The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Beer Bars
The Esquire Tavern
Sure everybody remembers the Alamo, but who remember the Battle of Alazan Creek that preceded it? No one, that's who. This is San Antonio. You want a beer, a Texas beer. There is only one place to go...the Esquire. It looks like a gentlemen's club from the outside; a cheap neon sign discourages you. Walk through it. Don't believe the photos at their website - that is not the only entrance.
There are about ten draft beers. Most of them Texas beers. I had a 512 Pecan Porter that was excellent. There was also a 512 IPA seasonal on tap. Live Oak offered its Big Bark Amber and a hefeweizen that may be the best American hefe I have ever had. My glass was thickly ringed with eight delightful draws of 2 ounces each that were as good as any German hefe I have had. Oh yeah, Paulaner Hefes are sold for $5 each...heaven.
Ranger Creek has two beers including an Oatmeal Pale Ale. Their lager was pedestrian but with a malty sweetness that begged you to have another, a nice session beer. Real Ale Brewing (Blanco) had two entries, Fireman #4 Blondette and an IPA. There was not a bad beer among them. Pearl and Shiner were available too along with three dozen delightfully varied beers from Delaware Dogfish Head to Portland Rogue along with a few nice imports (See Paulaner).
The bartenders were knowledgeable about mixed drinks but they could still jerk a beer. The senoritas were big on bare shoulders and so was I. The prices were $5 and $6 except for a $25 Rogue Imperial Red and a $12 Schneider Hopfenweisen, if you discount $3 Buds and such.
After you pay your homage to Fess Parker, John Wayne and all the others who died at the Alamo, retire to the Esquire. Avoid the deviled eggs (they have a fish oil taste) and the pulled pork (subpar) have the fish and a Texas beer, then ask about the light bulbs.
Press Box Grill
The Press Box has a Main Street address, yet it is located at the intersection of Elm and Ervay. Huh? What?
Once you find the place it has two distinct personalities. L-shaped, the short end of the L is where the bar is located with window tables. It is cozy, the music is good (definition of good means that I liked it), the service is friendly, and the beer is cold.
Some friends walked in and we moved around to the long side of the L. This was more bar restaurant than bar.
Its main advantage is it is one of the few walkable taverns in the hotel district.
We sat at the head of a very long table expecting some friends. The waiter began to lay down place settings, about 15 in all, at the lower end of the table. Our friends must have made a reservation. In walked a dozen or so grade school aged girls in uniform, 80% braces on teeth, and their chaperones. Want a buzz kill? Want to feel your age? Go to a bar, have a few good beers, and share a table with a dozen 14-year old girls.
The Press Box gets an A for convenient location, and a B+ for Texas beers.
Dallas is a big city. No doubt it has great unique beer places. But thank goodness for the Ginger Man downtown. It was a welcome oasis from the free Bud, Bud Light and Miller Lite at the lovely old Magnolia Hotel. Grab a cab and $12 later you're at the Ginger Man, a house-like structure that holds a small but cozy and comfortable bar. The few inside tables were all occupied when we arrived so we sat at a friendly bar with a nice view of the 70 or so taps that included more Belgians than anything, more imports than domestics and overall far more winners that losers. More than a few people sat outside, front and back, in the dead 50s of Dallas winter in January. An upstairs provided additional seating and another bar.
The domestics covered the breadth of the CONUS with Dogfish Head, Left Hand Brewing, The Great Divide and several California beers including some nice Stones. The styles ran to the dark side of the beer kingdom and they had five new draught entries that would please any Questor from the East, at least. The list of bottles was impressive at well over 100 fine additions to the draught list. On a Wednesday night the crowd swelled on the way to whatever was on for the evening then the swelling subsided, leaving plenty of room to spread out.
The food list was less extensive than the beer list, a beer companion with baguette, grapes, cheese, sausage and olives will hold you until dinner will urge you on as it did us. The copper backed bar, through which protrude the lovely taps, each with an authentic handle, gave the place a cozy beery feel.
Many beers will be familiar but how often do you get to drink your way through the Spatens ? The staff was helpful if not overly friendly. Ginger Man is owned by the same person as The Old Monk; try the Ginger Man...it's brighter, livlier, and has a broader range of choices.
Ginger Man is a Texas-based beer chain.
The Old Monk
Dallas. What does it bring to mind? Cowboys. JR. Parkland Hospital. Texas Schoolbook Depository. Sixth floor? If you have been to The Old Monk you'll think of lithe barmaids, darkness and Belgian beers. All in all, not a bad hat trick.
O'Malley's Stage Door Pub
Open 11 am to 2 am Daily
Galveston is the end of the continent.
A modest sized selection of good bottled beers awaits the itinerant Questor and even if it doesn't, there is usually fun to be had and not infrequently an adventure. Talk to the locals. Be nice to Jeff.
And if you get hungry, have a Frito Pie--an American classic with chili & Fritos, topped with onions, cheese & jalapenos. Cooked in the bag, the way a Frito Pie is supposed to be cooked.
The best draft selection at this end of the continent is at Molly's Irish Pub, where you'll find about 60 drafts from around the world. Molly's is located on Post Office Street, just yards away from O'Malley's and other tantalizing establishments.
Avoid hurricane season.