Easy Tiger, Bangers, The Front Page, WhichCraft, Oz Tap House, Thrive Craft House, Brew & Brew, Mort Subite, Whip Inn, Brass Tap
Austin is, thankfully, a city where you can buy some form of craft beer pretty much anywhere. You go to the cinema, any music venue, restaurant, club or bar worth their salt digs in hard to support our local breweries and offer at least one or two locally brewed beers, often supported by popular out-of-state brands. With this in mind, demarcating what counts as a ‘craft beer bar’ in Austin isn’t as straightforward as it might appear – with everyone selling it, who counts as ‘expert’ or ‘specialist’? On arriving into the city, you may want a one (or two) stop encounter with the best and freshest local brews to save the time involved in multiple taproom visits. Or if you’re local, you may be thirsting for out-of-state excitement that means hitting up certain designated places. The locations I’ve selected all advertise themselves as destination craft beer bars – dedicated purveyors of carefully curated up-to-date and appealing beer lists, must-visit locations for beer lovers. Most, but not all, serve their beers in tasting flights, and all have at least 15 taps of rotating beers, including local favorites and something from out of state. Pre-Covid, these locations also all hosted regular beer events, including tap takeovers, pint nights and meet-the-brewer events, all of which will hopefully be back up and running before too long. These are the places to experiment with local fare, seek out speciality brews and generally get your beer geek on. In the last year, we’ve sadly seen the much-loved stalwart of the Austin beer community Craft Pride close its fabled Rainey Street doors, but are hoping to see them emerge brighter than ever at a new location in 2022, and the university district’s 100+ tap extravaganza that was Growler USA has also now gone. Nonetheless, new entries from Springdale Road’s hip new Front Page Pub and crackin Downtown spot Brew & Brew are sure to keep our lively city’s dedicated beer lovers out of trouble – happy drinking!
While old-school Austinites still understandably mourn the closure of Easy Tiger’s original Dirty Sixth home, the good news is that this Austin institution now has three beer-n-bakery locations across the city to meet your craft beer needs wherever you happen to be. Having re-focussed their business on food service and online ordering during the pandemic, Easy Tiger doesn’t have as much of an eclectic and specialised beer menu as it used to have but local staples and out-of-state offerings can be found at all three locations, as can spacious patios and occasional live music. Medium-priced American comfort food is served at all three branches, where happy hour is 2-6pm on weekdays and all day Mondays, including select cocktails and snacks. Frustratingly, Easy Tiger does not offer beer menus for any of their locations online at present, so choices are a bit hit-n-hope at the moment, but their South Austin branch features over 30 taps to choose from. I highly recommend visiting during happy hour for $5 Old Fashioneds, beers, wine and fancy hot dogs. Airy and spacious, Easy Tiger is very well suited to visit in a group – it’s more of a hangout than a beer-experience these days, but a good one. Easy Tiger continues to offer curbside pickup and nationwide delivery.
3508 S Lamar Blvd Suite 200, Austin, TX 78704, 6406 N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd Suite 1100, Austin, TX 78752, 1501 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78701
Reknowned purveyors of extremely fine sausages, Bangers also sports a supremely ambitious 207 taps of draft beer and cider following their 2018 expansion which more than doubled both their physical capacity and tap capacity – now considered the largest in the state. After a long period of limited capacity and way fewer beer, Bangers are now back to utilizing their full space and hosting the lively parties they are well known for, as well as upping their beer game, especially for special occasions. Since their expansion, Bangers does not serve flights or 5oz pours, but all beers are available in 9oz servings. While this isn’t ideal with so much to choose from, if you’ve ever been to Bangers on a sweaty-heaving (pre-Covid) Saturday afternoon, you can understand their rationale – queues for the bar would run onto the highway if bartenders were serving out 5ozs from over 200 taps! While it’s (obviously) impossible to know exactly what Bangers will have on draft at any given moment, you can find updates about events and special tappings on their social media, and if you’re eating don’t be afraid to hit up your server for recommendations to pair with your fine meats. Bangers is one of the very few Rainey Street originals remaining and is definitely worth hitting up. With their traditional European-style long-table dining format, they have managed to retain their old-school biergarten atmosphere surprisingly well. Bangers is a great place to enjoy the likes of Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras or St Patrick’s Day if you want to immerse yourself in a full-on party atmosphere while drinking a wide variety of high quality beer. And the sausages are great too.
