The Pour

What’s Old Is New

Pouring an 8th Wonder Hopston IPA as an ice house rises again.

By Catherine Matusow April 26, 2013 Published in the May 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

It had been a long day. Chris Cusack and his partner, Joey Treadway, had spent it installing an amazing wooden bar in their new ice house, D&T Drive Inn. The bar was made from three-inch-thick planks milled from a giant water oak they’d had to cut down during renovations on the property. While discussing whether to fill in cracks in the wood—definitely yes, so customers wouldn’t get splinters—and how to finish it, they leaned against the bar and cracked some Old Potentates, potentially some of the last of the winter “Old Ale” from Southern Star Brewing. 

Benjy Mason, the chef at Down House, Cusack and Treadway’s Heights restaurant, wandered up, and talk turned to hogs—hog breeds, hog roasting methods, hog purveyors—and the interesting guy who’d cut the wood for the bar, a former recording engineer for Rap-A-Lot Records turned woodworker. “In his office there were pictures of him with the Geto Boys, and three gold records,” Cusack recalled, still in awe. With everybody gathered around the bar, drinking a cold one and shooting the breeze, it felt like a quintessential ice house moment. 

Later it was time to try a growler of 8th Wonder Hopston India Pale Ale at a picnic table out back, and everyone grabbed a glass. Slightly malty and bitter for an IPA, and as Cusack said, “super-hoppy” (but not ridiculously so), the beer, a staple from the local brewery, is the perfect treat after a hard day’s work—a modern classic. 

If you’d visited the old D&T Drive Inn in the past few years, you probably would have concluded that the bar, located on Enid in the Brooke Smith neighborhood east of the Heights, wasn’t long for this world. The first time Cusack stopped in, he said, “There was this one old dude at the bar, drinking Miller Lite.” But the bartender was nice, the beer was cold, and the place came alive on steak nights—just Cusack’s kind of joint. When he heard D&T was for sale, he and Treadway, along with some investors, decided to go for it, with plans to open by May.

D&T is a real ice house, complete with ice door, on a real residential street, and it started serving beer in the ’60s. Cusack said the crew planned to update the concept by offering charcuterie, house-made pickles, and, of course, craft beer.

But not everything needs updating. Cusack and company said they planned to keep the spot’s name, its sign, its building with original garage door, and its steak-night tradition. They were adding another garage door out to the backyard, where guests can sit at picnic tables, play washers, and watch games. And, for the purists out there who wouldn’t dream of having craft beer at an ice house, they’d decided to offer Schlitz Malt Liquor, Lone Star, Pearl, and other brews you won’t find at craft beer bars like Midtown’s Mongoose versus Cobra. Kept, of course, on ice.

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