Adelbert’s and the Neighborhood

“Why would anybody think a brewpub in this part of town was a good idea?” my sister asked as she steered the car around a curve along the almost empty street of a north Austin industrial park.

“A brewery and tap room,” I corrected, eyes searching for signs of brewing activity among the non-descript buildings 1700 miles from my house and three miles from my sister’s.

“Whatever,” she mumbled. “I still don’t know who’s going to come here to drink a beer.”

If you’re a craft beer fan, you’ve probably guessed that my sister is not one.

Before I could say, “Cheap rent,” I spotted the sign, quite literally. I’d read enough buzz about Adelbert’s that I recognized their sign. The parking lot wasn’t crowded, but the dashboard clock showed 5:01, so they’d only been open one minute.

2016-01-25 12.09.59If you’re a craft beer fan, you’ve also probably taken a few friends or relatives of your own for their first craft experience. The key to making it fun for everyone is not having preconceived expectations.

Inside Adelbert’s, the line was already long enough for me to study the day’s offerings of “Hand Crafted Belgian-Styled Ales.” On the advice of the woman working one of two registers, I ordered a Tripel B and a Naked Nun, (click on the link to read the surprising story behind the name). My sister, who used to drink an occasional Lone Star in our youth, promised only to taste what I ordered. Good enough.

Adelbert’s reviews on both Yelp and Google run a consistent 4.5 stars. Since 2013, they’ve won 27 medals, the most recent being a 2015 GABF gold in Belgian and French Style Ale for their Vintage Monks.

2016-01-14 17.34.58I liked the vibe in the no-frills tasting room and the rows of barrels lining the side wall some 18 feet high. What looked like giant tri-folds with local art for sale partitioned off the brewing area.

Sister and I grabbed a table by the barrels, and I got down to business. Both beers were relatively light in color (Naked Nun, SRM 4; Tripel B, SRM 10) and fairly low in IBUs (NN, 15 IBUs; TB, 28 IBUs). Both had typical Belgian noses with notes of spice, cloves and citrus. Naked Nun, while more tart, had only a 5.8% ABV. Tripel B, at a 9.3% ABV, struck me as more complex with more after taste to savor.

My sister tried the Tripel B first. “Ewww, that tastes horrible!” And so we moved on to the Naked Nun. No longer completely new to craft, she swished the beer in her mouth as I suggested, and swallowed. “This one’s better,” she declared, which, given the higher tartness, surprised me. “Bitter and complex,” she added. Again, one sip and she was done, but I was proud of her for coming to the task with an open mind and for starting to pick up on some of the beer’s traits.

Barrel-aging does lend complexity to beer, and since the two brews sitting between us were excellent (in my opinion), I was more than happy to slowly finish them off while Sis took in the surroundings and the people.

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Afterwards, reflecting on her first craft brewery experience, she marveled that, “The primary activity was enjoying beer.” People weren’t there overtly trying to pick up anybody. They weren’t there to get drunk. They were they to enjoy the beer.

I’d say she summed up the essence of the craft movement. There will always be individuals looking for things beyond a good brew, but for most of us, it’s all about the beer and the drinking experience.

Note for first-time visitors: Adelbert’s is located within a mile of several craft breweries worth checking out, including Austin Beerworks, Circle Brewing and 4th Tap. For homebrewers, I highly recommend a visit to nearby Austin Homebrew Supply. And if that’s not enough for you, on April 20, Oskar Blues of Colorado will open their third brewery right in Adelbert’s ‘hood.

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