Friday, 5 April 2019

Austin day one

The day starts as all good days do. With an accompanying smell of bacon.

Just what I need after a very long day of travel yesterday. OK, it’s a self-service job with paper plates and plastic cutlery. But there is bacon, scrambled egg and those potato cubes Americans love including in their breakfasts. Waffles are available, too, but I’ve no interest in those.

I’m in no rush. Nothing is planned until 7 PM, when I’ve a dinner appointment with some of the Jester King brewing crew. What to do until then? Maybe they have breweries here or something. It is quite warm. Might be nice to have a cooling beer somewhere.

Lazing around in my room for a while, gazing at crap TV lets the bacon settle. Is ten rashers excessive? They were those tiny little US ones. Ten of them is barely one thick-cut-slice of back bacon.

I haven’t mentioned what I’m doing in Texas, have I? Back in January I received an invitation from the Texas branch of the MBAA. Did I want to present my German sour beers talk at their spring conference? Sure, I’d be delighted. But I’d need my expenses paid. The organisers hadn’t realised just how far away I live.

They couldn’t come up with an offer big enough to satisfy Dolores. Then I had an idea. Austin is quite close to San Antonio, isn’t it? I’d been meaning to visit my mate* Jeff Stuffings, one of the owners and founders of Jester King. If they chipped in maybe this could work. I was quite surprised when everything fell into place.

Which is a long way of explaining why I had a printout of the Jester King short guide to Austin beer. With lists of recommended breweries and beer bars. Where to go? I have a few options.

My choice is based on a couple of factors. Recommendations of other drinkers. And proximity. I don’t want to spend too much on taxis. (Dolores has made her opinions very clear on my travel expenses.) It’s all so complicated. Eventually I settle on Live Oak. Mostly because I’ve heard that they brew good Lagers. And I do love me a good Lager.

Soon a cab has bounced me all the way there. To quite a rural location, the brewery is set in what looks like several acres of low-density forest. Very nice. A beer garden with real trees. Which is appropriate given the brewery’s name.

Being quite early, it’s pretty empty inside the fairly cavernous tap room. Oh look – they’ve a Doppelbock on draught. The perfect morning beer. I order myself one.

Live Oak Liberator 7.8% ABV
Nice dark brown colour. Full of malty goodness. Rather good. There’s a little touch of smoke, which is fine.

They’re playing The Specials, which is pretty cool. Though the weather isn’t – it’s like summer. A Dutch summer, at least. Doubt this even counts as particularly nice spring weather here.

This will be a pretty laidback trip. Now I get to the US so often, I feel less of a need to rush around like a demented dervish. Only two towns on the itinerary: a couple of days in Austin then down to San Antonio for a couple more.

Should tell them who I am? Being English, I’m reluctant to say: “Hi, I’m renowned beer historian Ron Pattinson.” Way too presumptuous. Sounds like I’m touting for free beer. Plus there’s always the chance that they’ll reply “Ron who?”

Opening so early on weekdays is a surprise, given how out of the way they are. Far from any human habitation. It isn’t exactly mobbed. OK for me, boring old twat that I am. Quiet is my exciting. (That’s not particularly to do with age. I’ve never cared for crowds. Or maybe it’s just people I hate.)

I don’t quite understand how places like this can operate. How the hell would you get here? You’d have to drive. But then how can you drink? I keep coming across pubs in the US that make no sense to European eyes. Locations that seem insane for somewhere whose main business is serving alcohol.

I’ll ponder that while drinking my next beer.

Live Oak Grodziskie 3% ABV

Yeah – a pint of Grodziskie. Ordered with a little trepidation. I hope it isn’t one of those sour abominations. It’s served with a delightful ice-cream head and the colour is suitably pale. But how does it taste? Smoky and bitter – fucking right. None of that sour shit. It’s very pleasant, with all the features I’d expect from a Grodziskie. Almost as good as the Jopen one. But I am biased.

The trees outside look a bit weird. More like giant bushes, with their multiple stems. As there are a couple outside, I’m going to go crazy apeshit and guess they’re Live Oaks. I have heard that as a tree name. always thought it was a bit weird as a name. Surely all oaks, other than the dead ones, are live?

They’re playing Setting Sons by The Jam. I’d forgotten how good an album it is. I can still hum all the bass parts. Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – no-one else here has lived that.

The food truck, Black Forest, is now open so I troll over there. It’s very much German-oriented, which is fine by me. Something snack-like and German is exactly what I fancy. A bratwurst fits the bill perfectly. Quite a good one, too. And not expensive. Important, as Dolores will be going over all my expenses when I return. “We could have bought both of the kids shoes with what you spent in that bar.” That’s her catchphrase.

People drift in in drabs, then mostly drift right on out again to sit in the garden. I prefer it inside. Wouldn’t want that spiky sun getting too closely acquainted with my skin. Which has a lovely healthy pallor. (Dolores’s mum thought I had a vitamin deficiency the first time we met. That’s how pale my skin is.)

Eton Rifles is on now – does anyone here understand the anger behind that song? Or how appallingly relevant it still is in the UK?

Don’t get yourself all riled up, Ronald. Drink some beer and chill the hell out. It’s a lovely day, I’m in a brewery, have the whole day free and there’s money in my pocket.

Time for another beer:

Baltik 8% ABV
Another perfect lunch beer, at just 8% ABV. Pleasantly Lagery (my tasting notes just keep on improving),. Not quite dark enough, if I’m going style Nazi.

I’m being very restrained this afternoon. Just the three beers, then I leave into the next cab and roll on back to my hotel. To catch my breath before the evening. When I’ve a dinner date with two of the Jester King folks, Sean and Luis.

After an afternoon whisky to accompany some dreadful TV, I stroll over to reception and ask them to call me a cab. I’ve 30 minutes until my appointment. Should be plenty of time. It can’t be more than a 10-minute drive to the Odd Duck.

I stand outside and wait. And wait. Then I wait some more.

After 20 minutes the cacti outside the hotel are losing their fascination. 30 minutes in, I go back to reception and ask them to enquire where the fuck my taxi is. Though not in quite those words. I am English, after all. We never reveal the seething anger in our heads.

After just three-quarters of an hour, a taxi does arrive. And soon drops me at the Odd Duck. I’m embarrassingly almost an hour late.

I’ve never met either Sean or Luis before. How will I spot them? No problem. As soon as I get through the door Sean comes over and introduces himself. Then we tuck into some nosh.

It’s rather nice. Quite sophisticated and with an emphasis on local. We order various bits and nibble away on them. With accompanying beer, obviously. Especially as they sell some decent stuff.

When we’re done eating, we decant to The ABGB, a brewpub a little down the road, for more beer. In the darkness, lit only by a neon blur, we kick the last of the evening to pieces.

Back in my room, as I sip and slip from consciousness, sleep steals in through the window.

* We’re pisco sour friends after a week in Santiago in 2016.

Live Oak Brewing Company
1615 Crozier Ln,
Del Valle,
TX 78617.
Tel: +1 512-385-2299

Odd Duck
1201 S Lamar Blvd,
TX 78704
Tel: +1 512-433-6521

1305 W Oltorf St,
TX 78704.
Tel: +1 512-298-2242


Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed your talk at Jester King last week. And what did I play on the stereo as I drove up from San Antonio? The Jam's "All Mod Cons."

Anonymous said...

Live oaks are evergreen, hence the name.