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Uncle Billy’s brewhouse undergoing expansion

Arianna Auber

In February, Uncle’s Billy’s Brew & Que began small-scale distribution as a result of last summer’s sweeping changes to Texas beer distribution laws, and owner Rick Engel said an expansion to the brewery was also on tap for early summertime — plans that are indeed currently in the works.

A new brewing system is set to almost triple the brewpub’s brewing capacity from 2,000 barrels a year to 5,000. That’s going to mean a lot more of Uncle Billy’s mainstay brews to send out to local bars and restaurants (as well as more of these places to distribute to); plus, manager Kerry Hansom said, plans to add new house beers to the tap wall are in the works. “We want to see our beers in more bars downtown,” she said.

The 20-barrel system currently being installed isn’t the only big change to the barbecue-and-beer spot, either. The expansion includes renovations to the restaurant, such as a new indoor and outdoor island bar and more seating, and a menu revamp with a variety of smoked seafood options.

There’s no set date yet for when Uncle Billy’s transformation will be complete, but Hansom said the goal is to have it all done by the end of summer.

Helping the brewpub with all of this are two brewery experts who started a consulting business this year, Grain to Glass, to “help breweries take their businesses to the next level,” according to a press release. Hans Johnson and Brad Mortensen have just about 40 years of brewing experience between them, Johnson having “brewed on everything from showroom breweries with all the bells and whistles to cobbled together dairy equipment held together with duct tape and desperation.”

Their upcoming task is to find a capable head brewer who will take over the expanded brewery once it’s ready.

Beyond Uncle Billy’s doors, the Green Room IPA and Humbucker Helles have been among the beers both on draft and in cans that are available at a small number of Austin bars, most notably Little Woodrow’s, which hosted a celebration when the brewpub finally began distributing earlier this year.