A second B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub comes to Mueller neighborhood in March

A rendering of the upcoming B.D. Riley's Irish Pub showcases the patio area of the bar and restaurant
A rendering of the upcoming B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub showcases the patio area of the bar and restaurant

A longtime fixture on Sixth Street is expanding into another Austin neighborhood.

After 16 years in business, B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub will open a second location in the town center of Mueller a week or two before St. Patrick’s Day. Like the first, it will have a focus on beer and whiskey, comfort food and family-friendly activities in an authentic setting — built largely by Irish carpenters and craftsmen.

Owner John Erwin had been wanting to expand his business into another part of town but hadn’t found the right spot until one of his oldest employees convinced him to visit the Mueller area. There, he found exactly what he was looking for: a neighborhood feel, he said, and a wide, walkable main street with the likes of the Thinkery, the soon-to-open Alamo Drafthouse and other coming attractions dotted alongside it.

The Mueller town center is being called the Aldrich Street District, and it’s one of Austin’s most promising new entertainment areas.

For the most part, the second B.D. Riley’s will be very similar to the first, albeit with a more vibrant storefront modeled after Dublin, Ireland’s most famous pub, the Temple Bar. The bar and restaurant also aims to fit into Mueller by being even more welcoming to families than it already is, Erwin said.

“Because of the neighborhood feel, we can do some of the things we do here, but we can enhance them out there,” he said.

At 204 E. Sixth Street — just west of the high-volume bars along the popular drinking drag — the current B.D. Riley’s has been offering an open mic night on Mondays for the past 12 years, encouraging kids to come “to develop their stage presence and musical skills” in front of a crowd that isn’t just their mom and dad. On Wednesday nights, B.D. Riley’s also hosts a pub quiz.

Those will take place at the new location as well, along with a couple of other new events. Erwin’s friend might teach classes on the Gaelic language on Saturday mornings, for example.

“We’re looking to do different and other things,” he said.

A longtime Austinite, Erwin knows opening a business here isn’t easy, but he’s hopeful the Mueller location of B.D. Riley’s will catch on because of the family vibe he has established that makes the pub a homey place to be.

“We’ve got a lot of people working for us that have been here for a real long time,” he said. “They know each other and treat each other like family, and I think that gives us a giant advantage in expansion.”

His employees aren’t the only ones he’s relying on to establish the second B.D. Riley’s. As with the first location, the pub was built in Ireland — with consultation from Erwin and his business partner — and then shipped to the U.S. In a couple of weeks, Irish craftsmen will travel here to assemble the pub piece by piece, from the furniture to the facade, the bar to the cabinetry, erecting it exactly as Erwin has envisioned it.

That’s how even Irish pubs built in Ireland are put together, he said: created off-site first, then moved to the proper location and assembled. Having Irish contractors handle the construction, he said, “adds to the authenticity, and it’s something they’re good at. They go around the world and do this.”

He’s also having a local company, Blue Genie Art Industries, design a water tower shaped like a 17 foot tall Guinness pint. The tower will recycle rainwater from the roof. Blue Genie — which is also in charge of creating many of the pieces for the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller’s carnival-themed bar — will “stick a beer tap on it, paint it black and put our logo in front of it. It ought to be very weirdly Austin, I’m hoping,” Erwin said.

B.D. Riley’s will open across the street from the Alamo in March. For more information, visit bdrileys.com.

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Circus-themed Unbarlievable to become newest Rainey Street bar

“The Greatest Show on Earth” might be shutting down for good this year, but one Rainey Street bar is bringing the circus to Austin every night.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold its last show in May. Before that, in mid or late February, Unbarlievable plans to open as a “decidedly offbeat” spot, “shrouded in eclecticism and whimsy,” according to the bar’s Facebook page.

The circus-themed Unbarlievable, still under construction but opening sometime in February, is hailing itself as the "greatest drinkery on earth."
The circus-themed Unbarlievable, still under construction but opening sometime in February, is hailing itself as the “greatest drinkery on earth.”

One of Rainey Street’s century-old bungalows is housing the bar and is currently being renovated to incorporate the circus theme, with walls of sky blue, fire-engine red and sunshine yellow getting painted into chunky stripes. A wrap-around bar will serve up a full menu of beer, wine and “creative cocktails,” which people will be able to enjoy either inside or in Unbarlievable’s backyard.

There will also be food, although details about that and the beverage list are still being finalized.

