Two food festivals — one devoted to craft beer and another to barbecue — had local food fans flocking to NRG Park last weekend.
On Saturday, the first Houston edition of the Big Texas Beer Fest made its debut. Based on its five-year track record of success in Dallas, the event drew between 1,500 and 2,000 people to NRG Center.
While that probably wasn’t quite as many as organizers Nellie and Chad Montgomery would have liked, the relatively low turnout ensured that lines never got too long for even highly coveted beers like Firestone Walker’s Parabola and Jester King’s Boxer’s Revenge, and the indoor location made for a pleasant environment.
Local breweries mixed classics like two different Saint Arnold Divine Reserve releases with new offerings like Karbach’s KR&D India Pale Lager.
One area where the festival stands to improve and win more fans next year is by luring breweries that aren’t in the Houston market to attend. For example, attendees flocked to get their first taste Dallas’s Peticolas Brewing Company, which only distributes within 40 miles of its home, and many reported enjoying the hoppy, high-alcohol content beers.
The organizers of the Big Texas Beer Fest can take heart in the success of the Houston Barbecue Festival, which has grown into one of the year’s most eagerly-anticipated culinary events. The fourth annual celebration of Houston's best barbecue joints attracted over 2,000 people who braved the heat to get a taste of 26 different restaurants, including two that aren’t even open yet in Pinkerton’s Barbecue and Harlem Road Texas Barbecue.
Staples like Gatlin’s BBQ, CorkScrew BBQ, and Killen’s Barbecue both attracted long lines and served delicious food, but a few less-heralded joints also made strong impressions by serving something other than traditional brisket or pork ribs. El Burro and the Bull, which recently opened in downtown’s Conservatory food hall, served a smoked pork tamalito with Sonoran-style elotes that deftly balanced sweet, spicy, and smoky flavors. Tejas Chocolate Craftory’s pastrami with housemade mustard and cold carrot souffle also drew long lines; the restaurant blogged that it served an impressive 1,800 portions before it ran out of food.
Other first-rate bites included Killen’s Barbecue’s turkey-jalapeno sausage, boudain from Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack, gochujang beef belly from Blood Bros. BBQ, the “onion bomb” from Brooks’ Place BBQ, and Louie Mueller Barbecue’s classic beef ribs.
Nor did the event lack for impressive visuals. Pinkerton Barbecue’s smoked alligator became an Instagram sensation, as did Feges BBQ’s whole smoked pig (from local purveyor The Barry Farm) and steamship round of beef.
Organizers even addressed last year’s biggest complaint by substantially increasing the number of places patrons could purchase beverages. After all, barbecue just tastes better with a cold beer. Here's hoping to even more success for both festivals in the years to come.