My Day Trip to the Hill Country
Looking for a short trip or getaway? Some people are still a little apprehensive about overseas travel. Even domestically, some states are requiring quarantine after travelling across state lines. Living in Texas, there are so many wonderful things to do that you have been talking about doing all of your life, but never got around to...and by “you,” I mean me. Well, maybe now’s the time. I found some real gems a couple of weeks ago and would be remiss if I didn't share them with you.
Do you like amazing food and craft beer? Well who doesn't? Do you want to get away for a day or a weekend? Let me tell you where I wound up. While having a cocktail and a cigar with some buddies, the discussion turned to a short getaway. Now my friends are busy businessmen so we had to keep it short. One of the friends “knows a guy” and we decided to take a day trip to visit him in Fredericksburg, Texas.
From Central Texas the trip is under two hours and crosses through some of the most beautiful parts of the state, the Texas hill country. You know you are close when you start to see the wineries and vineyards lining the highway. One fun weekend trip is the wine tour. You can get transportation and sample some of the best wineries in Texas. The Bed and Breakfast hotels are very quaint and make a great place to gather afterwards. But this was a one-day boy-trip” and not about the wine, so we drove past. I definitely will be doing that wine trip later with Karen.
We arrived at about 11 and met up with Mario, the owner of Cultures Restaurant and Bar in the central part of main street. What a great location! The restaurant has an unobtrusive facade. It would be easy to pass it while driving down the street lined with shops, bars, restaurants, and B&B’s. When you walk inside Cultures, you are greeted by friendly staff and a look and feel of a real German restaurant and pub. The beautiful bar lines the back wall and serves over 44 different beers, plus a selection of wines. Some of the beers and wines are made locally. By the bottle or on draft, let’s just say it would be a shame to waste this opportunity with a Bud Lite. If you aren’t sure how to pick from so many selections, just ask the bartender. He can point you in the right direction. This is an opportunity to be adventurous with your taste buds.
You can sit at the bar with your beverage, or take in lunch or dinner. They have great breakfast too, but I wasn't there early enough for that. If you know me, that shouldn’t be surprising. I am not a morning person. The restaurant is well laid out and social-distancing friendly. It has a very nice outdoor patio that overlooks the street. As a people watcher, this automatically has an appeal to me. I am told that there are live bands on the small patio stage on the weekends. That has to be a treat. We were there on a weekday, so getting a seat wasn’t difficult, but they say that you should call ahead for reservations on busy weekends or during events. I would imagine it can fill up, especially with the Governor’s 50% occupancy rules for restaurants.
First, just know going into this that you will leave stuffed and will need a to go box. Not only are the portions big, but don’t buzz past the appetizers on your way to the entre. They are delicious. There is a wide variety of appetizers, many with the German flare of the historic German town, but also some American and Mexican favorites. There is something you will surely enjoy. My favorites? Avocado Egg Rolls, Chicken Tequila Rolls (funny, it didn't taste like tequila), and Fried Calamari. I was full after the appetizers, but I’m no quitter...So on to the entre. Everything looked great, but the ribeye was amazing! I normally prefer other cuts to a ribeye, but it was recommended so what the heck. Definitely not disappointed. It was cooked exactly the way I asked and was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. The portion was big enough that I could have shared a plate, but I didn’t. After eating I was looking for a place to lie down, but no time for that. On to the next leg of the trip.
From Cultures, we take a short drive to the end of town, where you will see Altstadt Brewery. This German brewery is so cool, and is ranked #4 in the nation by the U.S. Beer Open Championship. I wonder if they need judges (sorry, side tracked). Who knew we have the fourth ranked beer brewery right in our home state of Texas.They are only open to the public Thursday through Saturday 12-6pm, so plan accordingly. This brewery’s production doubled from June to July. One sip and you will see why.
The brewery looks like a German castle on the outside, and a German brewery and pub on the inside. There are tables to sit, couches and chairs to lounge, and a huge biergarten outside with plenty of seating. They have to go and curbside pickup, but don’t miss going inside at least once. It is a great place to hang out. While you're there, take a tour of the brewery. It is amazing what it takes to make and bottle beer. One thing you will see among the other copper kettles for brewing, is the Kaspar Schulz Brewing System. These copper kettles were discovered by Altstadt’s founders in a pre-WWII Bavarian brew house. After surviving the war, they were brought here and are now part of the Alstadt brewing process. Aside from making great beer, I think one of the coolest things about Alstadt is their label. It is textures, unlike smooth beer cans. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the uniqueness of it, but that is intriguing to me. After you find the beer you like (they make so many), pick up a souvenir and a case to go. My favorite is the Adtstadt Light, (white can), which was voted the Best in Category European style beer.
Before you leave, check out the tractor museum… That’s right, a tractor museum on the brewery property. Thinking you’re not that interested in tractors? Think again. If you time it right, you can watch them move the 1912 Case steam tractor into the museum late evening. This is a site to see all by itself. This is not just a bunch of old tractors, it is a beautiful display of historical machinery.
Now it was time to say goodbye to Fredericksburg and head back home. Yes, I had a designated driver. Make sure you bring one if you plan on indulging. These German beers typically have more alcohol content than the American beers we usually drink, so pace yourself. Here’s a pro tip that is worth reading this article all the way to the end. On the ride up, take the front seat with the offer to ride in back on the way home. Everyone thinks that is very nice of you. On the way back, after all that food and beer, the back seat is a great place for a 2-hour nap on the ride home. I was asleep by the time we hit the highway and didn’t wake up until we pulled into the neighborhood. Yes, I am a horrible passenger. Don’t judge me.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: I was not asked to write this, nor did I receive any payment for the comments (my talents are so under appreciated - LOL). It’s just my opinion. Everyone’s taste is different and this might not be your thing. That’s okay. I’ll write something that suits your fancy soon…. In the meantime, I just think when I come across something fun to do, I need to tell others. Cheers!