Our latest trip took us to Austin – sweaty, sweaty Austin. Apparently early September isn’t the best time to visit if you don’t like using your hair as a humidity sensor. If you go from zero to curly in 2.4 seconds, it’s bloody humid out. If you’re looking for some wicked thunderstorms and the torrential rain that comes with it, September is prime time. As chance (ha, chance) would have it, we were in a bar each time the rain started and happily waited it out.
On to the beer. The city has plenty of local and imported craft on tap everywhere. While not every location has a massive selection, it’s nice to see unsuspecting bars and restaurants with some decent choices.
MAP: Here’s my map for Austin bars, breweries, beer stores and restaurants.
Let’s start with the one place I suggest you don’t miss. They’re about 20 minutes out of downtown Austin, and our Lyft driver was thoroughly confused as to why we were heading to what seemed to be a rural farm area, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Pro tip – if you’re not driving, take Lyft/Uber as it’s about $36 vs. a $60 cab ride. We didn’t think Lyft would take us back into Austin but they did. Score.
Open only Friday, Saturday & Sunday – check their twitter for details. We went on Sunday and arrived at 12:06. They’d been open a whole 6 minutes and the parking lot was half full with a long line at the bar. Nah, they’re not popular.
Jester King is set up with a bar in the main brewery/taproom and a second bar outside by the picnic tables. Some of the offerings at each bar cross over but there are 4 or 5 unique ones at each location. We put in a solid five hour shift there and shared all thirteen 4 oz beers. It’s a great setting with picnic tables under large trees and a huge covered area where you can get pizza from Smiley’s Farmhouse Pizza and wait, there’s another bar. Found me some Mikkeller Spontanfromboos here. Yum.
We were lucky enough to get two bottles of their special release, 分桃 (pronounced Fēn táo), a barrel-aged wild beer refermented with peaches. With a one-bottle limit per person, they take this seriously and stamp your arm three times with ink visible by a black light. Cheaters be gone.
20 taps and two casks, which are all craft. It’s in a great location downtown, the beer selection is good and they have friendly bar staff. This place was a bit pricey at an average of $8.50 per 9oz pour.
One of the larger tap lists we found in Austin with over 60 taps. Twenty of the taps were currently occupied by Oktoberfest beers, which are not my thing, and the balance were local and other US breweries. Other than the local offerings, I’d had many of the imported beers and thus, I didn’t find this place all that enticing. It’s still awesome, but when I travel, I like to try new beers whenever I can.
I loved this place. Loved it. Normally I’d start talking about the beer but the honey pear pizza they had on special was so amazing, I’m leading with that. OMG. Tell me if you don’t think this sounds fantastic: The Honey Pear features an extra virgin olive oil base topped with our house cheese blend, fresh pear slices, prosciutto, caramelized onions & crumbled blue cheese. To top it off we add fresh basil and a drizzle of Austin’s Good Flow Wildflower Honey.
Sigh… we may have gone there twice just to have the pizza. Now the beer. Their 15 house taps are really good and the extended guest list adds another 49 taps. If this was in my hood, it would be my local. Loved this place.
Irish looking pub with 64 taps. Great list with lots of unique-to-me beers – the only downfall was that in the afternoon, only one bartender was on duty and even though he was super efficient, the line was out the door. Worth a visit.
101 taps – I started with a Mikkeller Black Hole. uh yeah. Great list. If you want a paddle, you’re limited by the ABV/pour size but boo hoo, you’ll just have to order a larger pour of the Black Hole, as one does. Their food menu was limited when we were there as they were renovating their kitchen but man, the bratwurst and drunken chicken banger were good. The softest buns in town, baby. The smoker in the outdoor patio area was smoking some mighty fine meat and the following weekend, there was a pig roast. Oh, there’s also an off-leash area for your dogs. Yep, I liked this place. We went here twice – full disclosure, I though the pig roast was on the Saturday but it was the following week. We still had lots of amazing beers to sample so my lack of reading/detail wasn’t a total loss.
