Brutus Day Gutierrez has just made a bet. He's wagering with the person standing next to him, but the conditions are clear to anyone with ears because he is a loud man: If Team X wins, he receives $20. If Team Y wins, he loses the same amount. Simple enough.
Naturally, this loud man's name is not really Brutus Day Gutierrez. His real name is Matt...something. But he gives a fake name because he is a vaguely ornery, mildly stubborn and very funny man.
"Brutus" is one of the regulars at Brewery Tap (717 Franklin), the decades-old bar located in the historic Magnolia Brewery Building. Upstairs is an elegant ballroom, available for rental, that suits the building's age of more than 100 years.
The Magnolia has survived all sorts of wrath, including floods, Prohibition and locusts (probably), and is currently a City of Houston Protected Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It recently received a Texas Historical Marker.
Inside, everything is heavy wood — tables, benches, shutters, stages, etc. — and dark. The ceilings are high. The darts are competitive. The walls are filled with various clever beer bottles, artwork and soccer flags.
Rush seems to perpetually be playing on the jukebox, though that may be because some Rush songs are, like, 45 goddamn minutes long.
There is a bit of entertaining graffiti in the bathroom. The best is someone's scribbling about how they feel that Manchester United — essentially British soccer's version of the Lakers — "sucks ass." Then they punched a tiny hole in the wall and drew hair around it.
Perhaps you can smoke that image out of your head with something from the rickety cigarette machine and one of the Tap's 20-ounce pints, which are always $2.50
But mostly, everybody there loves the place. To wit:
Remember Tropical Storm Allison, the big storm that hit Houston (and some other places, we hear) in June 2001? Brewery Tap does, because it ended up about 40 inches underwater. A picture of Franklin Street at high tide is hung on the wall at precisely the height the water rose.
During Allison, the Tap flooded on a Friday and drained on Saturday. Later that same day, about 25 regulars showed up, beer and grilling utensils in hand. They barbecued, drank and pulled everything out of there that wasn't bolted down.
They scrubbed it with bleach, and worked and worked and worked until the bar was back open the next day. The next day. One time The Nightfly turned in an article three days late because our microwave stopped working.
Remember Allison, Brutus?
"What's this for? Houston Press? I don't read it. No, yeah, that's what we do in here, we discuss literature and whether or not A&M can win a fucking championship."
Translation: Come in — whoever you are, whatever you do — and get abused exactly the same way. That's the type of place this is. If you survive, congratulations. Pull up a seat. If you don't, you don't.
"Really, this is an excellent bar," says Jud Willett, 24, who has been visiting the Tap for the past three years and, God bless him, is familiar with Brutus's shenanigans.
"It doesn't matter if you're a lawyer or you deliver pizzas, you can come here and hang out and talk to people," Willett explains. "As long as you're not a douchebag. Or Matt."
Two things: First, go read more about the Magnolia Brewery Building; we suggest www.magnoliaballroom.com. There are lots of folds in the story. It's fun.
Second, it would be a disservice not to mention Jack, the Tap bartender who was working the most recent time we stopped in. The guy gets a check mark in each box on the "Is This Person a Great Bartender?" list. He's a former lawyer, which means he's smart and can judiciously talk about all sorts of shit. He's been bartending at Brewery Tap for years and years, so he's full of insight about both beer and people. Jack has a hard, full beard and just generally looks like the type of person Brian Bosworth might ask to play a bit role in a biker movie. And he knows precisely when to hurl a barb towards his regulars to make them feel welcome — as soon as they open the door, basically. Word has it that the other Tap bartenders are just as capable.
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Houston, TX 77002