Nightly emergence of bats from under downtown Austin's Congress Bridge. (stock photo)
  • Nightly emergence of bats from under downtown Austin's Congress Bridge. (stock photo)
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It's no surprise to anyone that Austin, Texas, is a hip destination, boasting one of the best live music scenes in the country, some fantastic barbecue, and the University of Texas.

The UT tower, lit up at night.

I was already aware of all of this prior to my visit, but what may have surprised me the most was their thriving craft beer culture. Not only does the city offer some fantastic local brews, they also have some incredible beer bars. I guess my expectation was that there would be a couple of decent beers on tap, but what I found was that a couple of places had some incredibly stellar taps.

My voyage to finding the best beers in Austin started at The Ginger Man. It was a place I had looked up, and thought would be a good place to start. I had been to a Ginger Man while visiting New York City, so I assumed it would be pretty similar.

As soon as I walked in, I knew right away that it was definitely part of the same chain: dark wood throughout, some tables, and about 50 taps. I sat down and asked for the best “local” IPA they had, and it was suggested to try Stash from Independence Brewing Co.

I took my first sip. It wasn’t anything over-the-top special, but it was a good start for Austin.

I stayed, sipped my brew and had a sausage before heading out. Prior to leaving, I asked the woman behind the bar if she had any good recommendations. She pointed me in the direction of Easy Tiger on E. 6th St.

Easy Tiger is located at the far eastern section of 6th Street (the main hub for bar-hopping). The entrance takes you directly into a street-level bakery before descending a flight of stairs into a cellar-like room. I was pleasantly surprised by the impressive list of taps, great sausages, and friendly, helpful barkeeps. This is where I finally came across an excellent American-brewed pilsner, Hans Pils brewed by Real Ale Brewing (located just outside of Austin in Blanco, TX).

It had a great hop character to it, was easy drinking and definitely one of my favorite brews of the weekend. It’s rare that I’ll order a pilsner, but I could not get enough of this one. Before exiting, I once again asked for suggestions on where to head next, and was pointed in the direction of Rainey Street.

Rainey Street: a cool spot, and my favorite part of Austin. The street is lined with what used to be old cottage-style houses that were bought out, renovated and turned into restaurants and bars. I had some more excellent sausage and beers at Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden, which boasts about 100 taps from all over. This was beer heaven – tons of outdoor picnic tables, cool lighting, great beer, friendly people. I was beginning to love Austin. I had entered my happy zone and began to hit my stride. From there, I moved a couple of doors down to Craft Pride.

Now I was on a roll. Craft Pride serves up about 40+ taps, all brewed in the state of Texas. This is another stellar beer bar, and perhaps the best I found in the city. Lots of places to sit outside, do some people watching, or go out back and get some grub from the Bacon Bus.

The last stop along my beer-hopping excursion in Austin was the Draught House. This place is classic – about a fifteen-minute cab right from downtown, but definitely worth the short trip. It reminded me of being in Belgium, with the dark wood and lighting, bronze taps, and outdoor beer gardens. Without a doubt, a must visit for any beer drinker visiting Austin.

If you find yourself in Austin, and are looking to wet the whistle with a good craft brew, do yourself a favor and steer away from most of 6th Street (besides Easy Tiger, of course). Yes, there's lots of bars and live music, but it caters mostly to a college crowd that can be found in just about every major city in the country. Venture off of the main drag, ask the barkeeps, and follow the hoppy trail to Rainey Street. You won't be disappointed.

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