Theology and Beer: Lazarus Brewing Co.

Lazarus Brewing Co. is Spreading the Gospel of Beer

I normally steer clear of religion. A youth spent raised in the Church of Christ and attending a Christian high school sometimes has that effect. However, Lazarus Brewing Co. has a theology that I can get behind. The church of beer. Can I get an Amen! Kneel and give thanks to our Lager. Now stand up. You look silly, and this is a tap room. One of the nicer tap rooms I’ve ever been in I might add. Lazarus Brewing Co. really went all out to create atmosphere. Everything tells a story. The glassware, the names of the beer, the massive stain glass mural depicting the anointing of Jesus by Mary Magdalene. It’s the subtle touches that really make the space.

Stained glass mural depicting Mary Magdalene and Jesus at Lazarus Brewing Co.

I was meeting a small group of people for a brewery crawl and spotted an early bird at the bar. He of course had a beer, but he was also munching on Instagram worthy tacos if I’d ever seen them. Lazarus Brewing Co. is apparently well known for their fish tacos. Another subtle nod to the religious theme? I’d like to assume so.  I ordered a pint of 40 Days & 40 Nights, the IPA on tap. It came in a Stange glass with the brewery’s logo and the words “Share Life” emblazoned on it. The little details are everywhere. The hop aroma was a little light for an IPA, but it was thirst quenching and packed with flavor. An excellent choice for my first ever beer from them.

40 Days & 40 Nights IPA from Lazarus Brewing Co.

The Shackleton EPB was next on my “to drink” list. I’ve always been a fan of bitters, and this one is truly excellent. Hoppy, but not nearly as much as an IPA, and a strong malt backbone. Barely two beers in and I’m already a big fan of Lazarus. I wanted to sample everything, and like the cheapskate I am, I bummed sips from my friends. Naturally, some were better than others, but all at the very least were decent. I enjoyed the Shackleton so much I ordered up a second pint.

Clearly not every beer has a name with allusions to a bible story, but each beer’s name has a story behind it. Shackleton was named after Earnest Shackleton, who was a polar explorer that led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, and one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. One Eye Rye is lovingly named after a brewer’s girlfriend’s rescue dog. A one-eyed, cranky mutt who is missed dearly. With every purchase of this spicy brew, a 50-cent donation is made to Hard Luck Hounds.

Lazarus Brewing Co. Shackleton EPB

Really the only thing I can nitpick about also happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves in a brewery. No menu boards. You must decide what you want when you get to the front of the line with a printed paper menu. I guess it makes sense when they change their offerings so frequently. Plus, it would get in the way of all the fancy glassware. However, there were spots on the wall that could have accommodated at least a small board. It’s one of my things, okay!

Lazarus Brewing Co. did a nice spin on the crowdfunding craze. They created a “Patron Saint” program. For a donation of $1,000, you are gifted with a handblown goblet that is truly a work of art. Oh, did I forget to mention that you also get free beer for life in said goblet? They’ll even keep it at the brewery for you. The only caveat being that you’re limited to one beer or other beverage per day. Damn TABC regulations. Some beers at Lazarus top out at over 10% ABV, so I say get your money’s worth. On the shelf behind the bar there are several sippy cups mixed in among the artfully crafted goblet. A sticky note with a name and frowny face tells a woeful tale. Shattering a grand has got to sting a bit.

The bar and taps at Lazarus Brewing Company

Seating is abundant at Lazarus Brewing Co. inside and out. Bar stools, high tables, and picnic tables are spaced perfectly and could accommodate almost every churchgoer. If you like the industrial feel of a brewery in a non-descript warehouse, then you should look elsewhere.  Lazarus has style and is difficult to miss. If it seems like I’m gushing, it’s because I am. Other breweries should take note. This is how you build a brand.

Another view of Lazarus Brewing Co. tables

Entrance to the Lazarus Brewing Co taproom from the outside patio

Lazarus Brewing Co. beer glass goblet

Tim Bullock: St. Elmo Brewing Co. [Interview]

I was having such a good time with my friends at St. Elmo’s Brewing Co. that it took me a second to realize who the man standing beside our table was. It finally dawned on me that is was Tim Bullock, one of the owners who had graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the brewery and beer I was enjoying so much. It was a typical Winter day in Austin, Texas. So it was 75 degrees and gorgeous out on St. Elmo’s spacious, picnic table filled patio area. Tim and I had to go inside to find a quiet spot.

“Get you a beer?” Tim asked as he was already heading behind the bar. Why yes, I think I’ll have a beer. After pouring me a snifter of Amarillo, their newly released American IPA, Tim spilled his guts about his journey to a guy he’d only met once for 10 seconds and shared three emails with.

Owners St Elmo Brewing Co

TC: How does St. Elmo’s stand out in the increasingly saturated Austin beer scene?

TB: I don’t think Austin is saturated at all. If you compare it to Portland, which is a similar size, they have nearly double the amount of breweries Austin does. There is a long way to go before we even get close to too many breweries here. With St. Elmo’s, my partner Bryan and I really wanted it to be the local neighborhood brewery. We wanted to serve the community right around our area. There aren’t a lot breweries south of downtown that you can walk to, grab a great beer, have a meal, and just relax at. We got incredibly lucky with the space. We looked at probably less than 10 locations before we decided on this location.

