Local breweries and their food trucks pair perfectly with Austin FC soccer matches
The Venn diagram of people who love soccer and craft brew almost looks like a circle.
Maybe it’s because the pairing of beer and soccer is so strong in Old World locales such as England, Germany and Belgium, and the traditions carried over into the United States. Maybe it’s because soccer-loving locales like California and the Pacific Northwest were early to the craft brew game in the U.S. Craft beer and Major League Soccer are both relative underdogs competing against titans in their fields (conglomerate breweries and the Big Three sports) and appeal to a demographic that ranges from Gen X to Gen Z.
Whatever the reason for the symbiotic relationship between soccer and craft beer, it’s hard to imagine a better location for Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium than its home in North Austin. The Austin FC grounds are located about a massive goal kick away from more than a half-dozen breweries, most of which serve food either from an on-site kitchen or partnered food truck.
The breweries, which have already hosted watch parties and large crowds for Austin FC away games, will undoubtedly be some of the most popular destinations for drinking, dining and celebrating the beautiful game when the home side takes the pitch for the first time on Saturday.
Below, we highlight some great dining-drinking tandems at nearby breweries.
Huckleberry at Circle Brewing
Chef Davis Turner couldn’t imagine ever working in North Austin when he attended culinary school in the underdeveloped part of town 15 years ago. And he certainly couldn’t have envisioned a professional sports team setting up shop across the street from his food truck. What’s a good truck, he probably would have wondered back then.
But, here we are. And a seafood truck, no less. Turner has spent most of the past decade working for meat-focused restaurants, with time at Contigo and Franklin Barbecue on his resume, but he and partner Melinda Reese, a Florida native, decided to open a seafood truck that paid homage to the coastal comfort in which they are rooted.
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The couple started Huckleberry as a catering operation, with a business model that fortunately for them included a food truck. After scrapping previous plans, they opened at Circle Brewing on Braker Lane last June and have survived the pandemic to celebrate their first birthday.
They source most of their seafood from the Gulf, including thick, flaky black drum dredged in their proprietary blend of seasoned cornmeal and rice flour from Barton Springs Mill, which you can now buy from the truck, and they fry the fish to a crackling finish ($13). The fish (and its classic fry seasoning with just a whisper of heat) is perked up with a lemon caper remoulade, tangy housemade pickles and a dress of lettuce, tomato and onion.
When you first see the challah bun from Slow Dough Bread Co. out of Houston, you may fear the bread-to-fish ratio is off, such is the rise of the doughy lid. But a gentle squeeze leads to an effortless collapse, and the bread becomes the perfect complementary component. Slow Dough also creates the maximalist rolls for a po’boy that holds plump fried shrimp coated in the same well-bodied breading as the fish ($14).
Circle’s Austin Anthem Ale ($4/pint), brewed in partnership with Austin FC supporter group Austin Anthem, pairs classically with the fried fish, the crisp golden with the moderate ABV levels serving as a mild-mannered refresher, but I dig the slight funk and citrus of the Archetype, a historical IPA served in 22-ounce bottles ($14).
The limited space on the truck, which Turner and Reese hope to spin off into a brick-and-mortar restaurant later this year, makes for a curtailed menu of largely fried foods (a watermelon salad serves as bright contrast to the hot fish), but Huckleberry grills salty and crispy smashburgers on Thursday and recently kicked off ceviche night on Wednesday. If the poached shrimp tingled with Fresno chilies and a trio of citrus juices ($12) and the amberjack studded with cherry tomatoes and crunchy sticks of jicama are any indication, the larger format of a restaurant giving Turner and his team more room to operate is very enticing.
SXSE Food Co. at 4th Tap Brewing Co-op
The salty, sour and pungent flavors of Laotian cuisine were made for beer-drinking.
“It’s a perfect match,” says chef and Laos native Bob Somsith.
The self-taught chef and youngest of four children grew up cooking at his mother’s side. He started his professional cooking career in Austin while working full time as an accountant. He would take vacation days to work corporate catering gigs for a half-dozen years.
You’ll find chicken wings glazed with caramel fish sauce all over the place, but rarely will you find them this juicy or with this strong of a fish sauce flavor profile. Usually, sweetness overrides fish sauce on such a dish, but here you first taste the aggressive salinity of the sauce, as the brightness of lemongrass from the marinades sweeps in on the back end ($10). Since you won’t find the rice lager ubiquitous in Laos on draft at 4th Tap, pair the wings with the unobtrusive stylings of a Sound Check Crispy Boy, a 4th Tap staple.
Somsith, whose life was enriched as a teenager thanks to a mentor in Laos, spent part of the pandemic mentoring graduating seniors from John B. Connally High School who had an interest in the culinary arts. Several of his mentees now help him run the truck. They were attentive students, as Somsith's menu is executed tightly even in his absence.
The steamed jasmine rice tossed in a combination of red curry, fish salt and sugar that gives it its deep orange hue is formed into a patty that is deep fried and then broken into hunks that are at turns crispy and tender in a dish of nam khao tod ($9).
The crispy fried rice dish traditionally is served with cured pork in Laos, but Somsith created his with halal beef in deference to those who don’t eat pork, and the twist is a revelation. The fermented cubes of meat splashed with lime juice glow with a fermented funk that is eased by the florality and coolness of cilantro and mint.
Try the dank bite of a Stay Gold American Pale Ale, made in collaboration with Austin Grammy nominees Black Pumas, for a beer that can stand up to but not wail over the expressive rice and beef dish.
4th Tap co-founder and president John Stecker says that his brewery that opened in 2015 doesn't want to "just make basic beers." One taste of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Supernaut, an Imperial Stout with rotating flavor profiles, confirms that ambition.
The strong beer, both in flavor and alcohol (12% ABV), hits you with a rounded tartness of blackberry and toasted notes of peanut butter and serves as a great accompaniment for SXSE's pork buns ($10). The dish is a Laotian take on barbecue, with Somsith smoking the pork — seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice and toasted rice powder — for 10-12 hours and then dressing the supple meat with a mélange of cilantro, scallions, mint and pickled red onions.
The truck's regular menu serves as a perfect advertisement for the chef's new multicourse, beer-paired tasting menu that he serves a few times a week. Such a good advertisement, in fact, that you'll need quick fingers and more than a little luck to secure a reservation online.
Six more breweries for Austin FC fans
These spots all are located within approximately a mile of Q2 Stadium.
Adelbert’s Brewery: 2314 Rutland Drive, No. 100, adelbertsbeer.com. Food: Hot Box Diner serves beef, chicken and vegetarian sandwiches.
Fairweather Cider Co.: 10609 Metric Blvd., No. 108A. fairweathercider.com. No food on site.
Oskar Blues: 10420 Metric Blvd. oskarblues.com. No food on site.