For the mild months of spring, brewers tend to make crisp pilsners and bright wheat beers — but this year, some Austin brewers seem to be having a little fun by producing styles somewhat off the beaten path. Here's a look at a handful of new or recently released beers that are straight-up weird and thus perfect for Austin.
Blue Owl Brewing Tropical Brut Ale
This East Austin brewery has found a niche producing sour twists on common styles like IPAs and oatmeal stouts. But for Blue Owl's latest can release, owner Jeff Young drew inspiration from a popular mixed drink: the mimosa. Creating the light beer "meant combining elements of champagne (dry or 'brut' and effervescent) with tropical fruits," he says. "The passion fruit gives tart and tangy character while the pink guava gives a very distinct funky tropical element."
What makes it weird: No, not the tropical fruits. Young noticed in the course of developing the Tropical Brut that it didn't really need the bitter influence of hops — so the Blue Owl brewing team left them out. The ale also has higher levels of carbonation. The result of all these elements, he says, is "not exactly a beer as we know it, but something new and unique."
Uncle Billy's Barrel Aged Abbaye de Gemblouxprob
During South by Southwest, the Barton Springs brewery released a collaborative beer with a Belgian brewer, Antoine Malingret, that they called an abbey lager. Uncle Billy's head brewer Stephen Wagner saved some of it to add to bourbon barrels for seven weeks, and it's now on tap as the current barrel-aged offering.
What makes it weird: Full-bodied with a clear bourbon nose, the brew has a strikingly dry finish thanks to the pilsner yeast that was used in place of traditional Belgian yeast. (Abbey beers are produced in the styles that Belgian Trappist monks have mastered, but they aren't actually made in a monastery. They also aren't typically produced with pilsner yeast.)
"It's a hybrid, an ale brewed with a lager yeast," general manager Brandon Doss says. "By using that pilsner yeast, you get that nice, clean finish of a lager but with the fruity esters of a Belgian tripel."
Thirsty Planet Cosmic Butterfly Kettle Sour
It's not the first year that Thirsty Planet has produced this Berliner Weisse-style beer, as it was a small-batch option in its pilot program, the Special Brewskis, last spring. But it's the first of those to be bottled.
What makes it weird: Well, it's purple — the bright, vivid purple of a Lisa Frank design. The Cosmic Butterfly features butterfly pea flower, which under specific circumstances turns liquid blue, purple or pink and has thus become a favorite ingredient for bartenders. The exotic flower is more than just a nifty parlor trick, however, lending pleasant tea notes to the lightly tart and lemony brew.
Austin Beerworks Heisenberg
The spring seasonal served in Granny Smith apple-colored cans is in the classic style of a kristallweizen, or what you might think of as a filtered hefeweizen. Austin Beerworks uses a specialized centrifuge to filter out the yeast in the finished product to give Heisenberg “a lighter body and cleaner finish while keeping all the wonderful banana and clove flavors hefeweizens are famous for,” brewery co-founder Michael Graham says.
What makes it weird: True, the kristallweizen is technically a traditional German style. But it's just not common across the pond, even though the pilsner-like approach means it's tailor-made for an Austin spring.
The Brewer's Table Omakase
From the beginning, the East Austin brewpub has exclusively turned out lagers that often have unusual culinary additions, such as beets and roasted sweet potatoes. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that a recent collaboration with Chicago's Band of Bohemia, the first Michelin-starred brewpub, has put the always innovating Brewer's Table on this list.
What makes it weird: Omakase is a riff on a maibock (the less malty, drier cousin to the robust bock) with Carolina gold rice and smoked and unsmoked shiitake and blue oyster mushrooms. The finished lager "is a truly unique beer with notes of orange Creamsicle and wisps of earthy smoke," according to the brewery. That's a flavor combination hard to fathom, so you'll just have to try it for yourself.
Oddwood Ales' Woodman Evergreen Saison
Before the cozy brewery opened on Manor Road last year, Oddwood co-owner Taylor Ziebarth grew the Oddwood brand at Adelbert's with a well-regarded saison. He's since expanded the roster of beers to include a mix of both foeder-fermented funky brews and clean, stainless steel-fermented styles like IPAs, but you can bet any saison specifically is going to be a good one.
What makes it weird: Inspired by Oddwood's love of wood — as apparent through those foeders, as well as a taproom built with 10 different types of wood — the Woodman Evergreen Saison features juniper berries, spruce tips, cedar planks and Citra hops. Other than the hops, its ingredients make it sound more like a gin than a beer, right? Expect it to taste and smell like a tree.