South Austin’s new hangout Spokesman offers draft beer, coffee and art

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Spokesman serves draft beer out of repurposed bicycle handles, in a nod to one of the co-founders’ love of cycling.

The Yard, the new mixed-use complex built out of old warehouses off South Congress Avenue, is springing to life with new additions this month.

Following in the footsteps of neighboring St. Elmo Brewing at one end of the row are two boozy newcomers at the other end: the Austin Winery, which relocated from the east side of the city, and Spokesman, a coffee shop and beer bar from industry veterans who are finally opening their own space.

The next-door neighbors are planning to have grand opening celebrations later this month, although their doors are open now to offer locals early looks at each. (Here’s what to expect from the Austin Winery.)

Spokesman is the brainchild of C.J. West and Trey Ramirez, who wanted to create a comfortable hangout for the neighborhood that features two of their favorite things. West has helped to open and brew at local breweries like the ABGB and the south location of North by Northwest, while Ramirez developed his love for coffee working at Home Slice and the Brew & Brew.

As a result, Spokesman has opened with nearly two dozen draft beers — primarily local — and a toddy, served in a chilled pint glass sans ice and roasted on-site, that will be the first of many house coffee drinks to come. A few of the taps are also devoted to wine and cider.

Working with coffee for many years, I’ve always wanted to learn how to roast,” Ramirez said. “Getting the control and being able to shape what it tastes like is huge. It can be overwhelming at times, but it can be a lot of fun. And C.J. has been brewing beer for a long time here in town. He’s the other side of it. He’s been pulling in amazing beers from Austin and Texas. So you could say Spokesman is kind of a fusion of both our backgrounds.”

But don’t try to pigeon-hole Spokesman as the place to go solely for beer and coffee. The two co-founders feel strongly that Spokesman — decked out with eye-catching art from local painter Briks, of the Blue Dozen Collective — has more to offer than just drinks.

The name of the coffee bar, for example, comes in part from West’s passion for cycling. Spokesman aims to be “a ride-up shop where you can park your bikes inside and not have to worry about locking them,” Ramirez said, pointing out the vertical metal racks along the front garage-like wall where bicycles can hang. (Another nod to cyclists is the row of tap handles made of colorful bike handles.) 

And then there’s all that wall art.

Walk in and your jaw just might drop at first glance, like mine did, at the larger-than-life figures adorning nearly every available inch of wall space: the plump cat (or is it a raccoon?) with his arms folded, the boombox with dials and two large eyes and lips, the cheerful stork covering the Employees’ Only door leading to the back warehouse. The art is a marvel and so integral to the experience you’ll have at Spokesman.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. When Spokesman uses its projector to play a show, the screen fits perfectly in the painted screen that local artist Briks created on the back wall.

“To bring Briks onto this project was amazing. I don’t think we could’ve picked anybody else. His art and his sense of humor reflected in his art just made this place come to life,” West said.

He and Ramirez hadn’t expected they’d renovate an old warehouse for their project. They looked for about two years at retail spaces in Austin, none of which were quite right for what they envisioned. Then, West’s friends at St. Elmo Brewing told him about the Yard.

Part of the reason the warehouse works so well is that it’s got lots of extra room to grow into — which, first and foremost, will be used for the expanding coffee program. The goal is to sell bags of roasted beans to go from the shop and to have them in retailers around town as well. But that’s largely phase two, the co-founders said.

In the meantime, Spokesman has a coffee roaster visible to customers in its nook at the back of the shop. Ramirez will continue using it to make the toddy and other upcoming coffee items until Spokesman outgrows it, he said, and needs to move roasting operations to the back warehouse.

We’re starting with just a couple of origins that we’re really excited about,” he said. “We’ve always loved Mexican coffee and African coffee, and we’ve been looking around for coffees that are just right for us and what we want to kind of mix together. The African coffee that we’re doing with our toddy we’re super thumbs-up on.”

West similarly aims to pay careful attention to the draft beer program. He said the taps will rotate out constantly (save for four always-on brews: Real Ale Axis IPA, Live Oak Brewing Gold, Hops & Grain River Beer and Austin Beerworks Peacemaker) and will primarily, but not exclusively, be from area brewers. Austin Beerworks’ limited Grinds My Gears, a hoppy ale with hefeweizen yeast, is only available at the Beerworks taproom and at Spokesman, in a nod to the coffee bar’s bicycling theme.

“We take a lot of pride in the breweries that we feature because for me, personally, this is my contribution to Texas craft brewing,” West said. “I went from the production side to this side. In the brewing industry, everybody wants to be a brewer. It’s like the star quarterback. The lead actress. Everyone wants to do it. But brewers can’t do it alone.”

