Austinites love our local brews, wines and spirits.
And if you’ve ever cracked open a cold beer or sipped a hard seltzer and marveled at its quintessentially Austin can, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered the work of 31-year-old Sam O’Brien and his Austin-based design studio, SAMPLE.
“Austin is just such a unique place that these brands have one thing in common -- they want to tout their Austin roots,” said O’Brien, who moved here from New York when he was a toddler after his dad, acclaimed photographer Michael O’Brien, visited the city on assignment and fell in love with it. “I’ve been an Austin resident for 28 years and it kind of automatically comes through in my work. Some of it is intentional for the brand, but some of it is my personality coming through.”
Launched two years ago, O’Brien’s SAMPLE is responsible for the looks of local food and beverage brands such as Zilker Brewing Company, Cisco’s Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Ranch Rider Spirits and Austin 101 Light Whiskey as well as beloved local businesses such as Criquet Shirts and Chubbies. (Fun fact: SAMPLE’s officemates, FugginHuggin, seemingly have the other half of Austin’s alcohol market covered, designing for brands such as Twisted X Brewing Co. and Hi Sign Brewing.)
From the hats O’Brien designed for Cisco’s that state, simply, “Migas” – a nod to one of the Austin institution’s signature dishes – to the festive merch he created for University of Texas football player Bijan Robinson’s new Dijon mustard brand, time and time again he encapsulates the city’s quirky, upbeat vibe. Perhaps most notable, however, is his work for Zilker Brewing Company, whose eye-catching cans incorporate a perfectly balanced blend of bright colors and throwback aesthetics.
“Our brand is centered around a retro-modern vibe that can be tricky to pull off at times but has been a natural fit for Sam since our first project together,” said Patrick Clark, co-founder of Zilker Brewing Company. “He designed a collaboration can for us several years ago that was so on-brand it eventually inspired the refresh of our core beer line-up.”
O’Brien, who attended Baylor University and interned and worked at Austin’s McGarrah Jessee before starting his own firm, said his early collaboration with Zilker Brewing was “every designer’s dream.”
“It was the first account that made me realize that SAMPLE was possible,” he said. “It was awesome, not only for the creative opportunities and beer labels we got to design and are still designing, but also my office is right down the street from them and I get the perks of free beer. You couldn’t really ask for more as an Austin-based designer.
O’Brien said in the future he’d love to add businesses like Howler Bros., Patagonia and heritage beer brands such as Anheuser-Busch to his client roster. Mostly, though, he simply wants to help spotlight and amplify Austin culture through his designs.
“The underlying spirit of Austin still exists, and it’s up to the native Austinites and the true Austinites to keep that,” he said. “Cisco’s, for example, who we’ve done work for, is the oldest Tex-Mex place in Austin. When I do work for them, it’s like we want to honor that heritage and that history and celebrate that. We’re able to keep the spirit alive through our work.”
Those who don't want to "stay put" at their favorite Rainey Street spot can soon head to "The Stay Put," a new brewery set to add to the area nightlife sometime this summer.
The brewery, which comes from bar hospitality group Pouring With Heart, will brew its own beers. They'll be available alongside draft cocktails on tap at the two bars within the indoor and outdoor space.
The beer itself will feature "crisp and clean, easy drinkers," according to Eater Austin.
Its leaders have seen their share of the local nightlife scene: Pouring With Heart's general manager Amanda Carto was once GM at Nickel City and has experience at fellow Rainey Street bar Half Step. Meanwhile, operations director Steven Robbins has several local projects under his belt, including reopening beloved old-school spot King Bee and opening rum-focused Caña, which operates within company-owned bars Seven Grand and Last Perlas ATX.
The latest Rainey Street development will be located at the site of the former Indian restaurant G'Raj Mahal at 73 Rainey Street and will open sometime in summer 2022.
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The biggest party in Austin is almost back at Q2 Stadium!
