As stout season hits its stride, Meanwhile Brewing in Austin, Texas, has taken a broader approach to seasonal offerings and launched a full gamut of winter beers for differing palates and the vagaries of Texas winter weather.
Now in its third year, Meanwhile has become one of Austin’s most popular breweries—and for good reason. The brewery was founded by Will Jaquiss and Nao Ohdera who brought skills and expertise honed at Portland, Oregon’s award-winning Breakside Brewing down to South Austin. Their high-quality beers and Hill-Country-chic taproom chock-full of amenities have folks from all over the city piling down to the brewery. With a football (soccer) pitch, enormous children’s playground and outdoor stage with regular live music, as well as a private events room, film screenings and pop-up makers markets, there’s always something happening at Meanwhile.
While the brewery offers plenty of style, it is matched with significant substance. In its relatively short tenure, Meanwhile has scooped up multiple awards at competitions including Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, the International Beer Awards and the Texas Craft Brewers Cup, including a Great American Beer Festival gold for its German Pilsner and silver for its Secret Beach IPA.
Although Meanwhile’s flagship brews have become big hitters with extensive distribution at over 250 bars and restaurants around Austin, the brewery doesn’t sit on its laurels. Hence the release of Meanwhile’s special winter beer menu. Austin is a city that loves its holiday cocktail pop-ups, and Meanwhile has tapped into that energy and culture to offer a beery equivalent, in what will hopefully be a trend-setting move.
The menu is also a showcase for new director of operations Robert Fulwiler, taking over from Ohdera (who is swapping out Texas for Colorado) and freshly landed in Austin from none other than Seattle’s Fremont Brewing—a significant coup for both Meanwhile and the Austin beer scene.
“Meanwhile has made a big impression on the Texas beer scene in a relatively short period of time through a focus on quality and innovation,” says Fulwiler. “That innovation is what initially drew me to the role, and the inclusive, community-centered culture of the brewery is what sealed the deal. The team is building something special here in Austin and I’m excited to help the operation grow.”
This seasonal collection stands as an impressive new brewing synergy in town, and fulfills, Jaquiss says, the ethos of the brewery.
“We try to make this as approachable for everyone as much as possible,” Jaquiss says. “That’s a holiday spirit we like to see around here.”
The menu kicks off with the Winter Sour Fruited Berliner Weiss, a delicately holiday-spiced take on the classic style, offering zesty cranberry-orange with a cheeky cinnamon kick paired with lactobacillus tartness and white wheat softness. With the festive notes of a mulled wine or cider, the Berliner Weiss’s soft, light easy-drinking subtle sourness offers holiday cheer without the hot boozy heft you might seek out in colder climes, making it perfect for a bright sunny Texas December.
For those with a more savory tooth, the Jolly Winter Lager is brewed with Canadian spruce tips for a fragrant forest-floor experience. Crisp and tangy intense pine is balanced with a hint of juicy berries and firm, grounding malt blend including Munich and Vienna for a touch of nutty sweetness. This beer is supremely crushable but has a lingering finish that encourages sipping, seasonal jollity guaranteed.
The haze craze remains strong in Austin, so Outer Bounds Hazy IPA offers a holiday gift to hopheads. The customary Tropicana is dialed down with the help of wheat, golden and flaked oats which combine for a silky, creamy smoothness that’s as suited to the fireside as the poolside, so whichever way Texas winter weather flips it’ll still go down a treat.
Finally, the showstopper that Austinites have been waiting for: Meanwhile’s first-ever bottled barrel-aged stout. Of the mighty 202 beers that Meanwhile has put out to date, just four have been imperial stouts, two of which are Black Is Beautiful versions 1 and 2, and the third a superbly balanced tiki stout to celebrate its third birthday. Big stouts have, if anything, been the one significant string missing from the Meanwhile bow, but change is on the horizon.
“We are definitely putting a renewed emphasis on our barrel program,” Jaquiss says. “The releases will certainly still be limited, but this is something we are very excited about growing in the future, especially with Robert Fulwiler’s rich experience from Fremont Brewing Co.”
When Meanwhile’s team does something, they do it right. Left Handed Hummingbird is a Barrel-Aged Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout. Weighing in at a formidable 12.5%, this sumptuous blend of powdery-rich dry Mexican chocolate and warm, indulgent Balcones barrels has been worth the wait. Ancho and arbol chilies add a firm, rich spice, playing off the chocolate’s intensity to keep the beer quaffable with no hint of unnecessary sweetness. The booziness likewise remains refined, giving depth and structure without overpowering and leaving a finished beer that drinks beautifully right now while simultaneously begging to be aged. Bottles have, quite rightly, been flying off the shelves despite strong stout season competition from around the city. Four local breweries have had their annual big stout releases over the last two weekends, but Meanwhile has proven more than up to the challenge of Austin’s yearly stoutpocalypse.
As any lead singer knows, having strong backing vocals can make or break a release, and the sterling nature of Meanwhile’s full winter line-up definitely helped propel a successful launch, with all four beers working as a team to bring drinkers of all preferences to the brewery. While the Left Handed Hummingbird may have the sweetest voice, there’s no denying that each beer shines on its own and has a firm place at the holiday table. The concept of a brewery offering a curated holiday menu is long overdue, and as purveyors of both fine beers and cocktails, Meanwhile have leaned into their expertise across the board to deliver quality seasonality. Since the initial release of these four beers, Meanwhile has also added a winter West Coast IPA, Starlit Sky, whose clean bitter citrus-crisp five-hop flavor profile with robust Vienna malt for wintry depth opens the line-up further.
Jaquiss confirms that the menu will now be an annual event.
“[It] certainly will, but some of the beers will change every year,” he says. “I expect Jolly will be back again though!”
Austinites are delighted.