When I walked into Central Machine Works, the first word to leave my mouth after picking up my dropped jaw was, “Whoa!” The sheer size of the place, along with the hustle and bustle, compels you to see what all the buzz is about. Turns out it’s quite a lot!
Thank you to Central Machine Works for providing food and drink samples for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.
Tipping the Hat to Austin History
Before you go inside, there’s much to be appreciated from the exterior of this iconic Quonset hut structure. Built in 1940 as Capitol Machine Works, it produced airplane parts and other equipment during WWII. Afterwards, the company provided machine work in the capitol building.
During that time, the Central Machine Works building became a landmark of blue collar work ethic in east Austin. The structure has been carefully restored out of respect for preserving our local history. With the exception of the new grain silo, the corrugated storefront looks exactly as it once did, patina and all. And thanks to Rick on “Pawn Stars,” we all now know how valuable that patina is. According to him, it’s worth more than my car.
Now, back to the whoa. The first things you see as you open the door are the tall fermenters on the right and the brew station on the left, which also led me to think, “Did I walk in the wrong door?” Walking directly through the brewhouse makes any lover of beer smile. But even for the disinterested, it’s still pretty cool. Shiny Tank Syndrome is a thing.
With the wide open brewery as part of the decor, you can watch the team work while taking in all the delicious aromas during a brew day. Mmmm, that malty goodness!
As you continue past the place where beer magic happens, you find yourself in a huge, German-style-meets-Texas-industrial-chic beer hall where all that magic gets consumed. Legit biergarten community tables along with carefully preserved pieces from the original shop highlight the great design work from Kartwheel Studios of Austin.
The huge bay windows in the back let in plenty of natural light by day, and twinkle with the reflections of the string lights atop the beer garden when the sun goes down. Directly in front of this view is where you’ll find a bluegrass band playing every Tuesday night.
While I never had the pleasure of setting foot in the old machine shop, I’m willing to bet it’s way more fun now! Would you rather have tasty beverages while listening to live tunes or would you rather play with ball bearings? I guess it depends on the person. Speaking of drinks, priorities dictate that it’s time to head to the bar.
The taproom is equally well-decorated, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the massive lathe that adorns the back bar. Another discovery is this isn’t your typical brewery taproom. The full bar has a nifty craft cocktail program that includes a hopped version of an old fashioned.
While I don’t consider myself to be the craft cocktail type, every time I get one I seem to just love the hell out of it. What I don’t care for is the wait time for one of these little masterpieces. Bar manager Sam Russell mentioned the cocktail menu here was designed with speed in mind. He said, “It should take you about the same amount of time to get your drink as it takes your friend to get their beer.” I can get down with that.
Central Machine Works also has your regular pub grub. It’s done well, and you order from the bar. I enjoyed the beer brat on one visit, and the Rachel sandwich on another. Add a side of warm German potato salad and baboom! Grade A drinking food! The beer hall also has gluten-free options and vegan selections that go beyond salad.
In addition to the kitchen’s offerings, food trucks rotate on a regular basis in the large backyard beer garden. You’ll also find occasional pop-up vendors and live music events on the outdoor stage, including Reggae Sundays.
The Beer at Central Machine Works
Head brewer Scott Rynbrandt is definitely a science guy. He ran a biology lab at UT while working a master’s degree, and this led him to creating his own yeast strains from single cells.
Microbiology is a huge part of the beer-making process. And while this next level geek stuff gets my toes tapping, it takes most folks straight to Boredom Town. To spare you that, just know this is beyond what most breweries are capable of in their labs, and that’s just downright impressive.
In a city filled with great breweries, and there is literally one right around the corner, a new brewery needs something to set it apart. For me, being able to create yeast strains to a brewery’s exact specifications is exactly that.
This type of yeast wrangling means Central Machine Works’ beers will taste slightly different and distinctly their own. This is a good thing because Rynbrandt and assistant brewer Jordan Bremer are bringing a straight-forward set of offerings from their state-of-the-art brewing system. So straight-forward, in fact, you won’t find any clever beer names here. All of them are simply named Central Machine Works, followed by the name of the style: Lager, Pilsner, Kölsch, Pale Ale, and Mosaic IPA.
Rynbrandt’s goal is to make approachable beers anyone can enjoy. There are more styles coming with the intent of releasing a 50/50 mix of lagers and more hop-forward varieties.
See for Yourself
With all of these fun things going on, Central Machine Works is definitely worth checking out. You can park in the big parking lot in the back of the beer garden, and walk in that way, too. Wait a minute. Did I walk in the wrong door after all? Is the back the front and the front the back? Dunno. Either way, you’re gonna dig it once you get inside! Just don’t go Mondays because that’s when they’re closed.
4824 E. Cesar Chavez St. — Website
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