The Austin FC Issue – Hit Brewery Row to Choose Your Own Austin FC Home Match Beer Adventure: How to get a little matchy-matchy with the city’s first top-tier sports club and its many superb beer options – Features

The Austin Chronicle’s Five-8 Brew tour, 2019 (Photo by John Anderson)

Sure, you can get hyped about seeing your hometown represented on the small screen in distant luxury dumpster Los Angeles, or in the junior-barbecue whistle-stop of Kansas City, but when the city’s first top-tier sports club finally debuts in North Austin mid-June, supporters will demand a prematch spot that will heed the gravity of Austin FC’s first clash on home soil. And while the club itself is still finding its legs athletically, Austin’s own Brewery Row is tasked with tracking back to cover the club’s superbly energized fan base with a bit of the ol’ liquid courage.

Fortunately for us, there will be plenty of beery opportunities to keep the 20,500 Verde-clad scoundrels hydrated well into the evening kickoff, along with the anticipated hordes of ticketless stragglers who will still want to converge into the district just to soak up the football vibes adjacent to Q2 Stadium itself. Yes, perhaps the passion will be a bit more muted than inside the arena, but only just! The scene all over Brewery Row is expected to be exciting and festive, and who else but the Austin Chronicle footy and beer knowers to guide you through it?


Getting There

The mobility plan released by Austin FC in coordination with the city of Austin, CapMetro, and other maneuverability hotshots around town recently informed the public what we long knew: Parking. Will. Be. Scarce. Unless you scoffed at the stimmy money last year, probably consider taking public transportation. The good news is that, in this typically antiquated mass transit city, there are a surprising number of ways to access the area by bus, bike, rideshare, and (gasp!) TRAIN! So, instead of circling the surface streets for a miracle then tailgating behind your Kia Soul ALL ALONE, hop the Red Line (running “10am to two hours post-match”) from your own access point right into the Kramer stop (McKalla station coming soon!). Heck, if you’re coming from Downtown, there are three more breweries along the way into Brewery Row – Zilker, the Brewtorium, and Black Star Co-op – in which to meet the goal of getting shitfaced and yelling at soccer people rolling on the pitch in despair. The MetroRapid 803 plans on letting off at Q2’s north (Zebra) gate every eight minutes, and there will be a free bicycle valet system on the east side of the stadium. (See more in the Chronicle’s Q2 transportation guide.)


Pregame: Brewery Row

Brewery Row, you say? We at the Chronicle summer on Brewery Row. Maybe you’ve heard of our “Five-8 Brew Tour,” a seven-brewery-and-one-cidery rager set in the Before Times. Well, in this post-dystopian city, Austin FC is gonna throw this jam practically every weekend! Those are the benefits of plopping a top-shelf professional football team right in the heart of an old, abandoned toxic waste dump in the middle of the least expensive deserted-warehouse-looking real estate in town. Go us!


Stadium North

The north end breweries appear to be the closest to the stadium based on this guy’s quick beer math (looking at the stadium from the taprooms and seeing that big bastard). They’re also conveniently located between the Kramer Station and Q2, which makes for maximum imbibing with minimum effort, a ratio we’re always striving for. Both Circle and Hopsquad host the two largest supporters’ groups for Austin FC – Austin Anthem and Los Verdes, respectively. So plan to get rowdy.

Circle Brewing (Photo by John Anderson)

Circle Brewing

circlebrewing.com

Circle has been dutifully awaiting June 19 for nearly three years since a deal was struck to house the city’s new MLS team at an unlikely spot, McKalla Place, a corner kick away from where the brewery currently stands. Circle had all but packed up their shit, ready to abscond to the megalopolis of Elgin to reinvent itself as a farmhouse brewery, but this one weird trick kept them in place: the idea of being in the footpath of thousands upon thousands of consistent revelers waiting to get heavily buzzed up. And while the countryside brewery is still in planning, the current version of Circle remains a nifty little brewery pumping out starlets like Blur Texas Hefe, Fanny Pack Kolsch, and personal spark plug, Austin Anthem Ale, a blonde ale made in collaboration with, um, Austin Anthem that hits at the perfect 4.8% ABV.

Circle has remodeled the taproom into an L-shaped bar, which makes watching their indoor flatscreen way more convenient and open to viewership from the indoor picnic tables. The brewery has every intention of throwing a bash for each of ATXFC’s match days, committing to a festival vibe pregame, postgame, and during the live games. Circle notes that they will have an “outdoor screen on opening day for sure,” with a hope of having it for all home matches as well. Audio is a given. On June 19, Circle will feature up to four food trucks, including barbecue VIPs LeRoy & Lewis, as well as prematch bands and local Lonestar Soccer Club doing mini-clinics for the li’l Lavelles and Mbappés in attendance.

