Good beer can’t be stopped; quality will prevail. Just look at Texas. A state long dominated by Lone Star, Shiner and macro garbage is in the midst of a game-changing upheaval. Only a decade ago, the state couldn’t support Pierre Celis, one of the brewing industry’s legendary figures. But now, new breweries are popping up across the state. If you feel like taking in this revolution in a victory lap, head to Austin, which has amazing beer foaming out of every corner. But if you want to see the revolution crystallizing before your eyes, head to San Antonio, a massive city that’s just now at the precipice of becoming a brewing hot-spot. Here’s where to head—the best beer destinations in San Antonio, as ranked by the BeerFly users on BeerAdvocate.com.
San Antonio is a fairly massive city (and one heavily influenced by Hispanic culture) that sprawls out in concentric circles from the downtown Alamo to rings of bedroom communities, lakes and hill country. It’s dappled with lakes, old Spanish missions and icehouses that have become Texas’ answer to the biergarten. When downtown, skip the tourist-clogged River Walk and head straight for Southtown, a district full of historic limestone houses and converted warehouses. The area is the hub of San Antonio’s creative scene, and home to the Blue Star contemporary art center. Right next door is the Blue Star Brewing Company, your best bet for a locally brewed pint in the city center. When in the area, also swing by the legendary Friendly Spot (part icehouse, part neighborhood institution), and the Pedicab (a dive that trades in craft bottles and wings).
The city center is well-served by public transit, but you’ll need a car to reach some of San Antonio’s biggest beer draws, which lie at the city’s northern edge. You already know the kind of heat the Flying Saucer is packing. Take some time to get acquainted with the Freetail Brewing Company, an unassuming-looking place that happens to be BeerAdvocate’s top-rated Texas brewpub.
And if you’re in town, but feel like getting out of town, hop in a car and head to the Real Ale Brewing Company. They’re in Blanco, an hour’s drive to the north, and they have a shiny new gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival they’d like to show off.
Wherever the Saucer lands, it brings a mammoth beer selection, and the San Antonio outpost is no exception: It features several dozen quality taps, hundreds of bottles and one lively patio.
Hills and Dales Icehouse
Part bar, part sociological experiment, Hills and Dales is a biker bar with a taste for good beer. The frills are nonexistent—picnic table seating, plastic cups or BYO glassware—but a wide beer selection has made this place an enduring favorite.
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling
San Antonio’s newest brewery produces both craft beer and whiskey, and its initial portfolio—a Dortmunder Lager, an Oatmeal Pale Ale, a Belgian Strong Dark and a Mesquite Smoked Porter—was built with a strong sense of place in mind.
Freetail Brewing Company
Traditional styles walk into this brewpub, but they don’t make it out alive; instead, they get morphed into wonderful franken-styles like Rye Wit (Witbier brewed with rye, coriander and orange peel) and OktoberFiesta (a Märzen fermented with a Belgian yeast strain).
Tap Exchange [closed]
Five dozen taps make for one of San Antonio’s larger beer selections. The Tap Exchange subscribes to the big tent theory of tap assemblage: Beers are generally drawn from the west of the Mississippi, but styles are spread around broadly, so there’s a pint for every palate.
BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery
BJ’s is well-known for its pizzas and its wicked Tatonka Stout. The chain’s Stone Oak incarnation features both in heavy quantities, and the neighborhood is better for it.
The Lion and Rose
This small chain of British-style pubs tilts heavily toward English imports from the likes of Boddington’s, Belhaven, Young’s and Old Speckled Hen. There’s also a decent selection of American craft beers in the bottle, as well as Scotch eggs to soak it all up.
Pesca on the River
Not a beer bar per se, but the café in the Mokara hotel is definitely your best bet for a quality pint along the Riverwalk. Taps lean to the local side, with big-name Belgians represented in the bottle.
The Friendly Spot Icehouse
A relaxed, kid-friendly, outdoor drinking hole sporting lawn chairs, DJs, Mexican munchies, and plenty of trees. Also, there are beers. Cheap and tasty beers. More than 140 of them in the bottle, to be exact.
The Pedicab Bar and Grill
The Pedicab is a fun little dive with a surprisingly large selection of quality craft beers. Plus, the locals joke that there’s crack in their chicken wings, so that’s good, right? They don’t pour from taps or take cash, but what they do works just fine.
Real Ale Brewing
Real Ale is riding high on the recent success of their flagship Pale Ale, but it’s their Coffee Porter and Rye Pale that BeerFly users really go nuts for. Keep an eye out for these guys all over town. Or, take the hour’s drive north to their production facility.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Burgers and beers, delivered to your seat, while watching things get blown up on the big screen. Taps rotate, and include selections from Real Ale, Dogfish Head, Independence, Shiner and New Belgium.
Blue Star Brewing Company
Blue Star brews up balanced, approachable beers in the King William neighborhood. They’re known for their Wheathead Wit, but keep an eye out for King William Barleywine, a subtle version of the style with nice pine and citrus notes. ■