful of flavored whiskeys made from the new make and local ingredients.

“One of the things I’m working on is incorporating peppers that are grown in Texas and doing a spicy whiskey,” he said. “We want to make whiskeys that represent the flavors around us. Have a whiskey with terroir to it.”

He and each of the founders of Still Austin Whiskey are open about the process of making whiskey: “We first brew a beer, then distill it, then barrel it, then age it, then blend it because each barrel tastes a bit different. Then, we bottle it,” Seals said. Educating people about how it’s made is important to them, especially in a city like Austin where authenticity is so highly valued. And none of the founders — most of whom live in one of Austin’s central neighborhoods, Bouldin Creek — could have imagined opening a distillery anywhere else.

“Austin has this amazing brewery life, but it’s missing this important element,” Braunberg said. “So we said, ‘Let’s bring it to the city instead of going out to the country.’ There are some nice distillers out there doing some interesting stuff, but wouldn’t it be great to be part of it right here in the city? That’s the heart of it.”

Retro-inspired bar Kitty Cohen’s replaces Bar 2211

The bar that had once aspired to grow the largest collection of canned beer in Texas is no more. In Bar 2211’s place is something very different: a retro-inspired bar called Kitty Cohen’s.

Photo from Kitty Cohen's Instagram. The new bar replacing Bar 2211 is going for a 1970s Palm Beach vibe, with an inviting patio area.
Photo from Kitty Cohen’s Instagram. The new bar replacing Bar 2211 is going for a 1970s Palm Beach vibe, with an inviting patio area.

“Inspired by the daredevil ladies in our life, Kitty Cohen’s is a bar, lounge & outdoor kitchen that is a little bit classy, a little bit trashy, and steals its design aesthetic from 1970s Palm Beach clubs, bungalows and swinging pads,” according to Kitty Cohen’s website.

Kitty Cohen’s — owned by 1886 Management, the group behind Proof & Cooper in Dripping Springs and the Blackheart on Rainey Street (and the now-defunct Bar 2211) — opens on Wednesday, with a grand opening celebration set for July 22, exactly a month later.

The bar hopes to become your go-to summer hangout and makes a persuasive case for it with a bright and colorful outdoor patio area, complete with big blue umbrellas and even a shallow-water pool. (The most striking feature inside is a grand piano.)

Plus, the outdoor kitchen will become the site of pop-ups featuring local chefs. For drinks, expect cocktails, punch and other refreshing options like sake and beer.

At 2211 Webberville Road, near the tiny Fleet Coffee and the relocated Dog and Duck Pub, Kitty Cohen’s will be opened 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/kittycohens/timeline.