The craft beer scene in Austin is blowing up. For every new brewery that opens up, there are at least three bars that pop up, eager to serve you the best local beers Austin has to offer.
Continuing the tradition that Eric started with his Best Burger Joint in Austin series, I’ll be profiling and reviewing the best craft beer joints in Austin, with the occasional stop or two at bars that have room for improvement. I’ll take into consideration everything from beer selection to ambiance to overall value, and everything in between. Please join me as I try to catalog your favorite watering holes in Austin, and let me know what you think below in a comment.
First Impression of Whip In
“Would you like to try a new beer? It’s terrible!” asked one of the bartenders as I first walked in.
Immediately, I knew I was in the right place. That’s part of what makes the Whip In so uniquely charming: it feels like one of your buddies is behind the bar pouring drinks.
The hardest thing about writing this review was simply trying to categorize what the Whip In actually is. Is it just a convenience store or is it a craft beer bar? Should we call it a wine bar or an Indian food restaurant? Wait, do they really brew their own beer as well!?
The easy answer is that it is all of the above, and none at the same time. You see, it’s not just a craft beer bar. You can get your growler filled, have a pint from one of the 72 taps, or pick up craft beer bottles, cans, or bombers from all over the country.
It’s not just a wine bar either. You can choose from a cornucopia of Red, White, and Rose and have them open a bottle for you while you enjoy live music inside or outside.
And you guessed it. It’s not your typical Indian restaurant either. Whip In describes it best: “South Asian food ~ South Austin mood.”
Having just celebrated their one year anniversary, brewing is the newest venture at the Whip In. They brew English and Belgian style ales to complement their food, in a modest 10-gallon batch setup acquired from Twisted X Brewing Co.
If you exit Riverside going south on I-35, you can easily pass by Whip In and mistake it for just another convenience store with a little bit of Austin flair. But one step into the “convenience store” and you immediately know you are somewhere special. To your left is the 72 tap wall with a chalkboard above it that covers all the latest brews, neatly categorized with the style of brewing and ABV content. On average, the bartenders at Whip In swap out 2-4 new beers on a daily basis, hence the need for a chalkboard that can be easily updated.
To your right, you have the dining room that includes intimate booths adorned in traditional South Asian style, a small stage that features live music every night of the week, and a wine bar with enough variety to quench any wine-lovers thirst.
At the very back is all of your typical convenience store products, along with a vast craft beer selection. As the Whip In grew in popularity, they expanded the side porch and added another small stage to accommodate even more live music acts.
Rating your Craft Beer Joint
Just as Eric did with his burger series, I’ll be using a grading scale of 1-10 to rate Austin’s favorite watering holes. With a 1 being “avoid at all costs!’ and a 10 indicating you are officially in “craft beer nirvana.” Remember, this is simply your humble, craft-beer loving author’s opinion on the bars around town. Please feel free to disagree and let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your take on these venues. The bars will be rated using the following categories:
1. Beer Selection
Reviewing Whip In: Namaste Y’all
1. Beer Selection = 10. The Whip In hits on all facets of beer delivery. You can pick up a pint, fill your growler, buy a 6-pack of cans, or pick up a bomber (22 oz bottle) from some of the top breweries around the country. Oh yeah, you can also try a micro-brew that has been brewed on premise. There are 72 taps you can choose from, or you can pick something from the back that they will open for you for a small fee. The in-house brews, aka Namaste Brewing, are English or Belgian style beers that pair up with Whip In’s food quite well.
2. Food = 9. Whip In features a unique Austin take on Indian food. I had the delectable Ginger Chicken Fried Steak with fries once I saw my neighbor order the same thing. I can honestly say I’ve never had anything quite like it and would feel comfortable immediately putting it in my top five Chicken Fried Steak in the Austin area (and that’s saying alot). They offer brunch on the weekends and breakfast during the week starting at 10 AM. Some of the more interesting items on the menu include Whip In-dianized Nachos (El Milagro Totopos thick-cut tortilla chips with black bean masala, queso, pico de gallo, and chutney) and the Elegant Stoner Snack (house fries topped with queso, crispy bacon bits, sour cream, pico de gallo, and green onions). I have yet to try it, but everyone raves about the South Asian Frito Pie.
3. Ambiance = 9. This place is uniquely Texas, Austin, and South Asian all at once. You can sit at the bar, wine bar, dining room, cozy booths, or chill outside – all within the confines of what can be considered a large convenience store. They really do make use of every square inch of the place, with the 10-gallon brewing setup in a small room downstairs. Live music is playing every night, featuring as much variety as can be found on the tap wall. They have everything from jazz to flamenco music to your typical singer/songwriters, all delivered in an intimate environment. The only knock would be that it can get a bit cramped when it gets busy.
4. Value = 10. One of my favorite things about the Whip In is that they feature a local Austin brewery each night, charging only $3 for a pour. Happy Hour is every day (including weekends) from 3-7 PM, with $1 off all drafts. The craft beer cans and bombers can be purchased and enjoyed in-store for a nominal fee. They also have a different food special every night that isn’t just limited to Indian food; they have great sandwiches as well. The in-house brews are a bit on the pricey side, but that is to be expected because they are brewed in such small quantities.
5. Service = 9. This isn’t exactly Cheers where everybody knows your name, but the staff is Texas friendly and treats everyone like a regular. Staring up at that chalkboard wall with such an enormous amount of variety can be daunting, but the staff has been trained to spot those with a slightly confused look on their faces. They’re more than helpful in navigating you through your choices. The main bar and wine bar are long enough, with enough people manning the taps that you are never waiting too long for your next pour. Food comes out promptly and there is always someone behind the register to take care of your convenience store needs.
Bottom line on Whip In: 9.4
Overall score of 9.4 is an average of the 5 categories.
It was no coincidence that I chose the Whip In as my first review in the Craft Beer Joint series. These guys encompass everything that craft beer is about, and then some. They have quite literally covered all their bases when it comes to beer consumption, with a great wine selection thrown in for good measure. If you are headed south to your favorite river or lake destination, stop by here and pick up a 6-pack of your favorite craft beer cans. Going to a friend’s party in South Austin or downtown? Bring your growler and get it filled with your favorite local brews. As you are prepping a romantic dinner at home, be sure to stop by here for their excellent wine selection. Jonesing for live music? Whip In features live music acts every night of the week.
Essentially these guys have you covered, no matter what you are in the mood for. Do yourself a favor and stop by the Whip In when you’re in the area. It’s a local institution that’s as Austin as they come.
What are some other unique craft beer joints around Austin we should check out?