Austin is full of great beer, but sometimes you just need to get out of town! Here are 5 of my favorite Texas hill country breweries. Visit these venues in Dripping Springs, Johnson City, and Fredericksburg for a relaxing and idyllic day trip.
most iconic, best outdoors
Jester King is perhaps one of the more famous craft breweries in the entire United States, and certainly the most iconic in the Austin area! They are famous for their farmhouse style, spontaneous fermentation brews. That means that instead of carefully controlling yeast, they let the wild varieties work themselves out in unique ways!
Although their methods may be traditional, there is nothing boring about a Jester King creation. Some of their brews are revivals of arcane styles that have died out (like the English mild) and some are quite experimental. Even more often, those two qualities are mixed in the same beer.
And you can’t get more idyllic than this location. The brewery is located on a farm, and most of the ingredients in each beer come from the land it’s made on. There are even light hiking trails around the property if you prefer to mix some physical activity into your day of drinking!
Note: for the time being, Jester King requires a reservation. But don’t worry – most of the times I’ve checked recently, reservations have been available for just a few days out, even for weekends.
family friendly, global beer styles
Fitzhugh is another Dripping Springs brewery with a beautiful and large outdoor area. Actually, everything here is beautiful: the building, the glassware, the packaging…it is all very intentionally designed. Plus, this brewery is specifically family-friendly and even has a playhouse for the kiddos (whenever a pandemic isn’t shutting that down, of course!)
Fitzhugh’s is the place to be if you want to try traditional beer styles from around the world. Currently on draft: Sparkling Australian Ale, Lithuanian Farmhouse Ale, Irish Red, Wee Scottish – to name just a few. They also have a small local wine selection. There is a fairly extensive food menu as well, for both snacks and full meals, with a kids menu to boot!
veteran owned, food trucks on rotation
12 Fox Beer Co is yet another fantastic brewery in Dripping Springs. Stop by this outdoor beer garden to enjoy Old Texas charm, live music, yard games, and a solid selection of in-house a guest taps. I particularly like the selections at this brewery because there isn’t an overwhelming array of options. Instead, 12 Fox offers only one of any style of beer; available styles include Belgian tripel, Irish Red Ale, Foreign Export Stout, Doppelbock, IPA, and Australian Sparkling Ale.
Another neat thing about 12 Fox is their rotating schedule of food trucks! That means meal options are always changing, but I’ve noticed taco trucks seem to be the most common. And in case that doesn’t strike your fancy, there are a few snacks available from the taproom as well.
brand new, part of a luxury resort
Going further West? Make a stop in Johnson City! Old 290 Brewery is part of Carter Creek Winery Resort, which opened in early 2020 (unlucky timing, but they are doing a great job nonetheless). There are 11 beers on draft including red ale, brown ales (one bourbon-barrel aged), german lager, and notably a unique hibiscus wheat beer. Both tasters and flights are available – you could feasibly sample them all!
And while you’re sticking around to do that, you might be able to catch a show! The microbrewery is also a live music venue and restaurant, although vegetarians and vegans will be out of luck unless the chef is willing to do a custom dish (I will definitely ask next time I’m there). And if you’d prefer not to drive home, don’t forget this brewery is part of a resort and spa – why not book an overnight or weekend trip?
Visit Old 290 while it’s still under the radar; it’s sure to become a classic Texas hill country brewery before long.
best indoors, award-winning German styles
Fredericksburg just might be the best little town in Texas. Historic Main Street is beautiful, the whole town is walkable, and there are plenty cheap and cozy vacation rentals. But best of all is the food and alcohol scene! There are several excellent restaurants and tasting rooms in the main part of town; I highly recommend Vaudeville for lunch/dinner, Squeeze In for brunch, and Elk Store Winery and Distillery for cocktails. Don’t forget Fredericksburg Brewing Company while you’re in the town. But for a true Texas hill country brewery, you’ll want to drive out a few minutes to Altstadt Brewery.
This impressive venue specializes in traditional German-style beers, brewed according to the old German purity laws. You won’t find an IPA or an unusual stout flavor here. Altstadt is committed to their style, and they do it perfectly. Their leightbier, helles, and kölsch are all frequent gold medal winners (the kölsch is my favorite of the 3).
As if these rockstar beers weren’t enough, the venue could hardly get more impressive. This massive structure includes restaurant areas, outdoor seating, tasting room, private event areas, and my favorite is the grand hall in the back. If eating pretzels, drinking beer, and listening to live music in an enormous chandeliered hall sounds like a good time to you, then you’ll be in heaven at Altstadt.
Wherever you choose to day trip, I hope the beautiful views and delicious beer of the Texas hill country will be peaceful refreshing. For more recommendations, you can sign up for our email list (below, in the footer) or check out one of these articles: