Easy Tiger, Bangers, Craft Pride, Growler USA, WhichCraft, Oz Tap House, Thrive Craft House, 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 20 taps of rotating beers, including local favourites 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. 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 their North and South branches, where happy hour is 4.30-6.30pm, while their new East 7th Street is more drinks-focussed. 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. 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. Unfortunately, due to Covid, Bangers have understandably needed to significantly reduce their beer list, but still have a well-curated selection of close to 65 local and national beers to choose from. 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 all the way to Craft Pride if bartenders were serving out 5ozs from over 200 taps! With capacity currently wisely reduced, reservations are strongly recommended even if you’re not planning to eat, especially if there’s live music on during your visit. Bangers remains one of the few Rainey Street originals remaining, and is definitely worth hitting up. Their traditional European-style long-table dining format is now broken up for social distancing, but they have managed to retain their bier-garten atmosphere surprisingly well. Keep an eye out for special events and shows, which will undoubtedly be as lively and buzzing as they used to be once re-opening is complete. 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
Well, the name says it all. Pre-Covid, this was the epicentre for fancy brews in downtown ATX – an expertly curated, regularly rotating list of 54 taps plus two cask engines no less. As well as being the primary port of call for high-end hard-to-find craft brews on draft, you could also find live music here on pretty much every night of the week and party til somewhere in the vicinity of 2am, should the impulse overtake you. Sadly but unsurprisingly, things are lot more sedate these days, but even at reduced capacity this is a careful and interesting tap list, now served at your table by engaged and knowledgeable staff who will make the effort to ask you what you like and offer recommendations. All beers are offered in a variety of sizes and you can build your own flight. Do be prepared to spend a fair bit more than you would in your average brewery taproom here, particularly for anything non-local, but if you are after a full beer-geek experience this is the place to come. Rarities from Saint Arnold, Martin House and Jester King were among the selection available on our recent visit. Craft Pride also has a small bottle shop offering both drink-in and to-go bottles and cans, and there’s a taco truck out back. I love the paisley velour wallpaper and leather banquette seating indoors, which give Craft Pride a fun steampunk vibe. I’m looking forward to more rowdy late nights in the future!
61 Rainey St, Austin, TX 78701
Austin’s premier craft beer emporium, WhichCraft also offers a rotating list of 25 taps, with a focus on Texan new releases and high-end out-of-state brews. With a newly expanded outdoor seating area, build-your-own flight pours and free wi-fi, there’s no reason not 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. Staff are knowledgeable and approachable, should you need advice choosing either your drink-in or beer-to-go selections, and keep a look out for special events and promotions, which were frequent prior to Covid and will hopefully be returning soon. With new brews from the likes of B-52, Equal Parts and Avery on draft, WhichCraft continue to impress with their exciting and up-to-date offerings. Conveniently located next to lovely, leafy Mueller Lake Park, 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 33 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 close to 40 beers on draft, ranging from standard macro lager to high-end out-of-state rarities with the odd European beer thrown into the mix. All beers can be ordered in 5oz servings so you can build your own flight. Thrive has a busy schedule of live music, with shows on most days of the week, including an open mic night on Mondays – you can find the details on their website. 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 at time of writing), so be sure to factor this into your visit.
519 W 37th St, Austin, TX 78705
Also located in Hyde Park’s university district is the Growler USA taproom, a low-key but firmly established craft beer hangout offering 100 taps of beery excitement for your drinking pleasure. This is the only remaining branch of what was once a nationwide chain, and a staple spot for students tucking into their budget-friendly happy hour promotions and sports fans who can enjoy the game on their plethora of big screens. This is an excellent spot to try out-of-state brews at reasonable prices, as well as new local releases and statewide fare. You can build your own flight of up to six beers, and order additional single pours all priced individually. The atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious, and their rotating tap menu is available on Untappd. While not yet back up to full pre-Covid tap capacity yet, the Growler is well on its way, and we were pleased to find new releases from the likes of Lakewood, Prairie Artisan and Tupps on a recent visit. Staff are friendly and helpful, and know their beer and will be happy to advise and answer questions. Tucked in among the cute vintage stores and trendy eateries of one of the city’s most walkable neighbourhoods, Growler USA is a fun, relaxed spot with a visit-worthy beer list.
609 W 29th St, Austin, TX 78705
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 your 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 once the pandemic fully passes you can expect to find a strong selection of local and national brews, although they are at very limited capacity at the time of writing. 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 hopefully it won’t be long before their fun live music programme recommences. 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