79 Rainey St, Austin, TX 78701
The Front Page
As Springdale Road continues to evolve into a hip fusion of independent makers and nomadic remote workers, The Front Page provides a welcome new addition to the scene, fusing a chilled-out daytime vibe with a relatively small but carefully curated beer list, mixing high-end local fare with a smattering of fancy out-of-state offerings, plus European pub staples like Guinness and Warsteiner. Expect a laid-back, casual vibe with a mix of coffee-sipping, laptop-tapping solo workers and locals grabbing healthy lunch options (they specialize in reasonably priced salads) during the day, followed by a shift in gear towards cocktail-hour buzz as offices kick out (happy hour is 3-7pm). While The Front Page may not present as a craft beer bar, you may be surprised at what you find there. Real Ale’s ridiculously good Mysterium Verum Benedictum BA Sour Cherry Wild Ale nestled side by side with Great Divide’s subtley successful Peppermint Yeti and Outer Range’s crackin-cryo Amenities IIPA on a recent visit. While neither the interior or exterior are particularly stylish or inviting, there’s enough to keep a discerning drinker busy enough not to notice.
1023 Springdale Road Bldg 1 Suite F, Austin, TX 78721
WhichCraft had a strong monopoly on the newest and hardest-to-fine brews in town which may not be as powerful as it once was, but it remains a solid choice for both drink-in and to-go craft brews of both local and out-of-state provenance. WhichCraft offers a rotating list of 30 taps, with a focus on Texan new releases and high-end brews from further afield, and with a newly expanded outdoor seating area, build-your-own flight pours and free wi-fi it’s easy to linger for a drink or two once you’ve picked up your to-go stash. Bottles and cans are also available for on-site consumption with a small corkage charge. There’s also coffee, wine and tacos, plus child-friendly packaged snacks and drinks. While they no longer host regular events WhichCraft’s charming location overlooking Mueller Lake Park gives it a pleasant ambience, and with new brews from the likes of B-52, Equal Parts and Avery, WhichCraft is a reliable spot for up-to-date offerings. WhichCraft also offers online ordering and curbside pickup, and if you want to be totally in the know, sign up for their weekly emails with all the new-release news.
1900 Simond Ave #200, Austin, TX 78723
Oz Tap House
Austin’s first pour-your-own taproom might be located a bit far from town but it’s the perfect pit stop on the way to Lake Travis. While you might think that a by-the-ounce bar sounds a little impractical in Covid times, Oz take sanitation very seriously to ensure you get a super-clean self-serve experience. If you like variety, this is the place. With beer, wine and cocktails all available in the smallest of measures, you can experiment to your heart’s content without breaking the bank. With a great range of popular local beers and a strong out-of-state menu, including a featured brewery-of-the-month, and 30 taps of beer, cider and seltzer you may not make it to Lake Travis after all. There’s regular live music and a pub-food menu including some rather interesting-sounding burgers. We loved trying rare and very potent Firestone Walker brews in manageably small amounts, topping up the ones we liked best. Happy hour is 3-6pm on weekdays if you want to make your visit even more bargainous.
10601 Ranch Rd 2222 Suite H, Austin, TX 78730
Thrive Craft House
The relative new kid on the craft-beer-bar scene, Thrive Craft House has set up home in Austin’s historic Hyde Park neighbourhood, close to the UT campus. Thrive offers over 40 beers on draft, ranging from standard macro lager to high-end out-of-state rarities with a few European brews thrown into the mix. All beers can be ordered in 5oz servings so you can build your own flight, and they sport an impressive 4 nitro and 3 cask engines, often reserved for particularly appealing brews. Thrive has a busy schedule of events including live music, trivia and comedy – you can find the details on their social media. There’s a solid range of American pub food available with a children’s menu, and breakfast is served from 7am so you can get started nice and early. Thrive is a great catch-all hangout with something for everyone, where Dos Equis sits happily next to The Bruery, and you can eat, drink, watch sports and support local musicians all in one place. This is a hip but family-friendly venue that both opens and closes early (9.30pm-ouch), so be sure to factor this into your visit.
519 W 37th St, Austin, TX 78705
Brew & Brew
Also known as The Brew & Brew, this popular spot just off East 5th is a haven for craft beer lovers amid the depressing bulldozing of the old East Side. Try to ignore the presence of Spectrum and CVS and focus instead on the impressive 32-brew tap list featuring some of the most sought-after rarities in town. You can find the likes of Weathered Souls, Equal Parts and False Idol on draft here, as well as out-of-state treats from big names like Prairie Artisan, FiftyFifty and Maine Brew Co – but bring a full wallet, these brews do not come cheap. Open from 7.30am, Brew & Brew is always busy and surprisingly popular among remote workers considering how rickety the tables are, but on the plus side there’s always an upbeat, buzzy atmosphere, even if you’re fighting for a table. The second brew refers to coffee, which comes in all the regular varietals, and snacks and sandwiches are also available. If you’re looking for some high-end bottles or cans, this is a good place to try – the selection is small but focused and that super-limited beer you’ve been hunting all over town for may just be nestled in their slim to-go fridge. Sadly, their late-night party room closed during Covid, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had right up til midnight every day but Sunday and Monday. Plus frequently rotating taps practically demand a return visit.
