Bar Notes: A Bourbon Education at Homespun
I'll say this: though Homespun Restaurant in Dripping Springs, TX has a very small bar area, everyone crammed in there on a Saturday night is friendly and talkative.
The restaurant itself is hard to miss. I chose it only because it's at the intersection of Dripping Springs' two main thoroughfares. And then you will hear the music. On this particular Saturday night, it's a trio -drums, guitar and singer- doing country covers that lures me in. (They didn't know a single Johnny Cash request, but sang "Take Me Home, Country Roads" about a half dozen times.)
I would have preferred to sit at a table on the wraparound patio, as the night is warm and that's where the band is. But it looks like I wasn't the only one with the idea to stop in after a day of distillery visits. There are several large groups here.
So the bar it is, comprising of about eight wood chairs in a row and a beautiful carved top. Dark stuff in bottles abound. They clearly love their whiskeys here. Autumn the bartender is not only friendly and efficient, but apparently very knowledgable of the selection.
After a little deliberation (I was leaning towards something local) I go with Orphan Barrel's Barterhouse, which I know nothing about. The bottle says it's aged twenty years and 90 proof. It's as smooth as you'd expect, with a distinctive cherry finish. I'd say it's fourteen dollars well spent.
At this point, my neighbor, an older gentleman, has become interested in what I'm writing on my laptop. So I tell him when he asks. His eyes light up. You see, Henry -that's his name- is a bit of a seeker himself. Not so much on the spirits front. Today, he's nursing a margarita. But he tells me of his day spent in Wimberley, at an afterlife conference; as in, life after death. It's not as religious as it sounds. If anything, from how Henry describes it, I'd classify it as New Age, since the themes of interconnectedness and universality of all life seem to be prevalent.
I ask the most obvious question and Henry answers that he has not had a near-death experience. He's just interested in what those who've had can teach us. It certainly does sound interesting, though I don't if I could withstand a whole two days of it. Henry's Cliff Notes version well suffices.
It's time to get some food in me. I order the steak salad, extra rare. Boy does the chef comply. These four or five pieces are bloody, but they're just what I need (and the blood doubles as an excellent salad dressing). At this point, my drink has morphed into a couple of half-melted ice cubes. It's time for an encore. For this round, I'm thinking Whistlepig Rye. The taste reminds me of spicy wet leaves and moss, in a good way.
There's a young couple on the far side of Henry that has been listening to our conversation. They figure this is an opportune time to jump in. The man -let's call him Greg- opines on his favorite Kentucky Bourbons. He mentions Blanton's and their horse-and-jockey stopper. Each one is inscribed with a letter of Blanton's name, so when you collect all eight you can spell it out. Sure enough, on a shelf on the wall behind us, are eight Blanton stoppers. Greg points out, if you look carefully, it spells "BLONTONS." Someone couldn't manage to find the "A."
Greg and his wife make it known that they are locals. They've been in Dripping Springs long enough to watch it grow into the behemoth it is today. Of course, that will make anyone who has lived in a true suburb chuckle. Oh Greg, a Home Depot and Starbucks a behemoth doth not make. But I get his point. The sleepy-save-for-the-tourists enclave outside of Austin ain't what it used to be. Then again, I don't think you'll hear the owners of packed-to-the-gills Homespun, or any number of businesses in town, complaining.