For now, Spokesman is open 4 to 10 p.m. on weekdays at 440 E. St. Elmo Rd. A small menu of cafe food is to come. After the grand opening — look for that date to be announced on the coffee bar’s social media accounts — it will be open 7 a.m. to midnight daily.

For more information, visit spokesmancoffee.com.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Enjoy local beer, like Zilker Brewing’s Murderino, while admiring wall art from local artist Briks, who completely covered Spokesman’s interior with his expressive characters.

Eight Austin coffee shops join nationwide fundraiser for the ACLU

Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Houndstooth Coffee is one of the participating coffee shops in Sprudge's nationwide fundraiser for the ACLU.
Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Houndstooth Coffee is one of the participating coffee shops in Sprudge’s nationwide fundraiser for the ACLU.

A handful of local coffee shops have stepped forward to participate in a fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union — a nonprofit that has received a record number of donations since President Donald Trump’s executive order last week severely restricting immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries.

The fundraiser has been organized by Sprudge, a publication that ordinarily writes about coffee and the caffeinated culture surrounding it.

Austin coffee shops taking part in it are Fleet Coffee Co., Epoch Coffee, the Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, Caffe Medici, Vintage Heart Coffee, Houndstooth Coffee, Once Over Coffee Bar and Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors. Each one will donate a portion of their profits today through Sunday to the ACLU. In addition to those funds, Sprudge has announced that it will match the first $500 that each of 26 participating coffee brands raise, Fleet among them.

“We are honored to be a part of a nationwide fundraiser for the ACLU this weekend, February 3-5,” Fleet Coffee wrote on Instagram. Twenty percent “of all revenue will be donated to this great cause. On top of that, we will have a jar available to collect additional donations.”

Each of the coffee shops might be doing something a little different to help.

Once Over Coffee on South First Street, for instance, is also contributing 20 percent of all weekend sales to the campaign, while Caffe Medici — which has five locations around the city — is donating 20 percent of sales from all of their shops on Sunday to Refugee Services of Texas-Austin, “which helps welcome and support people who are coming to our state,” as the coffee company noted on Instagram.

Then there’s Houndstooth, located in both Austin and Dallas, which is matching the first $1,000 in donations at each cafe. At the Brew & Brew, located in East Austin, order a filter or iced coffee if you want your money to benefit the ACLU. And at Vintage Heart on East Seventh Street, 5 percent of all drink sales are being donated.

But these local coffee purveyors aren’t the only ones contributing to the cause. Since Sprudge organized the fundraiser earlier this week, more than 175 coffee brands and more than 400 cafes around the United States have decided to participate in it.

The publication said in its announcement of the nationwide fundraiser that it does not normally get involved in political matters. That changed last week with President Trump’s executive order.

“We believe that the current executive order banning refugees from the United States and immigration from 7 majority Muslim nations is illegal, immoral, and fundamentally un-American,” Sprudge wrote. “Like a hot mug of drip coffee spilled on a crisp white apron, these actions are a dark stain on our national conscience, and as Americans, we feel compelled to stand up against them.”

Greater Goods Coffee Roasters adds tasting room in Dripping Springs

Greater Goods Coffee founders are bringing local philanthropy into their coffee business.
Greater Goods Coffee founders have brought local philanthropy into their coffee business.

The coffee roasting company focused on donating to good causes officially opened a tasting room and espresso bar last month. To celebrate, Greater Goods Coffee Roasters is throwing an open house Saturday that will give visitors a taste of the new space.

At 160 McGregor Ln. in Dripping Springs, the roastery now serves up coffee and tea drinks, as well as a small menu of pastries and bags of the Greater Goods Coffee varieties. This weekend, the tasting room will have live music from the Hot Texas Swing Band and brunch items from Chiawalla, Batch Craft Beer and Kolaches, and Skull & Cakebones during the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. open house.

Make sure to register for the free event, if you’re interested in attending, so that the Greater Goods Coffee team knows how many people to expect.

Greater Goods Coffee was founded last year by Trey Cobb and Khanh Trang, who double as partners in business and life and have big philanthropic goals for their coffee company.

They donate a portion of the proceeds from each bag sold to one of one of four area nonprofits: Austin Pets Alive, the Autism Society of Central Texas, the Central Texas Food Bank and the Boys & Girls Club of Austin. Each of the bags are color-coded so that coffee drinkers know exactly which cause they are supporting with the purchase of the beans.

Plus, Cobb and Trang make sure to responsibly source the beans from places like Ethiopia, Sumatra and Papua New Guinea, which is no easy task: Less than 2 percent of all the coffee grown worldwide meets Greater Goods Coffee’s speciality-grade requirements, according to the company.

Besides the Saturday open house, you can get your morning, afternoon and evening coffee fixes most days of the week at Greater Goods Coffee Roasters. It’s open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

For more information, visit greatergoodsroasting.com.

