Austin City Unlimited
by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence
I would bet that many of you don’t know this, but, as a younger man, El Marteen spent a little time in Tejas. True story. I loved it! Whoa, not that kind of time…As a fledgling brew novice, my dad was stationed in Corpus Christi, a few hours southeast of Austin. Although we didn’t wear Birkenstocks, get to participate in any music festivals, buy some art made from dog hair or drive a Subaru, we still managed to find a good time. I did this trip from college for 3 summers. I think. Anyway, traveling to The Bat City for a business trip put me in a good mood. I knew that, although I would be cramming in a lot of travel in 3 days (Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston), I would definitely find some time to relax. After all, there’s bars, music, food, music, and bars.
Sidebar 1- Austin has some weird nicknames, and, as usual, I’ll present the crash course.
Waterloo—The first European settlers in the area called their settlement Waterloo. The city was incorporated under that name, but it was soon replaced when Austin became the capital of Texas.
Moscow on the Colorado—This is another dig at Austin’s left-leaning political tendencies. It rarely snows here, and typical summer temperatures in the mid-90s F would melt an average Russian. So, the comparison doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. Also, while Austin may be more liberal than most of Texas, it’s actually home to quite a few conservatives too. Not enough.
Bat City—The bat colony that lives under the Congress Avenue bridge has become a de facto mascot for this town. This name appeals to some because it also reflects Austin’s penchant for keep-in’ it weird.
ATX—A newcomer to the list of nicknames, it’s not actually pronounced as a word. You just say the three letters: A-T-X, as in “Welcome to the A-T-X,” This one clearly has no point, so please don’t use it.
Getting back to me. After a long day of travel, I called on my wife’s cousin (Yo, Chris Wallop!) to show me around town. Originally from Maryland, he has lived in the River City for quite a few years and took me to a must-do local watering hole, best known for being a Johnny Cash favorite, called Mean Eyed Cat. The establishment features an excellent draft selection of local and craft beers, in addition to a full bar and creative cocktail list, and patrons enjoy the interior rooms, an homage to the great Johnny Cash; and the open wooden patio, which is sheltered under an immense, 300+ year old Texas Live Oak. The bars moniker is a tribute to JC as it is the name of one of his tunes. Chugging a camouflaged Lone Star (I had to…haven’t had one in over 30 years) and putting away a Blood Sport Pale Ale (from Friends & Allies Brewery, right here in Austin), it was time to explore some local grub. We headed to an awesome Asian food stop that was very delicious but very spicy (Tucks, anyone?) Before going downtown for a special treat. Chris is very big into jazz and, especially, it’s influences on some of his favorite bands, including the Stones, Yardbirds and Stevie Ray. Anyone diggin’ that sound realizes that we were headed to The Continental Club. Bam. We entered through a small glass door with a large arrow sign above it, all lit up in neon. Going up a steep set of stairs to the second floor, we were ushered in to the back as the band was already jamming away to an updated version of Free Falling, set to a lounge singer themed background. Very cool and a nice break from the SoCal reggae and 80’s alternative that fills my ears daily.
I was going to be here for at least another night and felt the time was right to check out a local brewery on my own. You all know I’m a responsible imbiber and tonight I took it one step further. All around the city are these people riding scooters. “I said to myself, ‘man, that looks awesome”! So, after consulting Mr. Google and Mr. App Store, I was able to secure my ride for the night. Well, being the first time ever on an electric scooter, I found the freedom exhilarating. I can also see how they can be extremely dangerous, especially after a couple of pops…I decided to try it so I loaded up my Lime account and put my phone up to the box on the handlebars to activate my ride. Super easy. Hopped on, cranked the gas handled grip and away I went. With a top speed of about 15 miles per hour, I soon found myself rocketing toward my destination. Located about 6 blocks from my hotel was the establishment I was looking for, Lazarus Brewing Company. Located on the corner of east 6Th and Chicon, I felt like I was home as this modern looking aqua colored stone and wood warehouse entryway beckoned me to participate. Started by a former pastor and a spouse who was proficient in the coffee industry, they planted a small garden that included 2 hops rhizomes. It grew from there. Literally. Still, I was curious as to their background and the Biblical references adorning the joint. So, I asked.
Q: Where did the name Lazarus Brewing come from? What's the origin of the name?
Well, the connection might be obvious given my background. It comes from the Bible — Lazarus was a guy that Jesus raised from the dead. I like the imagery (death to life). I like the irony (modern brewing has Christian roots; I'm a pastor starting a brewery); but mostly I just think it's a great, strong name that feels like it fits my own story. So, we ran with it.
Q: WHAT KIND OF BEERS DO YOU SERVE?
All sorts of awesomeness. We will have 16+ taps to work with, featuring nothing but Lazarus brews. Which is pretty sweet when you have a Brewmaster like Matt Couch (formerly of Victory Brewing in PA). Matt has the skills and passion for a broad range of styles. We basically told him to brew what he likes. And if he likes it, you will too.
You can expect something for everyone — ranging from classics (Pale Ales, IPAs, ESBs and Stouts) to the exotic (Belgians, Goses, and all sorts of seasonals). Plus, we have big plans for the old Cool Store building next door. There ought to be shivers running up and down your spine right now.
Q: WHERE CAN I GET LAZARUS BREWS?
Lazarus is a pints-on-premise brewery (zero-distribution). That means if you want our beer you'll have to come to here. But we've worked hard to make our space as exceptional as our beer, and we've definitely got a few surprises up our sleeve. We designed it to be the kind of place we'd like to hang out in, all day long. And you're going to love it.
Q: WHAT ABOUT FOOD & COFFEE?
