The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Beer Bars
Texas

 

 

Dallas

Galveston

San Antonio

 

The Esquire Tavern
155 East Commerce Street
San Antonio, Tx 78205

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.

Once inside you will find the longest continuous bar surface in the state of Texas. It covers two zipcodes. You can buy a beer in one zipcode, drink it in another and never leave the bar! It has more dead animals than flat screen TVs and a tacky gold and maroon textured bordello wall paper. There is a mile of intimate and dark booths, a tin ceiling and plenty of seating off the Commerce Street entrance (see website for this less tacky exit). The walls behind and across from the bar are mirrored so you can drink into eternity if you sit at the right place at this bar with a great brass rail. But enough trivialities. Let's talk beer, Texas beer. And pretty senoritas.

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.

 

 

Ginger Man
2718 Boll Street
Dallas, TX 75204
(214) 754-8771

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
2847 North Henderson Avenue
Dallas, TX 75206-6470
(214) 821-1880

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.
Downtown Dallas is desperate for some good beer bars. There are many places to have a Coors or a Coors Light, but good beer is hard to find downtown. I have never been to an authentic Belgian pub but this is what I imagine one should look like. The interior is old Europe. Very dark wood everywhere, well worn and smooth. Once the sun was down candles provided the only light in the pub. The bohemian waitresses were as attractive as the beer list and as varied. Some full-bodied some not so much.
CSNY's Ohio floats through the air. There are lots of windows. And French doors. Or are they Belgian? There are 28 glorious Belgians in bottles and 20 taps in total. Another hundred or so mostly Euro beers fill out the beer list. Beer- battered calamari confirm a coastline is not essential to good squid.
The establishment has two main rooms and outdoor seating. There is a fabulous mirrored bar and seating at eight tables and a bar in the main room. There is a ton of beeraphanelia that included old wood cuts, Belgian beer signs and less exotic Guinness promotions. The mix is fun.
A dart board in the corner beckons no one and our well- endowed waitress wears an off the shoulder bra-strapped ensemble that distracts you from the beer list. The bar food fare is better than average, the service is good, the men's room water is hot, and you can forget you are in Dallas.
I'll go back tomorrow night. You should too. Pickings elsewhere are slim.


 

O'Malley's Stage Door Pub
2022 Post Office Street 
Galveston, Texas   
Telephone: 409-763-1731

Open 11 am to 2 am Daily

Galveston is the end of the continent.
People running from their lives have two choices, the Gulf or O'Malley's.
Fortunately, many choose O'Malley's where Mitzi, and Jim The Axe Murderer hold down the bar in fine style.
Mitzi's there in late afternoon (don't mention tattoos) when regulars begin to show up and Jim into the night (don't ask him to take off his hat).

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.

 

 

Molly's Pub
2013 Post Office St.
Galveston, TX 77550
Phone: (409)763-4466

 

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.