Vista Brewing Brings Barrel-Aged, Collaborative Beers to the Hill Country
The Driftwood brewery utilizes casks from local wineries and distilleries to create unique brews
(Left) Photo by Alyssa Jarae Photography[/caption]
Everything at Vista is very much a team effort: Heisler, Lopreore and Chef Kyle Barker work together to plan beer garden menus and pairing dinners. The latter are often attended by Texas farmers and ranchers whose products appear on the menu, like cattle rancher Ryan Jentsch of Driftwood’s Double J Ranch.
While not all of the brewery’s ingredients can be grown in Central Texas or even in-state due to climate and supply limitations (malted barley comes from Fort Worth’s TexMalt, hops from the Pacific Northwest and overseas), “we try our best to buy locally, right down to our T-shirt supplier,” says Karen. In the past, Vista has also made beers with Texas-grown heritage wheat from nearby Barton Springs Mill.
Barrel-aging was always part of the Killoughs’ vision for Vista.
“It went hand-in-hand with our location in the Central Texas wine region and mission,” says Karen. “It’s also just something we love. The first time I tried a barrel-aged beer while traveling in Europe after college, it blew me away.”
Kent emphasizes the less tangible aspects of the barrel-aged beers, which use ambient or native yeasts. The former, also called wild yeasts, are naturally occurring around the fermentation tanks. The latter are collected in nature by San Antonio’s Community Culture’s yeast lab.
“The lion’s share of craft beer are fast styles that can be recreated time and again,” says Kent. “We think of our barrel program as a life form because it’s alive — the yeast is competing with other microflora, which aids in flavor development. It’s also not as temperature controlled.”
There are 12 wine casks per batch and each barrel can taste different, says Kent. “It’s Daniel’s job as brew master to finesse that at the end, when he starts blending.” As laborious as the process is to produce these singular beers, what ends up in the keg or bottle is, in essence, a distillation of their beloved Hill Country. The Killoughs wouldn’t have it any other way.