03/16/2011 12:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

San Antonio Breathes New Life Into Century-Old Breweries

Two Texas breweries, both casualties of unfortunate corporate mergers, have been given hip new lives in San Antonio.

Lone Star Brewery, built in 1884 by beer baron Adolphus Busch, has long been an iconic San Antonio landmark. Its closing left a big gap along the San Antonio River. But rather than raze it or allow it to crumble into a hazardous eyesore, the historic brewery was remade into the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA).

Since opening in 1981 after a $7.2 million renovation, the brewery turned art museum has won many architectural awards and has expanded three times, including a 30,000-square foot Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art. Currently, SAMA is hosting The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama, an exhibition exploring art as a catalyst for peace with installations by Laurie Anderson, Richard Avedon, Christo and 80 other artists.

With the 2009 expansion of San Antonio's River Walk that offers easy access to the innovative museum, not to mention lots of outdoor public art along its 1.3-mile Museum Reach, SAMA opened Café des Artistes, a charming riverfront bistro next to its boat dock.

In 2001, Lone Star's competitor down the river, Pearl Brewery, was also shuttered after more than 100 years of beer-making. Thanks to the far-sightedness of Kit Goldsbury, the Pace Salsa billionaire, the 22-acre complex has roared back to life as an edgy foodie destination.

The post-industrial riverfront complex hosts several of San Antonio's best restaurants (La Gloria, which riffs on the Mexican street vendor scene and Il Sogno Osteria, an always crowded Italian restaurant with an open kitchen and a wood-burning oven, to name a couple), a twice-weekly farmer's market (featuring everything from lavender soap, watercress and free range eggs to heritage pork, grass-fed bison and sour cream pecan muffins), a kitchenware store owned by famed cookbook author, Melissa Guerra, (look for such hard-to-find items as authentic Mexican molcajetes, hand-embroidered dish towels and mesquite rolling pins) and a 30,000-square foot Culinary Institute of America cooking school.

As the third location for the prestigious C.I.A., the San Antonio version specializes in Latin American cuisine and offers a 30-week certification program and a just-opened bakery and cafe where customers can view students working in the test kitchens. Although plans are afoot to eventually offer associate degrees in culinary arts management just like the other campuses in Hyde Park, NY and St. Helena, CA, for now, day-long, two-day and week-long culinary boot camps attract tall hats and apron-clad wannabes mastering such chili-fueled recipes as Andean harvest pot roast in a clay pot.

Perhaps most commendable is the Pearl Complex's solid commitment to sustainability, from its 200-kilowatt solar installation, the largest in Texas, to drought-resistant xeriscaping. The Full Goods Building, once the brewery's distribution center, is LEED-certified and brewery leftovers have been repurposed from chandeliers made from beer filters to flower beds made from old CO2 tanks.

The former Pearl Brewery complex also has a yoga studio, bicycle rental, an Aveda Institute, living space and an eclectic mix of businesses and nonprofit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Texas and the American Institute of Architects' Center for Architecture.
Don't miss the hour-long Saturday tours where you'll learn everything from the enticing history of The Pearl (including an homage to Emma Koehler, who successfully helmed the brewery after her husband, Otto, was murdered by his mistress) to an insider's look at the recycled brewery stable, bottling warehouse and distribution center.

200 East Grayson Street; 210.212.7260;