Bastrop’s 602 Brewing & Astro Records Launch Collaboration Beer
Just 40 minutes south-east of Downtown Austin, Bastrop, the ‘Heart of the Lost Pines’, may have a population of fewer than 10,000 but, like many Central Texas towns, it has a lively, buzzing cultural scene, including two microbreweries, a craft beer bar, a distillery, regular live music events, and its very own record store. Kevin Mawby, a native of London, England, relocated to Central Texas from Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and opened Astro Records in 2019, recently relocating the store to Main Street’s historic Kleinert Building, dating back to 1868 and boasting many beautiful original features. Astro quickly became a popular Bastrop fixture, and it wasn’t long before Mawby struck up a friendship with another new business owner in town, Jereme Walker, co-owner and head brewer at 602 Brewing, located just around the corner from Astro’s original site and across the road from the new store.
602 also launched in 2019, when Walker, a Bastrop native and avid homebrewer, and owner Raymond Keyrouz added the microbrewery to what had been a struggling restaurant and turned the business around in under a year. Walker enjoys experimenting as a brewer, riffing off traditional styles to create a broad selection of beers, including lesser-seen styles like their Eleanor Kellerbier and Drunken Monk Belgian IPA. The collaboration grew from Mawby and Walker’s friendship and mutual desire to work together. “I suggested to Jereme that he should try brewing an English-style beer” says Mawby, “The original idea was to create something like a Fullers ESB, but then we hit on the idea of including tea.” After extensive experimentation with different tea and beer profiles, the pair hit on the winning combination of English Brown Ale and Twinings Earl Grey tea, a classic English beverage less well-known in Central Texas. In fact, Twinings is so hard to come by in this neck of the woods that Walker was unable to purchase it in bulk, instead unwrapping 50-60 individual packets by hand in order to achieve the desired flavour intensity. Unusually for an adjunct, the tea was added at the start of the boil, allowing it to steep, as tea usually does, only for a full 60 minutes. The resulting taste is deeply, intensely tanninic-dry with a bright lemony edge to cut through bitterness and a long-lasting finish. Weighing in at a not-insubstantial 11% this is a tea with one heck of a kick, but its distinct and possibly far too easy-drinking flavour keeps remarkably well-hidden.
“It’s a great flavour combination – I love it!” says Mawby, “It has a unique nutty-perfume quality.” Named the ‘Lippy’ after Mawby’s nickname, the beer is, in fact, the only 602 beer to be named for a man so far, and Mawby is indeed in exhalted company. “We like to name our beers after women who have influenced us personally and also women who have made a difference in the world” says assistant brewer Joshua Hickman. Walker’s great-grandmother Cassie, a real-life bootlegger, homebrewer and moonshine-distiller during Prohibition, is the suitable namesake for their Cassis Bootlegger Blonde, a pre-Prohibition-style Blonde Ale, and the Eleanor Kellerbier is named for none other than Eleanor Roosevelt.
Bastrop may be a popular tourist destination, drawing in visitors with its quaint Main Street, leafy State Park and attractive setting along the Colorado River, but it was the dedicated local community of retailers and consumers who have been crucial to the success of 602, Astro and many other businesses, particularly during the pandemic. Mawby sees collaborations like the Lippy as the key to success for Bastrop’s small businesses. “Many of Bastrop’s older downtown stores are now being replaced with destination businesses, and we’re all working towards the same goal together.” “A rising tide lifts all ships” agrees Hickman, “And collaboration is important for the community, as increasing foot traffic means everyone wins.” After the success of the Lippy, 602 hope to collaborate with other members of the Bastrop community on future releases, so look out for more Bastrop community brews.