Texas Craft Brewers Festival, Lager Jam, Texas Lambic Fest, East Side Cool Party, East West Beer Fest
Music City Austin might be world famous for SXSW and ACL festivals but there are plenty of events to draw visitors and locals into the ATX beer scene too. As the number and diversity of breweries in the greater Austin area has grown, so has the scope and variety of beer festivals and events in and around the city, with breweries collaborating to showcase styles of beer or raise money for charity.
There’s nothing quite like the joy of discovering a really cool event taking place at your destination by surprise, but a bit of planning is definitely advised as these events are popular and often sell out in advance. All the events below are annual and take place at roughly the same time each year, although following two years of cancellations and disruption it’s worth double-checking exact dates with festival organisers on social media to make sure there are no sudden changes so you don’t miss out – beer festival disappointment is real!
Texas Craft Brewers Festival
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild hosts its largest annual shindig in the heart of downtown Austin at Fiesta Gardens on the edge of Zilker Park. Back with a bang in October 2021, this sold-out event boasted over 85 breweries and over 200 beers, including two dedicated charity collaboration tents featuring Pink Boots and Black Is Beautiful brews from around the state as well as an exclusive Partners In Craft tent featuring collaborations between Texas breweries and other local businesses to spread the beery love. With timed special releases spawning snaking queues of beer lovers quick off the mark to bag limited edition brews, this event really is a proper beer nerd paradise. With that in mind, be sure to arrive early. Expect a minimum 30minute wait for general admission entry unless you’re very punctilious indeed, so look sharp to avoid missing out on crucial drinking time. With so much choice on offer picky drinkers may want to go in with a game plan, or just go with the flow and wing it – asking around is also a great way to discover hidden gems. A solid selection of live music and local food trucks ensure that less dedicated drinkers are also entertained, but the TCBF really is all about the beer. This is a fantastic opportunity to try a wide selection of some of the best beers and breweries in Texas, and be sure to chat to the many friendly brewery owners and staff who make the trip every year.
https://texascraftbrewersfestival.org/ GA admission $45, VIP $85, Designated driver $20
Central Texas gets very hot. Central Texas is also known for making awesome lagers. While those two things are not necessarily related (I’ll save my TED Talk on the effects of German immigration to Texas and the influence of Mexican Lager and it’s contentious Austrian heritage for another time), they do come together in a way that makes the summer months here almost bearable – a fact the team behind the Austin Beer Guide felt was worth celebrating when they started Lager Jam nearly nine years ago. 2021’s comeback fest sported over 30 local lagers, running the full style gamut from American Light Lager to Schwarzbier via multiple Pilsner incarnations and wild cards including Oolong Tea Lager from Meanwhile Brewing and Ride The Leichtbier, a collaboration version of this little-known German style by Oddwood and Live Oak. The festival has most recently been hosted by Spokesman Coffee Roasters, and features DJs, screen printing, and a pre and after-party for true lager aficionados. Admission to the venue is free and you can pay as you go, but the organisers do offer a $30 party pack featuring a commemorative glass, three full pours and various other goodies. Taking place in at the height of the heat in late August, get ready to get sweaty – that lager is gonna taste soooo good!
