Springtime in Texas means bluebonnets. The violet-blue Texas state flower blooms in fields, meadows, medians and roadsides across Texas. With its rolling hills, granite outcrops and panoramic views, the Texas Hill Country is one of the most picturesque areas to find a bluebonnet field. Traditionally known as wine country, breweries are beginning to pop up in small towns throughout the Hill Country. Finding that perfect bluebonnet photo can be hard work, so reward yourself for a job well done with a local craft beer.
Wildflowers and Local Brews
Start your bluebonnet tour at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center and pay homage to the first lady of wildflowers. Lady Bird Johnson made it one of her life’s missions to beautify Texas with the planting of native flowers. She established the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 to restore the beauty of wildflowers in Texas. Today the center is an internationally recognized botanic garden displaying 650 native plants including bluebonnets.
For your first beer stop, try a traditional farmhouse ale at Jester King. Sitting on a 60-acre working farm on the western edge of Austin, Jester King Brewery produces about 3,000 barrels a year of small-batch artisanal beers. The brewmaster uses herbs like rosemary, horehound and lemon beebalm grown on the farm to give the beers a subtle taste of the Hill Country. Sit at a picnic table underneath the shade of a huge oak tree and enjoy one of their signature sour Belgian lambics.
Between Fredericksburg and Llano on U.S. Highway 16, the terrain changes from gently rolling hills to rugged canyons with jagged cliffs. The 13-mile Willow City Loop smack in the middle of the two towns is one of the most beautiful drives in Texas. The two-lane country road winds through deep canyons, high hilltops and meandering streams with phenomenal panoramic views year-round. These views are especially breathtaking when the meadows are full of blue, yellow, pink and orange wildflowers!
A word to the wise, this is not a hidden gem. On weekends, the bumper-to-bumper traffic can impede the tranquil beauty of nature’s wildflowers. If you enjoy serenity with your wildflower viewing, take this drive on a weekday.
Farms and Festivals
Hop on Highway 290 and drive west for 90 minutes to Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg. The nation’s largest working wildflower farm is free and open to the public seven days a week. The family owned farm has more than 200 acres of wildflowers with several acres devoted to bluebonnets. This is a must-stop for any wildflower lover.
The long stretch of highway between Austin and Fredericksburg is famously known for the wineries, but there is definitely so much more. Altstadt Brewery is a 58,000 square-foot brewery housed in a three-story German Tudor style grand clock tower. Altstadt mixes old-world European brewing techniques with state-of-the-art digital brewing systems to create the perfect German beer. The brewery is one of four in the United States to follow centuries old, labor-intensive practice of fermenting beer in open fermentation vessels. They brew beer in accordance with the historic 16th century German beer purity laws making beer with only four ingredients – German hops, barley, yeast and water.
A 30-minute drive east of Llano on Highway 29 is Burnet, the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas.” The town has it all for the perfect bluebonnet photo – sweeping landscapes, fields brimming with colorful wildflowers, gently rolling hills and sparkling lakes. Each April, Burnet hosts a Bluebonnet Festival drawing 30,000 people to celebrate all things bluebonnet.
Driving on scenic Highway 281 from Burnet and Marble Falls, you pass an abandoned two-story stone house in a field of bluebonnets. Known as the “Bluebonnet House,” it is one of the most photographed homes in Texas. Farther east near the shores of Lake Travis is the 400-acre Turkey Bend Recreation Area notorious for its bluebonnet fields. Finally, the nearby Muleshoe Bend often referred as the “Field of Dreams” for its glorious fields of wildflowers.
Small Town Breweries
You do not have to feel guilty about finishing the afternoon with a beer or two at Save the World Brewing. As America’s first philanthropic craft brewery, owners Dave and Quynh Rathkamp donate the brewery’s proceeds to local, national and international charities. The couple started their careers as physicians in Dallas but gave up city life, moved to the Texas Hill Country and combined Dave’s passion of brewing Belgian-style beers with Quynh’s passion of giving back to the community.
Try the Fructum Bonum (the good fruit) for a traditional, medium body, crisp farmhouse ale. For a Belgian pale ale with subtle aromas of toasted malt and floral hops try the Humilus Filius (the humble son) or for a classic Belgian wheat ale brewed with orange peel and coriander try the Agnus Dei (the lamb of God).
A few miles away, the family owned and operated Bull Creek Brewing offers beer lovers a great selection. The Iron Balls Imperial Stout is a dark medium body beer that pairs well with BBQ while the malt and honey Boudica Braggot Ale is the brewmaster’s homage to the Eastern Hill County. Bring lunch, sit on the patio and sip one of the brewery’s nine beers while deciding which bluebonnet pictures to post to Instagram first.
Just east of Burnet is Liberty Hill. The small town has not one, but two breweries. Brothers Patrick and John Peck opened the San Gabriel River Brewery on seven acres near the San Gabriel River. The nano brewery makes nine beers ranging from a hefeweizen to a honey porter to a Texas red. Can’t decide which one to choose? Grab a tasting of four five-ounce samples.