November 2017 – June 2018
You might wonder why, with so many fabulous craft breweries of its own, Austin needs a branch of internationally successful Colorado favourites Oskar Blues. To that I simply say, why not?
On my recent travels in New Mexico, I discovered that in that state it is virtually de rigour for a successful brewery to open up multiple taprooms in both the city of its origin and elsewhere (Bosque, Marble, Santa Fe, Tractor, Taos Mesa being cases in point). This is still pretty rare here in Austin – NXNW, Pinthouse and the potential new Hops and Grain being the only examples I can think of. When it comes to getting around the strict rules and taxes that make moving beer from state to state expensive and admin-heavy, if you’ve got the capital and the inclination why not just open up a brewery in another state and make production local? Especially in a state the size of Texas (and in beery North Carolina). Makes sense to me.
Everyone knows these guys aren’t local, and neither do they pretend to be. Oskar Blues slots into the Austin beer scene in a way that’s sensibly unobtrusive without downplaying themselves either. Their spacious warehouse-style taproom, opened in 2016, is conveniently located on the North Austin beer circuit. It has a leafy garden with hammocks, a large purpose-built stage, bright, stylish murals and loads of cool music tech for décor. Their regular free live shows promote local bands, and they have community events like beer and yoga and charity fundraisers, showing their willing to engage with a local crowd.
They’re keeping up on the beer front too, with a rotating selection of taproom-only seasonals to please nerds like me. You’re not going to find the likes of the deliciously smooth, fruity Hotbox Coffee Porter or the super-hopped 2018 Gubna Imperial IPA in your local off license. That said, all their popular favourites are also available in abundant supply to drink in or take away, should that be your bag. Flights come in sixes but do note that they aren’t available after 6pm (although you can still purchase individual tasting pours!).
There’s usually an after-work crowd as well as those who are there for the music, and folks just hanging out. This isn’t a late-night place, like a lot of the North Austin breweries its latest close is 10pm, but it is open seven days a week (hours are day-dependent) which makes visiting pretty easy. I like coming here on spec to see who’s playing and check out the new releases. Oskar Blues might not be essential Austin drinking, but that doesn’t stop it being a fun, relaxed spot.