The craft beer scene in Austin is blowing up. For every new brewery that opens, there are at least three bars that pop up, eager to serve you the best local beers that Austin has to offer.
Continuing the tradition that Eric started with his Best Burger Joint in Austin series, I’m 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 in a comment below.
First Impressions: Wright Bros. Brew and Brew
The coffee/beer combo is not a new concept to Austin, but that doesn’t mean its easy to pull off. When you go to a coffeehouse, you’re looking for a good cup of joe while you can relax, meet a friend, or get some online work done. When you go to a bar, you can get a vastly different experience. You typically go to socialize, drink, and perhaps to meet new people. So how do you combine the two different establishments?
Well, in the case of Wright Bros. Brew and Brew, you don’t focus on serving the best of one type of thing. Instead, you give people the best of the two drinks that bring people together the most: Coffee and Beer. Then you strip away everything else and let folks focus on, and enjoy, the best locally sourced craft beer and roasted coffee beans that Austin has to offer. The subdued and industrial decor of Brew and Brew puts the emphasis on the product you came to consume, with little room left for anything else.
The space formerly occupied by Progress Coffee stays true to its coffeehouse roots, while adding an extensive craft beer selection featuring a rotating selection of over 40 different taps. The majority of beers on the tap wall at Brew and Brew are from the Austin area, but they will also be featuring some of the more popular national craft beers that end up making their way down here.
Due to its close proximity to Austin favorite, Hops & Grain, Brew and Brew also gets a rotating selection from their experimental Greenhouse series of beers. During my Brew and Brew visit, I had the good fortune of trying something from Hops & Grain’s Del Roble series. The series includes a seasonal selection of barrel-aged or barrel fermented beers brewed in various styles. The one I tried was their freshly tapped Vienna Del Roble.
The coffees are all locally sourced from Flat Track and Handsome, two roasters the Wright brothers have close ties to.
Food options are limited, with a few snack options, sandwiches, and a charcuterie option or two. I had the brisket sandwich, which came with Hops & Grain Alt-eration braised brisket and mustard pickles. Now I’ve had some fantastic brisket around town, but as far as brisket sandwiches are concerned, this was amongst the best I’ve had. If this selection is any indication of what the rest of the menu is like, then I can assure you the focus here is on quality over quantity.
Rating Your Craft Beer Joint
Just as Eric did with his burger series, I’m 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 Wright Bros. Brew and Brew: Coffee and Beer, the Perfect Mix?
Beer Selection = 8.0. You have a healthy selection of local beers here, as well as most of the big boys that the major distributors are bringing into town. Nothing necessarily stands out as far as uniqueness of beer selection, but there is a healthy mix of different styles that are neatly categorized by color and hoppiness on the big board. The rotating Greenhouse series from Hops & Grain ensures you will always have something interesting and typically delicious to try, and that alone gives this score a .5 point bump.
Food = 6.5. The food is really not the emphasis here, at least not yet. It may have something to do with the fact that Brew and Brew has only been open for a few weeks, but the selection just isn’t there yet. Fortunately, what you do get is going to be quality. If you are really hungry after a few beers, then you can’t go wrong with the brisket sandwich. It’s worth noting that Brew and Brew does not have a kitchen on site. All the food comes from a nearby kitchen that sells to local businesses in the area.
Ambiance = 8.25. This was the hardest category to grade. There really isn’t a whole lot to the place. Sparse decorations accompanied by extremely simple coffee and beer menus on the wall, and even more basic handheld menus. But I kind of like that about Brew and Brew. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a place that serves up quality coffee and beer in a minimalist setting, accompanied by a Texas friendly staff, and then they just get out of the way.
Value = 9.25. This is where Brew and Brew really shines. I was astonished to see Imperial pints (18 oz) of high ABV beer going for only $5 or $6 bucks, easily 20-30% cheaper than you would find anywhere else. There is no happy hour yet, but it really isn’t necessary with prices that are always this low. The only thing preventing Brew and Brew from getting a higher score than this is the abnormally high prices for the sandwiches. They certainly taste good, but $9.75 for a brisket sandwich with no sides?
Service = 8.5. Not much to say here, other than friendly service with little to no wait. I had the opportunity to chat with Grady Wright, the beer half of the Wright Bros. He was extremely knowledgeable about what they had on hand and had good suggestions about new things to try.
Overall Score = 8.1
With a location just off of 5th Street and I-35, and the extremely reasonably beer prices, I’ll be sure to put this one on my list of regular hang-outs. Brew and Brew is built around quality products and an easy-going atmosphere that fosters conversations that are meant to be enjoyed alongside the very drinks they offer. It’s a place reminiscent of Halcyon, with an Eastside flair.
What is your favorite coffee-house or bar on the Eastside?