As much as we love the city of Austin, one of our favorite things to do here at the Austinot is discover quick weekend getaways that allow us to explore city’s backyard. When you get tired of the hustle and bustle of one of the fastest growing cities in America, you have a treasure trove of options within an hour’s drive of downtown.
For this entry in our day trip series, we travel west to Johnson City and the surrounding area, where we’ll experience small town dining at its finest, picturesque vineyards, state parks and one of the best bourbon whiskey distilleries in America.
Roadtripping isn’t always about the destination. Half the fun is the journey through the picturesque Texas Hill Country. Chevrolet was kind enough to provide me with a fully equipped 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe for the road trip. With the extra space, I invited six friends along and we headed out west. First stop, Hye, Texas.
Garrison Brothers Distillery
Tucked away in tiny Hye, TX, about a mile down a dirt road behind the 130 year old Hye General Store and Post Office, is Garrison Brothers Distillery. It’s considered by many to be the first bourbon distillery opened in America after prohibition, and the first to fully produce bourbon outside Kentucky and Tennessee.
For Garrison Brothers, however, it’s not about being first. It’s about being the best. From their website:
“At Garrison Brothers, we are single-mindedly dedicated to making fine bourbon. Bourbon is all we will ever make, and it is our mission to study the craft and get better every day. We consider our stillhouse and barrel barns hallowed ground.”
Their passion to the craft of distilling bourbon has caught the attention of many, including Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, the definitive authority on whiskey. Murray named the Garrison Brothers’ Cowboy Bourbon the 2014 American Micro Whiskey of the Year.
The Garrison Brothers ranch is open for “Sit and Sip” tours, Wednesday through Sundays at 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM and 4 PM. Tours are $10 ($20 on Saturdays) and take you through the ranch to see the bourbon distillation process firsthand. Tastings are provided during and after the tour, and include the option to buy a bottle on site.
1827 Hye Albert Road | Hye, Texas 78635 | Website
LBJ State Park
Only three miles west down Highway 290, you’ll find a peculiar blend of state and national parks that also happens to be the home of the Texas White House. The Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site was created by the State of Texas from donated land, and opened to the public in 1970.
The Texas White House was the ranch home where Lyndon B. Johnson spent more than 25% of his presidency. You’ll also see a replica of LBJ’s birthplace, which was originally located just a few miles down the road in what is now known as Johnson City, as well as the former president’s private airplane and hangar.
To get a taste of what life was like on a Texas ranch nearly a century ago, and take in some presidential and Texas state history, LBJ State Park is the perfect slice of Texicana.
Pecan Street Brewing
Heading east back towards Johnson City, we made a pit stop at the best lil’ brewpub this side of the Pedernales River, Pecan Street Brewing. The brewpub provides a charming small town diner atmosphere with a full blown brewery and 8-tap bar. They even managed to build a beer garden out back. All the beers are brewed in-house by Ft. Collins native, Sean Elliott.
Within our group, we were able to try the five different brews on the tap wall. The Chain Gang Oatmeal Stout (smooth stout with flavors of coffee and chocolate) and County Jail Pale Ale (cascade hops, citrus aromas) were the standouts. The kitchen serves a variety of options, including everything from chicken fried steak to burgers and salads, and even brick oven fired pizza.
106 East Pecan Drive | Johnson City, TX 78636 | Website
Driftwood Estates Vineyard
On the road back to Austin, we paused at the Driftwood Estate Winery, a short 5-mile detour off Highway 290 in Dripping Springs. The estate bills itself as “The Texas Winery and Vineyard with the Million Dollar View” and, boy, do they ever deliver.
This little piece of Tuscany is perched atop a hill overlooking the estate vineyards, providing some of the absolute best views the Hill Country has to offer. Head into the tasting room to try a flight of any six wines for $12. Pick your favorite, then buy a bottle and some cheese to enjoy on the porch while you take in the views.
4001 Elder Hill Road | Dripping Springs, TX 78619 | Website
Our drive back to Austin was short, but the drive impressed us nevertheless, as we cut through canyons outside Dripping Springs and took in another classic Texas sunset.
@Crafty_Ed wants to know:
What is your favorite stop in the Johnson City area?
The Austinot team reminds you to have a designated driver with you when you follow this itinerary!