This guest post is by James Lipari.
Here are 10 breweries/brewpubs that are a must visit located in Austin, Texas. For a full list of all the breweries see our Texas Brewery & Brewpub Tour Listings with Map.
If you haven’t been to the ABGB, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. An entire article can be written on this place alone, and there has been. Their list of awards is staggering, collecting several GABF and World Beer Cup medals for their amazing Pilsners. I regularly get crowlers of Industry because it’s simply one of my favorite beers in town. But, the list of tasty treats doesn’t stop there. Their pale ales, sours, and farmhouse beers are fantastic as well. If you’re hungry, go ahead and eat here too. Not your average pizza joint, the ABGB’s chef Tim Stevens regularly puts out new offerings based on what’s fresh in season. Yes, the pizza is great, and so are the small plates and sandwiches. I haven’t had a bad thing here ever, beer or food, nor do I expect to. They are a family friendly, dog friendly, friendly place. Community friendliness is very much their jam as well. The Hell Yes Project has raised thousands of dollars for a long list of local charitable organizations. What a great neighbor we have! If all of this isn’t enough, they also have a great stage and a busy schedule of live music. When I asked Mark Jensen (owner/advocate) what makes this place so awesome, he modestly stated that “we (as partners) simply wanted the ABGB to be the kind of place we’d want to go to and hang out.” This is exactly the kind of laid back feel you get here. All of this has contributed to them being awarded GABF gold medals for Large Brewpub of the Year for the last three years in a row. Simply amazing!
Another Austin favorite, this place has a rather unique concept. They have your typical lineup of beers: a wheat, a pale ale, a red, an IPA, and so on. But here’s the twist…they’re all sour! Head brewer and co-owner Jeff Young and his staff have sought out to make sour beers approachable. Through sour mashing they have taken traditional styles, soured them, all while keeping the flavor characteristics of the original style creating a new balance. To help quantify the sourness of each offering, they have created the Sour Unit (SU). Much in the same way that the International Bitterness Unit (IBU) gives us an indication as to what level of bitterness to expect, the SU does the same for us regarding the level of sourness. How many times have you ordered a sour beer and went “whoa! I wasn’t quite ready for that”? The SU takes a little bit of the guesswork out of your beer choice equation, and we thank them for that. They are making sour IPAs a thing, right here in East Austin.
How about some Belgian beer history right here in Austin? The story of legendary brewmaster Pierre Celis and the ups and downs of his brewing life is rich enough to fill an entire article. After the he had to unfortunately sell to Miller, the equipment and all were sold to to Michigan Brewing. When they went bankrupt in 2011 they had to sell off their assets. The Celis family was able to buy back those rights, and were able to carry on the tradition of the father of witbier. The Celis 2.0 taproom in the northern brewery district is definitely something to see. The overhead of the bar is the top of one of the original copper kettles. The entire place just screams Texas and Celis history. It’s beautifully done and just a great place to hang out. Some of Pierre’s original recipes can be found here including Grand Cru, Celis Raspberry, and of course, Celis White, made with the original yeast strain. Christine Celis has done a fine job of continuing where her father left off, and keeping tradition in the family, her daughter Daytona Camps is a now a brewer. Continuing on their journey, they are opening a new music venue as well. “In addition to Celis Brewery’s history and production of Belgian beer, our new beer garden and music venue makes Celis a truly unique part of North Austin and its Beer Mile District. We used to host live music at the original Celis Brewery in the 1990s over on Highway 290, and we want the new Celis Brewery to become a place for family where music can be enjoyed.” – Christine Celis.
Open your beer drinking heart, because here is yet another place to love. Of the many things to love, they are open 7 days a week from 10a-10p…what?!? Open to all ages and your furry friends, this is a place where you can truly feel at home. As stated by Sheila Garcia, Director of Sales and Marketing, “we are welcoming to all, with approachable beers and a variety of events.” And that they have. Their flagship beer, The One They Call Zoe, is a dry hopped pale lager that is supremely crushable. For your friends that you want to turn on to craft beer and away from the dark side of mass produced bleh, River Beer is just the ticket. Like many breweries here in town, they are very community focused, and as they say, community involvement should be at the heart of any small business. Sustainability is also a primary focus, and they buy all of their energy from a wind power company in West Texas. Even though they focus on approachable beers their taproom menu is dominated by hoppy beers, because, well what’s in a name? The Haze County DIPA is super solid. But that’s not all! They are one of three breweries here that have foeders, tall cylindrical wooden vessels common in both winemaking and with the brewers of Belgium. They use these to oak age their Volumes Series where they condition and further funkify their saison and other beers. (If funkify is not a word, it totally should be). The knowledgeable and friendly staff here are always a pleasure to interact with. To enhance the fun, they have free comedy shows on Thursdays and live music on Saturdays. Because this brewery also caters to the active lifestyle beer drinkers, those of us who enjoy hiking, kayaking, tubing, and all of the other outdoor things our lovely area has to offer, they have selected San Marcos for their second location. The need to expand capacity drove them to find another location, and San Marcos fit the bill. So find Hops & Grain, drink their beer, and be happy.
