Location: 4000 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665

 

“Irish happy and Texas friendly.” Are you ready for a fusion of authentic Irish pub meets Central Texas hospitality? Almost one year after breaking ground on what was a poison-ivy-ridden jungle of Round Rock earth, to the stunning multi-dimensional beer garden and Irish pub, the talented brains behind Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery are finally opening their doors!

Opening Details

What better way for an Irish pub to kick off its existence than to throw a St Patrick’s Day Grand Opening? This Wednesday, March 17th expect all the traditional festivities from our newly open friends in Round Rock! While Cork and Barrel may look elegant from the outside, their launch party will show off all the fun their humble pub can deliver! Expect four live Celtic and Gaelic bands performing all day, cloggers, photo booths, costume contests, games, and delicious menu specials….(Adhering to Covid social distancing, per city ordinances, of course.) 

Ambassadors from both Guinness and Bushmills will offer promotions, personalized customized etched pint glasses, selfie-printed Guinness froth artwork, that will have you wondering if you should drink your beer, or admire the lifelike beer design? (Let’s be real…you should drink it!) 

Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery

Who Are the Minds Behind Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery?

The owners consist of longtime friends, Jason Moorhead, Jay Kudla, President of RS3, the hospitality division for HEB Center, Circuit of the Americas, and Dell Diamond, and Sam Darlington, general contractor, the genius behind Cork & Barrel’s build, and owner of a 50-acre horse farm nearby are the gurus behind Cork & Barrel. The trio along with Jay and Sam’s gifted wives Jen Kudla and Christina Darlington, as well as a top-notch assembled team, have created a truly delightful experience. The cohesive, vibrant, atmosphere really revolves around “storytelling,” and the entire crew brings friendly professionalism and a clear appreciation for each other and their customers. “I put together a collection of individuals that, within their respective buckets, are some of the best,” Jay notes. Adding, “They’ve got as much blood, sweat, and equity in this place as we do. I mean, they carried furniture, they moved gravel, they helped put those timbers in. When they were signing up to run a pub, they didn’t realize they were signing up to help build one from the ground up,” he jokes. Oh Covid, the interesting hurdles you’ve added. 

Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery; L-R Owners Jay Kudla and Sam Darlington

Sam, a Belfast, Ireland native brings authentic inspiration from his experiences to the space. Jay, originally from Detroit, adopted Texas as his new home seven years ago. He made sure some of his hometown Michigan beers tagged along, however, like Oberon and Bell’s Two Hearted to mix in with the rest of the diverse guest tap list. 

The two couples began a deep friendship after a successful business relationship. Over a couple of pints one evening, their dreams of opening a combo Irish pub, microbrewery, and scratch kitchen emerged. Through “liquid inspiration” and a good old-fashioned ven-diagram brainstorming session they eventually landed on the name Cork & Barrel. “It’s become a labor of love for our families already. It’s not like having a business partner,” says Jay. “It’s been rewarding seeing Sam’s vision for the design come to life,” he adds. 

History and the Name

The concept was inspired a la a two-week trip the group took to Darlington’s beloved hometown of Belfast. The historical Crawfordsburn Inn, famous for inspiring literary geniuses like C.S. Lewis and James Joyce while visiting, also paved the way for Cork and Barrel’s future. Drinking beer in Crawfordsburn’s outdoor beer garden and pavilion area presented the “aha” moment for the buddies to realize their dreams. 

The team of owners brought their various talents and trades to the table and acted as general contractors, literally building their vision with their own hands. When the 2021 ice storm came through they invited team members to come in and receive much-needed heat. They also fed visiting sports teams that were stranded in town with no methods of finding food in an unfamiliar town amidst dire circumstances. The San Jose Barracuda AHL Team was slated to play at the HEB Center when all games were canceled. When they were stuck on a tour bus and in a hotel with no other options for open stores, Cork & Barrel stepped up to provide food, heat, water, and warmth. What a wonderful example of true Texas hospitality. 

Outdoor Space

The group’s love and adoration of nature speak through every inch of both the indoor and outdoor footprint of Cork & Barrel. Owner, Christina Darlington, happens to be a bird enthusiast also owning several Wild Bird’s Unlimited locations. Her expertise has invited hummingbirds and other wildlife to meander through the property. Keep your eyes peeled for all the bird feeders, and hopefully some very happy, and satisfied, birds! The sprawling trees and acre and a half of creekside grounds create a dog’s paradise and if you’re lucky you could meet the pub’s Irish Wolfhound mascots, Fiona, and Guinness wandering the beer garden as the adorable welcoming committee.

Photo credit to CraftBeerAustin.com; Cork & Barrel’s outdoor beer garden

When you step into the gorgeous beer garden you’ll walk right past their 30-foot tall Red Oak Tree named Marty that continues to thrive after being hand-selected and lovingly moved from Dallas to his forever home in Round Rock. A true labor of love, Marty will share his shade with all the wonderful future patrons. The beer garden boasts its own outdoor bar on a 2k square foot deck, and the grounds offer plenty of picnic tables and lush grass to lay a blanket down and relax. In the springtime, the stream is flowing and the waterfall is an unfailing source of beauty. Once the green really emerges, they hope to provide one of the most photogenic locations in Round Rock. The team performed shade studies ensuring the space is as comfortable as possible throughout the day…I think I speak for most Texans when I say, THANK YOU for considering that unforgiving summer sun!

