Celebrating one year in business Oct. 17, Tonya Bohannon has managed to fuse more than 15 years of bar owning experience into establishing what she refers to as a Texas twist on the traditional German biergarten.
"The whole thing people just need to understand is we're not just a bar," Bohannon said. "I also want them to understand we're not just a restaurant either. The beer is No. 1—the food is awesome—but the beer, that's my passion. The beer is so unique to Texas. You just aren't going to get it anywhere else."
After graduating from Magnolia High School in the late 1980s, Bohannon moved to New York City to pursue her interest in the nightlife scene and opened her first bar at the age of 26. During her 23 years in the Big Apple, Bohannon owned and operated six bars and helped launch about 35 locations for other business owners.
The idea for Texas Beer Garden began years before Bohannon opted for a change of pace and decided to sell all but one of the bars before she moved back to Texas in late 2013. While gathering inspiration, Bohannon traveled to several traditional biergartens in Europe and noticed a common theme of family, friends, light entertainment and food made from scratch.
"I had an entire wall in my apartment [in New York] for a long time that was covered in concepts for the beer garden," she said. "I came down [from New York], took [ownership] that day and opened in 28 days. To pull it together that quick, it was all kind of laid out."
As evidenced by its name, the beer garden specializes in Texas craft beer, liquor and wine, and carries brands from several local breweries, such as Lone Pint Brewery, B52 Brewing Co., Southern Star Brewing and No Label Brewing Co.
"I spend no less than 72 hours a week choosing beer and choosing recipes," Bohannon said. "It's almost 18 hours a day that I'm obsessed with beer. I always know things that are coming out and [about new] specialty brews."
With Texas Beer Garden's relaxed atmosphere, Bohannon said she encourages her employees to be approachable and answer any questions customers may have about choosing a particular craft beer.
"The thing that sets us apart from any other craft beer place is that we're approachable," Bohannon said. "A lot of people get very intimidated by craft beer because they don't know a lot about it, but we take a totally different approach with it. We take sort of a common-folk approach."
In addition to the selection of beer, Bohannon produces each of her Texas-style dishes, such as chicken fried steak and Frito pie burger from family recipes. The menu features several entrees and appetizers known as Texas tapas teasers, such as a giant beer pretzel, smoked pork or brisket quesadilla, and jalapeno poppers.
In her downtime from Texas Beer Garden, Bohannon has fostered more than 250 animals and regularly holds fundraisers for the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. As the business continues to grow in popularity in the community, plans are in the works to unveil a new outdoor game area near the patio this fall and open a second location in Magnolia within eight to 10 months.
As one of the few female brewers in the area, Bohannon said there has been a movement across the state to bring more women into the industry.
"One of the things I heard when I first opened this place was, 'I heard a guy from New York City came in and opened this place,'" Bohannon said. "I said, 'First of all, why does it have to be a man?' and second of all, 'I'm from Magnolia, so let's get that right.' I don't know too many men who know as much [about craft beer] as I do."
Customer favorite dishes
Chicken fried steak: The steak dish is topped with cream gravy, mashed potatoes, one additional side item and Texas toast. ($10.75)
Smokin' Tex Wings: Jumbo wings are slow-smoked with a choice of no sauce, ranch or buffalo sauces in homemade mild, hot and "shut your face" extra hot flavors. ($6.75, six wings; $11.75, 12 wings; $18.50, 25 wings)
Texas salad: The meal includes a choice of fried or grilled chicken, pulled pork or brisket with all of the salad fixings. ($9.25 chicken or pulled pork; $10.25, brisket)
Texas Beer Garden, 7214 FM 1488, Ste. 101 Magnolia 281-356-2337, www.texasbeergarden.com, Hours: Mon.–Tue. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Wed.–Thu. 11 a.m.–midnight, Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–2 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.