Austin Chronicle’s Pregame Recommendation: Austin Anthem American Blonde Ale (4.8% ABV)

An Austin FC watch party at Hopsquad (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Hopsquad

hopsquad.com

Whoa! Hopsquad got hot over quarantine! Like, all their lagers smack and they went and got a supporters’ group to call their own and made all this cool can art … and! and!

The Romário to Circle’s Bebeto, Hopsquad is a true contributor to the Austin beer scene, and to Brewery Row specifically. The brewery demonstrates a real focus on the beautiful game, projecting important English Premier and Champions League matches on weekend mornings and MLS contests after those, lending to a truly organic football vibe that eventually leads to Los Verdes happily losing their shit on match days as the brass and percussion band La Murga de Austin gooses the crowd into a wild cacophony of cheers and chants. And that’s just pregame!

Like Circle, Hopsquad intends to throw a game day fiesta each week with strategically placed viewing screens (with sound) and their own collaborative beer with their supporters’ group, Zapatista Mexican Lager. On match days, Hopsquad mentions that they will have extra food trucks and live music.

AC Pregame Rec: Architetto Ruffini Italian Pilsner (4.9%)


Stadium East

The district’s east end drinkeries include a fabled industry giant, a relatively unseen non-beer treasure, and an underrated heavyweight challenger. Quite a motley crew of boozing hot spots, but also the way a proper Brewery Row should look: varietal.

4th Tap

4thtap.coop

4th Tap’s point is well made: Be the style outlier to Everybrewery Beer Co.’s mainstay lineup. They succeed at it not only by successfully creating uncommon recipes but by making those little brewing oddities taste very, very good. But by the same rationale, 4th Tap risks becoming a second-choice destination for Brewery Rowers because of their unfamiliar beer styles. Integrating with Austin FC supporters on match day should bring the brewery a much-deserved fresh batch of risk-takers who can appreciate 4th Tap’s imagination; after all, these are fans of the most creatively played game on the planet.

Like fellow northsiders, 4th Tap intends to fully celebrate opening game day with screens indoors and out, tents for that leering sun, and full sound to boot. The brewery notes that they “will be releasing a new beer each day starting Wednesday (6/16) of that week and [have] live music Friday & Saturday night after the game.” The brewery’s customary food truck, SXSE Food Co., will open early and stay open late to accommodate postgamers. How early and how late? On June 19, 4th Tap says they will be opening at 10am and be one of the few spots staying open past midnight. By gawd! That’s MetroRail’s music! Plan your Uber accordingly.

AC Pregame Rec: Sound Check Crispy Boy Light Ale (4.5%)

Fairweather Cider Co.

fairweathercider.com

If you’re feeling cheeky pregame, get on with some cider from the best apple-smashers in town, in this old bloke’s opinion. Hidden away in a single-story warehouse endcap that utilizes only three dedicated parking spaces is Fairweather, a place that just isn’t fuckin’ around with that cloying-ass sweet cider, but instead throwing massive creative weight into tasty, dry baddies like Cydersport (with grapefruit and electrolytes!) and Day Drink English-style cider.

Fairweather intends to show Austin FC matches on their indoor projector with audio for revelers who choose to park it in their inexplicably airy taproom. There is a plan to “run specials on Cydersport,” according to the cidery, as well as have “special frozen drink options.” As a bonus, the cidery reports that they will “make a wide variety of sport-themed beverages such as ‘POWERFADE’ which is an ongoing series of sports-beverage-themed frozen cocktails.” Fairweather also mentions goin’ Verde with one of their slushies.

The cidery rooms with coffee roaster powerhouse Spokesman, which hosts a small counter in the taproom but doesn’t plan to feature during late games “unless the demand is overwhelming.” Boozing combined with sports and the possibility of a coffee nightcap? That’s just the type of lineup we’re into.

AC Pregame Rec: Cydersport x 6 (4.5%)

Oskar Blues

oskarblues.com

There was a time when we were living in a 750ml pastry stout economy, but thankfully those days are long gone and we can get back to enjoying a ploughman’s Pilsner in a crushable aluminum can the way Oskar Blues intended at least two centuries ago or whatever. Here in 2021, Oskar Blues is ready to dazzle their patrons with old-skool core beers and big-screen action for the upcoming Austin FC home season. As a bonus, the brewery explains that they will be debuting a rotational Verde SMaSH IPA series, which of course in the beer world stands for “single malt and single hop,” and in the soccer world is exactly how San Jose can expect to walk out of our town. On non-FC match days (read: U.S. national teams) Oskar Blues is home to the American Outlaws, a USA supporters’ group, so there is a bit of soccer history already thriving there.

