Real Ale Brewing has a new year-round beer that the brewers have named after a longstanding activity in the Texas Hill Country. The Pinsetter Amber Lager is a nod to old-fashioned 9-pin bowling, a hobby the Germans brought over to the U.S. but is now extinct everywhere but in Texas.
Only a few 9-pin bowling clubs — which rely on people, or pinsetters, to reset the pins, rather than the modern machines predominantly in use — remain in the state today, and they’re particularly vibrant in Real Ale’s Blanco home.
Nine-pin bowling in Texas goes back about 180 years, and the style of beer that Pinsetter Amber Lager is inspired by, a California Common, comes from just about the same time period: when our West Coast neighbor was newly a state but didn’t have the refrigeration capabilities to brew a lager, which ferments at colder temperatures.
“The really cool thing about this beer is that we’re using steam-style fermentation techniques,” Tim Schwartz, Real Ale’s Director of Brewing Operations, said in a press release. “We use lager yeast for fermentation, but bring it closer to 60 degrees, which is right between lager and ale fermentation temperatures. It’s kind of a hybrid, which gives us a unique twist and a lot more complexity to step this beer up a notch.”
According to the brewery, the Pinsetter Amber Lager has a medium body, a slight fruitiness and “a lager-clean malt character.”
It will also be easier than ever to share beers with your entire table or to sample some of Austin Beerworks’ taproom-only releases. Also coming Monday are branded pitchers, 4 oz. sample flights with four pours and style-specific glassware.
The Yeti flagship store at the corner of Barton Springs Road and South Congress Avenue is hosting a weekend-long grand opening celebration and will have a handful of beers available at the bar area, where a back well is decked out in more than 12,000 bottle caps, among other neat features. The opening beer list, which will change out frequently in the future, includes Shiner Bock and Shiner Light Blonde, Live Oak Pilz, Austin Beerworks Eagle and Lone Star.
St. Elmo Brewing has started getting one of its beers — the easy-drinking Carl Kolsch — to a few local bars, including the Draught House and Wright Bros. Brew & Brew. The brewery isn’t aiming to have wide-scale distribution, so these places are a neat opportunity to have St. Elmo beers beyond the South Austin taproom.
After winning our hearts over with the now year-round Red Bud Berliner Weisse, Independence Brewing is introducing another canned sour brew to the market with Illustrated Man Dark Sour with Berries. Celebrate the launch tomorrow at a party that will double as a competition for tattoo lovers looking to win $300 toward their next tat.
It’s the 80th anniversary of Twin Liquors, so all 80 locations are giving us a boozy treat: the return of the dollar sale, when prices of wine and spirits drop to “rock bottom.”
The sale sadly does not extend to beer — which is generally pretty cheap anyway — but it’s a good deal if you’ve been eyeing a rare whiskey that wasn’t previously agreeable with your booze budget. During the sale, which starts today and lasts through Saturday, Twin Liquors brings the prices of all wine and liquor in bottles 750 ml or larger to wholesale cost and adds a buck.
So dream big when you stop into your neighborhood store. The dollar sale won’t affect more affordable items as much as it will the more luxury products, the expensive wines and older aged spirits that we merely sigh wistfully at when we’re browsing the shelves for bottles to supply our weekend fun.
And while you’re there, don’t forget to marvel at the fact that Twin Liquors is an 80-year-old company, founded in Austin in 1937, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
“The Jabour family ventured into the liquor industry with ‘Jabour’s Package Store,’ which contained a liquor store, a drug store and a soda fountain that were all under the same roof,” according to Twin Liquors. “During this era, operating a liquor store along with a soda fountain and a drugstore was the trend. Competition was fierce after Prohibition, and there were approximately 26 liquor stores within a two-mile area. The Jabour family worked hard and, by the mid-1940s, had expanded the business to three liquor stores and a tavern that only sold beer.”
And now, the home-grown franchise has expanded across Central Texas, venturing north to Waco, south to San Antonio and east to parts of Houston and College Station.