What list of Austin breweries would be complete without Jester King? People travel from all over to visit a place that is less than a half hour drive for most of us. It’s such a nice setting to relax on a weekend day. The good people here pour their world class beer at festivals around the world for others to try. At the brewery you can also find an impressively long list of beers to go (their beer and other breweries as well). In the taproom, you can get beer by the glass or get a whole bottle to enjoy at a picnic table in the large outdoor seating area. There are also a couple smaller bars in case the line gets a little long. The distinctive flavor of Jester King’s beers comes from a combination of their unique yeast strains that were cultivated on the property, spontaneous fermentation in their coolship, and their use of well water which gives all of their beers a real sense of terroir. Simply put, the beer tastes like their part of the world, our part of the world. They recently took over and revamped the pizza kitchen on the property, hiring a new chef, and expanding the menu. So for farmhouse beers made on an actual working farm, take yourself out to the Hill Country and enjoy some of the best beers you can find anywhere. And on a side note, Head Brewer Averie Swanson just earned the title of Master Cicerone, which is kind of a super big deal! Congrats and cheers!
It’s always amazing when any business starts hitting home runs right off the bat, and that is exactly what this new East Austin place did, winning a GABF gold medal in the very first year that they were open. Not that medals are the end all to be all, because there are several small independent places that are just flat out cool places to go. Lazarus just happens to be both. One of the first things that impressed me about this place is their tap list. There is everything from barrel aged beers, Belgians, Germans, Americans, even a pale coffee infused beer on tap. Being a brewpub, their tacos are fantastic. I initially thought that these tacos don’t go well with these beers, and I was completely wrong. They’re pretty great together. And you can enjoy them in whatever setting suits your mood. In addition to the bar and high top community tables, they have a nice outdoor area with both covered and uncovered seating, raised on a deck or not. There is a very comfy quasi mid-century modern living room area inside with couches, books, and an amazingly huge taxidermy elk head adorned with shiny silver armor. This area fits more of a coffee shop vibe, which is perfect because they have great coffee too. If people watching is your thing, they have a bar rail fight up against East 6th Street where you can post up. One of the most interesting places to sit is in the newly renovated Cool Store. What used to be an old convenience store with a drive-thru is now where their barrels and foeders live along with tables. And yes, it’s cool in there, and preserves a bit of seat side heritage. CEO and Founder Christian Cryder began brewing in Montana and chose East Austin specifically to start a business doing all of the things he and his family love: beer, tacos and coffee. Truly a family business, his daughter Rebecca is now a brewer here. Another interesting note is that he is also a minister. If that seems like a strange pairing, think back to the monastic breweries throughout Europe. Religion and beer go way back. Hence the name of the brewpub, but unlike the story, this wasn’t brought back from the dead, it was created. When I asked about the name, Christian told me, “I’ve never met anybody who says we need more death. We need more life. More love. We think beer can help with that.” I think they’re doing a great job with that.
So many new places to try in town, and this is definitely one of them! What started as a side project at Adelbert’s Brewery while Taylor Ziebarth was their head brewer, finding odd wooden barrels to age beers in (see what happened there?), this journey culminated with him opening this unique new brewpub with his brother Brett. In a chat over a beer, Taylor told me that “we just wanted to be a cozy neighborhood beer spot, and that’s what drives a lot of our decisions around here.” Cozy it is. It’s a very comfortable space with a laid back and fun atmosphere. Along with the outside seating and restaurant style of the main room, they even have a quirky little living room area that features free old school video game consoles including Ms Pacman and Galaga. Did I mention that they’re free? Yes, free. Behind the bar you’ll find very unique wooden tap handles and the bar top is made from a beautiful Costa Rican Guanacaste. And yes, I had to look that name up. With all of that in place, they set out to cater to a variety of palates and take some chances with their beers that maybe others in town don’t. With two big oak foeders in the brewhouse, one of the main focuses here is American wild ales. The variety comes in the form of pilsners, pales, blondes, stouts and IPAs. The rotating tap selection will keep you coming back to see what they’re up to next. Bringing together a distinct flavor profile, friendly staff, great Italian inspired food, and a cool space to enjoy it all in, the brothers set out to be something very different. Mission accomplished!
