Austin Wine & Cider’s new taproom offers fermented fruit beverages

Austin Wine & Cider is located at 411 E. St. Elmo Rd. Ste. 2, next door to Casa Brasil Coffee.
Austin Wine & Cider is located at 411 E. St. Elmo Rd. Ste. 2, next door to Casa Brasil Coffee.

One South Austin cidery is ready to make a big splash with its roster of fermented fruit beverages.

Austin Wine & Cider, which opened quietly at the end of March along the increasingly boozier St. Elmo Road, has been offering a variety of off-the-wall draft ciders made from apples and other fruits. Owner and founder Mike Allgeier is purposely veering from traditional ciders.

“With this place, I’m looking for drinkability with a little bit of funk. We are in South Austin, after all,” he said.

A veteran with a Purple Heart after years in the military, he had traveled extensively through Europe during his time in the service — trying beverages not far from where they were made — and was disappointed to return in the late 1990s to a city with “few local products that I wanted to drink,” he said. “There was a very limited selection of craft beer, no ciders and a small amount of wine. So I started making them myself.”

He’s had a long time and a lot of help to perfect the hobby that friends and family began to urge him to turn into a business. Although he self-taught himself how to homebrew at first, he began reaching out to people in the industry: Austin Homebrew Supply, Real Ale Brewing and Black Star Co-op when it first opened as a revolutionary concept in 2010.

He also got involved with South Austin Brewery — located in the same set of St. Elmo Road warehouses where Allgeier’s Austin Wine & Cider is now.

But unlike his brewery mentors, he didn’t stick with making beer.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The Austin Wine & Cider tasting room is open on weekends, offering visitors four different ciders to try.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The Austin Wine & Cider tasting room is open on weekends, offering visitors four different ciders to try.

“I worked my way into ciders, meads, Texas-grown fruit wines,” he said. “They’re a very similar process to brewing. I liked making the ciders because… I could apply my brewing experience to blend the two worlds.”

Although the ciders now feature apples primarily from Washington and Canada, he tries to use Texas ingredients when he can. Two of the ciders on tap at the Austin Wine & Cider tasting room are made with Texas-grown grapefruit and lime, in addition to the apples: the Puckering Pomelo Cider and the Smashed Lime Cider. They’ll rotate out as Allgeier comes up with new recipes.

“I want to use cool fruits from Texas that aren’t used a whole lot, like fig and kumquat,” he said.

The other two ciders on draft are Austin Wine & Cider mainstays. The She’ll be Apples cider is a good introduction to Allgeier’s particular style because with apples as the solo fruit, it’s as straightforward as he gets. Not too sweet and not too dry, it’s an easy-drinking and balanced expression of what good cider should taste like.

But that’s not the most popular one. The one he pours for visitors most often on weekends, when the tasting room is opened, is the Hefe Apfel Cider, an unfiltered German-style cider that will appeal to beer devotees: Allgeier crafted it to taste like a hefeweizen, albeit without the grains that give the wheat beer such a distinct flavor.

“It has hops and spices and yeast, but everything else is just fermented fruit juice,” he said. “It’s about as close as we can get to a hefeweizen without having any grain product, which is something we can’t have because we’re licensed as a winery. Notice the lovely smell from the hefeweizen yeast.”

In addition to the four ciders on tap, the tasting room in the modest Austin Wine & Cider space offers, on many weekends, live music and game nights with Cards Against Humanity. Right now, it’s the best place to find these ciders, although they’re slowly going on draft in area bars. Allgeier’s goal is to get them into cans one day as well.

“Apple is just good to cook with, to make ciders with, even if you’re flavoring it with something else like blueberry,” he said.

Austin Wine & Cider, at 411 E. St. Elmo Rd. Ste. 2, is opened 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 11 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

Bars and other hangouts that take you far from SXSW

Although today — with rain, the start of South by Southwest and the arrival of President Barack Obama — might be best spent at home, Austinites will eventually want to get outdoors and explore their city.