Historic Austin building given new life as Stonehouse Coffee & Bar

Rendering by the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. Stonehouse Coffee & Bar is being built out of an old, historically designated building on South Lamar.
Rendering by the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. Stonehouse Coffee & Bar is being built out of an old, historically designated building on South Lamar.

A small stone house that was designated as a city and state landmark is becoming a coffee bar on South Lamar Boulevard.

When Stonehouse Coffee & Bar opens in wintertime this year, it will have a new interior inspired by turn-of-the-century Austin — thanks to design changes that the lauded Michael Hsu Office of Architecture has in the works to update the building while staying true to its 1900 roots.

The building, known as the Dawson Stone House, was erected in 1900 as the middle-class home of two sisters, Mary and Nannie Dawson, who were teachers as well as real estate developers, according to the historical marker next to the front door of the building. Most recently, a title loan office occupied the Dawson Stone House, but a prolific group of bar owners has decided to transform it into a coffee bar that will be opened from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily once it’s ready for business later this year.

Stonehouse Coffee & Bar, at 1105 S. Lamar Blvd., will have coffee from Cuvee, as well as draft beer, wine, pastries and gelato, according to a press release. Plus, a food truck will serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The group responsible for updating Stonehouse is FBR Management, which also owns the neighboring Gibson Street Bar as well as Mean Eyed Cat, Star Bar, the Wheel, both Lavaca Street Bar locations, and other local hotspots.

“In a time when so much of Austin is being re-envisioned, Stonehouse Coffee + Bar seeks to honor the early history of the city,” FBR partner Matt Luckie said in the press release. “Stonehouse is a fresh and modern concept that fits nicely within the walls of this unique, historical building.”

The Michael Hsu Office of Architecture has designed other notable local places like the Uchi and Uchiko restaurants and the South Congress Hotel.

To carry out the design updates to the Dawson Stone House, FBR Management had to seek approval from both the city’s Historic Landmark Commission and the state’s Texas Historical Commission. Sometimes, there’s a battle between the city and developers about changes to buildings with historical designations, but Austin’s landmark commission approved the Stonehouse project in the spring.

Rendering by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. The Stonehouse Coffee & Bar will have design elements that nod to turn-of-the-century Austin, when the original building was erected.
Rendering by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. The Stonehouse Coffee & Bar will have design elements that nod to turn-of-the-century Austin, when the original building was erected.

Houndstooth’s nonalcoholic coffee cocktails return for summer

The Centro Americano at the downtown Houndstooth location is the perfect nonalcoholic antidote to the summer heat.
The Centro Americano at the downtown Houndstooth location is the perfect nonalcoholic antidote to the summer heat.

Needing to stay cool and caffeinated during summer scorchers are always a must in Austin, and Houndstooth Coffee has a solution: a specialty drink menu that will be available through Labor Day at both locations.

It’s not the first time Houndstooth, a local purveyor, has offered nonalcoholic coffee cocktails. A couple of summers ago, the downtown shop on Congress Avenue had a small menu that included a Coffee Old Fashioned even non-coffee drinkers might love (which I can attest to because I don’t care for coffee and loved the drink).

These cocktails, as barista Gregory Alford noted at the time, rearticulate “what coffee can do. It’s not for people who walk in and just want a cup of coffee, but if you’re looking for something a little different, this is it.”

They’re also remarkable because though the drinks lack booze, the baristas can add certain ingredients to have them mimic the flavors of our favorite cocktails. That was true of the drinks two years ago, when the espresso in the Coffee Old Fashioned was the substitution for bourbon, while still maintaining the roasted characteristics of coffee.

Both locations, including the one on North Lamar Boulevard, are getting creative with the coffee drinks. And the offerings are different at each, so you’ll have to make sure you stop by both for the various options. According to Houndstooth, these run between $3 and $6.

At the 4200 N. Lamar Blvd. location:

Coffee Julep: A refreshing espresso cocktail modeled after the Kentucky Derby’s ice-topped summer cocktail, with espresso, turbinado simple syrup, mineral water, bruised mint garnish. $6.00.

Carbonated Cascara: Organic muddled ginger and rosewater complement Houndstooth’s sweet, syrupy cold-brewed cascara for a spicy, sweet and floral antidote to the Texas summer ahead. $5.00.

At the 401 Congress Ave. location:

Centro Americano: Light and balanced, spicy and sweet, this espresso cocktail balances Tex and Mex together in a highball glass, featuring espresso, plum preserves, rice milk, and a vanilla and cinnamon honey syrup. Garnished with burnt lemon. $6.00.

The Coffee Pop: Houndstooth’s cold brew concentrate is topped off with half & half, honey and grenadine and completed with a cherry center for a frozen and bite-sized summer delight. $3.00.

