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.
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.
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.
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.”
Austin’s Infamous Brewing collaborated with the nationally recognized Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams beers, to create BOS X AUS, a limited-edition smoked oyster stout that will be on tap at the March 12 event and at a small amount of local bars and restaurants near the festival.
The two breweries teamed up in part because of their history together: Infamous took part in Samuel Adams’ Brewing the American Dream program a few years ago — the same competition that the Boston brewery is staging during SXSW. Samuel Adams’ Pop-Up Pitch Room Competition runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m. March 12 at Whole Foods.
At the competition, business owners have two minutes to present the merits of their product and business to a panel of expert judges, who will then decide whose pitch is the winner based on factors like passion, creativity and quality of the presentation.
Samuel Adams brewer Jennifer Glanville, who was among the Boston Beer crew that traveled to Austin to produce BOS X AUS at Infamous, will be one of the judges, along with Lockhart Steele, co-founder of Eater.com, and two others.
“We’re privileged to create a unique brew with a truly pioneering company!” Infamous Brewing wrote on Facebook last month. “Our BOS x AUS Smoked Oyster Stout will surely be one for the books. Working alongside such experienced and knowledgeable brewers is a humbling endeavor.”
Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch started up Brewing the American Dream as a way to share financial help and business advice that he wishes he’d had starting the brewery 33 years ago.
As South by Southwest’s series of food panels, SouthBites, grows bigger every year, so does the side of SouthBites that explores a very different sort of maker from the chefs who commonly populate the panels: distillers, winemakers and brewers, even a coffee purveyor or two.
That’s a sign of the festival’s increasing devotion to culinary-related topics, but it’s also clear that something else is happening: SXSW is becoming a destination for beverage makers, in the same way that it has been for tech industry insiders, musicians, and film fans and critics, albeit on a much smaller level.
The interactive portion of SXSW is, at the end of the day, all about sharing big ideas, and the beverage producers who were in panels from Friday through Monday this week have plenty of those; at heart, they are entrepreneurs peddling their passions.
Alex Vallis, digital director of Food & Wine magazine; Darren Case, owner and distiller of Round Turn Distilling; Ian Brand, owner and winemaker of Le P’tit Paysan; and Michael Sohocki, owner and chef of Restaurant Gwendolyn and Kimura in San Antonio, all discussed whether farm-to-table food and small-batch beverages like gin and wine can be considered craft if they’re made with the use of increasingly high-tech systems.
The conclusion? As long as the technology is making their products better — without sacrificing all of the qualities that separate them from their mass-produced equivalents — it’s got a role in today’s food and beverage-making. Finding that balance, of course, is the tricky part.
Benjamin Doherty, co-founder and COO of Favor; Cory Rellas, co-founder and COO of Drizly; Jess Beck, co-founder and COO of Alfred; and Jordan Metzner, CEO of Washio, talked about the benefits of having their services at your beck-and-call to make life easier. Rellas’ Drizly, for example, which came to Austin a couple of years ago, helps you get alcohol delivered straight to your door, without having to leave your house.
Ultimately, their on-demand businesses aren’t going to be for everybody — people who don’t have the extra income to pay for service fees, for example — but there’s no doubt they’ll have plenty of other customers in this age of instant gratification.
Emma Janzen, Imbibe’s digital content editor; Jason Kosmas, co-founder of the 86 Co.; Michael Graham, Austin Beerworks co-founder; and Tom Thornton, section editor at CultureMap offered advice to drinkers who want to know how to find good deals in the liquor store and the bar now that beers and whiskey brands are increasingly marked up, with demand for them at an all-time high.
They offered lists of breweries and whiskey companies who keep their well-made products affordable. Additionally, they shared their thoughts on what the bar scene will look like in the coming years, with increasingly more people developing sophisticated palates. Sour beers, rums and lower-alcohol options like vermouth are going to become the hot commodities.
This panel featuring Boyan Kalusevic, co-founder and distiller at Dorcol Distilling; Cathy Tarasovic, partner at Shrub Drinks; Manny Carral, co-founder of Revolucion Coffee + Juice; and Ryan Salts, co-founder & director of Break Fast & Launch, was supposed to be a how-to on carving out a niche business in a competitive market, but all four panelists hail from San Antonio and noted that the city has been a clear factor in their success.
“San Antonio was a great opportunity for entrepreneurship,” Carral said about his coffee and juice bar, a concept that didn’t exist when it first opened. “I know who my customers are, all within a two-to-three block radius.”
He’s finding that his business has plenty of room to grow, in part because it’s fulfilling a health and fitness need for San Antonio residents.
