A flight from Middleton Brewery, just one of many options for visitors to San Marcos who enjoy craft beers after a day on the trails. San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau
Nestled in the Texas Hill Country halfway between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos is a small college town surrounded by 1,200 acres of park land with more than 22 miles of hiking and biking trails. Texans know there is nothing better after a day on the trails than an ice cold beer. Thankfully, there is no shortage of breweries in the area to sit down, relax and enjoy a Texas-style home brew. Here are five of our favorite combinations of trails and breweries that make for a great day in San Marcos.
1. Spring Lake Preserve/AquaBrew
With majestic live oaks draped in Spanish moss, blooming wildflowers, colorful butterflies and flowing meadows, the little known 251-acre Spring Lake Preserve just above the San Marcos River headwaters is one of the prettiest areas in Texas. Six miles of natural surface hiking and biking trails wind up steep hills then back down to the lake. This ecological jewel supports five endangered species including the golden-cheeked warbler, which only breeds in central Texas.
After working up a sweat at Spring Lake Preserve, head two miles south to historic downtown San Marcos. Grab a beer at AquaBrew, a 15-barrel brewery made out of reclaimed wood from the 100-year-old building that once stood on the property. The brewhouse sits directly behind the bar, enabling patrons to view the brewmaster in action. You are likely to meet a new friend at the long communal picnic table, typical of a traditional beer garden, while sipping the ultra popular San Marcos Blonde, a Kolsch-style ale. Staff, however, recommends the west coast-style IPA, Swine Dive IPA, after a long day of hiking.
2. Blanco Shoals/Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing Company
For a peaceful riverside hike, try Blanco Shoals. The hard-to-find entrance between two apartment complexes off the I-35 frontage road means foot traffic in the park is generally light. The 81-acre park is completely undeveloped with no defined trails. The area is full of high bank buffs and shoals, while tall cottonwoods and giant mesquite trees provide excellent shade during hot summer months. The two miles of riverside hiking follows the western part of the Blanco River. The surface is flat, making it an easy trip for hikers of all fitness levels. The park is perfect for birders as hawks, woodpeckers, blue birds and other interesting birds are regularly spotted on the property.
Brother-in-laws and homebrewers-turned-professional-brewers Stewart Altmeyer and Byron Lewis opened the Altmeyer & Lewis Brewing Company in November 2016. The duo makes beer centered on the 500-year-old German practice of Reinheitsgebot of only using four ingredients: hops, barley, water and yeast. They designed their lagers and ales with the intention of helping Texans beat the summer heat.
3. Ringtail Ridge Trails/The Root Cellar Café and Brewery
With hardy cactus stands, reptiles, flowering persimmon thickets and the remains of a cattle slaughterhouse, the Ringtail Ridge Trail is full of "Texas" scenery. Located off of Ranch Road 12, the 45-acre park is a great place for both mountain bikers and hikers. The two-and-a-half mile singletrack loop was designed for beginning mountain bikers, but makes a pleasant hike. Trail runners, bikers and hikers flock to the trail during spring to see all the blooming wildflowers.
The Root Cellar Café and Brewery serves everything a hiker needs before and after a long day on the trails, Start in the morning with hot coffee and warm pastries made from scratch then head back after for a fresh house-made beer and a Ribeye served with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus Fries.
4. Schulle Canyon/Sean Patrick's Pub
Despite its name, Schulle Canyon is not much of a canyon. The 21-acre-park is one of the newest outdoor recreation areas in Texas, but it is already one of the most popular with birders. The Texas Parks & Wildlife's Heart of Texas Birding Trail Guide gave it a listing because kinglets, thrushes, wrens, chickadees and cardinals frequent the area. The Virginia Witte Way Trail, a half-mile long, six-foot wide crushed limestone trail, makes the site great for persons with limited mobility.
Those searching for an "Irish pub 'n Texas grub" need look no further than Sean Patrick's Pub in downtown San Marcos. You'll find an excellent selection of craft beers (and Irish Whiskeys) to enjoy, often including Dancing in Purgatory (a black IPA), Alli Mae (a blonde ale) and St. Norman—(an Irish-style red)—but expect something new often. If you're hungry, you can go with traditional Irish staples like fish and chips, shepherds pie or bangers and mash, or opt for tried-and-true Texas style favorites like pulled-pork sandwiches and burgers. You have lots of options when it comes to refueling.
5. Purgatory Creek Natural Area/Middleton Brewery
The 570-acre Purgatory Natural Area is a must-visit area for hikers and bikers of all skill levels. More than 12 miles of trails flow uphill to the Valencia Way trailhead. You'll find dense juniper thickets, grassland meadows, canyon bluffs of 40 feet or more and champion oaks along your route. The 4.6-mile long Dante's Trail connects Upper and Lower Purgatory. With large crushed limestone, expansive tree roots and sparse dirt paths, it is perfect for serious mountain bikers and trail runners looking for moderate to difficult conditions. The natural surface singletrack at the Lower Purgatory trailhead makes it the most popular trailhead, good for any level of rider who wants to explore the area.
Not far from the Lower Purgatory trailhead is a brewery with a motto, "Where beer is brewed, no evil can exist." Middleton Brewery is a five-year-old brewpub that offers seven Belgian-style beers, five American-style beers and two British brews, as well as seasonal experimental beers. The jalapeño beer is a fan favorite. Grab a seat on the large outdoor seating area or climb the stairs to the upper deck for a panoramic view of the Texas Hill Country. If you worked up an appetite more than the free popcorn will satiate, grab a chicken parmesan, portobello mushroom, pulled pork or bacon burger slider from the Slingin' Sliders food truck. Another option is the St. Pita's food truck, which offers Mediterranean and Greek options, mostly served on a pita, always delicious.
Written by Jennifer Simonson for RootsRated Media in partnership with San Marcos CVB.