Head for Business
Pundits proclaimed the death of handbrewed beers in Houston prematurely, it would appear; at least according to Scott and Lauri Littlewood, owners of The Bank Draft in the Village (2424 Dunstan, 522-6258). Not only are the Littlewoods marking their fourth year of purveying microbrews to appreciative Houstonians, they're now planning to expand downtown.

"I'm sick and tired of all the negative publicity on brewpubs," says Scott, referring to the media gloom and doom over the closing of Rock Bottom Brewery this summer, and the retrofitting of the nearby Village Brewery (2415 Dunstan) as the Orchid Lounge swing club. "People know and love good beer in Houston. You just can't fool them with watery, bad beer, that's all."

The Littlewoods have leased space from Spire Realty at the corner of Prairie and Main to house their new Mercantile Brewery, which they plan to open next summer -- with any luck, in time for the first baseball to be thrown at the downtown stadium. "Maybe we'll even get buses to take our customers over to the games," Scott muses.

The building has a long and checkered past, dating back to its days as the Isis silent movie theater in the 1930s. Some two decades later, McCrory's acquired it -- and "that's where we originally got the idea to call it the Mercantile," says Scott.

The Littlewoods plan to drop a mezzanine below the three-story ceiling and display their copper kettles and tanks behind the bar. Foam fans will find nine beers made on the premises along with maybe ten "guest" beers, plus full bar service of martinis or margaritas for the nonfaithful. The walls will be decorated with Houston memorabilia -- expired stock certificates, photographs and such -- chosen to resonate with the historic location.

While the Bank Draft doesn't include a kitchen, the Littlewoods still manage to field "the best sandwich special in town," Scott claims. "For $5.75, we give you one of our handcrafted beers, then we run over to Antone's and buy you a sandwich and a bag of chips." At the Mercantile, their culinary plans are more ambitious: Scott intends to install a wood-fired oven behind the bar and create some "really upscale" pizzas.

Once the Mercantile opens, you can get your "growler" filled at either Littlewood location. The growler is a half-gallon jug, which sells for $4.00 empty and is refillable with Littlewood-brewed product for $9.00, for off-premises consumption only. "We got the name from the German blue-collar habit of drinking beer for lunch, which leaves the workman's stomach growling," Scott explains. "I'll bet you we've got about 2,000 empty growlers out there by now."

-- Margaret L. Briggs


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