Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Forget The Alamo

* Editor's note: Chris is still crafting his write-ups about our time in Asheville, NC and Athens, GA -- at least I think he is. But in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy hearing about my recent little excursion to...

San Antonio, TX

I've spent a good amount of time in Texas over the past 10 months and it's a dirty shame that I haven't gotten around to putting up any posts about the excellent beer hikes I did in Houston and Austin. They're still on my list, but for now I'll try and take you farther south, into Alamo country.

Bathroom key at The Filling Station

On a recent work trip to Austin, I decided to take several days off after my contract was up and do what I do best. Just north of the Texas State Capitol building, near the University of Texas campus, is a small parking lot where you can catch a Megabus. I got in line at about 11am and 90 minutes and $9 later, I was in San Antonio.

My accommodation for the two night visit was an old, refurbished Airstream trailer that I found on airbnb.com. It was pretty cozy, but I didn't spend a whole lot of time there. After a quick lunch and dropping some stuff at my trailer, I took to the street, looking for a bus north. My only goal for the first evening was to make it way up to Freetail Brewing -- just outside the city limits, about 20 miles away. I would do a proper UBH tomorrow.

It was a hot Thursday afternoon. I cooked at the bus stop waiting for a second bus to arrive. (The first one callously blew right past me. Asshole.) I would not be deterred, however and about two hours and two buses later, I got off. This far out of the city center, there is no consideration for pedestrians. Even getting off at the closest bus stop, I still had to wade through a small field that was probably full of snakes, play Frogger across a busy avenue with no crosswalk, and navigate a huge, labyrinthine parking lot (how did I ever do this shit without the Google Maps app?) I must have looked like some sort of escaped lunatic. Did I mention that it was 94 degrees? It was damn sketchy, but I managed to arrive safely and score the last open seat at the busy bar. I earned it.

Well deserved.

After such a hard time getting to Freetail Brewing, I figured it would be disappointing. There's no way it would be worth the hassle I endured to get all the way up there. But it was. The beer was very good and the atmosphere and service seemed to be at odds with the surroundings (a lot of strip malls and fast food joints.) Even though the place was very busy, I still managed to have a good talk with the bartender about the local happenings and he gave me some good recommendations of places to visit on my walk tomorrow. (I even ran into him again the next day at The Friendly Spot. This dude gets around.)

When I was finished, I armed my flashlight and raced back through the obstacle course and under the 1604 Loop Highway. I easily caught the last Via bus back to the city and avoided a very expensive taxi ride (or 18 mile night hike).

San Antonio UBH
Taps y Tapas - Blue Star Brewing/Stella - Friendly Spot - Filling Station - VFW Post 76 - The Granary; about 5.5 miles.

View San Antonio UBH in a larger map

The next day was a lot more mild. It didn't even get past 80. Perfect weather to explore central San Antonio by foot. I began with a good walk through San Pedro Park and past The Cove -- a very good beer spot that I'd had lunch at the day before, right after I got off the Megabus. I didn't stop this time, though. The back beer bar with all the taps doesn't open until later in the afternoon, so I would have to skip it on this hike.

Compared to my little adventure the night before, the hike was pretty uneventful. I was by myself, so I don't have any harrowing stories of things getting out of hand or anything like that. Just a lot of walking and looking. It's refreshing to do these introspective hikes once in a while. It would have been nice to have Link along, though. Most places had plenty of outdoor seating and The Cove even has a designated area for dogs in its beer garden. Very cool:

I can honestly recommend every place I made it to on this trip. The beer, food, and service were all great at Taps y Tapas. If I lived in that neighborhood (Five Points, I think) I would be there and The Cove an awful lot. Downtown has some notable things to stop and gawk at, namely The Alamo (which I completely forgot about and didn't visit, because I'm a fucking idiot sometimes) and The Tower of the Americas, which looks pretty cool, but is probably pretty boring. The Riverwalk is sometimes bashed for being overly commercialized in some parts, but the short section I walked from Casear Chavez Blvd. to Blue Star was quite beautiful and serene. I even saw some ducks.

The sampler flight at Blue Star Brewing is very generous:

Damn near 40 ounces.

Right next door is Stella, a fine Public House with 20 taps and some great looking food. Next was The Friendly Spot, an ice house style bar that has about a thousand taps, some entertaining bathroom graffiti, and a gigantic outdoor area that no doubt fills up fast. I was there early on a Friday afternoon and could tell that they were gearing up for a big night. From there, it's only a few blocks to a completely different kind of beer bar, The Filling Station. This tiny little place -- clearly for beer nerds, by beer nerds -- is set in an old service station. There are only a few stools to park on inside (plenty of chairs outside) and I'm glad I nabbed one because there was some good craic happening.

Go here.
Go here, too. (The Filling Station)

In the interest of time and needing to get walking again, I sadly had to pass up the promising Alamo Street Eat-Bar, a food truck pod that also offers a good selection of beer. I wanted my next stop to be The Ten Eleven, a music venue that I heard serves good beer, too. Unfortunately it opens pretty late and I didn't have time to wait around. One of the locals at The Filling Station recommended that I stop by the VFW Post 76 instead. I probably wasn't supposed to be allowed to drink here since I'm not a war veteran, but they let me in anyway. There wasn't anything special about the beer selection, but the building is very cool and there was some good people watching that night.

If this is closed...
This is just around the corner.

My final stop was at The Granary 'Cue and Brew. Despite its cutesy name, this place is very enjoyable. I loved the ribs and their house-brewed rye saison -- both very competently made and sloppily consumed (by me). I also enjoyed talking about beer and cartoons with the beertenders. Good fellows.

Get your learning on at The Granary.

I probably could have hit another spot I'd heard about (Barbaro) or The Cove on the way back to my trailer, but I was spent. Another city in the books. It was time to get some rest and ready myself for two days in Austin -- a fucking GREAT beer hiking town. But that's another post I should get to work on.

I'll get back to you. Thanks for reading. Picture time:


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