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New Austin beer launches with goal of inspiring voter engagement

Arianna Auber
Independence Brewing's latest summer beer, Freak Power, is a hefeweizen made with blood oranges. The beer is part of the brewery's initiative to get people to vote in upcoming elections. [Contributed by Julia Keim]

Another Austin brewery is getting political with the launch of a new summer beer.

Circle Brewing created the Beto Pale Ale last year and redesigned the cans of the Fanny Pack Kolsch this year to show rainbow-colored support for LGBTQ rights. Friends & Allies brewed up a peach saison called ImPeach in 2017 as a not-so-subtle jab at President Donald Trump. And this month, Independence Brewing debuts Freak Power, a blood-orange hefeweizen that takes its name from writer Hunter S. Thompson's campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, a few decades ago.

"With Freak Power, we sought to create something that ignites enthusiasm the way Hunter S. Thompson did back in 1970,” Independence's president and co-founder Amy Cartwright said in a news release.

Thompson led an unconventional, ultimately unsuccessful campaign for office propelled by a "Freak Power" movement that he began, hoping to shake up the status quo in the mountain town of Aspen where he lived for decades. Though he lost to the incumbent by 468 votes, his legacy clearly lingers.

Freak Power is just one of the ways Independence intends "to help spread political awareness and civic engagement among eligible voters," according to the release. As the beer rolls out, brewery employees will be deputized as volunteer voters registrars for Travis County, and the Southeast Austin brewery also will host voter registration drives. Texas state elections are on Nov. 5 this year; in 2020, another presidential election will be held.

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But Freak Power isn't just a boozy tool for inspiring change — it's also a tasty summer beer, a classic hefeweizen "hit with an unforgettable kick," head brewer Brannon Radicke said in the news release.

He's not usually a fan of the hefeweizen, a German-style wheat beer that he finds can be too sweet and too strong on the banana notes. But another Independence employee, Calibur Clarke, talked him into trying out a pilot batch last year using blood oranges. (Bananas are not actually used in the making of hefeweizens; that flavor is a product of the yeast used.) The citrus twist made all the difference in changing Radicke's mind, at least for this beer.

"The tanginess of the citrus cuts a little bit of that sweetness and dries out the finish," he said in the news release. "Plus, the fruitiness of the blood oranges pairs nicely with the style’s signature clove and banana esters.”

Look for the 5.4 percent ABV brew in six-pack cans — with a design that nods to Independence's goal of inspiring people to do their civic duty — now through September. For more information, visit