No doubt you’ve got your favorite place in town to drink a margarita, whether that’s at a Mexican food joint like the inimitable Matt’s El Rancho or at a cocktail bar like Backbeat where the margarita is going to be one classy drink.
You’ve also probably got your preferences for how you like to drink it: on the rocks or frozen, with a salted rim or without, or served in some crazy way — with a floater of beer, perhaps, or maybe with strawberries instead of limes. (Or how about with this Ancho Chile Reyes liqueur for a blast of heat?)
However you like your margarita, just make sure you have one today, on this most auspicious of fake holidays, the one and only National Margarita Day.
Here are some Austin bars and restaurants where you’ll be able to take advantage of this very big excuse to drink. (Not that we, in Texas, ever need a reason to have a margarita, of course.)
The Brixton: It’s a full-on fiesta at the East Sixth Street bar starting at 4 p.m. today, when the Brixton will have complimentary chips, salsa and crock-pot queso on hand for you to enjoy with frozen margaritas, which are on special all night.
Corner at the J.W. Marriott: This hotel bar specializes in tequila cocktails, so you can bet the margarita is good. For National Margarita Day, Corner is offering $2 off its signature drink, the Corner Marg, with Sierra Vieja Reposado Tequila, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, agave syrup and lime. The deal lasts all day.
Curra’s Grill: Arguably one of the most classic margaritas in Austin is Curra’s bright green avocado margarita, but the Mexican restaurant on Oltorf Street has a variety of other ones to try as well, like the Lucky ‘Rita with Suerte Tequila, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, lime juice and Jarritos grapefruit juice.
El Burro: One of Austin’s newest Tex-Mex spots, from the team behind neighboring restaurant Vox Table, also has an avocado margarita, with Cimarron Tequila, avocado, cilantro, lime and simple syrup. If you’re in the mood for something sweeter, try the frozen mango margarita instead.
El Mercado: The margaritas are on special tonight in honor of National Margarita Day. So are Mexican martinis, which means you get your pick of tequila cocktails.
El Naranjo: Tequila is essential in a margarita — almost. The only reasonable substitute for the agave spirit would be its cousin of mezcal, which pours plentifully at this Rainey Street restaurant in its most popular margarita. The drink also has muddled serrano peppers, basil agave nectar, lime juice and pineapple juice.
El Sapo: The Manor Road burger bar with a Tex-Mex twist is offering $5 house margaritas from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today in honor of National Margarita Day. Might we suggest the O Gurl, a frozen potion with Chamoy, Mexican candy and the El Chile Group’s signature salt rim.
Fixe: How about a margarita with Southern flair? The Abita ‘Rita highlights a Louisiana favorite, Abita Amber, which is mixed in with Avion Silver, Grand Marnier, lime juice and orange juice.
Guero’s Taco Bar: From 6 to 8 p.m. this evening, sip on margaritas with Dulce Vida Tequila, an Austin-based brand, in the Guero’s garden while listening to tunes from Sun Radio’s musical guests this week, Rich Hopkins and Sour Bridges. National Margarita Day doesn’t get much better than that.
Juliet: A margarita at an Italian restaurant? Go with it. The bar manager is even showing you how to make ’em yourself — one regular, one spicy — in a video on Juliet’s Facebook page, but if you’d rather pair your tequila treat with a heaping helping of spaghetti carbonara, head to Juliet for lunch or dinner today.
Maudie’s: One of Austin’s quintessential Tex-Mex restaurants, which has multiple locations around town, is celebrating with another Austin brand, Dulce Vida Tequila.
Searsucker: You should have the downtown restaurant’s margarita for its playful name alone. Thankfully, the Jale Berry is also very good and features house-infused strawberry jalapeño tequila with lime, agave and salt.
Trace at the W: The hotel restaurant has one of those crazy twists on the margarita, called the Papa Dulce, that might be fun to try if you’re feeling adventurous, with Z Reposado Tequila, sweet potato syrup and lime. The Living Room Bar at the W will have more traditional margarita offerings as well.
