The 146-room hotel occupies the old landmark Pearl Brewery, which produced one of Texas’ most famous beers for more than a hundred years on the San Antonio Riverbank. This isn’t the chaotic heart of the Riverwalk but rather the tranquil far end of the recent expansion, which now stretches for several miles. The building’s old bones are beautifully preserved (the result of more than 10 years of renovations). Remnants of machinery, like the old, larger-than-life steam engines, still stand watch over the lobby, which has been gracefully repurposed as a grand Texas-style living room by the design team of Roman and Williams, the same duo behind the signature looks of the Ace and Freehand hotels as well as the more contemporary Standard Highline in New York.
As soon as you check in, you are ushered into the guests-only library, an intimate 2-story sitting room filled with thousands of old books, where a bartender keeps the fresh-squeezed margaritas flowing until you cry uncle, all complimentary.
Once in your room, if you want another fresh-squeezed margarita, just open the minibar. All the makings are there: fresh limes, lime squeezer, tequila, Cointreau… And in the morning, room service delivers fresh coffee with pre-heated cups, also complimentary.
I wish the mattresses were firmer, but the percale linens are exquisite and the old-fashioned four-post beds are classic Texas/Spanish hacienda elegance. Our bathroom included both a clawfoot tub and a communal-sized shower.
The Emma recruited one of San Antonio’s best chefs, John Brand, to run its signature restaurant, Supper. There’s also a rambling gastropub in the brewing warehouse, where former silos have been transformed into charmingly cozy booths.
There’s a quaint rooftop pool and a respectable fitness center. And if you’re up for a walk, the miles-long Riverwalk is literally just outside the door.
Bottom line: This is easily the finest hotel in San Antonio, and one of the best in all of Texas.
Rates from about $270 in low season or from at least $360 in high season. 136 E. Grayson St., San Antonio, 210-448-8300, thehotelemma.com