I have no other way to describe the Twisted X interviews than as a very jolly time! (Yes, jolly!) Shane and Jim were a lot of fun to interview and hang out with. The brewery itself was pretty amazing, and it helped to answer the question of why it can be difficult to find Twisted X beer around Austin. The current brewery location is northwest of Austin in a neighboring city called Cedar Park. It’s a bit of a haul from the center of action and after a GPS fail on my part I had to call Shane to try and find their place. It turned out I was just across the street from the brewery. I was a bit surprised to find the guys in a 900 square foot space with a 3 barrel brewing system as they’d already established a reputation for their quality beers, but it turns they’re already slated for expansion and by the time you read this they may already be building their new location. I’ll keep that quiet for now, but suffice to say they’re going from a small system in a little storage garage to a big system on a dedicated piece of land.
We set up at their tasting bar, which was about 5 feet from the brewery, and fortunately we left the big bay door open so the Texas heat didn’t have a big impact on the shoot. Said another way, this time I was neither sweating profusely nor delirious during the interview. I did have a few beers though! But, given my new special pacing methods I kept it all together. I was particularly careful as we had another interview set up later that day, and I needed to keep my wits about me! We used a lot of natural light for the shoot so I’m hoping it’s got a nice natural look; or at least I won’t look too ghoulish on camera.
We talked to Shane first largely about the various beers Twisted X currently makes. They also had a few new beers and experimental beers available, and I was pretty excited with what they were working on, but I promised to keep it a secret, so no special disclosures from me! We had a good chat with Shane before his interview and caught him doing some brewing, giving us a chance to shoot some b-roll. I teased him a bit that he’s technically the head of marketing and sales for Twisted X, but since there’s just him and Jim working in the brewery right now they each have to wear multiple hats, and he was wearing the brewers hat when we first got there. Jim arrived shortly after we spoke to Shane so we decided to do the full interview with him first (and it ended up with Jim presenting the beers) and then followed up with Shane for his full interview. The guys were great on camera and were awesome straight-shooting dudes.
We covered the usual range of topics as well as discussing their goal of creating the first TexMex beers. When I get down to talking about the beers you’ll see that they’re really nailing this goal with some really interesting beers including the Fuego (a jalapeno-infused Pilsner) and Senior Viejo (an Imperial Black Lager aged in Tequila barrels, the first of it’s type, I think). Like the other brewers around town they’ve been working feverishly around the clock to meet the demand for their beers, and given the small size of their brewhouse relative to the demand this was more than a full time endeavor. We had some fun playing catch with the prickly pears they’d harvested themselves for their batch of Siesta (a lager with concentrated prickly pear juice) that serves as their summer seasonal. The guys got some great shots of the pears, but missed Jim commenting on the fact that he got some spines in his hand after warning us about how prickly they were.
Twisted X for me epitomized the rebellious nature of the start-up breweries in Austin. Jim and Shane were both shifting careers from tech into brewing because of a passion to brew great beer. Always great to hear that story and I hope it translates well in the interview.
The beers themselves were pretty interesting; they generally made lagers, but made one IPA. They had another style on tap that they were experimenting with that was really, really interesting; it was a great session beer and we’re keeping the details under wraps until it’s actually released. Suffice to say this one will be a great session beer for all kinds of people. The one regular rotation beer that they I didn’t have a chance to try during the shoot was their Twisted X: Premium Tex Mex Lager, but I was able to sample all of the others. In addition to the mystery session beer, the main beer I drank during the shoot was their Cow Creek, a Vienna-style dark lager. It was a delicious beer with a nice balance of sweet caramel and light earthy/grassy hops, and finished really juicy with smooth carbonation and slight bitterness. It was a very easy drinking beer. I’d had their Fuego a couple times before, so I knew what I was getting, but for a new drinker the inherent surprise of the initial solid pilsner experience (bready malt with light citrus hops with a slight cutting bitterness) transforming into a gentle heat at the back of the throat that subtly builds to be fairly significant but ends with a light bready malt finish is pretty impressive. I think the guys achieved their goal of making a beer that doesn’t act simply like an chili pepper explosion but instead is a really solid beer that brings a bit of the heat to the equation. It would be really interesting to pair this with some spicy food.
I’d also had the Chupahopra before, and as noted above it’s their only ale. When I asked they guys why they make it (in the context of everything else being lagers) they said, “we love IPAs!” Good reason in my book, and frankly nice to hear from a consumer perspective. This is an Amarillo dry-hopped IPA with a big, bold lemon/resinous/juniper hops profile. Like the other IPAs I’ve been having around Austin they brew this one to still have a lighter body (even though it’s a 7.5% ABV beer) for maximum thirst quenching power in the Texas heat. Chupahopra also had a nice malt backbone with just enough sweetness to maintain a great balance. The final beer of the session, and the star of the show (plus my favorite of the beers they make) was the Senor Viejo. This was a delightfully complex beer in that it is an imperial Black Lager (Schwartzbeir) which is then aged in Republic Tequila barrels. There were lots of interesting layers in this beer with smoke and vanilla on the nose, lots of delicious dark roasty and chocolate malts and then an absolutely amazing finish (thanks to Tequila barrels). There were definitely some oaky notes in the finish but the thing that blew me away was a subtle sweetness intertwined with booziness; almost like some slipped a touch of tequila into the beer. Beers like this are often a big risk; some just don’t work, but Senior Viejo does, and it’s really delicious. Definitely my favorite of the session. The only other beer we didn’t get to try was the Siesta, their local prickly pear infused Lager. The guys pick the prickly pears for this themselves, by hand! This is a summer seasonal for them and they were in the process of getting ready to brew it, so we’d have to wait a short time to give it a try.
So, that’s the whole session with the guys from Twisted X. It was a whole load of fun, and I got a good appreciation of what a true nano-brewery looks like, and how to convert a passion to brewing great beer can be converted into a viable, growing business. Cheers!