Those two decades have seen quite a bit of churn in the local beer scene, from the closure of the Bitter End Bistro and Brewery—Wilson’s previous employer—in the early 2000s to the move of Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse from Austin to Dripping Springs this fall.
“There’s an ebb and flow; we’ve just been here the whole time,” Wilson said.
Wayne Overton and his wife, Gay, opened the Draught House in 1969. After Wayne’s death, Wilson came on board in 1995 as part of an ownership group. That partnership broke up and Glenda Smith bought the bar in 1999, with Wilson remaining on as brewer and manager overseeing the day-to-day operations.
Staying steady through the ebbs and flows has its challenges. On a typical day, Wilson is not only brewing beer, but also taking deliveries, dealing with equipment, training staff and handling permitting. As he describes it, Wilson is not only the brewer and operator, but “the plumber and the janitor” as well.
Wilson said he has stuck it out through the changes because he enjoys the beer industry and what the Draught House offers to its regulars—a local gathering place without many frills to enjoy good beer and good company.
Some regulars have been coming in since Draught House opened, and Wilson said the brewpub was relying on those old-timers’ memories on the anniversaries, celebrating each year based on an opening in 1968. As it turned out, based on newspaper articles Wilson found, the actual opening was 1969. In November, Draught House celebrated its 50th anniversary—correctly this time.
The staying power through five decades in a changing city is largely due to the neighborhood support from regulars, Wilson said, with some credit due to the charms of the old building, the beer selection featuring 75 taps and the outdoor patio seating—now with food truck Little House serving Belgian fries and pub food. It is not a complicated formula, Wilson said, but it has been effective.
“If we can have good food, good beer, good employees and a good atmosphere, I feel like we’re winning on most fronts,” he said.