Although the Austin area’s newest brewery has gotten its core beers into the market, serving them on draft at bars north of the city starting last month, Idle Vine Brewing‘s taproom wasn’t completely ready for visitors — until now.
Come this weekend, Idle Vine will open its doors for the first time, giving locals the chance to drink the brewery’s four core beers right from the source in advance of a grand opening celebration on Jan. 28. For head brewer Scott Ciampa, who has worked almost from the start with the co-owners on crafting a vision for the space, the opening has been a long time coming.
“Since we stood the tanks up last year, people have been poking their heads in asking, ‘Got beer ready? Got beer ready?'” he said. “People in this warehouse district have been excited to have a brewery right next door. And we’re excited to start serving.”
He was recruited away from his position as head brewer at Evil Czech Brewery in Indiana to take on the lead brewing role at Idle Vine when the co-owners, Todd Wink and Brian Bristow, reached out to him online.
Wink, in particular, already knows the beer industry north of Austin very well — he is also the owner of a Cedar Park beer bar called the Dig Pub. He and fellow businessman Bristow, a friend ever since Wink opened the Dig Pub in 2007, decided they want to take their love of beer to the next level by opening a brewery. But they needed someone like Ciampa, with six years of professional brewing experience on his résumé, to make the beers.
“The wheels started turning about two years ago, when they brought me on board, and the three of us kind of gave Idle Vine a real identity,” he said.
That identity includes the four beers that Idle Vine will make year-round, all from Ciampa’s recipe arsenal: the No Hitter Session Ale, the Idle Mind Pale Ale, the Idle Vine IPA and the Trackdown Pre-Prohibition Porter. Idle Vine will also make a roster of seasonals — including a hefeweizen in the spring, a pilsner in the summer and a hoppy red ale in the fall — and one-off brews available only at the brewery.
Although it’s located in a cluster of warehouses in a relatively quiet section of Pflugerville, Idle Vine Brewing won’t feel entirely industrial once you walk in, thanks to the homey taproom to the left. There, bench seating is brightened with string lights above, and a sleek bar area of black and brown (partially made with reclaimed wood from the Bastrop wildfires) catches the eye. On the right hand side is a 30-barrel brewhouse featuring five 60-barrel fermenters.
Those are in full view from the taproom, Ciampa said, as a neat reminder to visitors that Idle Vine’s brews are made just yards from the draft wall.
As much as he, Wink and Bristow are hoping to attract regulars to their brewery, they also have begun making a big push to get Idle Vine beers into bars, starting with Wink’s own Dig Pub in late December. Bars north of the city, the only part of town where the two co-owners considered opening a brewery, get first dibs.
“The distribution radius is 100 miles from the brewery, so we’re already in bars up in Waco and Temple,” Ciampa said. “The plan is to go south of Austin once we’ve gotten to places we want to here. There are a lot of good craft beer bars in those small towns that we want to be a part of, but Austin is still a priority for us.”
And in six months or so — just in time for another hot Texas summer — Idle Vine will start releasing cans of its core beers.
One of those, the Trackdown Porter, is particularly notable as an homage to dark beers made before Prohibition, when they tended to be on the lighter side and not as robust as today’s porters and stouts are. At only 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, the Trackdown is positioned to become a crossover beer for people still leery of dark-colored ales.
Ciampa also has something else pretty special in the works: the monthly bottle release of one style of beer, made a little differently each time, over the course of a year. The following year, he’ll choose another style and tweak that one each month.
“I’m starting with a Cascadian dark ale,” he said. “It’ll be the same base beer but, each month, released in a different way. Dry-hopped differently or aged on cherries, stuff like that.”
The beer itself isn’t even the coolest part of the project, Ciampa said. The bottle labels are going to be created by a local artist and will feature snippets of a comic strip that won’t make sense until all of the bottles are lined up together.
“Having the full 12 will reveal the comic,” he said.
To get the vertical of bottles, you’ll have to go to the taproom. Idle Vine is able to sell bottles to go, of vital importance to the co-founders, because it has a brewpub license. Eventual growth, however, might switch it to a production brewery. By then, Idle Vine’s brewer is hoping that Texas laws will have changed to allow breweries to sell their beer to-go, a major point of contention for beer makers in the state.
“If we reach the point of making over 10,000 barrels a year, we’d still like to be able to sell our beer from here,” Ciampa said.
Idle Vine, at 16920 Joe Barbee Dr., is planning a grand opening party from noon to 10 p.m. on Jan. 28 with live music, food trucks, and more. In the meantime, visit the brewery from 3 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 26. The schedule might expand after that to include more weekdays once the kinks have been worked out. That’s also when Idle Vine will start introducing food trucks, Ciampa said.
And if you live in Austin proper, Idle Vine is launching its beers at the downtown Waller Creek Pub House at happy hour today.
For more information, visit idlevinebrewery.com.
All photos in the below gallery are by me.