Photo credit to CraftBeerAustin.com

Another unique experience Cork & Barrel has masterminded is crafting old barrels into tables able to accommodate up to eight. Snuggle with that special someone, or (eventually) those friends you’ve missed so much during the pandemic!  The full footprint sits at roughly four aces and they can seat almost 300 guests (post-Covid). The inside features two different rooms; one providing an authentic Irish pub vibe, and the other feeling more contemporary. There are 15 TVs throughout the pub as well, creating a great place to catch a game. They want to point out that they’re a pub that sells amazing food, not necessarily a restaurant that sells alcohol….that distinction is important to their DNA. Maintaining their pub roots is a crucial part of who they are. On that note, they also want to iterate that they’re absolutely family-friendly! Ten cornhole sets, five Jumbo Jenga games, and hopes of offering a spot for frisbees and footballs to get tossed around will add to the friendly, people-first atmosphere. 

Indoor Space & Brewhouse

Take a mini-history tour throughout the facility reading all 16 plaques describing pieces of art and artifacts that have helped create the ambiance. Breathtaking intricate 200+-year-old antique stained glass, doors, booths, and other pieces were handpicked and shipped back from Ireland creating a unique atmosphere throughout the building. You may also sit at a live-edge wooden tabletop created from a lightning strike during the infamous 1962 Oregon “Columbus Day Storm.” The bathroom hallway also contains a display full of information and artifacts paying homage to Darlington’s ancestors who worked on the construction of the ill-fated Titanic. Speaking of bathrooms…the lady’s room transports you to the early 1900s with its decore, and the men’s room has urinals made out of kegs. (Just a fun extra tidbit.) You can rent several rooms for events including a private rock wine cellar that houses an impressive wine selection and blankets to keep you warm in the chilly climate-controlled intimate nook.

Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery

Although the automated brewhouse is small, the 4 10-barrel fermenters combined with the talents of Level 2 Certified Sommelier and Director of Restaurants, Austin Markman, mean they’re already cranking out some stellar brews. Markman, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of the Arts has experience as owner and chef of Baked Chef, General Manager at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse as well as the American Express Centurion Lounge catering to quality and professionalism. According to their website, Markman strives to “create a welcoming culture and attentive mindset by empowering the team to provide unprecedented levels of hospitality to Round Rock.”

Photo credit to CraftBeerAustin.com

What to Expect in the Kitchen?  

Cork and Barrel pulled out all the stops when it comes to the kitchen and their impressive food offerings. Menu development came from the brilliant minds of Executive Head Chef, Josh Watkins, and Shay Prigmore. Both boast impressive resumes including time with Max’s Wine Dive and the Driskell in downtown Austin. When Watkins saw the innovative plans for Cork & Barrel he said, “My eyes lit up…smoke, fire? Yes, Yes!” It was something he knew he wanted to be a part of. You can dine at the Chef’s Counter and watch their brilliance in action as they create your dish right in front of your eyes. Ingredients are fresh featuring businesses like local neighbors Goodstock by Nolan Ryan meats. You can also find a fair amount of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items. From appetizers like Curried Deviled Eggs and Guinness Battered Fish & Chips to main courses like the Goodstock Wagyu Burger and Philly Cheese Steak Pizza to desserts including Sorbet Flights and Chocolate Charcuterie Boards, they make it extremely difficult to choose. 

Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery

Beer & The Bar

Over 20 guest taps, as well as four of their own beers, a substantial wine list, and hand-crafted cocktails make the libation world your oyster. Their beer list includes “I’m Your Huckleberry” Blueberry Wheat, “Island Time” Juicy IPA, “Norm Peterson Dublin Red” (an ode to ‘Cheers’), and “Black Labrador Vanilla Stout.” Jay and Sam picked out the beers they wanted and handed off the recipes to Markman with good wishes… Nice work Markman! “We want to stay true to some Irish roots, but this is also a craft beer town. We want to stay true to Texas,” Jay stated. Island Time Juicy IPA named after Sam’s 34-foot Lake Travis sailboat, “Island Time,” makes the perfect summer beer. With original plans of opening in the winter of 2020, they knew they wanted a solid traditionally winter style beer, like a stout or porter. “Black Labrador Vanilla Stout” is named for Jay’s beloved black lab pooches. Yet more stories weaving through the fibers of Cork & Barrel. 

Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery

The cocktails are just as creative as the food menu, offering delights like the “Smoke & Fire Margarita”, the “Smoked & Salted Old Fashion”, and “Key Lime Mimosa.” Several others show a love for the cinema with entertainment-inspired drinks like the Flux Capacitor, Kevin Loves Winnie, Carrie Bradshaw, and the Ginger & Maryann Paloma. For each cocktail sold, they’re partnering with their vendors to offer a donation match program benefitting the TrainOurTroops Foundation

Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen & Microbrewery

Future Plans?

Keep your eyes on Cork & Barrel’s Instagram on March 27th for an upcoming performance announcement of a major local double music act. Who will it be?!

You can find fun future events several days throughout the week. Expect Friday Night Live weekly music on their multiple stages, local artist showcases on Tuesdays (If you’re a local musician, hit them up to perform as part of their open-mic-style series), vinyl Wednesdays with wine specials, Beer Garden Sundays taking brunch to a new level, and more! Welcome, Cork & Barrel!!

Go celebrate a new exciting experience in Round Rock! Follow Cork & Barrel on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Please keep in mind that social distancing and masks are still required per city and location ordinances. In conclusion, Cork & Barrel adds, “In short…we’re here to have fun…or what the Irish call “The Craic”. Sláinte.”

[Feature photo credit to CraftBeerAustin.com]

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