Hye Rum now the second boozy project of Texas winery owner

The owner of Calais Winery has already delivered a French flair to his Texas wines — and now wants to offer his take on rum, another popular drink in his native France.

Benjamin Calais, the winemaker at his Hye-located winery in the Hill Country, has partnered up with friends James Davidson and Stephanie Houston to open Hye Rum not far from the winery on Highway 290 West, with Davidson taking on the role of head distiller and Houston all of the sales and marketing.

Hye Rum will release bottles of its new white rum within the next couple of weeks.

Calais felt passionate about diving into rum, in addition to wine, because he noticed a very different attitude toward rum in the states than abroad.

“I just don’t feel like rum has the place it deserves in the U.S.,” Calais said. “It’s used as a mixer, so it’s often as neutral as possible, and I just don’t think that’s part of the rum tradition. Bigger, fuller spirits, like a Jamaican-style rum but not as rough around the edges, that’s what we’re going for.”

When people visit the distillery and its accompanying tasting room, the centerpiece of their experience will be cocktails, he said: an opening menu of 10 “traditional Caribbean-style and New Orleans-style drinks, like Mai Tais and Hurricanes.”

Hye Rum — located in a small town with a big interest in well-made booze like wine and whiskey — will make from scratch the additional ingredients of each drink in addition to the rum, such as bitters.

“We will have everything from sweet dessert-style cocktails like the Painkiller to more bone-dry options, like the Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned and Navy Grog,” Calais said. “We will have a daiquiri, our version of the Cuba Libre, a Dark and Stormy, a mojito, a piña colada… I feel like those are the fundamental rum cocktails.”

The distillery is aiming for an early April opening; in the meantime, rum lovers can get an early taste of what’s to come with Tiki! A Hye Rum Event on March 25, which will have a whole hog roast, buffet-style dinner and a preview of the distillery and its pot still. Tickets range from $65-$595.

Having a pot still rather than a column still will help Hye Rum’s mission of producing flavorful, full-bodied rum products using molasses — a boozy mix that will include a white rum and others that have been aged in a variety of French oak barrels, most of which have originally come from Calais Winery. Column stills, he said, traditionally make more neutral spirits.

“We’re going to run an old-fashioned pot still, fermenting from scratch, and distilling twice,” he said. “We’re not taking any shortcuts on the production side to get a bigger, heavier, deeper flavor. We’re using all the fermentation tricks that I’ve learned in the wine business to create a fuller product; I just have to remember we’re working with molasses instead of grapes.”

He and Davidson — whose first love, he said, is whiskey, but who jumped at the chance to open the distillery with Calais and has done a lot of research on rum — have drawn inspiration for the rum they’ll make from Caribbean islands like Jamaica.

Although Calais loves rum from French islands like Martinique and French Guyana, the spirits there are primarily made using sugarcane juice, versus from a sugarcane byproduct like molasses, the base of Hye Rum. The sugarcane juice gives the rum a floral character that Calais and Davidson will replicate only in very small releases. Because the distillery isn’t located in the Caribbean, they don’t have regular access to fresh juice, he said.

“There hasn’t been a craft revival for rum as there has been for gin and whiskey,” he said. “There is not much interesting rum produced in the U.S. for the U.S. market. People design them as vodka-like.”

For that reason, he expects to have to educate visitors to the tasting room once it officially opens, but having run Calais Winery for nearly 10 years in a state still being introduced to its own wine, he is well-versed in what it takes to get people used to and preferential toward his beverages.

“If you have a good product and people don’t know about it, they want an education, and we can show people actual fermentations, what the products look like and taste like, and the results we get out of it,” he said. “Being able to show our product straight and in cocktail form should help people understand this is the right way to do it.”

Once Hye Rum opens, tours and tastings to the distillery at 11247 Hwy. 290 West will be by appointment only so the staff isn’t overrun by what Calais has seen as strong initial interest. After that, he said, Hye Rum will move to regular tasting room hours.

Bottles of the white rum will be out in the next two weeks. Although the bottle designs for subsequent rum releases will be different each time, people can at least expect that the bottles will always hold rum.

“We’re only going to make rum. We’re going to stay focused on that and try to be the best at it,” he said.

For more information, visit hyerum.com.

Real Ale among the 50 top producing craft breweries in the U.S.

Photo by Deborah Cannon / American-Statesman. Real Ale’s Firemans #4, left, is easily the brewery’s most sold beer in Texas, allowing it to branch out and offer a wide range of beers.

Real Ale Brewing, in the Texas Hill Country, was named 49th on a list of the top producing 50 craft breweries in the U.S. — a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that Real Ale, turning 21 next month, still produces beers for 100 percent distribution in Texas.

