Our final day in Texas was spent at No Label Brewing Co in downtown Katy on Thursday, 1/16/14. This converted rice production facility is growing quickly, and with 20,000 square feet to work with, they’ll have no problem doing just that. While there we spoke with headbrewer and co-founder, Brian Royo, who informed us that they started in a 1,500 square foot warehouse on the same property, which they still own and use along with their newly acquired space. During their first full year of production they made 700 barrels of No Label brews, upped the production to 1,700 barrels their second year, and nearly tripled that to around 4,800 this past year.
No Label Brewing Co was started by a family of 4 co-founders – Brian, his wife Jennifer, and his parents Gilberto and Melanie Royo. They had originally juggled around the idea of naming the brewery Royo Brewing, but one night while peeling the label off of a beer like a lot of us do for absolutely no reason, they came up with the name No Label. One could only find their beers on draft for the year and a half, but once they began bottling and switched from self-distribution over to distributing through Duff (which has since been bought out by Favorite Brands), their supply converted over to about 70% bottles and 30% kegs. As of now, No Label can only be found in markets around Texas, but they are looking to test the waters out of state very soon. Be on the lookout.
With the help of the rest of the No Label crew, the brewery has put together an impressive list of 5 year-round beers. Their best-selling beer, El Hefe, is a hefeweizen named after Jennifer, “the boss” of the house (El Jefe is Spanish for The Boss). Next on deck is their Amber Ridgeback Ale, the brewery’s second most popular beer. This one got its namesake from the fact that Brian had a ridgeback dog named Hailey in College. A lyric from a Johnny Cash song, “The Man Comes Around,” where he recites a verse from Revelations and refers to one of the horses of the Apocalypse as a Pale Horse, is the source of their Pale Horse American Pale Ale’s name. 1st Street Ale is their fourth always-available beer, and was termed after the street that runs right by the brewery. Their fifth and most recently released constant was actually put on the market on the day we visited. It is known as the 11 Amp IPA, and is named after comments made in the mockumentary, “This is Spinal Tap.”
4 seasonal brews expand their selection; one for each season. In the spring you can find their Don Jalapeno Ale, which is a variation of Pale Horse with half the hops and fresh cut jalapenos added. Following that is the Mint IPA found during the summer; it first hits you with citrus and pine notes, and finishes with a soothing yet subtle mint flavor on the back end. In the fall, No Label offers a Dark Wheat Ale known as Black Wit-O, but be careful because the beer bites. Rounding out the year is their winter Milk Stout, also Brian’s favorite, Elda M. Elda used to be the name of a boat Brian’s grandfather owned while growing up in Panama. He passed away after getting hit by a drunk driver and the family was forced to sell the boat. Almost as soon as it was sold, the boat cap-sized, sunk, and the nameplate came off. Somehow a friend of Brian’s mom watch that nameplate come ashore at a beach in Panama and returned it to the family, who still has it today.
This year, No Label plans to release a plethora of new beers, some of which will be released under a secondary label tentatively known as “Off Label Brews.” They offer tours, live music, and food trucks every Saturday from Noon-3pm where admission is only $5 for patrons 21 and up. Since they promote a family and pet friendly environment, anyone under 21 gets in free, but must be accompanied by a parent. We were told that the Saturday before we visited, No Label hosted about 900 guests so clearly it is the place to be! Big thanks to Brian for taking time out of his day to show us around.
Author: Michael Roberts