Brewers and distillers try to bottle rural experience

Twisted X Brewing Co. could have moved anywhere when it outgrew its Cedar Park home.

Its brewers picked a site in Dripping Springs.

"We wanted more of a Hill Country destination," founder Shane Bordeau said. "A place along the wine trail [where visiting could be] a day trip activity, a place with a more country look and feel."

Twisted X is not alone. In the past five years, several brewers and distillers have opened or moved west of FM 1826. Revolution Spirits (see Page 22) opened in February, and Deep Eddy Vodka announced plans to open a facility there soon.

Brian Smittle, owner and brewmaster of Thirsty Planet Brewing Co., cited access to Austin, the cost of real estate and the area's natural beauty among the area's selling points.

"We delivered our first keg on June 30, 2010," he said. "Like a lot of [businesses] out here, we're still kind of young."

Last year, the state legislature changed the law to allow breweries to sell beer for on-site consumption, among other changes.

These companies are hoping to serve the weekenders looking for a Hill Country experience, Dripping Springs Planning Director Jon Thompson said.

"What better way to experience that than enjoying the Texas-style 'beer trail' of hitting the craft breweries that are popping up in the area?" he said. "I think you'll find that the interest is high due to the lifestyle and environment of the culture that goes with craft beer, wineries, even some distilleries, olive growers and barbecue."

Growth

Bordeau said Twisted X has grown

10 times larger with its new facility, which opened in late November.

"We went from a 1,100-square-foot site to a 10,000-square-foot site," he said. "In the beer industry, size is gauged by your number of barrels. We went from a three-barrel system to a 30-barrel system. We're able to produce enough beer to really satisfy the Central Texas market."

The brewery built a 2,000-square-foot tasting room and covered patio so visitors could "grab a beer, walk outside and get a view of the Hill Country," he said.

Rural advantages

Several companies are opening in the extraterritorial jurisdictions, or ETJs, of Austin and Dripping Springs. State law defines ETJs as areas outside of city limits that may be annexed in the future. Cities have few controls on development there.

"Outside of city limits there are no land use regulations that affect the location of breweries, wineries or distilleries other than market forces and the restrictive covenants of the property proposed for development," Thompson said.

Inside city limits, Austin and Dripping Springs have zoning requirements that would restrict possible business locations.

"[That is] one reason why the vast majority have located in the ETJ or even non-ETJ areas," he said.

State law

In 2013, state law changed to allow breweries to sell beer to consumers on-site and to retailers. The law also allows brewpubs, which could already sell beer on-site, to sell beer to customers for off-site consumption and to self-distribute to retailers, said Ron Extract, co-owner and brewer of Jester King Brewery.

In response, companies began building and renovating tasting rooms, adding or expanding tour options and hosting special events such as weddings.

Argus Cidery

Late last year, the cidery released its first still apple wine in limited release, owner Wes Mickel said. It is working on a tepache, a Mexican alcohol made from pineapples, that the company could sell year-round.

Deep Eddy Vodka

The spirits company is building a new distillery near Nutty Brown Cafe on West Hwy. 290. It should be completed in June or July, said John Scarborough, vice president of finance and operations. The company launched a new cranberry flavor in February.

Dripping Springs Vodka

The distillery hopes to open its doors to tours by March, Marketing Director Lauren Kelleher said. It has also expanded the availability of Dripping Springs Orange vodka to medium-sized retailers. Previously the drink was only available at larger outlets in Austin.

Jester King Brewery

Jester King has introduced new beers La Vie en Rose and Ambre. The brewery began offering naturally fermented wines in its tasting room in February, and will expand its tasting and barrel rooms, co-owner Ron Extract said.

Revolution Spirits

Distiller Mark Shilling said the Revolution Spirits has begun selling its 100-proof craft gin at its Pauls Valley Road distillery.

Thirsty Planet Brewing Co.

The draft brewery is experimenting with bottling its beer and plans to make cosmetic improvements to its tasting room, owner and brewmaster Brian Smittle said.

Twisted X Brewing Co.

The brewery held its grand opening in late November, founder Shane Bordeau said.

By Joe Olivieri
Joe covered Southwest Austin news for Community Impact Newspaper from January 2011 to April 2015. His reporting focused on new businesses, development, transportation, industry and Travis County issues. He was named the paper's managing editor in April 2015. Joe hails from New Jersey.


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