The Brewers Association, the trade group that represents the country’s small and independent breweries, released the list yesterday with numbers based on beer sales volume: how much beer each of the producers sell each year.

Also representing Texas on the list is Gambrinus, the producer of Shiner beers, at number five. Oskar Blues Brewery, which has an Austin operation that opened last year in addition to breweries in Colorado and North Carolina, rounded out the top 10.

But Real Ale, remarkably, is only one of two breweries on the list that distributes only to its home state. That’s a purposeful decision for owner Brad Farbstein, who said in an American-Statesman article last year about the brewery’s 20th anniversary that Texas still provides “more opportunities for us to expand. It’s not the way every brewer does it, but we do it the way we feel is the right way.”

The brewery’s Firemans #4, a blonde ale, accounts for a good 60 percent of its total output, which last year was about 61,000 barrels of beer annually.

Next month, Real Ale plans to launch its long-awaited line of spirits, called Real Spirits, as well as celebrate its 21st anniversary with (but what else?) a birthday kegger. Tickets for the party are on sale now and include four beers, a raffle ticket for a custom Real Ale kegerator, and access to a day of live music and food at the brewery.

For more information, visit realalebrewing.com.

Barbecue Wife wins big at entrepreneurial competition at SXSW

Contributed by Boston Beer Co. Catherine Stiles, of Barbecue Wife, won a competition among small business owners in Austin at SXSW.

The local maker of an all-natural Bloody Mary mix distilled her dream about the business into a cohesive pitch that won over the judges and the audience at the Pop-Up Pitch Room competition at South by Southwest this weekend.

Catherine Stiles, owner of the spicy mix she calls Barbecue Wife, took home both the main prize of the $10,000 business grant and the $5,000 People’s Choice Award. The Pop-Up Pitch Room is the brainchild of Boston Beer Co., the brewery behind Samuel Adams beers and Brewing the American Dream, a philanthropic program that fueled the creation of the competition.

“I’m still in shock and so very humbled by the win. I was both the judges’ selection and the People’s Choice selection, so it was a surreal day,” Stiles said via email.

She was the head of one of five Austin-based food and beverage small businesses that competed in the Pop-Up Pitch Room, with each business owner giving two-minute pitches about their projects.

Samuel Adams’ Brewing the American Dream — which also released a collaboration beer at the event with locally located Infamous Brewing— “provides micro-lending, coaching and mentoring to food, beverage, and craft brewing small business owners nationwide and welcomed Grand Prize and People’s Choice winner Barbecue Wife Bloody Mary Mix to its national network of innovative and passionate entrepreneurs,” according to a news release.

The other participants in the Pop-Up Pitch Room competition include Joe’s Microgreens, Banner Distilling, FOND Bone Broth and GFY Kitchen. Stiles, however, presented the best pitch.

She has been producing the Bloody Mary mix since 2015 using the barbecue sauce from her husband Shane’s restaurant, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. The result is a perfectly balanced savory mixture of smoke and heat and is available at a variety of Austin retailers, including Whole Foods, Breed & Co, and Twin Liquors.

And if you’re looking for some Bloody Mary goodness at the rest of the fest this week, Barbecue Wife will be served at Rachael Ray’s SXSW party.

Friends & Allies Brewing now open in East Austin, with cans expected later this spring

Although locals have been enjoying Friends & Allies Brewing‘s Noisy Cricket Session IPA for a little more than a year already, the brewery in East Austin hadn’t been up and running until recently. Now, fans of Friends & Allies can drink its beers straight from the source.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Friends & Allies officially opened a taproom in East Austin where people can try beers like the Springdale White Ale.

Friends & Allies’ taproom in East Austin is now open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 4 to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday — although, after serving thirsty visitors since early March, the brewery is a little low on beer at the moment. Currently on tap is the Noisy Cricket and the newest release, the full-bodied Fresh Coast IPA.

Starting tomorrow, Friends & Allies will also have the Urban Chicken Saison back on tap, and on Friday, another tantalizing new beer is going on draft: The House of Orange, a tart orange ale. Eventually, co-owner Ben Sabin said via email, there will be a total of five beers on the tap wall, including the Springdale White Ale, named after the street where Friends & Allies is located, that debuted earlier this year.

Cans of the core four beers (Noisy Cricket, Urban Chicken, Springdale and Fresh Coast) are coming in late April or early May, he said.

Sabin and Devon Ponds teamed up to open Friends & Allies Brewing after meeting at their old apartment complex and finding a shared hobby in homebrewing. Ponds eventually moved to California, to become financial manager at Port Brewing / the Lost Abbey, while Sabin, remaining in Austin at Thirsty Planet Brewing, proved his chops at sales.

