The six-pack bottles of Thirsty Planet’s Buckethead IPA and Yellow Armadillo Wheat that are currently hitting store shelves are an alluring taste of what’s to come: many, many more Thirsty Planet beers.
Thirsty Planet is currently moving into the former Central Texas Food Bank building on South Congress Avenue, a little north of Slaughter Lane, that will nearly quadruple production from 11,000 barrels to 40,000, with considerable room to grow from there. The brewery will start brewing and bottling in the new space before opening an accompanying taproom to the public this fall.
In the meantime, Austinites who miss the old tasting room — it shut down in early March to keep brewery staff completely focused on the transition — can at least console themselves with the new bottles of Buckethead and Yellow Armadillo that now join their behemoth brother Thirsty Goat Amber, previously the only Thirsty Planet brew that was packaged for retail sales.
Plus, in a nod to the brewery’s approaching seven-year anniversary, Thirsty Planet is also releasing a limited number of “Damn-7 Packs”: a special 7-pack of Buckethead beer in a bucket-shaped container.
“Why not seven?” Thirsty Planet owner Brian Smittle said about the limited release that will start going into stores later this week, on May 12. “We’re turning seven this year, and that many beers can fit into the bucket. Nice proportions. And then you can stick it on your head.”
You might be able to get your hands on a Damn-7 Pack early with Thirsty Planet’s Buckethead Launch Party tomorrow at Black Sheep Lodge, where the brewery will take over the taps and offer free bites of food, a photo booth, Thirsty Planet swag and even free branded tattoos. Or look for it at the many HEB locations that are already selling six-packs of Buckethead IPA and Yellow Armadillo Wheat.
Buckethead IPA is no ordinary American-style IPA — at 8.9 percent ABV, it’s “beer you can feel,” as Thirsty Planet phrases it.
Smittle and the brewing team are still making all of the Thirsty Planet beers at the old location on Circle Drive, on the way to Dripping Springs, but are hoping to make the total transition this summer to the new space, six times larger at 60,000 sq. ft.
The South Congress building, because it was formerly the food bank, comes already equipped with a packaging hall with the necessary high ceilings as well as a very large freezer. Thirsty Planet will additionally have a lab for quality control, a 60-barrel brewhouse and a connected 10-barrel system that will be used for experimental beers, and a handful of towering 22-foot-tall fermenters. Smittle is excited in particular to have an entirely automated system.
“It’s definitely been a change in mentality to think how to scale up to the 40,000 barrels we’ll be able to immediately do,” he said. But the brewery’s ultimate goal is much bigger: “Eventually, we think this building could do 100,000 barrels.”
That’s a lot of Thirsty Goat.
The amber is already the top-selling draft beer in Central Texas, according to data from Thirsty Planet’s distributor Capitol Wright, and it’s not hard to imagine the number of tap handles pouring it will only go up with Thirsty Planet’s expansion. The brewery has spent the past nearly seven years in only the three main Central Texas counties of Hays, Travis and Williamson but recently signed an agreement to distribute into 11 more counties.
Depending on the progress of the new brewery, Thirsty Planet may hold early tours of the space, at 8201 S. Congress Ave., in the summer. Keep connected on the progress at thirstyplanet.beer.