OB notes that Austin FC match days will feature live music, DJs, food trucks, and, of course, the live match in their 200-plus-seater taproom along with audio on their indoor big screen and two smaller screens. They also are confident in mentioning the size of their parking lot (“We have one of the largest parking lots in the area, no need to worry about finding parking”) as well as boasting about their chilly HVAC. If you’ve ever spent more than 11 seconds in any brewery taproom, you’ll understand. Wink.

AC Pregame Rec: Oskar’s Lager Pale Lager (4.2%)


Stadium South

Brewery Row’s south end presents a cool stadium hack: the low-key easiest entrance into Q2, right up McKalla and into the southwest gate behind the supporters’ stands. To our very trained eyes, combined with extensive drinking-while-walking expertise, we estimate the stroll to be about a one-beer march to the entrance as you’re tossing an empty into the recycling bin. Anyway, before that, you should look at extending your pregaming by visiting these breweries.

Celis

celisbeers.com

Given the best beermakers on Earth are also masters of world-class football, a brewery steeped in Belgian culture is bound to respect the beautiful game and all of its enduring traditions. Celis steps up to the mark with its triumphant witbier, Celis White – nothing if not a beer bathed in accolades and deep-rooted tradition. But stepping away from its showpiece is Celis’ slate of newer bangers like Dubbel Coffee Porter and Lime Berliner Weisse.

Celis plans to host an outdoor screen with game sound and will be “mostly closing [their] main parking lot for viewing.” Local drumline Austin Drumline Collective will perform throughout. The brewery will post an additional outdoor mobile bar for easier boozing access (and verde beer) while Salty Cargo, one of Celis’ food trucks, will be staging a “pre-match Luau with Caja China style pig roast.” Backdraft will still be slanging pizzas, and altogether the Celis scene will be a “block party atmosphere.” Oh, and the realest ATXFC fans will be taking part in Celis’ “verde” beer special, which is Spanish for green beer.

AC Pregame Rec: Celis White (4.9%)

Adelbert’s

adelbertsbeer.com

Adelbert’s is not only the brewery geographically closest to the grounds of Q2, but also the one that allows for the most leisurely walk up sleepy side street McKalla Place, the address where all this fuss began three years ago. Adelbert’s has been a consistent presence in the Austin beer scene and has demonstrated staying power amongst perhaps flashier breweries. But Adelbert’s is still making consistent and delicious beers, which is why you should consider all that they have to offer the pregame Austin FC scene, too: family-friendly, chill vibes, according to the brewery.

“We are moving away from large scale, loud, and lavish events,” notes the brewery, “[and] focusing more on a relaxing [atmosphere].” Per Adelbert’s the brewery will “be more focused on enjoying time with friends and family before and during the game.” The brewery intends to play the game with audio in their taproom as per their typical setup of multiple wall-mounted TVs and large projector screen. A new game-watching setup will see their large packing area converted into a theatre for additional viewing space, and tents with tables will be set up outside for those who prefer to just listen to the match like a 109-year-old Italian man. Like everyone else in the area, they intend to broadcast the match on a large-format screen outdoors, but whoever owns all the giant LCD screens in Austin probably is either fresh out of giant LCD screens or fucks while they count all their Austin FC match day cash like a skinny-mustache cartoon villain. Anyway, one of the cooler plans of Adelbert’s is to broadcast each game in Spanish (when available) to give another language option to those coming to the area: “Not just for the June 19th game, but for all future games.”

Adelbert’s is setting up additional bars around the brewery and will feature a special on its Mexican lager ¡Dale!, and is releasing a special taproom-only collaboration beer. The brewery says, “Ultimately, we are not looking to compete for the best party on the block. In fact quite the opposite, we plan to offer a relaxing and family friendly environment. Whether a local just looking for a nice Saturday out or an FC fan waiting for the stadium to open, we want people to have an option of enjoying a chill venue with a nice beer, mead, seltzer, or wine.”

AC Pregame Rec: ¡Dale! Mexican Lager (4.4%)


Stadium West

We’ll call this the west side for the purposes of spherical symmetry, but also because its lone brewery, Austin Beerworks, often stands alone with its innovative grandeur. But that’s not to say that we’re unready for Rock Rose’s first bro-style brewery. Imagine the innuendo with beer names!

