After spending a few off days hitting the restaurants of Austin, the tour headed to Waco for a Friday night show at Southern Roots Brewing Company.
I had never been to Waco before, and honestly didn't know much about it, other than it being the home of Baylor University, and of course the area's infamous history from the '90s. For some reason I pictured it as a rather small town, but it was larger than I expected. Unfortunately I didn't arrive early enough to explore the city, so headed straight to the brewery. This particular date was an interesting date to be playing in Waco, considering their history with government overreach... as it was the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. What better place to commemorate that federal mistake than at a brewery in Waco, Texas?
Waco is the home of several breweries, as well as an acclaimed distillery. Southern Roots is probably the newest of them, having only opened in late 2019. The brewing facility and taproom share a roomy building within the city, and also features a kitchen serving excellent looking pizzas, wings, and sandwiches.
Southern Roots Brewing Company - Waco, TX
Beers are currently available at the taproom and choice locations in the Waco area.
The Waco Tribune, the local daily newspaper, did a feature story on my tour, as well as an interview via phone, and it was nice to roll into town with some media coverage promoting the show. The piece mentioned that I was currently based out of Cincinnati, and as a result I met three couples from Ohio who had seen the story.... two were from Cincinnati, and one from Columbus... all the way down here in Waco, Texas. One of the couples from Cincinnati had lived literally right down the street from me, and the other in the next suburb over. Small world!
The taproom is a wide open space, with the bar facing you as you walked in, ample tables and seating, and the food counter in the rear. As you walk towards the food you can see into the brewing facility in the area beyond the bar. I played on one side of the taproom, with a big mural of the brewery's logo behind me. Both the staff and the crowd were very friendly, with a lot of enthusiasm shown for my music as well as lively discussion of the tour and various stops along the way.
My first brew of the night was the Texas Irregular (5.3%), which is Southern Root's take on a California Common recipe. For those not familiar, Anchor Steam is probably the most famous California Common, a variety that uses lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures, and in this case coupling Northern Brewer hops with liquid yeast strain, resulting in a tasty brew a little darker and more robust than an amber, with caramel and dark malt tastes, and smooth finish. A nice balance of medium body and refreshing crispness, it was a great beer to start with, and even though my mission was to move on to other options, it was a beer that I could have easily enjoyed several of.
Feeling a bit bold on this particular evening, I moved swiftly to the Tall Dark & Bourbon (8%) whiskey stout. I was excited to try this one, as I had read online that it was being rolled out on this night. Dark and inviting on the pour with a thick tan head, the aroma was a heavenly mix of a well balanced coffee and chocolaty stout with a touch of bourbon. On the taste, the bourbon was a bit more pronounced... not overwhelming by any means... but you could definitely taste it, and provided a touch of sweetness that balanced well with the toasty malt and cocoa tones of the stout. Smooth and rich in body without being too heavy, this was my favorite beer of the night.... and at 8% I limited myself to just one.
In a rather dramatic change in direction, I followed the bourbon stout with Straw Hat Summer Day (6.7%), a nicely executed hazy (New England style) IPA. A brighter gold and (you guessed it...) hazy pour, this was an aptly named beer, which I could imagine crushing on a hot dusty day in the Texas heat. Quite refreshing with a healthy balance of citrusy juiciness and hoppy bite, it was nice and reasonably hoppy on the drink, with a slight bitter finish, but not so bitter that it would keep you from downing a good few on a hot day.
The people of Waco (and transplants from Ohio) made for a fun visit, and I thoroughly enjoyed my one-stop Waco experience. I will definitely plan to spend a bit more time here next trip, so I can see what else the town has to offer!
After the show I packed things up and headed southeast, for this leg's final stop in Houston...