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10 Austin-area bars, breweries where you can go to avoid SXSW

Arianna Auber
Texas Keeper Cider is hosting a fourth anniversary party and is regularly open on weekends with dry cider options and the Puli-Ra food purveyor.

Dreading the return of South by Southwest? Well, it’s here again — another 10 days of tourists, tech types, film buffs and many, many others descending upon Austin. There’s no avoiding it. Or is there? 

The traffic might be worse over the next week. But there are places we can go that will remain decidedly, blessedly free of the SXSW chaos. Here are 10 of them, in case you’re a local looking for a little adventure just outside the city core.

Orf Brewing, 4700 Burleson Rd., F.

Austin’s smallest brewery isn’t open regularly enough for us to just hide out it in the duration of the festival. But Orf, which offers unusual and well-made beers like the Oocheemama Asian White Ale, does have two events taking place over the two Saturdays of SXSW: Pics and Pints on March 10, which is a film screening of the documentary “El Cap Wedding”; and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 17.

Texas Keeper Cider, 12521 Twin Creeks Rd.

Heading south of not just Lady Bird Lake but Highway 290 is a good bet, and this scenic cidery is just one of the boozy spots offering a haven from SXSW. It’s a pretty big weekend for Texas Keeper to boot — March 10 is the fourth anniversary party. The celebration will feature the release of Texas Keeper’s spring seasonal, Grafter Blanc, and a special menu from on-site food purveyor Puli-Ra.

The Growler Bar, 1300 Farm to Market Rd 685, Pflugerville

North of town, this little pub in a nondescript strip mall has made it easier than ever for beer lovers to avoid traveling into the city. Given the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Beer Bar at the Austin Beer Guide ceremony last year, the Growler Bar makes an effort to have one of the best beer lists in town. And yes, you can get your growler — or recyclable crowler — filled with tasty brew to go.

Duchman Family Winery, 13308 Farm to Market 150, Driftwood

These next two weekends, depending on weather, could also be great opportunities to visit wineries in the Texas Hill Country. If you want to start small (as in, not go anywhere too far), try a winery like Duchman near Salt Lick BBQ. Duchman, which specializes in Italian varietals, indeed looks as though you’ve just drifted into a Tuscan villa. Order a sturdy red like the Montepulciano.

The Brass Tap, 10910 Domain Dr #120

The Rock Rose entertainment district of Domain Northside can feel a little like SXSW on a normal weekend, so for something a little more tame in the gigantic open-air shopping center, head to the large Brass Tap bar, where there’s always plenty of pub food and beer and a more laid-back crowd. The North Austin bar is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party on March 17 that will not have any dubious-looking green beer. 

Nickel City, 1133 E. Eleventh St.

Although this neighborhood bar is located in prime SXSW real estate — East Austin — Nickel City is remaining a declared escape for people avoiding both traffic and the festival. Bar industry folks especially, take note: Nickel City will open at noon over the next week and will also have cheaper prices. Namely, Fernet Branca, Sombra Mezcal and Evan Williams Bourbon will be $3. 

Driftwood Tasting Room, 18992 FM 150 W., Ste. 101, Driftwood

Take a scenic drive to the Texas Hill Country for this one. It’s a bit of a farther drive than most of these other hangouts but well worth it because of the curated selection of all-Texas beers, wines, ciders and meads you’ll find both on tap and in bottles. Owned by a local couple, the charming Driftwood Tasting Room likes to showcase beverages you may have never had before.

School House Pub, 2207 Manor Rd.

Many of the Manor Road bars and restaurants are just far north enough to be free and clear of the SXSW chaos. Head to School House Pub and its sister restaurant Mi Madres, focused on Mexican food, for good grub and drinks. School House in particular focuses on local beers like Blue Owl Brewing Spirit Animal and Independence Brewing’s Convict Hill Stout. 

Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co., 13010 W Parmer Ln, Ste. 800, Cedar Park.

A little-known fact for many Austinites is that the neighboring Cedar Park has one of the best brewpubs in Central Texas, and it’s celebrating three years in business the first weekend of SXSW with one of the biggest house beer lists you’d find anywhere. Head to Red Horn for a full lineup of Suburban Ninja Imperial Stout variations in 16 oz. cans and many, many more brews.

Jester King Brewery, 13187 Fitzhugh Rd.

The farmhouse brewery has recently added a small herd of goats to its burgeoning farm, and to celebrate, Jester King is hosting a monthlong series of doom metal goat yoga. Yes, that’s right. Loud metal music will play while you find your zen and little, adorable baby goats climb all over and around you. Afterward, you can stay and drink the latest sour offering on tap. 

Plus, in Dripping Springs, the new Sky Cinemas theater is hosting the grand opening of its beer garden with tap takeovers from (512) Brewing, Real Ale Brewing and Austin Beerworks from March 9-11.