Fredericksburg, Texas, is known as wine country, but rest assured, the town also has some of the coolest bars around. From a favourite haunt of Waylon and Willie to a Texas-style beer hall that brews beer according to German purity laws, the suds set won’t feel left out while companions are tippling at tasting rooms in town, or at any of the countless (well 55 or so) wineries in the region and along the wine trail on route Hwy. 290.
I had the opportunity to do both during a recent visit to the under-the-radar town, which is located in central Texas approximately half-way between Austin and San Antonio in the heart of Texas Hill Country.
As Fredericksburg’s wine culture is more widely known, and touched on in a previous article, I’ll focus on some of the town’s beer bona fides here.
Originally settled by immigrants from Germany in 1846 (and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia), Fredericksburg’s vibrant beer culture comes as no surprise. In fact, the European town’s heritage is on full display in a plethora of German-style restaurants, beer gardens and breweries.
Fredericksburg Brewing Company
Foremost among them is the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, which presides over the town’s historic Main Street in a restored 1890s building with the claim of being the “oldest and most acclaimed brewpub in Texas.”
Compared to Europe, “old” is a relative term in the new world and FBC marks its establishment from 1994 as the first licensed brew pub in the state.
Today it produces six to eight beers seasonally with names like Not So Dumb Lager, Enchanted Red Ale, Honey Cream Ale, and Pioneer Porter, as well as “El Hefe” a Hefewiezen (wheat beer) true to town’s Germany heritage.
Guests can watch brewers like Kris Dixon at work, while enjoying a drink, and chowing on down on southern favourites like catfish, tacos and ribeyes, or German fare such as sausages, pork chops and schnitzel. (There is also classic pub fare like pizza, nachos, and wings).
Passersby can pop into a street-front “tap room” bar for beer to go, or venture into a larger establishment with its own brewing vats on display and a German-style beer hall and ‘biergarten’ in back. There are even 12 “Bed & Brew” rooms for rent in the style of a German gasthaus (inn), prompting the pub to declare itself “The perfect adult retreat… Instead of breakfast, we have beer!”
Dixon says the brewery – the only one on Main St. – is a popular respite from shopping in the historic district, and for husbands to hang out while wives carry on in the shops. The establishment is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Meanwhile, Altstadt Brewery, opened more recently in 2018, is an authentic Bavarian brewery whose mission is to create “the purest, easy-drinking beers guided by the historic German purity law of 1516” and overseen by a German brewmaster.
Award-winning beers brewed onsite range from German white (wheat) to black (malt) beers, a light beer, and a bock, and even Bamberg-style “smoked beer.”
The “old world”-style brewery is located about 10 minutes from town on a 50-hectare estate (at 6120 East US290 on the way to the wineries) and includes a fine dining restaurant, speak-easy cellar, patio, and beer hall. Tours ($20) are conducted on Thursdays and Fridays on a first-come-first-served basis and limited to 20 guests (reservations required for groups of 10 or more).
Aldstadt is open Wednesday to Saturdays from noon, closing at 8 Wed. and Thurs., and 9 on Fri. and Sat. Sundays are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Mon.-Tues.).
And there’s Luckenbach. Described as “its own little city” – population 3 – the destination is a historic “ghost town” come music-bar venue located about 20 km southeast Fredericksburg.
With wandering chickens, horseshoe pit, fishing holes, post office, general store/gift shop, a single food truck (serving a renowned pulled pork sandwich), dancehall (can you say line dancing?) and multiple stages offering live music 364 days a year – occasionally including notable names like Robert Earl Keen – the unique venue is a family-friendly attraction for locals and visitors alike.
Said to be Willie Nelson’s “favourite place in the world,” Luckenbach also gained fame in the Waylon Jennings hit “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love),” which included vocals by Nelson, and really hit the big time (kidding) when it was covered in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.
Less about the type of beer served than its quirky gathering place vibe (open after 5 and always “packed”), Luckenbach thrives as unique Texas destination and local institution. “This,” one patron enthused, “is about as real as it gets.”
With a nod to its burgeoning beer culture, Fredericksburg hosted its first craft beer festival in the town square in June with the participation of 16 local brewing companies. Local officials expect a follow-up event to take place next year.
With glass purposefully in hand, we at Travel Industry Today continue our series on some of the planet’s best bars, patios and rooftop venues. For more articles in the series, click here:
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First published at Travel Industry Today
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