ABGB–Craft Beer Austin Style

ABGBIt was just after six on Sunday and the sizeable parking lot at the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company was overflowing—exactly what you’d expect from the brewery that won the 2016 Great American Beer Festival Large Brewpub of the Year. An afternoon of intermittent rain had soaked the rows of empty picnic tables outside but not the spirit of the patrons corralled inside. A half dozen employees tended the lines at the bar, and the band blasting country music was hotter than the crowd on the packed dance floor. I’d never set foot inside the ABGB, but I recognized it like an old friend. The vibe was totally, intensely Austin, the town where I was born and raised.

No surprise to learn that this brewpub, which features live music three to four nights a week, was started by friends who came together over homebrewed beer and Austin’s vibrant music scene, including Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. No surprise, either, that the brewers and their beers have earned other GABF medals. The ABGB is big on community involvement, too, donating 5% of profits to their Hell Yes Project partners, local non-profit organizations.

Standing in the beer line, I scanned the menu for flights, the way to go on the first visit to a brewery. I didn’t see flight options before I got to the head of the line and the music was so loud that rather than ask, I simply shouted, “A Superliner and prosciutto Caesar salad,” both decidedly hipster Austin.

My brewer husband and I took our beers and somehow managed to score two seats along the wall opposite the bar, where the tall stools afforded us a clear view of the band and dancers up front and the long rows of tables filled with beer, pizza and patrons.

I held up the golden IPA and got down to the business we’d come for. When you’re a GABF winner, beer lovers like me walk through the door with high expectations. Superliner was clear as a whistle, none of that northeastern stuff here. The first piney, citrusy sniff unequivocally stated West Coast all the way. The sip that followed confirmed the aroma, a big burst of piney, tropical and grapefruit hops. This beer was bitter, but so balanced that I was surprised to learn it officially clocked in at 60 IBUs. I wasn’t going to regret ordering a pint. Indeed, I liked it more with each sip.

“I’ve never seen a craft beer venue anything like this,” Hugo marveled. This was coming from an engineer prone to understatement, who’s visited hundreds of breweries and pubs. “Craft beer Austin style,” I replied. We settled in to watch the band up on a stage backdropped by colorfully lit fermenters. They had segued into something more like soft rock, and the audience that was clearly still feeling the vibe.

ABGB2Beside us, people came and went from a group that included a heavily tattooed woman in a sleeveless dress and cowboy boots and a bearded man in a Sunday-best cowboy shirt. On the other side, a man apparently by himself concentrated on the band and his beer. Servers hurried by with one pizza after another, making me second think that salad I’d ordered. When our own food came, we shared the salad and Hugo’s muffaletta, chocked with cold cuts and a tasty house-made olive salad. This place was scoring high in every way.

When the music and dancing ended at 7:00, the mass of people cleared a little, making the place seem larger and the crowd more subdued. Even if we’d walked in after that, we would have left satisfied with a good brewpub visit. Walking into that music and energy on the dance floor, though, had taken the experience to a whole other unforgettable level. The ABGB absolutely earned their GABF honors.

If you’re looking for a beercation, or a full-fledged vacation with a craft brewery visit or two, Austin is a great city. Just be sure to catch the vibe at the ABGB Sundays between 4:00 and 7:00.

Comments

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed ABGB! The honky tonk band tearing it up was Bobby Marlar and some of Austin’s finest pickers, by the way.

    • Leslie Patino says:

      Thanks for the band name, Phil. I forgot to check that when we went to ABGB on Sunday. I started the post the next day and checked the ABGB calendar which had already been updated and didn’t show past info. I agree, Bobby Marlar and his band really know how to get an audience going!

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