UT alumni start Austin’s first beer museum

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From left to right, Virginia and Matt Benavidez and Cameron Paxton are the founders of the Beer Museum, a traveling pop-up exhibit that educates people on the history of beer. The museum will make its next appearance at the NXNW Oktoberfest on Oct. 15.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

College students all over the country proudly mount their empty beer and liquor bottles atop shelves and cabinets in their apartments. UT alumni Virginia and Matt Benavidez and their friend Cameron Paxton decided to get creative with their collection of empties and educate the people of Austin about the history of beer.

In its current form, the Beer Museum is a mobile pop-up that travels to local breweries and festivals, displaying its collection of more than 1,500 bottles and cans and educating patrons about the history of beer. It will hold its next exhibition on Oct. 15 at the NXNW Oktoberfest.

The idea for the Beer Museum came about when Virginia and Matt began saving the empty bottles and cans from different craft beers they had been trying.

“The collection got so big that we didn’t know what to do with it, so we started looking for a beer museum to donate the bottles to,” Virginia said. “When we found that [it] didn’t really exist anywhere at the time, we decided that we would become that beer museum.”

Although the Beer Museum has only been active for two months, its origins can be traced back to when the now-married couple met while studying film at UT in 2008. Virginia was already 21 and had been trying new craft beers for a while at that point, but her parents were the ones to open Matt’s mind to a world outside the American staples of Bud Light, Coors Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon by giving him whatever beer they had on draft when he visited their home. 

“I would try the beer they had and it would blow my mind, especially their Live Oak Pilz,” Matt said.

The two met their future partner, Cameron Paxton, through a mutual friend and began playing music together as a band. Paxton said it only took a few drunken nights of band practice to realize their shared love for trying new craft beer with each other. 

Now, Virginia, Matt and Paxton each play a distinct role in running the Beer Museum. Virginia deals with museum operations, Matt handles brewing and Paxton takes care of the graphic design for displays and runs the Beer
Museum’s website.

Although the mobile pop-up works for them right now, the Beer Museum owners plan to upgrade their setup in the future. They said their ultimate goal is to move their museum into a brick and mortar where they can have a permanent spot to host their customers, offering both educational exhibits and
a brewery.

“As people move through the exhibits, we‘re going to recreate some historic and ancient beer recipes so they can taste what beer would’ve tasted like during certain pivotal points of beer history,” Virginia said.

While the owners certainly take pride in their knowledge and appreciation for different craft beers from all different time periods around the world, Paxton said they don’t intend to alienate people who may not be as well-versed in the world of beer. They are inclusive of those who drink everything from Bud Light to sour beers.

The folks at the Beer Museum wanted to remind college kids that while it’s good to be educated about all the different beer options, they should still make
time to enjoy the watered-down classics. 

“I feel like you’re not going to get the true college experience if you don’t just blow your money on the cheapest stuff you can find sometimes,” Virginia said. “There’s definitely a time and a place for PBR, and that’s college. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The Beer Museum at NXNW Oktoberfest

Address: 10010 N Capital of Texas Hwy

When: October 15–16 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.