Austin brewpub Pinthouse Pizza to open third location in Round Rock

After finding a niche in Austin as a family-friendly brewpub selling beer and pizza, Pinthouse Pizza is moving a little north of the city for its newest location in Round Rock. Construction will start this summer at a plot of land at Old Settlers and Interstate 35.

It might take longer to get this third brewpub up and running because Pinthouse is starting from the ground up, erecting an entirely new building rather than simply retrofitting an existing one, as with the first two on Burnet Road and South Lamar Boulevard. The team behind Pinthouse, which includes Director of Brewing Operations Joe Morhfeld, is excited to put their stamp on the project from the start.

“We’ll have more space to do what we want,” he said.

Deborah Cannon / American-Statesman. Pinthouse Pizza will be making many more beers at an upcoming Round Rock location.

And why Round Rock? The town is appealing because it’s become an outpost of other Austin chains like Hopdoddy and the site of new restaurants from established Austin chefs like Jack Gilmore, who opened Salt Traders Coastal Cooking there last year to strong reviews.

“It just kind of made sense for us to move there, looking at the other restaurants around there and how they’re doing and the demographic,” Mohrfeld said. “With the population shift and everything, it seemed like a natural fit for us. And there’s still open land that we were able to grab.”

For his part, Mohrfeld plans to approach the brewing program there in the same way he has the other two: offering new and different beers at it with Pinthouse’s indelible balanced style.

“You’ll never find Man O’ War (Pinthouse Burnet’s flagship beer) at the south location, just like you won’t find Electric Jellyfish (Pinthouse Lamar’s flagship beer) at the north location,” Jacob Passey, head brewer at the South Lamar brewpub, said. “We might make similar beers with some crossover recipes, but for the most part, if you always go south and you want to go north, we want you to be able to try new beers. Or vice versa.”

That will be the case at Round Rock: Morhfeld is considering making Training Bines, another Pinthouse IPA, the flagship at Round Rock. People at the Burnet pub have already gotten to try it, as he and the brewers work to perfect it.

“It’s same thing we did with Lamar,” the second Pinthouse location to open, he said. “We had been working on a lot of the beers for Lamar for a year plus leading up to it. We just took the stuff that worked and took it down there. So it’s not like we’re starting completely fresh. We’re able to incubate the beers at the two locations and see what works.”

One thing you can count on at the Round Rock spot: lots more exciting IPAs, Pinthouse’s specialty style. The brewpub was founded in 2012 and quickly established itself as the place to go for fresh takes on the beloved beer.

For more information about Pinthouse Pizza, visit pinthousepizza.com.

Orf Brewing finally arrives, making ‘hybrid’ ales in East Austin

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Chris Orf is slowly getting kegs of his beers to local bars and will open the tasting room of Orf Brewing very soon. His brewery has been a long time coming.

Chris Orf might have the smallest professional brewing system in town, but that hasn’t stopped him from opening Orf Brewing after 11 years of dreaming and planning.

The former homebrewer, comedy writer and chemistry teacher wanted to start a brewery since moving to Austin in 2006 and seeing the potential for his own operation. Although there are far more breweries now than there were then, he believes he’s maintained a niche by offering what he calls hybrid ales — beers that don’t stay true to style — and pairing them with live comedy shows in Orf Brewing’s modest taproom at Burleson Road and East Ben White Boulevard.

“That’s why I say ‘creativity in ale forms,’” Orf said, pointing to the pun on his branded Orf Brewing T-shirt. “That’s my goal, to be part of that community of both beer brewers and entertainment comedy. Combine them so that you can enjoy my beer while you’re having a good time at maybe my show or somebody else’s show.”

For now, he’s just wanting to introduce locals to his beers. The four that he makes are slowly going on draft at bars and restaurants like Craft Pride, Tamale House East and the Whip In, and they’ll also be available when he opens the Orf Brewing taproom for the first time on May 20 for tours and tastings.

Orf said he’s lucky to have gotten the 1,500 sq. ft. warehouse for his brewery — they can be hard to come by in Austin nowadays, and his has plenty of room for growth. He acquired it more than two years ago, demolished the interior (which formerly housed a very illegal hotel) and rebuilt it into a brewing facility. Although he’s had help from friends, he’s done most of it all by himself.

“This is pretty much a one-man DIY operation,” he said. “I’ve been working on this idea for years and years and finally just started doing it for real, slowly as it goes, because when there’s one person and no money, it’s just what you have to do.”

He brews using a 55-gallon system, which is “really, really sweet for a homebrewer and really, really tiny for a professional brewer,” he said, and has bootstrapped together other aspects of the beer-making process that require technology he hasn’t been able to afford yet. He’s hoping for investors who will help him purchase a bigger system and better equipment.

In the meantime, the former University of Texas chemistry instructor — who said he gets joking comparisons all the time to Walter White in “Breaking Bad” as a result — continues to spread the gospel of hybrid beers. He started making beers purposely off-style after growing tired of the likes of pilsners, hefeweizens and pale ales. Orf Brewing take elements from these and other styles and combines them to make beers that he said aren’t quite like anything else on the market.