I could talk about the awards that this place has won until I turn blue in the face. I like blue, so here we go. Four GABF medals in three different styles; three World Beer Cup medals, all this year, and all for IPAs; and they just won the Yakima Chief Hops Alpha King Challenge which seeks out “the best hop laden beers in the land” according to the YCH website. They had taken a second and a third previously years, but this year earned the big hop cone crown. All of this means exactly what it looks like, that Director of Brewing Joe Mohrfeld and his highly skilled team, of which he is very proud, are putting out banging beers left and right! Joe came to Austin from Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, a brewery that focussed a bit more on hop flavor and aroma rather than bitterness. He brought this same focus on hops, and has certainly upped the game for hoppy beers in Austin. Joe told me in a recent conversation that “beer is an agricultural product. We work closely with farmers to source ingredients that make sense for our beers and that allow us to brew the beer we want to brew. We work to showcase the farmer and let the ingredient shine through, showing them off in the beer. You can’t make a great IPA without great hops.” They do make great beer. I drink as much of it as I can. If for some reason you don’t want one of theirs, they’re guest tap list is always super deep with great beers made by their friends, most of whom they have collaborated with. And well, what’s in a name? They also have some pretty tasty pizza too. Being one of the more accessible places on this list, they are open seven days a week starting at 11am and run until 11 during the week and midnight on the weekends. Plenty of time to enjoy their beautiful beer. They have two locations, one on South Lamar and one on Burnet, with a beautiful new space in Round Rock set to open soonish.
So much to love about this new south Austin heavy hitter. Situated in an industrial neighborhood that used to be home to several mechanic shops, the name and edgy motif fit perfectly. It has a refined industrial feel with a strong connection to the tattoo community with artwork displayed throughout. One of the focal points in the taproom is an amazing mural piece by local artist Chris Treviño. In talking with Jeff Willis, owner, the entire place is a culmination of a life’s work in craft beer. Formerly the manager of The Ginger Man, he opened his own wildly successful beer focused restaurant in Fort Collins. Taking all of that experience back to Austin, he brought us Skull Mechanix where all drafts are served straight from bright tanks. He also brought a bit of Colorado back with him in the form of a beautiful bar top made from reclaimed wood from a 100 year old barn that he used to pass by every day on his commute to work. Certainly a place like this is going to have live music, and you can catch it here every weekend. Head brewer Michael Waters gives you a greatly varied menu ranging from pilsners to IPAs to saisons and British styles. I’ve enjoyed every one on the board. And don’t let the edginess of the place fool you, the service is warm and friendly in the well run taproom. Another place that’s open everyday, and I love that. These folks are simply on point, and I will continue to come here often!
Brewing great beer for their neighbors is the focus of this outstanding brewery. They are one of the fun places in the revitalized warehouse district, The Yard, which is also the home of Still Austin Distillery, Austin Winery and The Spokesman located in the heart of South Austin. As it says on their website, it was “started in 2016 by two dudes who love beer”, Bryan Winslow and Tim Bullock who won Brewery of the Year at this year’s Tastemaker Awards and also from Austin Monthly. These awards were preceded by last year’s Best Brewery nod from Austin Beer Guide. Awards are great, truly they are, but what is even more great is the concept of “third space” that St Elmo has become for many of its neighbors. “We all have our workplace and our home, but it’s that third place that we go to unwind, meet our friends, and identify with as a community. For some it’s a church, for some it’s a basketball court, and for some it’s a brewery. It’s that idea that we base most of what we do here on,” Bryan stated. The people names that they give their beer are not only funny, but fit the vibe of the place as well. As Bryan also told me, they have made a friendly place, and these beers could all be people you know, your friends and neighbors. Carl, a Kölsch, is the flagship, and he is extremely approachable. Who doesn’t love a Carl? He’s friendly and harmless, nobody is afraid of a Carl. He is joined by his friends Chico, Angus, Ned, Leon, the new guy Jimmy, and they’re all pretty chill. But it’s not just a group of guys. Let’s introduce you to Bey, named after Beyonce as requested by the beertenders. They approach went something like this, “what would Beyonce taste like?” Well, she put out an album called Lemonade and she’s sweet…bam! Honey Lemon Bey is on tap right now. Sometimes beer makes you hungry, often times food makes you want beer. Bring your appetite to this place because they are the home of Soursop, one of the city’s best food trucks, serving up Asian-inspired drinking food. The Thai chicken sandwich is absolutely insane. At St Elmo, they love all styles of beer and all styles of people, and you will find all of that here in the taproom and beer garden.
10 Must Visit Breweries in Austin
James Lipari is an avid homebrewer, Certified Cicerone, and lover of all things beer. You’ll likely see him in taprooms, brewpubs, and beer bars here and across the country. You can follow him on Instagram @beerlovesjames