This December, Barley Swine will open a new location at 6555 Burnet Rd. The move from its South Lamar home, where it’s been for the past five years, not only gives the restaurant triple the size for up to 80 guests, but also the opportunity to add booze to its beverage program.

John Michael Williams and Kristy Sanchez of Barley Swine John Michael Williams and Kristy Sanchez of Barley Swine


Until the new location opens, Barley Swine will keep a focus on beer and wine, but the move to Burnet brings an inventive cocktail menu under the direction of General Manager John Michael Williams. With a full bar at his disposal, Williams is concocting seasonally focused cocktails made with ingredients from local farms. He’ll use those fresh bits to create his own vinegars, shrubs, syrups, tonics, and sodas.

Williams has a strong food and beverage pedigree. After graduating with honors from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) with a concentration in wine and spirits, he completed the CIA advanced wine and beverage certification as well as the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level II sommelier certification. He has honed his skills at renowned gastronomic destinations like Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

“Our new cocktail program is part of the evolution of Barley Swine,” says Williams. “We’ll take a cue from the culinary direction from our executive chef and owner, Bryce Gilmore, to have a focus on making seasonal drinks with house-made ingredients. I’m working on recipes for our own velvet falernum syrup for Tiki drinks, a house-made vermouth, and 10 varieties of bitters. We’ll make cocktails that are fun and approachable.”

Robert Stevens will join the Barley Swine team as the new bar manager from Blackberry Farm. He’ll select the tight lineup of high-quality craft spirits for the 10-seat bar. You won’t see big-name booze brands like Grey Goose either. Stevens will use those spirits to make barrel-age cocktails like a mezcal Manhattan with house-made vermouth.

In addition to delectable drinks, Barley Swine is rolling out a completely new creation: edible cocktails. There will be a tasting menu of one bite amuse-bouche with alcohol: Imagine a Negroni as a fruit roll-up rather than a cocktail.

Luckily, Barley Swine won’t move away from its excellent selection of craft beers.

“Beer is always a huge focus for us, especially with our gastro pub tasting menu format, which allows for pairing of beers,” says Williams. “There are so many great breweries in Austin, which lets us pour lots of local beers. We’ll have 12 taps and several bottled and canned beers. Seventy percent of our total beer list will be local. We’ll have bombers from Adelbert’s Brewery and Jester King, and we’ll have Blue Owl and Strange Land on tap.”

The wine list is getting a boost too. Wine buyer, Kristy Sanchez, who has been at Barley Swine since the beginning, is excited to bring in more wines from small boutique vineyards and more natural and biodynamic wines. The wine list is constantly changing to offer selections that pair with Gilmore’s ever-evolving menu. Now the list will expand to include 40 wines by the bottle, split bottles options, and 14 white and 18 red wines by the glass.

Beer and wine at Barley Swine Beer and wine at Barley Swine

“I’m excited about the versatility we’ll have with the wine list,” says Sanchez. “We’ll have more space to carry a full spectrum of wines to pair with the chef’s tasting menu and a la carte menu. We’ll have higher end bottles and affordable wines that are great at happy hour. We have some really hard to find wines like the Teutonic Wine Company Traubenwerkzeug Quarryview Vineyard pinot noir — there are only six bottles of it in Texas — and Boundary Breaks riesling from Finger Lakes region of New York.”

The new Barley Swine will still have happy hour every Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 6:30 pm with new a la carte items, hand-crafted cocktails, wine for $7, and $3 beers.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary sips and nibbles at Barley Swine during this interview. 

What are you drinking?

Williams and Sanchez of Barley Swine


While a news story about a professional soccer team doesn’t really fit on a blog about alcoholic beverages, I’m including this story about the Austin Aztex that was originally written for CultureMap because the lack of beer sales at the team’s facilities had a financial impact on the team. It is another example of the importance of drink in our recreation.  

A shot escapes the reach of Aztex goalkeeper, Cody Laurendi A shot escapes the reach of Aztex goalkeeper, Cody Laurendi


Just as the Memorial Day Floods washed away House Park, the lack of a dedicated soccer stadium has washed away the 2016 Austin Aztex season. The United Soccer League (USL) has granted the club permission to sit out the season because it lacks a stadium that meets league standards.

If the team is able to secure a soccer-specific stadium in the next year, it intends to resume play in the 2017 season.

The team, which was promoted to the USL this year from the Premier Development League (PDL), was able to play the 2015 season on a one-year waiver from the USL allowing the club to land a soccer-specific stadium by the end of its first season. That wicked flooding on Memorial Day weekend severely damaged House Park, the club’s home stadium. The team was forced to move to a high school football stadium in Round Rock for the rest of the 2015 season.

The scramble to find a new home mid-season distracted the club from finding a permanent home for 2016; and playing on a high school football field just doesn’t cut it.

A statement issued by the team said in part that the facilities in Austin and Round Rock “have not proven to be economically viable solutions for our professional team.” “This soccer city deserves a proper venue free of football lines, with amazing sightlines, and where a cold beer can be served on a hot summer night.”

Aztex midfielder Romain Gall Aztex midfielder Romain Gall


Club executives will spend the next year working to find a venue worthy of professional soccer. They feel strongly that Austin is a soccer city with the right demographics and enough fan to support a professional team.

In the meantime, Aztex players are busily looking for new teams for the 2016 season. As soon as the season ended, some Aztex players went out on trial with other clubs. Aztex forward Kris Tyrpak has already signed with the San Antonio Scorpions. The Dripping Springs native, former Major League Soccer (MLS), and Austin Aztex star wowed fans with nine goals and two assists for the Aztex this season. We will likely see more Aztex players sign with other clubs in the near future.

Aztex forward Kris Tyrpak Aztex forward Kris Tyrpak


A rallying cry for a return
“By taking the year off from playing, we will have the time necessary to work with all interested parties to secure a professional soccer-friendly stadium to ensure the long-term viability of the Austin Aztex,” Aztex CEO Rene van de Zande said.

“It will be important to have the support of the community in these efforts. We encourage all Austinites to visit and register with the site so that as a community, we can make this stadium happen.”

Fans have a lot to cheer for with the return in 2017. The caliber of USL play is explosive and exciting to watch. The Aztex lured MLS teams to Austin for a preseason tournament and beat the MLS Houston Dynamo in a separate preseason match. The club finished the 2015 season in ninth place in the 12-team Western  Conference with a record of 10 wins 15 losses and three ties.

Eberly’s Army cheers on the Aztex Eberly’s Army cheers on the Aztex


Disclaimer: I am a fan of the Austin Aztex, have attended many games on my own dime and received a media pass for the last home game to shoot photos for this story. I received no other compensation from the team.  

What are you drinking? 


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