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W

hen beer snobs proclaim their love for sour brews, they’re not just trying to be controversial. Refined to tart and tangy

splendor by the Belgians, a good sour beer can be as refreshing as a cool glass of lemonade—when it’s done right. The trouble is, it’s easy to get wrong, given all the special fermented yeasts and lactic-acid bacteria involved. It’s a messy business, but Austin’s Blue Owl Brewing has it down to a science. Founded in 2014 by Jeff Young and Suzy Shaffer—both formerly of Black Star Co-op—Blue Owl makes sour beers and nothing but. The lineup includes: Spirit Animal, a sour pale ale; Little Boss, a sour session wheat; Professor Black, a sour cherry stout; Dapper Devil, a sour raspberry Belgian strong; and Van Dayum!, a sour red ale. It may seem a gamble for a brewery to play only one sour note, but Young has a more expansive view. “What we’re trying to do is take all the usual ingredients and styles you might be familiar with, like hoppy pale ale and malty red ale, and introduce a new dimension,” he says. “All we’re doing is adding sourness as a component. It’s a lot more refreshing.” Though making sour beers tends to be prohibitively expensive for most independent breweries, Blue Owl works its magic through sour mashing. It’s a less costly technique little used by beer folks because the necessary wild cultures involved can produce unpredictable results. But like Walter White of “Breaking Bad,” Young—a pharmaceutical chemist turned brewmaster—has tamed this process to give his creations the same consistent flavors every time. He’s even created “sour units” to turn the sour up or down in each batch. “We can control sourness levels to let us have lighter sour offerings or stronger sour offerings,” says Young. “You get more complex and diverse flavor profiles this way.”

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With Shaffer running the business end of things, Blue Owl plans to

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focus for now on expanding within Austin (though you may find a can

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or two in other Texas cities). For his part, Young will continue applying his exacting method to produce surprising results. “I’m using a lot of the same ideas I used as a chemist to affect reactions and processes,” he says. “The only difference is, I was making drugs back then and now I’m making alcohol. I like this product a lot more.” —Steve Wilson For more information, visit blueowlbrewing.com or call 512-593-1262.

Edible Austin: Beverage 2016  

Learn about Kooper Family Rye Whiskey, Hops & Grain Brewery, Railean Rum and much more!

Edible Austin: Beverage 2016  

Learn about Kooper Family Rye Whiskey, Hops & Grain Brewery, Railean Rum and much more!

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