Here’s what he has to say about each of the four Orf beers.

  • Salutation Ale: “I would consider this one, a golden ale, to be my flagship. It’s got the grains of a pilsner, the hops of an American pale ale, and the yeast of a German kolsch. So it’s not quite any of them but somewhere in between.”
  • Honey Roast: “Honey Roast is exactly what it sounds like: I wanted something not as sweet as an amber but not as smoky and toast-filled as a black schwarzbier or black IPA. So this has a little bit of roasted barley and a little bit of honey, and it’s somewhere in between the two styles.”
  • Hoprocker India Irish Red Ale: “Hoprocker is my response to IPAs getting more and more bitter. I can’t handle this peel-the-enamel-off-your-teeth bitterness. And I like Irish reds. So I took an Irish red and hopped it like an IPA, giving it the malt body of the red with the hops of an IPA. It comes out a little more malty than an IPA does, but it’s a lot more hoppy than a typical red.”
  • Oocheemama Asian White Ale: “This is the one getting the most attention because it’s the most distinct. Oocheemama is what I call an Asian white ale because it’s a hybrid of a Belgian white and an Asian or Thai rice lager, specifically spiced to go with Asian food, like sushi. It’s got wheat and rice in the grain bill (usually you get one or the other), and then I spiced it. Instead of spicing it like a Belgian wit, which is usually coriander and orange peel, stuff like that, I used a little bit of orange peel, nutmeg, a bunch of ginger, and then I dry-hopped it, for lack of a better term, with jasmine flower petals. “

He got the idea for Oocheemama, he said, after talking to a former beer buyer for Uchi, who was frustrated about not being able to find a beer that would pair with Uchi cuisine.

With the Oocheemama, he found one. Its use of a dry English ale yeast mixed with a Belgian-style wheat beer and Asian-style spices makes the beer perhaps the best example of the sort of hybrid beers that Orf likes to make, but you won’t particularly notice the science when appreciating the art: the alluring aroma of the jasmine flowers followed by the earthy, sweet and spicy flavors of the other ingredients.

“Because it’s a lighter-than-normal wheat beer, that kind of lets the spices come through in a way that pairs really well with the food,” Orf said, noting that he hopes to have it at the Whip In so that people can enjoy it with Indian cuisine.

Orf Brewing will be open 1 to 6 p.m. May 20 at 4700 Burleson Rd., F. For more information, visit orfbrewing.com/home.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Orf Brewing has a small beer garden outside, tucked around a massive oak tree that owner Chris Orf estimates is 250 to 300 years old.

This post has been corrected to reflect the beer buyer who helped to inspire the creation of Oocheemama.

Flying Man Brewing set to soar in old Rogness building this summer

Flying Man Brewing is opening in Rogness Brewing’s old space, which the new owners are in the process of renovating to make their own.

The two co-founders behind an upcoming Pflugerville brewery seemed to have an easy start to their project.

They purchased the building that formerly housed Rogness Brewing, as well as all of the brewing equipment left behind, in August. They expected Flying Man Brewing, because of that, would be open in no time — but are now anticipating a summertime debut of the brewery and taproom, with an Indiegogo campaign up now to raise last-minute funds.

Adam Caudill and Matt Barker, who met through their mutual loves of flying and homebrewing, decided they didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the former tenants, Rogness, which closed up shop in mid-July with the promise that another brewery, in another space, was on the way. The building also needed plumbing and electrical updates to satisfy the City of Austin, which annexed that part of town after Rogness had already opened in 2012.

Now, Caudill and Barker are neck-deep in sawdust, pipes and the construction tools that will bring their smartly designed vision to life.

“It’s been a much bigger project than we originally thought,” Barker said. “We could have just left it exactly the way that it was, but we wanted to make it our own. That was really important to us because the ante’s going up every single day. You go into a brewery and you want a certain wow factor. For us, we want people to come in and leave and tell their friends, ‘Dude, you really need to check that place out. It looks amazing.'”

But Flying Man Brewing won’t just awe with a cool taproom. The two owners have hired Dan Wheeler, a former brewer at Rogness — and, most recently, at Solid Rock Brewing — who knows the ins and outs of the building and brewing system and how to update both to make them better.

As a result of his influence, the quality of the beer and the overall taproom experience for customers will also be better than it would have been, the Flying Man founders said.

“Dan’s become a pretty key part with what we’re doing now,” Caudill said. “He’s been able to help us future-proof the brewery. We’re going to be able to grow without any really big steps changing what we have to do. I think once we’re up and running that we’ll have room for a canning line. We have allocated space for that now.”

Wheeler, for his part, is excited to take the lessons he learned at Rogness and apply them to Flying Man. Caudill and Barker already knew they wanted to add insulation and install a large 18-foot fan on the ceiling to make the space more welcoming to taproom visitors, but Wheeler is able to share with them brewing-related ideas that he wishes could have been implemented at Rogness if the finances had been available.

