SEVEN SPOTS TO RAISE YOUR GLASS IN DRIPPING SPRINGS
Just a half-hour drive from Austin’s western enclave of Oak Hill, the once-tiny town of Dripping Springs is bursting with things to do — especially if you have a thirst for the more than a dozen breweries, distilleries and wineries that have turned this northern swath of Hays County into a weekend destination spot.
There’s a lot to do besides drink, of course, especially if you’re a fan of the outdoors and love swimming in the azure waters of Texas Hill Country oasis Hamilton Pool. But make no mistake: Dripping Springs and the surrounding area have become an attractive place for some of the area’s most promising booze makers. It’s just outside the crowded city and surrounded by the rugged green beauty of the Hill Country, with more land available and less traffic to deal with.
Here, we profile some places (starting with the newest ones) you shouldn’t miss on your next autumn adventure.
The Ghost Hill Restaurant at Treaty Oak Distilling & Brewing
16604 Fitzhugh Road, Dripping Springs. 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. treatyoakdistilling.com.
Though the sprawling Treaty Oak ranch opened two years ago and launched a brewing program last year, one crucial component to the Hill Country destination is brand-new: the on-site Ghost Hill Restaurant serving “Texas-inspired fare,” including smoked, roasted and grilled meats from chef Chris Andrews. He is running his own kitchen following stints working under David Bull — known for Second Bar + Kitchen and Boiler Nine — and Josh Watkins.
The original idea for the Ghost Hill restaurant had been to have fancier food, “but that’s just not what people want when they’re eating here on Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. Instead, he and his team have developed a menu of barbecue dishes with fine-dining flair, a fusion of Andrews’ culinary experiences best epitomized in the weekly specials and in main items like the pork spare ribs with sesame-bourbon glaze, pickled carrots, Asian herbs and lime.
“It’s not just classic barbecue, but I like working with the smoker and the grill, things that are more outdoorsy. It fits the place,” he said.
Treaty Oak is first and foremost a distillery and brewery, of course, so Ghost Hill offers a variety of beers and cocktails. The cocktail menu also has a hefty list of often seasonally focused specials, from the Pomme Cidre with Waterloo Antique Gin, fresh Fiji apple juice, winter spice and a candied apple garnish, to the Orxata with your choice of rum or bourbon and made with jasmine rice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. (It’s Treaty Oak’s tasty version of the Mexican horchata drink.)
So far, Ghost Hill Restaurant has proved to be a popular place for Dripping Springs residents in particular to visit on Thursday evenings. They can enjoy dishes not available over the more high-volume weekend, like pork belly tacos with pickled jalapeños, onions and black-bean salsa. Fridays and Saturdays are dominated by Austin visitors.
That’s all to say that Texas makes a lot of good whiskey. Here are the best ones, should you be considering adding a whiskey to your Christmas wish list or wanting to get the whiskey lover in your life a bottle of something brag-worthy from this fearless state. We compiled a similar list of these whiskeys in 2015, but with many delicious new ones added to liquor shelves in the past two years, it’s worth an update.
Treaty Oak Brewers Conspiracy Number 2, $50. When Treaty Oak Brewing & Distilling moved to a sprawling ranch space in the Hill Country near Dripping Springs, the distillery finally started making its own whiskey, mostly small-batch offerings available only in the tasting room.
Just in time for Black Friday, Treaty Oak is releasing one such rare whiskey at the ranch. The Real Ale Coffee Porter Whiskey is made from the dark local brew and maintains the marvelous roasted notes of the original beer while taking on sweet caramel and toffee notes after aging in on-site barrels.