Places to Stay

Hotel Emma Named One of the Top 25 Hotels in the Country

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Hotel Emma, San Antonio’s innovative and stylish hotel located in the former Pearl Brewery building, keeps winning awards. The latest accolade came from U.S. News & World Report, who ranked them #10 on their 25 Best Hotels in the USA. U.S. News analyzed over 30,000 luxury hotels across the globe, and then ranked the top 25 hotels in each country. Factors contributing to Hotel Emma’s being the only Texas hotel on the list include their five-star rating from Trip Advisor users, plus such prestigious honors as Conde Nast Traveler’s 2019 readers’ choice award.

The San Antonio hotel’s cool culture, stylish lobby and rooms, and luxurious amenities were all factors in their being named to the Top Ten List, the report said. Their onsite dining options at Larder, Supper, and Sternewirth were also important elements.

Outstanding Service at Hotel Emma

Hotel Emma Named One of the Top 25 Hotels in the Country

Photo: Giles Design Bureau

Marketing Vice President Beth Smith of Hotel Emma said, “We believe our recognition comes from our outstanding service, and the unique, special experiences we provide for each guest. From the time they book their stay, to the check-in process and overnight stay, we strive to give our guests the absolute best experience. We want guests to feel as if they are staying at the well-appointed home of very interesting friends.”

Smith noted the hotel received a national five diamond AAA designation. Their 146 guest rooms include 11 suites. The hotel’s culinary concierge team curates special activities for guests like cooking demos and tastings. Single-origin, slow-pour Merit coffee is served free in the hotel’s lobby each morning, and nightly turn-down service includes a macaroon from neighboring Bakery Lorraine. Additional luxury pampering includes in-room robes designed by Dos Carolinas, and cast iron “Clawfoot” bathtubs in select rooms.

Rooftop Pool and Truck Bar

Hotel Emma Named One of the Top 25 Hotels in the Country

Photo: Giles Design Bureau

A 24-hour fitness facility and rooftop pool are featured, plus private terraces with fireplaces in selected rooms. The Hotel Emma Library houses a selection of historic brewing books from the Pearl brewery collection, and an extensive, diverse 3,700 piece collection from celebrated novelist and cultural anthropologist Sherry Kafka Wagner. Ms. Wagner often visits the hotel’s library to host readings and events for guests.

Smith said, “To our knowledge, we are the only hotel in Texas with an extensive library on Texas history and the rich culture that San Antonio has to offer. Guests who visit can always find a book that engages more to their interest. There’s something for everyone.”

Located in the original 1894 Pearl brewhouse, Hotel Emma opened in November, 2015. The hotel building was designed by Chicago architect August Maritzen in the Second Empire style. Elements of the original brewhouse like ammonia compressors in the lobby, bottle labelers re-purposed as chandeliers, and brewing tanks used as seating areas in Sternewirth, are still evident.

Tale of Three Emmas

Hotel Emma Named One of the Top 25 Hotels in the Country

Photo: Giles Design Studio

The hotel is named in honor of Emma Koehler, wife of Pearl Brewery founder Otto Koehler. Following his death in 2014, she kept the brewery afloat during prohibition. After checking in, guests are greeted in the library with a complimentary cocktail, a La Bahia Margarita or The Three Emma Cocktail. That cocktail is inspired by the fascinating true story of three Emmas, from the early days of the Pearl Brewery. When Emma Koehler was injured in an accident in 1910, Otto hired a live-in nurse, also named Emma. He soon began an affair with Emma #2. She had a good friend, another attractive nurse, named Emmi.

Otto set the two young nurses up in a small house on Hunstock Ave., and began having affairs with both women. On November 12, 1914, Otto was visiting the two nurses when Emma #2 shot and killed him. Charged with his murder, she fled the country for Europe, where she served as a nurse in WWI. She later returned to San Antonio for trial, but was acquitted by the all-male jury. She married one of her jurors, and they moved into the little house on Hunstock Avenue. Emmi (#3) also married and faded from sight, while Emma Koehler went on to inherit the brewery and operate it with great success.

Now you know why The Three Emmas cocktail claims, “1 is great, 2 are sinful, 3 will kill you.”

Unique Dining Options

Hotel Emma Named One of the Top 25 Hotels in the Country

Photo: Giles Design Studio

The hotel boasts unique dining offerings like Supper, an American eatery, Larder, fine groceries and prepared foods, and Sternewirth, a bar and clubroom. Supper Chef John Brand plans his menus by “flavor, what’s in season, and what feels good at a table shared by friends.” Executive pastry chef Stephane Leopoldo, from Paris, creates unique desserts while also catering on-site events and weddings. Special activities like wine dinners or cooking demos are frequently planned by the hotel’s culinary concierge team.

Hotel Emma re-purposes and preserves many historic artifacts, which is immediately evident upon entering the lobby. A historic brewery truck has been restored to serve as the rooftop pool’s bar, offering drinks, refreshments, and small bites for guests.

Hotel Emma Named One of the Top 25 Hotels in the Country

Photo: Giles Design Studio

“Aside from the hotel’s new historic truck, we have recently renovated Supper’s dining room space, Swiggle Key Room,” Beth said. “Overlooking the river and Pearl’s amphitheater, this room can hold 25+ seats for a cocktail reception, private dinner or working lunch.”

The hotel is planning such exciting events as a wine pairing dinner in the Swiggle Key Room. The dinner is in partnership with Hundred Acre winery and their own monthly Super Chef Series, where popular chefs across the nation visit and curate a specialty dinner menu with Chef John for a night.

If you love history, or just want to be pampered, Hotel Emma may be the perfect place for you. But go easy on the Three Emmas cocktail! For information, visit thehotelemma.com.