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Daily Texan: Beerquest '88: This time ... it's personal


It's 9 p.m. and you have $5 in your pocket. You're new in Austin and don't know where to go. Your quest: beer. Lots of beer. And avoiding frilly fern bars and knife fights. Poor University students have almost unlimited options for drinking cheaply in Austin. And if you get the crazy drinking urge before 7 p.m., your $5 can stretch even farther. Here are some of the more cost-effective options; none of the bars charge a cover unless noted. But be sure to designate a driver first, and those under 21, check with the bar to make sure minors are welcome. Hole in the Wall Arcade and Restaurant, 2538 Guadalupe St., has the advantage of being across the street from campus. While parking is generally unavailable near the bar, plenty of nearby campus lots open up after 5 p.m. The Hole also has some of the best happy hour prices around; from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, pitchers of Shiner Bock or Budweiser are $2.90 (regularly $4.25) and mugs of beer are 60 cents - about eight beers for your $5. Undoubtedly, however, the best thing about the Hole is the free jukebox, which is in the back room with six pool tables. Live bands are featured every night, but this brings on a big minus: a cover charge, usually $2-3, Thursday through Saturday. If quality is more important than getting falling-down-drunk, Maggie Mae's Lime Street Station, 512 Trinity St., boasts one of the widest beer selections in Austin, with 69 kinds of bottled imports, eight types of import drafts and six kinds of domestic beer. Prices range from $2.25 for American beer to $8 for a 26-ounce Belgian beer called Chimay Grande Reserve. Sixteen-ounce drafts are $2.50, as are most bottled imports. Those who think Busch is the champagne of beers are better off spending their $5 elsewhere. Maggie Mae's is really two bars - the "dance bar" on the corner of Trinity and Sixth Streets, and the real bar, on the right. The biggest danger about going to Mag's is that you will accidentally wander into the dance bar - where there is a cover on weekends - into the world of Polo cologne and bowheads. Other than talking and playing fun games while choosing and drinking unknown beers, the "real bar" features little entertainment other than live music on Saturdays. Sports fanatics may find the perfect beer-guzzling joint is Madison Square Garden, 1410 S. Pleasant Valley Road. The bar has six TVs, ranging from a 25-inch to 6-foot big screens. Seating includes both tables for the oldsters and bleacher-type benches for those with durable rumps. While the beer prices aren't the cheapest, the bar offers free popcorn (better than the movies, even) during happy hour, and you can choose from seven types of draft beer and 20 varieties of cans and bottles. MSG also admits minors. While you can't drink beer - sigh - you can watch the big screen TVs as the Rangers lose again or the Kansas City Royals make their run on the American League West. And speaking of atmosphere, Deep Eddy Cabaret, 2315 Lake Austin Blvd., is not too concerned about that - some of the more stylish decorations include a velvet nude painting, numerous neon beer signs and a 3-D light-up Spuds MacKenzie - but the beer is the coldest in Austin, as in ice-forms-on-the-top-of-your-mug cold. And your $5 will buy you two mini-pitchers of beer, which comes out to about eight mugs. Deep Eddy has four types of beer on draft, including Shiner Bock. Graduate students, UT faculty and staff mostly frequent the Posse East, 2900 Duval St. While minors will have little luck drinking beer at the Posse, underage students are welcome. To drink tea. The Posse is a great favorite among intramural sport participants after games, and hence, the air can get a little ... locker room-ish. And for those craving that Budweiser power lunch, happy hour starts at 11 a.m. Showdown, 2610 Guadalupe St., also has an indoor and outdoor section. Your $5 will go farthest on a Tuesday - if you're a woman. Ladies' night, 9 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays, features free draft beer for all who are female and have IDs to prove it. The Showdown has pool tables and dart boards as well as a few pinball machines. Minors may as well stay home. The bar has a very strict ID-checking policy and won't let minors in the bar or on the outside patio. There are always plenty of empty pool tables at Side Pocket, 10701 N. Lamar Blvd. A fairly basic pool hall with beer only in bottles and cans, Side Pocket is definitely a group outing. Most of the female customers embrace spandex as a fashion statement. Most of the men there seem fanatically opposed to washing their hair more than once a week. The Side Pocket has a jukebox that features all your favorite Dokken and other heavy metal tunes. An unwritten rule at the bar is that Motley Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls gets played a minimum of once an hour. Finally, some of the best deals on imported beer are hiding down in the Texas Union Basement. Foster's, for example, is only $2 a bottle. Even though that's only two beers for your $5, that's all the Foster's most people need. The bowling alley and pool hall are down in the basement, and while there's almost always a waiting list, UT students can bowl or shoot pool fairly cheaply. The bowling lanes are undoubtedly the worst in town - bowlers who generally throw straight on will find a mysterious new hook to their toss. Of course, if a more private outing strikes your fancy, there's always Plan Z: hitting the nearest H.E.B. for $1.65 generic beer. Five dollars will buy you 18 bad beers and a sunset, if you drink it someplace like Austin's scenic Mount Bonnell, out West 35th Street in West Austin.

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