“Now that we’re part of the city, everything has to be kind of brought to a different level, and it’s been fun going through there and making those changes and making them in a way that’s going to benefit the brewery,” he said. “It’s going to be easier to work in and hopefully make us more productive. Get more beer out there.”

He’ll be in charge of the brewing operations, for the most part, but each of them plan to contribute their recipes. Barker, for example, makes an orange-chocolate porter beloved among his friends and family that will now be made on a larger scale.

Flying Man Brewing will also release a blonde, a seasonal wheat, a saison, a red ale, an IPA, a double IPA and a stout, in addition to constantly rotating experimental brews. Because it’s licensed as a brewpub, Flying Man will offer bottles and crowlers of all of these beers to go. But before any customers visit the space, there will be a couple of beers already on the market to introduce locals ahead of time to what Flying Man can do.

“One of the first couple of beers we do is going to be a honey wheat with a little bit of molasses in it. It’s a pre-Prohibition German-style ale that I’ve done for several years and everyone seems to love,” Wheeler said.

Caudill and Barker are still brainstorming beer names, but they’re hoping to have an aviation theme with each of them. Barker is a competition hang glider pilot; Caudill, on the other hand, prefers paragliding. (Those might seem like similar windswept activities — think again.)

As a result of this other shared passion, both want to make sure their brewery becomes a hangout for people in the aviation industry. It was fellow pilots, often drinking their homebrew after flights and swapping “I thought I was going to die up there” stories, Barker said, who first encouraged them to open a brewery.

The Indiegogo campaign hopes to raise $25,000 toward that goal. Whether Flying Man Brewing is able to open by the end of summer isn’t dependent on the money, Caudill said, although it’ll certainly help.

“These projects are expensive, more than we budgeted for,” he said. “And to do it right, to finish it, we’ve got to raise some capital. We’re going to make it happen either way, but we think it’s an opportunity to reach out to the local market and offer them something and get a boost out there: who we are, what we’re about. We’ll offer them something, but in return we can finish the plumbing, the electrical, the backyard.”

Right now, Flying Man has about $3,500, with a little more than two weeks left until the campaign ends. To donate, check out the progress of the construction, or learn more about the brewery, visit facebook.com/FlyingManBeer.

One of the changes that Flying Man Brewing is making to the former Rogness space is placing the taproom bar directly across from the brewing equipment.

Two Wheel Brewing opens as Buda’s first and only brewery

Contributed by Two Wheel Brewing. Two Wheel Brewing founder Marc Woffenden, center, runs the Buda brewery with Doug Korte and Dennis Howell.

The founders of Two Wheel Brewing didn’t expect such a large turnout when it quietly opened for the first time last Friday — but Buda residents, in the town just south of Austin, had been thirsting for a brewery of their own for awhile and lined up out the door for a first taste of the beer.

That instant enthusiasm is gratifying for Marc Woffenden, who co-founded the brewery with his wife, Alexis, after he decided to turn his homebrewing hobby into something more. So far, Two Wheel Brewing is only open on Friday evenings, but as the brewery gets up and running — and as more beers are added to the tap wall in the tasting room — those hours will expand.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Two Wheel Brewing opened last weekend with two beers, the Budaful Blonde Ale and the Twin Creeks Pale Ale.

Woffenden, an Austin resident since the early 1990s, loves Texas’ vibrant capital city but deliberately chose its smaller southern neighbor for the brewery.

“We wanted to go to a community where a brewery would be welcomed,” he said.

And welcomed it was: He didn’t need to do much persuading to get Buda’s city officials on board with Two Wheel Brewing during the early planning stages. In an initial meeting, he told them what he wanted to do, and right away “about four of them said, ‘Done. Let’s do it.’ From day one, the city and the community was literally behind us,” he said.

Their support made steps like permitting easy, he said.

Although Woffenden and his wife had searched for property to lease, they ultimately decided to build a brewery from scratch on land just off South Loop Four, south of Buda’s charming Main Street. They bought the acreage in 2014, started construction in 2015 and wrapped it up late last year.

Besides Alexis, Woffenden has also relied on employees Dennis Howell and Doug Korte to launch Two Wheel Brewing. He met Howell through the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, a brewing school they attended, and got to know Korte through a softball league both participated in, albeit on opposing sides.

“We used to heckle each other for at least five years before we started working together here at the brewery,” Woffenden joked.

Now, he and Howell handle all the brewing, while Korte, the chief financial officer, manages many of the other duties necessary for running a business.

Two Wheel Brewing will have three beers on tap when it opens again on Friday: Budaful Blonde Ale, Twin Creeks Pale Ale and Amber German-style Altbier. The first two brews debuted last week, and the pale ale, “an old-school pale because it’s not pushed to the brink of hoppiness,” was particularly well-received, Woffenden said.

