We're chatting with Bryan Jackson as he hands out plastic cups full of craft beer and takes orders for gourmet sausages from within his dimly lit, crimson-hued shack at Moon Tower Inn. "I've known Brandon Young [one of the owners] for a while, probably seven years," he says. "We grew up together on the South Side together, but I've been here for about four months."
As more patrons arrive, the open-air patio fills with boisterous conversation, and the fire-pits in the yard are lit in defense against the growing chill in the evening air. It feels more like a backyard barbecue than a bar, and Jackson, offering suggestions on which beers to pair with pheasant sausage, feels less like a bartender than an enthusiastic host.
"I love the crowd here" Jackson enthuses, surveying the wide demographic range on display. "We get everything from kids from Montrose to young urban professionals from Midtown. There's a lot of people here from the neighborhood, but people drive here from Baytown. We get a big spread of people."
That's what Jackson enjoys about his job, and tending bar in general. "I've been working in bars off and on since I was 18, so that's 11 years, now." He pauses, the years seeming to sink in all at once. "Jesus Christ! I hate life; I need to go back to school," he says with a grin and a chuckle.
"No, really I love the life, and I love the industry. I'm a people person, so this is great for me. I'm really looking forward to summer; it's fast-paced, and nothing stays the same for long. I don't really like coming home at four or five in the morning, but it's just a part of the business. What I really like is that this place, and the industry itself, is like a little community. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
As far as scratching goes, Jackson says most patrons come to get their meat itch taken care of. "The big draw is definitely the food. We stand behind our food; it's amazing." Just as many seem to stay for the beer, though. "We're trying to get our hands on whatever we can that's different," says Jackson. "We're just trying to do good food, and good craft beers at decent prices."
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Don't come to Moon Tower looking for much else. It's not really a traditional bar, and Jackson doesn't really consider himself a bartender. "I would call myself a beer-tender. I have a good, general knowledge of good beers. I'm not gonna say I can make a great Dark and Stormy, or whatever. I'm definitely more of a beer guy."
So what does Bryan recommend at Moon Tower right now?
"I love the Rogue Chocolate Stout. It's great because you can drink it with food, but it's also great after a meal. I prefer dark beers in general. If you can see through it, it's a little too light for me."