Posts tagged ‘Pearl Brewery’

Tommy Lee Jones supports his hometown of San Antonio

When KLRN, the PBS station in San Antonio, produced a documentary on the recent expansion of its famous River Walk, Tommy Lee Jones provided the narration.

Why? Because he’s a proud native. Not only does the Oscar-winner live in Terrill Hills, a San Antonio suburb, but he owns a nearby cattle ranch and sits ringside at most San Antonio Spurs games.

And it’s not unusual to spot the famous actor strolling along the Paseo del Rio (or River Walk, as we English speakers call it). Twenty feet below street level, the San Antonio landmark with its outdoor cafes and charming boutiques has surpassed even the Alamo as the city’s most-visited attraction.

The 30-minute PBS documentary that Tommy Lee proudly voiced describes the expansion of the River Walk that provides access to two historic Texas breweries that have been given hip new lives.

The “Museum Reach” section of the River Walk, unlike the busy commercial section, has native landscaping, lots of public artwork and bicycle and dog-friendly paths. While you might, as my river guide shrewdly pointed out, “spot a few tourists in their native habitat,” you’re more likely to see ducks or herons stealthily stalking lunch.

Thanks to an innovative lock and dam system, you can now ride a river boat all the way to San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) that, not too long ago, used to be the Lone Star Brewery. Built in 1884 by beer baron Adolphus Busch, the iconic landmark was turned into the award-winning art museum in 1981. Since then, it has won many architectural awards and been expanded three times including a 30,000-square foot Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art.

The River Walk’s “Museum Reach” also gives access to the repurposed Pearl Brewery that was shuttered in 2001 after more than 100 years of beer-making. Thanks to the far-sightedness of Kit Goldsbury, the Pace Salsa billionaire, the 22-acre complex has roared back to life as an edgy foodie destination.

The post-industrial riverfront complex hosts several of San Antonio’s best restaurants (La Gloria that riffs on the Mexican street vendor scene and Il Sogno Osteria, an always crowded Italian restaurant with an open kitchen and a wood-burning oven, to name a few), a twice-weekly farmer’s market (featuring everything from lavender soap, watercress and free range eggs to heritage pork, grass-fed bison and sour cream pecan muffins), a kitchenware store owned by famed cookbook author, Melissa Guerra, (look for such hard-to-find items as authentic Mexican molcajetes, hand-embroidered dish towels and mesquite rolling pins) and a 30,000-square foot Culinary Institute of America cooking school.

As the third location for the prestigious C.I.A., the San Antonio version specializes in Latin American cuisine and offers a 30-week certification program and a just-opened bakery and cafe where customers can view students working in the test kitchens. Although plans are afoot to eventually offer associate degrees in culinary arts management just like the other campuses in Hyde Park, NY and St. Helena, CA, for now, day-long, two-day and weeklong culinary boot camps attract tall hats and apron-clad wanna-be’s mastering such chile-fueled recipes as Andean harvest pot roast in a clay pot.

Perhaps most commendable is the Pearl Complex solid commitment to sustainability from its 200-kilowatt solar installation, the largest in Texas, to drought-resistant xeriscaping. The Full Goods Building, once the brewery’s distribution center, is LEED-certified and brewery leftovers have been repurposed from chandeliers made from beer filters to flower beds made from old CO2 tanks.

The former Pearl Brewery complex also has a yoga studio, bicycle rental, an Aveda Institute, living space and an eclectic mix of businesses and nonprofit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Texas and the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Architecture.

Don’t miss the hour-long Saturday tours where you’ll learn everything from the enticing history of The Pearl (including an homage to Emma Koehler who successfully helmed the brewery after her husband, Otto, was murdered by his mistress) to an insiders looks at the recycled brewery stable, bottling warehouse and distribution center.

200 East Grayson Street; 210.212.7260;

Phil Collins “remembers the Alamo”

In his home outside Geneva, Switzerland, Phil Collins has pictures of himself with Nelson Mandela, the Prince of Wales and Robert Plant. But the one he values most is the painting of himself standing next to the ill-fated defenders of the Alamo.

Painted by Gary Zaboly, a noted historian and author who is co-writing a book about the Alamo with the seven-time Grammy award-winner, its called “Travis’s Line” and it hangs in Collins’ basement/museum. In it, an imagined depiction of the Alamo’s American garrison in 1836, immediately before the famous battle, Collins is wearing a military uniform alongside 184 19th-century American frontiersman.

Collins, who says he has been obsessed by Davy Crocket and the Alamo since he was a young boy, has one of the world’s largest collections of Alamo memorabilia including hundreds of cannonballs, a pouch once owned by Davy Crocket, a certificate proclaiming him an honorary member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas and a receipt signed by Alamo commander William Barrett Travis for 32 head of cattle to be used to feed the Alamo defenders.

Collins has served on Alamo history panels alongside professors and other notable experts and regularly shows up in San Antonio to hobnob with Alamo groupies, one of whom told him he was one of the defenders in a previous life. Carolyn Raine, a documentary producer, lecturer and Native American cookbook writer, took it upon herself to let Collins know that he was the reincarnated Alamo messenger, John W. Smith, the red-headed horse courier whose nickname was El Colorado and who later became San Antonio’s mayor.

Although he has gotten a lot of flack about it, Collins, like most kids of his generation, watched Fess Parker playing Davy Crockett on TV and pestered his parents for coonskin caps and toy rifles. The former Genesis’ drummer’s first solo performance, in fact, when he was barely 5 was of the famous theme tune “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

This year, during the 175th anniversary of the battle made famous by John Wayne and, yes, Pee-Wee Herman, Collins agreed to play a free concert, but city red tape prevented it from happening in time for the March 6 commemoration, a yearly reenactment honoring the Texas heroes.

With or without Phil Collins, it’s a great year to visit San Antonio and the 18th-century mission church where Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and 188 others waged their famous last stand against the Santa Anna’s Mexican army. The most famous historical site in Texas, the mission has been restored to its original glory and offers tours, relics of the past and a gift shop with such memorabilia as John Wayne beach towels, chocolate Alamos and serious history books.

And while you’re there, don’t miss the San Antonio River Walk with its cypress-lined paths that wind past boutiques, galleries, outdoor restaurants and now, with the addition of the Museum Reach, a new 1.3 mile stretch of river walk, several of San Antonio’s best museums including the San Antonio Museum of Art, housed in the old Lone Star brewery. Unusual art installations, native plants and waterfalls line the Museum Reach which culminates at the former Pearl Brewery that has been turned into a culinary wonderland with a weekly Farmer’s Market, unique restaurants and the opening of the third branch of the Culinary Institute of America.

Colonial Spanish days comes alive at San Antonio’s five 18th-century missions and, after snapping a photo of yourself in front of the Rose window, you can wander La Villita, San Antonio’s first neighborhood that has been converted into boutiques, jewelry shops and restaurants.

For more on this city that has captured Phil Collins’ heart, click here. Or contact the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800.447.3372.

And if you don’t see Phil in person, you can hear his narration on a 13-minute “Alamo Diorama Light and Sound Show” at the History Shop near the former mission at 713 E. Houston St.