Just, you know, not during the festival, which runs through next Sunday and takes over much of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Want to avoid the crowds and chaos of SXSW, while still getting out and having fun? These bars on the outskirts of Austin are ready to serve you — and the many others flocking from Austin’s core over the next 10 days. The Brass Tap’s owner, Steve Sheets, has even noticed a rise in visitors during the week of the fest, although not enough to keep you from having a good time.

In no particular order:

The Brass Tap, 204 E. Main St., Round Rock. The beer bar’s 60 taps rotate through a variety of beers each week, so you can visit multiple days and will probably find something new to try each time.

Photo by Laura Skelding / American-Statesman. Oasis, TX Brewing's Bowsaw Pils is a draft-only offering at the Lake Travis brewery.
Photo by Laura Skelding / American-Statesman. Want a lake view with your beer? Visit Oasis, Texas Brewing in the Lake Travis area.

Oasis, Texas Brewing and Infamous Brewing, 6550 Comanche Trl. and 4602 Weletka Dr. Turn a weekend afternoon into a Lake Travis beer crawl with a visit to these local breweries. Infamous’ three-year anniversary party is next Saturday, with lots of good beers on tap for the occasion.

Treaty Oak Distilling, 16604 Fitzhugh Rd, Dripping Springs. This Hill Country destination just about has it all: cocktails, food, live music, a play area for the kids, even helicopter tours. This weekend, the distillery is also hosting the inaugural Hill Country Kitetail Fest starting at noon Sunday.

The Growler Bar, 1300 FM 685, Pflugerville. This just-opened craft beer spot from a father-and-son team has more than 50 taps for beers, cold-brew coffee, even wine, and you can stop in quickly to fill up a growler or stay awhile to nurse a pint or flight.

Moontower Saloon, 10212 Manchaca Rd. This dog-friendly hangout in far South Austin promises plenty of seating on an oak-shaded patio. Plus, there are food trucks, a volleyball court and often live music.

Live Oak Brewing, 1615 Crozier Ln., Del Valle. Now opened seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m., the new brewery comes with a beer garden shaded by towering live oak trees. Sit beneath one while sipping on one of Live Oak’s European-style beers, like the tart Berliner Weisse.

Ski Shores, 2905 Pearce Rd. The restaurant’s easygoing atmosphere, juicy burgers and a solid selection of cocktails and local craft beers, as well as lakefront views and a playground for the kids, makes Ski Shores a go-to spot for locals looking for laid-back fun on a huge deck.

Texas Keeper Cider, 12521 Twin Creeks Rd., Manchaca. Starting tomorrow with a grand opening celebration, the far South Austin cidery is ready to welcome visitors to the Texas Keeper taproom, which was renovated out of a historic farmhouse on a scenic 20-acre stretch of ranch land.

Texas Keeper Cider, Kooper Family Rye opening tasting rooms this weekend

Photo by Ben Sklar. Texas Keeper Cider's cidery in the Onion Creek area of South Austin isn't opened with regular hours yet, but the cider release party on June 20 is a good opportunity to visit the scenic cidery in the meantime.
Photo by Ben Sklar. Texas Keeper Cider’s cidery in the Onion Creek area of South Austin is finally gearing up to open with regular hours starting Saturday, when a party will have food, live music and the release of a new cider.

Two local beverage companies, after establishing a niche for their bottles of booze in the market, are ready to draw crowds to their facilities outside of Austin. Both Texas Keeper Cider and Kooper Family Rye are throwing grand opening parties on Saturday — two solid alternatives to South by Southwest festivities this weekend.

Texas Keeper Cider

After a year-and-a-half in business, the cidery started up by a winemaker, a homebrewer and their longtime friend now has a taproom next door. Nick Doughty, Brandon Wilde and Lindsey Peebles have spent the past few months restoring a historic farmhouse near their cidery into the taproom where Austinites can “relax on a Saturday afternoon with great music, food and cider,” according to a press release.

“This will be the new heart of Texas Keeper, allowing folks to come try special limited releases, as well as partake in a curated list of great cider and wine from around Texas, the U.S. and the world,” the press release noted.

