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Food & Drink

Adiós Revolution Room, Hello Leon

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


Change. Some campaign on it, creatures of habit can’t stand the thought of it. For Lee Beekly, owner of Revolution Room, change was necessary.

Beekly, who also owns Taco Garage and Rebar, decided to do a 180 with Rev Room.

“A year, year and a half ago, it started going in a different direction that we wanted,” Beekly said. “I’m older now, I wanted something different.”

The catalyst for the upheaval? Constant police attention the Revolution Room received in the past two years.

This wasn’t always the case. Beekly first partnered with Greg Bickerstaff to open Revolution Room eight years ago after a would-be trip to Berlin turned into an extended stay in Prague. There, Beekly visited coffee shops, discotheques, grotto clubs and learned about the Velvet Revolution (the former Czechoslovakia’s non-violent protest that led to the collapse of Communism there).

The bar was a go-to for area college students looking to barhop between The Hangar, Rebar and Salud without heading downtown.

But now 48 years old and a family man, Beekly’s looking for a change of pace from the “Dance Party, USA” culture.

Sure, Beekly admits, fights happen. But the rowdy, rough-around-the-edges crowd garnered attention from WOAI this past February, which interviewed fed-up neighbors about the weekly parking lot brawls. The segment, followed by a particularly gnarly fisticuffs session amongst bar hoppers near Rev Room, led to Beekly taking down the establishment’s sign, changing the dress code and finding new deejays within days.

The bar is taking on a new moniker, Leon, after Beekly’s grandfather, a geologist born in 1883 who scoured South America and Europe surveying the land for oil and railroads on horseback and later Model Ts. Photos of Leon and his work buddies are scattered throughout the bar, along with new wooden panels, antique tables and wagon wheel light fixtures.

The lifelong restaurateur and bar owner isn’t going it alone. Beekly’s enlisted the help of new partner and longtime Taco Garage patron Joel Rivas to rebrand Leon into a rustic, Americana-tinged ice house/whiskey bar/beer garden.

“We wanted to build something that fits into the neighborhood,” Rivas said of the bar space they’re hoping to turn “from a menace into an asset.”

The upgrades have been slow and steady: The two-month old patio will eventually incorporate a 1955 Spartan trailer outfitted with some 18-plus draught beers. Already, the beer and booze selection is looking up with the addition of craft brews and local spirits. Although the grand opening isn’t slated until August 16, and Beekly often wonders if the venture will stick, he’s finding some peace of mind.

“Sales might have plummeted, but so did the police blotter,” he said.

Leon

8123 Broadway
(210) 320-4567
facebook.com/Leon1883

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The Beer Issue

sa_20141015_homebrewing.jpg

Bryan Rindfuss

A quick glance of tools and materials you’ll need to brew

A Look Back at SA's Homebrew History

Photo: N/A, License: N/A


Homebrewing is a foundational American virtue. Not just Sam Adams smiling back from the bottle that bears his name—virtually all the signatories of the Declaration Of Independence crafted their own ales between bouts of nation-founding. After a healthy century or so, bolstered by European immigrants, and only occasionally tripped up by hatchet-toting teetotalers, the long hangover from Prohibition and the barely-figurative watering down of American beer thereafter made much of the 20th century a tough time for the DIY brewer.

Throughout this unfortunate era, however, regular Joes and Janes continued their lautering and mashing in the kitchens, garages and Sons of Hermann Halls of the nation to produce beer on their own terms. Operating in various states of legality from 1933 (the repeal of Prohibition), Jimmy Carter’s historic move in 1978 to deregulate homebrewing at the federal level allowed states to legally endorse at-home brewing. Though it was the states of the West Coast—California, Oregon and Washington—that were the first to legalize it, Texas wasn’t far behind, officially sanctioning homebrewing in 1983. Texans were now allowed to produce 200 gallons of beer per year per resident of a household for non-commercial consumption. The subsequent three decades have seen the hobby grow into a statewide pastime, cultivating clubs, competitions and more than few of Texas’ best craft brewers.

Though the prospect of making the beer you drink may seem daunting at first, the process is rather straightforward. Equipped with some basic kitchen equipment (pots, spoons, measuring cups) and a few specialized tools (most notably a piece of tubing for transfer and a six-gallon plastic or glass carboy), even the most culinarily inept amateur can produce a perfectly passable amber ale within a month. With a little experience and a taste of success, it’s common for this hobby to become a full-scale obsession.

San Antonio currently has three homebrew supply stores: the two locations of Home Brew Party (15150 Nacogdoches, Ste 130 and 8407 Bandera, Ste 103) and San Antonio Homebrew Supply (2809 N St. Mary’s, recently relocated from their former location a few blocks away). Home Brew Party, owned and operated by Jonathan and Stephanie Billow, offers a wide variety of gear and ingredients for producing one’s own beer, wine, cheese and kombucha tea. San Antonio Homebrew Supply, founded in 1997 by Todd Huntress and still managed by him now, offers a similar array of fermentation implements for both food and drink.