Despite the shuttering of America’s biggest circus, the theme is flourishing in Austin. We’ve long been home to the Carousel Lounge, which is decorated with elephant and lion tamer murals on the walls, among other related items, and we’re about to get the Barrel O’ Fun bar in the newest Alamo Drafthouse location at Mueller.

The carnival-inspired concept at the upcoming Drafthouse, expected to open early this year, will be a family-friendly gathering spot by day and a bar with barrel-aged brews and craft cocktails at night.

Keep an eye on Unbarlievable’s Facebook page, at facebook.com/unbarlievable, for opening details. The circus will live on at 76 Rainey Street.

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Ruggedman Brewing debuts as dream business of three military veterans

When David Wilson, John Wamer and Randy Williams served in the same Marine Corps unit during the Iraq War, they knew they wanted to do something very different once their time in the military was up.

It’s taken a decade for the three friends to get their business up and running, but it has finally, thankfully happened: Ruggedman Brewing, in the New Braunfels-San Marcos corridor, is celebrating its grand opening this weekend.

Those long days and nights fighting a war overseas have become a piece of the identity of Ruggedman in the same way they have for each of the men, now all in their mid-thirties. Each of the beers — which include a variety of blonde ales and some Belgian-style brews — are named after tools or parts of a machine, such as the Big Rig Blonde and the Blowtorch Black IPA.

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“We thought there had to be a better way to make a living,” Wilson said. “We were all interested in brewing beer and thought that might be what we’d pursue when we got out.”

None of them were able to immediately open a brewery, however. After serving two eight-month tours in Iraq together, the Marine veterans parted ways, “doing our own thing for a couple of years until we could pay for the brewery,” Wilson said. Being able to open the business without any outside investment or help was important to them.

Once the homebrewers decided they were financially ready for Ruggedman in 2014, it took a year-and-a-half to secure a space — but finding it somewhere in Central Texas, where all three of the brewery co-founders now live, was a no-brainer for them.

“We thought that because Texas is a growing market, versus San Diego or the Pacific Northwest, it would be a great market for our beer,” Wilson said, noting that he has set up roots in Canyon Lake, while Wamer, the head brewer, is in Kyle and Williams lives in Lockhart.

They have named the brewery after a slang term that nods to the way Marines might look and feel in the field after a hard month’s work — rugged. Because the co-founders want to welcome everyone to Ruggedman, they have rejiggered the word to refer to “all working men and women in all jobs,” Wilson said. “Because you can be an accountant and still be rugged after a long day in the office.”

Ruggedman Brewing's Machine Gun Porter is a nod to the co-founders' years in the Marine Corps.
Ruggedman Brewing’s Machine Gun Stout is a nod to the co-founders’ years in the Marine Corps.

Ruggedman Brewing’s beers also don’t refer to tools used exclusively in the Marine Corps, although the Machine Gun Stout, Wilson said, is a tribute to the role that he and Wamer held as machine gunners.

“When your head brewer is a former Marine Corps Infantry Machine Gunner, a beer this big and powerful was bound to happen,” according to a description of the dry, roasted dark beer on the Ruggedman website.

Here are some of the other beers to expect this weekend during the three-day grand opening festivities.

  • The Gold Pan Blonde: The American blonde ale is one of the mainstay styles that will constantly be on tap at the brewery in between New Braunfels and San Marcos. It’s got “a smooth lager-like finish,” according to the website.
  • Anchor Line Amber: More malty than hoppy without being sweet, this darker-than-typical amber ale is one of the Belgian-style beers that Ruggedman has chosen to focus on.
  • Blowtorch Black IPA: It looks like a stout but tastes like the pine and citrus flavors of a classic IPA — the best of both worlds. “Ample amounts” of Simcoe and Chinook hops dominate, but there are also complex roasted notes from the Carafa malts.
  • Bee Hive Blonde: For this one, Ruggedman started with a base beer similar to the Gold Pan but then added unpasteurized Texas honey after the initial fermentation to give it a floral and fruity aroma. The brewery also makes a Belgian-style blonde called Big Rig.

Ruggedman Brewing makes these and other sudsy offerings on a 7-barrel brewhouse and a half-barrel pilot system. The pilot system is especially helpful as Wamer, Wilson and Williams figure out which beers will appeal to their customers the most and also allows them to experiment with styles from beyond Belgium and America — English, German and Mexican-style beers are also interesting to them.

“We want to be very diverse with our beers,” Wilson said.

Because of Ruggedman’s brewpub license, visitors can take growlers to go from the tasting room — as well as newly launched cans. For now, these are only available from the brewery, but once they are more officially designed, the cans will be distributed around town.

