Zilker Taproom Notes
East 6th street is changing…fast. Too fast, and not for the better, some would argue. It’s hard to deny that some of the divey, grunge-y personality is being syphoned out of the neighborhood, one Dallas-style apartment building at a time. That may be a drag for the after-dark scene on E 6th, but for remote workers there are a ton of killer places to post up and get that bread.
Cue Zilker Brewing Co., a staple of the East Austin brew scene since April 2015. Zilker’s taproom concept is simple and impactful: provide a social space for friends and family that showcases the brewing process itself. The excellent range of beers to be sampled are reason enough to stop by, but the locale and architecture and featured Austinite artwork make it a seriously cool hangout spot. How does it hold up if you want to enjoy the taproom experience while clearing some items from your work log?
There’s plenty to rave about at Zilker, so let’s get the downside out of the way. Their taproom is on East 6th – across from Liberty and Grackle – an area that sees a ton of foot, cyclist, and vehicle traffic. Parking sucks, and the place is mobbed almost as soon as the doors open. That’s amazing for the brewery! And it makes for a good-vibe after-hours gathering place! But consider yourself warned if you expect fast service and a lower level of noise/socializing.
If you’re un-phased by the noise and general bustle, you’ll find a ton of different places to post-up with your laptop. Within the first our of opening, the counter is the best place to be. You’re a hand-raise away from a fresh pour, and you can catch the brewers at their craft. Once the place starts filling up, though, the counter becomes ringed with patrons jostling for beer, and you’ll be better off at one of the long tables, bar-tops, or outdoor picnic tables. No matter where you settle in, you’ll be treated to very acceptable Wi-Fi speeds (39.03mbps down, 14.12 down, and 1ms ping) courtesy of Zilker’s new-ish free network. Look for SSID Zilker_Public_WiFi … password is BEERME!! Yes, please!
Speaking of beer, Zilker Brewing Co. makes some, and it’s mostly exceptional. You can find their Mainstay offerings in cans all over town, the best of which is Marco IPA…you can’t miss what might be the best can design in Austin, with its bright southwestern/Navajo-inspired pattern, filled with delicious American IPA. The taproom draught board goes well beyond the usual suspects, and includes a rotation of well-executed seasonal brews for all tastes. From the funky (like the Chaos Magic blackberry kettle sour) to the traditional (like English Pub Ale Cheeky Bugger), you’ll find consistent quality in everything the Zilker crew produces. On the Friday I visited, the mood was hops…fresh harvest pales only happen once a year, after all…so I opted for the Phresh Hop Heavenly Daze. To be honest, I can count on one hand the Austin-area brewers that do the IPA category justice, and Zilker is one of the first that comes to mind. This particular hop bomb was sweet, floral, and not obnoxiously hazy. True to Zilker form, the malts rounded the palate off nicely, with no residual bitterness. After cleaning up the meeting agenda I was finalizing, my taste buds wanted a cleaner-drinking brew…and the Fiero Kolsch was a hell of a selection. All I ask for in a lager is “clean and clear”: the sweet, crisp, honey finish on the Fiero was the perfect closer.
Zilker Brewing Co. is one of my favorite craft purveyors in Austin. If this was a site dedicated solely to craft beer, my recommendation would be unflinchingly positive. For folks who need to get shit done while enjoying great local beer, however, there are better taprooms in the area. Great Wi-Fi and outstanding beer make for a potent combo, but only if you have the patience for a crowd and the associated noise.