May 30th 2020
The last time I wrote a travelogue post feels like a lifetime ago, so despite the crushing weight of current events we decided to take a little time out and go on our road trip as planned. Although there was a sombre air over our festivities, the relief to be out in the world again travelling through our beloved Texas countryside was palpable. We hardly spoke on the journey, taking in the freedom of being back on the road. My sheer horror, anger and sadness at the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery simmered in my mind, and travelling through the lush, expansive Texas hinterland and exploring the tranquil elegance of the George H W Bush Presidential Library grounds was slightly jarring as my brain tried to layer beauty on top of violence. And College Station is indeed rather beautiful, with its historic downtown campus reminiscent of a film set. The delicate, reflective landscaping of the Library grounds and gravesite of the 41st president blew me away, and I was grateful that we were among the only visitors so that we could sit quietly and think. There was a lot of thinking as we went about our customary eating, drinking, walking and sightseeing, and while we were able to enjoy exploring somewhere new for the first time in so long, the raging injustice in our society was never far from our thoughts.
We started out early – much earlier than I usually ever do anything, so that we could arrive in town in time for brunch, and my diligence in dragging myself out of bed was more than rewarded with a spectacular Brunch Old Fashioned served with a substantial slice of caramelised bacon and an actual pancake at local chain Another Broken Egg – this alone would have been worth the drive! I also indulged in a delicious lobster-brie omelette – worth every single calorie (although I do wish they had not put the calorie content on the menu – no restaurant should ever do this). After visiting the Library, strolling the campus park and checking out the only record store in town (Curious Vinyl), it was certainly time for a beer.
Blackwater Draw Brewing
Located in Bryan TX, officially a separate town but just minutes from College Station, Blackwater is the older of the two local breweries. With a cool, cavernous interior and picnic bench seating on the Bryan’s sleepy Main Street, the Blackwater taproom is a simple but pleasing converted warehouse with plenty of space, making social distancing easy. It was breezy enough for us to sit outside with our wooden flight wheel which we filled with six out of a possible ten choices, a snip at $2 per pour. JB and I both took an immediate shine to the Hell’s Cellar Oud Bruin, an excellent Texan take on the classic Belgian style – all tart, funky cherry but with a nice light touch and some gentle sweetness. We were impressed enough to pick up a to-go bottle of the 2016 Hibiscus Sour from the same series, although unfortunately this was not up to the same standard and came out watery and nondescript. I was pleased to note that Blackwater collaborate annually with their local Girl’s Pint Out chapter, the Hazy Lady IPA and Hoppin’ Joplin White IPA being the tasty results. I also enjoyed the Irish Coffee Stout on nitro which bore a remarkable resemblance to a Baileys cocktail – very nice indeed. The taproom was quiet during our visit but I expect that during non-Covid term time it’s a popular hangout for students and locals alike.
New Republic Brewing
JB and I both love visiting taprooms that are a little off the beaten path, and although New Republic is just a few minutes from downtown College Station, its sprawling rural ambience feels a long way from the hip studenty town centre. We arrived at New Republic as they were releasing several BBA versions of their regular beers – a fortuitous moment indeed, and were also treated to some excellent live music on their impressively large and robust stage. New Republic is the kind of taproom that I enjoy the most – relaxed, spacious, friendly and unpretentious, with everything you need for an extended afternoon of beer consumption – an excellent array of brews made on site and great live music to accompany your drinking. My favourite beer of the afternoon was the BBA Dark Aether, a lush, dark boozy Belgian Strong Ale with rich, sweet dried-fruit-soaked-in-bourbon flavour that I couldn’t get enough of. The tart oaked-berry Astrolabe Sour was another winner, and the BBA Wine Porter had a tasty liquorice-smoke flavour. With so much good beer and a warm atmosphere, it would have been easy to forget about the rest of the world, but we didn’t.
After all the beer, where else would we head before leaving town but to World Of Beer for more beer, and I must say, an absolutely killer burger made with Chimay and so much truffle oil I was in absolute heaven. We haven’t been to other branches of World Of Beer but this one had a decent selection of local, national and international brews, and although it was a little on the steep side price-wise it is right in the centre of a busy, studenty town which makes it par for the course. College Station centre at night is a bit on the cheesy side, but I bet the kids love it. We supped on a surprisingly good Celis Violet Crown Barleywine, listened to a lovely local musician and munched through our burgers in the balmy evening warmth before hitting the road back to Austin. At just less than 2hours each way, a scenic drive, good beer and lots to see and do, this is a day trip I would highly recommend. Hopefully next time we visit the world will have changed for the better.