By Bobby Bush
My first visit to a Texas brewpub, way back in late 1994 (not long after brewpubs were
made legal in the state) was to Hubcap Brewery in Dallas. Sister to the original Hubcap,
still in operation in Vail, CO, this facility is now under new ownership and operating with
a new name. It became Schooner Brewery & Net Gamelink on November 1, 1997, but
as far as I’m concerned this brewpub died on October 31 that same year. Though the
decor had hardly changed in the intervening years, the atmosphere inside this large
downtown building reverberated with unfriendly vibes. Things only got worse from there.
Sliding up to the bar, we made our normal inquiry concerning “what’s on tap?”
Advised that Oktoberfest, a German-style Marzen lager, was the dark selection, along
with Downtown Brown, we perused the menu after selecting the Oktoberfest and a Vail
Pale Ale (obviously a leftover recipe from Schooner’s ex-relative), an IPA. Blonde Ale
was also available, but other tap handles- Rainbow Trout Stout, American Amber and
Pegasus Pilsner -were temporarily “sold out.” J.W. Dundee Honey Brown, a sweet
food-color beverage nowhere close to what a real Brown Ale should be, was the Guest
Beer. The food was filling. The beer, disappointing.
When I finally popped the big question to our inattentive bartenders, regarding the
relationship with Vail, my questions were met with blank stares. Even the daytime
manager was at a loss for words, but I did sense a high degree of animosity toward the
former sibling. I was able to discover that the brewpub eventually intends to install
internet-equipped computers for game playing. Whatever?
The two Hubcaps produced numerous GABF medals. Schooner alone doesn’t
stand a chance.
There was bound to be better beer in Dallas. We found it at Routh Street
Brewery & Grille. Housed in a 100 year old house in the heart of Dallas, this rustic
brewpub, open since October 1995, had a short wood-topped bar with brick walls,
concrete floor and antlers everywhere, from the chandelier to the railing separating bar
from dining areas. The bartender wasn’t too busy and walked us through his seven beers.
RSB Wheat was Bavarian all the way, served with lemon slice to counter its strong
banana nose. Summer Apple, left over from hotter months, was short and sweet. The
other seasonal, Altbier- done Dusseldorf style -was thin and effervescent. RSB Pale Ale
could have used more hops, but the RSB ESB atoned with hoppy sourness and long dry
finish. Big Black Stout was just that, medium thick with smooth black patent malt flavor.
After browsing through the lunch menu, we wished we had waited to eat lunch here.
Next on our agenda was Hoffbrau Steaks & Brewery. Open for 18 years as bar
and restaurant, this downtown establishment added a brewery in 1995 just a few months
after its younger sister in nearby Addison began brewing. Located near SMU, this
somewhat disheveled bar, thanks to two feisty female bartenders, was loads of fun. Once
they noticed we were serious about beer, information and suds began flowing our way.
We skipped over Windmill Wheat and Krystal Weisen, discovered that the award-winning
Yellow Rose Cream Ale was out and chose a thin malty Rodeo Red, whose hoppy finish
left a nice impression, and Buffalo Brown, a ‘96 GABF bronze awardee. The seasonal
Oktoberfest, a true lager, was tangy on the tongue followed by sweet flavor and faint
Hoffbrau Steaks & Brewery is everything a friendly college bar should be.
This Greater Dallas swing, which will continue with Still In Dallas,
will by-pass two
brewpubs. I reported on Dallas’ Copper Tank, sister to the original Copper Tank in
Austin, back in late 1997. And, I was disappointed to discover, Yegua Creek Brewing, a
fine brewpub with award-winning brews, ceased business in mid-1998, allegedly due to
the closing of an off-ramp by highway construction. There was rumor of bad management
as well. Dallas should still be mourning.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush