Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beercation: Austin, TX

Another Beercation in the books, this time we traveled to Austin, TX. We ate, we drank, we took in some live music, and had a great time visiting with family. There were a lot of beer high lights on the trip, The Flying Saucer (shown above), meeting Dan from The Free Beer Movement (more on that later), my first Alaskan beer on tap, the Stash IPA I had at The Spiderhouse, and of course all four of the breweries we visited.

NXNW Restaurant and Brewery
Austin, TX

After we left NXNW I thought, "that was just like ABC". What I mean by that is, it seems as though they are more interested in appealing to the masses with mediocre beers, and are focused on making the chunk of their profits off of running a restaurant that just happens to have a brewery in it. No disrepsect to the brewers of ABC or NXNW, the beers weren't "bad", and they certainly fit their respective style profiles correctly, they just weren't great. The highlight of the bunch was the Duckabish Amber.

Atmosphere: 3
Beer Selection: 3
Beer Quality: 2
Food: NA
(all out of possible 5)

The Draught House Pub & Brewery
Austin, TX

The Draught House is the perfect example of what I want from a bar. In house brewery? Check. Several house beers on tap? Check. Tons of other local and craft beers on tap? Check. Dartboard (indoor and outdoor)? Check. Large outside seating area? Check. Random food truck in the parking lot? Check. They had their system down too, no servers, you walk up to the bar to get your beer and take a seat inside or outside wherever you want. And it works, you're never waiting for a beer w/ an empty glass in front of you, and as long as there's a good bartender tending bar, you only have to wait a few minutes in "line" for your beer. I have a good feeling the Good Dog Tap Room is going to be a lot like this place. We were on a tight schedule so the only beer I got to try was their Red, served in a half pint and coming in around 9% with a full body, a great hop bite and clean finish.

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 4
Beer Quality: 3.5
Food: NA

The Faust Brewing Company (& Hotel)
New Braunfels, TX

With the tag line "You Don't Have To Go Home, You Can Stay Here" the Faust Brewing Company certainly has an advantage. Located in the historic Faust Hotel (1929) in the small German town of New Braunfels, the copper tank brewhouse of Faust Brewing Co. fits quite nicely behind the beautiful wooden bar. Just like the Draught House, they offer a selection of their own beers, and a nice selection of others. Given the German heritage of this town, it wasn't a suprise to see two Spatens and a Warsteiner on tap.

We got to sample their three beers they had on tap, the pale, the stout, and a seasonal made with ginger and honey. The stout and the pale were just fine. I could see the pale being a good thirst quencher in the TX heat. The seasonal though, that was different, the first thing that hit both of us was the nose of the beer, giving off a huge aroma of beets. That's right, beets. Weird I know, but the smell was unmistakable. We both decided to go with off site selections for our full pints, Lauren with another local brew Alamo Golden Ale, and I with a large glass of Spaten Oktoberfest (apparently they make it year round now??)

The food at Faust was amazing, probably the food highlight of the trip. I had the beer cheese soup made with their Golden Ale, and the Croque Monsieur, "thinly shaved ham and gruyere cheese on sourdough bread, grilled to perfection and topped with a parmesan mornay sauce. Served with house-made potato chips". Now that's a sandwich.

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 2.5
Beer Quality: 3
Food: 5

Austin Beerworks
Austin, TX

"Hell bent on Excellence" is their slogan, and they mean it. I had the opportunity to try Austin Beerworks before actually heading to the brewery. I had their DIPA at The Flying Saucer, a DIPA that could go head to head with Nugget Nectar any day of the week. They don't have a tasting room, or restaurant attached to their brewery. They do have an open space in their brewery that features a cement floor and four picnic tables - and they make it work. Open on Fridays for tours and tastings, guests can either try three 4oz samples for free, or for $10 can purcahse a logo pint glass and have it filled three times. Then you can hang out in the brewery, play darts, fooseball, or even get in on a game of Boggle that was going on.

Their four flagship beers, Fire Eagle (American IPA), Black Thunder (German-Style Schwarz), Pearl Snap (Pilsner), and Peacemaker (Pale Ale) are all fine examples of what good quality craft beer is. Each one able to stand alone, but when put together, form a portfolio that any brewer or brewery should be proud of. On tap they also had two versions of their DIPA. One fermented with a Belgian yeast, and one fermented with an American yeast strain. I had had the American version before, so my first sample of the night was the Belgian DIPA, then I moved on to the Black Thunder. For my third and final selection I went right back to the American DIPA. This was THE beer highlight of the trip.

Luckily the guys at Austin Beerworks are can lovers. And it just so happens that cans fly better than glass bottles - so I'll be enjoying Fire Eagle and Black Thunder for quite some time.

Thanks for the hospitality and letting me play the "out of town" card to get in on the tour guys!

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 3
Beer Quality: 4.5
Food: NA

Austin is a really great city that offers a lot - music, food, beer, arts, just about everything. It seems that people really put a lot of thought and effort into the things they do in Austin. Whether it's the food they make you in their food truck, or the handmade beer you get from one of the many local breweries, the people of Austin care. All I ask is that you folks in Austin learn how to drive...please.

Huge thanks to Dan, The Free Beer Movement, the Cone family, and the Austin Beerworks guys.

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