You know that goofy feeling you get when you find a new favorite place? Of course you do! I almost did a little socially-distanced tap dance during my first visit to Hold Out Brewing, but that would be too goofy, even for me. As happy as I was, nobody wants to see that.
What you do want to see is how they’ve turned this little pocket in (old) West Austin into a comfy oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown. The vibe is a holdout (pun totally intended) to what the managers describe as what old Austin felt like: “Just laid back and comfortable.” It’s a very welcoming space to all. Whether you’re in shorts or a suit, having a business meeting or just a Sunday Funday, y’all come on in!
The space itself has a fun story. In the 1970’s, a Quonset hut from Camp Mabry was moved and adjoined to a house that was built in the 1950s. Why? Not sure. Because Austin was weirder then? Maybe. What we do know is that a structure this odd is part of what gives Austin its charm, and is definitely worth keeping around. It’s just too cool to turn into more condos or another Starbucks.
What’s In a Name?
Why Hold Out? Simple answer: the owning partner group refuses to sell out to developers in order to preserve this chill little place; therefore, they are “holding out.” What’s not to love about that? Not the pun, the concept. As Mark Stowe, GM and partner, expressed, “You look north and you see downtown skyscrapers, you look south and see condos.” But here, you can enjoy their offerings in a relaxing courtyard at a picnic table under a massive, 400-year-old oak tree. Serenity now!
The main focus of the beer program here is easy drinking, repeatable pints, mainly in the pale ale category. I started with one of their lighter varieties, Suavamente. It’s just as smooth as the name might suggest, with a nice crispness that makes you want to have another sip, and then maybe another full one after.
I opted for a flight afterward instead, so I could try as many as responsible drinking would allow. Their best seller, Liquid Television, is a hazy pale ale described as “candied tropical fog,” and it was an impressive starting point. That was followed by two more hazy tasters. Koala Takedown is a juicy IPA utilizing hops from New Zealand; pillowy softness with aromas and tastes of tropical and light stone fruits with subtle lemon-lime undertones.
No’Quango is their milkshake IPA; full bodied with herbal and citrus notes. Lastly, I dared to drink a dark beer on a warm day on the patio, which is not something I normally do because they can be a bit heavy. Last Light is a dry hopped porter; surprisingly light bodied with just enough roastiness and coconut to balance the hop bitterness, quite refreshing!
One visit to any good brewpub is never enough. Of course, I had to go again. A knowledgeable staff will always know what’s up, so I asked my server, Meg, what her current favorite was. Bent Wookie! This imperial IPA is full of hop aroma and flavor with not being overtly bitter. It comes in at 8 percent ABV, so respect the Wookie!
I also sampled the new Coconut Last Light, which is actual toasted coconut added to the aforementioned dry hopped porter. I love coconut, so I found this version even better than the original.
It’s not all pale ales, as the brewers are encouraged to “dance outside the lines,” according to Sheila Garcia, marketing and hospitality manager. In time, there will be many more styles produced, giving more variety to those who seek it. They also offer an easy drinking ale, appropriately named House Beer, for when you don’t feel like drinking something more complicated. If you’re new to the craft beer game, this is a great place to start.
A $5 Burger? Whaaat?!
Yes! Like most people who hear that, I wasn’t expecting much out of it at that price, but it’s super good! On bread that’s made fresh daily with hand smashed patties, the classic burger has all the standards including ‘Merican cheese, French’s mustard, and some tasty pickles. You only need an extra three dollars to make it a double, as seen above, but the single did the trick for me. I also got a salad which I ended up taking home, dressing on the side, and it made a great dinner.
Pro tip: You can order a half salad which will still make a big side, because the wholes are huge!
The menu continues as if you’re at your friend’s backyard barbecue, but that friend is an amazing chef, and everything is crazy good. In addition to great burgers and creative wings, the sides menu has a roasted beet dish with whipped feta, toasted pistachios, and avocado with a blood orange vinaigrette. This would be the second time I had to suppress the urge to do a happy dance. Mmm hmm, it’s that good.
Pro tip: Make a tapas-style small plate meal with the beets, crispy artichoke and pimento, and summer squash and peaches. All three should be plenty for two people while leaving just enough room for beer.
Like Hot Dogs?
Meh. Well, how about an Asian-fusion hot dog? Enter the Kung Pao. Mexican street corn hot dog? Yep, they have that too. There was even a poutine dog on the specials menu the second time I went. If you’re going the hot dog route, it should be a truly awesome one, right?
Oh Covid, You Ol’ Rascal
I was late getting to the Hold Out party, as they opened on May 7th of this year, but we all know what was keeping us home and wary of leaving at that time. We’re still in it, but be assured the good people at Hold Out are looking out for you with all of the proper coronavirus precautions in place. It’s important to me, as I’m sure it is to you, to feel safe in any establishment during these wacky times.
I felt completely safe with the open air seating, and I’ve been very choosy about which venues I feel safe in. If you’re not comfortable with that quite yet, they have curbside service as well.
Pro tip: Bring a cooler for your to-go beer as they like to stay cold on the way to your fridge.
Brewpubs and taprooms everywhere had to figure out how to shift from a highly social business to one that is almost 180 degrees in the other direction. When you’re the new kid in town that isn’t quite established yet, it’s especially tough. It even changed the scope and meaning of their “Save Austin, Drink Beer” slogan. The idea began as a nod to the aforementioned old Austin vibe, but became much more meaningful now with our local beer industry struggling to make ends meet amid the virus. Being a craft beer fan, the time is now to go out and support your favorites and to try some new ones.
“Save Austin, Drink Beer”
More than just a slogan, it is the way Hold Out Brewing helps Austinites. Proceeds from their t-shirts and stickers that bear the phrase are donated to a list of local non-profits and charities that rotate on a monthly basis. Certain draft sales are now included as well. Past recipients have been Central Texas Food Bank, Austin Justice Coalition, and TreeFolks. Next up will be Equality Texas and Urban Roots. Supporting people who support our city in return is always a win-win!
When you’re looking for a relaxed, safe environment to enjoy great beer and food, add Hold Out Brewing to your list. With the virus still doing its thing, the operating hours and capabilities for all places are subject to change, so it’s a good idea to call ahead to verify. I hope this place becomes one of your new favorites, as it’s definitely one of mine. Cheers!
1208 W. 4th St.—Website
Have you been holding out on Hold Out?