Several days spent in the Texas Hill Country invariably led to hikes & beers. Hill country is what the Texans call the area of central Texas between Austin, San Antonio, and Fredericksburg. There are plenty of limestone hills covered with dwarf forests of live oak and juniper and there are lots of small breweries dotted between them. Hikes are somewhat limited by the land ownership patterns (largely private with seemingly little thought given to pedestrian amenities) and the prevailing car culture of the area. There aren’t many pleasant opportunities to visit multiple breweries except by driving between them.
The rapid growth of Austin and San Antonio has spilled out into this once-rural setting and there are now sprawling housing developments and ranchette developments filling in along the country roads and highways. The roads tend to be somewhat congested everywhere you turn.
The cultural history of Texas Hill Country was more interesting to me than the growth patterns to be sure. Many of the older towns in the area have worked to sustain their heritage as German immigrant outposts. In the 1840’s a bunch of rich guys in Mainz, Germany called the “Mainzer Adelsverein” (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas) had the idea to buy up land and negotiate for land grants in this part of Texas. They then organized the immigration of families and individuals to found and populate a series of colonies throughout the area. By the 1870’s, more than half of the population in the area was German immigrants and their offspring. Subcultures developed between the colonies, usually based on religious interests (Methodists vs. Lutheran-Catholics vs. Freethinkers).
The result is an area with a strong identification with German cultural influences while at the same time exhibiting a fusion of Spanish, Mexican, and German influences in cuisine, music, architecture, and yes – beer. The Germans brought accordions and a love for beer and thankfully those things and other traditions have survived the onslaught of growth in recent decades. Part of the reason that the area wasn’t absorbed and assimilated into the general Texan culture was the German’s abhorrence of slavery. The people of the area opposed Texas’ secession from the USA at the time of the Civil War.
The Texas Hill Country region is also the epicenter of Texas’ wine industry. There appear to be more wineries in the area than breweries and there is a stretch of Highway 290 east of Fredericksburg that is lined with wineries and tasting rooms. It is a congested stretch of road on weekends to be sure.
Searching for an interesting hike led us to Pedernales Falls State Park. The park is located inside a bend of the Pedernales River where a series of short drops over huge limestone slabs form a series of small waterfalls and deep catchments. The route we chose started on a high bluff overlooking the falls, descended to and followed the river, then climbed back through scrubby forest to complete the loop.
Beers & Such
My visit to the area was to attend an annual beer blogger meeting being held outside of Austin at Vista Brewing, a small brewery on a ranchette near the decreasingly-rural intersection called Driftwood. Vista occupies 21 acres of what used to be Texas legend William Travis’ ranch (remember the Alamo?). Vista has positioned itself as a “destination brewery” and they have done a beautiful job of integrating their complex into the natural landscape. Grassy meadows are situated beneath big shade trees and there are a garden and apiary that provide vegetables, herbs, and honey to the kitchen. Future plans include tiny house brewery cabins for overnight stays, an expanded garden & orchard, and an expanded farm-to-table restaurant. Vista already hosts both public and private events and its vision of a destination brewery is intriguing.
For the blogger meeting, several other area breweries brought their beer to Vista for us to try so I did not get to visit many of them – I have included their locations on the Google map at the top of the story and links at the bottom of the story. The captions with the following pictures will tell the story of some other breweries and interesting places visited during this trip to the Texas Hill Country.
Related stories on Prime Passages: Beery Austin – German Tradition in the Lone Star State – Out in Luckenbach Texas, There Ain’t Nobody Feelin’ No Pain – Texas Six Pack – other Texas stories
Breweries visited and beers sampled for this story: Vista Brewing – 5 Stones Brewing – Ghost Note Brewing – Twisted X Brewing – Acopon Brewing – 12 Fox Beer Company – Fitzhugh Brewing – Jester King – Family Business Beer Company – Altstadt Brewery – Bear King Brewing – Lakewood Brewing – Texas Beer Company