Despite having lived in Central Texas for over two and a half years and taking frequent trips to San Antonio, this was our first visit to the west side of the city. Familiar as we are with the highways coming in from the north-east, our usual auto-pilot journey took on an air of adventure as we navigated previously-unseen parts of the city’s admirably efficient loop system, exploring new neighbourhoods and marvelling at the ridiculously cheap petrol (sorry, gas) which seems to fall in price in direct proportion to how far one is from Austin (of course).
West San Antonio has a familiar, small-town vibe to it – you feel a long way from the tourists clamouring around the Alamo or the hipsters partying in Southtown, but yet you are still in one of the biggest cities in the state. Mad Pecker is at the exact apex of this contradiction – in equal parts local tavern and beer-nerd hangout, and doing a damn fine job at both. Mad Pecker opened in 2015 and has clearly built up a strong and deserved local customer base. Food and beers are good quality and affordable, the atmosphere is friendly and laid back, and there’s not a hipster in sight, despite the enticing selection of out-of-state beers. But I am getting ahead of myself here. Mad Pecker have a not-insubstantial 24 taps, about 8 of which have their own beers on. They have a broad, rotating selection, and we started with a very impressive flight including a bright, citrusy Plush Hazy IPA, malty, firm Ripper Amber, creamy-sweet Stout Called Quest and my top pick, the superb tangy, resiny Cosmic Rye IPA. This was a perfect Sunday flight – fully focussed on capturing the essence of each style, packed with flavour and free of experimental bells and whistles. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good experimental beer, but sometimes you just want to chill with some solidly true-to-form brews and this is definitely the place.
Our second flight included a sweet chocolate-malt Bitter Soul ESB and light, quaffable Your Boy Mo IPA as well as a couple of picks from Mad Pecker’s excellent out-of-state selection. I was very impressed with the careful curation that’s clearly gone into their choice of guest taps, including the latest Tupps DDH, Cigar City’s Margarita Gose and the Stone’s Viking Space Probe IPA which I had in fact been on the hunt for. We also indulged ourselves with Untitled Art and Angry Chair’s gorgeously decedent BBA Chocolate Maple Stout – absolute dessert-beer royalty and a special treat to find on draft in Texas. Food, as I mentioned, is very reasonably priced and tasty – we had a nicely spicy burger with moreish poutine fries which did for us both at $13, and most bar snacks are just $5-6. Mad Pecker is a local’s local – chilled and unpretentious but with plenty going on, and that warm pubby feel I often miss in trendier, upscale taprooms. I see more visits to the West side in our future!