A 1940s-era industrial building where airplane parts were constructed during World War II has gotten new life as a brewery, beer garden and live music venue in East Austin.
When you walk into the 9,821 sq. ft. Quonset hut, massive silver brewery tanks rise along either side of the entrance — the beer is made in full view of the airy German-style beer hall. The aesthetic at Central Machine Works is a deliberate nod to the building’s long history as a machine shop providing custom industrial parts in the post-war years.
Owners Andrew Ashmore, Aaron Ashmore, Rosa Santis and John Scott purchased the building about four years ago with big plans for it, said Central Machine Works’ director of operations, Jamie Wagner.
"For them, it was about preservation of this building and making sure it didn’t get mowed down and turned into something that wasn’t East Austin," she said. "From there, they decided because things had always been made in this space, they wanted to maintain that, which is why the brewery kind of came about."
Central Machine Works officially opens on Friday at 3 p.m., and all weekend, there will be an art show in honor of the East Austin Studio Tour, as well as live music and the starting menu of beers. The beer hall has a full bar of wine and cocktails and a kitchen that focuses on classic bar foods like burgers and pizzas. Outside, a beer garden will have plenty of space for kids to play and run around.
The long bar where the drinks are served is in the taproom separate from the main beer hall — and it’s got one awe-inspiring feature. Behind the bar, a steel lathe that once made airplane parts is now mounted onto a steel base, a striking sight totaling a whopping 18,000 lbs.
Head brewer Scott Rynbrandt — formerly of Oasis, Texas Brewing Co. — was attracted to the project because of the attention to every aspect of the brewing process that Central Machine Works is willing to devote. There’s a yeast lab for the former microbiologist to tinker at, a grain silo at the front of the building and a half-dozen brite tanks (where beer is carbonated and clarified) near the taproom that will do double-duty as serving vessels.
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He and brewer Jordan Bremer are primarily going to make German beers, such as a pilsner, and American-style ales, such as a Midwest IPA that is a "throwback to the older IPA 1.0 style."
"We want to make straightforward beers," Rynbrandt said. "We also wanted to have our ales be really modern. I’m using cryo hops for everything, so there’s going to be huge aromas but still really balanced beers. No hazy IPAs. We’re doing more traditional stuff that’s been around for awhile — classic beers with a modern twist."
A big part of the brewing program is the yeast, which he’ll propagate in-house, developing Central Machine Works’ own ale, lager and kolsch yeasts for each of the house beers. His science skills set him apart from other head brewer candidates, Wagner said.
"One of the reasons we decided to bring Scott on as head brewer is his microbiology background and the fact that he’s going to be one of the only brewers in town doing his own yeast cultivation," she said. "That kind of makes this program a little different than everyone else’s. Most people buy (yeast) from the same sources, while ours will be something that no one else has."
Central Machine Works aims to stand out in more ways than one — namely, the sheer number of things the beer hall wants to offer. The "very chameleon space" can become an events venue easily, given its size; both inside and out have a capacity of about 500 people, Wagner said. At all times, it’ll also be family-friendly, thanks to play areas and a food truck with kid-approved meals in the beer garden.
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That’s right: Central Machine Works’ kitchen, located to the right of the taproom, won’t be the only place on-site providing the bites. In a few weeks, the old Mrs. P’s Electric Cock trailer will be parked permanently in the back, serving corn dogs, French fries, funnel cakes, chicken tenders and other foods that kids tend to like. At some point, a Stubb’s BBQ location will move into the back building.
Wagner — the director of operations at Eberly and formerly of McGuire Moorman Hospitality — also made sure the main space was outfitted with "so much WiFi that you can host all of South by Southwest out of it." That way, Central Machine Works can be the kind of hangout where you work by day, enjoy a beer by night.
If there by day, just don’t be bothered by the smell of hops wafting through the air as Rynbrandt and Bremer work in full view of the beer hall.
Central Machine Works is located at 4824 East Cesar Chavez St., across from Sawyer & Co., and will be open 11 a.m. to midnight daily. For more information, visit cmwbrewery.com.