Welcome to the fourth part of a series in which we present the remarkable food and drink experiences of a very strange year. In keeping with the holiday season, it’s also a very special collaboration between the Houston Press food writers and Houston Food Finder, the online publication founded by former restaurant critic and food editor Phaedra Cook of Houston Press. This fourth edition features some of our writers’ favorite beer experiences. Part five introduces some of our writers’ favorite chefs who made the most of a bad year. In case you missed it, here is Part 3: Wine. For more parts of the series, see the list at the end of this article.
Favorite brewery / beer garden
In search of socially distant options to eat and drink, Houstonians flocked to breweries this year as soon as restrictions allowed. While not immune to the economic devastation of the pandemic, brewery restaurants with ample outdoor seating and full food proved popular destinations for the socially starved people in 2020.
Platypus Brewing, 1902 Washington Avenue: Founded in part by two native Australians living in Bayou City, Platypus Brewing is the only brewery in Houston that makes authentic Australian real ales. Flagship brews like that Bobby Dazzler Australian blonde and the Freckled Dingo Pale Ale offer a taste of the Gold Coast right here at home. Add to this the extended menu of the kitchen with authentic pub dishes such as Australian meat pies, Fish and chips in beer batter and a Surf and turf special on Wednesday evening, this local microbrewery offers the rare combination of international authenticity and hyperlocal charm. Ample outdoor seating also makes this a safe option for eating out during the pandemic. – Carlos Brandon, contributing writer, Houston Food Finder & Houston Press
Favorite craft beer shop
The taps at Premium Draft. Photo by Eddie Mendez.
Premium design, 733 Studewood: This craft beer shop in the Heights, which opened in 2012, is tucked away between a convenience store and Antidote Coffee, conveniently sorted by type of beer. owner Johnny Orr and his knowledgeable staff are always quick with a funny comment and a good recommendation. Whether you are looking for Saint Arnolds latest release, a new fuzzy IPA from Wisconsin’s Untitled art or Blue Owl’s Cool & The Gang (a session sour brewed with Earl Gray tea, which was surprisingly one of the best new beers I’ve tried this year), the Premium Draft team got you covered. – David Leftwich, Associate Editor, Houston Food Finder
Favorite limited beer series
The Black Is Beautiful beer label design by Kevin Dyer. Photo by John Holler of Holler Brewing Co.
A limited craft beer is not a new concept. In recent years, many beer lovers camped outside Smith Street Spec’s on Black Friday to score this year’s set of Bourbon County Brand Stout by Goose Island. On site, Saint Arnold has produced several limited edition beers in series, including Divine Reserve, Bishop’s Barrel, and Icon. After Hurricane Harvey, several breweries from the Houston area came together to create the Daisy Chain series, all of which use the same strain of yeast to celebrate the city’s resilience and undying commitment to the community. This year, too, this community spirit has re-established itself in the beer industry and has shown impressive love and support.
Black Is Beautiful: Following the Minneapolis Police’s assassination of Houston-born George Floyd, a renewed wave of protests focused on the civil rights of black Americans, and with it a rush of large corporations to express their support for interest groups such as Black Likes . In the beer industry, solidarity was shown through a simple but effective action: brewing beer. Marcus Baskerville, co-founder and chief brewer at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, one of the few black brewers in the business, decided to raise awareness about discrimination against colored people – something he has personally witnessed – and help reduce the brutality to end the police. Baskerville developed as a Basic recipe for oatmeal stout, and other breweries that signed up for the project could give it unique twists. The proceeds from the beer went to charities working for racial justice and police reform. To date, over 1,100 breweries in 50 states and 22 countries have joined the project. Attendees from the Houston area included 8th Wonder, Astral Brewing, Baa Baa Brewhouse, Baileson Brewing, Battlehops Brewing, City Acre Brewing, Eureka Heights Brew Co., Great Heights Brewing Co., Holler Brewing Co., and Urban South. – Samantha Morris, contributing author, Houston Food Finder
Favorite local beer
Veri, a fruity sour sour brewed by Vallenson’s Brewing Company. Photo by Samantha Morris.
Over the past five years, the Houston area has added an army of new breweries to its market, making it harder and harder to tell definitively what Houston’s top beer is. In 2019, local breweries received only three of the 16 Great American Beer Festival awards given to Texan beers. However, in 2020, four of the 10 awards went to Houston breweries. Suffice it to say that our local breweries get their money’s worth.
Veri from Vallenson’s Brewing Company, 4081 Rice Drier, Pearland: Veri is a raspberry sour that is deeply juicy and filled with a fresh fruit flavor, but has just enough tartness to create a frizz. Although it has a rich taste, it has a medium body so it doesn’t overwhelm the palate – and it has a nice balance between acidity and sweetness. Sours are all the rage these days in beer and this one is just perfect. If you want to explore sour beer style this is the way to go. – Samantha Morris, contributing author, Houston Food Finder
New favorite breweries
A selection of beers in the Urban South taproom in Houston. Photo by Danielle Martinez, courtesy Urban South HTX.
COVID-19 disrupted the global supply of aluminum cans, affecting virtually all beverage manufacturers and retailers. That didn’t stop people from opening new breweries in Houston. Craft beer as an industry has always drawn the brave, rebellious, and people with questionable minds, and these qualities are brought to the fore in our new favorite breweries of 2020.
Local Group Brewing, 1504 Chapman: Co-Founders and Houston Grafts Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves, and James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe are either insane or realizing that Houston has not yet reached full saturation in the brewing market. Their 7,500 square meter brewery opened at the end of February and their restaurant is in the shadow of Saint Arnold and its huge beer garden. The raspberry version of the local Group’s fruity sour, Athena’s Elixir, had a light character with a tart and sour finish. The body of the 4.5% vol. Lil Star Lil Stouts is a bit thin, but the toasted taste and lingering chocolate notes still make for a good, light drink.
Urban South, 1201 Oliver: Urban South, founded in New Orleans, pushes the boundaries of what beer is, what its mission was when the Houston location opened in February. A popular beer merchant’s cooler, Beers Looking At You in Webster, is jam-packed with multiple iterations of Urban South’s fruity sours, so it has clearly found a fan base for their experiments, sometimes drinking more like smoothies than beers. Still, it’s impossible not to admire the brewer’s spirit and willingness to defy convention and question expectations. I may not like everything brewed by these gruff newcomers, but I will always pull after a rebel. – Samantha Morris, contributing author, Houston Food Finder
The other most popular Houston food and drink experiences in 2020
Part 1: Bars
Part 2: Treats & Trends
Part 3: Wine
Part 5: Chefs
Part 6: coffee
Part 7: Delivery & To-Go
Part 8: Cocktails & Spirits
Part 9: Industrial helpers
Part 10: Innovations
Part 11: Shops & Products
Part 12: Restaurants
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