Just a half-hour drive from Austin’s western enclave of Oak Hill, the once-tiny town of Dripping Springs is bursting with things to do — especially if you have a thirst for the more than a dozen breweries, distilleries and wineries that have turned this northern swath of Hays County into a weekend destination spot.
There’s a lot to do besides drink, of course, especially if you’re a fan of the outdoors and love swimming in the azure waters of Texas Hill Country oasis Hamilton Pool. But make no mistake: Dripping Springs and the surrounding area have become an attractive place for some of the area’s most promising booze makers. It’s just outside the crowded city and surrounded by the rugged green beauty of the Hill Country, with more land available and less traffic to deal with.
Here, we profile some places (starting with the newest ones) you shouldn’t miss on your next autumn adventure.
211 W. Mercer St., Dripping Springs. 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. acoponbrewing.com.
The historic Mercer Street in Dripping Springs — still home to buildings erected between 1870 and 1940 — is also the quaint, well-trafficked block where several of the town’s most notable watering holes are now located. There’s the Barber Shop, a beer bar named for a previous tenant of the wooden 1920s-era structure, and a brewery just two doors down: Acopon Brewing.
The brewery’s arrival was, in some ways, a long time coming for owners John McIntosh and Dave Niemeyer: They run the Barber Shop, which the first bar to open along Mercer once the ban on alcoholic beverages was lifted more than a decade ago.
Although the Barber Shop previously doubled as a brewpub, with one house beer on tap at a time, McIntosh and Niemeyer decided to take out the tiny brewing system (the Barber Shop now has a panini-making kitchen in its place) and open Acopon. Multiple beers are on tap at a time.
Acopon gets regular traffic from tourists but also locals in Dripping Springs who like having a brewery so close. To differentiate Acopon from other area breweries, McIntosh and Niemeyer have dived into a particular niche: brewing up English-style ales like Homunculus, a dark mild; Gaspipes, an English bitter; and Pesta, an oatmeal stout. (The names were taken from the Old English dictionary, Victorian England slang or a character in English literature.)
There’s also a rotating cask ale poured from a cask engine at a warmer temperature and a gentler level of carbonation. The two brewers decided to focus on English ales after noticing how rarely they’re produced in the U.S., despite how balanced and low in alcohol they tend to be.
Suds Monkey Brewing
1032 Canyon Bend Drive, Dripping Springs. 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. sudsmonkeybrew.com.
Suds Monkey Brewing is making its mark not only with beers made by co-owner and head brewer Greg Plummer but also with the brewery’s mascot: a sunglasses-clad, fully-clothed monkey as the memorable face of the brand.
Suds, as he is called, is a gregarious fellow, “a glory-days party guy who drank a bunch of beer in high school,” Plummer said.
“I don’t know if it’s always going to be this way, but the beer names reflect different phases of his life,” he said. “So there’s Cheeky Monkey from when he was younger and a little smart-ass. Then, there’s Funky Monkey from when he went to a concert to see George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars and got a backstage pass and wound up going on tour with them for four months. There’s all these little backstories about him.”
Cheeky Monkey is a summer session wheat, the most accessible beer on the menu, and Funky Monkey is an IPA and the other most popular beer available. There’s also the Monkey Wrench Wheat IPA, a lower-in-alcohol version of the Funky Monkey that tastes crisp, creamy and citrusy — the latter characteristic thanks to the hops — and other brews. Plummer created them after more than a decade removed from the beer industry.
A graduate of the American Brewers Guild and employee of California behemoth Stone Brewing, he spent most of the 21st century working in another industry to gain the capital for his own brewery. For him, Suds Monkey was his ultimate dream.
He wants it to be a comfortable weekend hangout for the people who live in nearby neighborhoods. The taproom has games, other beverages like cider and nonalcoholic lemonade, and occasional live music and food trucks.
Suds Monkey Brewing’s Epic Grand Opening Party is from noon to 8 p.m. Nov. 4.
The Ghost Hill Restaurant at Treaty Oak Distilling & Brewing
16604 Fitzhugh Road, Dripping Springs. 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. treatyoakdistilling.com.
Though the sprawling Treaty Oak ranch opened two years ago and launched a brewing program last year, one crucial component to the Hill Country destination is brand-new: the on-site Ghost Hill Restaurant serving “Texas-inspired fare,” including smoked, roasted and grilled meats from chef Chris Andrews. He is running his own kitchen following stints working under David Bull — known for Second Bar + Kitchen and Boiler Nine — and Josh Watkins.
The original idea for the Ghost Hill restaurant had been to have fancier food, “but that’s just not what people want when they’re eating here on Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. Instead, he and his team have developed a menu of barbecue dishes with fine-dining flair, a fusion of Andrews’ culinary experiences best epitomized in the weekly specials and in main items like the pork spare ribs with sesame-bourbon glaze, pickled carrots, Asian herbs and lime.
“It’s not just classic barbecue, but I like working with the smoker and the grill, things that are more outdoorsy. It fits the place,” he said.
Treaty Oak is first and foremost a distillery and brewery, of course, so Ghost Hill offers a variety of beers and cocktails. The cocktail menu also has a hefty list of often seasonally focused specials, from the Pomme Cidre with Waterloo Antique Gin, fresh Fiji apple juice, winter spice and a candied apple garnish, to the Orxata with your choice of rum or bourbon and made with jasmine rice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. (It’s Treaty Oak’s tasty version of the Mexican horchata drink.)
