Tag: craft beer

The Wurst Festival in Texas

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times at this year’s 52nd annual Wurstfest, a celebration of all things German.

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

By: Morgan Bridges, Erin Griffin, Erin MacInerney, Jamie Pross

(Click to listen to the Chardon Polka Band perform live in the Stelzenplatz Biergarten at Wurstfest)

(Click to watch a first-person view of the festival)

NEW BRAUNFELS- Sprechen sie fun? Hint: say yes!

Don’t worry, you needn’t speak German to enjoy the revelry of Wurstfest, the 10-day salute to sausage.

But if you really want to delve into the culture that makes up this Oktoberfest- inspired event, knowing a few phrases will help you to fit in among the lederhosen clad festival-goers.

The small town of New Braunfels, Texas welcomes over 100,000 visitors to the festival each November.

Wurstfest Lingo-FinalThe smell of kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), strudel, schnitzel, and other dishes you may have a hard time pronouncing, waft throughout the tents of the festival grounds.

For people like Sammi Guerrero, Wurstfest is an annual family tradition.

“I have been going every year since I was born,” says Guerrero. “My whole family goes at least three days out of the ten days it is held each year.”

Guerrero’s 21-year streak (or 22 if you count the time she was still in her mother’s belly) is nothing compared to her father, Roland, who has been going every year since the early 1970’s.

Roland’s father, Larry Guerrero, has been joining the family for as long as he can remember. Larry may use a walker but the minute Grammy Award-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra start playing, Guerrero can’t help but get up and dance.

“Everyone loves my grandpa and when they see him dancing, they can’t help but join,” says Sammi Guerrero. “I love getting to come with him each year and watch him make people smile.”

One of the Guerrero’s favorite parts of the festival is sharing a pitcher of German lager. Roland recounts when a pitcher of beer was a dollar compared to the now almost 30 dollar pitchers being sold.

While grandpa dances to the polka music, the rest of the family heads to the biergarten, part of the newly renovated Stelzenplatz hall.

With more than 30 craft beers from all over the nation and a few specialty German beers, Wurstfest is known for drinking.

Guests make it a point to collect as many plastic beer pitchers as they can down, and that crashing sound you just heard? It was a pyramid of pitchers stacked up falling to the ground, a common sight among the beer hall.

Despite the vast alcohol consumption, Wurstfest Associations members make sure that the fest is centered around good family fun.

Another important part of the festival are the traditional German clothes, lederhosen worn by men and dirndl’s worn by women.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.05.35 AM

Click here to learn more about the history of Wurstfest


“A lot of people want to be dressed up for the event,” says Paula Kater, owner of the Kuckuck’s Nest in Fredericksburg, Texas. “Every year, sales pick up and people want to get more and more into it. Even the younger generations want to dress up.”

Kater emphasizes that the outfits she dresses her customers in are not costumes, but authentic clothing of her heritage.

“Every one is an original straight from Germany,” says Kater.

Kater was impressed to find such a large German influence in the Texas Hill Country when she arrived here from Ludwigshafen, Germany 15 years ago.

She travels all over the nation providing outfits for people attending Okterberfest events but says Wurstfest has always been her favorite.

“Wurstfest is one of the biggest,” says Kater. “It is the elite of all of them, even the ones up north.”

Lederhosen & Dirndl-Final


(A supplementary video from Wurstfest. How to sing one of the favorite songs, Ein Prosit!)



BYOB: Brew Your Own Beer

By Anna Daugherty, Emma Ledford and Alex Vickery

As the do-it-yourself culture grows, brewing their own beer is becoming a favorite hobby for Austinites.

With over 20 craft breweries, annual beer festivals, two homebrew supply stores, and a crafty reputation, it’s no surprise that Austin has developed a vibrant, supportive and ever-growing homebrewing community.

Local brewers attended a meet up to share recipes and brews. Photo: Alex Vickery

Local brewers attended a meet up to share recipes and brews. Photo: Anna Daugherty

Dave Ebel has been homebrewing for almost eight years. He got started when his friend sold him his homebrew kit for $40. He tried it once and loved it, and has been brewing ever since.

