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’The Pearl’ a true renaissance

 
’The Pearl’    a true renaissance
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ The iconic symbol of the Pearl Brewery still attracts visitors to this historic area, now converted to new purposes including an event center, boutique retail outlets, and a farmers market.

Just north of downtown San Antonio, where once were shabby, broken-down houses, is now an area simply known as the “Pearl.” The anchor of this 22-acre development is the old Pearl Brewery and, with its iconic red brick smokestack, is still a part of the San Antonio skyline.

The Pearl Brewery operated on this very spot between 1883 and 2001. Although it was under several different names, it produced the same product Pearl Beer. Supposedly, it got its name from Kaiser-Beck Brewery’s brewmaster in Germany, where the beer was originally formulated. The brewmaster thought the foamy bubbles in a freshly poured glass resembled sparkling pearls.

Changing times

In 2001, after more than 118 years of proven success and several changes in its parent company, production was transferred to Miller’s Brewing Co. in Fort Worth, Texas. The old brewery buildings were abandoned, and there was talk of completely demolishing the complex. It would have been a crying shame to lose such an architecturally pleasing and historical group of buildings.

In late 2002, fate intervened with an announcement that the San Antonio River Walk expansion, now known as the Museum Reach, would be just feet from the old Pearl complex and would be eligible for incentives by the city to assist business development. Bingo!

Silver Ventures, a San Antonio-based investment firm, purchased the brewery site with a plan to use the current structures and create a new gem for San Antonio. The vision was to create a “village” to include retail, office, and residential space where people could live, shop, eat, and work on the banks of the beautiful San Antonio River. Some of San Antonio’s finest architects and artists came together on this project to capture the essence of what San Antonio and South Central Texas represents.

Old buildings, new uses

One of the unique features of the Pearl is the re-use of the old buildings, including the original names. The construction has taken salvaging and repurposing of historic material to a new level. Old contoured bricks from the boiler room are now the backdrop wall for wine racks at Cured, a charcuterie restaurant. Shelving at Tiny Finch Gift Shop was constructed from roof joists from the 1881 Brewhouse. Somewhere there is a chandelier made of glassware and tubing salvaged from the original laboratory building where beer products were formulated and tested.

As you meander through the “village,” you will encounter a collection of eclectic designs. You will also find a collage of old tools, once used in the original brewery that have now become art, but still conjures up images of men at work. Another interesting sight is wheeled conveyor lines reconstructed into conference room tables that can be found in several of the administrative areas. And the list goes on.

The Stable, a Victorian-style structure built in 1894, was the barn that housed the Pearl draft horses. It is now a magnificent event center able to accommodate 475 guests for a sit-down dinner. Can Plant Residences was specifically designed for urban lifestyles. And the Full Goods building, once a warehouse, is now commercial offices, retail space, and restaurants.

Currently, there are 14 restaurants including Green Vegetarian Cuisine, La Gloria Ice House, and the Granary Cue and Brew. Retail stores include one-of-a-kind boutiques, such as Bike World, The Twig Book Shop, Run Wild Sports, and Ten Thousand Villages, that brings handcrafted treasures from all over the world. The Pearl is also home to the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America.

And that’s not all! The Pearl Farmers Market takes place every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. directly in front of the historic Brewhouse and extends through Avenue A along Pearl Parkway. Find fresh, local, seasonal products here, rain or shine.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.

 
 
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