Well, it is already June and COVID-19 is still rearing its ugly head. Austin businesses are continuing to kick butt figuring out the ins and outs of the madness and do their best to navigate the various reopening regulations. The Austin beer community is supporting each other in such a lovely way and the camaraderie is inspiring. The plethora of new breweries that are in the process of opening to varying degrees during this pandemic, is substantial. Each is the product of time-consuming love, blood, sweat, and tears. Every space deserves our recognition and due to the number of openings, warranted two articles on their experiences. Click here to hear about five other Austin brewery’s experiences opening during a pandemic. Stay tuned for updates on their future opening dates and make sure to get out and support them!
Open Now! Beerburg Brewing | Trevor Nearburg, Owner & Brewer
Beerburg opened in late January but has been on Trevor Nearburg’s mind for almost a decade. Nearburg, a seasoned beer veteran with years of industry experience with Hops & Grain, Real Ale Brewing, & Uncle Billy’s, has always had a passion for smaller brewpub models. His all-star team consisting of Gino Guerrero, Head Brewer, Vic Smith, General Manager, & Ricardo Gutierrez, Kitchen Manager are all on board to bring what Nearburg refers to as a commitment to sustainability and love for nature.
He elaborated, “You will see this in our efforts to revive our property through permaculture and nature trails as well as in our brews and food that feature locally foraged ingredients. Serving well-crafted traditional styles alongside small-batch wildcrafted beers are extremely fun and exciting and we hope people get a kick out of it.”
Photo credit to Beerburg Brewing
Nearburg stated, “I have also always been dedicated to supporting local in my personal life, and have extended that as the primary guiding principle at Beerburg. Everything in our scratch kitchen and brewery is sourced ethically and locally so that every penny we earn works its way back into our larger Austin small business community. We plan on many collaborations to highlight some of the people we enjoy working with the most so that supporting Beerburg will also support other small and local businesses.”
When asked what the biggest challenges that have arisen in this process are, Nearburg candidly told me, “Literally everything you can imagine. We were just getting our feet under us operationally and administratively. We were relying on word of mouth and customers’ experiences as a marketing strategy…We hadn’t launched any of our unique and specialty beers that were supposed to showcase the years of research Gino and I have put into them…The list goes on. It feels like I reached the finish line after a full sprint and then someone said ‘keep sprinting, here’s an extra 100 lbs and there is no finish line.’
Luckily, some solace has arisen! Although it has been quite the task, Beerburg is opening up its Beer Garden this weekend! Make sure to take a look at their site to understand any rules and regulations they have implemented in their newest endeavors. Please note that reservations are required; Moreover, for contactless pickup of food and beer-to-go, check out Beerburg’s website. Next time you are in need of some fresh air, or just want a scenic beer pick up, get out to Beerburg Brewing!
Open Now! Hedgehog Brewing | Jonathan Harris, Owner & Brewer
Hedgehog Brewing is the hard-working brainchild of brother team Jonathan & Chris Harris. The duo has been homebrewing and collecting wild yeast for several years. They were inspired when that wild yeast yielded some fantastic results and ultimately took what Jonathan Harris explains as “a hobby to a passion and then to planning the brewery.” Their farmhouse beers still utilize that collected wild yeast.
Photo credit to Hedgehog Brewing
Although they have been distributing kegs since April of 2019, they recently added to-go beer sales in an effort to provide a boost and keep their business sustained after demand has lessened due to the pandemic. “It’s been amazing seeing the turnout,” Harris notes.
When asked what has been the most rewarding aspect of opening their business, Harris elaborated, “We strive to make well crafted and approachable beer, so seeing our beer being appreciated by connoisseurs and novices alike has been incredible.” Regarding their future plans to open a taproom space, Harris is excited to showcase their creativity. “There are so many beers we can’t wait to share. Once we have a taproom open we’ll be able to start expanding our portfolio,” he adds.
Currently, Hedgehog Brewing is offering To-Go Options where you can pick up 500ml bottles, crowlers, and t-shirts. Click here to find Hedgehog beers out in the wild, and make sure to follow them on their progress towards having an open taproom space in the future!
