Fantastic Fest 2011 Guide: How To Drink Like an Austinite
Every year the Alamo Drafthouse serves up Fantastic Fest film programming to satisfy a diverse and eclectic range of tastes amongst festivalgoers, and this year is no exception over eight days and nights. Similarly, visitors to Austin for the festival can experience an equally diverse selection of adult libations to satisfy any palate.
This year's Fantastic Fest beer sponsor is Shiner Beers from the Spoetzl Brewery, which was founded about 100 years ago in Shiner, Texas. Shiner is best known for their flagship brew, Shiner Bock, which makes up over 80 percent of the brewery's sales. In addition, Central Texas has experienced a welcome growth of local craft breweries. Find out what's new on tap at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar as well as nearby watering holes, and what you don't want to miss after the jump.
Central Texas breweries have tripled in recent years. Some of the newest breweries in production include Jester King Craft Brewery, Circle Brewing Company, Austin Beerworks Company, Twisted X Brewing Company, and Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling. Local favorite Real Ale Brewing, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, is now the largest craft brewery in Texas with construction underway for more production, bottling, and storage capacity. While Fantastic Fest 2011 is in full force, local craft brewers will be drawing their own crowds at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival in Austin on Saturday, September 24.
Find out what's on tap at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. For local beers that you can't get out of state and don't want to miss, I recommend:
- (512) Pecan Porter -- Nearly black in color, this full body and malty sweetness porter is balanced with subtle pecan aroma and flavor from locally grown organic pecans.
- Jester King/Mikkeller "Drink'in the Sunbelt" -- A hoppy wheat beer created by Jester King in collaboration with renowned gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller.
- Live Oak Oaktoberfest -- This seasonal Octoberfest boasts a rich maltiness and Bavarian character and welcomes in the Texas fall weather.
- Real Ale Fireman's #4 -- This refreshing blonde ale is my summer staple thirst quencher, nicely balanced with a hint of citrus notes.
For folks who enjoy beer but have dietary issues, the Alamo Drafthouse now features gluten-free beer at all locations.
So how can you find great local beer in Austin? Arm yourself with information from Taplister as well the Austin Beer Guide. This collaborative effort between Beertown Austin and Craft Austin features information on craft breweries in Central Texas and where to find it -- unlike other states, in Texas it is illegal for the breweries themselves to promote their retail locations. The Austin Beer Guide maps are extremely useful to anyone not familiar with downtown and south Austin.
The Highball is the closest bar to Alamo South Lamar and the best bet for beer and drinks between screenings. This diner and bar features eight lanes of bowling, seven different themed karaoke rooms, and a ballroom event space that will be the home of Fantastic Arcade.
Internationally renowned mixologist Bill Norris joined the Alamo and Highball team in July as their beverage director to help develop the Alamo's liquor program -- read Alamo Drafthouse's full announcement here. With Bill in the mix, rest assured that there will be plenty of new concoctions while keeping the beer selection fresh and exciting.
The Highball features 12 local taps and four rotating taps, offering staff's personal favorites as well as seasonals.
Want to venture out further for a drink? Here are my recommendations on where you can find a good selection within a short distance by foot, bus or cab:
Downtown/North of the River
- 24 Diner (600 N. Lamar) -- Comfort food with rotating taps and Texas-centric cocktails. For the Amarillo Lemonade features Texas vodka Tito's infused with Amarillo & Simcoe Hops, Canton ginger Liqueur, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
- Austin Tavern (922 West 12th at N. Lamar) -- This local sports bar has come a long way from my college days when Shiner Bock was the only beer served that was not a macro American lager. The Tavern now features "Home" selections from the U.S. East and West coasts and "Away" from British and European breweries.
- Cedar Door (201 Brazos) -- Known for its Mexican martinis (non-frozen margaritas in a big cocktail shaker with olives), but they limit folks to two for a very good reason.
- Dog and Duck (406 West 17th) -- A longer cab ride from South Lamar but worth the trip for the British fare. Dog and Duck might have opened as a British pub, but it has evolved into something more. It now offers over 42 beer taps of various Texas, American, and international brews. Traditional fare includes fish and chips, bubbles and squeak, and bangers and mash.
- The Ginger Man Austin (301 Lavaca) -- My personal favorite. I enjoy relaxing on the patio for conversation and a pint of Houston microbrew Saint Arnold Elissa IPA served from an old fashioned beer engine.
- Haddingtons (601 West 6th) -- Describes itself as an "American Tavern" with traditional American cuisine, but be forewarned that the food menu is moderate to high-priced. There are two distinct bars and four distinct dining areas, each with its own unique character and feel. The beer selection features more prestigious beers than your typical beer menu.
- Kung Fu Saloon (510 Rio Grande) -- Features a specialty Sake bomb menu. Banzaaii!!
- Opal Divine's Freehouse (700 West 6th) -- Spacious deckspace to enjoy a beer or spicy Divine Mary.
- Violet Crown Cinema (434 West 2nd) -- Features a lounge that offers happy hour from 4-7 pm each day, with $3 draft pints, $5 glasses of house wine and a $5 house margarita. This small but lovely bar offers nothing but Texas beers on draft, although you can select more "traditional" macros in bottle including Pabst Blue Ribbon.
- Whole Foods Market's Bar Lamar (525 N. Lamar) -- Where else can you drink in a grocery store? Bar Lamar offers wine and beer on tap. Serving wine on tap is a sustainable practice which not only keeps wine fresh but helps reduce waste. Cheese plates and dessert flights are available, paired to complement the beer and wine selections.
Barton Springs Road
- Baby A's (1628 Barton Springs Rd) -- Be wary of the infamous Purple Margarita, rumoured to contain 190-proof Everclear.
- Chuy's (1728 Barton Springs Rd) -- Home of the "swirl" margarita.
- Uncle Billy's Brew & Que (1530 Barton Springs Rd) -- Handcrafted and award-winning brews just a few blocks away from the Drafthouse. Hop heads should try the Bride of Zombie.
- Zax's Restaurant and Bar (312 Barton Springs Rd) -- Pint nights on Wednesdays where you get to keep the glass.
- Aviary Decor (2110 S. Lamar) -- This decor shop by day is a relaxing lounge by night, featuring wines and beer along with movies on a big screen.
- Black Sheep Lodge (2108 S. Lamar) -- Monday is Keep Austin Local! day with Texas pints and liquors, including Tito's Vodka and Deep Eddy Sweet Vodka.
- Maudie's (1212 S. Lamar) -- Within stumbling distance of Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, how can you go wrong with a margarita or Mexican beer?
- Red's Porch (3508 S. Lamar) -- Great comfort food with tasty cocktails and great craft beers. Check out their happy hour specials.
My staple advice -- avoid Sixth Street unless you are there for a screening at the Ritz. If you do venture into the belly of the beast, stop by Lovejoy's Taproom and Brewery for one of their house brews.
Remember that moderation is the best cure for a hangover. As with any film festival and the socializing that accompanies it -- it's a marathon, not a sprint! Just kindly step over me if I've hit the wall from not enough sleep and too many hours in the theater.
Any recommendations from our fellow Austinites or seasoned Fantastic Fest visitors? Leave a comment and we'll add it to the guide.
[Photo Credits: "Red's Porch Taps", courtesy of Davis Tucker; "Head Brewers: Erik Ogershok of Real Ale Brewing Company and Brian Peters of Uncle Billy's Brew & Que", by Debbie Cerda]