WhichCraft Beer Store to open second location in Mueller

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The current WhichCraft location offers beers of just about any style in bottles and cans, but it doesn't have room for a tap wall like the second location will have.
Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The current WhichCraft location offers beers of just about any style in bottles and cans, but it doesn’t have room for a tap wall like the second location will have.

A new location of the craft beer-focused WhichCraft Beer Store is going to offer much more than bottles and cans to go when it debuts in early summer this year.

Opening in the Mueller area next to Bribery Bakery, the second WhichCraft will have 25 or 30 taps to carry draft beers that aren’t always found in packaged format — as well as an expanded roster of beer tastings, beer and food pairings, and beer education classes that simply aren’t possible at the flagship location on South Lamar Boulevard.

Having a selection of draft beers was always a goal of WhichCraft owner Jody Reyes, who wanted to make sure there was enough demand for a craft beer-only bottle shop before making the leap to anything else.

“The opening of WhichCraft One has been fantastic and has proven the concept that we can have an extremely craft beer-only retail store,” Reyes said. “But we always wanted to have draft because we can do more events, and it gives more people a reason to visit on a regular basis. They get to hang out in more of a community atmosphere… This is the next iteration of helping customers take the next step in their craft beer journey, as I like to say.”

He chose the 1,750 sq. ft. space, in the row of mixed-use businesses beneath the AMLI at Mueller at 1900 Simond Ave., because of the surrounding neighborhood. “I love that area,” he said. “It’s up-and-coming, which means there’s not a ton of things for residents to do. We want it to be a neighborhood hangout for them.”

The second WhichCraft will draw them in, he said, with the continued focus on a curated cans and bottles selection and the new 25 to 30 taps. The store will also have light bites, coffee and seating.

Because of all the packaged beer, Reyes said he’s freed up to offer rarer or more experimental brews on the tap wall.

“We won’t have to tie up half a dozen taps with kind of the standard styles that a lot of bars have to have,” he said. “That’ll let us focus on more exciting stuff.”

Despite the coming changes with the second WhichCraft — which he hopes to open in June — a lot about the store will remain the same, including the beer-loving staff who put together bottle recommendations, mystery bags of beer and other fun things that continually bring in new and returning customers.

“One of the things that I think we get a lot of notoriety for, rightly so, is a great staff: well-trained, very knowledgeable, eager to help and very outgoing,” he said. “That’s something that won’t be different at WhichCraft Two. That kind of outreach and education has been important in helping us build this concept of being a specialty shop.”

Design-wise, he said, the store also won’t change much, although now he’s able to afford a professional architecture and design firm, OPA Design Studio, to bring the second location to life. OPA was the visionary behind Twisted X Brewing and, most recently, Live Oak Brewing, and proprietor Stephen Oliver, Reyes said, “understands the craft beer industry and the experience we’re trying to create.”

For WhichCraft, that’s a simple but irresistible one.

“We’re going to take the best elements of this store and add on a draft and growler business,” Reyes said. “You wouldn’t believe how many times people come in and say, ‘It’s like a candy store in here!’ Which is great. That’s what we’re going for here and at WhichCraft Two as well.”

Growler USA opens as campus-area pub Saturday

The new Growler USA is opening in the campus area with 100 taps, primarily of local and Texas beers.
The new Growler USA is opening in the campus area with 100 taps, primarily of local and Texas beers.

Not far from the University of Texas campus, a different kind of schooling is about to be in session.

The pub Growler USA is officially opening this weekend with 100 taps of craft beer and a majority of them, about 65 percent, are from Austin or the Hill Country, owner MJ Hurt says.

That’s on purpose, as a way to provide each customer with the kind of beer learning experience that didn’t come so easily when Hurt was first discovering craft beer. She drank Chimay Blue and wanted to branch out to beers of similar style, but no one could give her a solid suggestion other than Blue Moon with a slice of orange.

