Vista Brewing – Texas Craft Brewery Profile
Location: 13551 FM150, Driftwood, TX 78619
Open: Thursday – Saturday 11am – 10pm, Sunday 11am – 8pm
If you haven’t made it out to Vista Brewing yet, you’ve been missing out. 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.
Kent explained, “we have a sustainability plan, and this year is about having as little impact as possible, next year is all about how we dial down our water usage, then after that we’ll focus on power and infrastructure.”
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 tap room was designed to completely capture the outdoors; we designed this building around the trees.”
In addition to integrating wood from the property into the tap room experience, Vista also has a host of hyper-local collaborations that one way or another contribute to what’s on tap. For example, they have a 16-hive apiary on the property that they developed in partnership with BeeWeaver, the largest supplier of treatment-free honey bees in Texas and whose family has been keeping bees for over 100 years. From an original batch of 350lbs of honey brought to the property, Vista and BeeWeaver developed a recipe for a braggot that was brewing at the time of our visit.
Visitors can also enjoy a menu that’s ripe with locally-sourced ingredients. Kent shared, “by this summer, all the veggies on our menu will be grown on our farm… we’re already giving our spent grain to local farmers and ranchers, who in turn will give us an animal when they go to butcher, so the animal that was finished on our spent grain will come back and be served as a protein on our menu…. We promote local products that work with what we’re doing, creating community across the board.”
Josh Watterson, head brewer at Vista, recently won “Brewer of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival, and moved here from Reno, Nevada to help launch Vista’s innovative yet tradition-focused beer program.
Josh told us, “I’m a traditionalist at heart, so our recipes will have a lot of tradition to them in terms of what malts we use. We don’t have, and we never will have, a house strain of yeast. We want the yeast to have a very integral part to the story of the beer.”
Le Saison, Vista’s Farmhouse Ale, uses a dupont strain of yeast, and has 4 different grains (rye, oat, wheat, and barley) to build a robust protein structure for a heavenly mouthfeel.
Josh explained, “as it ages, [Le Saison] will get more effervescent and champagne-like. Its a beer that’s really pretty to age in your cellar for 6 months. Our philosophy on bottling now, is basically creating cellar stock. We bottled our Brett Ale in freshly dumped wine bottles so it pulled some of the oak and wine out into Commencement, the first beer we brewed. That’s one that could live in your cellar for at least 5yrs.”
A big portion of the barrel program as Vista continues to grow will be traditional-style Belgian Lambics that will be aged for several years, but Josh does plan to have some other styles on tap as well.
Josh continued, “saison and kolsch are close to my heart… it’d be hard to not brew them just because I like to drink them. So call me selfish, but I’ll like to have those on tap because I like to take them home.”
One not-so-traditional aspect of the brewery is its 800 sq. ft. cold room, from which the tap room draws. Instead of hauling kegs to the tap room, lines from the brewhouse tanks go down 12 feet underground and over to the tap room, so the beer spends its entire life cycle in the brewhouse until its in your glass. This support’s Vista’s motto of “Fresh Air, Fresh Beer”—you can’t get much fresher than a beer poured straight from the brewhouse!
You can also expect to see frequent collaboration beers on the Vista tap list, brewed in partnership with various community groups (not just other breweries).
Josh explains, “collaborations will also be huge for us because it fits the brand so well. We’re opening with two collaborations which is a big deal for us. It allows us to work with people who are outside the industry, and to tell great stories about our beers.”
At their opening, Vista featured Zwickled Pink, a Zwickle Pilsner brewed in collaboration with Pink Boots Society’s Austin chapter and dry-hopped with YCH hops’ 2018 Pink Boots Hops Blend. $1 from each of these beers purchased is donated to the Pink Boots Scholarship Fund for women in the brewing industry.
Kent shared, “the Austin community has been incredible supportive. It’s why we do this, right? Its the ‘coopeticion.’ It’s about how big we can all make the pie. We’re all in the same family, and it’s been all open arms.”