11 best craft beer bars

11 best craft beer bars in Houston's hottest neighborhoods

11 best craft beer bars in Houston's hottest neighborhoods

The Hay Merchant exterior
Craft beer fans have been visiting The Hay Merchant since 2012. Photo by Julie Soefer
Hughie's Tavern
Pair craft beer with Vietnamese food at Hughie's. Photo by Ralph Palmer
Drink of Ages Pub
Drink of Ages offers 32 taps. Photo by Ralph Palmer
The Hay Merchant exterior
Hughie's Tavern
Drink of Ages Pub

As the Houston craft brewery scene continues its rapid expansion, many local bars and restaurants are working overtime to keep pace with their customers’ ever-changing palates. Taps across the city are beginning to show more diversity in a race to provide the latest and greatest from local, national, and global craft breweries.

But having dozens of taps doesn’t always yield a good experience. Sometimes, less is more, and a smaller craft beer program can shine through with an educated staff, proper glassware, and frequent system maintenance.

A few locally based outlets go above and beyond to provide their patrons with a curated and measured tap list that accentuate their attention to detail and overall passion for artisanship. Here are the very best craft beer bars in each inner-Houston neighborhood to drink at right now.

Downtown
Conservatory
Branded as Houston’s first food hall, Conservatory’s 7,500-square-foot, leafy underground space also doubles as a craft beer safe haven. The 60 heavily curated taps lead the way to a variety of different food stalls that serve everything from poke (Moku Bar) to handcrafted Texas barbecue (El Burro & the Bull). Open until 3 am on both Friday and Saturday nights, Conservatory is also a great option for those looking to stop in for a quick late bite. Also, be sure to give their social media a follow for tap takeovers and special events that showcase local and national brews. 1010 Prairie St.

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
Although not a Houston original, many local enthusiasts equate some of their earliest craft experiences to the downtown Flying Saucer. Opened in 2000, the downtown branch of this Fort Worth-based pub flaunts 85 taps and an expansive bottle and can list. In addition to the great beer selection, their staff take part in monthly craft-based continuous education and host events headlined by some of the biggest names in the industry.

The Saucer also hosts its UFO program: drink 200 beers in house (limit three per visit) and be immortalized on the wall with your own custom plate and a complementary $100 celebratory beer party. Downtown too far of a hike? A sister location in Sugar Land is equally as crafty for those residing in Fort Bend County. 705 Main St.

EaDO/East End/Second Ward
Moon Tower Inn Food Shack & Sudworks
Moon Tower is probably not the place to go for people in a hurry; however, one would be remiss without trying one of the city’s best craft hot dogs and hamburgers. But let’s not forget, this is an article about beer bars, and Moon Tower defiantly ranks among the city’s best.

Nestled in the heart of the Second Ward, the outdoor-only space serves 60 taps of craft from a refurbished shipping container. In addition to their renowned local and national craft offerings, Moon Tower is also the only bar on this list that doubles as a brewpub. Amongst their Moon Tower only offerings, be sure to check out a Kölsch Day in Hell — a light and crushable German style brew perfect for beating the Houston heat while you wait. 3004 Canal St.

Garden Oaks/Oak Forest
Petrol Station
Petrol Station remains one of the trailblazers in the city’s craft beer collective consciousness. Once considered an elitist locale of hardcore craft snobbery, this repurposed gas station has since softened into a family friendly(esque) destination — complete with playground equipment, a sprawling backyard, and a fully accessible 20 tap beer list. But not to worry, Petrol Station still serves up the same delicious food and black metal independence that has made this spot special since 2004. 985 Wakefield Dr.

The Heights
Hughie’s Tavern and Vietnamese Grille
At first blush, Vietnamese food and craft beer might not seem like an obvious pairing. However, the Pham family has nailed the concept in its sprawling North Main location. Hughie’s 24 taps are rotated weekly to provide its customers with the very best and latest in craft beer. In addition, the restaurant hosts monthly tap takeovers from local and national breweries.