Both stores can outfit a beginning brewer with the necessary kit for around $150; an all-inclusive set of ingredients to produce a 5-gallon batch of brew ranges from $30 to $60. Considering some drinkers’ monthly booze budget, this makes for an extremely profitable investment.

Perhaps to safeguard against going full hermit in pursuit of a better beer, it’s common for homebrewers to hang out. A quick survey of the American Homebrewers’ Association’s “Find A Homebrew Club” turned up a short list of active clubs in San Antonio. The Lager-Rhythmics is the most venerable of the lot, having met since the mid-90s and primarily at Home Brew Supply. The other two most well established clubs are the Bexar Brewers and the Cerveceros Craft Beer Community. Both groups are 501(c)(3) non-profits, fully dedicated to incubating a robust beer-making culture in Alamo City.

The Beer Issue
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The Beer Issue

A Primer on Freetail's Downtown Brewery

Photo: Kevin Femmel, License: N/A

Kevin Femmel

New labels are ready to go

Photo: Kevin Femmel, License: N/A

Kevin Femmel

A sneak peek at the tasting room


Scott Metzger is almost too zen as we talk on the phone about the impending opening of Freetail’s Brewery and Tasting Room on South Presa this November. The economics professor turned brewery owner talked about what he’s doing to control his nerves, how he’s expanding his team, what the brewery means for San Antonio and when you can get your first taste of the hoppy stuff.

What’s the word on your debut?

We’ll be at San Antonio Beer Festival with the five beers in our initial lineup.

What’s the lineup look like?

We’re going to have three [beers] in cans and two in bottles. In cans we’ll have the Bat Outta Helles, our German-style lager that’s lighter, and our more accessible beer that will be available year-round. The other year-round offering will be our Third Coast IPA, and our third can will be a seasonal that rotates quarterly. We’ll start with Oktoberfiesta for the last two weeks of October and add another in the beginning of November. We’ll have two beers that will be in 22-ounce bottles. Our Witicus double Belgian-style witbier and our Freetail Ale, a throwback to the first Freetail Ale we did at the pub that’s a little stronger than what people find these days; it’s slightly hoppier. We had tweaked the recipe to make it less strong and more sessionable [for the brewpub]. This one’s a bit more potent, something you can enjoy at home that’s a little stronger. We’ll have seasonal bottles through the year—the first will be the annual release of La Muerta, our imperial stout, the first week of November.

What’s production look like so far for the beer cans?

We’re looking at half a million cans in our first year, that’s our goal. We’ll have to see how much people like us.

Is the facility close to done?

We’re pretty much done. We’re here in the space, we got all our permits approved. We’re officing down here now every day. There are a few punch-list items our contractor is finishing up. We’ll open to the public on November 7. It’s a First Friday, so let’s just go for it right out of the gate. After that our normal hours will be Thursday and Friday, 4-9 p.m. and Saturday, 2-9 p.m. The tasting room can fit 150 to 200 comfortably, sitting and standing. We have a massive bar that’s even bigger than the one at the brewpub, but it won’t be the type of deal where you come in and sit there. We’ll invite food trucks out to provide food, but we won’t have a kitchen.

You’re a little too calm for someone that’s about to open a brewery…

We’ve been through this before … the bigger point of any unknowns or nervousness is the fact that we’ll have our beer out for wholesale. Instead of one point of contact with the brewpub [which isn’t going anywhere], we’ll have a second taproom and hundreds of points of contact wherever they have our beer, so there are so many things to worry about. Product quality has to be top notch either way, and if anyone is having a bad experience, be it from dirty taps or pipes, that’ll reflect poorly on us. These are the little things we have to worry about. We’re approaching this with a sense of excitement because this is what we’ve been working toward since we opened the pub.

What will the pub’s role be in the future?

Our core beers here will be a lot different from what people have come to expect from us. We’ve had three year-round beers with 10 to 15 other seasonal beers available on tap. Now, we’ll have five year-round beers. It’s a very different approach for people who have come to expect any of the 200 beers we’ve made. It’ll be about managing people’s expectations … we still have the pub, that’s still free to carry on all that experimentation. We’re going to view it as an incubator, or test facility, and let its hair down even more than before.

The Beer Issue
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The Beer Issue

An Abbreviated, Inebriated Beer Festival Taste Test

Photo: Bryan Rindfuss, License: N/A

Bryan Rindfuss


Real Ale Coffee Porter
5.6 percent ABV

From Blanco, Texas, Real Ale’s limited edition seasonal Coffee Porter is dark, earthy and is blended perfectly with fair-trade coffee beans from Houston-based Katz Coffee. While some coffee-infused beers can be overwhelming, Real Ale’s hits the nail on the head with a beautifully colored and aromatic porter that is easy to drink. If you’re a fan of coffee-infused brews, give this one a chance. The Coffee Porter is great after a meal and chocolate complements the brew. This is a true fall-weather drink, even without a lick of any true fall weather.

