I don’t eat meat. i haven’t for almost 13 years, so a big plate of smoky beef is really not my thing. But I grew up in Texas and can certainly understand the value of a good barbecue joint. It’s not just about meat, after all. A good smokehouse is about camaraderie, Texas pride, and, of course, beer.
It was in pursuit of a cold one that I landed at 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House late one Friday night. It was easy to find. All I had to do was look for three stainless steel chimney stacks poking out from a red roof. Once inside, I took a look around at the country-chic decor, shiny wooden furniture, and two murals bookending the bar—one of a winged pig, the other of the state of Texas. A buffet-style line sits at one end of the restaurant, tables pack the rest of the place, and, straight ahead, a bar with beers on tap.
I slid into a spot at the long bar next to a trio who looked like they had been sitting there awhile. The men were middle-aged: one was tall and lean, the other burly and gregarious. Between them, a petite brunette absently sipped a frosty beer while the men discussed Texas Tech. I took a long look at the drink menu and then summoned the bartender, a buxom, Barbie-doll blonde. The bartenders (or cicerones, as 3 Stacks calls them) help diners match brews to their barbecue. But since I wasn’t eating, the selection was a little overwhelming.
“I need some guidance,” I said.
She brought over another bartender named Brad. He had cropped hair, wore a bulky white watch, and quickly brought a rotation of Dixie-cup-size beers in an attempt to gauge my preferences.
First came the Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale. This was crisp and malty, but a little bitter for my taste. Then a Third Shift. Brad told me this was one Shiner-drinkers seem to prefer. Brad’s own preference was a Texas tripel called the Devil’s Backbone. This brew was 8.1 percent alcohol and very flavorful. My favorite was Peticolas Brewing Company’s Velvet Hammer, a delicious imperial red ale.
“What makes you qualified to tell me about beer, anyway?” I asked Brad.
“My father has a brewery in Arkansas,” he said. “He brews a beer that’s 14 percent alcohol.”
Brad also explained that 3 Stacks has only been open since February, but that it has already acquired a loyal following of suburbanites, barbecue lovers, and hard drinkers. The team behind 3 Stacks is “Rib Whisperer” Trace Arnold, whose 18-wheel smoker is famous for vending barbecue all over the country, and restaurateur Jason Hall, whose family opened the first Hooter’s in Texas.
Next to us, the burly man was downing beers and flirting with the pretty blond bartender. I learned that he sold boxes by day. At night, he frequented bars all over town.
“I go to Baby Dolls once or twice a week,” he was telling the blonde.
“You should call me,” she said playfully. “I’d come out.”
“I would, but your boyfriend gets jealous.”
The brunette next to the box man—his wife—rolled her eyes. “He knows all the girls,” she said.
Then he asked me to guess the brunette’s age. By her smooth skin and petite proportions, I assumed she was a trophy wife. “25?”
The men laughed, and the woman smiled awkwardly.
“We have a 27-year-old kid,” she said. Then she confided, nodding in her husband’s direction, “But sometimes people think I’m his kid.”
We laughed. After a few beers, I figured it was time to head home. Barbecue may not be my taste, but a barbecue joint with delicious beer and entertaining regular patrons? Definitely something to savor.