Where did the early settlers of Waterloo, an early name for Austin, Texas, bring together the four key ingredients used to make beer? When did the renaissance of Austin’s beer history occur and who was pioneering these efforts? I appreciate the deeply rooted Austin craft beer community and want to celebrate the beer history of Austin with you. As Austin’s beer culture continues to flourish, this article will be essential to your understanding of what makes Austin a “Top Beer City.” I want you to keep in mind that the next craft beer you order from an Austin tap room or brewpub is a tribute to the accomplishments of the trailblazers who aspired to keep alive the hoppy tradition of Austin beer.
What You Need To Know
- Origin: Pre-Prohibition Brewing in Austin
- Revival: Breweries & Brewpubs of the 1990’s
- Growth: Reshaping the Austin Beer Community
- Current: Welcome to the Austin Beer Scene
Origin: Pre-Prohibition Brewing In Austin
You just crossed the frontier and have settled in Austin. Where can a thirsty traveler grab a beer? Thanks to Johann Schneider, having worked in the “most extensive and renowned breweries in Europe,” one could grab a lager beer in any quantity from Kirchberg’s Saloon on Congress. The Schneider’s homestead was located a few blocks from here and Johann constructed two limestone beer vaults to store his beer. Nonetheless, Johann unlikely made use of the vaults due to his untimely death from a wagon accident. You can visit these brewers vaults today by stopping by the underground dining room of La Condesa.
Revival: Breweries & Brewpubs of the 1990’s
Celis Brewery, Austin’s first brewery in nearly a century, brewed their first batch of beer on March 19, 1992 and became the fastest-growing microbrewery in the U.S. by 1995. The brewpub scene erupted in Austin with HB 1425 passing in September 1993. This allowed bars and restaurants to brew/sell beer on site. Billy Forrester, instrumental in the passing of the law, opened Texas’ first brewpub, Waterloo Brewing, in December of 1993. Soon after, you could also visit The Bitter End Bistro and Brewery, along with Copper Tank Brewing Co, which both won an array of medals at the Great American Beer Festival. In addition, Lovejoys Tap Room and Brewery joined the brewpub scene, becoming a long lasting local favorite, only closing it’s doors because of the rising rent at its Sixth Street location. Live Oak Brewing Company opened in 1997 by two homebrewers and continues to be a staple in the Austin beer scene. Each played an integral part in what we come to love about the Austin beer scene…..trailblazing!
Growth: Reshaping the Austin Beer Community
Monumental growth began for the Austin beer scene in the early 2000’s with the opening of new breweries, bringing their own authoritative philosophy to you, the beer lovers. Real Ale Brewing moved out of the cramped basement of an antique store in downtown Blanco to a new much bigger facility, bringing you beer with minimal processing that produces maximum flavor. The do-it-yourself attitude and solid lineup of beers from Independence Brewing Company paved the way for them to becoming one of the largest local Austin breweries. Jester King Craft Brewery spotlights mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation, providing you beer with a sense of place. Hops and Grain Brewing shares a passion for craft and sustainability, while connecting with you through their environmental stewardship. All of these unique perspectives continue today, opening up doors for you to enjoy the wares of Austin beer.
Current: Welcome to the Austin Beer Scene
The Austin beer scene shows no sign of slowing down and has new beer offerings for you from beer enthusiasts with the same drive as the trailblazers before them. St. Elmo Brewing Company opened in 2016 and wants to break down the barriers between the brewer and you, the drinker, with their infectious love of beer. I can attest for their love of sharing, drinking and making beer each time I step into their beer hall to enjoy a new beer release every week. Celis Brewery reopened 25 years after they first opened in Texas, utilizing their original yeast from the ‘60s. In addition, you will find a bar that is a 1900’s hand-beaten copper kettle from the original brewery. Austin beer is constantly evolving with new and innovative breweries, all waiting for you to step into their taprooms or beer gardens.
Taster of Austin Beer History: Conclusion
I hope this “taster” of Austin beer history makes you thirsty for more information about this fast evolving beer community. I would like to give a gracious THANK YOU to the women of BitchBeer.org for inspiring me to share a tidbit of Austin beer history. Pick up their book, Austin Beer: Capital City History on Tap, for a few pints of Austin beer history. Leave your comments below and encourage your friends to sample a “taster” of Austin beer history. The continued pioneering efforts of the Austin beer scene wants you as a part of this beer community. Cheers!
Article contributed by James Dean.