Breweries Used to Be Just Places to Drink a Beer. Now They’re Community Spaces.

Breweries Used to Be Just Places to Drink a Beer. Now They’re Community Spaces.

One year ago, we suddenly could not eat safely inside restaurants, drink at bars, go to movies, or catch concerts. As Texans’ social lives narrowed to awkward Zoom calls, we lost not just experiences but the communal spaces where they happened. Sports arenas closed. Many state parks became reservation-only. Even playgrounds were covered in caution tape.

Across Texas, one particular kind of public place took on all those roles, as bar, dog park, walking trail, lunch spot, movie house, and liberator from lockdown tedium. Across Texas, community-starved people turned to the patios of breweries.

That’s certainly been the case in my life. My office will soon reopen after 56 weeks of full-time stay-at-home work, and my vaccinated friends will soon host their first dinner party in a year. I’ve left the house to go to grocery stores, pick up takeout meals, vote—and drink near-weekly in beer gardens. The person outside my home whom I’ve talked with the most, a man I’ve seen two dozen times since I last saw my own parents, is Chris Cole, bartender and taproom manager at Dallas’s Pegasus City Brewery.

Last summer, when Texas officials gave them a belated green light, beer producers across Texas dramatically expanded their outdoor spaces. Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company in Houston pitched tents in its parking lot to shade the influx of thirsty customers, and Cowtown Brewing in Fort Worth added a picnic area around its resident barbecue trailer. A patio remodel at Garland’s Lakewood Brewing included the addition of two permanent food trailers, and Grapevine’s Hop & Sting Brewery persuaded an extraordinary barbecue pop-up to stay in its yard full-time. Dallas’s BrainDead Brewing experimented with drive-in movie screenings, and Pegasus City even held a voter registration drive.

Jester King, the award-winning beer ranch outside Austin, already offered its sour and fruited ales in a grove of trees, a pasture, and a historic barn. In the evening, an actual goatherd—complete with a crook—guides goats through the orchard and vineyard, where they chew on weeds and, to put it delicately, deposit fertilizer. But this January the brewery added a quiet 1.75-mile nature trail, its path marked by the hoofprints of shod horses. Guests can now make reservations for six-hour visits—a long time to spend at a brewery, but time that can be filled with hiking in addition to visits to the bar and on-site pizzeria.

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