This local brewery is in a complex and we had to follow our nose (mmmm spent grain) to find it. Success! Thanks to some weird laws, you can’t buy beer in the tasting room but you can buy a “glass” for $10 and you get four 4 oz pours. Their beers are solid, we played a few games of Snakes and Ladders (I won best out of 3, not that anyone’s keeping score) and we added a cool tin tacker to our collection.
Bakery/coffee shop upstairs with a bar and patio downstairs. Decent list with 33 taps and the meat, sausage and cheese plates were delicious. The spicy pickles, mustard and wild boar rillettes were top notch.
We’re in Austin, the home of the 1.5 million bats under the bridge – how could we not go here? We arrived right as they were opening and the band was fantastic so we stopped. When I asked the bartender (as he was setting up the sign) if they had craft on tap his response was “depends on what you call craft”. Despite this, in we went, sat at the bar and ordered the only craft on tap. The bartender was awesome and had our backs after some pretentious dude from NY did the following:
Kelly and Bartender: talking football
NY Dude: Where are you from?
Dude: Oh, you’re from Canada, should I speak slower?
Me: GLARES AT HIM UNTIL HE PERISHES
Kelly: Explains Canadian football to the jerk. He’s way more patient than I am but frankly, I was busy launching daggers from my eyes.
Later on, RUDE Dude returns to the bar (by the way, we’re the only three patrons in said bar) and starts beaking off about some other ignorant thing and then, wait for it:
Bartender: You know we carry guns in Texas, right? Lots and lots of guns
Proudly advertised as a dive bar with the best burgers in town. In we go. They did have good burgers and a small craft list. Decent place to stop for lunch.
11 taps, a couple of old guys drinking Lone Star and there’s a popcorn machine. Looked like a good neighbourhood hangout and we stopped in for a pint (and some popcorn…mmmmm popcorn).
We’d heard that Austin was competing with Portland on who could be more hipster. This bar gives Austin a notch up. Yep, mustaches are the theme and man buns were aplenty. There’s a pool table, photo booth, a horsey ride thing that’s really meant for kids, I think, and a Bitcoin machine. I would like to pay for my beer with imaginary money. And done. There are 18 taps and it’s a good list. If you can handle the bun, visit.
This place looks pretty new and has 56 rotating taps. The Brew Exchange, stock exchange for beer, bases their pricing on supply and demand. I guess you should pick the less popular beers for a good price – can’t say I noticed the price was high or low but we were there for happy hour. Good list, a couple of good burger places across the street and you can bring food into the bar. Other than the flying spider that tried to kill me in the washroom (seriously, the damn thing flew at me), this was a solid choice.
60 taps and a good bottle list, and bottle lists were not plentiful in Austin. We had an Ola Dubh 12 on tap, which is a first for me. Look up and you’ll see all the flying saucers – you too can get your own personalized saucer if you drink 200 different beers in a year but you can’t receive more than three credits per visit. Yep, challenge would definitely be accepted if I lived in Austin.
Neighbourhood dive-ish bar with about 25 craft taps. We stopped in here for a quick one.
We only checked out two of them and both were good choices.
They sell only craft beer and cider here so Lone Star drinkers will need to putter on over to the local 7-11. They organize the shelves by style rather than by brewery and have a great selection. The guys running it are friendly and helpful. Upon check-out, the guy perused our beer and then offered us a Bourbon County Barley Wine he had on the back shelf. Looks like we passed the test.
Namaste y’all. Whip In is the most interesting beer place I’ve probably ever been to. What started as a corner store has morphed into a pub, brewery, beer store and market. It’s the home of the former Namaste brewery, now called Kamala Brewing. You’ll find Kamala’s beers on tap as well as 72 other taps. Then there’s the food – tasty, tasty Indian food. We stopped in for a late breakfast, beer and some shopping. Star Trek was on TV so if you like really bad acting, looking at you Data, that’s good background noise.
