More Not to Be Missed
If you’re an avid beer hunter, or a devotee of great beer bars, Ginger Man (304 West Fourth St.) belongs at the top of your Austin to-do list. It’s part of a “close-knit family” of four establishments in Texas and New York City. The name comes from J. P. Donleavy’s cult novel describing the adventures, which can’t be described here, of an Irish-American layabout in 1940s Dublin.
The Ginger Man is a throwback to the British Isles, with a dartboard off to one side, library-style chairs, and even a few snugs like those found in Irish pubs. You can literally lose yourself in a book here—audio distractions are kept to a minimum—or mingle with the after-work crowd on the patio in back. But the main attraction is an ever-changing selection of some 70 drafts and 100 bottled beers, including several lambics, a cask selection or two, and even a few South American labels. New arrivals are announced on the beautifully drawn blackboards above the bar; and, if you have questions, the staff is glad to help.
I couldn’t leave town without a visit to Scholz Garden (1607 San Jacinto Blvd.). Austin’s German community has preserved its culture here for generations; the property is still owned by a German singing club. The beer garden—the only place to be on a warm, clear night—was a little slice of Bavaria, with shared picnic tables; German draft beer; and a 33-piece oompah band, complete with a big bass drum and blue Alpine backdrop behind the musicians. There was German comfort food, of course, as well as local favorites like chicken fried steaks and peach cobbler, which were added during the near-beer days of Prohibition to keep the customers coming.
A national historical site, Scholz Garden is rich in political heritage. Lyndon Johnson was a customer, most Texas governors have eaten here, and legislators from the nearby state capitol have parleyed over beers. The state constitution was once rewritten at its tables. According to one local pundit, conservatives prefer the air-conditioned quarters inside, while liberals gravitate to the beer garden. Unfortunately, he never explained why.