HBS Road Trip: Austin Series – June 2018
Exciting news! Each month Houston Beer Scene will feature a Houston Road Trip entry where I’ll provide my thoughts on the different breweries, brewpubs and beer bars in Austin, as well as my favorite brews. With the amount of options available, I’m not worried about running out of places for new material. This month I started with three relatively new additions to Austin‘s beer scene: The Brewer‘s Table, Skull Mechanix Brewing, and Oddwood Ales.
The Brewer’s Table
My first stop after driving in from Houston. I was ready for a somewhat light, early dinner and expected something special to eat from a place bold enough to call themselves The Brewer’s Table. It did not disappoint! The Brewer’s Table is one of the newest brewpubs in Austin. They opened in April and started serving their own beers this June. The food is definitely a focus, with impressive sounding gastropub fare which often utilizes beer and beer-related ingredients such as barley, spent grain, and even hopped honey. I tried the Larder Board featuring mesquite maple ham, beet pastrami, pickles, venison ham, gruyere de comte, beer mustard, and bread. At $10 dollars at happy hour, this was an absolute steal. Each item was excellent and made me eager to come back to try other menu items.
Like many new brewpubs, The Brewer‘s Table has a modern feel. The focus on food can be seen in the lay-out of the pub too. The long bar that allows you to see right into their wood-fired kitchen and a smaller second bar houses the beer taps. There is plenty of seating in the dining room and in a few outside patio areas.
During my visit, there were six house beers on tap in addition to 26 craft guest taps, wine, and mixed drink options. The beer is very unique for a couple of reasons; all of their beers are lagers and the majority feature food ingredients. Common Lager, their flagship beer, is brewed in the California Common/Steam Beer style and has a wonderful biscuity, malt flavor and a nice punch of Cascade hops. Their Baltic Porter, Baltic Hash, has plenty of toffee flavors with notes of chocolate and one of the most unique beer ingredients I’ve ever heard of: mesquite pod syrup.
Baltic Hash and Common Lager were two of my top brews at The Brewer’s Table, but Idée Fixe was my absolute favorite. With a base beer akin to an excellent Schwarzbier, I was quickly hooked. But the additional ingredients of black tea leaves and lemon zest pushed it over the top. The rich dark malt flavors combine so well with the special ingredients and provide a complex brew that seems bigger than it’s 4.9%. Idée Fixe is a Summer seasonal, so pick it up while you can.
Vor Ort, a solid American craft lager, Transatlantic Flourish, an India Pale Lager and Beets By Drew, a lager brewed with roasted beets that provide almost a caramel malt flavor, rounded out their interesting line-up. I’ll definitely be headed back to The Brewer’s Table in the future to sample more food options and see what other creative twists they make to the underexplored lager category.
Skull Mechanix Brewing
Skull Mechanix is another relatively new addition to the Austin scene, having opened in February. The atmosphere is that of a modern, industrial taproom/beer hall featuring a long bar, picnic table style seating, and a sizable patio. The atmosphere is laid back and inviting, the type of place I can see myself sitting back and burning away an afternoon or evening with friends. Skull Mechanix doesn’t serve their own food, but there was a food truck present during my visit.
The focus appears to be on traditional style beers that fall between sessionable and average in the ABV range, with the largest during my visit clocking in around 6.5%. Variety is the highlight here as they featured twelve different beers of various ale and lager styles. Their Best Bitter is spot-on featuring a complex malt profile with biscuit flavor and light toast. Floral hops balance the malts out nicely and it‘s just bitter enough. At 4.6% this is my kind of session beer. Their two Pilsners, Rock of Ages, a 4.6% Czech Pilsner and Wahrsager, a 4.8% German Pilsner were a couple more really solid, to-style, easy-drinkers.
My favorite at Skull Mechanix was Brewer’s Blackbird, an Irish Dry Stout that has a full-on roasty flavor and a pleasant dryness that are hallmarks of the style. There’s a lot of flavor and it only hit a minuscule 4.3%. Surprisingly, Skull Mechanix is one of the few places at which the lower ABV options were my favorites.
Additional brews include Eagle Power, a Vienna Lager, Crystal Skull, an American Pale Ale, Gully Cat, an American IPA, Baby Mars, a Bière De Mars, Skeeter Hawk, a session IPA, and Classique Saison. Skull Mechanix’s well-composed takes on a variety of lower ABV styles makes it an easy recommendation for those who like to sit and sample for a couple of hours.
Oddwood has taken an interesting path to opening as a brewpub, first starting as a side project within Adelbert‘s, an established local brewery. You may remember seeing their Saison and Taming The Savage Heart, a Sour Blonde, in bottles a couple of years ago. It appears their plan is to brew more sours aged in oak barrels in the future, but during my visit the options were fairly traditional except for a couple of saisons. I observed plenty of barrels in the brewhouse, making me eager to see what comes out of them.
The atmosphere is relaxed brewpub with some pretty sweet lighting at their L-shaped bar. In addition to bar seating, there are plenty of tables and a patio. To amp up the fun and provide me another excuse to visit, there are multiple free play arcade games including one of my all-time favorites, NBA Jam, as well as classics Pac-Man and Galaga. They also regularly feature foosball and rotating video game tournaments on Tuesday nights.
Oddwood serves thin-crust pizza, strombolis, and a few other Italian options. I had the Jersey Thing pizza featuring Italian sausage, peppers, onions and a balsamic reduction. The pizza was good, with a nice, crisp crust and was a perfect portion for a light dinner.
During my visit, six Oddwood beers were available, along with eight guest taps featuring only local beer and cider. Wine is also available. I thoroughly enjoyed all six beers, my favorite of which was Löw, an amazingly clean, crisp Kölsch. Löw’s lightly bready malt featuring a note of honey combines nicely with the spicy, grassy German hops. It’s perhaps a bit more hoppy than a traditional Kölsch, but I’m not complaining.
Atonal Saison was another personal highlight and the most “wild” of their line-up. Atonal has very complex flavors building off a traditional Saison base. It’s a bit hoppy, with flavors from Galaxy and Cascades, has a hint of lime and a decent dose of funk.
Truck Shadow, an American Stout was another winner featuring a rich combo of roast chocolate and oatmeal goodness. Eurythmic, a Saison brewing with apricot, Eight-O-Eight, a hazy APA brewed with Mosaic, Citra and Galaxy and Heart Machine, an IPA brewing with Citra and Amarillo are also really easy for me to recommend for their styles. Considering how much I enjoyed all six beers, I’m stoked to see what the future holds for Oddwood Ales.
June was a great visit, as all three places are easy to recommend and excel in different areas which is a testament to the variety and creativity of craft beer options in Austin. I’ll be back next month with my thoughts on a few more Austin spots. If you have any suggestions for places to visit, please e-mail me at Todd@HoustonBeerScene.com or reach out to us on social media. Cheers!