I love living in New York City. I love walking everywhere. Eating alone wherever I want without a second glance. I love that something is always happening. But, I do relish my yearly visits to Texas to see family.
They usually happen in the winter, when the weather is chilly, but not all that cold. The softly sloping “hill country” landscape is covered with crunchy brownish grass instead of it’s typical green splendor. But it’s still beautiful. And the thing about Texas is every Texan knows it’s beautiful. They love them some Texas, whether the landscape, the food, the history, or the sports teams.
This love for land and homeland is felt from the very first sip of Roughhouse Brewing’s Farmhouse IPA until the bottom of the tulip-shaped glass. The flavor is grassy like the scene outside the window, with a less-than-subtle punch of spicy phenolics to remind you you’re drinking something from the wilds of Texas. It tastes both rustic and refined. Like the charming ranch cottages arranged around small towns outside of Austin, styled to embrace country living while clearly meticulously kept by a housekeeper.
That’s because Roughhouse is a bit of both, some ingredients are sourced from the ranch the brewery sits on and each beer is finished in large gleaming (and likely quite pricey) white oak foeders. For just over a year, Roughhouse has been churning out stunning farmhouse ales in San Marcos, Texas a little under an hour outside of Austin.
Notes of farmstead in all of the brews come from a house culture (more tame but not totally dissimilar to Jester King’s, a distant neighbor) and water that is sourced from a well on site. Seasonal releases include ingredients foraged from the property like calendula flowers and local Texas honey. Flavor profiles lean heavily on the herbal, woody, and floral; a pleasant departure from the outside world dominated by pastry and tropical juice notes. It’s clear they’re brewed purposefully by an experienced team because the wild never gets too wild and the profiles remain satisfyingly clean and drinkable. (The team includes a former Blue Owl Brewing brewer and a mechanical engineer.)
The setting pairs perfectly with the drink. A dilapidated pick up truck emblazoned with the brewery logo acts as a billboard in front of the building. The truck bed is stuffed with cacti and succulents another subtle reminder of where you are. A polished farmhouse with a first floor bar and a lofted space overlooking the signature oak foeders (as well as the rest of the brewing equipment). The main building is flanked by a large outdoor space speckled with picnic tables and wooden seating. I wouldn\’t be surprised if they were built by the brewery staff or a Texas artisan. A stage is set as a focal point, where local bands or old movies play for family entertainment. Behind the stage the live oak trees and cacti are clustered more closely and one can only assume the expanse of the 50 acre ranch lies beyond that.
Suffice it to say, I’m a fan. This brewery is everything I love about Texas, it’s warm and familial. It’s not afraid of the land, the wild, or being unapologetically itself. It shines with a casual confidence that comes from knowing everything is very much planned for and under control.
I can’t wait to go back next year and see how this family-run brewery has grown. (I also want to try the food, a new addition since my visit and any charcuterie board that features sliced brisket is a no-brainer on my “must try” list.)
Favorites on the beer list during my visit:
Of course I fell in love with a brewery making a dark saison. This one is a bit like a wild ale meets a porter with clear English malt impact coming across as roast figs and toasty graham cracker accented by fruity esters with a touch of that signature yeast peppery spice and the smallest whiff of farmhouse funk. This one is worth the drive!!
Biere De Oakwood
A biere de garde collaboration with Middleton Brewing right down the street. This one had strong toasty malt flavors like wheat bread crust and light caramel with subtle notes of yeast derived allspice and pepper.
Love to see a 3.3% beer especially at a brewery you’ll likely need to drive to. The body of a pilsner with water cracker and a touch of brioche complemented by the yeasty aroma of barnyard funk and freshly ground spices.
This seems to be the brewery’s signature, perhaps popular simply by being dubbed “IPA.” It’s grassy and floral profile is enjoyable but the yeast doesn’t shine like it does in other brews. Certainly well done and unique. I did buy a print of the art for this one.