Glad you asked. It takes a lot of coffee to make beer. And tacos. We're pretty passionate about both. So, expect a full-service espresso bar (check out our Slayer)! With authentic street tacos throughout the day (breakfast to dinner). We make our own root beer. And we feature a great wine selection.
Now, I wasn’t trying to spend this trip talking. Its time to start drinkin. First up, per my very outgoing bartender Eva’s recommendation after hearing about my many varied tastes on carbonation, was the Nottingham English IPA. According to craftbeeraustin.com, Notty is, ‘A really nice, old-school, refined version of the classic style highlighted by Phoenix, EKG and First Gold hops. Bready and Biscuity with a nice tea-like quality coming from the hopbill’. Cool, but I believe it’s a very drinkable 5.8% ABV, smooth with a smackle of malt, and really feels like hints of merry old England in the juice. Not tasting currants or tea. Nice color with slim golden hue head. Has been described as, ‘a raisin thick bread and dark fruit flavoring’. Huh. Wonder if we were drinking the same draft. Anyway, really feel like this gut warmer could be a sister to Bass.
Next stop, Double Predestination, a DIPA that really performs like a Mike Tyson jab. At 8.2%, it’s supposed to be the most citradelic of the bunch. Big Mouthful (easy boys). Hazy deep gold color with flavor approaching what I would typically call an IPA. Juicy, yes. Smooth, yes. Will El Marteen have another? Yes. Still, typical of Tyson in the 6th round, this pint o’pugilism definitely got stronger & stronger towards the bottom of the glass. Still clean. Craftbeeraustin says, ‘Another hoppy stunner with a hoppier blast of the same citrusy and floral hops as their IPA but with a bigger grain bill showcasing Maris Otter, Pilsner and Crystal malts to keep things balanced.’ Couldn’t have said it better.
Not ready to call it quits (I got a very challenging scooter ride home!), I chose Prodigal Pils. Literally switching gears (scooter reference…NM), this neck oil was crisp, dry and a refreshing citrus juice. Sporting a thin head veil (new term I picked up here), its clear, golden color was inviting. And I brought my invitation. If Bud Light had a German cousin, this would be it. Low ABV, iBU sessionaire although still bound by typical pils taste, it satisfies as a drink for the masses. Can detect European heritage, could be confused with a Kolsch or Eastern European brau like Pilsner Urquell or Dinkel Acker. It’s that good. http://www.lazarusbrewing.com/
Just to fill that malt-soaked melon with something other than grog, try devouring these 17 meandering, interesting tidbits about Texas’ fourth largest city, behind Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.
1. Until late in the Cretaceous Period — which ended 66 million years ago — the area that makes up Austin today was completely underwater and home to 10 underwater volcanoes that geologists call “explosion craters,” That’s why many of Austin’s cliffs are crumbly, whitish rock known as “Austin Chalk.”
2. Austin was originally named Waterloo when the city was officially chosen as the new capital of the Republic of Texas. The name was changed to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas” and the republic’s first secretary of state.
3. Constructed from sunset red granite, the Texas State Capitol building in Austin is the largest state capitol in the United States.
4. The city of Austin covers 280 square miles, making the city nearly as large in landmass as New York City.
5. Located in central Texas near Hill Country, Austin is 225 miles from the U.S./Mexico border.
6. Austin is the only city in the world known to still operate a system of Moonlight Towers, 165 Ft. tall structures from the 19th century to light up the city at night. One of the towers was prominently featured in the 1993 film Dazed and Confused as the site of a high-school keg party, in which the character played by Matthew McConaughey exclaims, “Party at the Moon Tower.” In 1993, the city of Austin dismantled and restored the towers at a cost of $1.3 million.
7. With 200 live music venues and as many as 2,000 bands and performing artists, Austin is considered the Live Music Capital of the World.
8. Singer Janis Joplin got her start in Austin at Threadgills — a gas station and restaurant where bands played for rounds of beer.
9. “Austin City Limits” — the longest-running live music television show in the U.S.-began broadcasting on October 14, 1974, with Willie Nelson as a featured performer. As many as 5 million people worldwide view the PBS each week.
10. In 1986, three staffers at The Austin Chronicle envisioned a festival to showcase Austin’s musical talents. South by Southwest kicked off in 1987 with 700 attendees. 30 years later, South by Southwest (also known as SXSW) lasts 10 days each March and includes film, comedy, gaming, interactive media and other components in addition to attracting more than 2,200 musicians and 28,000 concert goers to venues throughout Austin.
11. Since 1963, Austin has celebrated the birthday of Eeyore, the fictional character from Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore’s Birthday Party generally occurs on the last Saturday in April.
12. Every spring and summer about 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to Austin, giving the city North America’s largest urban bat colony. Every night these bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge.
13. Whole Foods began in Austin in 1978 when 25-year-old college dropout John Mackey and Rene Lawson Hardy borrowed $45,000 to open a small natural foods store. In 2017, Amazon paid $13.4 billion to acquire the upscale grocery chain.
14. Austin is home to America’s only Formula 1 race, the United States Grand Prix. The annual race takes place at the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas course located southwest of the city.
15. Austin has provided the filming location for a number of well-known movies in addition to Dazed and Confused. Boyhood, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Office Space, Miss Congeniality, Kill Bill: Volume 1, and Spy Kids were all filmed in Austin.
16. According to the Nielsen Company, adults in Austin read and contribute to blogs more than those in any other U.S. metropolitan area. Awesome! Maybe I’ll increase my readership to 8!
17. U.S. News & World Report named Austin the best place to live in the U.S. in 2017.
If you’re ever in the ATX, check it out. It’s worth the scooter ride. Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to entertain. If you were, great. If not, that’s ok too. As professed many times before, these are my thoughts and experiences, which, generally, come with a nice little yarn to spin. Remember to get out and enjoy your local taproom. Try something new.