Jeret Peña remembers coming to The Esquire in his youth when his mother worked on the other side of the street at a title company. In young adulthood, the infamous bar was his go-to place for a 10 a.m. dose of menudo.
Nearly a decade later, Peña is playing a major role in retooling the image of the bar and restaurant at 155 East Commerce, recently reopened by local entrepreneur Chris Hill. As the man in charge of creating the beverage program, Peña has received a lot of attention for cocktails, but he wants to see beer in a starring role.
“What’s the red-headed stepchild of the program is the beer,” Peña said from a circa-1933 wooden booth next to the 100-foot-long wooden bar. Lone Star in a bottle and canned Pabst Blue Ribbon are staples for many customers, but an expanded beer selection is bringing in positive feedback and the place is “blowing through some kegs,” he said.
There are three taps from San Antonio’s own microbrewery Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling Co., two from Austin’s Live Oak Brewing Co., a brew from native San Antonian Kevin Brand’s (512) Brewing Co. of Austin, and three from Real Ale Brewing Co. in Blanco. Two of Peña’s favorite standards round out the tap lineup: Mexican brew Dos Equis and Scrimshaw Pilsner from California’s North Coast Brewing Co.
“We’re getting people from all over the country and they’re expecting good beer,” Peña said. “We’re on stage and this place is as important to that as any place downtown.”
He also relishes teaching creatures of habit about new beers with a five-second spiel ending: “Try this.”
“If you convert them, they will come back to your bar for the beer and you have a customer for life,” he said.
Freetail Brewing Co. has rolled out its latest batch of eXXXtra Pale Ale, a particular favorite of this writer, with Galena and Ahtanum hops serving as the perfect accompaniment to spicy pizza toppings.
Also, Blue Star Brewing Co. now has their stout on cask. If you’ve never had a beer from cask instead of the regular C02, don’t be surprised by the lack of fizziness or a slightly warmer temperature that brings out the rich flavors of the roasted malts. For those who like it ice cold and on the lighter side, Blue Star’s Texican Lager is back for the summer.
Brasserie Pavil has shut its doors. The Northside eatery was particularly notable in the San Antonio beer community for its monthly beer dinners and great selection.
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current and is author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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