Fast Friends Beer Co., which opened in late May at 7313 N Interstate 35 Frontage Road in South Austin, has a hefty vision. The 16,500-square-foot brewery wants to cater to meat eaters, vegans, the gluten intolerant, and everyone in between. The goal is to serve food, beer, and wine for anyone, no matter their dietary restrictions.
Fast Friends’ director of culinary operations Emily Rayburn is vegan and gluten intolerant, and Keith Shaw, Fast Friends’ director of brewing is vegan. Shaw says he uses Brewers Clarex, a gluten-reducing enzyme, to make some of its in-house beers safe for gluten-intolerant people. While Clarex doesn’t completely eliminate gluten, it reduces it to levels where it likely won’t trigger an immune response in most who are intolerant. Fast Friends sells a range of beers on tap including ales, IPAs, saisons, pilsners, and ambers, as well as a selection of wine and cider.
The focal point of the menu is pizza. Fast Friends has 12 different pizzas on its menu including a pepperoni with a jalapeno swirl; a bianca with a garlic-based sauce, herb ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, hot agave-based honey, and pepper flakes; and the Verde with a garlic-based sauce, cilantro pesto, roasted corn, mozzarella, chipotle crema, and cotija cheese.
The menu also includes cajun sweet potato wedges, pretzel bites, salads, and a wrap. Rayburn says nearly everything on the menu can be made gluten free or vegan and stresses that the pricing is the same whether an item is vegan or not.
Fast Friends has plans to add within its space. Rayburn, who is executive chef at a plant-based catering company and supper club called Loam, says those monthly dinners will make their way to Fast Friends’ basement starting August 5. The dinner will include nine courses plus wine and beer pairings from the brewery for $185 a person. The brewery also hopes to add a speakeasy-style cocktail bar to the basement and host a food truck outside.
Rayburn also prioritizes taking care of her staff, with a wellness and health center for employees under construction and minimum pay of $20 per hour.
Fast Friends owner David Childress is a military veteran who opened Common Space Brewery in Hawthorne, California, and TEN20 Craft Brewery in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the founder of the non-profit Do/Love/Live. Shaw was the head brewer at Modern Times Beer and Coffee in Anaheim, California. Rayburn was previously the executive chef at Austin’s the Beer Plant and its Oaxacan cafe Tellus Joe’s.
Fast Friends is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.