A few years after its first foray into craft brewing, the Chive is back at it with a new beer — this time made in Austin, where the media group is headquartered, by Uncle Billy's Brewery & Smokehouse.
The collaboration beer, called the KCCO Austin-Style Lager, goes on tap at all five local Little Woodrow's locations this week before being distributed more widely to other bars and restaurants, on a draft-only basis. But unlike past Chive beers, the KCCO lager will be available only here (KCCO is short for motto "Keep Calm and Chive On").
Chive Media Group, which owns a popular entertainment website, theCHIVE, as well as a streaming TV channel called Chive TV, among other entities, previously produced three KCCO-branded beers through the Craft Brew Alliance (the company that also produces Kona Brewing, Widmer Brothers and other brands). The demand for those beers was immediate and intense, and though the project didn't last, Chive Media Group has been fielding questions about when they'll be back ever since.
But the Uncle Billy's beer is a completely new recipe, devised after head brewer Stephen Wagner met with some of the people behind the Chive. They weren't sure exactly what style of beer to make to represent the KCCO brand, Wagner said, but had fun figuring it out. They did know the KCCO beer needed to be on the lighter end of the flavor spectrum.
"We had a couple of tasting sessions to try commercial examples of light styles, to get inspiration and see where we wanted to land," he said. "We had a pretty good consensus after two sessions, and the result is right along what they wanted originally: light bodied, low-alcohol, easy drinking, the kind of thing you can drink floating down the river."
Having something as easy-drinking as the lager was important because of the customer base of the Chive that the collaboration beer is ultimately catering toward. Not all of them are craft beer drinkers, but they'll be likely to try the KCCO brew because the Chive is behind it, Wagner said.
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"A lot of times people are afraid of craft because they don’t like IPAs, they don’t want stouts, they don’t want a big 12 percent beer," he said. "So this one is something that steers clear of all of that and is something you can have five or six of and still be OK at the end of the night."
Made with German pilsner malt and German lager yeast, as well as two types of hops, the KCCO Austin-Style Lager "is designed kind of like a pilsner, kind of like a pale lager, nice and crisp and not overly hoppy," Wagner said.
He's hopeful he might be able to lure fans of the Chive to his brewery, at 1530 Barton Springs Rd., once they try it. And depending upon the initial popularity of the beer, it may also go into cans someday with Uncle Billy's branding (though brewed at contract brewing partner Celis in North Austin). In the design of this beer's tap handle and packaging, Uncle Billy is riding an ostrich, the symbol of the Chive. Fans of the Chive will recognize the symbol, as well as the KCCO initials, and know what they signify.
"The Chivery fanbase is strong. It’s powerful. There are a lot of people who are fans that I think will try the beer, and I’m confident they’ll enjoy the beer," Wagner said. "Once they're hooked, I can lure them into my den of deliciousness."