TC: You and Bryan both used to be at Austin Beer Works. What made you make the leap from working at an already established, well liked brewery to opening your own?

TB: When I met Bryan, it was clear that we were similar in that we both wanted to acquire skills. We weren’t just working a job. He was a brewer and I was working the bar area in the front of the house. We both learned a lot in our time at ABW, but it got to the point where we wanted to branch out creatively and do our own thing. He and I working together seemed like a natural partnership.

St Elmo Brewing Co. Amarillo

TC: How did you decide on the styles of beers you were going to serve? Is there a fully vetted creative process, or do you basically brew what you like?

TB: More we brew what we like. The recipes are very dialed in for sure, but there’s no official process we go through. Bryan is one of the few brewers I know that still homebrews. Not many people want to put in a 10-hour day then go home and do what they just did all day for fun. That’s really where most of or recipes come from is his home brew batches. That’s why I think we we’re able to produce such quality recipes.

TC: So what does St. Elmo’s look like 5 years from now? Nationwide distribution or are you content with your slice of Austin?

TB: I think we’re content with our slice of Austin. Like I said before, we really want to be your neighborhood brewery, serving the community around us. Of course, we’ll grow and expand more into local markets. You can expect to see us at more taps around Austin, but it isn’t our primary goal.

Beer Sign

As Tim and I were talking, the line behind the bar kept getting longer and longer as several large groups showed up all at once. No doubt my tweet that Fine Pint was there brought everyone out in droves. That, or the amazing beer. 50/50 really. Tim excused himself to help behind the bar, but not before introducing me to his partner, Bryan Winslow, who was cleaning kegs on the brewery floor. Bryan was also nice enough to chat with me for a bit.

TC: I asked Tim this same question, but what is your process for coming up with new beer recipes?

BW: I like to experiment, but I really focus on recipes that hit styles on the nose. I worked hard to develop our Kolsch recipe. Recipes change over time of course, but we like to provide the same, or as close to the same beer as we came every time.

TC: So a lot of effort goes into reproducing recipes each time.

BW: Yeah absolutely. We like to try new hops that are in season, and I’m constantly tweaking recipes, but consistency is key.

St. Elmo’s Brewing Co. is a damn fine addition to the Austin brewery scene. Tim and Bryan really hit the nail on the head with what they set out to accomplish. Great beer, in a great space, with an amazing food truck, Soursop, permanently parked out back. If you haven’t been out yet, you need to fix that, and quick. If you’re lucky, Bryan might even give you a sample of the new kettle soured raspberry tart he’s working on.

St. Elmo Brewing Co. Patrons

Beyond the Brewery: Blue Owl Brewing

Blue Owl Brewing is a rising star in the Austin craft beer scene. Located on Cesar Chavez in the trendy East side, this brewery specializes in sour mash beer. A bold choice given that Jester King, which is also located in Austin, was well established as one of the best producers of sour beer before Blue Owl opened their doors. They do an excellent job though. They aren’t competing with Jester King though. They’re doing their own thing and doing it well. Most of their beer is fermented in bright, shiny stainless steel vessels instead of barrel aged. There are definitely barrels stacked against the wall, but they’re more for special releases and are the exception instead of the rule. They realize that if they’re on the East side of Austin, the hipsters wont stand for it if there isn’t some sort of barrel program.

blue-owl-brewing-pint-glass

Parking anywhere on the East side of Austin is always challenging no matter where you’re going. The tap room is a touch on the small side and can be a bit of a mad house during peak hours. Ahhhhh, B.O. and sour beer, a match made in heaven. While their beer is excellent and deserves (and will get) much more attention from me in the future, that isn’t the point of this post. Instead, I wanted to showcase the special events that Blue Owl Brewing puts on. Their Facebook page is filled with tons of activities you can purchase tickets for. My girlfriend and I participated in a class where we learned how to make concrete planters. A $30 ticket got us four samples from the taproom, a pint glass to keep, and all the materials to make our very own concrete planter for succulents. Succulents sold separately.

concrete-planter-mold

The class took place in the brewery itself. While a tour wasn’t exactly included, it was very cool to sit next to pallets of cans and stacks of grain while trying to cut out cardboard and duct tape it together into a mold that wouldn’t spill concrete all over the table. Once that part was done, it was pretty simple to mix together the concrete, pour it into the mold and use a small cup to make the spot for the plant. Yes, it was a very simple project, but everything is enhanced by beer. I give their Little Boss sour session wheat top marks.

concrete planter

Blue Owl Brewing offers much more than planter making classes. They craft their own syrups as additions to their beer and have release parties you can attend, they offer classes in terrarium making, and sponsor Six Pack Showdowns, a panel that discusses all topics beer related. Blue Owl Brewing events make for a date your girlfriend will love you for, plus beer. What more could you really want? Maybe you’ll get lucky and she’ll touch your penis. For info on upcoming events, be sure to check out their Facebook page.

inside mash tun Blue Owl Brewing tee shirts blue owl brewing tanks