Under the Congress Avenue Bridge a festival pumped life into the parking lot of the Austin American-Statesman on Saturday, May 13th, with a staple older than the Gutenberg press: beer. Once known as the Untapped Festival, rebranded as Index Fest in 2017, the festival that tours Texas celebrating craft beer, live music, tasty local food and visual arts, set up shop with tents, strings of light, stages and facilities for thousands of thirsty beer and music lovers.
Two-ounce samples of limited-production craft beer poured into mini pilsner glasses were available from over 75 breweries featuring 250 beers. Local Austin breweries such as Independence, Austin Beerworks Oskar Blues, 512, Thirsty Planet, Jester King and Live Oak reconnected with local friends and customers, while out-of-state, nationally-known heavy hitters such as Founders, Deschutes, Left Hand, Odell, Stone and New Belgium, to name a few, brought their highly-acclaimed ales to flavor the fest.
Finer Kolsch-styled beers, originally brewed in Cologne, Germany, kept the sunny day at bay. Although Houston’s St. Arnold Brewing Company, Texas’ oldest craft brewery, has gained legions of loyal lager louts with their award-winning Lawnmower Kolsch, the brewery instead opted to showcase their Divine Reserve Baltic Porter, leaving the lighter, crispy beer task to others. Rivaling Karbach’s clean and malty Love Street Kolsch Blonde, a few other notable craft beer makers presented elixirs that would make the Germans jealous. Fredericksburg, Texas’ smooth and cool Alstadt Kolsch kept the weather in check with refreshing respite, while the golden herbal hop dubbed Travelin’ Light, from Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company, won the Kolsch-styled ales crafty-naming competition.
As night fell the thicker, tasty uncommon ales paired well with a chili cheese dog and waffle fries from Austin’s Frank Restaurant. Rabbit Hole Brewing of Justin, Texas, sold out of their School of Bock, a joint effort with a home brewer selected from the Bluebonnet Home Brewing competition, but their Rapture Fusion Brown Ale, an English toasted malt, frothed forward quite favorably. Stingo, the seasonal English Strong Ale aged 24 months in new American oak barrels from Austin’s 512 brewery, packed a sweet but powerful punch. Odell’s 90 Shilling, named after the Scottish method of taxing beers, boasted British crystal and chocolate malt in a copper-colored, medium-bodied amber ale. Revolver Brewing, a father and son owned brewery out of Granbury, Texas, offered ten taps from wheat to wine barrel stouts, yet the Kentucky Ale, “The Beer of Bourbon Country” Vanilla Barrel Cream Ale was the tasting that rose to the top of the fest and ended a euphoric experience like a perfect dessert.
Add a music lineup that included Los Angeles-based, festival headliners Local Natives, who are about to pop on an international tour, and Index Fest provided a gathering that reversed the trend of over-sized festivals with too many bands and stages that larger crowds cannot fully ingest. Index Fest provided happy, enjoyable music from one main stage while tasters traveled and easily toured the tents and avenues of the best bitters, wheats, ales and bocks ever assembled in a newspaper parking lot. With great local food and eye-popping art from eight local Austin artists including Kristin Freeman’s work where people lined up to snap a shot, festival attendees shared some super suds while rocking along the banks of the Colorado River with a tasty beer buzz.