These Bitches Know Their Brew
Marketed toward women as a low-calorie, and by definition tasteless, alternative to real beer, a “bitch beer” is enough to make a craft beer connoisseur shudder.
Starkly sexist, it’s offensive to the rising ranks of female craft brew lovers who can just as easily throw back a (512) Double Pecan Porter as punch you in the face for ordering them a Michelob Ultra. Luckily, the ladies of the popular blog BitchBeer.org order their own drinks, and since 2012, have been hard at work dispelling the perception that women don’t know great beer.
With the release of their first book Austin Beer: Capital City History on Tap, the women of Bitch Beer effectively reclaim the much-maligned term, flipping the notion on its frothy head. A collaboration between Holly Aker, Arianna Auber, Wendy Cawthon, Shaun Martin, Kat McCullough, Caroline Wallace, and Sarah Wood, the heavily researched book follows the Austin brew scene from the first brewery opening in 1860 to the emerging brewpubs of 2013.
Started in 1860 by Johann “Jean” Schneider, Austin’s first brewery operated out of the back of Kirchberg’s Saloon on Congress Avenue. Fast-forward 150 years and the Schneider beer vault, originally under the family homestead at Live Oak and Guadalupe (now Second Street), is currently an underground dining room at La Condesa. The boozy history lesson chronicles the Austin beer scene pre- and post-prohibition as well as its subsequent “craft beer renaissance” beginning with Celis Brewery and its eponymous witbier, Celis White. Wholly inclusive, the history of homebrewing in Austin is also featured along with the inception of Austin’s most beloved brewpubs, chockfull of anecdotes and amusing tidbits. For example, Draught House was once Draught Horse. The name change resulted from changes in ownership and the wishes of the now dearly departed former owner. Austin Beer also looks to the future exploring what may soon be in the works for Austin craft beer. Not to be confused with member-owned Black Star Co-op, the first worker-owned brewery in Texas, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, may soon join the ranks of Austin craft beer.
Divided into eight chapters, each section is coupled with a suggested local brew. For chapter one, an overview of Austin’s first breweries, the recommended pairing is a Live Oak Hefeweizen. A later chapter on emerging breweries suggests an ABGB Big Mama Red. There’s also a read-along drinking game. My favorite rule, “drink when you find a photo of a bearded man,” should be adhered to with extreme caution. Yes, it’s a bit cutesy at times, but it’s also a comprehensive overview of the history and culture of craft beer in Austin. My one, albeit small, issue with the book is the inordinate amount of hashtags – #distracting.
The book concludes with a glossary of beer terms; a list of breweries, brewpubs, craft beer bars, and bottle shops; and a list of cities worthy of a beer-soaked day trip, all within 90 miles of Austin. Austin Beer: Capital City History on Tap is a worthwhile read for both beer aficionados and local lore junkies. Just remember, crack this one open while fully hydrated.
Austin Beer: Capital City History on Tap
American Palate: A Division of the History Press, 223 pp., $19.99 (paperback)
Holly Aker, Shaun Martin, and Caroline Wallace from BitchBeer will sign books and sit on a Texas Book Festival 2013 panel discussion (Saturday, Oct. 26, 4:15-5:15pm) at the Texas Capitol, Capitol Auditorium Rm. E2.010. Keep up with all of our Texas Book Festival coverage at austinchronicle.com/texas-book-festival.