Beautiful-good. This is the name ancient Sumerians gave to the delicious biochemical concoction we now call beer.
Beer brings people around a table, fosters conversation, and opens opportunity for communal fellowship centered around the shared experience of enjoying refreshing, satiating beverages together. Not to mention, this bubbly brew releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine, which makes these gatherings all the more jovial.
I imagine the ancient beer-creators of old speechless after their first ceramic bowl full, dodging yeast clumps and particles with bamboo straws, then exclaiming the two most flattering, celebratory adjectives they could think up to describe their new boozy discovery: “Beautiful! ….Good!”
Many of today’s leading breweries across the country respectfully use beer’s rich history as a foundational stepping stool to launch themselves toward more creative, modern takes on traditional recipes. With craft beer on the rise, more and more entrepreneurs and beer connoisseurs are building their own breweries and pubs, positioning their take on this ancient creation from a different and unique direction.
Here at Bellhops, we are scanning the country, seeking out the best breweries that capture beer’s potential and provide delicious brews to happy patrons (we’re a modern alternative to traditional Austin movers, by the way). City by city, we’re doing the work and investigation so that you can focus on enjoying your beer and the people around you.
Next up on the list: Austin, Texas – known as having some of the most and best live music in the world, but not given quite the credit it deserves for its tasty and diverse beer. But here’s your guide. Keep reading for the best seven breweries in the city.
It would be self-explanatory to say in which southern development this brewery is located. But St. Elmo Brewery purposefully stamped themselves with the title matching their location in an effort to ground and unite themselves with their fellow neighbors in St. Elmo. Where there used to be very little (a post office, a school), now is soppy with tasty booze from the Austin Winery, Still Austin Whiskey, Skull Mechanix, and, of course, St. Elmo Brewing Company. The brewery welcomes all and desires to break down the barriers between brewer and drinker, and their airy taproom which opens right up to their production room, mirrors this sentiment. Grab a tap during their Trivia Tuesdays, enjoy live music on Grassy Thursdays, or wander their beer garden with some friends and your pups.
This light, crisp, refreshing Kolsch will be just what your beer-cravings cry for. Its full flavored with German Pilsner malt and that clean Kolsch yeast like home-baked bread. And at 4.6% ABV, Carl is just too darn drinkable.
You would be a fool to not give this toasty brew the opportunity to pair beautifully with whatever recent delicacy SourSop, the onsite Asian grub food-truck, has mixed up. Let this ol’ pair dance together, and see how their flavors fly.
It isn’t uncommon for a brewery to foster the community – in fact, fellowship is one of the many things that draws us to beer. But Hops & Grain Brewing makes community involvement central to their theme, mission, and purpose. They connect with other local businesses, non-profits, farmers, and artists, and build their brewery on the foundation of sustainability. Additionally, each team member on their staff dedicates personal time to volunteer with the brewery’s non-profit partners. And, if you have a pup, your in luck! This doggy-loving brewery hand-makes Brew Biscuit treats from their spent grain and sells them in the taproom. Hops & Grain doesn’t exclude anyone on a funky schedule either. They’re open 7 days a week from 10am to 10pm, serving up their 8 year-’round brews and a rotating list of their more experimental pilot batches.
We recommend always giving Maibocks a taste if you find one on a taplist. This hefty lager is brewed with German malts, hops, and yeast, and creates a satiating journey in each sip that starts malty and finishes crispy-dry. 6.6% ABV will slip past you as your distracted by the beer’s notes of fresh bread and toast.
Blue Owl takes a uncommon angle at the newly popular tart beers. By souring their beer during mash in (the stage in the brewing process before boiling and fermentation), they create drinks that are as tart as the Goses, Lambics, and Berliner Weisses we’ve grown to love, and as balanced and flavorful as their original beer styles. This unique brewing technique allows for Blue Owl to create soured versions of any beer style – from IPAs, like their juicy, bitter Hop Totem, to Stouts, like their Professor Black brewed with cherries. A risky move, souring all their beers, but because of Blue Owl’s drive toward approachability in both their taproom and their beers, these hybrid brews are clean, balanced, and don’t overpower the palate of the every-day patron looking for a consistent beer that tastes good.