Austin is renowned for it’s excellent cuisine including barbeque and Texmex.
Normally, I won’t stand in line for more than 15 minutes for any food. Come on, there are lots of choices for food, I don’t need to wait in line. But our hotel was a mere 10 minute walk away and I guess we’re not really doing anything at 9am on a Tuesday. Fine. We’ll go. They’re only open for lunch and closed Mondays. The weekends are apparently nuts so go on a weekday if you can.
Here’s the deal. You stand in line, or sit if you are early enough to grab a lawn chair from their stash, and patiently wait. It’s totally acceptable to BYOB, which the nice guy beside us did and I happily enjoyed his Three Floyd’s offerings that he was handing out. Thanks random dude! It also helped that he had a cute dog that liked head scritches, so that kept me occupied. One of the Franklin people comes down the line to get a sense of how much meat is being ordered so they can cut it off at some point.
We got in line at 9:00, they open at 11:00, and we were eating by 11:30ish. Was it worth it? Yeah, if you love BBQ, it’s worth it. The brisket was amazing as were the ribs. Texas isn’t about the sauce (and you won’t find any slathered on it), it’s about the meat. The sausage was too fatty/greasy for me, but tasty. Pulled pork and the side dishes were also spot on. Pro tip, you can order by the ¼ pound and we ordered wayyyy too much for just the two of us as we wanted a taste of everything. Sadly, about two thirds went to waste as we didn’t have a fridge in our hotel. The pig gods may strike me down for that atrocity.
see above under beer!
This Mexican restaurant has been a staple in Austin since 1975. The older gentleman next to us was reminiscing how he has been coming since he was in College and I can see why he continues to return. The decor is old-world Mexican with colonial antiques, the staff are attentive and the food, fantastic.
We went for dinner one night and it was so good, we made a reservation for the Sunday brunch buffet. Dinner for us was a Chile con Queso appie and Kelly had the Enchiladas de Pato – shredded duck topped with poblano spinach sauce. My dinner was the Mixote – and tonight’s meat was lamb shank. It’s slow cooked in a papillote (paper) wrapper. So tender! Make sure you visit this gem.
We didn’t make it out to the original Salt Lick, which I hear is fantastic, but we did grab a meal for the plane at the airport. I won’t rate them based on their airport version, which was decent, but not great however, it sure beats airplane food.
An Austin home-grown favourite, pick one of their flavours and have your toppings chopped into the ice cream. With 350 flavours on rotation, frequent trips back are likely necessary.
This 24-hour lounge/coffee shop has baristas that will create the perfect coffee for you. Food is sourced locally from classics like Torchy’s Tacos. If you’re near the university, check this one out.
Other Points of Interest
Yes, bats. 1.5 million of them, to be more precise. The Congress Avenue Bridge has been an unintentional bat roost since its reconstruction in 1980. In the summer, people line the bridge and watch from the water as these bats emerge for their nightly feeding. Here’s a good site with more information on parking, what time they appear etc.
We’re not history buffs, yet this was pretty cool. I had no idea how much legislation Lyndon Johnson passed for civil rights, public broadcasting (Sesame Street!), Medicare, education, arts, mining safety, seat belts – and the list goes on. The LBJ archives are 45 million pages and five floors. A hot lap around the library was worth the visit.
As usual, some things caught my eye in a new city.
- People hang their sunglasses on the back of their shirt. I’m a top of my head kind of gal myself.
- The pedestrian lights don’t work very often. Time to run.
- We met many transplants to the city working at the bars/restaurants. Austin is a growing city with lots of people wanting to move there.
- 6th Street has a good chunk of the bars, 2nd Street is for shopping (but not a lot). We stuck around 6th for some crazy reason.
- Craft soda was served in many places instead of the usual Coke/Pepsi.
Austin is a great beer and food city so make sure you add it to your beercation list. And here’s how we get our beers home safely every trip. Happy trails.