One-Off Kings

Perfectly peculiar beer: Buffalo Bayou Brewing reveals an emphasis on the experimental

Perfectly peculiar beer: Buffalo Bayou Brewing reveals an emphasis on the experimental

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Photo by Stephen R. White
News_Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co._beer
A glass of the flagship 1836 Photo by Stephen R. White
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Buffalo Bayou's main men, founder Rassul Zarinfar (left) and brewmaster Ryan Robertson Photo by Stephen R. White
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News_Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co._beer
News_Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co._beer_brewers

The Buffalo Bayou Brewing brewhouse looked more elegant Thursday night than it likely ever will again. Decorated with heavy rustic furnishings and dozens of tea candles for a preview dinner of five of the new brand's brews, you almost forgot about the tanks laying on their sides on your periphery, waiting for their weekend installation.

For those who've been excited to see what Buffalo Brewing's main men — founder and former distribution guru Rassul Zarinfar and brewmaster Ryan Robertson — and 50-plus investors would turn out, Thursday marked the first taste of the broadest selection yet.

With food provided by t'afia's Monica Pope, Revival's Ryan Pera, "Sugar Hooker" Rebecca Masson and City Acre's Matt Schlabach, it was an intimate evening for Zarinfar and Robertson to discuss their vision and what we could expect after their (tentatively) late 2011, early 2012 launch.

 "It's that concept of creative destruction," founder Rassul Zarinfar says of the brand's one-offs. "When you finish a puzzle, you take it apart." 

I'd already tasted their Gingerbread Stout, which was even better in its current iteration than the batch I tried at Petrol Station — with strong scents of nutmeg and cinnamon, this thick stout seemed the perfect base to indulge with an ice cream beer float.

New for me was the flagship 1836 copper ale, which they'll have in the market year-round along with a rapid rotation of one-offs. Zarinfar says only two Buff beers will ever be in the market at one time, with the one-offs getting pulled every two to three weeks to maintain a sense of consumer excitement and demand.

"It's that concept of creative destruction," Zarinfar says of the brand's one-offs. "When you finish a puzzle, you take it apart."

(You can bet that given his data nerd background, the rapid-fire timing is no accident. Zarinfar even plots his investors as data points during taste tests to best trend consumer tastes.)

The 1836 is imminently drinkable, and seems a strong choice for a 24/7, 365 flagship. Perhaps less versatile but more interesting was the hibiscus wit — a lovely, rosy colored traditional Belgian with hibiscus, malted and unmalted barley and ground ginger.

 They emphasize the importance of experimentation in their brew process, and view risk as nothing but a catalyst for innovation. 

Although Zarinfar and Robertson are in disagreement over the hibiscus ratio — Zarinfar's first batch was hot pink and contained 16 ounces in 10 gallons, while Robertson put 1 ounce in a 5 gallons — the final version, which tends toward Roberton's ratio and incorporates Valencia orange and coriander, seemed like the ideal introduction to the perfectly peculiar beers the guys envision.

They emphasize the importance of experimentation in their brew process, and view risk as nothing but a catalyst for innovation. One such risk is their use of brettanomyces in a dark, fruity Belgian Dubbel — and it paid off.

To better demonstrate the effect of the brett, we tasted two Dubbels with the same plum, date and raisin-infused base — one with brettanomyces introduced after 48 hours. I actually preferred the brett version, feeling it had a complexity that the other didn't lack, necessarily, but couldn't compete with.

It's exciting to see someone play with a yeast strain so many brewers shy from, and it keeps me anxious for some of the other brews Buffalo Bayou Brewing is rumored to have up its sleeves — including a chai porter. Be still, my heart.

Next up for January is a Scottish Ale. Stay up-to-date with Buffalo Bayou Brewing news and find out where you can soon enjoy its beer on tap via Facebook and Twitter.