For more information, visit houndstoothcoffee.com.

Fleet Coffee opens in East Austin with focus beyond caffeine

Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. Patrick Pierce, left, and Lorenzo Perkins have teamed up to open their own coffee shop on the east side.
Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. Patrick Pierce, left, and Lorenzo Perkins have teamed up to open their own coffee shop on the east side.

Although people can order the traditional lattes and espressos at the new Fleet Coffee on Webberville Road, many of the coffee shop’s early regulars are venturing into something most cafes don’t offer: drinks where coffee is one ingredient of several.

Co-founders Lorenzo Perkins and Patrick Pierce have created this original menu — which they call “Coffee And…” —as a way to explore coffee’s full potential, something they both find important in a time when coffee shops are prolific and found at nearly every street corner. The menu is at the heart of their philosophy to continually innovate and shift the boundaries that have defined what coffee can be.

“A lot of the inspiration for these drinks comes from the restaurant world, the food world, the larger beverage world,” Perkins says. “Coffee is a fantastic beverage in its own right, but it’s so incredibly complex and dynamic that we should utilize it in these ways that showcase the uniqueness of coffee as an ingredient.”

Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. The Flip-Top is served on nitro in a bottle to give the drink cohesion.
Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. The Flip-Top is served on nitro in a bottle to give the drink cohesion.

He and Pierce, who worked as baristas at Caffe Medici and other coffee companies in Austin before deciding to team up for their own space, developed the four-drink “Coffee And…” menu to play with different flavor profiles.

“We had this challenge of looking at them more as cocktails than as espresso drinks,” Perkins says, noting they use much of the same kinds of ingredients that bartenders do: bitters, citrus and botanicals like chicory root.

The “Coffee And…” drinks include the E.T., made with espresso, lime simple syrup and tonic water, and the Morning Ritual, which comes with a glass of doughnut-infused milk, a chaser of espresso and a doughnut hole. Pierce’s personal favorite is the Flip-Top with espresso, root beer spices, chicory root and nitro, and as an intricate, layered delight, it exemplifies the sort of experimental coffee program they’re seeking.

So far they’ve been incredibly popular with Fleet’s customers, but the coffee shop also excels at the more traditional offerings. Espresso, lattes, iced coffee and drip coffee are all on the menu.

At the moment, the coffee is made using a rotating trio of roasters, with Madcap Coffee Company from Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Fleet’s anchor. The others, which are being brought in for three-month increments, are local roaster Wild Gift and Washington state’s Olympia Coffee Roasting. They’ll change out in the future for other roasters that Perkins and Pierce love.

“We initially cupped through 50 roasters from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada,” Perkins says. “Based on the double-blind cuppings, we picked the ones we thought tasted the best. Beyond that, we also considered whether they had a consistent roasting aesthetic, used ethical practices in sourcing their beans” and were able to connect on a personal level.

Visitors to Fleet Coffee can either order a cup of joe to enjoy in the coffee shop’s cozy 10-seat space or purchase a bag of coffee to go. In the coming months, Pierce and Perkins also hope to offer a subscription coffee service for Austinites.

Fleet Coffee is located at 2427 Webberville Rd., across the street from the new Dog & Duck Pub, and opened from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.fleetcoffee.com.

Mañana Coffee & Juice, at South Congress Hotel, opens Tuesday

South by Southwest tourists staying at the South Congress Hotel won’t have to go far starting tomorrow morning to get an energizing breakfast.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. The South Congress Hotel's latest dining spot, Manana, opens tomorrow.
Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. The South Congress Hotel’s latest dining spot, Mañana, opens tomorrow.

The final dining spot in the hotel, which opened last fall, Mañana Coffee and Juice is located in the courtyard with ample bar seating and a large communal table for group meetings. Once it opens tomorrow, it’ll “offer a curated menu of single-origin, direct-trade and local coffee blends from Austin-based roaster Cuvee Coffee” and Kusmi Teas, according to a press release.

“We’re applying that warm Texan hospitality we naturally have in Austin to the specialty coffee shop experience,” general manager Jesse Ryan Hartman said in the release. “We want Mañana to be your neighborhood home base.”

On the menu, diners will find plenty of house-made cold-pressed juices and milks with seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of sweets and snack made by Amanda Rockman, the hotel’s executive pastry chef and James Beard Award semifinalist. Rockman’s daily menu will have primarily breakfast and dessert items on it: pastries, croissants, macarons, cookies and tarts.

Mañana Coffee & Juice will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to stop in, either: Any visitor to one of the South Congress Hotel’s food and beverage places, including the Lobby Bar, Cafe No Se and Central Standard, can take advantage of free valet parking for up to three hours.