The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2010

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at mYNaRS BaR, “beer ONly” dOeSN’t HaVe tO meaN bOrINg I ’ve traveled the country and it seems to me that Texas has more beer-only joints than any other state. These spots stem from a long tradition of icehouses—places that simply made ice for sale until someone smart decided that all that cold stuff could ice down beer, too. Gus Fernandez, Texas General Manager of Malt Beverages for Glazer’s Distributors, told me that beer-only accounts make up nearly four percent of Glazer’s total beer biz in Texas. And according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, there are about 1,200 beer-only permits currently issued throughout the state. In addition to the aforementioned icehouses, holders of these permits run beer joints, beer pubs, beer gardens, dance halls, cantinas and American Legion Posts. Sometimes, they just call it a “bar.” Which brings us to West [comma] Texas. (I write it that way because “West Texas” is a whole different kind of Texas than Central Texas, in which is located the town of West.) West [comma] Texas—it just so happens—is the “Czech Heritage Capital of Texas.” Though it sounds thrilling, after pulling off I-35 to check on the Czechs, I discover the best part of this small town is Mynars Bar. Inside this corner establishment it’s cool and dark. Neon beer signs and taxidermied heads cover the walls. There’s a vintage gas pump and an old phone booth (although there’s no work- ing phone in Mynars Bar). Most importantly, Mynars has Linda McWilliams and her heart- warming smile. “You passing through?” Linda asks. Yeah. Needed to get off I-35. It’s a soul-crusher. You got any Czech beer? “Shiner Bock,” Linda answers. Shiner is a Texas beer of Bavarian brewing traditions—but what the hell, I’m thirsty. That’ll do. And as this pit stop progresses, we start talking about the bar. “When was the Depression?” Linda asks. Late twenties to the forties, I think. Right after that, Linda tells me, is when her grandmother probably converted the building we’re sitting in to a bar. The building dates to 1859. John and Rosie Mynar bought it in 1923, nearly four years into Prohibition, and ran it more or less as a general store. Linda tells me that West’s sheriff then was called “High Pockets” because he was really tall. “That’s when they were running the moonshine, and so High Pockets would warn my daddy’s daddy that the agents were coming and to get rid of the moonshine. So they’d drink it.” After John died, Grandma Rosie took over the business, in 1935, raising 12 children while pay- ing the mortgage. It was tough (she paid down the bank note with egg money), but when she called Chicago to tell her banker she was having trouble, he told her to pay what she could afford. (Times have changed, huh?) “That gentleman just bought you this,” Linda tells me while sliding another Shiner my way. In fact, EJ (said “gentleman”) buys everyone in Mynars another round. I raise my bottle in gratitude. Thanks, EJ. In 1971, Felix Mynar, Rosie’s son and Linda’s father, took over operations, and boy was he proud of this place: “He farmed and ranched, but he couldn’t wait to come over here and open up the bar. He loved this bar with a passion,” Linda says. She points to a stripe running the full length of the bar top, where the varnish is rubbed away. That’s where Felix rubbed the bottom of a bottle across the Formica night after night, year after year, serving cold ones to the fellas who came in night after night, year after year. “He’d be here talking, just like we’re doing right now, and he would just absentmindedly rub that bottle. It took him a long time to wear this bar out,” Linda says with a bright smile that’d make a fi refl y spark up. “People say we need to redo this countertop, but we say, ‘No, never.’ This is part of the bar, part of the history, part of Daddy.” Felix passed away six years ago, so Linda left her position as a doctor’s offi ce administrator in Waco to keep her daddy’s dream alive. She bought Mynars with her brother, Ricky. After taking another sip of Dr. Pepper (she never developed much of a taste for alcohol), Linda pushes bottles into the ice chest at the end of the bar. You can take your pick of Shiner, Coors Light, Keystone Light, Lone Star, Rolling Rock, Miller Lite or Bud Light. Cash only please. Linda has good stories, too. Like this one from about fi ve years ago: “This Harley rider walked in here one day and bet everyone in the bar that he could make a dollar bill stick to the ceiling. No one believed him, so then he took a dollar, stuck a thumbtack through it, then wrapped a quarter in the folded bill. He threw it up there and it stuck. Now, when people come in here that’s what they want to do. And that’s why we’ve got hundreds of dollars stuck to our ceiling.” It’s late, but what the hell—I call for another Shiner. This is getting good. august 2010 / the tasting panel / 93

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