https://www.austinbeerguide.com/ Admission free, Party pack $30
Texas Lambic Fest
Originally started as a Lambic-themed birthday bottle share back in 2014, Texas Lambic Fest is now a full-blown Lambic love-in non-profit bottle share event featuring food trucks, screen printing and live music, most recently hosted by Batch ATX in 2021. The aim of the game is to nerd out on as many rare Belgian Lambics as the day and turnout allows, with local palate-cleansing brews available, although non-Lambic fans are welcome to bring brews more to their own taste. Last year’s $20 ticket price covered admission, a commemorative glass, a pour of Batch beer and a snack, but as the event is in effect a large-scale bottle share attendees are advised to arrive with their favorite Lambic, although Batch were selling limited stock of the good stuff. For those not familiar with Lambic, think young and funky. No, not the crowd loitering on East 6th – this is beer, originally from Belgium, that ferments outside in a wide, flat vessel known as a coolship in order to imbibe the wild bacteria from the air to create a beer uniquely flavored with local terroir and the dry spicy funk that comes from unpurified yeast. Brewed only in the cooler months (to prevent that funk getting too funky), Lambic is coolship beer that is unaged (usually less than a year old) – flat, fruity and puckeringly sour. This is not a beer for everyone, however for those in the know, these odd-sounding flavors are the absolute height of beer-drinking sophistication, the tantalizingly moreish barnyard-horse-blanket-unripe cherry lip-smacking beer holy grail. We have plenty of locally brewed Lambics too, with breweries like Jester King, Vista and Roughhouse paving the way to a Texan Lambic tradition, but many Lambic drinkers still crave the original flavors which date back to the beer’s 13th century roots. There’s a lot more I can say about Lambic, and its fruited, aged and blended incarnations, including Kriek (with cherries) and Gueuze (a blend of one, two and three year Lambic). So, now you’re ready to show off your knowledge at the Texas Lambic Fest, get your hands on a bottle of 3 Fonteinen and get yourself a ticket!
East Side Cool Party
Starting back in 2018, this collaborative event brings together the breweries who call Austin’s hip East Side home. Though the format and line-up for the event has changed over the years, one constant has been a whole lotta fun, with special limited edition collaboration beers, specially designed commemorative cans and glasses, live music, games, pop-ups, food trucks and even a shuttle to get you between venues cos that’s how cool the party is on the East Side. As breweries have arrived on the scene and some sadly have departed, the venues have differed slightly from year to year, although event founders Lazarus Brewing and East Side staples Blue Owl, Zilker and Southern Heights have all been present across the years. The event began as a way of celebrating the exciting beer scene in the district and then developed as an opportunity to fundraise for local charities, with each brewery originally choosing their own beneficiary but all supporting Casa Marianella, a non-profit providing for homeless immigrants in the Austin area since the pandemic hit. With each brewery releasing a new beer for the event, some of which are collabs, and an all-day programme of entertainment across the East Side, be sure to hit up their Facebook or Instagram to get the scoop on which beers and bands you absolutely can’t miss, not to mention the highly limited cans – each brewery has a unique design. This is a super-fun day out for a great cause – don’t miss the 2022 edition!
https://www.instagram.com/eastsidecoolparty/ Free admission at all venues
East West Beer Fest
Austin’s newest charity beer event, the East West Beer Fest was founded by the Craft Beer Austin team to raise money for We Are Blood. The inaugural event last December was hosted by Turnstile Coffee Beer and Spirits and included 10 Austin-area breweries showing off their West Coast and East Coast IPAs. A $25 general admission fee covered 12 tasting pours and two sample glasses – one for each style, and a $50 VIP pass came loaded with beery swag. Live music and pop-up vendors also featured on the day, with Turnstile’s kitchen open to sate hungry drinkers. The event received substantial advance publicity, with Black Sparrow Radio streaming their Drinking Texas show live from the event throughout the afternoon. With both hazy East Coast and traditional West Coast IPAs still hugely popular in Central Texas, the event offered an opportunity to pit some of our finest examples against one another for an excellent cause, and unsurprisingly sold out in advance. With plans to be back in 2022, this is one IPA lovers won’t want to miss.
https://m.facebook.com/EastWestBeerFest/ GA $25, VIP $50
Other beer festivals in Austin to check out include:
And if that wasn’t enough… look out for brewery parties!
Whenever you choose to visit the city, or if you’re a local looking for a great way to get into new types of beer while meeting like-minded beerfolks, be sure to check the listings in the Austin Chronicle, Do512 and Craft Beer Austin for the latest brewery parties and beer launches – with over 50 breweries in the vicinity, there’s always something on!