The historic Mercer Street in Dripping Springs — still home to old buildings erected between 1870 and 1940 — is also the quaint, now well-trafficked block where several of Dripping Springs’ most notable watering holes are now located. There’s the Barber Shop, a beer bar named for a previous tenant of the wooden 1920s-era structure, and now a brewery just two doors down, too: Acopon Brewing.
Acopon celebrated its grand opening last weekend. The brewery’s arrival was, in some ways, a long time coming for its owners, John McIntosh and Dave Niemeyer, who also own the building where Acopon is housed. They run the Barber Shop, the first bar to open along Mercer in the once-sleepy town once the ban on alcoholic beverages was lifted more than a decade ago.
Although the Barber Shop previously doubled as a brewpub, with one house beer on tap at a time, McIntosh and Niemeyer decided to take out the tiny brewing system (the Barber Shop now has a panini-making kitchen in its place) and open Acopon instead. Multiple beers are on tap at a time.
“We used to brew at the Barber Shop on a really small scale, but we don’t own the building and just could never see building out the infrastructure for this. With this place, because we own it, we don’t have to worry that the landlord changed the fine print,” McIntosh said of their decision.
So far, it seems to be a good one. They get regular traffic from both locals in Dripping Springs who like having a brewery so close by and from tourists lured by the nearby wineries, breweries and distilleries, from sour-focused Jester King Brewery to the sprawling Treaty Oak Brewing & Distilling.
To differentiate Acopon from all the rest, McIntosh and Niemeyer have dived into a particular niche: brewing up English-style ales like Homunculus, a dark mild; Gaspipes, an English bitter; and Pesta, an oatmeal stout. Acopon Brewing also offers a cask ale poured from a cask engine at a warmer temperature and a gentler level of carbonation.
They’ve decided to emulate English ales in part because of McIntosh’s love for them, developed during his time in London while he was a University of Texas student broadening his horizons. To the Acopon brewers, English ales are balanced, low in alcohol — even Pesta is only 4.4 percent ABV — and not often made in the U.S.
“I think the market for English ales is underserved,” McIntosh said. “I would wager most people who homebrewed (and most people I’ve mentioned this to confirmed it), started with an English bitter, maybe a porter, and then they start brewing IPAs and never look back. I’m not hating IPAs, but I lived in the U.K. for awhile, and when you’re there, you order a pint of bitter, and it’s just an easy beer to drink.”
Of course, getting people to recognize that has required some education. Gaspipes, the English bitter, has been selling well, a surprise to both brewers because of its name. The beer, a historical style that came along before Americans got hold of IPAs and turned the bitterness levels way up, has some bitterness to it, but it finishes crisp and dry and easy.
“Some people see the word bitter, and they think it’s going to be hoppy. ‘Oh, no, I’m not going to try that,’” Niemeyer said.
The English-style ales like the bitter will always be on tap, along with some kind of cask beer. But there are also a handful of other styles available at Acopon that McIntosh and Niemeyer plan to rotate. Currently, these include Renfield, an American pale ale; Merrie-Go-Down, an American IPA; and Sunderboren, a kolsch.
Like the brewery itself, the beer names are all rather unusual — taken from the Old English dictionary, from Victorian England slang or from a character in English literature. Gaspipes, for example, was the Victorian word for ‘skinny pants’ (perhaps worn by the hipsters of old), and sunderboren was an Old English term meaning ‘born of disparate parents.’ (A kolsch is a hybrid between ales and lagers, so the word fits.)
As for the name Acopon?
“We were looking for a unique name that hadn’t been taken by a brewery already, and we got out the Old English dictionary and found Acopon,” McIntosh said. “It seemed to fit perfectly. It’s an elixir. It’s an Old English word for a health tonic or restorative. It has a nice sound to it, and it allows you to play with the idea of beer as something healthy, not just something you drink.”
OK, maybe beer isn’t exactly healthy, but it sure does make us feel better. To get some from Acopon, Austinites will likely have to go to the source: McIntosh and Niemeyer plan to distribute about as far as the Barber Shop two doors down. Acopon’s three and a half barrel brewing system produces enough to supply the visitors who stop in but not much more.
Acopon Brewing, a brewpub, also has wine, mead, cider and soft drinks, and people can order a panini from the Barber Shop and have it brought over. It’s open 3 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 12 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 12 to 5 p.m. Sundays at 211 W. Mercer St., Dripping Springs.
For more information, visit acoponbrewing.com.