Paige Latham Didora
a Fermentation Cycle with Bitch Beer and co.
The minute after I decided to book a flight to Austin I knew I wanted to connect with the ladies of Bitch Beer. If you have never looked into their organization, Bitch Beer is an outstanding group of women who promote beer knowledge among female drinkers and the beer community in general. They are primarily based out of Austin and are frequently involved in education, events, tasting, and the like.
“Bitch Beer” is a play on the term for stereotypical beers that some say appeal to women – beers that taste like Kool-Aid and seriously underestimate the complexity of the female palate. When you overhear these women discussing alpha acids as though it is second nature, you’ll love ’em as much as I do.
Caroline Wallace and Sarah Wood were kind enough to invite me to a phenomenal bike pub crawl which is appropriately called Fermentation Cycle.
After departing the Capitol, I strolled over to meet up with Fermentation Cycle at Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, the first stop of the crawl. Admittedly, my first drink was actually coffee after miles of walking and my early flight. That’s acceptable at Brew & Brew, though, which is known not just for its beer but for its coffee, as well.
The pub crawl was featuring Real Ale, and in fact their entire line-up was being served between the three bars we would visit throughout the evening. As if I wasn’t excited enough to be on vacation with Bitch Beer drinking new beer and meeting fellow beer lovers, I was also anxious to try more Real Ale — the brewery that is responsible for one third of the vision behind the upcoming Blakkr collaboration beer along with Surly and Three Floyds.
The Wright Bros. Brew & Brew is tucked into a building in a walkable spot within an industrial area east of downtown. Upon entrance it seems like a coffee bar, but on the back wall of the open space is a helpful grid of available taps:
Caroline and I soon found each other and it was great to see a familiar unfamiliar face. We both ordered Real Ale – she tried the Codex and I had the Rio Blanco Pale Ale.
The Codex, part of the Mysterium Verum series, was a potent sour that made us all thirsty for more! From Real Ale: “We utilize wild yeasts, some of them indigenous to the brewery, and bacteria to produce acidity and complex flavors in these rare and unique beers. We will continue to make these beers as we look forward to introducing many more in the future.”
Wright Bros Brew & Brew has 38 taps with more in the works. They often feature rare and sought-after beers and consistently present local products with a passion. At not even one year old, they are offering an impressive line-up within the Texas market.
After two rounds we were off to the next stop. It felt as though we were among Austin’s friendliest beer Royalty – I met several people functioning in critical roles within the Austin beer scene, including Habeab Kurdi, beer buyer at Hi Hat (our last stop) and Aaron Chamberlain, co-founder and editor of the Austin Beer Guide, among several others!
This was the second Fermentation Cycle and the event is growing. The first adventure featured Live Oak brewing. I tasted the Live Oak Primus before we left Brew & Brew, a remarkable weizenbock with characteristic esters and a pleasantly roasty backdrop.
Craft Pride was our next stop, located in a neighborhood known as Rainey Street. In contrast to many of the frat-boy bars of the area, Craft Pride is a gem that encompasses a bottle shop with knowledgeable staff and excellent selections.
The place feels very established, but shockingly, this is another beer bar in its infancy at less than one year old. The huge success of Craft Pride – with 54 taps of ALL TEXAS beer! – is solid evidence that Austin supports craft.
I mingled with a glass of Phoenixx Double Extra Special Bitter and headed over to the bottle shop.
At 7.2%, the British malts are showcased within the Phoenixx, but the American hops really take over. Although the balance is skewed, it is a wonderful seasonal beer that I would definitely drink again.
Drinkable it was. Several in our group had more than one.
It seems to me that Texas has moved beyond the IPA craze somewhat, and while drinkers still have a passion for trendy imperial stouts and barleywines, farmhouses and saisons are where it’s at in this market.
We headed out to our last stop, and despite this Minnesotan’s attempt at a photo with the lovely Austin skyline in the background, the bike reflectors thwarted me. Just imagine it, if you will.
Our path took us back east to enjoy Hi Hat and their Real Ale selections, where I chose the California Common on cask. Not one to pass on this often-overlooked American style, it was my first cask of the night and it was fantastic.
image credit: Bitch Beer
I got to chat with owner Steve Schrader who is very passionate about Fermentation Cycle. He is hoping that the event continues and that more cyclists get involved. Steve is also passionate about the neighborhood and about music and has several events planned during South by Southwest.
Habeab Kurdi, bar manager and beer buyer, was also a major supporter and event coordinator. An informed drinker and talented journalist, Habeab is like my Texan beer counterpart. He doesn’t consider himself a snob, but like me wears the “geek” badge proudly. He enjoys educating those that are new to the beer world.
Our evening came to a close with some fantastic dessert, more good conversation, and a genuine warmth despite the record low temps. It was a huge privilege to take part in the second Fermentation Cycle and I see more Austin pub crawls in my future.
Many, many thanks to Bitch Beer, Brew & Brew, Craft Pride, Hi Hat, and everyone mentioned in this post. Thanks for the attitude of hospitality and for letting me take pictures obnoxiously.