Likewise, Kalusevic — whose distillery, the producer of Kinsman Rakia, recently acquired a brewery license for their HighWheel Beerworks project — has found a home in the city. He and his business partner built out Dorcol in a southern part of San Antonio that is like “what East Austin was 15 years ago.” Dorcol Distilling is helping to turn that area into a bustling, up-and-coming city center with an arts district.
Keep an eye on our southern neighbors. Austin isn’t the only Texas city that knows how to brew up a good beverage.
Just, you know, not during the festival, which runs through next Sunday and takes over much of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
Want to avoid the crowds and chaos of SXSW, while still getting out and having fun? These bars on the outskirts of Austin are ready to serve you — and the many others flocking from Austin’s core over the next 10 days. The Brass Tap’s owner, Steve Sheets, has even noticed a rise in visitors during the week of the fest, although not enough to keep you from having a good time.
In no particular order:
The Brass Tap, 204 E. Main St., Round Rock. The beer bar’s 60 taps rotate through a variety of beers each week, so you can visit multiple days and will probably find something new to try each time.
Oasis, Texas Brewing and Infamous Brewing, 6550 Comanche Trl. and 4602 Weletka Dr. Turn a weekend afternoon into a Lake Travis beer crawl with a visit to these local breweries. Infamous’ three-year anniversary party is next Saturday, with lots of good beers on tap for the occasion.
Treaty Oak Distilling, 16604 Fitzhugh Rd, Dripping Springs. This Hill Country destination just about has it all: cocktails, food, live music, a play area for the kids, even helicopter tours. This weekend, the distillery is also hosting the inaugural Hill Country Kitetail Fest starting at noon Sunday.
The Growler Bar, 1300 FM 685, Pflugerville. This just-opened craft beer spot from a father-and-son team has more than 50 taps for beers, cold-brew coffee, even wine, and you can stop in quickly to fill up a growler or stay awhile to nurse a pint or flight.
Moontower Saloon, 10212 Manchaca Rd. This dog-friendly hangout in far South Austin promises plenty of seating on an oak-shaded patio. Plus, there are food trucks, a volleyball court and often live music.
Live Oak Brewing, 1615 Crozier Ln., Del Valle. Now opened seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m., the new brewery comes with a beer garden shaded by towering live oak trees. Sit beneath one while sipping on one of Live Oak’s European-style beers, like the tart Berliner Weisse.
Ski Shores, 2905 Pearce Rd. The restaurant’s easygoing atmosphere, juicy burgers and a solid selection of cocktails and local craft beers, as well as lakefront views and a playground for the kids, makes Ski Shores a go-to spot for locals looking for laid-back fun on a huge deck.
Texas Keeper Cider, 12521 Twin Creeks Rd., Manchaca. Starting tomorrow with a grand opening celebration, the far South Austin cidery is ready to welcome visitors to the Texas Keeper taproom, which was renovated out of a historic farmhouse on a scenic 20-acre stretch of ranch land.
The playful, cheeky and brilliant part? It’s not the official beer of South by Southwest, a title already claimed by fest sponsor Bud Light. That’s why Austin Beerworks is careful to call Festbier the “officially unofficial beer of March 11-20.”
Only available starting tomorrow through March 20, the light-bodied lager will be at downtown bars in 16 oz. tallboy cans, designed in collaboration with Helms Workshop, Austin Beerworks’ go-to designer. At 4.5 percent, the sessionable brew will keep locals and tourists alike hydrated and refreshed, without feeling the alcohol right away.
According to the brewery, Festbier has been made with “some of our favorite new hop varieties — Jaryllo and Saphir. Light additions provide just enough character to keep the beer interesting while remaining supremely drinkable. It’s great with breakfast tacos, lunch tacos, dinner tacos and any music you might hear in between.”
If you come across the cans this week, share them on social media with the hashtag #ABWFestbier.
Hooch, a members-only cocktail app based in New York City, is bringing its boozy services to town starting Friday. If you subscribe to the app as a member — paying $9.99 per month or $99 per year — you’ll be able to get one free cocktail per day at participating bars. The app is teaming up with places like Indian Roller in South Austin and the Old School Bar & Grill on Sixth Street at first, although this initial list of bars will grow.
The goal of Hooch, created by nightlife veteran Aleksey Kernes, tech industry expert Lin Dai and digital marketing entrepreneur Jared Christopherson, is “to be a subscription app that buys a round of drinks each day at some of the top cocktail bars, elite lounges and premier restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and now Austin… creating a ‘cool’ club for stylish sippers in the know. Hooch introduces its members to new places to see-and-be-seen and buys a round.”
That’s an intriguing concept, although it depends largely on the places where a Hooch drink is available. In any case, you probably won’t have any problems getting someone to tell you more about it during the festival next week: Hooch will be at several events throughout SXSW, including a dance party called Loose Control 8 that runs from Monday through March 20.