What is a brewpub? A brewpub is an establishment that brews their own beer on premise and sells it directly to the consumer. Besides taking a tour of a brewery, this is about the best and easiest way to get the freshest possible beer since the beer doesn't travel anywhere. It goes straight from the fermenter, into kegs, and into your pint glass. Brewpubs are also a perfect opportunity to get that beautiful 64 oz jug filled with that sweet elixir of life to take home with you.
There are so many great brewpubs in Texas, and many are right here in Austin. It's hard, actually downright impossible, to simply 'rate' each one since they all have their own distinct personalities and brewing philosophies (they all also brew some damn good beer). Instead, I will put each one into categories to best fit your current mood to determine which one to visit.
Coming Soon: Austin Beer Garden Brewery
For the Relaxed Vibe
The Draught House
This is about as relaxing as it gets folks. Get off the couch and grab a stool at this neighborhood establishment. Draught House has been in Austin for over 43 years now and this place basically defines beer in Austin. With its home-y, rustic feel, I could literally spend all day sipping beer here. With over 50 draught selections, including some of their own house-made beer, everybody can find something they like. I've never been disappointed with their house beers either. At one point, they had a single hop IPA series (IPAs using only one hop variety) that was fun to compare, and all were excellent. Their house beers are always changing, so one could practically live here if they wanted (hey Draught House, do you lease the upstairs?).
For the Foodie Vibe
This recent addition to the brewpub scene in Austin has a beer and pizza focus in a very relaxed atmosphere. Joe Mohrfeld, formerly of Odell Brewing, is already brewing up some great things including their four mainstay brews which includes a pale ale, session ale, IPA, and an imperial dry stout. There will also be a rotating IPA called 'Fallen Cask' that will change every now and then, plus other rotating taps including a winter porter for the cold season. I've only had one pizza here so far, and it was pretty good. Give this newbie a try!
Favorite current house tap: Bearded Seal (imperial dry stout)
Uncle Billy's Brew & Que
UPDATE: Uncle Billy's Lake location is now closed. Barton Springs location has a new head brewer, Michael Waters formerly of Independence Brewing.
With BBQ, an amazing brewer and award winning beer, what's not to love about this place? Their year-round taps are great, like the Agave Wit (wit brewed with agave nector) and the Hop Zombie IPA (an IPA the dead would wake up for). But, in my opinion, where the magic truly lies is with their rotating taps. They are always changing so be on the look out for IPAs, Belgian inspired ales, stouts, and many more. Oh, and the BBQ ain't half bad either (mmmmm pork ribs).
Favorite current house tap: Public Animal Pils
I can guarantee Whip In is the only Indian inspired Mom & Pop convenience shop turned gastropub/wine bar/brewpub dishing out amazing Indian inspired dishes (try the goat sliders with homemade curry ketchup on homemade buns) alongside their very own house brewed beers. Their first release was a post colonial IPA with lemongrass and bitter orange peel. Unfiltered and high abv gave this brew layers upon layers of complexity while staying true to being an IPA. This place will blow your socks off.
Favorite current house tap: Brahmale IPA
Black Star Co-op
Okay, so I wasn't huge on the food when I went here when they first opened (a lot of fried stuff, fish n' chips were good though), but the beer was great! I highly recommend trying all of their house beers via a flight like above, and Moontower better be one of them. Moontower is a beast of malty goodness, so if you like malty beers, this is your beer. For a more comprehensive look at Black Star Co-op, check out my review.
I've heard a lot of great things about their food lately, so I recommend trying it out for yourself.
Favorite current house tap: Moontower
NXNW Restaurant and Brewery
If you're in Northwest Austin and want a quick bite to eat along with a good brew, check out North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery. I'm not going to lie, the food is pretty standard (fried calamari, wings, seafood, salads, pizza, etc...) and the last time we went, the five of us all agreed to not go back for the food. Where the magic truly lies is with the beer. Their house beers always include a light lager, an amber, a pale ale, a black ale and a hefe. Their pale ale and black ale are my favorites. Their hefe is fairly decent too, but it's really packing on the banana aromas and flavors. If you're ever throwing a party, I highly recommend picking up a pony keg from NXNW since their keg prices are easily the best in town, even for their rotating taps (which I've heard are pretty good).
Tip: They now bottle their beers, so ask the server what they have for bottle selections. If they have the Kodiak IPA, GET IT.
Favorite current house tap: Blackjack, or the Pale Ale
For the Music Vibe
UPDATE: Lovejoys Taproom is now closed (bummer!)
A dive of all dives. A true biker bar with nothing to show off but a pool table, juke box, and damn good beer. They have a lot of great locals on tap, but they don't shy away from having $1 Pearl specials on certain days. Hell, if I were out that night and they had that special, I'd but a $1 Pearl. But you need to try their house beers too, they're made with expertise and pack a lot of flavor. Don't judge a book by its cover with this joint. Hop on in and mingle with the bikers while sipping on great beer!
For the Movie Nerd
Want to watch a new movie on the big screen while sipping on some freshly brewed house beer? Now you can thanks to Flix Brewhouse. If you don't want to watch a movie, their bar is separated from the theater portion so you can still get food and drink, which is what I did when I visited. Justin Rizza, formerly of Independence Brewing, is brewing up some tasty beers like their most popular Luna Rosa wit, a traditional witbier with the addition of blood orange, giving the beer a distinct pink-like color and a nice tartness.
Favorite current house tap: Satellite
For the Chain Vibe
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse
You know the drill here. Pizza and beer. The only food really worth trying here is the pizza, everything else is about as standard as they get for pub grub. They have a lot of different house beers worth trying, though. Nothing really stands out as 'amazing' by any means, but all of the beers I've had at BJ's are pretty good. Now, as far as this list goes, this is at the bottom because for one, it's a chain and there are much better local options all around Austin. However, if you're near one and just have to have a beer, I say go for it.
For more guides to the city of Austin, check out the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance 2012 Austin City Guide.