A combination of details makes you feel like you’re in Seattle or Portland or some other wonderful Northwestern city when you have a pint at the San Antonio Homebrew Supply. It’s the owner-bartender’s laid-back and friendly attitude. It’s the even light, diffused as it comes through the skylight, which recreates, no matter what the weather is like in San Antonio, that overcast bliss of the Pacific seaboard. It’s the regulars; you can almost picture the bicycles people came on. And partially it’s all the stuff: Tables with wooden barrel bases, tubing, funnels, corks, brushes, bottle caps, glasses, and books all for and about brewing beer and making wine. Boxes of ingredients and a fridge labeled “Yeast.” A small baggie of homegrown hops sitting on the wooden bar next to the binder of recipes proclaiming lack of hops available for purchase (meaning that there’re few varieties). The owner tells me that if he hadn’t seen the still-green vegetation, he wouldn’t have believed they were grown in San Antonio. Too hot. But there they are. And it is precisely this sort of magical impossibility that I love about going to SA Homebrew Supply.
Every time I’ve stopped in for a pint, there’s been something different on the three taps behind the bar. This time around he has Czechvar (“The Original Budweiser,” it says next to it), Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (this is the one everyone’s talking about, and for good reason), and Blanco Real Ale Roggenbier, which is a rye ale made with a Hefeweizen yeast. The latter is really good: that little bite of rye with the smooth finish of a wheat beer. Homebrew Supply is also serving $6 bottles of St. Arnold Divine, a Dunkelweizen Bock. I didn’t have time to try it, but it’s on my short list. Though they don’t have a huge selection of beer, there is always something delectable (and unusual) to try. And while the bathroom is like a truck stop’s, you’re only expending the wasted stuff, and there’s a cool poster of national microbrews on the wall. This is a place for beer, after all.
As I finish my pint of Celebration Ale, a couple of guys come in, retired military, and I give up my seat since I’m about to head out. My replacement shakes my hand when I leave, and the owner, electric guitar (unplugged) in his lap, waves. He’s got a metal slide on his finger. As the door closes behind me, the San Antonio sun snaps the spell and I’m tempted to blow off my obligations and head back into the Northwestern mirage.