Beer is one of those things in life that seems to just bring people together. For beer brewers, this collective gets much smaller and more close-knit; members share tips and tricks for the art of brewing and have a sounding board for their triumphs (when a beer tastes great) and their not-so-proud moments (the moments after finding a beer unexpectedly exploded as it fermented). The club is ever-expanding as the craft beer scene grows, as are the types of beers that are being brewed and served within these upcoming breweries.
There are many little decisions that go into crafting each drink to beer perfection, which is why the experience and background of each brewer plays a huge part in how these beers will be created over the coming batches. Coming close to harboring a quarter of a century’s worth of knowledge in the brew scene, Owner and head Brewmaster at Thirsty Planet Brewing Company Brian Smittle is busy at work running the bustling brewhouse, which has been serving Austinites for 4 1/2 years. The beers are made in Austin, and sold exclusively in the Austin area, and all of the beer they make, they sell. We’re talking upwards of 1,200 kegs a month. Austin is quite the thirsty city!
“Footprint-wise, we’re only in three counties,” Brian states as we tour the taproom of the brewery. “We wanted to be a local brewery, so obviously Austin is in our own backyard and we don’t feel any reason to send the beer to Houston right now — what we can already supply in our own backyard.”
Brian’s background in business combined with his love for brewing had already brought him great success in Oklahoma with the opening of a brewpub and four restaurants in the area. Deciding to simplify the equation and focus mainly on the brewing aspect, he moved to Austin soon after and poured the slab for Thirsty Planet on his 40th birthday. It’s a gift to himself that just seems to keep on giving. Along with co-owner Mike Haiges and their trio of brewers, hoppy beers are crafted to perfection just around the corner from home.
Times have been fortunate at Thirsty Planet, with the business expanding, from 3 to 10 fermentation tanks and even a new bottling line on the horizon. Thirsty Goat Amber Ale is about to be sold in area stores around the turn of the year, which will bring the tastes of the taproom that closer to home.
But to get the best selection, take a drive out to Thirsty Planet Saturday afternoon for their open taproom and tours. When I visited, the taproom had a full eight beers on tap, several small batch limited edition releases that you can only find at the brewery. That is one reason their Saturday taproom is so popular, along with their ever-rotating collection of seasonal beers. And for the fans out there, you can find their mainstays — the Yellow Armadillo Texas Ale, Thirsty Goat Amber Ale and Buckethead IPA, on tap all of the time. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house, take a scenic drive through the colorful Hill Country, and learn a bit about beer in the process.
And each month, Brian chooses a different local charity to share the spotlight, with all tips going to benefit these various organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, House Rabbit Resource Network and the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund. Proceeds from Thirsty Planet’s Silverback Pale Ale, which is brewed in the latter months of the year, go to this fund, which helps protect endangered Mountain Gorillas in Africa. This focus on helping gives the brewery that community feel, and gives back a little in the process.
You can find their tasty brews on tap in the Lake Travis area at eateries such as Maudies Tex Mex, Little Woodrow’s and Alamo Drafthouse – Lakeline.
Thirsty Planet Brewing Company (map)
1160 Circle Dr
Austin, TX 78736
Brewery Tours at noon, 1 & 2 pm