There are few things as authentic as grabbing a cold beer at a VFW Post. Strongly recommended experience.
Though it should go without saying, it’s important when reviewing a VFW Post or similar establishment to make clear that any reference to its location as purely a dive bar is obviously selling short the mission and social function of places like VFWs. These organizations exist well beyond the realms of providing affordable alcohol to visitors, to be sure. That being said, VFW Post 8573 in Canyon Lake does indeed provide affordable alcohol to members and visitors alike, all within an experience that fans of dive bars will no doubt appreciate.
Over 8,000 VFW posts exist worldwide, an interconnected web of community hubs for past members of the armed services. According to Post 8573’s web site, this particular branch is well steeped in history, records indicating that the Post’s building dates back to 1880. Ownership changed hands a few times over the proceeding decades, the building serving a number of purposes including post office, general store, saloon, dance hall and more. Renovations over the years have left little of the property intact, but the weight of its history can certainly be felt. Use of the property as a VFW Post commenced in 1969.
With all of that established, this review is going to take a hard left into discussing the merits of grabbing a beer at VFW Post 873, of which there are many. The community of Canyon Lake sits well northeast of San Antonio proper, part of rolling scenery that houses a surprisingly potent array of dive bars. Just off of a lake named, you guessed it, Canyon Lake, the VFW Post sits a bit removed from some of the more touristy options for those attracted by recreation options at the lake. Though a sign can be seen from the more trafficked of the roads that runs through Canyon Lake, the actual entrance involves circling the building once and driving over a short bridge to a small parking lot outside the front door.
And if you had no idea what purpose a VFW Post served, the color scheme of the building would clear that up immediately, brightly painted blocks of red, white and blue circling the building. A long front patio houses painted wood lettering in the form of “USA” and the name of the post is similarly posted in wood lettering next to the front door. Along the patio, extensive seating under both an overhang and the shade of a large tree in the parking lot provides critical shade in a part of the country that swelters in the summer. A grill or smoker or both can be found on this patio, suggesting one of the many community events held here.
Inside, that dive bar-familiar wood paneling takes over, creating a simple but comprehensive footprint satisfying every bar-related need. A long front room just inside the front door serves as both seating area and game room, low circular tables dotting the space next to a dart board, pool table and shuffleboard setup. Flags related to veterans hang from the ceiling, itself a continuation of the wood paneling along the walls. Far from the classic dive bar clutter, this room is clearly appointed, bar signs dotting the walls without overpowering it, leaving room for a few odds and ends.
A long bar takes up the rest of the “drinking area” so to speak, one that extends to the back of the building where a large, multi-purpose hall can be found. The bar itself is clean and classic, a padded counter rail running along the L-shaped construction providing room for a decent among of padded stools. The beer selection is classic and largely domestic, though a small number of taps are found here as well. Wheel-style fans run overhead, again a necessary requirement even inside as Texas heat can be fairly relentless. A good rule of thumb for drink pricing here involves envisioning what you think is a reasonable price for a bottle of domestic beer and then cutting it roughly in half.
Beyond the interior and bar setup, the VFW Post’s mission involves a large number of community and social events, ranging from cookouts to fundraisers that make use of the cavernous meeting room in the back of the building. One recent listing, by way of example, references a cheeseburger fundraiser held in the main hall to beat the Texas summer heat. These events, regular game nights and a whole host of other activities create a social calendar and community meeting place for veterans and their families. That an affordable dive bar-like atmosphere can be found here as well is a blessing to visiting drinkers.
Of course, no examination of a VFW Post like 8573 should take for granted the mission of the VFW and its associated branches, but judged purely on a drinking experience, there is dive bar-like simplicity and authenticity to be found here. VFW Post 8573’s wood paneling, inexpensive domestic bottles and heated games of pool sure sound like the traits of a great dive bar experience, making the Canyon Lake outpost a worthwhile visit, veteran or not.