My beard is feeling inadequate. I'm sitting at the furthest table from the bar at Small Brewpub, and the abundance of facial hair around me is peer-pressuring my follicles back into my chin.
It doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would to feel my identity done better by some Oak Cliff hipsters, but I realize I'm only 60 percent me.
Fortunately, the rest of me is about to be the black pepper pilsner, which Small creates in, yes, small batches in the tanks that stand next to the bare walls. The focus here is clear: beer. And maybe cocktails.
The attitude from the bartenders is as warm as the flannel everyone is wearing.
Okay, cocktails too, because when you run into a bartender from Parliament here, and he's ordering a cocktail, you figure the cocktails must be good. They are.
But that black pepper pilsner. Craft beer is at war with itself, an arms race of hops and quadruples that is increasingly insular, burrowing deeper within itself and away from the populist ideal of, you know, getting drunk on something good in favor of a circle jerk.
A black pepper pilsner could fall in line with that. Instead, Small's 10-ounce pour is $3; its 16-ounce is $4. And the attitude from the bartenders is as warm as the flannel that everyone is wearing. The beer is just a hint of pepper on the tip of the glass, a little pinch of spice, and then it's gone.
The space stands as a mission statement to the bar, a tiled and curved-wood beauty that is the only feature. The rest of the bar is spartan — nothing but bare walls, beer tanks, exposed everything. Even a rack of plates and dish towels sits out in the open, a shoulder shrug of design, because what's the point? You're not here for anything but the bar.
After the beer, there is the New Hat, with bourbon, grapefruit and honey. It's not the drink for freezing weather, but it's great. And it's $8.
Small's size affords it flexibility and speed to offer its drinks at a point usually reserved for 10 years ago. And it lets the bartenders pour a glass of Mellow Corn — a bonded in barrel, 100-proof, Depression-era labeled corn whiskey that's having a hipster renaissance — for a free taste.
That is the drink for freezing weather. I am warm again, and my beard grows a bit.