This branch of Growler USA at 609 W. 29th St. serves to rectify that, offering “a wealth of knowledge” to curious beer drinkers. Each bartender — all of whom are either cicerone-certified beer servers or on their way to earning those credentials — can give customers ready recommendations, which might be necessary given the sheer amount of beer on the tap wall and the half-dozen 65-inch monitors above them with the menu.

“I love the fact that my beer servers can give someone who loves Budweiser something similar in taste and look and then also the whole background behind it,” she says. “We do flights. We do pints. Then we also have the growlers to go, as the name suggests. It’s an education.”

Growler USA, a growing franchise with multiple locations around the country, doesn’t offer any beers in bottles or cans; the focus is on draft-only. Hurt is helping to bring multiple Growler USA locations to fruition because she believes in what the pub is trying to do: spread the gospel of good local beer paired with regionally relevant food.

“We have a wealth and bounty of great breweries here that we want people to enjoy in one place,” she says.

Walk in and you’ll notice the cozy atmosphere, carefully cultivated by very green design: the bar made of repurposed barn wood, the seats rails transformed from old train boxcars, the tabletops salvaged from pressed bamboo.

“And a growler is the best way to save a beer bottle, so we like to say we’re very eco-friendly,” Hurt says.

Although beer is the main focus, the food isn’t just an after-thought. At this location of Growler USA, the menu is intended to be “Austin-centric,” with items like the Capital Cowboy Chili, the Zilker Brisket Salad and the SoLa Mediterranean Platter. The Skillet Mac & Cheese also seemed to be a favorite dinner option at a recent soft opening event.

The menu of pub grub is helping to craft Growler USA’s identity as more than just “a bar where you come in and slam down beers,” Hurt says. “We like to think of ourselves more as a coffee shop than as a bar. I want professors to come in and read a book during their break. I want students to come in and work or relax. Families are welcome. Anybody is welcome who just wants a beer and a relaxed experience.”

After working in the software industry for more than 25 years, Hurt doesn’t see her new role as an entrepreneur opening franchises as a new career. “This is more of a passion. I’m providing a service; I’m not making a living. I’ve done that,” she says.

She knew opening one of the Growler USA locations in Austin, where she’s lived with her family for 8 and a half years, was a priority given locals’ deep love of beer. And she found the perfect spot near campus, in part, she says, because of the parking.

“If someone wants to pick up a growler on their way home from work, they can’t be circling the block forever trying to find a place to park,” she says.

Growler USA offers 32 oz. and 64 oz. growlers that come as both glass and insulated containers. From 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, the grand opening celebration of the new location, every party-goer will receive a free 64 oz. plastic growler to start with. The party will also feature local radio DJ Deb of the Morning X with Jason and Deb on 101X FM, a well-known beer aficionado who plans to give away South by Southwest wristbands.

The pub is opened 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit growlerusa.com/craft-beer-pubs/tx-austin-ut/.

Adelbert’s becomes a brewpub, with plans to can beers

Nearly five years after opening, Adelbert’s Brewery is making a big change and becoming a brewpub.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. With a brewpub license, Adelbert's Brewery will be able to focus more on experimental beers like its burgeoning barrel-aged program.
Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. With a brewpub license, Adelbert’s Brewery will be able to focus more on experimental beers like its burgeoning barrel-aged program.

With that kind of license, the North Austin brewery known for its Belgian ales and barrel-aged beers can expand its experimental and seasonal offerings, as well as be able to have fans take Adelbert’s beers home with them from the taproom.

Adelbert’s founder and brewmaster, Scott Hovey, decided to pursue switching to a brewpub license this year to “embrace some of those specialty beer projects,” Adelbert’s general manager Sarah Haney said. “We also really wanted to be able to sell beers to-go.”

That’s unusual for many breweries to make a switch from one license to another years after launching, with full-scale distribution to boot but for Hovey, it was a necessary move.

“We’ll be able to do one-off beers like the mango wit, which is our wit combined with mango puree. Little variations like that,” he said. “They may be just on tap here; they may be in bottles to go the brewpub license gives us the freedom to do that. We also want to have more barrel-aged beers and increase our sour program. Do fruited sours. We’ll have more flexibility to brew these things.”