Attending a match with over 20,000 fans can seem daunting for a new member of the scene, especially after a thousands-strong crowd already showed their Verde pride in a preseason match in a draw to Liga MX champs Atlas FC on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
But Austin's first major league pro team is also its most inclusive, and each match is a testament to the city's history and community spirit.
From gameday fashion to parking tips, check out our one-stop guide to the Austin FC matchday experience ahead of the club's second season, which kicks off against FC Cincinnati at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26 at Austin's Q2 Stadium:
Each section provides a unique experience—and nearby food and drink options—at Austin FC's Q2 Stadium. (Q2 Stadium)
Still scrambling for a last-minute ticket? If you're not a season ticket holder, it might seem tough to snag a spot at Austin's season opener. But despite the hype, tickets are still available for the Saturday match starting at $44.
If you're looking for beer showers and nonstop action, search for the more elusive supporters' section tickets. Tickets are slightly more limited in this area due to the constant excitement stirred up by fan clubs Los Verdes and Austin Anthem and fan band La Murga de Austin.
Fans of opposing teams tend to gather around the upper level around Section 228, so avoid that unless you've got an opposing club's jersey. Otherwise, tickets from around the stadium are sure to provide different snapshots of the big game.
Austin FC tickets are powered through SeatGeek. You can download the app, or buy tickets on their website here.
Aside from decking out in Verde, there are a few rules to know before reaching Q2:
- First, leave your cash at home. Q2 is all cashless.
- The stadium is not BYOB, so leave outside food and drinks at home too.
- Bags larger than your hand, professional cameras, selfie sticks, air horns and other materials are also banned. Click here for more info.
- Do charge your phone before the match and download the Austin FC app. You can use it for everything from ticketing to parking info and paying for in-stadium food and drinks.
Q2 fashion: what to wear on gameday
You can't go wrong with an Austin FC jersey fit on gameday. (Austin FC)
With such a prominent signature color, it'd be a crime to not wear some Verde come gameday.
Here are a few tips for your gameday fit:
- Check the weather beforehand. Q2 Stadium is outdoor, though it's designed to stay coolish during Texas summers. Austin's season will open on a gloomy Saturday with chances of showers and temperatures peaking at just 42 degrees.
- Matchday outfits range from casual sportswear to dresses, suits and even Verde face paint, so don't worry about being too bold. Wear comfortable shoes if you plan on touring the stadium or standing throughout the match.
- For the freshest fit to date, check out Austin's minty clean Sentimiento jersey, which was released as the club's secondary outfit earlier this month and offers a more minimalist look.
- If you're looking to dress like a Day One fan, check out season one's white "Legends" jersey or the classic Verde and Black-striped home jersey—it was voted the team's drippiest kit by Austin FC fans in our latest poll.
- If you're still looking for something green, check out the on-site Verde Store at the north of the stadium before the match. It'll be stocked up with the latest merch but may be crowded on game day. Normal hours run from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. every day, while the Verde Store's Congress location is open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sundays at 506 Congress Ave.
A guide to matchday public transportation to Q2 Stadium. (Cap Metro)
Now that you've got Verde on and swapped an air horn for your foam finger, you're ready to take on a more daunting task: getting to the stadium.
Although Austin FC fans have come up with creative ways to make it to game day, our recent Twitter poll shows that most still choose to park.
Stadium parking passes can be found here, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny—home opener passes start at a cool $60. Have your pass ready on your phone before you enter the North, East and Southwest lots.
For more affordable parking, check out Pavemint, which offers spots in offsite lots surrounding the stadium with single-match and season parking passes. It's also common to see crowds of people walking from The Domain or other farther lots as they head to the stadium.
Many fans also try out public transportation through Cap Metro, which is speeding up its gameday process this season. Four routes, including the MetroRapid 803, MetroBus 3, MetroBus 383 and MetroBus 392 will drop off in front of the stadium as often as once every 10 minutes. MetroBus 392 is slightly slower with drop offs every 30-35 minutes between Q2 Stadium and Tech Ridge Transit Center.
