Bar Review: Cold Beer Company

The Deep Ellum bar has a crowd full of friends you haven’t met yet.

don’t hate being alone. What i do hate is drinking alone at a bar. 

I hate pretending that the screen of my phone is interesting. I hate staring off into space between sips. 

Alas, on a crisp Monday night I was flying solo. I paused at the front door of Cold Beer Company and took a deep breath. The place looked welcoming enough: a light-brick building with a dog-friendly patio full of wooden picnic tables. One had “I love you” carved all over it. 

Inside, a long bar ran up the left side of the room. It was packed. With a pang of fear, I realized I might have to sit alone at a table. I repressed the urge to flee and glimpsed an open seat, the dead-last spot at the bar, next to a dude wearing a black leather wristband. I sat down and busied myself by staring at a menu for several minutes. I decided on a Pink Thing cocktail. 

As the bartender mixed up the blend of Stoli Raz and juice, I considered that I’d just ordered a frilly drink at a bar with “beer” in its name and 24 drafts to choose from, including plenty of locals. I told myself to get it together and then texted a friend: I need backup.  

As I sipped the Pink Thing, I looked around at the bar’s exposed red brick walls and the tin light fixtures hanging from its ceiling. Two garage doors were pulled up for a cross breeze. A blond waitress quietly sang along to Metric’s “Help I’m Alive.” There was a cigarette machine in the corner and football on TV. The guy next to me was bored with the game, so we started talking. Eric told me that he was something of an expert on bars. 

“I played in a band that toured Europe,” Eric said. “We closed down lots of bars.” (He’s in a different band now called Hint of Death.) His expert opinion of Cold Beer Company? He paused thoughtfully before concluding: “These guys know what they’re doing.” 

Soon, Eric and I were speculating on what the building was before it became CBC. We decided to ask the bartender, who was busy talking to a guy with a killer mustache. When I finally got his attention, the bartender told me to ask the mustachioed man, who turned out to be Carter Voekel, one of the bar’s owners. He said that the place used to be a soul food restaurant called Vern’s Place. He pointed up: the rafters still have smoke marks from the cooking.

“It was slated for demolition at one point,” he told us. Cold Beer Company, which opened in August, retains most of the building’s original brick. Much of the furniture—including the bar—was made locally.

A woman midway down the bar offered to buy shots of Jameson. “You want one, right, Carter?” she called. Then she looked at me and Eric and joked, “I’m a teacher, so you know I can afford it.”

Everyone downed shots. Then Carter and I discussed his beloved dog, Dottie. As we talked, a few people wandered out. New folks wandered in.

That’s when I noticed that the friend I’d texted earlier was sitting at the other end of the bar. I had been so busy chatting that I hadn’t seen him come in. It’s the mark of a good neighborhood bar when you come in all alone but end up drinking with friends, both old and new.

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