Shirley Moskow's picture

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A Beer Tour of San Antonio

Texans are friendly folk and good beer-drinking companions, and the city of San Antonio is one of the best places to enjoy the state’s hospitality on a beer tour of San Antonio. While you’re getting acquainted, you may be taken aback, however, if a new-found friend suddenly asks, “How’d you like a Shiner?” Have no fear. You are in no danger of receiving a black eye or being attacked. Your buddy is offering to introduce you to one of the Lone Star State’s popular beers from one of its oldest breweries, Spoetzl, located in Shiner, Texas, about 90 miles east of San Antonio.

At last count, there are 275 craft breweries in Texas, but you don’t have to travel to Shiner or anywhere else to experience the full range of Texas beers. San Antonio, the state’s second-largest city, and with a population of 1.5 million the country’s seventh-most populous metropolis, has a long and legendary beer culture. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the first Texas commercial brewery opened in San Antonio in 1855. Not surprisingly, Texans developed a fondness for fine brews. Barely five years later, they had a burgeoning industry with eleven breweries.

A German immigrant, William Menger along with his wife Mary, opened a brewery in 1858 on Alamo Plaza. Fans of American history and vintage westerns are, no doubt, familiar with the “Remember the Alamo” refrain. It memorializes the 1836 battle between Texas troops and Santa Ana’s Mexican forces. The Alamo, the oldest of five stone missions erected by the Catholic Church during the Spanish Colonial period, served as a fortress. Now a World Heritage Site, it is the most visited attraction in Texas.

The Menger Brewery proved so popular that the couple soon added a fancy hotel next door. The Menger Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi, enjoyed immediate success. It’s still a favorite with travelers who appreciate modern amenities and Old West charm. The bar is a perennially popular meeting place. Teddy Roosevelt rounded up the Rough Riders here and they quaffed more than a few beers before taking off for Cuba and making history at San Juan Hill. 

From the Alamo and the Menger it’s a short stroll to the two-and-a-half mile long Riverwalk. Architect Robert Hugman designed it in 1929 for flood control of the San Antonio River, and it was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression of the thirties. One story below street level, two parallel sidewalks follow the meandering river around bends and under bridges.

The Riverwalk is a delightful destination with flowering plants, many restaurants, and busy bars. Dine alfresco at Casa Rio, which claims to be the oldest restaurant on the Riverwalk, and enjoy such Tex-Mex standards as beef tacos and tamales with a Mexican cerveza. Sitting under a lollipop-colored umbrella, you’ll see colorful sightseeing barges float by. If you choose to take a ride on one, the captain’s glib patter will entertain with local gossip and history. Afterwards, continue north along the Riverwalk to the Pearl District, which is as popular with locals as it is with travelers. 

The Riverwalk is perhaps the most notable attraction in San Antonio, and travelers are sure to find plenty of places to eat, drink and sightsee while meandering beside the San Antonio River.

The centerpiece of the complex is a vintage brick building: The 1894 brewhouse of the old Pearl Brewery. Updated and re-purposed, the buildings are now the five-star Hotel Emma, named in honor of the wife of Pearl Brewery founder Otto Koehler. After he died, Emma kept the brewery going even during Prohibition. Although most other breweries were forced out of business, she cleverly saved the Pearl by lowering the beer’s alcohol content.

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EdHatDell's picture
When in the Arts District you really need to visit Blue Star Brewing. Great beer and food.


EdHatDell's picture
When in the Arts District you really need to visit Blue Star Brewing. Great beer and food.


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