While others were celebrating the Fourth of July with backyard barbecues and the obligatory Eleanor Tinsley Park fireworks, we went the nontraditional route, stepping onto The Wave, Houston's hipster-magnet jitney service, which chauffeured us and a mixed bag of revelers around the city's Inner Loop for "Bourbon, Burgers & Brew Bus," a holiday bourbon and beer crawl.
Our first stop was bourbon tasting and burger at the elegantly laid-back Branch Water Tavern, where we were promptly presented with a "Victory Smash," a fresh combination of bourbon, banana, pineapple and mint that, on alternating sips, tasted either fruity or minty, like a mojito. The cocktail sat alongside Clown Shoes Clementine, a white ale.
Then we were treated to a patriotic dinner of burgers and fries. The burgers, slathered with a choice of blue cheese or cheddar, were paired with crispy fries and a salad bar where guests could top off their beef with choices of grilled onions, bacon, chili, Dijon mustard, queso, avocados, ranch dressing, Russian dressing, various hot sauce flavors and, of course, fresh lettuce and tomato fixings.
Bar manager Caitlin Brennan welcomed the crawlers with open arms.
"Anytime we can collaborate with another business, it's really exciting," Brennan said, speaking of The Wave's hookup with her eatery that night.
After munching and crunching, it was back on the bus, this time to recently opened Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., Houston's fifth craft brewery. In a city where the Budweiser brewery lords over I-10 like an elder statesman, it was cool to find the six-month-old brew house, affectionately named BuffBrew, bravely tucked into a quiet neighborhood, standing strong. Cofounders Rassul Zarinfar and Ryan Robertson offered mini-tours of the two-room, ten-barrel brew house and samples of its two main beers: 1836, a copper ale named after Houston's founding year, and Summer Wit, a Secessionist ale.
By that time, the bar crawlers had grown a lot more spirited. Was it the holiday, the generous libations poured at our previous stop or the sharp-tasting ale being handed out like penny candy? Some stumbled around, shouting greetings at their fellow bus riders. Some began to openly fondle each other under the brew house's bright lights. Some even came up to us.
"I love the Houston Press! That's my Bible," said a short-haired woman, quickly adding, "I don't mean to be irreligious."
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"You can quote me on this," said Carmen Bermudas about the event: "I love it."
We made our way back to The Wave's parking lot, where Fusion Taco Truck was waiting to fill our bellies. We ate and watched as fireworks rang out over the city. Guess a little bit of tradition snuck in there after all.