Hops and Grain Brewing, Austin
After a few very enjoayble, busy days traveling solo, I was joined by my friend Byron from Dallas. Byron and I met during my time there in November and he agreed to meet me on vacation to soak in the weird together.
Friday morning was still quite chilly, but not cold enough to stop us from walking to nearby Gourdough’s Donuts. Gourdough’s is known for donuts bigger than the size of two fists and they are located in what is called a “trailer park” – an area, usually a parking lot, that contains several food trucks.
We ordered one each, which was exactly double of what we could reasonably consume, a Carney with peanuts and apples and a Dirty Berry with chocolate sauce and grilled strawberries. We took them back to the Airstream since they are knife-and-fork donuts for sure.
You’ll notice there are no photos of the actual food. This is because our faces were in them immediately and I didn’t have a third hand to take a photo. Absolutely devine.
It was time for more exploring with the threat of an impending sugar coma.
Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop and the flagship Whole Foods were loosely on the itinerary.
Mellow Johnny’s was a great spot to wander around with quality gear, accessories, beautiful bicycles and even its own coffee shop. Their items were very reasonably priced and the staff was helpful. Had I been staying longer and the weather nicer I certainly would have rented a bike from them.
Whole foods was a trip. Seriously. If you think you have experienced this natural food mecca in your own neighborhood, imagine the flagship store. It has a giant deli, a beer and wine bar, a second story for seating, and a health and beauty department that could be its own store.
Byron was on a barbecue mission, however, so we did not eat at Whole Foods. Instead it was off to La Barbecue on the east side. We opted not to wait in the extreme lines of the (legitimately) world-famous Franklin’s Barbecue in favor of enjoying ourselves.
La Barbecue is in another trailer park, so it meant dining outside on a very brisk day. It was totally worth it. We approached the trailer and sampled some brisket which we promptly ordered, sandwich-style. We snuggled with a heat lamp and our fellow brave diners. Not being one to turn down a bit of free beer with my barbecue, I took advantage of the complimentary keg sitting on the patio with us.
But alas, it was time for better beer.
We drove the short distance to Hops & Grain Brewery, also on the east side. True to brewery form, the place was a trick to find. But when we did, we found an inviting little sampling room lined with barrels and full of tables littered with board games. The place isn’t what I’d call cozy as it is simply a part of the large industrial building that contains the brewing operation. But the walls are lined with portraits of hip-hop artists and the staff is engaging and fun.
The bartender, John, explained that due to their licensing, we had to buy a glass and then it would be filled with samples. Worked for us.
Between the two of us we sampled every beer on the menu. There was a decent variety, but Byron’s Belgian craving wasn’t easy to satiate. What I tried was very, very, tasty.
Hops & Grain has been nominated for several people’s choice awards, most frequently for their “The One They Call Zoe” Pale Lager. It is an incredibly drinkable yet quite flavorful lager that falls into the gateway beer category but still excites experienced beer lovers. I also enjoyed the Alt-eration and the Enlargement Pils, a barrel-aged pilsner.
While I was kicking some butt at board games and chatting with the folks behind the bar, head brewer Josh Hare offered me a behind-the-scenes tour. Obviously, I agreed.
Hops & Grain was founded during the winter of 2011-12 and has quickly become a canned beer staple among Texans. They feature 3 year-round beers and several rotating taps, many of which feature – you guessed it – barrels.
Josh came from Colorado and wanted to create a production brewery on the east side of town. The building is a large warehouse style oblong thing, and the brewery and taproom occupy quite a bit of space.
Hops & Grain is known for their consistency and reliability. Many of their beers consist of a small spin on a classic style, and others push the limits a bit more.
Hops & Grain greatly supports sustainability. They donate a portion of their earnings to sustainability efforts and they use their spent grain to make dog treats!
Despite the fact that I didn’t take my coat off, I did feel comfortably at home here. It was easy to talk with neighbors and mill around because of the picnic-table style seating and inviting games.
I appreciate the time that Josh and friends took to introduce me to what Hops & Grain Brewery is all about.
Hops & Grain actually wasn’t a planned stop for this trip, but I heard so many good things from Austinites that I had to check it out. I highly recommend a visit, or at the very least, crack open a can or two.