10 Must Visit Breweries in Austin
Here are 10 breweries that are must visit locations in Austin and Central Texas. I could easily add a dozen more amazing breweries to this set of profiles, but for a full list of all Central Texas breweries see our Comprehensive Central Texas Brewery Guide (includes links, food options and other key information).
The list of awards that ABGB has garnered is staggering. The Hell Yes Helles won GABF Bronze in 2016 and Gold in 2018, the Industry Pils is a 2016 GABF Gold winner, and the Rocket 100 Pre-Prohibition Pilsner picked up GABF Gold in 2015, 2017, and 2018 as well as a Bronze in the 2016 World Beer Cup. In addition, ABGB was named GABF Brewpub of the year in 2016, 2017, and 2018. These are well-deserved honors and I personally love the place. When I think of ABGB, I think of the awesome wraparound bar which is always hectic and active, great events and live eclectic music acts, and long lines for beer that move surprisingly fast. Their food is pizza, pasta, and Italian sandwiches which border on gastro while avoiding pretension and they have one of the best outdoor shaded beer gardens in Austin. Lastly, the brewer, Brian "Swifty" Peters is beer royalty in Austin. Swifty has been part of the Craft Beer scene in Austin as long as there has been a craft beer scene in Austin and his craft continues to grow and improve with time. ABGB is a must-visit.
Austin Beerworks is located in North Austin near the Domain and the Austin FC Stadium and is absolutely one of the more acclaimed, interesting, and just plain fun breweries in the Austin area. If you are visiting ABW, and it is a Must-Visit, there is a good chance I may be there as well. Beerworks is easily the brewery I visit the most often due to its location to my primary residence and its amazing people and beer. It's simply a fun place to go; the staff is friendly and quirky and their events are some of the most entertaining in town. The bands at their anniversary parties range from amazing to ridiculous and everywhere in between. The beer is accessible and crowd-pleasing, but ABW also releases some of the most remarkable and sought-after releases in Austin, like the Einhorn and Sputnik varieties that pretty much always run out in days. I can never get enough El Sputniko because it never lasts that long.
Hold Out Brewing is located in downtown Austin on 4th Street next to their sister restaurant, Better Half Coffee & Cocktails. The location takes you by complete surprise as a contrast to the downtown and 6th Street vibe of bars and restaurants which are in short walking distance. Hold Out is a great location to start or end a day of experiencing everything central Austin may offer. It somehow feels both remote and in the center of the Austin universe simultaneously. Hold Out Brewing is another newer entry to this list opening in May 2020, but it quickly established itself as one of the elite breweries in Austin. The beer has been very well received, the burgers and sandwiches are considered among the best in town and the staff are Craft Beer professionals who know and respect the industry.
No list of Austin "Must Visit" breweries would be complete without Jester King. A visit to Jester King is a pilgrimage. You are not just visiting a brewery but taking part in a total outdoor experience. Lines for new releases can stretch to unbelievable lengths and the stories of people changing clothes and getting back in line to get more than their bottle allotment are legendary and hilarious. Jester King is the most renowned brewery in all of Texas; known primarily for their Farmhouse and Barrel-Aged Wild Ales. It is also one of the most discussed, reviewed, debated, and covered breweries in the world. It is located on a beautiful 165-acre ranch in the Hill Country and its aspirations reach way beyond beer as they work to transform and grow endeavors ranging from farming and ranching, creation of a high-end kitchen, eclectic and modern event spaces as well as lodging and accommodations with their close association with the Tipping T Inn next door. It is a great place to visit, drink, eat, learn and stay.
Live Oak Brewing is one of the proud elder statesmen in the Austin Craft Beer community. Chip McElroy opened Live Oak in 1997, moving into their current location on 22 acres in South Austin in 2015. They are located right across from the airport and are the perfect stop on your way to or from Austin Bergstrom airport. Live Oak Hefe is one of the most well-known Austin beers and is the foundation of the brewery's tap list. However, Chip has a clear fondness for rauchbier and other more old-world styles of brewing. Chip has worked with or directly influenced many of the brewers and leaders that have helped the Austin Craft beer scene thrive. Live Oak's taproom and heavily shaded Biergarten were clearly built to evoke the European traditional beer hall feeling. In addition, Live Oak sports a 12 hole disc golf range as well as a stage and event space. Live Oak is a must-visit to truly understand the community and tradition inherent in the Austin Craft Beer scene.
