Austin is a city proud of its quirks. Adelbert’s, a 3-year-old brewery that’s built a reputation on Belgian-style, barrel-aged and experimental beers, fits in perfectly. Bottling 750-mLs of lesser-known styles (Texas’ first biere de brut) and funky one-offs (gin-barrel saison, anyone?), Adelbert’s has won over the Lone Star State’s curious drinkers—though it’s a long way from Shiner’s ubiquity.
“It can still be a trust-fall for people. It’s not like our beers are in every bar,” says Taylor Ziebarth, Adelbert’s head brewer. “But we’ve been steadfast in explaining that it takes a long time to make a beer that we think is superior quality.”
Aging beers has been Adelbert’s focus since owners Scott and Ramona Hovey first imagined the brewery. “We visited Goose Island and fell in love with the barrel room and the vintage beer aging. I said, ‘This is what we want to do. We want to make beer that ages like a fine wine,’” says Scott Hovey. “My wife and I are both foodies. Our natural affinity was toward more high-end beers, building up the anticipation of something you age and save for a special occasion.”
He brought on Ziebarth, who started at the brewery when it only had four employees to its current 23. Since then, the Hoveys have been open to sharing resources with staff and homebrewers, a few of whom have created their own micro labels under the Adelbert’s umbrella. Ziebarth is the brain behind Oddwood Ales, a side project that releases barrel- aged wild ales; James Vaello, the San Antonio sales rep, heads up Naughty Ales, another sub-brand that has thus far brewed a Belgian IPA, a barrel-aged imperial vanilla porter and a smoky hibiscus farmhouse ale. Hovey says he has another employee toying with a line of braggots, a mead-beer hybrid.
“A lot of people who come in the door dream of launching their own breweries, but a lot of people really don’t have access to capital to do that,” Hovey says. “It’s a different way to let people share the wealth a bit, to let them express their artistic and business skills. The more people you have doing creative projects, the more it raises the level of talent and expertise that Adelbert’s has from its staff.”
That creativity will be put to use this year when the brewery makes a push to put out more one-offs and unconventional barrel-aged beers. Ziebarth says he’s close to getting his hands on another 200 empty barrels, and has his eyes set on brewing a sour blonde, some of which might be dry-hopped or fermented with fruit.
“Adelbert’s has changed very significantly in the past four years,” he says. “Hopefully by the end of the year, people will know us even better.”
Ziebarth’s 3 to Try:
Tripel B // tripel
“If Adelbert’s were to have a flagship beer, this would probably be it. It’s a very simple beer, just one malt and one hop, so it’s really all about the yeast in that guy. It’s very fruity, with nice clove notes.”
Flyin’ Monks // quadrupel
“It’s a big, bad quad. There’s a small distillery here in town that makes a nice rum with oak chips. They drain the rum and give us the chips, which just round out the whole thing. We age this three to four months to pull together all the flavors before we even think about selling it.”
Sundowner // biere brut
“The biere de Champagne, or biere brut, is one of the newer styles to make the waves in Belgium. Ours is very light in body and bone-dry, but it does have fruitiness from the yeast and some interesting hops from Germany that add grapey and winey notes. This would make a killer beermosa.”