Open Now! One Shot Distillery & Brewery | Phil Waldron, CEO
A recent addition to the beer and spirits scene in Dripping Springs is One Shot Distillery & Brewery. A proud veteran-owned establishment, One Shot’s entire motivation revolves around “toasting fallen comrades,” Waldron states. He lovingly introduces his team as, “Todd Sanders – innovation, operations, tech integration, marketing, comic relief; Cisa Waldron – design integration, social media/photographer, cocktail design, makes sure the place doesn’t look like 4 bachelors crashing a cheap apartment lol; Stew Altmeyer – Head Brewer, Chemist, General Counsel; Jim Sargent – StillMeister, mechanical & business genius; Matt Barnes – strategy; Phil Waldron – everything else that needs doin’.” In terms of their serendipitous beginnings, he adds, “Initially, One Shot was going to be started as a craft distillery and then add a brewery after a couple of years. As chance had it, we met Stew Altmeyer, owner of Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing Company in San Marcos, whose partner had just left the business and was starting a rebrand with a possible change of location. Stew was very interested in combining brewing and distilling skills, so he brought his skill and equipment to Dripping Springs to add brewing and grain to One Shot Distilling.”
Photo credit to One Shot Distillery & Brewery
According to Waldron, watching his team work so well together has inspired their progress. Waldron elaborates, “It’s been amazing to watch everyone bring their talents to work taking this facility from an open 2 acres with an empty metal building to a first-class delicious beverage factory.”
Regarding their future plans, Waldron states, “Over the next couple of months we plan on opening the taproom, a tasting/VIP room, adding live music and expanding our beer/mixed drink/cocktail menu. Over the longer term, we look forward to releasing barrel-aged specialty spirits, many of which won’t fit nicely into the traditional categories. That’s the fun part about having a brewhouse, temperature-controlled fermentors, and a still. Our ability to innovate and create new spirits is pretty much only limited by our own imaginations.”
They are currently using some outside space for table service and you can click here for One Shot’s to-go menu. Keep an eye out for their official space opening plans down the road. How exciting is it to have more awesome stops in Dripping Springs?
Open Now! Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery | Jay Kudla, Owner & President of Northern Ireland Enterprises
Coming to the northern part of the city, Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery has been the proud work of Business Partners & Founders Sam Darlington & Jay Kudla alongside Executive Chef Josh Watkins, & Director or Restaurants, Austin Markman.
“At its simplest, the impetus behind our concept for the Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery was to bring a little bit of both Dublin, Ireland, and downtown Austin to the suburbs of Round Rock, Georgetown, Pflugerville, and Hutto. The pub is intended to be a microcosm of Sam’s incredible life, a native son of Belfast who has spent half his life here and half his life in Ireland. We wanted to bring the beauty and “craic” of an Irish Pub and infuse it with Central Texan cuisine, the Live Music Capital of the World, and the Happy Hour phenomenon. It was important to us to capture the “vibe” of going to an Irish Pub, but without the common clichés in many pubs,” Kudla elaborates.
Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery
Realizing that the suburbs offered a clear demand for more local beer, he noted, “Austin is an amazing city with so much to offer, but not everybody wants, or is able, to navigate the hectic traffic to get downtown for the full experience.” The space promises to be quite the experience as Kudla explains that Darlington has “incorporated 200+ year old stained glass which he brought over from Ireland into our “floating fireplaces”, infused subtle references to his ancestors who worked on the construction of the Titanic in Belfast, and created custom “snugs” which are the signature seating throughout pubs in Dublin.”
In terms of the future, Kudla shared what he is most excited about for opening. “Despite having a culinary menu I would put up against any restaurant in the Austin area, we are still an Irish pub at heart and our spaces reflect that. A visitor could dine with us every day of the week and have a different experience each time depending on the space – whether it’s sitting at the Chef’s Counter and watching the show kitchen with the wood-fired oven, having a pint outside in one our signature “barrel booths”, watching a game in the open-air pavilion in the beer garden, sitting in one of the aforementioned snugs, or hosting a wine tasting in our intimate and climate-controlled rock wine cellar. I am really looking forward to seeing people’s reactions, and to see if these spaces excite them as much as it does us,” he adds.