Austin Beerworks (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Austin Beerworks

austinbeerworks.com

Sure, Austin Beerworks is the farthest brewery from your chair back, but they are determined to make it worth your time. Recently, the 10-year-old brewery paired with Austin Anthem and their beer label besties, Helm Workshop, to release 17 uniquely designed cans commemorating each of Austin FC’s inaugural home matches. As the brewery put it, “Finally having a home team to support was super infectious and we went a little overboard.” Oh, you don’t say. Austin Beerworks almost never goes overboard on a passion project.

But ABW doesn’t stop there with their blossoming admiration for footy: “We’re working on converting the OG side [former 10-year-old taproom] into a match day party space,” says the formerly screen-free beer palace. “We’ll have several TVs on that side, indoors and outdoors, where we’ll show all the games.” They’ve dubbed the new section – what else? – the Verde Room.

AC Pregame Rec: Tropical Einhorn Tart Wheat Beer (3.5%)


Stadium March

The traditional “march to the match” is exactly how it sounds: a smoldering mass of fanatical – often tipsy – enthusiasts chanting about the mothers of opposing players as the herd makes its gleeful way to the stadium. Like a rattlesnake, the head of the beast tends to be more raucous in spirit, while the tail end is simply a warning call better suited for small children. Nonetheless, the practice of an impromptu supporters’ parade into the arena is a great way to batten down the nerves with some call-and-response cheers between sips of your “walkie” beer.

Worth noting: The area around Q2 Stadium does not fall into any of the six non-public consumption zones held within Austin.

Each brewery in Brewery Row will sell canned fermented beverages to go, including canned cider from Fairweather. But some breweries will make it more convenient to grab and go, like Circle and Hopsquad, who plan to have dedicated to-go tents and are also the sites where the official supporters’ groups of Austin FC, Austin Anthem and Los Verdes, will meet to march as one. Based on the spectacles of the first half-dozen games, we expect that walk to be a bit of a spectacle: loud, boisterous, fun Mardi Gras with more verde. Nonmembers are free to jump into the march from these north end breweries.

The east end breweries present a bit more of a challenge for directly accessing Q2. The most obvious route is down Denton Drive, directly west of 4th Tap and Fairweather and around the block from Oskar Blues. But segregation from the breweries and Q2 might not come until the McKalla Red Line stop is eventually built. Until then, one of the breweries reports, “You can walk down Denton and then cut through a field where it ends to get onto Braker, which leads straight to the stadium. Not a bad walk at all.” Nothing like following a mass of people into a random field, an undead tradition like no other. Another brewery notes, “I don’t believe they have created a ped zone to access [Q2] from Denton but I do believe that is in their mobility plan.”

The south end breweries have our favorite access to Q2 up McKalla Place, making pregaming at Celis and Adelbert’s very convenient for the casual fan. Each brewery mentions that they will have take-away beer for the half-mile walk.

Austin Beerworks presents the longest march to the match – “about 20 minutes,” they estimate. When asked about to-go beers: “We do sell single cans to go, but we’re not gonna tell anyone what they should do with them.” Sounds like a code, and when ABW speaks in code we know they’ll do something bombastic. We’re thinking of early batches of “walkie” Sputnik, but don’t quote us.


Q2: Home of Austin FC

The taps in Q2 Stadium’s beer hall (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

You haven’t stopped singing for hours and you’re totally ready to make your way to your seat to lose your shit in a delirious chorus in what will likely be the most electric place to bin in all of the United States that day.

But first, a beer!

Q2 is not only home to your hometown FC, but to a north end beer hall that sits a few stories above the pitch and overlooks the stadium’s exterior parks. All ticket holders can access this 20-tap bar, which is debuting with a slew of the usual AB-Inbev beverages, but also a smattering of local brewing heroes like Thirsty Planet, Pinthouse Brewing, Circle, and 4th Tap. Austin Eastciders is the official cider brand of Austin FC and is featured prominently throughout Q2.

For those slightly offended by the lack of local draft options (we were!), the news gets much better via the concourses, the concessions, and the premier areas. Q2 will be selling Austin-based firecrackers like Austin Beerworks’ Pearl-Snap Pilsner, Zilker Brewing’s Parks & Rec Pale Ale, and Adelbert’s ¡Dale! Mexican Lager, to name a few, in cans.

And if all of that can’t get you excited about going to the match and helping our club bring home three points, well, maybe sailing is your sport.

Postgame

The only ever-lovin’ Wienerschnitzel in town. Right. Over. There!

Don’t sleep on those post-victory chili cheese dogs. Or your train home.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 18, 2021 with the headline: Getting a Little Matchy-Matchy




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