The reveal of the nominees for the 2014 CultureMap Tastemakers Awards continues with a look at the Best Brewery category. Houston's craft beer scene has exploded in the past two years, and a number of new breweries have popped up to meet consumers' seemingly unquenchable thirst for all things hoppy and fermented.
What's even more impressive is that next year's candidates could look fairly different, as three or four more breweries and brew pubs are either just getting started or have plans to roll out. If there's a limit to this boom, the city hasn't hit it.
Having recently celebrated its second birthday, Buffalo Bayou is already one of the rising stars of Houston's craft beer scene. Owner Rassul Zarinfar tripled Buffalo Bayou's production capacity in 2013, which means the brewery can continue to produce its signature 1836 Copper Ale and More Cowbell Imperial IPA. Both are stables on the tap walls of Houston's best bars and pubs.
Having recently celebrated its second birthday, Buffalo Bayou is already one of the rising stars of Houston's craft beer scene.
Meanwhile, a wide variety of one-off and seasonal brews, satisfy fans seeking more variety.
The brewery project from the Eatsie Boys and head brewer (and University of Houston professor) Aaron Corsi blends beers that pay tribute to Houston's history with the witty names that are a staple of the Eatsie's cafe and food truck. Year-round brews like Alternate Universe and Hopston have become staples, but it's the seasonals like the Feight Red Ale and Rocket Fuel (Vietnamese coffee porter made with locally roasted Greenway Coffee) that have made the weekly brewery tours can't miss events.
As for what's next, expect the brewery to begin canning this year. Dome Faux'm on the beach? Yes, please.
If one of the hallmarks of the new craft beer movement is beers tailored to fit the local palate, then Fort Bend Brewing Company has a leg up on its competition by being the first brewery in rapidly expanding Fort Bend County. The brewery focuses on readily drinkable drafts like the staple Texas Backyard blonde ale and Texas Farmhouse ale, which are exactly the sort of beers that help a craft brewery win fans and expand its audience.
Still, it can play the trendy game, too, with small batch beers like the high alcohol Grand Reserve 2013, an English-style barley wine. It's definitely a brewery to watch in the years to come.
After Saint Arnold, Karbach is the highest profile and most successful craft brewery in Houston. Already the second fastest growing craft brewery in America, Karbach announced a $15 million expansion that will allow it to produce up to 60,000 barrels per year annually. While its relationship with powerhouse Silver Eagle Distributors means it can be found throughout Houston, the new capacity will take Karbach beyond the metropolitan area to new markets throughout Texas.
The barrel-aged F.U.N. series beers are greeted with long lines and instant sell outs.
Born from a successful Kickstarter campaign, the League of Extraordinary Brewers is a co-working brew pub and incubator located on Franklin Street in the white-hot historical section of downtown Houston. Essentially, the brewery gives homebrewers the opportunity to brew on a commercial system and refine their recipes before deciding whether to make the leap to full time production.
It provides proof of concept for new businesses while giving the public access to a wide variety of experimental beers. Game nights, beer dinners and general revelry have helped make the pub a destination.
It isn't fair to reduce Lone Pint's offerings to one beer, but, when that beer is as tasty as Lone Pint's signature Yellow Rose, the temptation to reduction can be hard to resist. Made with a single-malt, single-hop recipe that utilizes the highly sought after Mosaic hops, Yellow Rose's slightly fruity flavor and floral aroma have it competing for acclaim as the single best beer brewed in the Houston area.
Not bad for a business that's only been producing beer from its Magnolia brewery since 2012.
At over three years old, Katy-based No Label has a longer history than most of the other breweries on this list. In a craft beer scene where barrel-aged one offs draw big crowds, No Label sets itself apart with a lineup of beers that have a broad appeal.
No Label sets itself apart with a lineup of beers that have a broad appeal.
The brewery's location near old rice silos pays tribute to a part of Katy's history.
Texas' oldest craft brewery could probably pump out as much Weedwacker, Santo and Elissa IPA as its tank will hold and ride the resulting profits to Beemer-town (you know, the section of The Woodlands where everyone drives a German luxury car), but taking risks and having some fun along the way has always been part of the Saint Arnold's ethos. Thus, the brewery has expanded operations to Florida and Colorado and found a way to keep beer nerds happy with a full run of small batch barrel-aged brews, Divine Reserve releases and a tap room that's a solid lunch destination.
Why rest on your laurels when you can continue to push things forward?
The five year-old Conroe brewery may have fallen out of favor a bit with beer nerds, but that hasn't stopped the brewery from continuing to grow. Drinkers in Texas and five other states can't seem to get enough of Southern Star signatures like Pine Belt Pale Ale and Bombshell Blonde. A rotating lineup of seasonal beers, including the always delicious Walloon, keep things fresh.
True to its roots, the Pro-Am series gives one talented home brewer each year the opportunity to win the chance to have the brewery produce its recipes.