Liquid Assets

Little Brewery, Big Flavors

Among the many things to love about Austin is the fact that this has to be one of the best places around for beer lovers. Austin is home to several stellar brew pubs, dozens of incredible bars with huge banks of beers and ales on tap, the glorious Live Oak Brewing Company and, best of all for us home drinkers, a truly first class bottler: Independence Brewing Company.Ê

Located south of Ben White and east of I-35, the Independence Brewery is in an industrial area where the customer foot traffic won't be too high, but the real estate is pretty cheap. The operation is the brainchild of Amy Cartwright, the president, and her husband, Rob, nine-year veteran and award-winning brewer from the Copper Tank. Their goal was to have a great, transportable beer. We all have our own favorite bar beers (mine is the yummy Smithwick's Ale), but the Cartwrights wanted to make a great bottled beer so the nonfanatics – i.e., the people who don't make their own beer or buy it by the keg – could have something special at home that hasn't spent half of its life sitting in a 125-degree warehouse.

Their two main brews are the Independence Pale Ale and the Bootlegger Brown Ale. Both ales have the kind of smooth drinkability that can lead to multiple-bottle evenings, so be forewarned. The Pale Ale has rich bubbles and a creamy mouthfeel along with just enough clean hoppiness to leave a long-lasting flavor. The Bootlegger Brown Ale tastes like someone snuck some Bosco into the mix, it's so chocolaty (don't worry, they come by the flavor naturally by the way they roast the malt). Fans of Scottish ales will like this, though the Independence version is even richer, and, at 6% alcohol, it's every bit as heady.

Wheat beers are not big sellers in Austin. I've never understood why; they are perfect for our weather. Just serve ice-cold and float the thinnest possible slice of lemon on top. The Independence Freestyle Wheat Beer is delicious, a little sweeter and less hoppy than some, which may make it easier on the American palate. Buy some as soon as it gets hot and just try to stop after one or two bottles. They also have made a tribute beer to their dog, Jasper, called Jasperilla Old Ale. It's not always available, and I haven't had the opportunity to try it. If you find some, drink with caution: It's more than 9% alcohol!

Independence ales and beer are available on tap around town and by the six-pack at the Central Markets, Whole Foods, most of the Twins, and several others. Prices run around $7 for a six-pack.

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Independence Brewing Company

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