I never quite understood what this Monument Hill Kreische Brewery place was. A Monument. A Hill. A Brewery? I did know enough to know that it’s not a working beer-making facility serving fresh frosty ale and Buffalo wings, so what can I say, it kind of slipped down the list of sights to see. Plus it’s a hard place to say.
Turns out the name is pronounced CRY-shee. And the whole thing is fantastic. Great story, great old structures, great welcome center and stone visitors shed and mural and Art Deco tower and view and picnic tables and holiday trail of lights and annual Texas Heroes celebration with cannons and re-enactors and crafts. You can even get married here. And you should! One thing though, you can’t bring beer.
To make things easy, let’s divide the story of Monument Hill Kreische Brewery into four parts.
First, the Black Beans.
Around 1840, as Texas was fighting for its independence, a couple hundred Texas soldiers decided to go down to Mexico to avenge the Dawson Massacre that had taken place over near San Antonio. Things didn’t go well and they were captured. But for various political reasons, Mexican General Santa Anna agreed to send the soldiers back to Texas. With one small catch. Santa Anna was only willing to free 90% of them; the rest would be executed on the spot. So in an exercise just one step above rock/paper/scissors or a Project Runway unconventional materials challenge, each soldier drew a bean from a pot. Lucky white bean, you got to live and go home. Black bean, no. Apparently the event was all very civilized. The doomed black bean soldiers dutifully lined up against the wall and were shot dead so that their brothers could go free.
Part Two of the story is where La Grange comes into the picture. About five years after the lottery incident, folks wanted to honor both the Dawson Massacre victims and the heroic Black Bean soldiers. Remains were collected and since the only officer among the dead was from La Grange, a gorgeous bluff above town was chosen as the final burial site for all.
Part Three is the beer part. Heinrich Kreische was a German immigrant and master stonemason. He bought the land on the bluff, tomb and all, in 1849 and proceeded to build Texas’ first commercial brewery down near a live spring. Bluff Beer was a hit and the locals enjoyed many a lawn kegger at the estate until Mr. Kreische literally fell off his wagon in 1882.
The final, most recent part of the story is that a magnificent full-on Art Deco tower and new granite vault were added to the tomb in the 1930’s, and the whole kit and caboodle from vault to brewery ruins gradually became a State Historic Site and then a park. Frisch Auf!
Like most of you, I’ve long been mesmerized by the extravagantly imaginative theatrics of Cirque du Soleil. I love it all. The fabulous get-all-under-your-skin music… The inflatable-climbable-disappearable-swimable sets… The way-beyond-that Jillian woman levels of superhuman physical fitness.
Lucky for those of us in Central Texas, Cirque’s traveling show, Kooza, is on its way to the grounds of Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. The humongous swirly blue and yellow tents start setting up in August and the shows start September 3. Don’t you think we should splurge on a set of VIP Rouge or Backstage Access tickets this time?
I realized while looking through the show’s website that, hey, I can write a new post about the wonders of my other favorite traveling circus, the Round Top Antiques Show, without actually writing anything. Love that. So, without further ado, I present to you an imaginative, mesmerizing, get-under-your-skin, practically inflatable look at the Antiques Show accompanied by copy stolen straight from the Kooza web pages!
The show is set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills, chills, audacity and total involvement.
It highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor.
Between strength and fragility, laughter and smiles, turmoil and harmony, the show explores themes of fear, identity, recognition and power.
Charming and sophisticated, The Trickster is a sublimely quick and agile being, a genius who knows all about the world because he created it. He appears and disappears at will and there’s electricity in the air each time he arrives on stage.
The Innocent is a naïve and melancholy loner carried off into The Trickster’s world. Outwardly childlike, ingenuous and simple, he is eager to get to know the new world he’s in, but as soon as he uses The Trickster’s powers he discovers an unexpected and jarring environment, a reflection of his soul.
Do you ever spend your morning trying to decipher the exact lyrics to the songs that the neighborhood birds are belting out? I do, and I don’t find it easy at all. Sometimes I get to the point of actual pains in my skull. The good news is that I am making progress. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far:
“Your ladyship, ladyship. Your ladyship, ladyship.” “SEEECRET secret secret SEEECRET secret secret.” “Your panties, your panties show. Your panties, your panties show.” “She thinks she thinks she’s coooool.” “Tony Duquette, Tony Duquette.”
Speaking of Tony Duquette, it was such a treat to be invited in for a private tour of the elaborate, fantastical, richly worked in/lived in/played in Clayton House at Festivall Hill. You remember Festivall Hill, home to the Festival Institute and where all of Round Top spends its summers listening to exquisite classical concerts.
Duquette called his interiors “celebrational environments” and man-o-man that is exactly what these rooms are, each completely overflowing with joy and creativity and culture and travel and craftsmanship and curation and playfulness and history and love of a good story or song.
And in that rich tradition of Schroeder at the piano, the house is chock full of busts, including, even, one or two of Festival Hill’s founder and Clayton House resident James Dick himself.
The home was moved from nearby La Grange and is everyone’s dream of a quaint old Victorian in the country. In the early years, before the immense concert hall was built, performances were held here. Today it’s a private space, used as a residence and for lessons. So how do you get to the William Clayton House? Practice!
Kids grow up which is all good. But I miss certain things, many of them baseball: The shaky bleachers, the diet Dr. Peppers and pork-chops-on-a-stick, the side games of wall ball, the mom chitchat, the fund-raised road trips, the struggles with red clay stains on white pants. My few moments spent crushing on the Serbin Jackrabbits’ quiet field took me back to all that and then sent me on my way.
So imagine: It’s the mid 1800’s in Lusatia and you’re a Wend. You’ve begun to feel quite a bit pinched by the King of Prussia who keeps insisting that you change your religion and your language. What do you do? Yes, you’re exactly right. You gather up your family and friends and hop on a ship to Galveston, Texas.
That is the incomplete but completely true story of how a few hundred Wends found their way to Serbin, just west of Round Top. In a charming museum right in the heart of Serbin, the Texas Wendish Heritage Society has compiled an impressive amount of information and artifacts about the Wends’ life and times. So many, in fact, that a visit there feels a lot like antique shopping, without the option to purchase. The museum facilities also house a kitchen space where volunteers gather twice a week to make traditional Wendish noodles to be sold in stores all over the area.
I’ve learned more than I have room for about the Wends, so I must leave you with just one brief thought for now. Don’t pile up your Wendish noodles with a bunch of stuff like it’s pasta. The noodles are a side dish to be eaten like a bowl of grits, with butter, salt and pepper.
Round Top’s historic Fourth of July parade and Rifle Hall celebration are exactly as wonderful as you’d expect. If you want to go next year and you really want to do it right, my suggestion is to think of it as a tailgating situation and have yourself an all-out patriotic pop-up-tent party. If you’re really ambitious you could even look into joining the parade. I have no idea how one goes about about entering their float or horse or tractor or motorized La Z Boy recliner. If you find out and it’s easy, let me know and I’ll deck out the minivan Crush List style.
That’s a cake wheel. Cake wheels pop up more than you’d expect around here. Canned peaches and polka bands too.
In this random list of my very favorite things about my very favorite place I’ve tried to capture the area’s special pieces and parts. Some are big deal, some are small gestures, some are legendary and some are just tiny pip and squeak.
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