Episode 176: The Austin Beer Garden Brewery Is Committed to All the Little Things that Make Great Lagers

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Great lagers require commitment and focus, and it’s no surprise that the Austin Beer Garden Brewery has been so successful at making them—with three-plus decades of lager-brewing experience between them, cofounders Brian “Swifty” Peters and Amos Lowe have put in the time and learned through brewing thousands of batches of pils, helles, and more.

The accolades they’ve accumulated together under the ABGB banner have been impressive as well—seven GABF medals in five years (including six golds), plus 2016, 2017, and 2018 GABF Large Brewpub of the Year honors. The ABGB approach is a dedication and focus on doing all the little things right—there are no off-days, there are no shortcuts, there is no “good enough.”

There are, however, the realities of production, budget, and business that every small brewery has to face. Over the years of brewing lagers for other Texas breweries, Lowe and Peters have devised ways to work around every type of challenge. Brewing is problem-solving, and Swifty has made lagers in everything from horizontal fermenters to unjacketed Grundy tanks. Today, the ABGB uses conicals, but it employs a multi-stage tank transfer process to sequentially clear and lager their beers.

In this lager-focused episode, the brewing minds of the ABGB discuss:

  • Designing a hybrid, pub-focused lager brewery
  • Why decoction isn’t necessary, but extended lagering is
  • The importance of great ingredients
  • Brewing to a sense-memory standard informed by memories of great lagers
  • The yeast and fermentation magic necessary for perfect lager brews
  • Optimizing “elegance” in lagers
  • Editing lagers through filtration
  • The impact of water chemistry on everything from fermentation to hop character
  • Finishing lagers with natural carbonation

They’re unabashed traditionalists, but firmly focused on those techniques and elements that directly impact flavor. From decoction (“It’s just too much work for an everyday [thing]”) to lagering time (“People are proud to say ‘I have a four-week lager,’ and for us it’s like, ‘Whoa, that’s pretty young’”), they both embrace and reject lager dogma, leaning into their own experience to make lagers that taste exactly how they want them to. But for the ABGB, the key to making great lagers is doing all of the little things, every single time. Not some of the time, not most of the time—all of the time.

*This episode is brought to you by: *

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