Next Friday will see the introduction of another Two Wheel beer, a West Coast-style IPA; after that, an ESB and a porter will join the lineup. The various styles are a result of the two brewers’ contrasting tastes.

“Dennis brewed up in New York, so he does East Coast-style beers like New England IPAs and the darker malty beers like porters and stouts. I like more of the lighter, crisper beers,” Woffenden said. “It’s been fun working together and coming up with recipes. We’ll have a nice mix.”

He’s proud of the new altbier — an Old World style not often produced here — but is especially hoping the Budaful Blonde Ale takes off because it’s for a good cause. Two Wheel Brewing is donating a portion of the proceeds from each pint of the blonde sold to a different local cause each month, starting with the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas in nearby Kyle.

The blonde is “our Buda beer,” he said.

Before founding Two Wheel Brewing, he worked as an elementary and middle school teacher. He loved his job, he said, but just couldn’t shake himself of the brewer’s bug and alternated his time between teaching and getting schooled himself at the American Brewers Guild. He graduated from the school in 2013; Howell followed suit in 2016.

At the moment, their main goal for Two Wheel, which has a brewpub permit versus a production brewery license, is to sell a bulk of their boozy product at the tasting room, for both on- and off-site consumption. (Growlers are coming soon.) The rest will eventually be sold at local bars and restaurants but only in draft format, not cans or bottles.

“We want to create a space where people come to hang out,” Woffenden said.

Although he said the tasting room remains a work-in-progress, it’s already got a handful of picnic benches, and a garage-style door at the front opens up to a small patio with more seating. More tables will be added to the yard.

Similarly still in the works is the main brewhouse at Two Wheel Brewing: Woffenden and Howell are currently brewing off a small 1 bbl pilot system and haven’t fully transitioned to the 20 bbl juggernaut nearby. But just having gotten this far is a good feeling for Woffenden, who named his brewery after his and Alexis’ longtime mutual hobby of biking.

“We say that we’re always on two wheels. Then us being the two owners, we’re the two wheels of the brewery also,” he said.

For now, Two Wheel Brewing is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays at 535 S. Loop 4; eventually, hours will be expanded to 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 12 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit twowheelbrewing.com or facebook.com/twowheelbrewing.

Contributed by Two Wheel Brewing. Two Wheel Brewing is Buda’s first and only brewery, built from the ground up by Austin couple Marc and Alexis Woffenden.

Daughter of famed Belgian brewer to bring Celis Brewery back to Austin

Contributed by Celis Brewery. Christine Celis and her daughter Daytona Camps are resurrecting the legacy of Christine's father, Pierre Celis, with the upcoming Celis Brewery in North Austin.
Contributed by Celis Brewery. Christine Celis and her daughter Daytona Camps are resurrecting the legacy of Christine’s father, Pierre Celis, with the upcoming Celis Brewery in North Austin.

The daughter of famed Belgian brewer Pierre Celis — who introduced Austin to good beer in the 1990s with the area’s first craft brewery, Celis — gets to use her and her father’s surname after all with her upcoming brewery.

Christine Celis announced last year that she would open a brewery in North Austin using her father’s old recipes, such as the Belgian witbier called Celis White that so captivated locals nearly three decades ago, but at the time she didn’t have the rights to the name Celis Brewery and called her project Flemish Fox Brewery & Craftworks.

Now, Celis Brewery is returning in full, with a targeted opening in April at 10001 Metric Blvd.

Christine recently reacquired the ‘Celis’ trademark from Total Beverage Solution and Craftbev International Amalgamated., Inc., the former domestic and international owners of the rights. Making that deal and having the Celis name back, she says, feels like “mission accomplished.”

“I was going to do whatever it took to get the name back in my family,” she says. “I think it was important for us but also for Austin, with Celis as Austin’s very first brewery, to have that legacy. We have a beautiful brewery to show for it. It’s here to stay, and it’s not going away.”

The two companies from whom Christine was able to buy back the rights to the Celis name were the last in a line of companies starting with Miller that owned the rights after Pierre sold to Miller in 2000, being unable to fully meet the demand for his beers. Even though Pierre’s dream of gaining Celis Brewery back didn’t come to fruition, it has, at least, for Christine, who intends to preserve much of his former vision alongside her daughter, third-generation brewer Daytona Camps.

Preserving Pierre Celis’ legacy extends to many of the beers that Celis Brewery will have on tap, including Celis White and Celis Grand Cru, two of his most well-known beers. The Celis White will even be made with the same original Belgian yeast strain that he carefully preserved for many years, even after losing the rights to his Austin brewery.

“It’s been 17 years without the Celis White as he made it, as I have not had the one with the original yeast strain,” Christine says. “It’s such an important component of the beer.”

But when visitors come to Celis Brewery in its first month being open, that beer probably won’t be available just yet. She says she wants to launch with a trio of IPAs — a Belgian-style IPA and two New England-style IPAs — and have Pierre’s original brews debut in the following month or two, “to give (people) a reason to come back to the taproom,” she says.