If routes to Q2 aren't available near you, you can also park your car and catch a bus at four Park & Ride locations including the North Lamar Transit Center, Pavilion Park & Ride, Tech Ridge Park & Ride and Westgate Transit Center.
The club has also mapped out walking and biking routes and a drop-off point for those coming in via limousine or rideshare apps.
For more maps and parking information, click here.
Pregame and watch party action
Last night was 🔥🤪 pic.twitter.com/n1moYpROBY— Los Verdes (@LosVerdesATX) February 13, 2022
Those Texas-sized beers tend to go for Texas-sized prices inside Q2, but have no fear: local breweries are always ready for Austin FC traffic within walking distance of the stadium.
Grab a brew at Hopsquad Brewing (2307 Kramer Ln.), the home of Los Verdes, or the Austin Anthem HQ Circle Brewing (2340 W Braker Ln) to get some pre-game hype.
Due to a cold weather forecast, outdoor festivities including live music performances have been canceled at Hopsquad for the home opener, but the party will still rage on at both venues in the warmth of the indoors.
Weather permitting, both breweries will stock up on food trucks, live music and even Austin FC-centric beers for each game as the roar of the stadium echoes nearby.
You're in! What to eat, buy and look for inside Q2
Once at the stadium, hopefully, you'll have time to take in the sights, sounds and smells before the match.
Here are a few things to expect, from local food to craft beers on tap:
- The facility- Enter through one of four gates, which open 90 minutes before the match, and witness plenty of local murals as you scope out your spot in one of the stadium's 20,500 seats. Everything will be Verde, including most people you see lining up in front of each gate.
- The Austin FC Beer Hall- Open four hours before kickoff, it stays open about an hour and a half after. It features 16 beers on tap, including an assortment of local craft beers. The stadium also hosts Michelob Ultra bars, a Bulleit Bar and plenty of places to grab a Dos XX.
- Beverages- Expect offerings from partner Diageo North America, which includes Captain Morgan, Bulleit Whiskey, Ketel One, Don Julio and Crown Royal, as well as Anheuser Busch, Heineken, Dos XX and Austin Eastciders. Non-alcoholic options include Coca-Cola Products, C4 Energy and Waterloo Sparkling Water.
Food, food and more food
We could go on all day about the food offerings at Q2 Stadium—and we did. From Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ to T'Loc's Sonoran Hot Dogs, Austin FC worked to represent Austin by partnering with 512 Food Co. and loading the stadium up with as many local eats as possible. For a complete list of food options, including the iconic Queso Fountain, click here.
Austin FC's Diego Fagundez is a favorite on and off the pitch. (Austin FC/Twitter)
Not up to date on last season? No need to fear—lamenting about last season's disappointing nine-win season will help you fit in quickly. The club finished second to last in the MLS' Western Conference for its first season last year, and the season came with peaks and valleys that were not reflected by the team's ever-present fans.
But that won't happen again this season, according to head coach Josh Wolff, who told Austonia he expects the team to make playoffs this season.
The club has had a mixed bag of results in preseason, including a 4-0 win over the Dynamo and a 1-1 draw to Mexican league champions Atlas FC as well as losses to Toronto FC and Chicago Fire FC. Each match was a chance to tweak the lineup and test out the club's eight new players, including:
- Maxi Urruti, a former Houston Dynamo striker
- MLS veteran midfielder Felipe Martins (he just goes by Felipe)
- Norwegian center back Ruben Gabrielsen
- Kipp Keller, Austin’s No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick of 2022
- Colombian midfielder Jhojan Valencia
- Ethan Finlay, an experienced MLS winger
- Left back Charlie Asensio, also picked in the SuperDraft
- 19-year-old keeper Damian Las
To get even more in the know, check out Austonia's one-month out report for a predicted starting lineup, club culture and more must-have information on the second-year team.
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