The brewery was granted the brewpub license sooner than expected a couple of weeks ago, so Hovey has still been figuring out some of the new beers that Adelbert’s will start producing just for the taproom.

“We’ve got a cucumber wit that we’ve been playing with,” he said. “The cucumber is a delicate flavor that has been fading fast, so that one would be good as a taproom-only beer because it preserves better that way… We’re starting to think about recipes for summer limited releases.”

Summer will be a good season for Adelbert’s in more ways than one. The biggest one, arguably, is the cans that Hovey hopes will start hitting retail shelves for the first time in May or June. Adelbert’s plans to release Naked Nun, its witbier, and the Whimsical Hibiscus Saison in cans first, and they’ll eventually comprise 20 to 30 percent of total production, depending on the season, Hovey said.

So many Adelbert’s fans had been clamoring for cans, Haney said, that doing them became a no-brainer.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Adelbert's Brewery hopes to offer more one-off brews in the taproom with a brewpub license. People will also be able to take beers to-go.
Photo by Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Adelbert’s Brewery hopes to offer more one-off brews in the taproom with a brewpub license. People will also be able to take bottles or growlers to-go.

“We’ll offer low-alcohol, sessionable beers in cans, generally. Our Castaway Blonde Ale or our Wild Pale Ale would be good candidates in the future,” Hovey said. “But beers like Tripel B and Flyin’ Monks I prefer to keep in bottles, since they age well. In summer, you want something refreshing in a can; then, in the wintertime, with more dinners and entertaining, you’ll want the cork and basket, something a little more meaty, a little bit bigger.”

The cans are going to be more colorful than the bottles, Haney said, with lots of yellow for the Naked Nun and pink for the Hibiscus Saison, including a pink breast cancer ribbon. (That cause remains tied to the saison; part of the proceeds from each purchase of the cans will still go toward the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas.) The cans “are consistent with our brand, but we wanted them to be sisters or cousins. Different from the bottles,” she said.

Adelbert’s had been self-distributing up until last summer, when Ben E. Keith took over as distributor. Having another company getting the beers into bars and stores, Hovey said, cleared the last obstacle that prevented Adelbert’s from becoming a brewpub sooner.

“Once we started using them, there became no reason not to do a brewpub,” he said.

He’s already discovering plenty of additional brewpub benefits, too. Soon, Adelbert’s will start offering cider and wine “for the crowd who might not like beer as much as their other buddies who wanted to come to Adelbert’s. You’ve got to have a couple consolation prizes for the non-beer drinkers,” he said.

Plus, he’s hoping to bring in a couple of guest taps for “cool beers or wines we discover. There are a lot of opportunities that a brewpub brings up that I hadn’t considered before. It opens up a lot of fun options for us to explore.”

Minibar now the latest alcohol delivery service in Austin

Just in time for South by Southwest entertaining, alcohol delivery service Minibar launches in Austin next week.
Just in time for South by Southwest entertaining, alcohol delivery service Minibar launches in Austin next week.

Another alcohol delivery service is joining the already flooded market.

Minibar is launching in Austin on Tuesday with an app and a website (minibardelivery.com) that will bring beer, wine and spirits to your door in under an hour. The service, which debuted in 2014 and now delivers booze in more than 20 U.S. cities, has partnered with three local liquor stores to get each order carried out.

Wiggy’s Liquor Store, Far West Liquor & Fine Wines and 34 Wine & Spirits — the latter of which is co-owned by Ricky Williams, a former University of Texas Heisman Trophy winner and NFL runningback — are in charge of making the deliveries, depending on what part of town each order comes from. Minibar requires a $25 minimum per order, with a delivery charge of $5 applied after the first month of use.

The fast-growing company joins other alcohol delivery services like Thirstie, Drizly and the Austin-based BrewDrop, all of which have arrived in the last couple of years.