The taproom itself might be reason enough. Its most eye-catching feature will be a bar made out of one of the original Celis Brewery’s old copper kettles, cut in half so that the bottom serves as the base around which people will sit, with the top acting as a dome above. Eventually, Celis Brewery will also have a cafe and beer garden with lots of outdoor seating, but that’s going to be a future project, Christine says. For now, the focus is on getting the brewery up and running in the more than 20,000 sq. ft. space.

A good-sized portion of that space will be devoted to a nearly 50 barrel brewhouse “modified to the way my dad had his when he first started brewing,” Christine said. She was able to get the system made with the proper specifications thanks to Bert Van Hecke, a brewery engineer and consultant for Celis Brewery.

Another future project is particularly important to her: adding a beer museum that will showcase Pierre Celis’ original brewing equipment, which include a historic but weathered open mash tun, as well as two copper kettles, an open fermenter and a coolship for open-air fermentation. These aren’t the same pieces he brewed with in Austin in the 1990s.

Before he came to America, he worked at the old Hoegaarden brewery in Belgium, making it a household name with the introduction of the Belgian witbier recipe that became Celis White. Last year, his daughter brought over much of the original equipment he used, in the hopes of restoring it and displaying it at the new Celis Brewery. As much as she wants to show it off, she knows the most important thing right now is simply getting her brewery open.

“First of all, I want to focus on the Celis Brewery and make sure that’s really done; then I can focus on the next project, which is building the museum,” she says. “I want to make sure we put it all in place like he had it in Hooegarden, so when you walk in, it’ll be almost like an identical copy.”

Contributed by Celis Brewery. The logo for the upcoming Celis Brewery will be reminiscent of the original one for fans who remember Celis in the 1990s.
Contributed by Celis Brewery. The logo for the upcoming Celis Brewery will be reminiscent of the original one for fans who remember Celis in the 1990s.

In the meantime, she and her daughter, Daytona, will be among the key people re-introducing Austin to Celis. There are plenty of people who remember Celis and are excited to have it back, but there are also many who will simply see Celis Brewery as the latest beer maker to open in this beer-loving town.

As a result, Celis Brewery will have an updated look — somewhat.

“The logo is going to be pretty much the same, but we’re going to update it to the 21st century,” Christine Celis says. “It’s going to look a little brighter. The people who bought Celis, they’ll recognize it right away.”

In addition to offering Celis beers on draft, she also plans to sell cans and bottles.

To keep an eye on the Celis Brewery’s progress and an announcement of a more official opening date, visit facebook.com/CelisBeers.

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This post has been corrected to reflect the address of Celis Brewery is 10001 Metric Blvd.

Austin Beerworks to host next pop-up of the Brewer’s Table

Photo by Tyler Malone. The Brewer's Table founder Jake Maddux, center, is hosting another pop-up with head brewer Drew Durish and executive chef Zach Hunter at Austin Beerworks.
Photo by Tyler Malone. The Brewer’s Table founder Jake Maddux, center, is hosting another pop-up with head brewer Drew Durish and executive chef Zach Hunter at Austin Beerworks.

The upcoming restaurant-brewery The Brewer’s Table has been hosting pop-ups in Austin and around the country, but those have mainly provided early tastes of what the food will be.

Now, beer lovers can also get a taste of the boozy side of the business.

On Feb. 19, the newly opened Austin Beerworks taproom is playing host to The Brewer’s Table team, which includes owner Jake Maddux, executive chef Zach Hunter (previously of Fixe) and head brewer Drew Durish (formerly of Live Oak Brewing). At the afternoon tasting, they’ll have samples of The Brewer’s Table’s signature beer and a small selection of bar snacks.

The casual event is in contrast to previous pop-ups at local restaurants Franklin Barbecue and Olamaie, which offered full sit-down meals for people to try.

This time, The Brewer’s Table will have free pours of their flagship brew, the Common Lager, designed by Durish but brewed for the pop-up by the Austin Beerworks team. Pair the beer with complimentary bites like beer nuts, made with candied chickpeas, puffed grains and seeds, chile and black lime.

Additional Austin Beerworks beers will also be available for purchase.

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Here’s the full menu of bar bites that Austinites will eventually enjoy at The Brewer’s Table, which is opening this year at 4715 E. Fifth St. Owner Maddux has envisioned the space to have wood-fermented beers and seasonally minded food that will have complementary flavors with the drinks.

  • Beer nuts
  • Smoked fish and cauliflower dip with Meyer lemon, salt and vinegar beer chips
  • Rye cured chicken rillette with root vegetable escabeche and sourdough rye bread
  • Beer grain falafel with farmer’s cheese and hop leaf harissa

The pop-up runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 19. To RSVP, visit The Brewer’s Table’s event page on Facebook.

