What endears Austin to its people? I suggest it’s outdoor spaces and creativity, tied together with a steadfast devotion to community. The Yard, south Austin’s revitalized community of makers, embodies these Austin virtues.
This is the first installment in a series of articles about The Yard, a seductively made-over industrial district. Spend an entertaining day-into-evening at The Yard, discovering these stellar spots.
Developers Adam Zimmerman, Scott Ungar, and Brian Schoenbaum hand-selected specific businesses to include in The Yard. These makers approach their obligation with vision, passion, a sense of fun, and a desire to share something special with Austin.
Acting as a true community, the business owners, creators, and worker bees at The Yard also revel in the success of their peers with a fervor bordering on giddiness. They collaborate with each other, frequent each other’s places, and define community with their actions. Step inside The Yard yourself, and you’ll understand what I mean.
1/ Still Austin Whiskey Co.
After four long years of anticipation, Still Austin Whiskey Co. opens on Saturday, Sept. 23. South Austin is buzzing with excitement over Still, Austin’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition.
The local business is producing New Make Whiskey, a version of its whiskey at an early stage, to sell and make cocktails with now. But the team is also producing an aged version to sell when it’s ready. “We want to focus on all parts of the process,” co-founder Lisa Braunberg explains. “Our goal is to educate the public and show our product at every stage, how every stage of the process is part of the story of whiskey.”
New Make Whiskey isn’t your grandpappy’s moonshine, nor does it resemble a sickly sweet novelty moonshine. I’ve tasted a few of Still’s cocktails and the raw spirit, and they’re all tasty. Try the Hibiscus Mule, a classic Old Fashioned, or the Daisy Pepper, made with infused-with-a-kick Mother Pepper Whiskey.
Co-founders Lisa and Andrew Braunberg, Chris Seals, his father Cleveland, and Joanna and Sal Salinas met at a whiskey distilling class and decided to go for it. They’re making whiskey the old-school way, all in-house. The team works closely with regional farmers, who produce a higher quality, better-tasting local grain for Still. In turn, the farmers can charge a premium price on the market for these heritage seed grains, versus merely growing them as a mass commodity. This, the “1919 Grains Project,” contributes meaningfully to the local economy while producing a better end product.
Still Austin loves being part of The Yard community. Braunberg notes, “We function like actual neighbors in a neighborhood.” They anticipate being a true destination stop, offering tastings, tours, and whiskey classes, including DYOB (Distill Your Own Barrel). The Indian-Texan fusion food truck, Puli-Ra, will sell food on-site. There will be occasional live music and other community events.
440 E. St. Elmo Road – Website
2/ St. Elmo Brewing Co.
Since December 2016, St. Elmo Brewing Co. has attracted customers to The Yard with devotion to a core product: fresh, high-quality beer, brewed on site. General Manager Tim Bullock is excited to see The Yard is “popping up on more people’s radar” now. He admits that when he and partner Brian Winslow started St. Elmo Brewing, they took a calculated risk. But with more people moving south of Ben White, the area needs a cool scene.
Hanging out on the patio feels like being in a buddy’s back yard. Friday night music at St. Elmo frequently packs the patio. Upcoming music acts include a variety of homegrown talent: funk, hip hop, bluegrass, surf music, and Americana. St. Elmo hosts community events throughout the year, too, like a luau, a “Corn Party” to celebrate the fall harvest, Oktoberfest, and a pop-up shop.
Like the other makers at The Yard, St. Elmo is continually creating, adding new beers on a regular basis. The menu has grown from a modest four to five beers, to 14! Proving The Yard’s community feel, St. Elmo has made a new coffee double IPA with custom-concocted coffee blends from Spokesman. The McCa’ffe is smooth, strong, and scrumptious.
440 E. St. Elmo Road, G-2 – Website
Soursop, the food truck on St. Elmo’s patio, offers Thai standards and other southeast Asia food. I wouldn’t steer you wrong: you must order the sambal wings. They are a diehard favorite at the truck and are worth getting your fingers sticky for. The eggplant panang curry is a tasty vegetarian staple.
The menu is updated frequently. Like their peers at The Yard, the team behind Soursop seems endlessly curious and creative. Chef Teddy Bricker was recently named one of 30 under 30 Rock Stars Redefining the Industry by Zagat, a massive win for a truck not even a year old.
Bricker decided to open the food truck once he met the St. Elmo team. He and his team make a conscious effort to create food that pairs with St. Elmo’s beer. They often create special menu items for themed events, like Hawaiian dishes for the summer luau.
440 E. St. Elmo Road, G-2 – Website
But Wait, There’s More at The Yard
These three businesses are the newest and the oldest in a wave of memorable customer experiences and community participation at The Yard. My next article about The Yard will feature Spokesman Coffee, coffee and beer nerds without pretense; The Austin Winery’s harvest and wine-making season; Wooly’s Beach ATX, Austin’s new home for all things beach volleyball; and the stalwart musician’s best friend, Music Lab.
➡️ Here’s Part II: “That’s Not All! The Yard Overflows With Cool Hangouts in South Austin”
The Yard grows bigger and cooler, and its allure expands exponentially as each local business opens. Have you explored it yet?
@theAustinot wants to know:
Where do you like to hang out at The Yard in Austin?