Stone IPA (India Pale Ale)
6.9 percent ABV

The good folks at Stone Brewing don’t brew beginner’s beer, and this India Pale Ale, full of hoppy goodness, will make any craft connoisseur salivate. While bitter and hoppy, this IPA is also aromatic with a floral after-tone. The golden-colored beer has a full-bodied head with an airy taste. The foam sticks around from first pour to last sip and leaves pleasant rings around the glass. If you love the hops, this is for you. If you’re not a fan of the hops, stay away. Warning for the newbs: don’t chug-a-lug the Stone IPA India Pale Ale.

Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider Artisanal Reserve Honey Crisp
6.5 percent ABV

Yes, we’re throwing a giant beer bash in Maverick Park—tickets available at sanantoniobeerfestival.com—and we’re sure there will be people there who aren’t completely obsessed with craft brews. If you fit that description, the Crispin Cider Company’s honey crisp apple cider is for you. Serve this soft refreshing nectar ice cold. The cider is a cloudy honey wine color and pleasant on the eye. After sipping, the cider has a mild soft finish that gently dissolves with a hint of sour apple. This drink is made from organic products and is gluten free. And it’s a perfect fit with a light lunch and soaking up sunshine.

Adelbert’s Brewery Tripel B
9.3 percent ABV

When the heavenly hosts gather for celebrations, this amazing hand crafted Belgian-Style Tripel has to be their brew of choice. This award-winning ale from Austin’s Adelbert’s Brewery tackles one of the most complex ales with amazing detail and results. With an inviting amber yellowish color, the Tripel B glows with perfection. And once you start drinking it, the juxtaposition of fruity and nutty flavors will cause your taste buds to dance in joyous celebration. This brew’s roots go all the way back to a sect of monks from the Middle Ages and once you taste this ale, you’ll realize why versions of it have continued to be brewed and distributed for hundreds of years. Now that’s staying power. —Mark Reagan   

The Beer Issue
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Food & Drink

Sisters Deliver Mexican Eats at Cocina Heritage

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

Simple and tasty—a chile relleno via Cocina Heritage


There’s something quaint about Cocina Heritage. Located inside the Heimann Building at Cattleman Square, the breakfast and lunch joint is owned by sisters Lupita Rivero and Silvia Alcaraz, who hail from Guanajuato, Mexico, and if you’re jonesin’ for comida casera, Cocina Heritage is the place to go.

The restaurant, which began and still operates as a catering company, opened at the end of July, offering a small menu of pan dulce and fresh juices, including strawberry, pineapple, grapefruit, mango, orange, papaya and carrot, along with a jugo verde made with pineapple, celery and cactus paddles. The interiors, bright and filled with a mishmash of wooden tabletops and chairs, could very well be your tía’s house. Although decor is otherwise sparse, the tables are topped with colorful placemats and the makings of a Día de los Muertos altar were coming together in the restaurant’s main window.

The ordering system is easy enough to follow, either Rivero or Alcaraz jots down your order from the counter. We stopped in for lunch several days ago, after finding our way through construction on Medina (of course the road closures began days after the sisters opened the eatery).

Quesadillas ($4.50) made with house-made corn tortillas make up the bulk of the menu. Rivero, the primary cook, uses recipes passed down through generations and she excels at replicating regional sauces. We tried the chicken tinga with a tomato base that still had a bit of a kick. A fan of both charity and all things pork, I ordered the Quesadilla for a Cause, currently a chicharron guisado in a mild green salsa the sisters refer to as mom’s sauce. Horchata is available, but don’t pass on the xoconostle, or sour prickly pear agua fresca, not to be confused with pink lemonade, but not entirely that far off, either.

The lunch specials change daily, but keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter, where Alcaraz updates the offerings as frequently as the menu calls for. We happened on chile relleno and cochinita pibil this certain Tuesday, and having already tried the citrusy cochinita (which goes great with Cocina’s habanero salsa—seriously, they should bottle the stuff), I ordered the relleno.

And here’s why you should brave the construction and visit Cocina Heritage: simple presentation and humble, but well executed flavors. The hand-dipped chile relleno was filled with melted queso blanco, drenched in a savory and mild tomato sauce, and paired with a scoop of white rice with vegetables. It’s just like mom made, you know, when she actually felt like going to the trouble of roasting and peeling poblano peppers.

Cocina Heritage

118 N Medina
(210) 560-3454
cocinaheritage.com

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