Hi Sign Brewing to open with four beers, including New England IPA

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hi Sign Brewing is introducing itself to Austin with a pale ale, left, and a blood-orange coffee stout, New England IPA and blonde ale.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hi Sign Brewing is introducing itself to Austin with a pale ale, left, and a blood-orange coffee stout, New England IPA and blonde ale.

Marine Corps veteran Mark Phillippe is about to open the latest Austin brewery thanks in part to the advice of two close friends and mentors who have made careers through the local beverage industry.

He is the founder of Hi Sign Brewing, which will quietly open its doors on Sunday just north of the intersection of Highway 183 and Texas 71 and plans to celebrate a grand opening in mid-March during South by Southwest. The brewery, located in a 6,600 sq. ft. warehouse space including an airy taproom, an automated brewhouse and a private events room, is the result of seven years of Phillippe’s hard work.

After a deployment to Afghanistan and nearly four full years in the military, he needed to find a new career — and decided, after many talks with Tito’s Handmade Vodka founder Tito Beveridge and Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka founder Clayton Christopher, that owning a brewery in Austin would bring him the most satisfaction.

“It seemed like a career you were passionate about wasn’t about the money,” he said. “I’d see them and how much they were enjoying their lives, and it was because they’d found something they had a lot of passion for.”

Although Christopher and Beveridge both found their fortunes through vodka, Phillippe is banking on beer because of a love for the fermented beverage that he discovered at his family’s Montana cabin in the early 2000s. He’s enlisted Andrew Shelton, formerly of Revolver Brewing, to take on the head brewer position at Hi Sign Brewing — a job that has so far stretched Shelton’s creative brewing muscles.

Hi Sign is opening with four beers: a blonde ale, a pale ale, a New England IPA and a blood-orange coffee stout made with Café Ubuntu beans roasted by Allegro Coffee.

The New England IPA — a quasi-style of beer marked by hazy, juicy and not-so-bitter characteristics from lots of hops — is relatively new to Austin, providing Hi Sign a niche. In town, IPA master Pinthouse Pizza is the most known for experimenting with them (most notably with the highly sought-after Electric Jellyfish), but Hi Sign is hoping to draw attention to the style as well.

Shelton, who arrived most recently from Big Storm Brewing in Florida, had never done one before but researched New England IPAs (also called Northeastern-style IPAs) before drafting a recipe for Hi Sign’s version. The result is a cloudy, tangerine-colored brew that “someone might drink and be like, ‘Is this orange juice?’ In my mind, that means we’ve got a brewer who knows what he’s doing,” Phillippe said.

Although the beer hasn’t proven easy to do because of the amount of hops required to make it, Shelton said he is excited to continue experimenting with the “unique project. How do you come up with new techniques that will keep it hoppy but not lose the flavor, the haziness? It’s going to be fun to work out.”

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Introducing Austin to a true-to-style New England IPA was Phillippe’s idea. So was the blood-orange coffee stout made with lightly roasted Kenyan beans, a caffeinated collaboration with his friend Zane Wilemon. Shelton, however, decided a pale ale in the lineup was a good idea “to have a safe beer. It’s kind of in between the blonde ale and the New England IPA in terms of hoppiness,” he said.

The blonde ale, the first Hi Sign brew, was the result of needing a simple, easy-to-produce beer that would calibrate the new 15-barrel brewhouse system, which has been automated through Siemens technology. Having a system that heavily automated — and able to more easily produce the same good-quality beers over and over again, a consistency that Phillippe has sought from the start — is unusual for such a young brewery, but he believes “keeping the beer consistent” is important.

That’s part of what he has learned is key from the counsel of Beveridge and Christopher, who pushed him to pursue Hi Sign Brewing from the conception of his vision. Both have taught him that it’s OK to fail but that it’s best to “learn enough to be dangerous and then go out and hire the best,” he said.

The brewery gets its name from a sign he would regularly see during visits to his family’s Montana cabin in college, in the small town of Lincoln. Those seemingly innocuous vacations, it turned out, would mark the start of a growing passion for craft beer. The sign just seemed to symbolize the turning point those days served for him, he said.

“Someone had taken a barrel top, a big white barrel top, and some red reflective tape and written the word ‘hi’ on it. And then nailed it to this post. So it acted as a sign marker. So what you’d say is, ‘Turn at the hi sign,'” he said.

Before you turned at the sign, however, you’d make sure you were armed with beer to last you the trip.

“The thing to do up there, 15 years ago and still to this day, is fly into the airport, find a brewery and pick up your five or six growlers of beer for the weekend and then go to your cabin,” he said. “You go fish and hang out. We would be sitting on these little hand-made benches around a bonfire at night and drinking beer out of growlers. That was the first time I could remember drinking an IPA and thinking, ‘Wow, what is this? This is really good beer.'”