Trudy’s Tex-Mex:A veritable rainbow of margaritas is flowing at all Trudy’s locations on one of the biggest days of the year for the brand, with $4 ‘ritas and $7 Mexican martinis available from 2 to 7 p.m. today.
The daughter of famed Belgian brewer Pierre Celis — who introduced Austin to good beer in the 1990s with the area’s first craft brewery, Celis — gets to use her and her father’s surname after all with her upcoming brewery.
Now, Celis Brewery is returning in full, with a targeted opening in April at 10001 Metric Blvd.
Christine recently reacquired the ‘Celis’ trademark from Total Beverage Solution and Craftbev International Amalgamated., Inc., the former domestic and international owners of the rights. Making that deal and having the Celis name back, she says, feels like “mission accomplished.”
“I was going to do whatever it took to get the name back in my family,” she says. “I think it was important for us but also for Austin, with Celis as Austin’s very first brewery, to have that legacy. We have a beautiful brewery to show for it. It’s here to stay, and it’s not going away.”
The two companies from whom Christine was able to buy back the rights to the Celis name were the last in a line of companies starting with Miller that owned the rights after Pierre sold to Miller in 2000, being unable to fully meet the demand for his beers. Even though Pierre’s dream of gaining Celis Brewery back didn’t come to fruition, it has, at least, for Christine, who intends to preserve much of his former vision alongside her daughter, third-generation brewer Daytona Camps.
Preserving Pierre Celis’ legacy extends to many of the beers that Celis Brewery will have on tap, including Celis White and Celis Grand Cru, two of his most well-known beers. The Celis White will even be made with the same original Belgian yeast strain that he carefully preserved for many years, even after losing the rights to his Austin brewery.
“It’s been 17 years without the Celis White as he made it, as I have not had the one with the original yeast strain,” Christine says. “It’s such an important component of the beer.”
But when visitors come to Celis Brewery in its first month being open, that beer probably won’t be available just yet. She says she wants to launch with a trio of IPAs — a Belgian-style IPA and two New England-style IPAs — and have Pierre’s original brews debut in the following month or two, “to give (people) a reason to come back to the taproom,” she says.
The taproom itself might be reason enough. Its most eye-catching feature will be a bar made out of one of the original Celis Brewery’s old copper kettles, cut in half so that the bottom serves as the base around which people will sit, with the top acting as a dome above. Eventually, Celis Brewery will also have a cafe and beer garden with lots of outdoor seating, but that’s going to be a future project, Christine says. For now, the focus is on getting the brewery up and running in the more than 20,000 sq. ft. space.
A good-sized portion of that space will be devoted to a nearly 50 barrel brewhouse “modified to the way my dad had his when he first started brewing,” Christine said. She was able to get the system made with the proper specifications thanks to Bert Van Hecke, a brewery engineer and consultant for Celis Brewery.
Another future project is particularly important to her: adding a beer museum that will showcase Pierre Celis’ original brewing equipment, which include a historic but weathered open mash tun, as well as two copper kettles, an open fermenter and a coolship for open-air fermentation. These aren’t the same pieces he brewed with in Austin in the 1990s.
Before he came to America, he worked at the old Hoegaarden brewery in Belgium, making it a household name with the introduction of the Belgian witbier recipe that became Celis White. Last year, his daughter brought over much of the original equipment he used, in the hopes of restoring it and displaying it at the new Celis Brewery. As much as she wants to show it off, she knows the most important thing right now is simply getting her brewery open.
“First of all, I want to focus on the Celis Brewery and make sure that’s really done; then I can focus on the next project, which is building the museum,” she says. “I want to make sure we put it all in place like he had it in Hooegarden, so when you walk in, it’ll be almost like an identical copy.”
In the meantime, she and her daughter, Daytona, will be among the key people re-introducing Austin to Celis. There are plenty of people who remember Celis and are excited to have it back, but there are also many who will simply see Celis Brewery as the latest beer maker to open in this beer-loving town.
As a result, Celis Brewery will have an updated look — somewhat.
“The logo is going to be pretty much the same, but we’re going to update it to the 21st century,” Christine Celis says. “It’s going to look a little brighter. The people who bought Celis, they’ll recognize it right away.”
