Austin, Texas may be best known for its music scene and varying oddities, but the city that prides itself in melodies and weirdness is also fast becoming a premiere beer city. Austin leads the state of Texas in number of breweries/brewpubs- a statistic even more impressive when you consider that there are four Texas cities with more people. And one of its newer operations is Thirsty Planet Brewing, a company close to reaching its third full year of operations. Here is some background information on this brewing establishment:
Brewery Address: 11160 Circle Dr., Austin, TX
Owners: Brian and Tammy Smittle
Brewer: Jake Maddux
Tours: Saturday, 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Annual Beers Offered:
- Yellow Armadillo Wheat
- Thirsty Goat Amber
- Buckethead IPA
- Silverback Pale Ale
- Imperial Smoked Porter
- Thirsty Goat Amber with Chipotle
And many others, depending on the season
Thirsty Planet Brewing has been around since the summer of 2010 when owners/founders Brian and Tammy Smittle decided they wanted to open a brewery of their own and selected the city of Austin as the location for their dream occupation. The Smittle’s had a previous business partnership in some Oklahoma brewpubs, but they longed to take off the aprons for good and focus only on the beer. Their dream became reality when Thirsty Planet opened its doors in 2010, introducing the city of Austin to a brewery with heart and conscious. Thirsty Planet takes great pride in its products, but it also a steward of the Earth and local community. The brewery uses excess water headed for the sewage system for its own irrigation purposes and it gives a portion of beer sales to worthy charities.
A visit to Thirsty Planet Brewing takes only a couple of hours and the education and beer are easily worth the time investment. I visited for the first time in December, 2012, both to take part in a tour of the 10,000 square foot facility and to sample some beer. Brewer Jake Maddux presented the tour and it was apparent to all that Jake is not only highly knowledgeable about beer, but he also loves what he does for a living. As Jake so eloquently stated during the tour, beer is a great social lubricator; a beverage that brings people together and makes an already pleasant situation better and more memorable. He is a passionate brewer, and his love of the craft comes through in his personality and in the malt beverages creations he brews and serves.
Thirsty Planet Brewing is much like other breweries in terms of layout, but it does offer a few surprises. One welcome surprise is the large parking lot. I have visited many breweries over the years that lacked sufficient parking, forcing guests to park on the street or otherwise find a nearby place to park and then walk to the establishment. Another pleasant surprise is the outdoor patio- it makes for a nice escape from the noisy interior and, I am told, serves as a setting for the live bands featured on some of the tours. I also like the seating on the inside where five long tables with eight barstools each are ready to assist those in need of a break from standing. This may not sound like many seats, but you would be surprised at the number of breweries with far fewer places to sit.
Tours at Thirsty Planet Brewing are offered on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Those who would like to tour can logon to the web site, click “Tours”, and then select a date and time. The system will then reserve a place for you and the members of your immediate party and will present tickets for printing. The cost of the tour is free and includes a small glass and three samples. The sample glass, however, is quite small and most will opt for the alternative option: $7 for a pint glass and three fills. You get to keep the pint glass, so the deal is certainly a good one. Keep in mind that kids are welcome at the event, but you do not need to reserve a place for them. Reservations are only needed for adults age 21 and older.
Thirsty Planet Brewing doesn't sell any food of its own, but it is common to find a food truck outside, selling a little something to help satisfy those hunger pangs that often grow stronger as you consume beer. The food trucks are switched out frequently so that guests partaking in a tour can enjoy different foods each time they visit. Volunteers help check each person in, at the door, and help serve the beer. There are enough taps flowing at any given time that the wait in line is very, very short and shouldn't bother anyone.
Thirsty Planet Brewing brews the three annual beers mentioned above plus specialty and seasonal products. These special beers are brewed in small batches and are difficult to find. When I visited, I was advised that some of these specialty products will likely not be around to visitors in a few weeks. This may disappoint some who pay a visit, discover a beer they really like, and then realize they cannot try it again. On the other hand, the frequent rotation of these specialty products is great for those who like to sample new beer. Each visit to Thirsty Planet Brewing is thus an adventure, because you never really know what beer the taps may hold.
The Texas beer scene is certainly on the upswing as of late and Austin is arguably leading the way and making a name for itself as a destination beer city. Thirsty Planet Brewing is a company helping to facilitate Austin’s emergence as a great beer city. It is a company on the move, with its products sold in taverns and restaurants in the Austin area and with plans to bottle its beer very shortly.
Stop by on a Saturday the next time you travel to Austin and pay Thirsty Planet Brewing a visit. Comfortable surroundings, friendly and dedicated staff, and some fine craft beer await everyone at this west Austin craft beer establishment.
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