Monday, April 16, 2012

Beer Travels: The Hay Merchant - Houston, TX

Alright, a new beer bar just hours away in Houston!  Houston is already home to three of my favorite regional beer bars, Petrol Station, Ginger Man Pub, and Flying Saucer, but I'm always down to try out a new place.

The Hay Merchant (facebook - twitter) is located on Westheimer right by Montrose on the Southwest side of the inner loop.  If you don't really know Houston that well then just know that's it's not IN downtown, but it's not far either.  Mandi and I got there around 5 on a Saturday afternoon after opting to drive instead of walk thanks to impending rain.  Even at 5 the few small adjacent parking lots were already full and we had to park on a side street over a block away... not a bad walk though and this is a pretty busy area so parking will probably always be on the scarce side.

As we walked up I saw the patio tables already full, and there were several growlers sitting around... alright!  Where there are growlers, you know you have a good place for beer.   We walked in, and HOLY CRAP... the place was already packed.  Completely packed.  With just two of us we opted to go up to the bar area, which is elevated in the read of the main space, to get some beers and wait for some stools to come available.  Sure enough, after a few minutes of drinking the first round some people in the bar got up to leave, so we took their spots.  We always seem to have the best luck with that... knock on wood.

The beer menu was extensive as expected, with approximately 50 taps artfully mounted on a bricks surface with the menu listed above.  The beer menus were kept current (unlike some local places) and had prices along with the serving size/type.  One of the things that impressed me the most was that every beer was served in the appropriate glassware, at the appropriate temperature.  It's a simple detail that makes a world of difference.  In addition to a wide variety of Texas beers (which are becoming plentiful) they had favorites from breweries like Stone, Sierra Nevada, Great Divide, Moylan's, Dogfish Head, and more.  The menu also featured a few select beers from Belgium and the rest of Europe, but no Heineken or Beck's, only the good stuff.  The Hay Merchant also had a beer engine for serving up the cask ale but unfortunately I was too late in the week to catch any.  Next time...

The food was also very good, and it's worth noting that the place is set up more like a restaurant than a bar, with a host, reserved seating in the main dining area, and a full menu.  The whole time we were there people were waiting for tables, but one thing I also noticed is that just about universally, every table was filled with craft beer in addition to the food.  People were there to eat AND drink, not just to grab a bite.  I'm not a food critic, but I can say that the alligator boudin balls, gumbo, and butcher's burger were all delicious. 

All in all, another great beer bar with a side of awesome food.  I will be back.

Pictures all "stolen" from the Hay Merchant site... it was too dark to get good ones of my own!  Hopefully they don't mind.

Hay Merchant on Urbanspoon

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