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The Saucer's fall fest: The Bermuda Triangle of beer

It's the busiest beer month of the year. Pace yourself, people.

Patrick Beach
Styled after a Bavarian hofbräuhaus, the Draught House Pub and Brewery has dozens of beers on tap. It celebrates 42 years Oct. 23.

Don't you love October in Austin?

It's kind of like March in that there's a big music festival and a lot of people standing on Congress Avenue saying, "I could have sworn Las Manitas was right here," but without the weather dread, the certainty that it's only going to get hotter and stay that way until at least, well, October.

October in these parts also means it's safe to drink beer outside again, which is why Oktoberfests have been popping up all over the place. Austin's biggest annual beer event is not an Oktoberfest, although it's a fest in October. It's the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium's third annual Fall Beer Festival, coming up Saturday in Triangle Park, just around the corner from the Saucer's location at 815 W. 47th St.

They'll have 60-some craft beers on hand from about 34 breweries, and you get a sampler glass and a card good for 12 samples for a mere $12. It runs noon-10 p.m.

Initially they'd hoped to break the thing into two sessions, and they sold a VIP package for $50 that was good from noon to 4 p.m. and a regular $35 ticket from 6-10 p.m. The Saucer's beer guru, Keith Schlabs, said breaking it into two sessions would make it easier on the crowds and the servers; that's how they do it at a number of other festivals, including the Great American in Denver.

But our friends at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had a problem with how things were set up, so now it's 10 hours, $12 for 12 pours for everybody. TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said the code does not allow for what could have been interpreted to be a sort of one-price-for-all-you-care-to-drink kind of deal.

If you bought tickets in advance, the Saucer advises you to e-mail diane@anotherplanet.com. You can get a full refund or, if you bought a $35 ticket, a package that gets you two cards good for 24 pours, glasses, a T-shirt and a full pour. Yes, they will have a tent pouring full beers for $5. That's good news for people who don't like getting a sample and immediately getting in line for the next one. And if you blow through your taster card, you can buy another one for $12.

Here's a little from Saucer spokesman Thomas Whitehead: "There has always been a purchased sampling card, and the card is limited to what is left on it. It is not unlimited. However, the marketing language used, according to the TABC, could be interpreted to imply unlimited. This falls under the ‘Happy Hour' regulations they have. Legally, they cannot sell more than 24 ounces of beer and are limiting the tasting cards to that as well. However, this does not mean that you are now only allowed to consume up to 24 ounces; it only applies to how the Saucer can sell the beer at the festival."

Other details from Whitehead: "The Flying Saucer will be selling special Beer Fest VIP tickets for $25, which will include a 12-beer sampling taster card and glass, early admission to fest 30 minutes prior to general public, reserved VIP seating area, complimentary food and a souvenir Flying Saucer festival pint cup and koozie. Tickets are available for sale online or at the store until 6 p.m. on Friday. There are a limited number of VIP tickets available, and they will not be for sale on the day of the festival."

Yeah, things got a little complicated with the Saucer's plans last week.

But you want to know about the beer. The rarest offering will be Blackbird Black IPA, which Sam Wynne, Schlabs' assistant beer director, brewed at Sierra Nevada in Chico, Calif. That one might only be on tap for the VIP session, as they'll only have two kegs, and Schlabs makes it sound like that alone is reason enough to pay $15 extra. Speaking of Sierra Nevada, they'll also have some selections from the brewery's 30th anniversary series.

Locals will be out in force, including upstart Thirsty Planet, and Schlabs promises a mix of session beers and strong beers.

And rare beers and vintage beers and barrel-aged beers. Dogfish Head is sending Theobroma, new to our market, the rarely seen Burton Baton (brewed only three times a year) and Palo Santo Marron. There's talk of running one DFH brew through a Randall tap, a device you load with hops (or sometimes fruit, or whatever) to give the beer an extra blast of flavor and aroma.

Also look out for "something special from Boulevard's Smokestack series" (oh, sometimes that Schlabs can be a cagey one), as well as Stone, Green Flash, Harpoon, Rogue, you name it. And, of course, food, a great outdoor venue and a bunch of people debating whether the distinctive hop in their brew is Pacific Jade or Green Bullet. Good times, good times.

"These aren't big moneymakers," Schlabs said. We're good to break even. The idea is to really educate a lot of people at one time."

Ticket info and more at www.beerknurd.com/stores/austin/.

(To the tune of "Let It Snow": Well, the weather outside is frozen/And I'm wearing my lederhosen.) We are in the thick of Oktoberfest. Zax downtown has its Thursday night, complete with Smokey Denmark brats. My favorite in-town Oktoberfest is without question North by Northwest's, with good beer brewed on site, kids' activities, dogs, charity fundraising and oompah aplenty. This year's is Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. It's a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas, Pet Pals of Central Texas and Central Texas Dachshund Rescue, so kick in a few bucks at the gate.

The above gigs should warm you up for the main event: Austin Beer Week, Oct. 21-28, brought to you by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. There are things going on every day all over the area, but highlights include a prix fixe dinner at the just-opened Black Star Co-op and a fantastic fall beer dinner at HomeField Grill in Round Rock. Most everything you need to know is at austinbeerweek.com.

Here's arguably the hottest ticket of the whole week: a tasting of every one of St. Arnold's single-batch Divine Reserve series, with brewery founder Brock Wagner on hand at the Ginger Man on Oct. 26. But unless you won the drawing, the date doesn't much matter to you. Going back to Reserve No. 1, a barley wine brewed in the summer of 2005, these are extremely rare beers, so they are limited attendance to just 15 people who had to enter a drawing and have their names drawn. Then they had the privilege of paying $50 per person. The Ginger Man's Corina Guillory said that as of the night before the drawing last week, about 215 people had entered the drawing. With extra credit questions allowing for a single person to enter more than once, there were 650 entries. When that many people are willing to do that, your brewery has buzz.

Another great place to be for Beer Week is the Draught House Pub & Brewery, which will have its 42nd anniversary party in the parking lot from 1-10 p.m. Oct. 23, with a lot of rarities and barrel-aged offerings. Josh Wilson at the DH says draft offerings tentatively will include Widmer Bourbon Brrr, Foxbarrel Briar Rabbit Cider (made with rhubarb), Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken's Ale, Sierra Nevada Charlie, Fred & Ken's Bock, Dogfish Head Bitches Brew, (512) Double Pecan Porter and more. And on cask: Live Oak Pilz, Jester King Commercial Suicide, Southern Star Pro-am Smoked Porter (primed with agave syrup with chipotles in the cask), Bear Republic Racer X, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale and Green Flash IPA. Wow.

Wow. Anything left over from the party will be on during Beer Week, and they've got stuff going on every day of that, too. You might or might not find more info at www.draughthouse.com.

Finally, for breaking beverage news, don't forget to check in at the Liquid Austin blog. Just Google it. Liquid Austin is also on Twitter (@liquidaustin). Followers welcome.

pbeach@statesman.com; 445-3603