During tasting room hours, the Mi Ranchito food truck will serve up Tex-Mex barbecue.

The grand opening party will run from 2 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday this weekend and will include the four mainstay brews (the American and Belgian-style blondes, the amber and the stout) and 10 small-batch offerings. Regular taproom hours are 2 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 12 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Ruggedman Brewing is located at 7600 S. Old Bastrop Hwy., in the New Braunfels area. For more information, visit drinkthedamnbeer.com.

The Local Post, replacing Dallas Nightclub, opens as neighborhood pub

The Local Post is opening as a neighborhood restaurant by day and a pub for older crowds by night.
The Local Post is opening as a neighborhood restaurant by day and a pub for older crowds by night.

The entrepreneurs who brought a few original concepts to the Domain Northside’s Rock Rose entertainment district have ventured farther south for their next project.

After opening Jack & Ginger’s Irish Pub, the dance club Rose Room and two others last year, Jeff and Darren Van Delden — through their company the Union Venture Group — have extensively renovated the former Dallas Nightclub space, transforming it into a neighborhood pub they’re calling the Local Post.

Tomorrow, the Local Post debuts at 7113 Burnet Rd. in North Austin.

It’ll bring a relaxed good time to the Crestview neighborhood with Texas comfort food, happy hour specials, plenty of parking, indoor arcade games and big-screen TVs. By day, the Local Post aims to be a family-friendly restaurant — with menu options like smoked brisket sliders and 10 lb. Can Nachos that come three different ways — but by night, starting around 5 p.m., the pub will transition to more of a 21-and-older space.

Happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and offers $2.50 domestic pints, $3 wells and daily drink specials for $3 or $4. You’ll be able to order drinks at any of the three full bars within the pub.

The Dallas Nightclub closed in September 2015 after 35 years in business slinging cheap drinks near a large dance floor, and the Union Venture Group scooped up the space last summer, deciding to completely gut it for their vision of a neighborhood bar.

“Someone was going to put a bar there, so we figured why not us?” Jeffrey Van Delden said in a Statesman story about the purchase. “We feel like Burnet Road has grown into a hot spot in the last few years. We want to make something very friendly for the neighborhood, very casual with lunch and dinner, a bar and a nice-sized patio.”

We again previewed the Local Post two weeks ago in our roundup of bars, breweries and other drinking spots opening in 2017. The bar on Burnet Road is one of the first ones in this preview to announce an official opening date.

The Local Post will be open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily starting tomorrow. For more information, visit thelocalpost.pub.

Love Scotch whisky? Don’t miss the Blackheart’s inaugural Peat Week

Gabi Porter. Enjoy Scotch whisky by itself or in a cocktail during the Blackheart's Peat Week.
Photo by Gabi Porter. Enjoy Scotch whisky by itself or in a cocktail during the Blackheart’s Peat Week.

America’s beloved bourbon often steals the spotlight here, but one Rainey Street bar hasn’t forgotten about one of the oldest whiskeys of the world. The Blackheart is devoting an entire week to Scotch whisky starting Sunday and will have drink specials, happy hour events, tastings, Scotch 101 classes and more.

Each day, the Blackheart will have two featured Scotch whiskies available neat, on the rocks or in a classic cocktail like the Blood and Sand and the Rob Roy. One of the whiskies will be “a mid-price, everyman kind of Scotch,” while the other is more of a harder-to-find top-shelf brand, according to the Blackheart.

Don’t know much about Scotch? That’s OK. The bar will teach you with two workshops: a Scotch 101 tasting featuring Lagavulin at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18 and another one featuring Glenkinchie, Clynelish and Talisker Storm at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19. Peat Week is also kicking off at 6 p.m. Sunday with a screening of Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” — which, while not entirely related to the subject, is certainly an epic way to debut a boozy week.

Peat Week gets its name from Scotch’s striking smoke characteristic.

“Some Scotch whisky distilleries slowly dry the malted barley (from which Scotch is made) using fires made from peat, a special kind of turf,” the Blackheart noted in a press release. “The 30-hour drying process gives the whisky a distinctive smoky flavor, often referred to as ‘peatiness.’”