Little Boss is a good place to start with Blue Owl’s unusual brews. Its light crispness isn’t bold and overpowering and blends well with tarter flavors. This golden session wheat is effervescent and refreshing and resembles a Berliner Weisse. Once you’ve seen how a sour wheat ale can shine, you’re ready to move onto bigger, bolder brews, like their sour pale ale, Spirit Animal.
Only a few years ago, in mid-2015, founders Devon Ponds and Ben Sabin collaborated with brewer Nathan Crane (previously from both Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey in California) to create a brewery that would bring West Coast brewing to Austin, Texas. This combo must have been a good one, because since 2015, their fans have bubbled over. But it’s not just their California-Austin hybrid beers that bring the peeps. Friends & Allies’ taproom sits right next to the Austin Eastcider’s Collaboratory and the Austin Bouldering Project, the largest bouldering gym in North America, making it the dream weekend – hell, the dream anyday spot for outdoorsy, beer-drinkers in the city…and there are quite a few.
Although Friends & Allies gained their following by brewing their delicious, drinkable, session IPA, Noisy Cricket, we suggest you hop down their flagship list to the White Ale on tap. This creamy, cloudy ale walks a straight line and doesn’t throw you with any wild flavors from left field. Its balanced with a delicious build up of vanilla, sweet fruit, spice and cracker. It’s not too boozy either, and drinks easy for a 6 percenter.
Live Oak started out as the strange bird amidst other craft breweries of the time – brewing lagers – a style dismissed by beer geeks as Millercoors’ terrain. They opened their taplist in 1997 with their Pilz and HefeWeizen. Additionally, while most breweries lean heavily on distributing their beers and selling them outside the taproom, Live Oak Brewing Co. succeeded for years as a draft-only brewery. Granted, this was partially due to their lack of space to brew to that demand, but they beat the odds. Now, with a new brewery, a large canning line, and plenty of space, Live Oak is able to produce as much beer as the thirsty region demands.
If you are going to truly experience Live Oak – a pioneer of old school lagers, you must try their Pilz. Highly flavorful and delicate, a Bavarian Pilsner is one of the most challenging beers to brew, and is often referred to as “the naked beer” because it will quickly reveal any flaws or off-flavors. Live Oak’s Pilz passes this exposing test, with clean, delicate, and refreshingly sharp flavors and a body that shines a brilliant gold.
No. 2: Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. (ABGB)
The ABGB has been building a steady, loyal, and large fan base for years amidst Austin drinkers. But these local patrons aren’t the only ones noticing ABGB’s killer brews. The Great American Beer Festival named ABGB The Large Brewpub/Brewmasters of the Year…for the third year in a row. And with a menu full of pizza, live music from local bands, and dancing you’ll leave ABGB much more jovial than when you came.
Go classic with ABGB’s staple Munich lager, a simple, clean brew which may have also possibly won the gold medal from The Great American Beer Festival this year…This malty lager doesn’t show off with bright, flashy flavors. Its tasteful but not weak, has a rich hop presence without being overpowering, and, in its subtle strength, compliments perfectly ABGB’s savory and spicy Housemade Sausage Pizza.
We’ve all heard of farmhouse ales. Many of us have had the pleasure of sipping down these funky, tart, crispy-dry brews. And numerous breweries have tried their hand at this style. But one place holds the throne on sour beers, and that’s Jester King. This gorgeous brewery, built in an old, sun-bleached, stone building and set in the midst of 165 acres of preserved land, farmyards, and meadows specializes in farmhouse ales, and produces some of the best in the country. Jester King has been known and respected from state to state for what they’ve created, and they continue to provide their patrons with a truly genuine farmhouse experience. Few others can funk it up like Jester King.
This Belgian Saison has been brewed with Hill Country well water, blended with chamomile and holy basil flowers, and fermented with Jester King’s mixed culture of brewers yeast and native yeast with bacteria gathered and harvested from the Texas Hill Country. This delicious herbal brew is unfiltered and pours slightly cloudy with a beautiful fluffy white head. Standard Saison ABVs can range from 5-7%, and Vulgar Affectation sits at the lower end at 5%. Despite this, Vulgar Affectation is unshy in flavor and ripples with botanical notes, even after bottle aging.
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