Image above is of a delicious chicken sandwich from North by Northwest, one of several Austin Brewpubs.
Brewpubs are far too-often overlooked in the craft beer world, but it can be easy to understand why. We’ve all been to bad brewpubs: the ones that never stray from their boring core beers or, ones with legendary brews and also tragically subpar food.
Here in Austin though, I consider us to be quite lucky! We’re blessed with several Austin brewpubs pulling double-duty serving up magnificent dishes to pair with their delicious craft beers.
Brewery vs Brewpub?
This is the point where craft beer snobs might be saying, “WELL ACTUALLY in Texas a brewpub doesn’t have to serve food….” So, just in case, let’s all get on the same page:
By common definition, a brewpub is a restaurant that also that brews beer on-site, and usually offers it to take off-site in growlers or such. In Texas, thanks to annoying/weird/complicated Texas Alcohol Beverage Consumption (TABC) regulations, a brewpub is defined with different logic.
If you’re craving a much deeper knowledge on the subject, check out Andrew Schwab of Craft Beer Austin and his easy, but very detailed guide to the differences between Texas brewpubs and breweries.
The easiest way I’ll break it down for this article is TABC issues two types of permits for brewers: a Brewer’s Permit or a Brewpub Permit. The Brewer’s Permit falls on a manufacturing tier, while a Brewpub Permit falls on a retail tier. It boils down to on-site/self-distribution and how many they can barrels they can produce.
Austin has plenty of awesome ‘Texas-definition’ brewpubs. So for the purpose of my 2017 Best Beers AFBA City Guide, I’m ranking just Austin’s top brewpubs that fall under the common definition mentioned above.
Either way, you’ll find delicious brews and bites at all of the below Austin Brewpubs. This guide will help you understand what makes them so great!
6. Uncle Billy’s | Map
Founded in 2006, Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse is a great combination of delicious beer and Texas BBQ for those down in the Barton Springs area. The spacious, dog-friendly, outside patio area is a great place to catch up with friends after a swim at Barton Springs, or even just for some happy hour after work.
Their brisket is great, but not all what you’d expect from a BBQ joint in Texas. It’s not my favorite but I do prefer super juicy, moist brisket! They have some incredible sauces though, and they’ve got one sauce that spicy food addicts will love!
If you can’t make it to Barton Springs, a few of Uncle Billy’s core beers are now available in cans! You can pick up their Green Room IPA, Barton Springs Pale Ale, and Lazy Day Lager in most bottle shops and grocery stores in town!
5. Black Star Co-op | Map
Black Star Co-op prides itself on being the first cooperatively-owned and worker self-managed brewpub in the world. (A co-op, short for co-operative, is a business owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.)
Members of Black Star created their brewpub to be a democratic workplace, with livable wages for employees, while devoting themselves to using only the best local ingredients.
Thank goodness you don’t have to be a member to enjoy their great beers and the delicious eats though! Black Star is fixing up all the best Texan pub fare using ingredients sustainably produced by local farmers!
The coolest thing about this worker-owner brewpub is the brewers brew beers based on the members’ tastes! Through design meetings and tasting panels with the head brewers and worker-owners at Black Star, they’ve come up with plenty of styles.
At Black Star Co-op, they’re pretty great at maintaining a range of beer styles. There’s classic beers like Pneuma, a West Coast inspired pale ale, and then non-traditional styles like Epsilon, a peated Scotch ale! The brewpub also rotates out several solid guest taps on a regular basis.
Oh, and it gets better because Black Star has a killer happy hour Tuesday through Thursday. Between 3-6pm, you can grab a Vulcan, High Esteem, or Recalcitrant Dockhand beer for $3 and pair it one of the happy hour priced snacks, but I consider them to be more like small meals.
FYI, The patio is dog-friendly and they’re fabulously located right at Austin’s Crestview Light Rail Station.
Possibly one of the greatest views in all of Austin and the surrounding areas is the one enjoyed with a cold beer in hand at Oasis Texas Brewing Company sitting 400 feet over Lake Travis. Oasis, has a massive, dog-friendly outdoor patio with views of Lake Travis in every direction.
Oasis is known for their sessionable canned beers. Characteristically, sessionable beers usually 4-6% ABV, light, crowdpleasers, and perfect for day drinking.
These beers are easy-going and light which puts them right at home in Texas. The seasonals are always fun, but Luchesa Lager and the London Homesick Ale are my two picks!
Their food menu is pretty small but many agree it’s some of the most delicious you’ll get at the Oasis docks. Big appetite or not, I love getting their cheese and beer pairing board. It’s a fun treat to share with friends!
Oh, fun fact: Oasis took over this space in 2013 after Uncle Billy’s relocated to their present location in Barton Springs. And get excited, cause Oasis Brewing is getting ready to wrap things up on their expansion!
They’re hoping by spring they’ll be finished expanding their 5,000 barrel production capacity, to a massive 30,000 barrel capacity. Which just means more great, easy-drinking Oasis brews!
3. North by Northwest (NXNW) | North South
North by Northwest is one of my favorite brewpubs simply because their delicious American fare goes so well with their craft beer! Hoppy, malty, lagers, a great Irish Red, NXNW has a huge range (and two locations) to make sure you’re covered!
Food wise, you can’t really go wrong. The appetizers, main courses, and sandwiches are all great American classics with a NXNW spin.
My favorite is their Fried Calamari with grain mustard sauce or the Roasted Garlic Bulbs with goat cheese and black pepper crostinis. Also, this is one more Austin brewpub who knows how to do a happy hour!
2. Austin Beer Garden & Brewery (ABGB)| Map
Well The ABGB isn’t just one of Austin’s Best Brewpubs. It’s also been recognized for being a great brewpub on a national level! The ABGB team actually won Large Brewpub Of The Year & Large Brewpub Brewer Of The Year at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival!
The warehouse style beer garden is a the perfect community gathering place to bring your friends and family. Expect to fill up on good brews and eats with music from some of Austin’s favorite artists.
Austin Beer Garden and Brewery, just off South Lamar, has literally everything you could want. Great live music on a stage that beautifully shows off the brewing equipment, delicious pizzas and salads for everyone, tons, TONS of seating with dogs allowed outside, and all the classic beer styles!
I prefer going there on a weekend afternoon, the natural lighting inside the taproom is perfect, but I’ve been there in the evening and it gets pretty fun!
1. Pinthouse Pizza | North South
The best, the absolute best, brewpub/pizza/amber ale in Austin is here. At least in my opinion!
It’s an excellent neighborhood hangout at both their South and North Austin locations. Ample (and outdoor) seating facilitates larges crowds, families, and dogs. Parking can be tough at their spot on Burnet, but there is usually street parking. Just avoid the BBQ joint next door.
Pinthouse is equally adored for their pizza as they are for their IPAs and barrel-aged beers. for foodies, good luck trying to decide on just one of Pinthouse’s pizzas! I highly suggest getting pizza rolls regardless, you can thank me later.
For craft beer lovers though, you’ll die when you see the massive board of beers brewed in-house.
My favorite is the Old Beluga Amber Ale or their Irish Red. Hop-addicts, don’t miss out on the New England Style Electric Jellyfish IPA. In general, beer lovers across all styles will be taken care of here at my favorite Austin brewpub!
What’s your favorite brewpub? Do you go there for the food or brews? Disagree with my ranking? Let me know why in the comments! Cheers!
NOTE: This is my personal opinion and ranking only. I love all these establishments and have the upmost respect for them. Their ability to focus on creating delicious food while still brewing beers that this city can’t get enough of is incredible.