Brew guide: Lots of change fermenting at Hops & Grain

When Hops & Grain opened late 2011, it was the second Austin brewery to launch its flagship beers in cans only (Austin Beerworks was the first). Using cans, rather than bottles, was an easy choice for owner Josh Hare, who says that cans are more environmentally friendly and protect the beer better.

That’s always been a big goal for Hare — to practice sustainable brewing when possible. Hops & Grain even turns some of the brewery’s spent grains into dog biscuits. It’s a philosophy that’s worked well for the brewery, which has also made sure to build a community around the beer it produces. The brewers host parties (the most recent one a fancy black-and-white New Year’s Eve bash), collaborate on beers with other local breweries, participate in beer pairing dinners and host other educational events around town on a regular basis.

And now Hops & Grain has expanded, both in size and staff. A new tap room, which had been under construction throughout the fall and winter last year, opened with expanded hours on Jan. 3. It’s open from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Tours of the brewery are being offered daily during those times, rather than just on Saturdays as they used to be, and beer drinkers also can rent out the space Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays for private events. Just outside the 2,200-square-foot seating area will be a rotation of food trucks until Hops & Grain, which applied for a brewpub license when Texas beer laws changed last summer, can secure something more permanent to fill the bellies of its visitors.

The old space where people used to come and drink beer is being converted into a lab for the brewery’s quality control specialist, Bree Clark, who has a master’s degree in biochemistry from Texas A&M.

A bigger tap room isn’t the only change that’s been fermenting at Hops & Grain. The brewery added another year-round canned beer to its lineup on Monday, when it hit store shelves: the Greenhouse IPA. Buy a pack of the IPA each month and you might notice it doesn’t smell and taste quite the same as the last pack did — it’s not supposed to. That’s because each month a new round of the beer will be released with different hops added in. Three hundred cases will go out each month.

The new Greenhouse IPA is a testament to the brewery’s focus on experimentation; the staff has always played around with different beer styles. In addition to its four year-round canned offerings — which also include the Alt-eration German-style Altbier, the One They Call Zoe Pale Lager and the Pale Dog American Pale Ale — the brewery’s experimental Greenhouse series features one-off brews that have included a Kentucky Common Ale and a Honey IPA, as well as a series of barrel-aged beers. Hops & Grain offers cans and growler fills for sale, too.

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