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.
After our tour of 8th Wonder Brewery we snagged a quick lunch (per recommendation) at the Tacos Tierra Caliente food truck. Next, we made our way to Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, located just off of I-10, west of downtown Houston. While there, we chatted with founding brewer Ryan Robertson in the taproom over some of Buffalo Bayou’s imaginative brews.
On Wednesday, 1/15/14, we found ourselves over at 8th Wonder Brewery in East Downtown Houston, TX. The brewery’s name pays tribute to the fact that the Houston Astrodome (now called the Reliant Astrodome) was known as the original 8th Wonder of the world. The brewery is actually located less than 10 miles from the Astrodome and will be connected via light rail once it is completed. It is also just 4 blocks away from the new BBVA Compass stadium (where the Dynamo plays), 4 blocks away from the Toyota Center (where the Rockets play), 10 blocks away from Minute Maid Park (where the Astros play), and 2 blocks away from the George R. Brown convention center, which will be home to one of the largest beer festivals in the country later this year.
On the morning of 1/14/14 we packed up our gear and headed east from San Antonio to Conroe, TX which is about 40 miles north of Houston. There we enjoyed an afternoon touring the facilities of Southern Star Brewing Company and speaking with head brewer Sam Wright. We began in the spacious new taproom which is just across the loading docks from the 10,000 square foot brewing space. The taproom is separated from additional storage space in the warehouse by a massive wall of empty cans waiting for their run through the canning line.
On Monday, 1/13/14, we made our way out to Guadalupe Brewing Co in New Braunfels, TX. The first thing we noticed after walking in the door was a unique wood-paneled fermenter tank, which the headbrewer, Ryan Bishop, told us was hand-made in order to keep added insulation in place. He said they have a “Franken-brew” system since much of their equipment was pieced together, including the dairy pasteurizers repurposed as a mash tun and a hot liquor tank.
After a relaxing Sunday, we spent Monday, 1/13/14, at nearby Freetail Brewing Company in north San Antonio. Founder and CEO Scott Metzger teamed up with Head Brewer Jason Davis to create the brewpub over 5 years ago. It is named after the Mexican free-tailed bat which was designated as the state flying mammal by Texas in 1995. Bracken Cave is located less than 30 miles north east of the brewery and is the summer home of an estimated 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats, the largest known colony of bats in the world, providing important pest control and protection for local agriculture. Freetail brewed Save the Cave this past year and donates $5 of each bottle to Bat Conservation International which currently protects the area surrounding Bracken Cave.
On Saturday, 1/11/14, we took the public tour of the first, and possibly only, “brewstillery” on our adventure, Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling. Having the opportunity to see whiskey and beer produced under the same roof was fascinating, and the detailed & personal tour was quite entertaining.
On Friday, 1/10/14, after six days in the Austin area and surrounding hill country, we headed south and stopped by New Braunfels Brewing Company (NBBCo), located one block off of the downtown square. The brewery was founded in 2011 by husband and wife team, Kelly and Lindsey Meyer, who had much success with running several locations of Anytime Fitness and decided to endeavor a new challenge. The company’s name is actually a resurrection of a brewery that was operating in the city until it was shut down during prohibition after a 1925 raid by the authorities. Originally operating under a manufacturer’s license as a 2 bbl nano-brewery, NBBCo recently upgraded to a more efficient, Slovenia made 15 bbl brew house and re-licensed as a brew-pub effective October 21, 2012 so that they could sell growlers and bottles to go from their tap room. For those of you out of state who are unfamiliar with Texas law, we have strict rules separating a production brewery and a brewpub. I won’t bore you with the details but thankfully TX made some amazing progress in the 2013 legislative session, however, there is still much more to be done in leveling the playing field.
Our first brewpub visit was to ABGB in the south-central area of Austin, TX on 1/10/14. As a matter of fact, if you use Google Maps to look up zip code 78704, the pinpoint lands directly on ABGB. This restaurant, brewery, and music venue that opened just last year was the perfect place for us to sit down and enjoy some good beer and pizza for lunch on our last day in Austin.
After a morning visit to Real Ale in Blanco, TX we cruised through the beautiful hill country to Pedernales Brewing Company located just south of downtown Fredericksburg, about an hour and a half west of Austin. During our afternoon visit, we had the opportunity to speak in depth with Owner and CEO, Lee Hereford, as well as Brewmaster, Peter McFarlane, while sampling beers in the tasting room. Lee then showed us around the facilities where we were again joined by Peter. They could not have been more inviting hosts and both were incredibly excited about the beer they are brewing as well as the future of the business.