Day Trips

The Houston Brewery was voted "best brewpub" in Houston, but you must take your own tour of local establishments to taste for yourself. The West Houston brewpub is in a red brick building at 6224 Richmond Ave. that resembles a small bank. Brewmaster Tim Case offers a wonderful selection of hand-crafted brews, and the kitchen goes beyond the usual honky-tonk fare.

Start with a sampler platter of the homemade brew. They usually offer six of their own beers on tap, including a wheat beer, a bitter brew, brown ale, steam ale, Indian Pale Ale, and a stout. The kitchen at the Houston Brewery serves up a world-class menu with something for any appetite; specialties of the house include an IPA bread baked on the premises and a mango pico de gallo.

Pints of the fresh beer are $3.50, except for the Sunday special when they drop to $2, and $2 refills are offered on Monday. There are also drink specials during happy hour from 4-7pm. The Houston Brewery is open 11am-11pm (until midnight on Friday and Saturday). Tours are available on Saturdays at noon or by appointment, 713/953-0101.

The Rock Bottom Brewery, 6111 Richmond Ave., is part of a chain of brewpubs based in Denver, CO. This is brewery number three (number five is in Dallas). The menu offers sandwiches and salads. The Rock Bottom Brewery is open 11am-2am with happy hour (larger glasses than usual) from 5-7pm, 713/974-2739.

The Village Brewery, 2415 Dunstan, comes closest to the proper atmosphere for a brewpub: It is a good combination of watering hole and eatery, with pool tables and a respectable menu. American grilled food is the house specialty, and their five ales have received high marks. Besides the standard pale and dark ales, brewer Brian Pearson has experimented with fruit beers.

Across the street from the Village Brewery is the Bank Draft Brewing Company. Started by local homebrewers, this is a beer drinker's bar. Besides their own brews they serve 50 bottled beers, wines, and ports. They have a limited menu -- the libations are the main draw at 2424 Dunstan, 713/522-6258.

Houston's first microbrewery is the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, named after the patron saint of brewers. They offer free tours of their plant at 2522 Fairway Park Drive (713/686-9494) on Saturdays at 1pm, or you can visit them on the Internet at http://www.saintarnold.com/saintarnold.

Coming up...

Sundays are activity days at the Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farm, 11418 Sprinkle Cut-Off Rd. northeast of downtown Austin. For Valentine's take your lover to Potato Day, Feb. 11 (closed Feb. 18). Hours are Sun. 1-5pm, Mon.-Wed. 9:30am-1pm. 837-1215.

Marriage of the Port ceremonies at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan celebrates the blending of brandy and red wine to create their Papa Paulo Port, Feb. 8&14. 409/778-9463.

Wine for Your Valentine has special events at Fall Creek Vineyards on Lake Buchanan, Feb. 10. 512/476-4477.

Lovefest at Loveday provides a day of parades, cook-offs and continuous entertainment, Feb. 10. 409/636-2148.

MidWinter Days at the Rio Median General Store offers hungry travelers on the monthly Market Trail a menu of fresh country foods to eat there or take as a picnic. 210/538-2441 (store), 210/709-3726 (market trail).

Day Trips, Vol.1, a book of the first 100 day trips from this column, updated and expanded, is available for $6.95, plus $3.05 for shipping and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, 1712 E. Riverside Dr., Box 156, Austin, TX 78741. n

248th in a Series. Collect Them All.

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