Their casual Vietnamese fare pairs perfectly with their craft identity. As any Hughie’s fan would say, you haven’t lived unless you’ve paired their shaking beef fried rice or decadent duck pate with a barrel-aged Vietnamese coffee imperial stout. 4721 N Main St., Suite A

Midtown
Axelrad
Located at the very edge of Midtown, this expansive outdoor culture-plex comes complete with colorful woven hammocks, a 60-foot neon tree, and copious amounts of craft beer. The 100-year-old Axelrad building serves as the staging point for its 30 heavily rotated draught taps and extensive bottle, bomber, and can selections. As a bonus, each tap handle is topped with colorfully bold figurines commissioned by Venezuelan artist Maria Rangel.

Axelrad is often packed, so if the long line inside is getting you down, the beer garden also hosts an additional 11 craft taps outside in their “Beerstream” vintage travel trailer. Also, be on the lookout for local and national music artists who grace the outdoor stage weekly. 1517 Alabama St.

Holman Draft Hall
This concept from the Kirby Group (Wooster’s Garden, Heights Bier Garten) has emerged as one of the leaders of the city’s craft scene. Aside from the stunning 100 tap selection of craft beer and wine selections, the beautiful industrial aesthetic sets this establishment far apart from its peers. The floor-to-ceiling glass, steel-framed fixtures, and reclaimed wood tables in this large open concept feels undoubtedly fresh and vibrant. Chef Brandon Silva (Uchi, Holley’s) also provides an eclectic menu complete with 12 different wing sauces, three nacho options, and a variety of signature shareables. 820 Holman St.

Montrose
Drink of Ages Pub
More than just a beer bar, Drink of Ages is a persona that has been carefully crafted since its 2016 inception. With his signature long white beard and flat cap, owner and operator Jon Denman proudly curates his 32 craft taps with the very best in independent suds. Every Wednesday, patrons will find Denman hosting his Drink of Ages radio show live from the center table of his Montrose outpost. His interviews and segments focus on Houston’s emerging craft beer scene and key players from the city’s hottest breweries. A friendly, knowledgeable staff and laid-back atmosphere make this spot a hidden gem in the Montrose corridor. 1005 Waugh Dr. Suite D

The Hay Merchant
At what is probably the least surprising entry on this list, Underbelly Hospitality’s The Hay Merchant has garnered multiple national accolades as one of the best beer bars in the country. Located directly on the opposite side of Georgia James steakhouse, the Montrose hideout boasts 80 taps complete with a cellaring program (200 kegs!) and an extensive rare bottle list. As if the beer was not enough, the food menu is outfitted with delightfully exotic items, such as crispy pig ears, peanut butter and jelly chicken wings, and Chris Shepherd’s classic Korean goat and dumplings. Go for the beer; stay for the food. 1100 Westheimer Rd.

Rice Village
The Ginger Man
Any serious beer drinking Houstonian would cry foul if The Ginger Man wasn’t included as one of the city’s best beer bars. With 68 taps and a wide selection of bottles and cans, this cozy Rice Village institution has been keeping its patrons well hydrated since 1985. Both its simple patio and warm interior feels every inch of an old-world pub that can easily set the stage for a relaxing night out. As any Ginger Man regular would tell you, parking during the weekend can prove almost impossible, so Uber or Lyft drop-offs are highly recommended. 5607 Morningside Dr.

Spring Branch
Cobble & Spoke
In what can be described as a renaissance of a classic Houston neighborhood, Spring Branch is beginning to show its craftier side amongst the Houston beer scene. Enter Cobble and Spoke located at the corner of Blalock and Campbell road. The new outfit serves an incredible offering of fiercely independent craft from small and sometimes relatively unknown, craft breweries, and meaderies.

With 40 taps, their program digs deep within the craft distribution chain and often provides sleeper offerings that can’t be found anywhere else in the city (Intrinsic Brewing anyone?). Cobble and Spoke also provide unique ciders and meads as well as hand selected, small batch wines produced right here in the Lone Star State. For true craft fans, it’s can’t-miss. 1900 Blalock Rd., Suite H

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Ralph Palmer is a local beer blogger and co-host of the Beer, Blood and the Bayou podcast. Follow him on Instagram at eyefearnobeer.