Most recently, retail delivery service Instacart branched into booze, teaming up with Spec’s Wine, Spirits, and Finer Foods to bring beer, wine and spirits to a limited number of zip codes.

Another Austin-based business, Sourced Craft Cocktails, even delivers all the ingredients for home-made cocktails.

But Minibar might be prepared for all that competition; Austin is the service’s 22nd city, and it plans to spread farther north and east out of the city after its initial launch here. Plus, Minibar offers “tasting notes, pairing recommendations, cocktail recipes, gift delivery, and is the only provider to offer a subscription service,” according to a press release.

Users can also take advantage of Minibar’s auto refill option, which allows for items within an order to be delivered at a selected interval of one, two, three or four weeks. And if they go onto the website, versus the app, they can “quickly determine how much of each spirit is needed to plan the perfect get-together” via a party planning tool, according to the release.

“We’re thrilled to be expanding to Austin — our second new market already this year — and are excited to provide its residents with an easier way to shop for wine, spirits, beer and more,” Lara Crystal, co-founder of Minibar, said in the release. “We look forward to continuing to grow our footprint throughout Texas.”

For more information, visit minibardelivery.com.

Craftbeer.com readers name the Brass Tap as best Texas beer bar

A Round Rock spot has made it onto CraftBeer.com’s “51 Best Beer Bars in America” as the one and only representative from Texas.

While a bar from the suburbs on such a list might seem surprising, especially given all the other options out there, the Brass Tap was voted to the top by participants of a CraftBeer.com poll seeking to find out the best beer bars in each state. According to the website, more than 9,000 votes total were cast between August and December of last year.

Photo by Henry Huey for Round Rock Leader. The Brass Tap is a homey bar in Round Rock with live music, craft beer and pub food.
Photo by Henry Huey for Round Rock Leader. The Brass Tap is a homey bar in Round Rock with live music, craft beer and pub food.

Scroll through the roundup of America’s other popular beer hangouts you have the option to select Texas on a drop-down menu at the top of the page and you’ll find out why people have chosen the Brass Tap as Texas’ favorite, albeit in the Brass Tap’s own words.

A large part of the reason is, evidently, that the building is haunted.

The Brass Tap Round Rock has 60 rotating taps devoted exclusively to craft beers. Our tap wall changes every single day. We’re located in a beautiful 110-year-old building on Main Street in the historic district of downtown Round Rock,” according to the blurb on CraftBeer.com.

“The one thing we have that very few other bars have is the presence of two ghosts who have resided in the building for decades… Both of our ghosts are friendly and have never intentionally harmed or scared anyone, but some of our staff members are still very reluctant to be alone in the building after closing time!”

Spooky hauntings aside, the Brass Tap, with 200 bottles and cans in addition to the draft options, has already proven that it can hold its own against some of Austin’s other beloved beer bars. For one, it’s already got another location, this one closer into town in the Domain, in the works for an opening later this year. It was also one of the beer bars chosen in Austin360’s own readers’ poll about our city’s favorite places to grab a brew, coming in at number 8 out of 25.

Whatever your thoughts about the Brass Tap being chosen over other bars (and some of Austin’s biggest beer fans certainly have them, taking to Twitter this afternoon to muse about the results), you have to admit the bar’s beer list is solid. Local favorites like Blue Owl Brewing’s Dapper Devil and (512) Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Nitro Pecan Porter are just two of the offerings you’ll find there.

Bridget Dunlap’s Parlor & Yard slated to open Thursday

It didn’t take long for the shuttered French bistro Arro to become the new Sinatra-esque sports and game lounge Parlor & Yard.

The West Sixth Street bar is scheduled to open later this week, after less than three weeks of renovations. That’s partly because much of the original design isn’t changing.

Among the features Parlor & Yard will have is an indoor lounge space and a patio area where plenty of old-school games will keep drinkers occupied, from corn hole to yard dice. Fans of Dunlap’s bars can also count on enjoying another menu of original cocktails, which are going to be $9 starting Thursday, when the relaxed hangout makes its debut.