Hi Sign Brewing is located at 1201 Old Bastrop Hwy. After this weekend, taproom hours will be 2 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, noon to midnight Fridays-Sundays. For more information, visit facebook.com/hisignbrewing.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. IPAs generally aren't supposed to be hazy, but a sub-style of the hoppy beer that originated in the Northeast U.S. has made them not only hazy but lacking in bitterness as well. Hi Sign Brewing is introducing one to the Austin market.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. IPAs generally aren’t supposed to be hazy, but a sub-style of the hoppy beer that originated in the Northeast U.S. has made them not only hazy but lacking in bitterness as well. Hi Sign Brewing is introducing one to the Austin market.

Ruggedman Brewing debuts as dream business of three military veterans

When David Wilson, John Wamer and Randy Williams served in the same Marine Corps unit during the Iraq War, they knew they wanted to do something very different once their time in the military was up.

It’s taken a decade for the three friends to get their business up and running, but it has finally, thankfully happened: Ruggedman Brewing, in the New Braunfels-San Marcos corridor, is celebrating its grand opening this weekend.

Those long days and nights fighting a war overseas have become a piece of the identity of Ruggedman in the same way they have for each of the men, now all in their mid-thirties. Each of the beers — which include a variety of blonde ales and some Belgian-style brews — are named after tools or parts of a machine, such as the Big Rig Blonde and the Blowtorch Black IPA.

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“We thought there had to be a better way to make a living,” Wilson said. “We were all interested in brewing beer and thought that might be what we’d pursue when we got out.”

None of them were able to immediately open a brewery, however. After serving two eight-month tours in Iraq together, the Marine veterans parted ways, “doing our own thing for a couple of years until we could pay for the brewery,” Wilson said. Being able to open the business without any outside investment or help was important to them.

Once the homebrewers decided they were financially ready for Ruggedman in 2014, it took a year-and-a-half to secure a space — but finding it somewhere in Central Texas, where all three of the brewery co-founders now live, was a no-brainer for them.

“We thought that because Texas is a growing market, versus San Diego or the Pacific Northwest, it would be a great market for our beer,” Wilson said, noting that he has set up roots in Canyon Lake, while Wamer, the head brewer, is in Kyle and Williams lives in Lockhart.

They have named the brewery after a slang term that nods to the way Marines might look and feel in the field after a hard month’s work — rugged. Because the co-founders want to welcome everyone to Ruggedman, they have rejiggered the word to refer to “all working men and women in all jobs,” Wilson said. “Because you can be an accountant and still be rugged after a long day in the office.”

Ruggedman Brewing's Machine Gun Porter is a nod to the co-founders' years in the Marine Corps.
Ruggedman Brewing’s Machine Gun Stout is a nod to the co-founders’ years in the Marine Corps.

Ruggedman Brewing’s beers also don’t refer to tools used exclusively in the Marine Corps, although the Machine Gun Stout, Wilson said, is a tribute to the role that he and Wamer held as machine gunners.

“When your head brewer is a former Marine Corps Infantry Machine Gunner, a beer this big and powerful was bound to happen,” according to a description of the dry, roasted dark beer on the Ruggedman website.

Here are some of the other beers to expect this weekend during the three-day grand opening festivities.

  • The Gold Pan Blonde: The American blonde ale is one of the mainstay styles that will constantly be on tap at the brewery in between New Braunfels and San Marcos. It’s got “a smooth lager-like finish,” according to the website.
  • Anchor Line Amber: More malty than hoppy without being sweet, this darker-than-typical amber ale is one of the Belgian-style beers that Ruggedman has chosen to focus on.
  • Blowtorch Black IPA: It looks like a stout but tastes like the pine and citrus flavors of a classic IPA — the best of both worlds. “Ample amounts” of Simcoe and Chinook hops dominate, but there are also complex roasted notes from the Carafa malts.
  • Bee Hive Blonde: For this one, Ruggedman started with a base beer similar to the Gold Pan but then added unpasteurized Texas honey after the initial fermentation to give it a floral and fruity aroma. The brewery also makes a Belgian-style blonde called Big Rig.

Ruggedman Brewing makes these and other sudsy offerings on a 7-barrel brewhouse and a half-barrel pilot system. The pilot system is especially helpful as Wamer, Wilson and Williams figure out which beers will appeal to their customers the most and also allows them to experiment with styles from beyond Belgium and America — English, German and Mexican-style beers are also interesting to them.

“We want to be very diverse with our beers,” Wilson said.

Because of Ruggedman’s brewpub license, visitors can take growlers to go from the tasting room — as well as newly launched cans. For now, these are only available from the brewery, but once they are more officially designed, the cans will be distributed around town.

During tasting room hours, the Mi Ranchito food truck will serve up Tex-Mex barbecue.

The grand opening party will run from 2 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday this weekend and will include the four mainstay brews (the American and Belgian-style blondes, the amber and the stout) and 10 small-batch offerings. Regular taproom hours are 2 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 12 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Ruggedman Brewing is located at 7600 S. Old Bastrop Hwy., in the New Braunfels area. For more information, visit drinkthedamnbeer.com.