Ebel is a member of the Austin Zealots, a local homebrew club that gets together once a month to swap brews. He said the homebrew community in Austin is “amazing,” “supportive” and a lot of fun.

According to Texas law, homebrewers can’t sell their beer but they can give it away, which means sharing and comparing beers is a central part of Austin’s homebrewing culture.

“Everybody brews their own beer. Everybody has got their own take on it, right? And then you share that with your friends,” Ebel said. “So you learn something from every beer you get, and you realize a flavor you might have not tried before.”

Ebel has seen both the homebrewing and craft brewing cultures grow side by side.

“There’s more and more homebrewers every day, it feels like. Talk to any homebrew supply shop in town and they’ll tell you the same thing,” he said.

Chris Ellison, co-founder of SoCo Homebrew on South Congress Avenue, can testify to that. Before Soco Homebrew, there was just one homebrew supply store, Austin Homebrew Supply, up north. SoCo opened in August 2014 out of necessity to have a shop in South Austin, and the reception has been “fantastic,” Ellison said.

“There are more and more homebrewers every day. We see it all the time. We see new homebrewers come in – people that just start – and they become our repeat customers,” he said.

People can get into homebrewing for a variety of reasons, Ellison said. Some simply want to save money by brewing their own beer, while others are looking for an extra hobby. There are also homebrewers who are very “engineer-oriented” and like to create very specific things, and finally, there are those who use homebrewing as a creative outlet.

Ellison and the other SoCo Homebrew founders created the store to provide a friendly and supportive environment where entry-level and pro homebrewers alike can find the supplies and ingredients they need to help them grow in their craft.

“It is a great community,” Ellison said. “It’s something that you can either start and put very little time into and still yield great results, or if you want to really dedicate yourself to a great hobby, it’s a great hobby to start.”

Homebrewer Christian Holton won the award for "Most Unique" at the 2014 Austin Homebrew Festival. Photo: Alex Vickery

Homebrewer Christian Holton won the award for “Most Unique” at the 2014 Austin Homebrew Festival with his beer Feisty Redhead. Photo: Alex Vickery

The annual Austin Home Brew Festival aims to bring together and celebrate the city’s diverse homebrew culture. Organizer Wendy Salome started the festival in 2009 as a small fundraiser for her children’s independent school, and like the homebrewing community, it has grown each year. This year’s festival took place on Nov. 15, and there were about 250 attendees with a competition that included 17 home brewers and a panel of judges from four local craft breweries.

“We had a huge community of people,” Salome said. “Lots of people who just came through word or mouth, or hearing about it or seeing our flyers.”

Holton's love for beer is permanently reflected on his body with his new hops tattoo. Photo: Alex Vickery

Holton’s love for beer is permanently reflected on his body with his new hops tattoo. Photo: Alex Vickery

Salome, whose husband is a homebrewer, said that one reason Austin’s community is growing is because it fits perfectly with the city’s creative and crafty culture.

“Austin is full of people who want to do things. We have craft brewers, and tinkers, and experimenters, and, you know, it’s a population of curious people,” she said. “You can make a batch and you might like it, but there are so many different aspects of it where you can improve your wear, and I think that’s really what people like.”

Homebrewer Christian Holton loves to experiment by incorporating his love for spicy food. His take on a Belgian Saison, Feisty Redhead, is brewed with bright red hibiscus petals, ginger, cracked peppercorn, coriander and fresh bright red jalapeños from his garden. It won the “Most Unique” award at the Austin Home Brew Festival.

“All the other brewers kept coming back to me,” he said. “People who get what I’m trying to do and enjoy it and come back for more – that’s my trophy.”

Holton describes homebrewing as “part chemistry, part biology, part cooking.” You will not always be successful, he said, but when you get it just right it can be addictive.

“I think everybody can homebrew. It’s really not that hard,” he said. “If you can make a cake, if you can make pancakes, if you can make cookies, you can brew a beer.”

Homebrewing Culture

Infographic: Alex Vickery