Here’s the schedule of whiskies going on special each day:

Sunday, Jan. 15

Bruichladdich Octomore
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte

Monday, Jan. 16

Glen Scotia Samaroli
Auchentoshan Single Malt Whisky 12 Year

Tuesday, Jan. 17

Laphroaig (Lore)
Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Wednesday, Jan. 18

Lagavulin 16 yr
Ardbeg 10 yr

Thursday, Jan. 19

The Glenlivet 21 Year
Glenlivet Founders Reserve

Friday, Jan. 20

Laphroaig (Cairdeas)
Singleton Whisky 15 Year

Saturday, Jan. 21

Compass Box Whisky
Oban 14 Year

Texas craft brewers have one big goal for the 2017 legislative session

Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman. Currently, breweries can only sell beer in their taprooms for on-site consumption, but they are hoping the 2017 legislative session will change that.
Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman. Currently, breweries can only sell beer in their taprooms for on-site consumption, but they are hoping the 2017 legislative session will change that.

In 2013, Texas laws changed to allow breweries to sell their beers for on-site consumption — a step in the right direction — although brewers in the state are hoping that this year proves to be an even bigger boon for them.

Now that the 85th Texas legislature is in session, the lobbyists for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the organization that advances the interests of the state’s craft brewers, are going to push for more. Namely, they want breweries to be able to sell beer to-go from their taprooms.

“Having off-premise sales in breweries is our number one priority,” Charles Vallhonrat, director of the guild, said.

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild had hoped to make that bill law in 2015, but that didn’t happen. As a result, the Dallas-based Deep Ellum Brewing sued the state in the fall of that year — a lawsuit that has yet to be resolved.

Currently, Texas law permits brewpubs, but not production breweries, to sell beer in bottles, cans and growlers to-go from their facility. Brewpubs can also offer beers from other breweries on-site, but they are limited in the amount of beer they can produce each year: no more than 10,000 barrels.

The inability to make off-premise sales is something brewery owners believe is unfair, and as a result, some breweries have made the switch to a brewpub license, including Austin’s own Jester King in 2013Adelbert’s last year and, now, Blue Owl Brewing, which just today started offering cans and growlers to-go.)

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Introducing and then passing a bill that would give breweries more of the same freedoms as brewpubs — not to mention wineries and distilleries, which can similarly sell their products for off-site enjoyment — might not be so easy.

“We’ve been speaking with the distributor lobbies,” Vallhonrat said. “There’s certainly opposition to it, but we’re working through it. We’re also closely watching the Deep Ellum lawsuit. But we will bring a bill about off-premise sales to the legislature.”

Distributors, he said, are opposed to the idea because allowing consumers to buy beer to take home directly from the breweries could, theoretically, take away some of their business. That’s not how the guild sees it, however.

“We don’t see it as an alternative to retail sales,” Vallhonrat said. “People aren’t going to start buying their beer at the brewery all the time. They’ll go for special occasions, when there’s a big release or they have friends in town. Off-premise sales can drive beer tourism. It’s a great way to promote Texas beer.”

The guild is lobbying for breweries to sell growlers as well as their packaged products to-go, for “breweries to have the same flexibility that brewpubs, as retail licensees, have,” he said.

Only seven states in the U.S., Texas among them, prohibits production breweries from selling draft beer in growlers, according to a compilation of growler laws from the Brewers Association, the trade organization for all U.S. brewers.

Feeling charitable? Tito’s Vodka gives proceeds from online store to nonprofits

Tito's Vodka is not only a big producer of vodka, but a generous contributor to multiple causes.
Tito’s Vodka is not only a big producer of vodka, but a generous contributor to multiple causes.

Tito’s Vodka has always been in the spirit of giving — but the local vodka company is taking its charitable pursuits a step further now by donating all of the proceeds from its online store to designated nonprofits.

The philanthropic initiative, according to the company, will go on indefinitely.

When you purchase an item from the store, you’ll be able to choose which of six charities you want your money to go toward. For the first quarter of this year, those nonprofits include Emancipet, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Grammy Foundation, American Red Cross, Operation Homefront and CORE.

Emancipet has already been the recipient of Tito’s Vodka’s Vodka for Dog People program launched at the end of 2013. Vodka for Dog People sells dog-related items, from dog leashes and toys to T-shirts, and donates the proceeds to the Austin-area nonprofit. Emancipet offers low-cost spay, neuter and vaccination services to dogs and cats of low-income families.

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All of the funds from the dog-related items in the Tito’s store will automatically be given to Emancipet.

“Philanthropy has always been something we are extremely passionate about at Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and there is no better way to express this than having 100% of our online store proceeds donated to charities from now on,” Bert “Tito” Beveridge, the founder of the company, said in a press release.

For more information, visit titosvodka.com.