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Smoke’n Hops, a new Dripping Springs brewpub marries fresh beer, BBQ

Staff Writer
Austin 360

The citizens of Dripping Springs now have not one, but two options for locally brewed beer.

Smoke’n Hops, a barbecue and beer brewpub helmed by Lloyd Lee and his uncle Rick Day, officially opened their doors in late August.

While the concept had been a long time coming for Lee, the vision finally came to fruition when he convinced Day to move to Dripping Springs from Dallas to helm the barbecue pit at the brewpub. “We had a vision to combine his barbecue with Texas craft beer,” Lee said. “He’d been previously cooking competitively in the barbecue circuit for about 20-25 years. I used to help him back in high school, with weekend events.”

Coming from a background in construction made it easier for Lee to do most of the renovations required to turn the former Chinese food restaurant into a bright, airy family-friendly joint. They expanded the former patio to accommodate for small music performances, and installed a play gym for kids.

On the beer side, Lee enlisted Jorge Espino to helm the brewing operations. With many years of homebrewing under his belt, Espino earned his industry experience at places like Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, where he worked as one of their Texas beer rangers (aka - local sales reps), Pinthouse Pizza where he poured pints for thirsty customers, and most recently at Live Oak Brewing, where he worked on aspects of cellaring (doing things like carbonation, fermentation and kegging).

At Smoke’n Hops, Espino says he wants to brew beers that will act as a gateway into craft beer for people who might otherwise normally reach for a Bud Light.

So far, they’ve released the house Pale Ale, a bright, complex brew with a handful of citrusy hop flavor and balancing malty backbone, and the newest beer, a robust American-esque Porter was tapped last Friday. Espino says he will also brew a Blonde Ale, and is “kicking around the idea of having a Cream Ale, too.”

The brewing system Espino currently works on is very small, producing approximately two kegs-worth of beer per batch. Lee says they will eventually expand into a 7 bbl system, giving them 7 times the capacity. Espino looks forward to the expansion, but says he will keep the small pilot system in house so they can host community brewing sessions and special experimental beers when the mood strikes.

Outside of the house beers, Smoke’n Hops also offers 23 taps of Texas-brewed beer from area breweries. “We’ve got some great beers in this state, and we’ve got a fledgling industry of craft beer that’s really starting to taking off, so we’re doing a little contributing to that by just serving beers that are made here,” Lee said. The bar also serves wines from around the state, and liquor.

Smoke’n Hops is located at 3799 East U.S. 290, Dripping Springs.