In addition to offering Celis beers on draft, she also plans to sell cans and bottles.
To keep an eye on the Celis Brewery’s progress and an announcement of a more official opening date, visit facebook.com/CelisBeers.
Editor’s note: Updated on May 24, 2017 for National Wine Day, because apparently one wine-related holiday isn’t enough.
Yep, you read that right — February 18 is National Drink Wine Day. Now that’s a national holiday we can get behind. We’ve gathered up a list of the 10 best wine bars in Austin, according to Yelp, along with some highlights from Yelp user reviews.
10. The Butterfly Bar — 2307 Manor Road
“The Butterfly Bar is one of those places that I visit once every 6 or so months and wonder why I’m not there all the time.” — Luci H.
“Can’t say enough about Butterfly Bar… feels like you’re driving in your best friend’s back yard. Good vibes, good vibes.” — Hilary M.
“Great atmosphere and very chill. Kid and pet friendly with neat little attractions all around. This place a combo of Austin coolness!” — Vandesha L.
9. Wink — 1014 N Lamar Blvd Suite E
“What I loved most were the amount of wines by the glass. Wink has a wine bar across from the restaurant proper and they are able to have about double the amount of wines open at any given time. So, you can have a great meal and try different tastes together.” — Melody M.
“Whether in the Wine Bar or Restaurant, we always enjoy Wink. Service is wonderful with emphasis on the ability to inform you about wine and beer in the cute, less fancy pants Wine Bar.” — Christine A.
8.Vino Vino — 419 Guadalupe St
“The cutest little wine bar in the Hyde Park area.” — Sherill T.
“In our most recent visit, sitting toward the back, I was struck again how warm and pleasant the space is becoming. It’s just a nice feeling place to hang out for a while.” — Dennis S.
7. House Wine — 408 Josephine St.
“Located in an adorable little house, House Wine has an inviting, intimate atmosphere.” — Giselle C.
“Super cute place. Definitely an Austin spot. I have had so many people speak highly of Wine House and I can see why.” — Lindsay M.
6. Gino’s Vino Osteria — 1239 E. 51st St.
“I truly don’t understand how it is not packed all night long. Everyone from our waitress to Gino himself was incredibly friendly.” — Brandon K.
“WOW! The wine list at Gino’s is simply fantastic. Peruse. Find one, two or three you love. And the cocktails that man makes – WOWZERS! Again – favorite Uncle Gino!” — Shani S.
5. Winebelly — 519 W. Oltorf St.
“Winebelly has all the perks of the high standards we’ve come to expect in Austin, with none of the pretentiousness attached with it. Just a good ol’ fashion South Austin welcoming vibe.” — Victoria S.
“This is the perfect first date spot! Love all of their wines, appetizers, and cocktails- everything is so so so good!” — Alysha M.
4. Counter 3. FIVE. VII — 315 Congress Ave. Suite 100
“Jason, the Sommelier, is brilliant with his wine pairings and the Pastry Chef Daniella lays out sumptuous desserts. It will be a long time before I’m this impressed with a meal. Perhaps not until my next life.” — Christine A.
“The meat seemed to call for wine so we ordered a glass, at the sommelier’s recommendation and I swear, the food and wine sang together. Like literally (in the figurative sense).” — Alice T.
3. Aviary — 2001 S. Lamar Blvd. Suite C
“This is genuinely one of my favorite places in Austin.” — Kim O.
“Aviary is your home away from home that puts you back into your best mood. A must in Austin: we love it.” — Thom and Vicky H.
2. The Red Room Lounge — 306 E. 3rd St. Suite A
“If you love wine and you like that Speakeasy kind of vibe/going on a scavenger hunt for a wine bar-then Red Room Louge is the place to check out.” — Angela W.
“The staff is what really makes this place special. They are knowledgable [sic] beyond any sort of wine comprehension that I possess. Friendly and informative. Frinformative.” — Luci H.
1. Santorini Cafe — 11800 N. Lamar Blvd.
“Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, friendly staff, delicious Greek food, good wine selection, and tasty coffee drinks. Live music on Thurs. and Friday nights.” — Julie P.