The two co-owners might have initially bonded over homebrewing, but they hired Nathan Crane, also formerly of Port Brewing / the Lost Abbey, to handle all the brewing on Friends & Allies’ 30-barrel system.

That’s quite a step up from his single tank at 4th Tap Brewing Co-op in North Austin. He used it as part of an alternate proprietorship arrangement that allowed Friends & Allies to introduce beer to the local market while the East Austin brewery was still a work-in-progress.

Because of his background at the Lost Abbey, Crane plans to have a variety of barrel experiments, including sours, in addition to the four main beers and some seasonal suds.

“When we brewed at 4th Tap, we only had one tank, so we could only really make one beer at a time,” he said during a tour last month. “Now, we can make the core four, and we’ll be able to not only keg the core four but can them as well. Then, on top of that, we have three or four seasonals already lined up.”

For his part, Sabin plans to continue with his successful sales strategy, getting Friends & Allies beers into all the bars and restaurants he can. In a crowded marketplace, he said, “that’s how you stand out: by having those relationships with people. If they need a last-minute tap handle, a keg of something, you deliver it. You get to know the bartenders and the people putting your beer on tap.”

But the aptly named brewery also wants to create a close community with the people who drink their beer, and that’s where the taproom on Springdale Road comes in.

“We’re not just about selling a bunch of beer,” Ponds said at the tour. “We want to be entwined with the East Austin community, and we want to harbor a passion for drinking beer.”

Friends & Allies is located at 979 Springdale Rd. For more information, visit friendsandallies.beer.

There’s now an official mezcal of SXSW, in mark of growth for Mexican spirit

Bud Light is once again the official beer of South by Southwest — now in full swing in Austin — but a much more small-batch alcoholic beverage is also making a big appearance at the festival.

Last week, Kimo Sabe Mezcal announced a three-year deal as the official mezcal of the fest. That means music, film and technology lovers will have an opportunity to try the Mexican spirit in multiple places, including at happy hour parties at the Trusted Friends Lounge inside the Austin Convention Center, a sampling area at the Lady Bird Lake Outdoor Stage and other surprise pop-ups at SXSW.

That’s a lot of exposure for the smoky mezcal, currently the fastest growing spirit even though its more well-known agave cousin, tequila, still dominates the U.S. market. But the founders of Kimo Sabe, father-daughter team Jim Walsh and Ashley Walsh Kvamme, have an ambitious plan to spread their product across the U.S. and have already seen the mezcal make double-digit gains of tequila market share in a few states like California, according to a news release.

Contributed by Kimo Sabe Mezcal. Try the new mezcal of SXSW throughout the remainder of the fest.

Walsh Kvamme, in an interview with the fest, said that Kimo Sabe (which means ‘trusted friend’ in Sonoran Indian) is a good fit with SXSW.

“Like SXSW, Kimo Sabe mezcal is about discovery,” she said. “Mezcal as a spirit is still a mystery to most people. Our goal is to introduce the SXSW influencer to the exciting, mystical agave blend that is mezcal, and Kimo Sabe in particular as the face of mezcal.”

Kimo Sabe Mezcal has two expressions, joven and reposado. The joven — unaged, which means you’ll get the full blast of smoke not tempered by wood maturation — is full of chipotle and roasted pepper notes along with semi-sweet chocolate and lemon balm, according to the company. The reposado, aged in oak for six months, features a flavor profile of toasted almond, toasted coconut and chamomile tea.

There’s also an incoming añejo.

The company’s push for massive growth across the U.S. might seem counter to the needs of the mezcal industry, whose biggest proponents push for sustainability with the agave crop, but Kimo Sabe is addressing that, too.

“Kimo Sabe and the governor of Zacatecas, Mexico, announced last week a ground-breaking partnership that will create sustainable, organic ecosystems for the cultivation of varietal agaves, generating up to 100 new agave farms and creating over 1,000 new jobs in the state,” according to the press release. “The move is part of Kimo Sabe’s plan to build bridges with Mexico when others are suggesting walls.”

Six Austin bars with serene outdoor patios

Here are several of Austin’s myriad patio bars to choose from depending on what part of town you’re at  — and what kind of outdoor experience you’re seeking.

Wondering where to whet your whistle? Check out the Austin360 Boozery Guide

Deck Nine Observatory Bar at Boiler Nine

800 W. Cesar Chavez St., boilernine.com.

The upstairs bar at Boiler Nine Bar & Grill, the centerpiece restaurant of La Corsha Hospitality Group’s dining project in the historic Seaholm Power Plant, has reopened just in time for the fest. It’ll be very similar to what you might remember of the open-air patio — with nothing less than panoramic views of the surrounding downtown — albeit with a new food and cocktail menu.

