Author's Note: When I first began my Top 15 Places to Get a Beer in Houston, TX list, Anvil Bar & Refuge had yet to open. By the time it was published, draft beer was fairly new to the bar. While I someday may update my list, I would like to let it be known that Anvil not only belongs on The Ferm's list, they belong very high on the list.
11 Drafts, 1 Nitro Keg, 1 Cask.
Beer bars whose selections include three Saint Arnolds, two Real Ales, a Dogfish Head or two, an Independence Brewing Company selection (I can hope, right?), and several pedestrian or safe selections are few and far between. However, Anvil is not that bar. Anvil is the kind of bar that truly cares about the way their beverages are served. They house a well designed and well maintained beer serving system. Each keg even has its own gas regulator, and Anvil takes it a step further and mixes their own beer gas.
I wore out the thesaurus looking for something to describe the special release and hard to find draft beers offered on Anvil’s thirteen taps. Esoteric is OK. Impressive may be better. However, unrivaled may be the most appropriate.
Check out their beer chalkboard to see what is on tap. This link is updated weekly!
Amongst a plethora of franchises and quasi-unique establishments owned by mega-groups, Anvil co-owner Bobby Heugel built his dream bar. Anvil is tucked away in a trendy, but somewhat unaffected area of Westheimer in Houston, TX. The building originated as a Bridgestone-Firestone store built in 1959. What makes the facility impressive, however, is the marked passion in the interior design and décor (decidedly opposite of the Red Robin corporate design). The vintage glasses, resting on shelving from a piano store the owners worked at as kids, were acquired from local thrift shops. You can rest your feet at the bar on a piece of an old railroad track that previously ran through Houston.
The bar owners renovated the interior of the bar almost entirely themselves, and while some of the most interesting features of the bar are not evident at first glance, you cannot help but feel you are somewhere special while sipping a drink at Anvil.
Hidden in the “About” section of their perpetually under construction website is a note that “Anvil Bar & Refuge is owned and operated by a small group of cocktail freaks.” What you will witness when you visit are people that create each drink as if it was a small piece of art that they are showing off to friend. If you have ever been at a loud bar and watched a bartender make a cosmo or mojito, you will really appreciate the love the folks at Anvil have for what they do. The bar's dedication to serving great drinks makes Anvil a great place, regardless of the drink ordered.
The website also states: “Our bar is a manned by the same individuals who built, bartend, and manage it. Anvil is a special place for us, and we hope that you will share what can only be described as our refuge.”
Everything about Anvil’s approach to serving prohibition era drinks and great beer is stylish, from your seat at the bar to the glass in which it is served. The atmosphere is what differentiates this bar from its corporate counterparts. Bobby describes Anvil as “an expression of who we are and a passion for making cocktails and sharing our evenings with a group of friends, some familiar and some new, every night.” Some may counter that any place that is often so crowded that there is a line to get in is more pretentions than down to Earth. To this I respond, is it the bar owner’s fault that the place is popular? An owner’s job is to create the best experience possible. If you are lucky enough to be inside, it is hard not to agree that Anvil overachieves at this goal.
After finding a place at their large prominent bar, which is always a better place to enjoy a drink than a couch, I was handed “the List.” It is a large sheet of paper with a memo under the simple title stating: “We at Anvil would be remiss in our duties if we did not mention that there are certain libations we feel you should try at least once in your life...for better or worse. Below is a list of 100 of them.” It is arranged in alphabetical order and starts with an Absinthe Drip and ends with a Zombie. If anything, The List had me watching the bartenders all night to try to match what was being prepared with the 100 items. The purpose of my first visit to Anvil was to get a taste (or two) of the new limited release Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #9, but the List is certain to bring me back.