In a collaborative dinner hostedby Antlers Lodge and Freetail Brewery last week, the San Antonio beer maker showed off six of their best summer draughts, alongside dishes created exclusively for the event by Antlers’ chef de cuisine Armando Diaz.
After explaining his desire to reflect classical preparations from the 1970-80s, Diaz made good on his promise to honor Old World traditions with offerings like a Gulf seafood terrine, corned pork jowl, and lemon cremeux, in addition to several more stunning courses. The food borrowed all the precision and elegance of French technique, but married it with new-age sensibilities like local sourcing, an emphasis on seasonality and a bent for the innovative.
Dancing in step to Diaz’s tune of reinterpretation, the Freetail pairings turned the chef’s virtuoso creativity into an antiphonal duet, matching the inventiveness of the food with intelligent designs of their own. Presented by head brewer Nick Adcock, the alcoholic set-list played some of Freetail’s biggest hits, such as the Soul Doubt IPA, along with a few deeper cuts, such as the Despertado en Manzilla. Below are the six beers showcased at the dinner (which occurs monthly), and why you should be drinking them this summer.
Beer: Bat Outta Helles
ABV: 4.8 percent IBUs: 22
An homage to the Munich Helles lager, Freetail created the Bat Outta Helles for the same reason that Munich’s Spaten Brewery did in 1894 — to deal with hard water. Since San Antonio draws on an aquifer, the water source for local brewers is high in mineral content, meaning it’s best for beer makers in the region to use beer styles designed to accommodate similar water profiles. The beer — similar to a mousse au chocolat or a soufflé — proves that delicacy and richness do not mutually exclude. Despite its pale straw coloration, the Helles (pronounced hell-us) is a full-bodied, with an exceptionally strong hoppy note for such a gentle-looking beer.
Beer: Rye Wit
ABV: 4.2 percent IBUs: 10
Though my Flemish is roestig, the semantics of the Dutch “witbier,” after which Freetail’s Rye Wit is modeled, deserve at least one sentence of explanation. Meaning “white beer,” witbiers (or “wits”) are known for their milky, cloudy appearance, hence the “wit”; coincidently though, “wit” (pronounced “veet”) sounds unmistakably like the word “wheat,” which — wouldn’t you know it — must by definition comprise at least 50 percent of a beer for it to qualify as a “witbier,” in addition to being the ingredient responsible for the brew’s opaque appearance in the first place.
Sacrilegiously though, Freetail includes malted rye in their mash, making all of the aforementioned wheat/wit/white linguistic interplay little more than a (dubiously) fun fact. All you need to know is that the Rye Wit is citrusy, with refreshing bready malt undertones — perfect for summer drinking.
Beer: Old Bat Rastard
ABV: 8.2 percent IBUs: 42
Named in jest after a certain irascible pioneer of the brewery, the Old Bat Rastard is a limited edition beer, meaning it’ll be nearly impossible to find commercially. Lest FOMO overcome you, fear not — the OBR is fundamentally a winter beer, moving like a heady ocean liner through dark, deep currants of caramelized sweetness, saccharine fig and the nuttiness of Nutella. Delicious, but best revisited in six months.
Beer: Soul Doubt IPA
ABV: 6.8 percent IBUs: 65
Even before I read its poetic bio on the Freetail website, the Soul Doubt IPA was already one of my favorite local beers. In the words of a copy-writer who I can only assume ghostwrites Cormac McCarthy fan-fic, the beer is “bottom-dragging inner tubes on rain-thirsty rivers, driving endlessly across the desert to make the Chisos Mountains by dusk, and spring farm-to-markets adorned with Bluebonnets, Black-eyed Susans and Indian Paintbrush.”
Prose poetry aside, the Soul Doubt (a titular play on its popularity) is piney, composed and assertive, a tightly coiled burst of tempered bitterness hand-forged by the beer gods for consumption in the South Texas summer.
Beer: Despertado en Manzanilla
ABV: 7.3 percent IBUs: 15
Served with Dorper lamb loin, tart labneh, local honey and grilled peaches, the dinner’s penultimate course was its most remarkable. The Despertado en Manzanilla, or “woken up in chamomile,” is as pillowy soft on the tongue as it is on ears, though its chartreuse glow can be a little unnerving. Candied and floral, tart and bubbly, the reserve beer’s only flaw is its commercial unavailability.