Some people love Christmas time, some Thanksgiving, and a lot of people will tell you that their birthday is one of their favorite days of the year. Well, not me. Far and away my favorite time of the year is each fall, when it’s time for the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
I’m a big music guy. I don’t stream music, I own it, and I see it. Seeing an artist live is the best way to experience his or her music. Whether in a small club, a big arena, or at a festival like ACL, there is nothing I love more than listening to live music.
ACL runs for two successive weekends, generally at the end of September and the beginning of October, and takes place at a giant park just on the other side of the lake from downtown Austin. On seven stages over three days you get to hear more than 100 bands that range from country to pop, rock and roll to folk, and electronica to hip hop. They’ve got it all! It’s so much that you often are faced with the choice of wanting to see more than one group at a time.
Thankfully there are two weekends of this festival, and many of the artists appear twice. In week one you can go see Local Natives, then weekend two see the Margo Price show that was on the other side of the park at the same time.
This year I was joined by my friend and boss here at The Federalist, Ben Domenech, for the second week of the festival. We crammed as much music, food, and beer into the three days as we could. That’s right: there is good food and great beer available each day.
Yes, There’s Food
This isn’t a turkey leg and funnel cake kind of place. Instead, a local chef brings in more than 30 Austin restaurants to provide portable, tasty treats like a fried chicken and avocado cone, sloppy brisket- and cheese-topped nachos, and spicy kimchi-topped French fries. Yeah, it’s fantastic!
To go with this awesome food, there is a beer hall with several large screens showing college and NFL football and playoff baseball, and containing more than 15 beers on tap, mostly via microbreweries from California, Colorado, and especially here in Texas. There’s the Lagunitas IPA, which I’ve written about before, Arrogant Bastard from the good folks at Stone Brewing, a local Oktoberfest beer, and many more. My two favorite beers for the festival this year were both from Texas: The Deep Ellum IPA, and the Real Ale Devil’s Backbone.
The Deep Ellum IPA comes from the Deep Ellum Brewing Company in Dallas. This is an IPA with a hoppy, bitter punch. The gang at Deep Ellum describe it as having, “over-the-top tropical fruit, citrus, pine and floral aromas and flavors,” and that is the perfect description. It is a big, flavorful, Texas IPA.
A beer like this is perfect for a good rock show. Cage the Elephant played near the end of Saturday’s festival, and they put on one hell of a show: energetic, exciting, and guaranteed to get you on your feet. For a show like that, the punchy flavors of the Deep Ellum IPA was perfect.
Another favorite of mine was the Devil’s Backbone from the folks at Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco, Texas. Named for a dangerous winding stretch of road in the Texas Hill Country, Devil’s Backbone is a Belgian-style Tripel. We touched on this type of beer before, and Real Ale’s lives up to the Tripel standard set by the monks of old Europe.
It’s pale gold, full of Belgian yeast and slightly spiced hops, and it’s 8 percent ABV, the perfect beer to sip while you chill in front of a good folk or soul artist. I had this beer on Friday while seeing Corinne Bailey Rae, a musician from England who has worked with the likes of Al Green, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, and the great Sir Paul McCartney. Her soulful, indie-folk-pop sound was a perfect match for the smooth flavors of the Devil’s Backbone.
I whole-heartedly encourage you to make the trek down to Austin, the live music capital of the world, for the ACL festival next year. You, too, can enjoy some fantastic music with the perfectly paired beer. Look me up when you’re here. I’ll be the guy holding a cup of tasty beer rocking back and forth and singing along with the band. Cheers!