La Corsha beverage director Jason Stevens, along with executive chef Jason Stude, have created fare with “beachy, coastal flavors”: bar snacks like yellowtail crudo and cumin tostadas and cocktails that include frozen rum and tequila drinks, tropical highballs and more. You’ll still be able to “booze your own adventure” with them, and deck favorites like the Negroni and the Old Fashioned have remained on the menu.

“What I’m trying to do is not use the word ‘tropical’ with the menu to avoid the impression of a tiki bar, but you will find tropical spices like guava in the drinks and also deeper, darker flavors of hibiscus, allspice, things like that from Mexico and Jamaica: a variety of baking spices that is common in the cuisine there,” Stevens said, referring to the new Red Macaw as an example.

The Red Macaw, with grapefruit, hibiscus blossom and island spices, in addition to your choice of blanco tequila, light rum or vodka, is exactly the sort of bright, beachy beverage you’ll want to be drinking.

As one of Austin’s best bars, Deck Nine won’t disappoint.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Deck Nine Observatory Bar is reopening after a winter break just in time for SXSW.

Where’s the party at? Here’s your guide to the best unofficial parties at SXSW 2017

Backbeat

1300 S. Lamar Blvd., backbeat-atx.com.

The husband-and-wife owners of this bar and North Loop’s cozy Drink.Well have established Backbeat as the trendy cocktail spot you want to be at on important holidays like Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, thanks to an upstairs patio area that offers clear views of downtown and those holidays’ fireworks.

Backbeat is far enough away from downtown that you can relax with a cocktail in hand (might we suggest the eponymous Backbeat, with celery cordial, lemon, Génépy des Alpes and your choice of gin, vodka or tequila) while still being tantalizingly close enough to feel the energy.

Corner at the J.W. Marriott

110 E. Second St., cornerrestaurantaustin.com.

Pull up a seat at the square Patio Bar outside of the J.W. Marriott’s Corner restaurant. The bar menu tends to focus on two of Texas’ most beloved drinks — tequila cocktails and local craft beer — so it’s also the right place to be if you’re introducing an out-of-towner to what Austin does best.

Easy Tiger

709 E. Sixth St., easytigeraustin.com.

When you walk in through the bake shop, the alluring smell of freshly made bread will probably give you an appetite. Good thing, too, because there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting in the outdoor beer garden and enjoying a pretzel with beer cheese or a house-made sausage. Wash down the grub with a beer — Easy Tiger balances local and national offerings, with current ones including new-to-Texas Bell’s Brewery — and then line up for a game of ping-pong as Waller Creek gurgles serenely below.

Tamir Kalifa / American-Statesman. Yeti’s bar manager
Isaac Coronado is just one member of the staff at the South Congress Avenue space ready to serve you a cold canned beer.

The Barrrr at Yeti

220 S. Congress Ave., yeti.com/flagship

Yeti’s flagship store and accompanying indoor/outdoor bar just opened on prime real estate off Lady Bird Lake. Yeti will peddles canned beers from local brewery stalwarts, such as Independence Brewing, Austin Beerworks and Hops & Grain, that you can keep cold in one of their Yeti Colsters (see what they’re doing there?).

Plus, views of South Congress Avenue near the bridge — a prime people-watching corner — from several outward-facing seats at the bar are hard to beat.

Lazarus Brewing

1902 E. Sixth St., lazarusbrewing.com.

Street tacos? Fresh coffee? Beer made just yards from where it pours from the taps? Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating? Since it opened at the end of last year, Lazarus Brewing has proved to be practically a religious experience for people in East Austin who regularly frequent the brewpub: in the morning for their coffee fix, in the evening for an indulgent pint.

Newcomers are also going to discover this colorful joint, where they’ll be able to try beers like Despereaux, a French saison with notes of cloves and coriander, and Holy Mother of God, an aptly named barleywine pouring at a robust 11.2 percent ABV. Drink a pint while you’re seated outside in the shaded courtyard that tends to draw a breeze or two.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Enjoy a taco and a beer, like the Jolted Phoenix Coffee Golden Ale, on Lazarus Brewing’s outdoor patio if you want to relax during SXSW.

Two Wheel Brewing opens as Buda’s first and only brewery

Contributed by Two Wheel Brewing. Two Wheel Brewing founder Marc Woffenden, center, runs the Buda brewery with Doug Korte and Dennis Howell.

