• September 10, 2023
  • Lauren Critzer
  • 0

Stepping Back in Time: Your Guide to Austin’s Best Historic Pubs

In the heart of Texas, there’s a city that takes the term ‘happy hour’ to a whole new level. Austin, known for its vibrant music scene and proud cultural heritage, is also the home of an impressive selection of historic pubs. As an Austin local, I’ve had the pleasure – and the honor – of visiting many of these establishments personally. By exploring these iconic watering holes, you don’t just get to appreciate the craftsmanship of Texas brews and savory comfort foods; you get to traverse through time, soaking in the rich narrative of Austin’s ever-evolving social scene.

A Sip Through Time: The Allure of Austin’s Historic Pubs

Austin’s pub scene isn’t just about latest craft beer trends or cozy atmospheres (though these don’t hurt). It’s about stepping into a piece of the city’s history. Its historic pubs, intertwined with Austin’s heritage, provide a canvas where tales of the past, traditional Texas comfort food, and innovative drink blends converge, creating a unique experience that’s both vintage and contemporary.

Experienced Pour: Pioneers of Austin’s Pub Scene

Two establishments stand out not just because of their longevity, but also because of the immense cultural impact they’ve had on the city.

Scholz Garten

First up is Scholz Garten, a remarkable gem with roots dating back to 1866. This places Scholz Garten as the oldest continually operating business in Texas. A visit here offers:

  • A genuine immersion into the remnants of old Austin with artifacts, photographs, and décor that tell tales of Civil War rallies, bountiful Oktoberfests, and historic political events.
  • A familiar gathering spot for political figures, personalities, and locals, where the narratives of Texas politics come alive.
  • A delightful culinary journey with both German and Southern-style fare, paired perfectly with a glass of authentic German brew, a pint of locally crafted beer, or handcrafted cocktails.
  • To complete the package, enjoy live music performances from local artists, making the delivery of your pint a multi-sensory experience.

The Driskill Bar

Next, we travel to The Driskill Bar, nestled within the historic Driskill Hotel. Here, the grandeur of Texan history is woven into every detail, offering:

  • Opulent interiors featuring plush leather couches and a grand piano projecting live Texas-swing melodies that add to the millennia-old charm.
  • A distinct Texas-shaped marble bar, perfect for resting your whiskey on the rocks while sharing captivating conversations.
  • A vast selection of crafted drinks, with a master mixologist ready to surprise you with innovative concoctions.
  • If you’re a lover of history, you’ll appreciate the bar’s original mirror—it survived the massive Capitol fire, a standing testament to resilience that reflects back on Austin’s journey.

Immerse Yourself in Decades Past

The journey through Austin’s vintage pubs would be incomplete without featuring establishments that encapsulate the city’s vibrant heritage.

Donn’s Depot

At Donn’s Depot, you step into a converted old Missouri-Pacific train depot that has been enchanting crowds since 1972. Here’s what awaits:

  • A glimpse into Austin’s railway history, with train car bathrooms and a century-old piano set on actual rail tracks.
  • An authentic Texan experience where you can tap your boots to classic country tunes and local artist performances every evening.
  • The charm of vintage Clarksville echoed in the bar’s ambiance, from the antiques decorating the space to the sepia-tinted pictures adorning the walls.

The Cloak Room

Tucked away in the basement of the historic Goodman Building, beneath bustling Downtown Austin, lies The Cloak Room, a piece of hidden history:

  • Proximity to the Texas State Capitol makes it a favorite among lawmakers, making you feel like a participant in the city’s modern political scene.
  • A discreet entrance that opens to an intimate setting with dim-lit ambiance, wooden benches, and smoky vintage wallpaper.
  • A sublime cocktail experience created by expert bartenders specializing in classic drinks, as well as some innovative, delightful surprises.
  • And while there, don’t forget to look closely at the antique photographs and memorabilia that trace back to mid-century Austin.

Craft Beers and Tall Tales

Craft beers are all the rage in Austin, and no one merges this trend with history like the following pubs:

The Draught House Pub & Brewery

Embark on a craft beer journey at The Draught House Pub & Brewery, a beloved local landmark operating since 1969. With:

  • 50 plus years of serving beer, it offers both local and international craft beers on an ever-rotating tap list.
  • A traditional English pub architecture that blends perfectly with Austin’s laid-back vibe.
  • To add to your experience, the pub commemorates Austin Beer Week with fanfare, and keeps the spirit alive all year round with numerous festive celebrations.

Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden

Overlooking Waller Creek is Easy Tiger, a place that perfectly merges serene outdoor settings with cheerful tavern sounds.

  • It boasts an extensive selection of craft beers, wines, and whiskeys – there’s always something to suit any palate.
  • But it’s not just about drinks; the pub pumps out a line of fresh, hearty, house-baked pretzels, bread, and pastries.
  • You can find yourself lounging languorously in the beer garden that overlooks Waller Creek, or huddled inside on rustic communal tables.

Mastering Austin’s historic pub scene isn’t just about ticking off the boxes of places visited. It’s about tasting the embodiment of Austin’s spirit in every sip, it’s about listening to the city’s rhythmic narrative resounding over the clink of glasses, and feeling the city’s pulse throbbing beneath your fingertips as you hold a pint to toast to its history.

Next time you’re in Austin, upgrade your regular night out with a touch of history. Step into these pubs and discover the heart of this thriving city. Each of these experiences is more than just a night out, it’s a story you can tell – and retell – that will bring you back to these timeless establishments time and time again. So, here’s to great beer, good company, and the rich history of Austin. Cheers, y’all!

Lauren Critzer

I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and after college, I moved to San Francisco to explore new opportunities and broaden my horizons. I fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and unique atmosphere, but eventually, I moved again, this time to Austin, Texas.

As much as I loved living in different parts of the country, having a baby boy brought me back to my hometown in Charlottesville, where I now live with my husband, our little one, and two furry friends. I enjoy going to wineries, taking my pups everywhere, and spending quality time with my family.

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