Part of what makes the Tastemaker Awards so special are our judges. These former winners bring an intimate knowledge of Houston’s bar and restaurant scene to their roles, which means all of the nominees in the various categories are truly outstanding professionals who all deserve to win.
The Brewery of the Year category is a little different in the sense that it reflects which local brewers are making the presence felt in bars and restaurants, rather than those that are generating conversation with limited edition offerings sold primarily through their taprooms. Most of what they produce may never be distributed to bars and restaurants.
While lots of people may be lining up to claim the latest pastry stout or hazy, New England-style IPA, most of our judges certainly aren't (as far as we know). In that environment, it’s hard for a smaller shop like Great Heights or Ingenious to break through and be recognized alongside established players like Buffalo Bayou and Saint Arnold — even though they’re well thought of by local beer enthusiasts. Still, as this year’s slate demonstrates, some of the newcomers are breaking through. With a little more hard work, more of them will surely follow.
Who will win? Find out at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards party presented by Woodford Reserve on March 27 at Silver Street Studios. We’ll reveal the winners, sip cocktails, and dine on bites provided by the nominees. Tickets are on sale now.
8th Wonder Brewery
Surviving street construction in EaDo hasn’t been easy, but 8th Wonder keeps earning fans. From its collaborations with local hip-hop artists to beers that leverage nostalgia for Houston sports teams — Dome Faux’m and Dream Shake are two examples — the brewery really knows how to show its H-Town pride. No wonder it’s such a popular destination for pre-gaming Astros, Rockets, and Dynamo games.
B52 Brewing Co.
Considered by some to be among the greater Houston area’s most creative breweries, B52 offers a mix of NEIPAs, bottle-conditioned beers, and addictive sours. With former Whole Foods brewmaster Dave Ohmer onboard, don’t expect the Conroe brewery to slow down any time soon. That’s why so many local beer obsessives are making the drive north to consume the freshest possible brews at B52’s wooded, seven-acre property.
Brash Brewing Company
With its arsenal of ultra-happy hoppy beers, Brash’s lineup is as bold as the heavy metal that inspires most of its branding. They may not have mass appeal, but the brewery’s passionate fanbase sells out its events and drains kegs all over town. If the Brash folks cared about building the broadest possible following, they probably wouldn’t engage in frequent political trolling on social media.
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company
This year is shaping up to be a big one for BuffBrew. Construction is finally moving on its $14 million, 28,000-square foot, three-story complex in Sawyer Yards. While they could probably just sell 1836 and Crush City IPA forever, they keep things interesting with endless variations and barrel-aged releases that enhance the flavors of core offerings.
Holler Brewing Co.
Speaking of Sawyer Yards, this intimate brewery produces some of the city’s most consistently quaffable suds. Although Holler’s beers can be found on a few tap walls across the city, the best way to enjoy a Dollar Pils Y’all or a So Classic is to belly up to the bar and order a pint. If proposed changes to Texas’ beer laws actually take effect, Holler fans will even finally be able to enjoy some at home.
Karbach Brewing Co.
Whatever someone’s opinions are about a craft brewery being acquired by an international company like AB InBev, Karbach still employs a lot of hard working Houstonians who still make some pretty great beer. Consider the new Crawford Bock with its Astros-colored can or the BBH series that’s a favorite of SportsMap editor Fred Faour. So order that Hopadillo with pride; the haters can shut it.
No Label Brewing
The Katy brewery offers a wide range of styles with broad appeal. While the El Hefe Weizen is probably their most well-regarded brew, the 1980 Kölsch and Hit King Blonde are solid examples of their respective styles.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Even by its own lofty standards, Houston’s oldest craft brewery has had an impressive year. Not only did it open a smash hit restaurant that offers an epic view of the downtown skyline, Saint Arnold expanded its core offerings with Daydream saison, Citrodos IPA, and the Original Dry Cider that finally gives the brewery a gluten-free option. Saint Arnold even jumped on the hazy IPA trend — and showed off a sense of humor — with “Not A Collaboration,” which featured a Brash-inspired logo and may or may not have been a collaboration with former Saint Arnold employee/Brash head brewer Vince Mandeville.
Sigma Brewing Company
This EaDo brewery has built a solid following around its intimate tap room, where friendly bartenders serve up all the latest drafts. Whether choosing a hoppy IPA or a boozy, barrel-aged stout, Sigma delivers well-crafted beers that are solid examples of their respective styles. No wonder its growing from a neighborhood favorite into a brewery with a citywide profile.
Houston has fallen hard for NEIPAs, and no brewery has delivered them more consistently than SpindleTap. With only mild hop bitterness and lots of ripe fruit flavors, they’re highly crushable. Beginning with the release of their signature Houston Haze, each cloudy release sells out, which ensures this brewery in northeast Houston will continue to lead the category.
Ralph Palmer contributed to this article.