H-Town Craft Brews

by Becca Matheson Ortiz, Tastemaker in Residence

I’m a beer girl. I love the stuff! All of it. (Mostly.) As we gear up for Oktoberfest, the beer scene is becoming more prominent thanks to all the fancy seasonal beer. Pumpkin, cinnamon horchata, you name it, and I’ve recently been making my way around my city, Houston, TX, to sample the local breweries and stock up on the nifty cups and koozies. Hitting up the local places can provide for a great hang out with friends, as they tend to have tours, food or nearby food trucks, games (or bring your own board games, breweries are a great place to play!) and places to sit and chat over a freshly-tapped seasonal barrel.

Of the four breweries I’ve been to so far in H-Town, my favorites have been the bigger, more notable companies: Saint Arnold and Karbach. They tout the largest seating areas with the most stuff to do. And I really love the beer from both of these places! 8th Wonder and the brand-new 11 Below are both enjoyable places to grab a cold glass of locally-brewed suds, too. But let’s to start with my favorite:

Saint Arnold is my number 1. Their Lawnmower is one of my go-to beverages after a hard day and visiting their brewery is one of my favorite weekend and birthday activities. Samples of hoppy heaven make their rounds in the large banquet room that fills with people on Saturday afternoons. Hungry? Their wings and burgers are both top notch and the fries come with a side of garlic aioli. So good. Seriously, it’s so good! Go get some. If you go on your birthday (not the day before or the weekend after, but actually the actual day) you get a free birthday pint glass! I cherish mine! My husband isn’t allowed to drink out of it. This brewery is well established and they have a variety of beer to choose from. They also have seasonal favorites like Pumpkinator in the fall and my beloved Spring Bock in the warmer months. The tour is informative and the company itself has a great story. I recommend a visit, but if you can’t make it, you won’t be disappointed by just enjoying a glass of Santo, the Amber ale or their Elissa IPA.

Karbach comes next. Their outdoor space is newly redone and has shaded picnic tables along with a grassy area and options for lots of yard games. They’ve offered special movie nights where they set up a big screen and offer commemorative glasses (I just broke my Sandlot glass the other day, it was so sad) and are generally the place to be after a long day at work. They have food trucks in the area and I even saw a mobile boutique at their location last time I visited. With a delicious selection—I’m a Weisse Versa girl, myself—that includes extra hoppy, wheat beer, seasonal (Staycation!) and more. It’s a great place for a more laid back experience and I love it.

8th Wonder is a brewery that I’ve been to only once. They had a good variety and the setup was more like that of a bar than a gathering place. It had a hip vibe and drew quite a crowd, as it’s near the stadium where the Houston Dynamo play and I was there on game day. There was a food truck right out front and it’s in a great location for exploring the rest of downtown or the up-and-coming EaDo (East Downtown) after grabbing a Houston-themed beer like the Hopston IPA or Rocket Fuel coffee porter.

Last is the newest little brewery in a warehouse on the outskirts of Houston called 11 Below. They’ve got a growing, but limited selection of tasty beer like the 7-Iron session or the Color Blind Indian pale ale. The tour is very in-depth and the employees are friendly and informative. They also have a food truck outside that varies from Latin cuisine to lobster.  Happy hours here are on Thursdays and they have “open house” on Saturdays for everyone to come out and see what’s new. While there are limited beer options and are relatively new to the scene, there’s a lot of potential for this great little brew house.

I’ve still got some exploring to do as this fine Texas city hops on the craft-brew bus, and I can’t wait to find more great beer, fun hang outs and get more pint glasses (I love them!) along the way. Brew tour buses are a great option for exploring, or just grab your sweetheart or a group of friends to spend the day at one, playing games, talking and coming together with friends or family over great local beer.