“I already like Greek food, but every bite here was above par. Nice wine, good people.” — Alan M.
The Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen — 800 W. 6th St.
“Great modern spot downtown for drinks and food. They have a nice patio as well.” — Anh N.
“Great patio, excellent happy hour, exceptional wine list and gorgeous dining room!” — Amy D.
Apothecary Cafe & Wine Bar — 4800 Burnet Rd. Suite 450
“Reminds me of the neighborhood cafes in France. Equally good for date night or friends.” — Karen G.
“The food, the romantic vibe and the service made this place 5 stars for us. As I’m enjoying my 2nd glass of wine…I’m texting all my friends to check this place out!” — Kristine F.
Baretto — 10710 Research Blvd. Suite 314
“This place is super cute and nook-like. It’s small and I’m pretty sure it’s seat-yourself-wherever-you-can. All the staff that we encountered were very polite and helpful.” — Yelena S.
“Atmosphere is casual, interior had a nice cozy feel with all the brickwork. All in all a very nice experience.” — Veek N.
The creator of barrel-aged gin, fruited and coffee liqueurs, and eau de vies has recently debuted yet another revolutionary new product: a Texas amaro. And Revolution Spirits is pretty sure it’s the first Texas amaro ever introduced.
Most known for its year-round Austin Reserve Gin, Revolution Spirits hasn’t been able to stop tinkering in its modest distilling space in the Hill Country, near boozy neighbors Argus Cidery and Last Stand Brewing. As a result, the distillery now has the Amico Amaro available for purchase at the tasting room, open every Saturday, and within the next week or two, the amaro will be found at stores as well as a full-time product, like the gin.
Revolution co-owner Mark Shilling said it was one of the more challenging projects he and his small team have taken on.
“In the end, we exceeded our goal, creating a bitter liqueur that not only tastes great in a classic cocktail, but also by itself as an aperitif,” he said. “It stays true to classic bitter components, while using hints of botanicals such as sumac and orange to add brightness and subtle sweetness.”
The distillery created the amaro, a bitter liqueur, following Italian tradition. In Italy, amaro is typically enjoyed as an aperitivo, a complex liquid mixture of herbs and roots that is designed to awaken your palate for the meal to come, and Revolution Spirits wants it to be sipped in a similar fashion — for the most part.
Although Italians often drink amaro neat, the distillers who made Amico Amaro (which, by the way, means “bitter friend”) suggest pairing it with sparkling water or sparkling wine “to open up the complexities from 12 carefully selected ingredients,” Shilling said via email. Or it’s a worthy companion to Revolution Spirits’ own Austin Reserve Gin in a Negroni. (Just swap it with the typically used Campari.)
Amico Amaro contains a variety of ingredients, from hops normally found in beer to common food items like orange peel and cranberry.
The recipe was developed, Shilling said, to highlight “the bitter components without overwhelming drinkers who aren’t as attuned to bitterness as some might be. We accomplished this by first choosing 5 different bittering ingredients that hit on different aspects of bitterness.”
For example, he said, “cinchona and gentian offer stronger bitter notes as roots, while the hops (provide) balance with a softer character and the witch hazel and blessed thistle give a more astringent and vegetal bitterness. On top of this we layered bright, acidic notes like hibiscus and sumac, with middle notes to fill in the gaps: fennel, damiana and charred cedar.”
The remaining ingredients, the fruit of orange and cranberry, help to soften the sharp acidic elements and contributed depth to the sweetness of the final item, sugar.
But don’t try and pick out each individual flavor within the amaro. That’s not the point, he said.
“Unlike our Austin Reserve Gin, where we wanted to highlight each individual botanical note, Amico Amaro is about the sum of its parts,” Shilling said. “We wanted to create lots of depth and complexity without having any one note dominate or distinctly stand out.”
Revolution Spirits is opened from 1 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, although you should check social media or the website, at revolutionspirits.com, to make sure that’s when you can show up for tours and tastings. Hours can vary.