Straight-up, I’m not a V-day gal – my father’s disdain of all ‘manufactured holidays’ was internalised at an early age. That and the creeping odiousness of competitive-couple behaviour that tends to manifest itself in fancy restaurants plus the gross misuse of my favourite colour combine to ensure I usually either spend Valentines at home on the sofa, supremely drunk, or a combination of the two. Of course, the more classy among you may want to imbibe a few quality beverages with your paramour in a suitably chic and atmospheric locale. Wine may be the traditional romantic tipple of choice, but here in Central Texas we’ve already moved outside the box and are absolutely spoilt for gorgeous scenic taprooms with delicious, high-quality beers that are perfect for V-day, date night or a special celebration. Narrowing down just five romantic spots to take your favourite person to drink beer with was something of a challenge, and as ever, extensive research was required. As one person’s romance may be another’s eye-roll-puke-face I’ve tried to mix it up a little, but hopefully there’s a lil love-tinged inspiration here for everyone.
Romantic feature: The view over the lake
Perched on the edge (literally) of a cliff overlooking the stunning expanse of Lake Travis, it’s hard to imagine a more immediately impressive taproom location than OTBC. While the Oasis mall itself is a little touristy and manufactured, OTBC have snagged the prime spot with tables practically hanging over the water’s edge where you drink in those perfect Texas sunsets over a few tasty brews. OTBC is so romantic that we’ve encountered an actual wedding party here, and on a side note, it’s also a great spot to impress out-of-town visitors. I’m particularly keen on the Oasis seasonals where they flex their experimental muscles, like the super-punchy Mega Modern DIPA, moreish funky-blueberry Start Wearing Purple Wild Ale and layered, complex SAUV Cabernet-Barrel aged Saison. My top core-selection pick is the highly reliable Protomodern IPA, but you may be so enchanted by the view that you forget what you’re drinking. Just don’t drop your glass (or yourself) over the edge trying to get that perfect photo.
Romantic feature: Swinging under the stars
Vista is perfect for getting away from it all. Nestled in the heart of Hill Country, Vista has found a perfect balance of chic and rustic, with carefully landscaped grounds, award-winning food and consistently excellent beers creating a high-end rural paradise. With atmospheric acoustic live music on Friday nights, a cosy double-swing-chair (with drinks holders), and delicate fairy lights that allow you to see the stars, there’s no denying this is a gorgeously romantic spot. Beer-wise it’s honestly hard to go wrong. Vista specialise in European-style beers made with local ingredients, a happy fusion expertly executed, and both their seasonal and core ranges are high-quality and exciting. If you’ve never tried a Lambic, this is the perfect place to start – and some might say a particularly romantic choice of beverage. Both the more traditional Grato and superb leather-woody Glen Rose come highly recommended. I’m also a big fan of the Dreamweaver Mead-Braggot, an unconvential honeyed delight, as well as the lovely Travis Brett and Dark Skies Schwarzbier. Let the starry starry night draw in around you and share a flight or two of fine brews with the one you love.
Romantic feature: Chic historic oyster bar
Nothing says romance like oysters, yes? Well – no. I know plenty of folks (JB included) who think that they look and taste like snot, but sorry – you are all wrong. For my fellow oyster-lovers out there, I was delighted to find that chi-chi San Antonio brewery-restaurant Southerleigh has a dedicated oyster bar. Further research has informed me that beer and oyster pairing is, in fact, a Thing on the West and East Coasts and that we hovering over the Gulf of Mexico have a lil catching up to do! Nevertheless, Southerleigh is an excellent place to start. Located inside the newly renovated Pearl Brewery complex in downtown San Antonio, this beautifully restored building retains original features and a classy Old-World ambiance that oozes romance, provided you are able to visit outside of peak hours – the place is, understandably, heaving with tourists otherwise. I rather enjoyed the decadent beer-chai Santa Anna’s Revenge – a 17% beast of a Russian Imperial Stout that proved an excellent accompaniment to my half-dozen half-shells, but if you like your brews a bit less boozy there’s plenty of choice at the lighter end of the scale. If you have money to splurge the menu at Southerleigh is super fancy-pants, but for those like me with more modest means sit at the bar and beer n oyster it up!
Romantic feature: Cosy fire pit
Back to my own fair city, the Brewer’s Table is, without a doubt, Austin’s fanciest brewery taproom. Of course, fancy does not necessarily mean romantic, and the posh post-work crowd that pile in 5pm are definitely to be avoided if you’re after some coupley ambience. Fortunately, the Brewer’s Table has a charming fire pit out front where you can cosy up under the vines and bask in the heat with your exciting, flavoursome brews. Nothing like an open fire to warm the heart. I’m a big fan of the Brewer’s Table’s ethos, focusing on sophisticated, experimental lagers, and have been happily impressed by what I’ve tried so far. I was absolutely wowed by the Oooooo Mommy – my first koji beer, super-rich in smoked mushroom flavour that I simply had to go back for a second pour of. The Lawnmower King Imperial Pilsner with rye also comes highly recommended, and beyond the lagers I particularly enjoyed the Shake Your Tree Belgian Strong Ale with fresh peaches. The Brewer’s Table are high-end without being mighty – staff are friendly and helpful and the quality of the beer is excellent. If you’re looking for romance, go early or late, and if you’re feeling thrifty check out their happy hour which gets you 20% off.
Romantic feature: The sofa of love
It’s a big red velvet sofa. I like it. I also happen to think it’s romantic. Not that I’m at all biased, as the owner of a big pink velvet sofa, of course not. JB and I always try to sit on said sofa when visiting Blue Owl, partly cos it’s romantic, partly cos it is a genius idea to put a big red velvet sofa in the middle of a brewery taproom, and partly cos it’s actually really comfortable. Spoiler alert here but this is exactly where we will be on V-day afternoon, when Blue Owl release my most favourite of favourite beers, their Cacao Dapper Devil, a dark chocolate raspberry Sour Belgian Strong Ale that really is the stuff that dreams are made of. While I would heartily recommend every one of Blue Owl’s beers, be sure to try the luscious Admiral Gravitas Sour Oatmeal Stout, moreish Van Dayum Sour Red Ale and my first Blue Owl love, the full, tart n juicy Professor Black Sour Cherry Stout (another excellent romantic choice). I apologise in advance if you find us hogging the sofa.