A new(ish) brewing venture from the folks behind Better Half – an oasis of cocktails and fancy bar snacks just off West 6th, Hold Out has been hotly anticipated in the ATX beer-community for well over a year, with tables booked out days in advance when they first opened their doors nearly a month ago. Having been in the pipeline for so long, Hold Out must have been pretty frustrated to finally reach the point of opening right in the middle of a pandemic, but seem to have taken the inconvenience in their stride as we were welcomed to a safe, efficient set-up of distanced, reserved seating with table service and wipe-clean menus. Hold Out have, in fact, been brewing for a while, and we had a great time at one of their very well-attended preview parties last February, as well as trying their excellent collabs with Austin Beerworks and Blue Owl. Being regulars at Better Half, its proximity to Waterloo Records a shoo-in for pre and post-vinyl-shopping drinks, we’re familiar with the shaded grotto that now houses seating for both bar and brewery, and has retained its relaxed charm despite the new restrictions. Our friendly, helpful server took an interest in our feedback on the beers, always a plus, and we were very pleased to be able to order flights and small-pours so that I could fulfil my usual mission of trying absolutely everything on the menu – a not-insubstantial ten beers at this time, but this is totally within the pandemic-rule guidelines, right?
With just one light porter, the tiki-tastic Last Light coconut-pineapple dry-hopped porter, the current Hold Out list is a seasonable, on-trend mix of Pales, with an IPA and a couple of light ales in the mix. I particularly enjoyed the bright, spritzy Kviek-forward Bjorn Again Texan, a Norwegian Pale pack with yeasty, mineral-hopped energy, and the Suavamente Wedding Pale, full of sweet, tangy Otra Vez. The Liquid Television Candied Tropical Ale was precisely as described and the crisp, light stone-fruit Session Boots Pink Boots Society collab was lovely and refreshing. High quality light beers seem to be very much the style de jour, and all the brews we tried at Hold Out were good enough to order again (a pretty high bar for me) so they are clearly right on top of the game here. I will say that having been notably impressed by their more outre and experimental offerings, particularly the Hey, Fun Guy! Shitake Mushroom Black Lager, Et Tu Brut IPA and Acid Professor Stout, I was a little disappointed not to find anything comparably unusual currently available. However, my new foray into the world of brewing has armed with the knowledge that it’s actually harder to get sophisticated light beers right, so showing off that skillset is completely understandable. Hopefully both will find a place in the Hold Out oeuvre going forward.
Pricing at Hold Out is most reasonable, especially for its downtown location, with small pours clocking in at $2.50 and $6 pints. Food also doesn’t break the bank – you can pick up a double-patty burger for $8 to soak up the beers, and although we didn’t indulge on this visit, previous experiences of eating at Better Half suggest quality remains high. Beer-to-go is also available – not such a bargain at $18 a six-pack, but good that mixed packs are available, especially in the current climate. A great first visit, with Hold Out rising above circumstances and delivering quality, atmosphere, and a much-needed sense of normalcy. We hope to return soon.