Whether in San Antonio or Austin, there’s a nearby Texas brewery where you can sample some down-home suds.
With open bay doors and barking dogs (friendly, of course) to welcome the visitor, Texas Hill Country breweries lead simple, but storied lives. And they love to share their tales, brew and a tour on the side.
You’ll often find Austin-grown music to match a quality beer experience at Independence Brewing Co.’s tours and tastings.
On the first Saturday of every month, smooth-coat border collie Jasper, with his new playmate, Catahoula/Australian sheepdog mix Indy, can be seen lapping up brew from drip pans at this Austin brewery—Bootlegger Brown is Jasper’s favorite. “It’s not like they’re binge drinkers,” says Rob Cartwright, who owns the business with his wife, Amy.
Come early and you might get a choice seat at Cartwright’s hand-built, Swiss-chalet-style benches and picnic tables, with their heavy construction and visible hardware.
3913 Todd Lane, No. 607, Austin. Tel. 512-707-0099. Tasting hours: From 1 to 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month. Free, including up to three 9-ounce beers. Beer tickets are handed out only until 2 p.m. The event can draw up to 600 people. Feel free to bring pop-up tents and folding chairs. independencebrewing.com
At Austin’s Live Oak Brewing Company, the beer harkens back to Old World ways and tastes. President Chip McElroy says the brew is based after Czech and German brewing, a technique rarely found in the .United States—even the barley used comes from overseas.
During an hour-and-a-half tour, learn the difference between lager, ale and proper Bavarian Hefeweizen, and get rich and textured instruction about how the brew is made.
Brews range from the Big Bark Amber Lager, with its smooth, low hop flavor, to the Pilz, which has the hops bitterness, then finishes clean. There’s also the spring/summer seasonal Hefeweizen, which has the smell of banana, and the tastes of banana and clove. A new brew, IPA, offers a hoppy India pale ale.
What’s McElroy’s favorite? “How do I choose between my children? The Pilz would probably be my deserted-island beer.”
3301-B E. Fifth St., Austin. Tel. 512-385-2299. Free tours begin at noon on Saturdays, but call ahead and bring your identification for the tasting. www.liveoakbrewing.com
Join brewery President Brad Farbstein and his employees for a tasting and tour of Real Ale’s three-year-old facility in scenic Blanco, about 45 miles north of San Antonio.
Visitors get to walk through the actual facility (“As opposed to looking through a window with a recorded tour,” says Farbstein), experiencing the brewing process through to packaging. In the tasting room, you can read up on the brewery’s history, ask the tasting-room attendant any question you might have and observe the operations through glass windows. Offerings include available seasonals and yearlong brews.
From the Brewhouse Brown Ale (which has a hint of chocolate) to Sisyphus Barleywine Ale, Farbstein’s beers offer a plethora of flavor. The high-alcohol-content Sisyphus brew is the namesake of Greek mythology’s ne’er-do-well partier who paid for his sin of blowing off a deal with Zeus, ending in Sisyphus pushing a rock repeatedly up a hill. “Homer’s interpretation was that people who know they are part of a bigger system are much more satisfied in life, though it’s not easily done. We used to use a rack and shovel to make the brew. It was an incredible task; we felt like it was a Sisyphean task,” says Farbstein.
231 San Saba Court, Blanco. Tel. 830-833-2534. Free tastings are offered from 2 to 5 p.m. on Fridays with free tours beginning at 4 p.m. Closed to the public June 26. realalebrewing.com
Activities: Pubs and Bars