When Amrit and Chandan Topiwala opened Whip In as a quaint corner store on the access road of I-35 in 1986, neither of them could have forecast it would evolve into the culinary hot spot and beer nerd’s paradise it is today. Early on, when the Topiwalas realized they weren’t selling much gas, they had their tanks and pumps removed. They knew they were, however, making most of their sales in beer. Following suit, they began to carry the craft beers, like Grolsch and Spaten, that had become so desirable to their customers.
Twenty-seven years later, Whip In has grown into a full-fledged gastropub. While they still retail bottles of hard-to-find imported beer, bartenders now pour 72 different brews on tap. And just this summer, Whip In took things to the next level and began brewing their own craft beer in-house.
“Ever since [we opened], the attraction of beer was our mainstay here,” explains Dipak Topiwala, Amrit and Chandan’s son and Whip In’s general manager. “I think it still is. And the idea that we can actually make beer is like an homage to the idea of beer being our god, almost. The things that keep people happy and satisfied.”
Kevin Sykes was a regular customer who started to bring in two to three batches of his own home brew each week to share with the staff. They were so impressed that they brought him on as the head brewer of the newly coined Namaste Brewing. Sykes and the three-member “brew crew” have done a lot of experimenting since the summer, and will have three consistent house brews on tap by winter (plus seasonal special releases).
The Austoner-Weiss is a low-gravity tart wheat beer that changes with the seasons. “It’s the same base beer but it’s not always the same fruit,” explains Sykes. “We’re trying to use whatever’s local, whatever’s in season, to keep it different every time.” In the fall, notes of pears from Engel Farms highlighted the brew, while Hill Country peaches were dominant in the summer.
The Brahmale is a deceivingly 9.5 percent alcohol by volume “postcolonial” India pale ale, dry hopped and enhanced with organic grapefruit peel from the Valley, lemongrass and Good Flow honey. “Originally, we were pairing with the food,” says brew-crew member Arjit Mahapatra. “Because it’s hoppy, Brahmale goes great with the beef and beer chili or anything on the menu that’s spicy.” The Shivastout is made from bourbon-soaked dates, oatmeal and Good Flow honey, and they’re currently fermenting a chai porter with cacao nibs. A Belgian tripel made with rye and rose hips, dubbed Vishnavitripale, will be ready for release by spring.
Sustainability is part of the brewing focus. Whenever possible, the kitchen salvages grains used in brewing by putting them into housemade muffaletta bread, or incorporates fruit used in brewing in a special dessert. The remainder of the used grains help feed the goats at Windy Hill Farm (brew-crew member Ty Wolosin’s family’s farm), and all other organic kitchen scraps are sent to local compost producer Break it Down.
Right now, the crew is turning out between three and six 10-gallon batches each week, with special releases typically running out the same day they are tapped. In the next year, Dipak hopes to purchase more tanks so that they can brew 120 gallons at a time. “We’re truly in the infancy stage of a brewpub. We’re literally getting our feet wet,” Dipak says with a pause. “Well, not anymore, actually…. We all have boots on now…[but we’re] figuring out how to do what we do on a small scale and then hopefully, within the next year or so, we’ll acquire another brewing system where we make more beer. But the ultimate dream is to be able to produce a lot of beer and have a lot of people smile over it.” —Veronica Meewes
1950 S. I-35