Meanwhile is the most recent entry on this list opening in the Fall of 2020. The brewery sports spacious outdoor grounds which are a great place for community and fellowship. There is a large stage for musical acts, storytelling, and movie nights built with the aid of the Mohawk, as well as a small food truck park that will be open all day, including breakfast. The official “backyard” space comes in at just under 4 acres, the footprint offers plenty of outdoor seating and a funky playground area that blends in perfectly with the rustic and heavily shaded backdrop. The Meanwhile gang has deep soccer-loving roots and built a 45-yard long turf which they plan to rent for official soccer practices, and for random pick-up games as the mood arises. They hope to see the space used for flag football, tennis, croquet, and as an open area for general family fun. Other future goals involve a mini “hammock forest”, and a bocce court for even more outdoor game fun. Meanwhile has invested heavily to create a brewery and experience that is an open and welcoming space for Craft Beer Enthusiast, their families, and anyone interested in enjoying the many events and activities they have planned.
Oddwood Brewing is the creation of brothers Taylor and Brett Ziebarth. According to Taylor, the name "Oddwood" was what dreams were made of...literally. He had a dream that inspired the name and it aligned perfectly with their original vision focusing on barrel-fermented exposure beers, similar to what they were creating previously at Adelbert's Brewery. Taylor elaborated, "We also thought it captured some of the weirdness and whimsy we were putting into the beer at the time, it's kind of carried over to our personality as we operate our brewpub."
Personally, I see Oddwood Brewing as more of a neighborhood bar with great food and beer and a family atmosphere. It is a place where your kids can be entertained with a variety of classic Arcade titles and crowd-pleasing pizzas and strombolis (Ma's is my go-to), while the adults relax with a perfectly crafted beer in an atmosphere that has the ideal local Austin neighborhood feel.
When visiting Pinthouse, the first question to ask is which one (there are 4 current locations at the time of publication). They have expanded rapidly and are on a clear path to greatness and continued to grow. The original location on Burnet is the prototype and a perfect example of building something with obvious mass appeal. They offer extremely popular pizzas in a beer hall atmosphere reminiscent of something from a German Oktoberfest setting with long tables that engender camaraderie and shared experiences. However, the true reason for their success is great beer. It is difficult to find a brewery with more awards and accolades than Pinthouse. What the PHP team built in such a short period of time is nothing short of astounding. You may not need to visit Pinthouse in Austin as I can easily see them expanding to where you may be very soon.
Nestled among the picturesque ranch land of Driftwood, Vista is a destination brewery well within reach of those hoping to escape the city for some brews and views. But Vista is more than just a beautiful property. Kent and Karen Killough, Vista’s co-founders, are focused on creating a highly innovative beer program and an incredible story of sustainability and community collaboration. Vista’s property includes a 21-acre ranch, which was part of William Barret Travis’ original land grant. Of the 657 qualifying historic trees on the property, only 16 were cut down to make space for the 5,000 sq. ft. brewery and other buildings, and most of the wood from those trees has been transformed into tap handles, tables, benches, and other parts of the new additions. Kent shared “one of the things that was really important to Karen and I was preserving the beauty of this place… we reused 95% of the wood that we cut down. The taproom was designed to completely capture the outdoors; we designed this building around the trees.” Vista is home to great people with a passion for building a brewery the right way with a focus on quality and craftsmanship and an understanding of the values and practices that make something truly special from their beer to their food program to their events and people.
Zilker Brewing is located in the East 6th Street Bar district and is a great destination to embark on a long afternoon of drinking and experiencing the sights and sounds of the many bars, restaurants, and breweries that make up the fabric of East 6th Street. This area of town has changed rapidly since Zilker opened but still brings crowds of locals and visitors due to its perfect central Austin location and the amazing quality and consistency of the product that comes out of Zilker. Zilker's beer tends to be a mainstay for Pam and I, I am currently drinking Park and Rec from my kegerator and my beer fridge pretty much always has Marco or Heavenly Daze. Zilker has cemented itself as one of the premier Austin breweries and is an absolute must-visit for anyone traveling to Austin.