Photo from Parlor & Yard's Facebook. The throwback sports bar Parlor & Yard is taking over Arro's space, with plans to open later this week.
Photo from Parlor & Yard’s Facebook. The throwback sports bar Parlor & Yard is taking over Arro’s space, with plans to open later this week.

Here’s a partial look at the opening menu (which will also have beers and other drinks):

The Parlor: Hendrick’s Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and cucumber ice cubes

The Hometown Mule: Tito’s Vodka, lime juice, angostura bitters and ginger beer. ($1 of every one of these drinks sold will be donated to Austin Pets Alive.)

The Miracle: Suerte Blanco Tequila, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, lime juice, simple syrup and a smoked salt rim

Broadway Joe: Bulleit Bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and red wine floater

The Yard: Reyka Vodka, lemon juice, strawberry-ginger syrup and prosecco

Root Beer Old Fashioned: Bulleit Rye, house-made root beer syrup and cherry bitters. (Diners who love Dunlap’s Burn Pizza + Bar on East Sixth Street might recognize this drink from Burn’s lunch menu. Popular cocktails often repeat on her bar menus, for the sake of continuity.)

Parlor & Yard isn’t the only new Dunlap spot opening soon. Taking the place of her closed-down Mettle is the Bayou-centric Ophelia, a Creole restaurant with New Orleans-style cocktails like Hurricanes, Ramos Gin Fizzes and Sazeracs. Although Ophelia was originally set to open Wednesday, an unforeseen delay may push it back into next week.

Parlor & Yard, at 601 West Sixth St., will be open from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. on weekends. Stay tuned for more details about its official opening this week, and for more information, visit parloryard.com.

Austin’s Untapped Festival to return May 14

The series of Untapped Festivals in Texas, that magical combination of live music and craft beer, is returning to Austin this spring. Tickets for the fest go on sale today.

On May 14 at Carson Creek Ranch, more than 75 breweries are pouring a total of 300-plus beers while bands like Atlas Genius, Deltron 3030 and Lady Lamb regale the crowds with their sounds on two stages. Austin is the first city to host the festival this year, which marks Untapped’s fifth anniversary. Dallas’ festival on Nov. 12 will serve as the special anniversary event.

From Untapped Festival's Facebook. Last year's Untapped Austin was a big success, and the festival is returning this year on May 14. Pre-sale tickets go on sale today.
From Untapped Festival’s Facebook. Last year’s Untapped Austin was a big success, and the festival is returning this year on May 14. Pre-sale tickets go on sale today.

The festival’s goal every year “is to bring thoughtfully paired music to seasoned beer drinkers and to introduce new and exciting craft beers to discerning music fans,” according to a news release.

Last year’s Untapped was the first time the festival came to Austin, and it was a resounding success for the festival founders, a group called Spune Productions.

“The tremendous response we received from Untapped Austin’s debut last year exceeded all our expectations and proved why Austin is a true destination for music and beer. This year, Austin attendees can expect bigger and better,” Matthew Harber of Spune said in the news release.

Untapped Austin was so successful, in fact, that it sold out in its debut year. This year, there are myriad options for ticket purchasers to ensure a good time — including, new for Austin’s fest, the VIP Stout Package, which offers fun perks like entry into the Untapped clubhouse, where beer and music fans have side stage access, as well as free beer, wine and cold brew coffee, and free food from a couple  of local restaurants.

Both the Stout and VIP packages will get you an hour’s worth of early access to the fest at 2 p.m. Stout tickets start at $119, while VIP tickets are going for $62.

General admission tickets start at $32.

And if one Untapped fest is just not enough for you, the festival organizers are introducing the Untapped Season Pass in honor of this year’s five-year anniversary. The season pass will allow you to attend all five of the fests, including Fort Worth’s on June 11, San Antonio’s on Sept. 17 and Houston’s on Oct. 22.

The first round of tickets, available through March 1, are now live today on the Untapped Austin website. Starting March 2, ticket prices on all three levels will go up.