Central Texas is famous for Austin's live music scene and the picturesque Hill Country, but the beer is also worth its own trip. Pack the car and turn up the tunes. Here are five craft beer destinations not to miss — plus a bonus spot for spirits — starting with my favorite.
Jester King Brewery
Located on 58 lush acres on the outskirts of Austin, Jester King Brewery specializes in farmhouse ales, defined by founder Jeffrey Stuffings as beers that maintain "a sense of place." His brewery embodies a farm-to-glass approach, growing fruits, vegetables and herbs on its land to use in brewing. Fruity and funky recipes are staples of the beer menu, but what really sets Jester King apart is how they're made. For fermentation, the brewery uses an open-air vessel called a coolship (think of it like a metal kiddie pool), which is situated near several open windows and lets wild yeast from the area inoculate the liquid, giving each beer a true sense of terroir. Creativity is a hallmark here, which is why hundreds of people line up for special releases — including some so unique you might only get to try them once.
Sip this: Grim Harvest blackberry ale
Address: 13187 Fitzhugh Road, Austin
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.
Colloquially known as the ABGB, this brewpub near South Congress in Austin is a destination for beer travelers nationwide since winning the prestigious "large brewpub of the year" title at Denver's Great American Beer Festival in 2016 and 2017. Its secret to success? Keeping with tradition when it comes to classic German and Czech styles, says brewer Kim Mizner. But the beer isn't the only reason you should stop by. Chef Tim Stevens showcases his Southern roots on the menu, which features inventive pizzas, salads, sandwiches and small plates. Our recommendation: Split a pie and a pitcher, and stick around for a concert.
Sip this: Big Mama Red hoppy red ale
Address: 1305 W. Oltorf, Austin
Family Business Beer Co.
Jensen Ackles might seem like any other homebrewing-hobbyist-turned-microbrewery-owner — if you didn't know he's a Hollywood star. The Richardson native who stars in CW's Supernatural opened Family Business Beer Co. in Dripping Springs with his wife Danneel, also an actor; his brother-in-law Gino Graul; and in-laws Ed and Debby Graul. True to the name, it's a family operation. "This isn't something we're slapping our name on," Danneel says. "Jensen has cleaned toilets here." Because the couple has three children — twin 1-year-olds and a 4-year-old daughter — they built a playground where kids can enjoy their own space. (And adults their own, too.) Hungry? Family friends Jep and Jessica Robertson, who you might recognize from A&E's Duck Dynasty, opened a food trailer onsite serving Cajun bites such as jambalaya and étouffée.
Sip this: Haulin' Oats brown ale
Address: 19510 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs
Come for the beer, leave with some merch. Located on the north side of the city, Austin Beerworks offers drinkers the quintessential brewery experience — a solid variety of beers in a comfortable, wood-laden taproom filled with the aroma of wet grain. Then there's the epic selection of swag. As long as you can sport the brewery's signature neon palette, Austin Beerworks has a T-shirt, koozie, cycling jersey, fanny pack, flat bill hat, bolo tie, bandana or belt buckle for you.
Sip this: Pearl Snap pilsner
Address: 3001 Industrial Terrace, Austin
Want to taste the best of Texas' beer scene without having to bar hop? Head to Craft Pride on the uber-popular Rainey Street in Austin, where rotating draft selections range from light to dark, and from easy-drinking to shockingly sour. They don't brew their own beer here; they're busy geeking out over everybody else's. "Prerequisite No. 1 is it has to be brewed and sourced in state," says general manager Anders Dowd of the selection. "It has to be good, obviously, and we typically try to support the little guys." Stop by Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights to enjoy a side of live music with your brew.
Sip this: Yellow Rose IPA from Lone Pint Brewery
Address: 61 Rainey St., Austin
Detour: Treaty Oak Brewing and Distilling
Four miles from Family Business Beer Co., there's a boozy spot that's worth a detour while you're in Dripping Springs. Beer isn't what Treaty Oak Brewing and Distilling does best, at least not yet. Owners Daniel Barnes and Nate Powell are in the process of revamping the beer program, but there's plenty else here to satisfy your thirst. Treaty Oak has been producing spirits including gin, whiskey and rum since 2006 and, within the last few years, relocated to a lush 30-acre property outfitted with several bars and a barbecue restaurant. Grab a cocktail with one hand and a plate with the other, and post up at an outdoor table to drink in the scenery.
Sip this: Barrel Aged Old Fashioned
Address: 16604 Fitzhugh Rd, Dripping Springs