Idle Vine Brewing opens this weekend as Pflugerville brewery

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Idle Vine Brewery is opening this weekend, with hours from Thursdays-Sundays.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Idle Vine Brewery is opening this weekend, with hours from Thursdays-Sundays.

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.

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Lazarus Brewing comes to life in East Austin as brewpub with street tacos

Lazarus Brewing has created a homey atmosphere borne of wood, metal and concrete in an old East Austin building across the street from bars like Whisler's.
Lazarus Brewing has created a homey atmosphere borne of wood, metal and concrete in an old East Austin building across the street from bars like Whisler’s.

For pastor and beer-loving entrepreneur Christian Cryder, Christmas is coming in a big way. His brewpub, three years in the making, is opening its doors for the first time on Dec. 24 in a prime location on East Sixth Street.

Lazarus Brewing will close briefly on Christmas Day and Dec. 26, but starting Dec. 27, Cryder hopes to lure customers into the homey space morning, day and night by serving coffee and breakfast tacos in the a.m., beer and more tacos in the p.m. He drew inspiration for his project from other local brewpubs in town, like the ABGB and Jester King Brewery, which offer so much more than beer.

But beer, of course, remains the centerpiece at those places and at Lazarus, too.

“In figuring out the design for this place, we wanted it to be clear that it’s not a restaurant serving beer,” he said. “We have the tanks visible behind the bar to make it clear that this is a brewery that happens to serve good food and coffee.”

At the helm of the beer program is a veteran of one of the larger U.S. craft breweries. Formerly the brewing manager of Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania, Matt Couch brings lots of crucial experience with him and a proclivity for brewing different styles of beer than the ones that Cryder, a big fan of IPAs, is familiar with making.

As a result of their preferences, Lazarus Brewing — named for the man Jesus Christ raised from the dead — will offer a range of sudsy options.

“Our brewing style, I don’t know how to describe it, other than that it’s eclectic and influenced from a lot of different places,” Cryder said. “We’re not camped in one particular style. The early ones we’re doing, there’s an emphasis on drinkability and covering the bases and demonstrating that we brew classic styles well.”

Expect Lazarus Brewing to open with a Belgian Golden Strong, an English IPA, a double IPA, a West Coast IPA, an English Premium Bitter and a dry stout on nitro. These and other coming beers will primarily be available at the brewpub, but Cryder said some will also go into 750 mL bottles that people can purchase and enjoy off-site. His main goal with Lazarus is to offer what he calls a ‘pints-on-premise operation,’ — essentially, “a model like the ABGB, where the experience is as appealing as the beer is.”

Part of that experience for generous beer fans is the Free Beer For Life program, which will (as the name suggests) give free beer for life to anyone who purchases one of Lazarus’ $1,000 Patron Saint glasses.

For the brewpub, Cryder purchased two buildings at the corner of Sixth and Chicon streets, in between cocktail bar Whisler’s and diner Counter Cafe, but so far only one of them is in use because the other building — the former Cool Store — needs a lot of work and renovation. In time, he hopes that it’ll become the facility where sours, wild ales and barrel-fermented brews get created. In between both buildings is a shaded patio area.

In the main building, a commercial kitchen will whip up tacos, house-made chips and salsa, and other Mexican food offerings fresh for visitors. The food menu, Cryder said, was purposely kept simple.

“I discovered tacos when I moved to Austin,” he said. “A lot of beer places do pub food like burgers or pizza, but to me, tacos seem like a natural food item with beer. I’d also say the cuisine fits in with this community of Hispanic heritage.”

The historically Hispanic neighborhood is also the reason why Cryder chose a bright color scheme for the exterior of Lazarus Brewing, painted to reflect the blend of beer and religion that serves as an important theme for the brewpub.

“We like color and wanted color, which is unusual in the industry,” he said. “A lot of breweries are very industrial, very gray. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we have the steel and the brick and the wood, which we think create textures that are very celebratory. And you can certainly see us from the street.”

He and his wife, Marilyn, also want to serve coffee at Lazarus, which is why the brewpub will open so early each day. She has 10 years of experience roasting coffee beans, so even though the coffee program will start out with only an espresso machine, it might quickly move to having a house roast with a bit of a focus away from third-wave coffee.

That style is all about “bright, exotic flavors like grapefruit, nuts and cherry, but also very acidic, so it has a sharp, almost sour flavor,” Cryder said. The coffee program at Lazarus aims to be more palatable.

Lazarus Brewing, at 1902 E. Sixth St., will open to the public on Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to midnight. Starting Dec. 27, weekly hours will tentatively be set from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The brewpub expects to have a grand opening celebration in early January.

For more information, visit lazarusbrewing.com.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The brightly colored Lazarus Brewing stands out from afar in the hope of attracting visitors once it opens on Christmas Eve.
Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The brightly colored Lazarus Brewing stands out from afar in the hope of attracting visitors once it opens on Christmas Eve.

This post has been updated to reflect that Lazarus Brewing’s coffee program is a slight move away from the third-wave coffee trend.