Photo credit to Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery
What do we have to look forward to with Cork & Barrel? Kudla boasts the space will host over 20 craft beers on tap as well as an extensive wine and spirit selection. Expect housemade cocktails, signature microbrews, as well as unique menu items that are a mix of delicious pub food, meets authentic Austin cuisine. Overall, Kudla notes, “We’ve always felt if we continue to do things the “right” way, the rest will fall into place.”
Construction is scheduled to wrap up later this summer and they are shooting for an official opening towards the end of the year. Make sure to follow their journey on their website for a new and exciting experience in North Austin!
Open Now! Fitzhugh Brewing | Kerbey Smith, Owner & Operations Manager
Fitzhugh Brewing, set to open later this summer in gorgeous Dripping Springs, is being led by father/daughter duo, Dubb Smith & Kerbey Smith. Head Brewer and partner, Nathan Rice, add over 13 years of industry experience from New Braunfels Brewing Company, 3 Stars Brewing Company and most recently, Maverick Whiskey. Smith is focused on creating a space that provides inclusivity for all, not just the beer aficionado. She states, “I went to a few breweries that felt like they were made for beer experts alone – I didn’t fit that category but I still wanted to participate, learn and drink good beer. That’s when my dad and I decided to create Fitzhugh Brewing. We want this to be a wildly inclusive place with amazing beers for everyone to enjoy, delicious food, a welcoming place for families, and a beautiful space for those wanting to enjoy our gorgeous Texas Hill Country.”
Photo credit to Fitzhugh Brewing
To Smith, the biggest challenge of working towards opening during such bizarre circumstances is ensuring that her customers are kept as safe as possible. Moreover, she notes, “Since we don’t have an established brand I think that will be something we have to get creative with to show everyone that we take the state guidelines seriously for opening and that we take their personal safety seriously. We are tossing around ideas on how to add new cleaning guidelines, signage, hand washing safety, etc. to maximize everyone’s comfort level while enjoying our establishment.”
Make sure to follow Fitzhugh Brewing’s social media to get updates on their official launch. Smith and her team are looking forward to hosting events, she affirms, “with the proper social distancing guidelines in place of course… We’ve been working on this dream for a while now and it’s going to be so fulfilling to see other people out with their families/friends enjoying our beer on our property after all our hard work.”
Coming Soon! 5th Element Brewing | Michael Brune, Co-Founder
5th Element consists of a small, but mighty 4-person team: Michael Brune & Kimberly Destefano, Co-Founders, Tino Herrera, Head Brewer, and Juan “Cheese” Charre, Assistant Brewer. Contributing to Old Town Leander as they work toward opening and building community relationships is what 5th Element is all about.
“All of us love an amazing artisan beer. More than that though, we love the fact that amazing beer brings people and communities together. It is the latter that inspired us to open a brewery where friends, family, and pets can gather to enjoy a superb brew,” Brune noted.
Photo credit to 5th Element Brewing
Although they have yet to open, Brune relayed his concerns “about the lasting impact of the pandemic on our industry. This industry is all about camaraderie and we want all of our colleagues to succeed.” The community truly is the basis for 5th Elements’ current and future goals. When asked what the most rewarding aspect of opening a brewery has been, Brune stated, “Meeting people in the community and having them encourage us and genuinely enjoy our beers is amazing. The support from other professionals in the industry is also very refreshing and unique.” Brune concludes, We are committed to growing with the community and at the same time maintaining our ‘ small family feel’. We will have amazingly drinkable beers that are well rounded and offer something for everyone.
5th Element is hoping to open in September in Old Town Leader. Make sure to follow CraftBeerAustin.com for further updates!
As always, continue to stay safe Austin! Keep up the great work supporting our wonderful local breweries!
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