500 San Marcos St #105, Austin, TX 78702
With the very sad demises of the Waller Creek Pub, the Gingerman and Easy Tiger’s downtown location, Mort Subite remains the only destination-craft-beer bar in the centre of the city, located on South Congress just a stone’s throw from Lady Bird Lake. Mort Subite specialises in Belgian beer and carries the big names, including St Bernarus, Westmalle, Chimay and Achouffe, as well as local takes on Belgian styles from the likes of Vista, Real Ale and Celis. Even back in Europe these beers are expensive, so expect to pay through the nose for the privilege of indulging – but just one sniff out of your glass and that same nose will also be thanking you – these really are awesome-impressive beers. We savoured every sip of our Tripel Karmeliet on our recent visit, marvelling at how Mort Subite have managed to invoke the atmosphere of a European beer garden at one of the busiest junctions in the city – a feat of inexplicable genius. An experience worth shelling out for.
308 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
The Whip In is a true Austin original. Spend more than a few days in the city and you’ll become familiar with its distinctive vintage sign as you zip (or try to zip) up and down the I-35. The Whip In has been owned by the Topiwala family since 1986, and has evolved over the decades from a traditional convenience store to an all-in-one craft beer bar, Indian restaurant, beer and wine merchant and high-end grocery market. Anywhere else this might sound a bit odd, but the Whip In is just the kind of unique destination bar that old-school eclectic Austin was famed for. For this reason, not all locals are happy with the Whip In’s rather snazzy refurb, which occurred just before Covid, but I like the slim but cosy booths, long wood-panelled bar and stylised modern-Indian decor – although there’s no denying that the vibe has changed from the tie-dye-hippie look the venue was previously sporting. With over 100 taps, the Whip In carried a hugely extensive beer list pre-Covid, and they appear to be successfully rebuilding their strong selection of local and national brews, including recent offerings from New Holland and Toppling Goliath. While I’ve not eaten at the Whip In to date, their menu of classic Indian staples with a few American dishes thrown in is reasonably priced and looks enticing. The Whip In’s beer-to-go selection includes a lot of popular out-of-state brands like Dogfish Head, Deschutes, Avery and Fair State Co-op, as well as some lesser-known Texan breweries like No Label and Brazos Valley, along with plenty of local fare. Most to-go beers are sold as four or six-packs only. The Whip In’s simple beer garden is, of course, replete with a purpose-built stage, and listings for live music and comedy events can be found on their social media. With few craft beer bars this far south and such a cool and unusual set-up, I’d definitely recommend a stop at the Whip In.
1950 S IH 35 Frontage Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Welcome to the world of corporate craft beer. The Brass Tap is a behemoth-franchise of identikit craft beer bars, currently colonising 17 states with over 40 branches, including two in the greater Austin area. They even have their own app. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a pathological dislike of chain craft beer bars ( World of Beer and Flying Saucer being two I’m happy to get behind), but there is, to me at least, something a bit soulless about the Brass Tap, although with a vast 150 beers (70 taps) to choose from, you will certainly not be going thirsty. I also have to admit that a swift glance at the current tap list for their Domain location nearly had me leaping into the car at 11am on a Monday morning in anticipation of trying several brews I’ve not seen anywhere else in the city. Why does this have to be the only place serving Epic’s Sextuplet BA Big Bad Baptist?! Ah, the power of capitalism. On checking their Round Rock location, I can also report that there is a lot of good shit here too – 903 White Chocolate Mocha Stout, anyone? This is especially valuable information because neither the Domain nor Round Rock have a great deal of choice when it comes to beer, so, putting prejudice aside, these are certainly above-average ports in the storm should you find yourself in either neighbourhood. There is also regular live music, trivia, pint nights and other activities. Flights of four individually priced beers are available and there’s an extensive menu of medium-priced American pub fare. Wine, cocktails and spirits are also available and there are daily happy hour offers. While I can’t honestly big up a trip to the Domain, you may quite possibly find me inconspicuously hunched over my Sextuplet Baptist. Sacrifices must be made!
10910 Domain Dr, Austin, TX 78758, 204 E Main St, Round Rock, TX 78664