The craft beer revolution is in full swing. We head to Austin to find out why and which new breweries are leading the charge…
Like many other cities across the US, there’s been a craft beer explosion in Austin, Texas. Within the city limits there are already 23 operating breweries and brewpubs, with another 10 awaiting municipal approval. That’s a lot of beer.
“Austin is a very thirsty city,” enthuses Bob Galligan, Hospitality Manager and seasoned brewer at Hops & Grain during a cordial tasting session at the taproom. “That’s the main problem for people making good beer in this city right now. We just can’t brew enough of it.”
Austin has led the charge for the state of Texas, rising as it has from a primarily macro beer haven to one of the most awarded craft states in the nation. Indeed, the state came fourth in the gold medal standings at the Great American Beer Festival this year behind the traditional big three – California, Colorado and Oregon.
“In 2011 when we opened our doors, Texas ranked 48th in the nation for the number of breweries, but we ranked third in the nation when it came to consumption of beer. This was an opportunity,” Galligan added.
Less than five years on, the amount and variety of great, locally and sustainably brewed beer on offer is hard to officially quantify. Beyond Hops & Grain, there are prominent and growing brewers like Independence, Austin Beerworks, Adelbert’s, 512, Thirsty Planet and a host of awesome brewpubs operating on a smaller scale.
So what makes Austin such a special place for craft brewers and beer-lovers alike?
Galligan explains, “Austin has always been very supportive of craft in general – getting to know your local butcher, the person who’s making your shoes, all sorts of stuff. There’s a DIY mentality in this city, which is very conducive for our business. And, with it being Texas, there’s always that fight for the underdog.”
Because of that there’s a certain loyalty towards the local product, and it’s part of the reason craft brewing is booming across the country right now. As brewers, all we care about is putting a smile on peoples’ faces. People ask if we want to go national, but that’s not the focus. Of course we want to grow, but I’ve got no problem saying ‘we make really good beer, come down to Austin’.”
We went down to Austin and tried some really good beer. You should too. Here are five of the must-visit breweries for any visit…
Hops & Grain
507 Calles, Austin, TX 78702
The quirky Hops & Grain brewery and taproom is tucked away just off 6th street in East Austin, but you can find popular brews like The One They Call Zoe pale lager (a beer that’s good to drink while you decide which beer to drink) and the utterly delectable Porter Culture all over the city. The free brewery tours are definitely worth doing as they often feature special samples not available in the taproom. As part of its sustainability drive, the brewery donates one percent of its profits to environmental non-profits and makes dog biscuits from the spent grain!
Thirsty Planet Brewing
11160 Circle Dr, Austin, TX 78736
Get yourself a pint of the Thirsty Goat Amber, one of the brewery’s three year-round flagship beers, and do it now. It’s a quintessential selection for fans of the style. Hop Heads will love the Bucket Head IPA, aptly described as “a bitter punch in the mouth”. The beer is available all over town, but you can pop in to the brewery for a tour from 11am thru 3pm on Saturdays. Like many Austin Breweries, Thirsty Planet has a focus on sustainability and donates the proceeds from many of its specialty brews to various charity organizations.
11160 Circle Dr, Austin, TX 78736
The Austin Beerworks brewery does things a little differently. Its focus is on canned beer for a number of reasons. Unlike bottles, cans don’t let light in or oxygen out, which means beer stays better for longer. Cans are also more environmentally-friendly and safer (definitely the better option when on patios or boats)! The community-focused brewery offers its four flagship beers year-round – our favorites were the easy-drinking Pearl Snap Pilsner and the Peacemaker Anytime Ale. The taproom is open Thursday thru Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. For just $15, you’ll get a brewery pint glass and three fills!
2314 Rutland Dr #100, Austin, TX 78758
North Austin is home to a couple of great breweries with Austin Beerworks and Aldebert’s both plying their trade within a mile of each other. Both have very different outlooks, so you can make an afternoon of it by visiting both. Adelbert’s specializes in French and Belgian ales and their Philosophizer Saison is an absolute treat. This Farmhouse-style Belgian ale is a must try on any visit to Austin. It’s 6.8% and very flavorful, so you don’t need many of them. The tasting room is open Fridays (5pm thru 8pm) and Saturdays (1pm thru 4pm) with tours on Saturday. For $13 you get the tour, a nice glass and six sample pours.
Austin Beer Garden and Brewery
1305 W Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704
The Austin Beer Garden in the unique South Austin district is one of the city’s many brewpubs, where the beer is only brewed and drunk on the premises. We enjoyed a flight of the firm’s brews including the crisp and hoppy Day Trip Pale ale and the Hell Yes Helles Lager. It’s a great place to pop in for a bite of locally-sourced food too, as the brewery works with a host of ‘menu partners’ around the city.
Don't forget to try...
The fun doesn’t stop there. You should certainly give Independence Brewing a spin. The Stash IPA is smooth and delicious, while the Austin Amber is also very tasty for fans of the style. The (512) Brewing Company has a couple of delectable dark beers including the Cascabel Cream Stout and the Pecan Porter. We wouldn’t dream of leaving the city without trying both.