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7 things to know in Austin food right now: Local brewery taps out due to COVID-19

7 things to know in Austin food now: Brewery taps out due to COVID-19

Skull Mechanix Brewing
This South Austin brewery is the latest spot to close due to the pandemic. Skull Mechanix Brewing/Instagram

Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

A popular South Austin brewery announced its permanent closure on July 26, marking the latest in a series of blows levied against the city's craft beer industry. Founded in 2018 by owner Jeff Willis and head brewer Michael Waters, Skull Mechanix Brewing was known primarily for its wide variety of lagers and pilsners, including the Horimana Dry, a Japanese rice lager that became a staple in area bars prior to the spread of COVID-19. Without a preexisting canning operation available to help quickly pivot to a to-go model, the brewery was in a precarious spot from the shutdown’s beginning, even when it started offering beer-to-go in May. “In the end, to-go beer was never going to save us,” the brewery said on its Instagram, “and things were progressively getting worse. We are very thankful that all of our family and staff remained healthy. Please stay safe and support Texas Craft Beer responsibly."

Skull Mechanix’s closure comes following an already stressful month for area craft brewers. On July 22, the state reversed TABC guidelines, forcing many breweries to shutter their patios once more and return to beer-to-go service. "If the current trend continues and we're forced to stay closed for the rest [of the] year, two-thirds of the breweries in Texas will close," said St. Elmo Brewing Co. head brewer, Bryan Winslow told Fox 7 Austin. Like many others, the brewery’s patio reopened to the public for less than a week before shutting down again — the third such shutdown since March. Still, some local operations including Austin Beerworks and Hi-Sign Brewing have found ways around TABC’s unclear guidelines, with the latter operation able to serve patrons on a nearby patio that technically falls outside of the brewery’s license. Parties interested in supporting Texas’s Craft Brewing industry are encouraged to go here for further information and resources.

On July 21, local coffee institution Bennu quietly opened its third location near the ACC Highland campus. The new space features a library design motif, complete with a secret door and room for distanced seating. The new location is also using measures recently introduced by Bennu’s sister locations in response to the novel coronavirus, including gallons of cold brew, delivery, and the pay-it-forward #BennuForYou initiative. “When we opened the first location 11 years ago, we sought to serve the community and be a welcoming place,” said co-owner Stephanie Williams via press release. “What we’ve learned over the past few months at the east and south locations is that we’ve got to continue adapting to serve people in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible and meeting their personal comfort level.” Currently, dine-in patrons have the option to sit indoors or out in the new Bennu’s tree-covered grove area. The shop’s hours of operations are 6 am-7 pm, daily.

Other news and notes

On July 27, Austin was announced as one of 10 U.S. and Canadian cities participating in Wing Showdown, a star-studded, virtual food festival conceived by LA-based restaurant guide app Off the Menu in partnership with delivery service Uber Eats. Kicking off on National Wing Day (July 29), the weeklong event sees celebrities like Snoop Dog, Shaquille O‘Neal, and Anthony Anderson sharing their original wing recipes online, each of which will be recreated by Austin area eateries such as Hi Wings, Black Sheep Lodge, and Southside Flying Pizza. Participants can order the original wing creations exclusively on Uber Eats and vote for their favorites, with the winner earning a donation in their name to the Center for Policing Equity. A full list of participating restaurants and their corresponding celebrity recipe developer can be found here

To help raise money for three area charities, Emmer & Rye announced last week its partnership with some of the Austin restaurant industry’s brightest stars. Every Thursday, from July 23 through September 2, the popular Rainey Street eatery’s limited-run Italian menu, Emmeroni's, will debut an exclusive entree created in collaboration with such chefs as Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ’s Miguel Vidal and Suerte’s Fermín Núñez. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the dish will be split between the charities Youth Rise Texas, Southern Smoke, and The Tavel Bristol Joseph Scholarship at the end of the series. Details on upcoming partnerships and weekly specials can be found on emmerandrye.com.

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the Austin-based, Grammy-nominated psychedelic soul outfit Black Puma’s will cancel their upcoming four-night run at Stubbs BBQ after initially rescheduling back in May, but suffice to say it’s not looking good. Regardless, Austin music fans can fill the concert-sized hole in their heart with Stay Gold, the new Black Pumas-themed beer from Austin’s 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative. Brewed with a blend of modern cryo hops and traditional dry hopping, this 5-percent, fruit-forward pale ale adds a crushable new seasonal offering on the North Austin brewery’s lineup of effervescent IPAs, heavy imperial stouts, and gluten-free gruit ales. Six-packs of Stay Gold will be available on Friday, August 7, at certain retailers as well as independent operations like WhichCraft Bottle Shop and Sunrise Minimart. A portion of proceeds from the release will be donated to Austin Justice Coalition, African American Youth Harvest Foundation, and Austin NAACP.

The Roosevelt Room is joining the likes of Butterfly Bar and El Arroyo by offering its unique craft cocktail creations to-go. The operation’s new menu includes 11 of the bar’s most popular offerings including the blanco tequila-forward Lonesome Dove and the non-alcoholic Castaway featuring mint, cucumber, and lime juice. Each batch cocktail bottle comes in either a 750-ml. or 250-ml. size, and features instructions on glassware, serving suggestions, garnish recommendations, and additional pro tips from the RR staff. Delivery is currently available to customers within a 25-mile radius of the downtown lounge from a 4-6 pm and 6-8 pm. Orders can be made over the phone at 512-494-4094 or online at therooseveltroomatx.com.