What Circle Brewing’s upcoming Elgin brewing farm means for its original North Austin taproom

Circle Brewing Co. Elgin facility
Circle Brewing Co. broke ground on its upcoming farm-style brewery in Elgin on Aug. 24. (Rendering courtesy Dick Clark & Associates)

Circle Brewing Co. broke ground on its upcoming farm-style brewery in Elgin on Aug. 24. (Rendering courtesy Dick Clark & Associates)

It was not that long ago that Circle Brewing Co. brewer and co-founder Ben Sabel thought the North Austin brewery would be forced to find a new home.

The industrial space the brewery is in at 2340 W. Braker Lane, Unit B, was under threat of being razed and turned into condos, forcing the Circle Brewing team to begin the process of searching for a new site of operations.

Now, four years after Sabel and co-founder Judson Mulherin first began looking at other sites for its brewing tanks, Circle Brewing has begun the first step of expanding its operations.

The Circle Brewing team on Aug. 24 broke ground on an upcoming 13,000-square-foot brewery and taproom in Elgin, about 23 miles and 30 minutes east of Austin.

The brewery and taproom will sit on a 22-acre site that Circle Brewing will use to grow its own beer ingredients, including wheat, barley and hops.

“We wanted to find room to grow and find our permanent home with enough land to do what we’ve always dreamed of, which is to grow the ingredients ourselves in the brewing process,” Sabel said.

With the expansive land now available to the brewery—more than 7 acres will be used to grow crops—Sabel said Circle Brewery will get to work immediately to implement sustainable farming practices.

The ultimate goal, according to Sabel, is to create a farm that produces all of the ingredients necessary to make the brewery’s beer.

“We’re looking to really embrace what we can grow out there, and that's definitely going to have a lot of say about the beers we can brew with those ingredients,” Sabel said. “I think a pilsner is definitely something we’re going to work on perfecting.”

Sabel concedes that may be years down the road, after the Circle Brewing team manages to get the land productive and figure out what can be effectively grown in Elgin soil.

But the brewer is already gleaning knowledge from the Elgin farming community, which is home to Austin Community College’s Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship Program.

“We want to do it the right way. That involves spending years improving that land through cover crops and no-till agriculture,” Sabel said.

Back in North Austin, Sabel said Circle Brewing will retain its presence at its taproom off West Braker Lane.

Though staying at its home of more than a decade was not in the original grand scheme of this new farmhouse brewery, the Circle Brewing team was given the opportunity to ultimately renew its lease last year. Sabel said the brewery jumped at the opportunity, and Circle Brewing will now stay in North Austin for at least the next six years.

The new Elgin facility will allow Circle Brewing to potentially expand its current taproom and convert the brewery operations there into a pilot system, which the brewery can use to try out new recipes before production.

Regardless of what Circle Brewing ultimately decides to do with the taproom, the brewery is well-positioned to welcome thousands of soccer fans when Austin FC begins play. The stadium currently under construction at Burnet Road and Braker Lane will be approximately 1,500 square feet from Circle Brewing's North Austin taproom—only a few minutes walk.

“We are really embracing the soccer stadium. It’s a big part of the reason we chose to stay,” Sabel said.

Circle Brewing’s Elgin facility is expected to finish construction and open to the public by the end of summer 2021, barring any unforeseen circumstances. When it opens, Circle Brewing will be the lone craft brewery operating in the city.

For Sabel and Mulherin, who brewed their first beer under the Circle Brewing flag one decade ago, the upcoming farm-style facility represents an expansion of what Sabel calls the company’s core philosophy—simplicity in design.

“We’ve always been about ‘less is more’ and using the fewest ingredients to make the best beer possible,” Sabel said. “We’re really taking that to the next step possible. Being able to do it on 22 acres in beautiful Elgin, it’s a dream come true.”
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.