The founders of Two Wheel Brewing didn’t expect such a large turnout when it quietly opened for the first time last Friday — but Buda residents, in the town just south of Austin, had been thirsting for a brewery of their own for awhile and lined up out the door for a first taste of the beer.

That instant enthusiasm is gratifying for Marc Woffenden, who co-founded the brewery with his wife, Alexis, after he decided to turn his homebrewing hobby into something more. So far, Two Wheel Brewing is only open on Friday evenings, but as the brewery gets up and running — and as more beers are added to the tap wall in the tasting room — those hours will expand.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Two Wheel Brewing opened last weekend with two beers, the Budaful Blonde Ale and the Twin Creeks Pale Ale.

Woffenden, an Austin resident since the early 1990s, loves Texas’ vibrant capital city but deliberately chose its smaller southern neighbor for the brewery.

“We wanted to go to a community where a brewery would be welcomed,” he said.

And welcomed it was: He didn’t need to do much persuading to get Buda’s city officials on board with Two Wheel Brewing during the early planning stages. In an initial meeting, he told them what he wanted to do, and right away “about four of them said, ‘Done. Let’s do it.’ From day one, the city and the community was literally behind us,” he said.

Their support made steps like permitting easy, he said.

Although Woffenden and his wife had searched for property to lease, they ultimately decided to build a brewery from scratch on land just off South Loop Four, south of Buda’s charming Main Street. They bought the acreage in 2014, started construction in 2015 and wrapped it up late last year.

Besides Alexis, Woffenden has also relied on employees Dennis Howell and Doug Korte to launch Two Wheel Brewing. He met Howell through the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, a brewing school they attended, and got to know Korte through a softball league both participated in, albeit on opposing sides.

“We used to heckle each other for at least five years before we started working together here at the brewery,” Woffenden joked.

Now, he and Howell handle all the brewing, while Korte, the chief financial officer, manages many of the other duties necessary for running a business.

Two Wheel Brewing will have three beers on tap when it opens again on Friday: Budaful Blonde Ale, Twin Creeks Pale Ale and Amber German-style Altbier. The first two brews debuted last week, and the pale ale, “an old-school pale because it’s not pushed to the brink of hoppiness,” was particularly well-received, Woffenden said.

Next Friday will see the introduction of another Two Wheel beer, a West Coast-style IPA; after that, an ESB and a porter will join the lineup. The various styles are a result of the two brewers’ contrasting tastes.

“Dennis brewed up in New York, so he does East Coast-style beers like New England IPAs and the darker malty beers like porters and stouts. I like more of the lighter, crisper beers,” Woffenden said. “It’s been fun working together and coming up with recipes. We’ll have a nice mix.”

He’s proud of the new altbier — an Old World style not often produced here — but is especially hoping the Budaful Blonde Ale takes off because it’s for a good cause. Two Wheel Brewing is donating a portion of the proceeds from each pint of the blonde sold to a different local cause each month, starting with the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas in nearby Kyle.

The blonde is “our Buda beer,” he said.

Before founding Two Wheel Brewing, he worked as an elementary and middle school teacher. He loved his job, he said, but just couldn’t shake himself of the brewer’s bug and alternated his time between teaching and getting schooled himself at the American Brewers Guild. He graduated from the school in 2013; Howell followed suit in 2016.

At the moment, their main goal for Two Wheel, which has a brewpub permit versus a production brewery license, is to sell a bulk of their boozy product at the tasting room, for both on- and off-site consumption. (Growlers are coming soon.) The rest will eventually be sold at local bars and restaurants but only in draft format, not cans or bottles.

“We want to create a space where people come to hang out,” Woffenden said.

Although he said the tasting room remains a work-in-progress, it’s already got a handful of picnic benches, and a garage-style door at the front opens up to a small patio with more seating. More tables will be added to the yard.

Similarly still in the works is the main brewhouse at Two Wheel Brewing: Woffenden and Howell are currently brewing off a small 1 bbl pilot system and haven’t fully transitioned to the 20 bbl juggernaut nearby. But just having gotten this far is a good feeling for Woffenden, who named his brewery after his and Alexis’ longtime mutual hobby of biking.

“We say that we’re always on two wheels. Then us being the two owners, we’re the two wheels of the brewery also,” he said.

For now, Two Wheel Brewing is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays at 535 S. Loop 4; eventually, hours will be expanded to 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 12 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit twowheelbrewing.com or facebook.com/twowheelbrewing.

Contributed by Two Wheel Brewing. Two Wheel Brewing is Buda’s first and only brewery, built from the ground up by Austin couple Marc and Alexis Woffenden.