That’s been a dream of the trio: to be able to offer a place where more than their cider is enjoyed. The cidery and taproom are both located on a 20-acre ranch along Onion Creek in deep South Austin, making Texas Keeper Cider prime to join the list of destination spots like Live Oak Brewing, Jester King Brewery and other slightly off-the-beaten-path booze makers. Peebles has even noted before that the scenic space surrounding Texas Keeper is “a little reminiscent of Jester King, with lots of live oaks and a great view of Onion Creek.”

On Saturday, the cidery will have all of its current ciders available by the bottle and glass, and it’ll also be releasing the latest cider in the Grafter series: Grafter Blanc. The cider-and-wine blend features Northern Spy and Empire apples and Texas-grown Blanc du Bois grapes.

Plus, the 2 to 6 p.m. grand opening celebration will have food from Anjore and Hector’s Tortas Ahogadas and live music from the Possum Posse and Brand New Key. Get $10 tickets for the event at texaskeepercider.eventbrite.com.

Texas Keeper Cider is located at 12521 Twin Creeks Rd., Manchaca.

Kooper Family Rye

Photo by Kooper Family Whiskey Co. Austin's finally got a rye whiskey produced here with the arrival of Kooper Family Rye to the local market.
Photo by Kooper Family Whiskey Co. Get a taste of Austin’s first locally produced rye whiskey at Kooper Family Rye’s grand opening on Saturday.

Although this whiskey producer only started releasing bottles of rye to the market in the fall of last year, it’s already welcoming fans to the Kooper tasting room and barrel-house in Dripping Springs.

Kooper Family Rye, which joined the ranks of Texas whiskey with a 100 percent rye recipe, barreled, aged and blended in the Hill Country, is intentionally opening its doors to locals this weekend, the start of the 30th year of SXSW.

“Our whiskey and tasting room are for Texans, and we’d like to offer our fellow Texans a place of refuge from the out-of-town crowds of SXSW,” Troy Kooper, the co-founder of Kooper Family Rye along with his wife, Michelle, said in a press release.

As if you needed extra incentive to escape the city, Kooper is offering visitors to the tasting room a free whiskey drink throughout the afternoon on Saturday starting at 2 p.m. While there, you’ll “learn all about Kooper Family Rye and the Kooper Family process,” according to the press release; you’ll also be able to sample the whiskey and enjoy cocktails like an Old Fashioned for $5.

After the grand opening, the tasting room will be opened every Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.

The owners “are excited to be part of the growing number of distillers and brewers in the Dripping Springs area,” according to the release.

Kooper Family Rye is located at 31560 Ranch Road 12, #211, Dripping Springs (at the corner of Ranch Road 12 and Fitzhugh Road). For more information, visit www.kooperfamily.com.

Argus Cidery now opened on Sunday afternoons

Cider lovers now have an additional day they can visit Argus Cidery, on the road to Dripping Springs.

Photo by Heather Gallagher. Visit the picturesque tasting room at Argus Cidery on Sundays starting this weekend.
Photo by Heather Gallagher. Visit the picturesque tasting room at Argus Cidery on Sundays starting this weekend.

Starting this weekend, the cidery will be opened from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. To celebrate, Argus is offering its draft Ciderkin — the sessionable cider found in six-packs outside the cidery — at a special price of $3 per glass.

Plus, you might find other boozy apple treats in the Argus tasting room that aren’t available anywhere else. That’s where the majority of Argus’ experimental releases and other special-format fruit fermentables (like my personal favorite, the Tepache Especial made with fermented pineapple) get released.

The cidery offers cider flights, as well as bottles of cider that you can enjoy onsite or to-go.

Argus, Austin’s first hard cider company, is located with Last Stand Brewing and Revolution Spirits in the same complex off Fitzhugh Road, where Jester King Brewery and Treaty Oak Distilling are also situated. Many of them share similar tasting room hours, so it’s easy to make a day trip out of visiting these boozy spots.

For more information, visit www.arguscidery.com.