Nestled cozily into the high-backed wooden booths, turkeys and wildcats and moose peering down from the walls listening in, Brent "Doc" Watkins and the boys of South Texas Jazz laughed merrily in the spirit of the occasion. This wasn’t an ordinary Sunday, it was the kickoff to National Beer Week, and with an Alamo Beer in hand, the fellas dug into the beauty of their collaboration with the Esquire Tavern.
In all ways and always a jovial and jocular soul, Brandon “Daddy Long Legs” Revis, bassist for the ensemble, broke it down sentimental style. “The Esquire is a staple of San Antonio,” Revis said. “My grandmother used to frequent this bar, came everyday after work."
Revis himself could be found as a teenager jumping into ensembles after school, getting his chops ready for someday.
“Every Sunday when we play, it’s so beautiful, the energy is still here,” Revis said. “We know we can play some great music, enjoy ourselves, and drink Alamo Beer.”
The official beer of the South Texas Jazz Project and Doc Watkins, Alamo Beer teamed up with the crew at the Esquire to welcome National Beer Week with a special promotion.
“Free pint glasses for the first 100 people in the bar,” said Matt Uribe, a manager at the Esquire. “They were gone within the first hour and a half. It went really great.”
Uribe believes that when you’re at the Esquire, it’s about feeling at home, and the jazz fits perfectly with that feeling.
“We have the hardwood, taxidermy, a homey and laid back, chill feel,” Uribe said. “It just sounds right, goes hand in hand with the restaurant.”
The Esquire prides itself on taking a community approach, and Doc Watkins epitomizes that in his music and commitment to the musicians. “You can’t help but be happy when he starts tapping away,” Uribe said. “And he brings out such great musicians, a community effort, and that’s what we love promoting.”
Sharing the booth with Revis and drummer Brandon Guerra, Doc Watkins dug into the roots of his experience at the Esquire. “We’ve been playing here for two and a half years on Sundays,” Watkins said. “It’s more relaxed. Sundays at the Esquire are about kickin’ back, enjoying the music and just having a good time.”
The crew takes its place every Sunday knowing that what they provide is steeped in history and enhanced in a place like the Esquire. “You cannot understand (or) explain jazz apart from the history of alcohol,” Watkins said. “This bar opened in 1933, a year after Prohibition ended, a time when the speak-easy was popular. This opened up a whole new world for dancing, for jazz music on the social scene.”
Watkins is humbled to be a part of the Esquire’s story, and to play his music at this establishment. “Just to be connected with the tradition of the Esquire in any way is a privilege,” Watkins said.
At Defining Delicious, which provides public relations for the Esquire, there is a desire for others to know of the deep tradition and culture found at the longest bar in Texas. “We’ve been working with them to get press on the state and national level, with Texas Monthly to push events like this one,” said Nina Rangel, creative director at Defining Delicious.
With a background in food, it is easy for Rangel to be swayed by the locally-sourced fare inspired by Chef Brooke Smith.
“She is really making an impact and using high-quality ingredients,” Rangel said. “And it’s not just the food, but high-quality cocktails and service, which is at the forefront of their minds. It’s really something special.”
Through the serendipitous timing of National Beer Week's kickoff and Alamo Beer’s association with the band, Rangel believes it would’ve been silly not to make something special happen.
"We wanted to capture it all in one day. Jazz lovers, beer lovers, and Esquire lovers all together,” Rangel said. “It just makes sense.”
Want more beer? The San Antonio Beer Festival is coming up Oct. 18 at Maverick Park. The event promises guests more than 200 craft and premium beers, local and international. General admission is $35. Click here for details.
*Featured/top image: South Texas Jazz drummer Brandon Guerra (left) and bassist Brandon “Daddy Long Legs” Revis perform at the Esquire Tavern. Photo by Kody Melton.