Two years ago, when the co-founders of a new Austin brewery were brainstorming the styles of beers they wanted to make, one of them was immediately obvious — the hazy, juicy New England-style IPAs that show no signs of going out of style.
Zack Fuentes and Kris Gray had hoped their brewery, Lake Austin Ales, would set sail sooner than it has, so they could introduce locals to a beer style that at the time was relatively unknown in Texas. Nonetheless, Lake Austin Ales aims to set itself apart now with the two juicy IPAs that will debut on Sept. 4.
"They’re juice bombs. Everything we do is to emphasize the fruitiness and the juiciness of the beer," Gray said.
The former head brewer of Whitestone Brewery in Cedar Park, Gray now serves in the same role at Lake Austin Ales, working with Fuentes and other founding partners, including Jordan Rail, Jeff Davis and Tom Berno, to bring the brewery to life. Fuentes and Rail are also beer industry veterans: Fuentes was a co-founder of Uncle Billy’s Brewery & Smokehouse years ago, and Rail peddled the Left Hand Brewing brand, from Colorado, on a local level for several years.
Founding partner Grady Reynolds, formerly of the now-shuttered Thousand Oaks Brewing, has also been instrumental, by guiding Lake Austin Ales through the financial and legal aspects of getting a brewery up and running (this new brewery is not an off-shoot of Thousand Oaks, as people on Reddit and other sites have speculated).
All co-founders are hoping the allure of a good juicy IPA will draw Austinites — but not to a taproom. Like other fledgling local brand Frontyard Brewing, Lake Austin Ales doesn’t yet have a tasting room of its own. Instead, Gray is brewing out of Celis Brewery’s massive North Austin facility, just as Uncle Billy’s began doing, in a contract brewing arrangement. Uncle Billy’s has beers on tap in the Celis tasting room, though Lake Austin Ales isn’t quite there yet.
"Our focus right now is making the best beer we possibly can and getting people in Austin to recognize our brand," Gray said. "Then we’ll start focusing on having a production facility. We’re kind of just being patient, waiting for the right space; we don’t want to sell ourselves short as far as exactly what we want."
Lake Austin Ales certainly isn’t doing that with the two launch beers. Early word on the juicy IPAs, which will tap first at Easy Tiger next week and then hit other bars around town, is that they’re top-notch representations of the hazy style, capturing all the fruity flavors that hops can lend without any bitterness. You might say they’re like boozy, fresh-squeezed pineapple juice. Or mango juice. Or maybe both rolled into one.
That’s in large part because Gray has stocked them full of hops.The Juicy IPA, at 6.5 percent ABV, was double dry-hopped with more than 250 lbs. of tropical hop blends.The Juicy Double IPA, at 7.5 percent ABV, features even more hops: a total of 350 lbs. of citrusy hops and lupulin powder. This one is less tropical, according to the brewery; instead, the beer bursts with notes of grapefruit and Meyer lemon.
Both beers will be only on tap for now, but Lake Austin Ales plans to introduce four-packs of 16 oz. cans in early October. The tallboy cans, Grey said, are traditional for the New England-style IPA, rather than the typical 12 oz. size.
The designs for the cans are ready to go, prepared by Davis and Berno after a year of the co-founders planning out what they wanted the brand to look like. They took their time because having an eye-catching design is key in an industry with so many options, Grey said. So is having a memorable name, and Lake Austin epitomizes what people love so much about Texas’ capital city.
"It’s the best example of the Austin lifestyle, the love of the outdoors, the wildlife," he said.
Get a first taste of Lake Austin Ales at the launch party at Easy Tiger on Sept. 4. The brewery will also have the two IPAs on draft at parties at Lavaca Street Bar on South Lamar on Sept. 5 and at Banger’s on Sept. 6. Easy Tiger’s event kicks off at 5 p.m., when you can meet Grey and the other brewery founders.
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