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Second Pitch keeps former Brew Monkey in the brewhouse, out of the courthouse

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Second Pitch Beer Co. is growing in popularity on San Antonio’s North Side, and even features a rare sight on an American tap wall — a side-pull tap, sometimes known as a Czech beer faucet. Photos by Travis E. Poling

Second Pitch Beer Co., the new name of the former Brew Monkey Beer Co., is not an allusion to baseball, but it’s safe to say this brewery on San Antonio’s North Side is knocking it out of the park with beer lovers.

The brewery, less than a year old, officially celebrated its name change at the end of March after months of trying to reach an agreement in a legal action brought by a Dripping Springs brewery called Suds Monkey.

The brewery in the Hill Country does not distribute its beer anywhere near San Antonio, but would give no quarter on the name.

Rather than fight a bank-account-draining legal battle, owner Jim Hansen decided to give the branding a second go. Hansen had a career early in life brewing in California before his marriage.

So this also is a second go at building a business and a career around beer.

Second pitch is a reference to using yeast from one beer to make a second distinct beer, with that yeast strain as the common ingredient.

The small brewery and taproom setting also was not his original plan. He toiled behind the bar at Blue Star Brewing Co. in Southtown (the second oldest surviving brewpub in Texas) to stay to close to craft beer and worked on bringing his own brewery to fruition.

But after several deals fell through, he launched his current venture on a smaller scale at 11935 Starcrest Drive, next to Blossom Athletic Center.

Despite the pandemic, the business grew a steady following with outdoor seating and to-go orders. With restrictions loosened, spring weather and attention garnered from the name change, the reinvention is looking like a boon instead of a bust.

Alex Arredondo, taproom manager at Second Pitch, has lined up food trucks as often as possible, puts on Bring Your Own Vinyl nights to share albums with other patrons, and promotes movie nights, trivia and other events to keep the community coming back.

Then there’s the beer.

While there are some trendier beers in the lineup to satisfy the current craze for hazy IPAs and fruit-forward stouts, the most impressive thing is that they have nailed so many classic European and American styles so well.

There are usually at least 10 beers on tap including regulars such as Hot Wells Hefeweizen, Admiral Stradling’s Pub Ale (a smooth English Best Bitter), a dry blonde made with honey dubbed Summer Lightning Ale and Dubbel Trouble Belgian Dubbel.

Hansen also has put out a West Coast IPA with its signature citrus and pine-forward hop character, an intense Baltic Porter and a dry Irish Stout served with nitrogen gas instead of CO2 for a creamy top off.

As the temperatures climbed in recent weeks, Second Pitch introduced a Czech-style pilsener that emulates one of the most celebrated beer styles in human history. From the barley malts to the just-right hops, and the specific water profile of Bohemia to the tight, white head of foam, the pils hits all the right notes and could easily become the signature beer that brings people from all over if they make it year-round.

What’s more, it is being served from something rarely seen on a tap wall in the U.S.: a side-pull tap, sometimes known as a Czech beer faucet. It provides the right control to serve up this delicate and pleasing-to-the-eye lager just as it would be in the old country.

They already are drawing from beyond the neighborhood and local craft-beer chasers. Parents stop in while waiting for their children’s activities at Blossom to wrap up, Arredondo said. And because it is one of the closest breweries to the San Antonio International Airport, beer seekers in the Alamo City on business or pleasure find their way to Second Pitch immediately after deplaning or before catching a flight out.

Travis E. Poling has written about beer and business issues in the San Antonio area and across Texas for more than three decades. He is the co-author of two books on Texas beer, including “San Antonio Beer: Alamo City History by the Pint.”

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