Brandy and J.T. Egli originally moved to Austin thinking they’d open a wine bar. “But we’d go to wine dinners and end up finding two or three people there who were talking about beer!” J.T. says with a laugh.
The very first Austin Beer Week in October 2010 was enough to seal the deal. “We couldn’t believe the amazing beers we tasted from brewers here in Texas, especially local,” says Brandy. “It was just obvious to us that this was going to be big and we wanted to be a part of it, because we were meeting so many people in the craft beer community. We knew this is where we belong.”
The two high school sweethearts (who just celebrated their 17 year wedding anniversary!) became interested in beer while living in Iowa. J.T. says that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was his “gateway to craft beer” and Brandy never even thought she liked the taste of beer until she started branching out.
“We couldn’t believe the amazing beers we tasted from brewers here in Texas.”
“I discovered I really do like the taste of beer– I just hadn’t found the right type of beer yet.” The craft beer scene was just starting to take off there and, thanks to a place called John’s Grocery in Iowa City, they were exposed to many different rare types of beer and soon found themselves homebrewing together.
It was while visiting a cousin in Austin that they felt a strong connection to the city and, several months later, relocated here. And it was that first Austin Craft Beer week that really opened their eyes to the possibility of opening their own bar, focused exclusively on beers crafted in Texas.
“The beer was that good. I mean we were that amazed,” Brandy remembers.
“There’s always new, exciting beers coming out, new breweries popping up.”
“Luckily, it took us about 18 months to open because, at the time, it would’ve been rough filling 54 taps with just Texas beer,” says J.T. Now, he finds himself constantly shuffling kegs on and off tap. “There’s always new, exciting beers coming out, new breweries popping up, and one-offs.”
So what drew them to Austin, when there just a handful of microbreweries open at the time? “Colorado, Cali, Oregon, New York – East coast, West coast, it doesn’t really matter- they were kind of pioneers,” explains J.T. “And—it sounds rude I guess, but—they’ve just kind of become stagnant. No one’s really trying to push the bar anymore and that’s the really exciting thing about Texas. To be blunt, no one gives a sh*t– there’s no lines.”
He offers, as an example, Jester King Brewery: “They’re just doing some radical, crazy stuff. Completely open fermentations and they’re sitting on a bunch of beer and won’t even know for two more years if it’s going to be any good or not.”
“They’re just doing some radical, crazy stuff.”
Brandy adds, “My favorite thing about craft beer is the creativity and the love of the craft itself. If it doesn’t work out, then nobody has to know, or you just have to tweak it. That’s all part of the process….and these brewers love what they’re doing, they’re very creative, and they keep at it until we have amazing beer.”
You might say the Eglis are as dedicated to showcasing local breweries as the brewers are dedicated to crafting their products. Their attention to detail and unwavering commitment to quality shows in their presentation and the freshness of the beer itself.
“A lot can happen after it leaves the brewery,” says Brandy, “and so we feel it’s our responsibility on a service end– that it matters the way that the beer is stored. It matters how it’s poured through our state of the art tap system, the glassware it’s poured into, how the glassware has been cared for, the right type of glassware so that you can get all the aromas and true flavors.”
“It matters the way the beer is stored. It matters how it’s poured through our state of the art tap system… [and] the glassware it’s poured into.”
When importing beers from out of state, J.T. points out that there’s no telling how long ago it was brewed. “You don’t know how long it sat in the brewery, how long it sat in a distributor’s warehouse, how long it took to get from the warehouse to your cooler,” he says. “The oldest beer we have is—the furthest brewery is 4 hours away. Our beer is as fresh as it can be.”
At any given time, Craft Pride represents between 20 and 25 Texas breweries across 54 taps, as well as a retail space which sells bottles to go. They also have four nitro taps, which allow breweries to send flat kegs for Craft Pride to nitrogenize, a process which gives the beer a consistency and carbonation not unlike Guinness. “Basically, we’ve got a steel keg and force a blend of nitrogen– about 75% nitrogen and 25% CO2—into the keg, let it sit, and then it comes out…like a milkshake. Very very velvety, creamy mouthfeel,” says J.T. “So beers that no one has ever had before, they’re able to try here.”
Even the interior design is as locally focused as possible; 90% of the wood used comes from the original house that was on the property. The wooden slabs used as flight holders and the rustic pendants hanging above the bar came from a tree in the backyard. The 3,000 pound bar top and cocktail tabletops were made from live oaks growing in Burnet. A black tiled ceiling and damask velvet wallpaper contrasted with the warm glow of reclaimed wood make for a look the Eglis call “Victorian meets barn.”
Each time a new brewery is introduced, it earns an illuminated hole on the large wooden “roadmap to Texas breweries” suspended from the ceiling.
Each time a new brewery is introduced, it earns an illuminated hole on the large wooden “roadmap to Texas breweries” suspended from the ceiling. Nearby is a chandelier representing the chemical makeup of beta acids in hops. “It’s pretty geeky,” admits J.T.
But that’s no surprise for a bar where each of their 15 employees is a homebrewer—bartenders and door guys alike. Brandy says that the majority of conversations she hears between employees circle around beer. “Everyone’s just extremely passionate about what we do, the product that we sell,” says J.T. “They definitely put their heart and souls into it. And I think that’s what sets us apart—that’s what makes us different.”
Take a Guided Beer Flight!
Starting October 8th, level two cicerone Tre Miner will be leading monthly guided beer flights at Craft Pride. For $25 you’ll get to taste 8 beers with Via 313 pizza, followed by a Q&A, beer trivia, prizes, and giveaways. Register today and enter code “citygram1” to get 10% off Tuesday’s tasting! Click to get tickets now!
Photography: Chris Perez