So far, Ghost Hill Restaurant has proved to be a popular place for Dripping Springs residents in particular to visit on Thursday evenings. They can enjoy dishes not available over the more high-volume weekend, like pork belly tacos with pickled jalapeños, onions and black-bean salsa. Fridays and Saturdays are dominated by Austin visitors.
12345 Pauls Valley Road #2. 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. arguscidery.com.
Argus is one of the boozy businesses in a small artisan park between Austin and Dripping Springs where Revolution Spirits and Last Stand Brewing also are located. The cidery makes fermented beverages from an increasing number of fruits — not just apples. Two of co-owner Wes Mickel’s most recent creations are the Vinho Pearde with 100 percent pear juice and the Cherry Vin with 100 percent cherry juice. He’s also worked with peaches and pineapple. Taste his small-batch offerings at the tiny, cozy tasting room.
Deep Eddy Vodka
2250 U.S. 290, Dripping Springs. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. deepeddyvodka.com/distillery.
You’d best come early to this distillery and 5,000-square-foot adjacent tasting room, which fills up on the weekends with people wanting a good time and vodka cocktails like the Ruby on Fire, with Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, jalapeño, pineapple juice and soda water. Deep Eddy Vodka sold in 2015 to a Kentucky spirits company and is expanding rapidly, with plans to build another distillery in Buda, but it continues to put care into the comfortable, family-friendly vibe the tasting room offers.
The Dripping Wine Trail
Bell Springs Winery, 3700 Bell Springs Road. Westcave Cellars Winery, 25711 Hamilton Pool Road. Hawk’s Shadow Winery, 7500 McGregor Lane. drippingwinetrail.com.
Fredericksburg isn’t the only Texas town dotted with picturesque wineries. Three wineries in the Dripping Springs area have banded together to encourage a winery-hopping day trip, and each one offers a scenic spot to relax and drink wine. Note that Hawk’s Shadow Winery is open only on Saturdays and by appointment on Sundays and Wednesday through Friday. Westcave Cellars and Bell Springs Winery have more availability during the week, for the more spontaneous wine drinkers out there.
In addition to its main location with a winery and tasting room, Bell Springs also owns Sidecar, a Prohibition-style wine bar, just off Mercer Street in the heart of Dripping Springs. The tasting room has wine and wine cocktails, small bites and live music.
Jester King Brewery
13187 Fitzhugh Road. 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. jesterkingbrewery.com.
A veritable Hill Country paradise, Jester King Brewery serves up wild ales that are often a reflection of the land around the brewery outside Dripping Springs. As a result, many of Jester King’s trademark beers — such as the beloved raspberry-forward Atrial Rubicite — are funky, tart and wonderful for the crowds who make Saturday at the brewery a busy time indeed. The neighboring Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza times its hours with Jester King so that people drinking the beer don’t have to leave to get food.
More to come
Coming in December is the brewery that may well give Dripping Springs international attention — Family Business Beer Co., co-owned by “Supernatural” star Jensen Ackles and his family members. The eight-acre destination at 19510 Hamilton Pool Road plans to be a family-friendly brewery and tasting room with live music, outdoor games and food trucks.
DINING IN DRIPPING
Some of Dripping Springs’ best boozy spots don’t also offer food, but not to worry — you don’t have to pack a picnic. Here are some worthy restaurants in the Hill Country to check out before or after you visit your drinking destination.
Proof & Cooper, 18710 Hamilton Pool Road. proofandcooper.com.This eatery just north of Dripping Springs with a strong bar program — thanks to the owners, who also own Kitty Cohen’s in East Austin and the Blackheart on Rainey Street — features home-style classics like fried pickles, deviled eggs and fried chicken. The hospitality alone is reason enough to visit.
Rolling in Thyme & Dough, 333 W. U.S. 290, Dripping Springs. thymeanddough.com. This clapboard cottage not far from Mercer Street isn’t for late-night crowds, but if you’re out and about during the day, you’ll be well-rewarded with freshly baked goods. The bakery and cafe has pastries in the morning and sandwiches and cakes in the afternoon.
Crepe Crazy, 660B W. U.S. 290, Dripping Springs. crepecrazy.com. There are both sweet and savory crepes here — you know, that wondrous European tradition of stuffing all manner of ingredients into very thin pastries. Crepe Crazy was started by a deaf couple who found that food is a universal language.
Pieous, 12005 U.S. 290. facebook.com/Pieous. Recently relocated along the road to Dripping Springs, this popular, family-friendly joint specializes in solid Neapolitan-style pizza and to-die-for pastrami. Given how well-trafficked Pieous can get, it’s best to choose it as a lunch spot rather than a dinner place, lest the kitchen runs out of pizza.
Greater Goods Coffee Roasters, 160 McGregor Lane, Dripping Springs. greatergoodsroasting.com. Need a pick-me-up? The homey tasting room of Greater Goods Coffee Roasters — which focuses on philanthropy by donating a portion of the proceeds from each bag of coffee sold to local nonprofits — has coffee, tea and pastries. Soon, additional locations of the cafe will open in Austin proper.