Millennials make up 35.5 percent of the craft beer consumption according to research compiled by Lopez Negrete Communications in anticipation of National Beer Day: April 7, 2017. While Hispanics are only 14% of millennial craft beer drinkers, 54% queried said they would try craft beer if they knew more about it. We're here to help. We asked our favorite beer aficionado, who also happens to be an Hispanic millennial, for some Houston craft beer recommendations to celebrate this festive occasion.
When Chris Davila is not busy with Important Space Business at Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, he is thinking about craft beer -- especially, Texas craft beer. In fact, most of our craft beer tasting and experiences started with Chris and his wife Irene. About a year ago we started making home-brew with Chris and Irene, Dale Price and Charles Chang and the brewing, bottling and labeling process always includes a sampling of some of Chris' newest discoveries. We asked Chris to share some favorite local beer in honor of National Beer Day.
Beers Capture Brewery Personality
by Chris Davila
In honor of National Beer Day, why not try something different or new? The Houston craft beer scene has grown exponentially since the mid-90s when Saint Arnold's first stepped into the scene that was dominated by the likes of Bud Light, Miller Light, and every other light beer variation that we have fond memories of drinking for the mere fact that it was cheap or great for beer pong. From 8th Wonder, who so proudly represents Houston with its style and variety of beers that have names that honor the city (such as Dome Foam Cream Ale named for the Astrodome), to Brash Brewing, who un-apologetically creates beers that they want to drink that vary from hoppy IPAs (such as Pussy Wagon) to the extremely tasty Cortado Stout (an Imperial Coffee Stout brewed with coffee from Southside Coffee, a local Houston coffee shop). The variety of beers available in the city (and not to forget breweries outside of the city such as Southern Star and Galveston Bay Brewing) provide adventurous palates the opportunity to find something that they enjoy and will only want to continue to venture to other breweries to try other brews. I narrowed my recommendations to three brews to try to capture several different varieties and the differing personalities of the breweries that make them:
1. Eureka Heights Brewing Company - Wicket Awesome ESB
My wife and I have only visited Euerka Heights once, but we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the brewery and even more importantly, the tasty beers. We visited the brewery on a Sunday afternoon when they had a board game event-of-sorts where you could checkout games and play while you drank (it was partnered with a local game shop whose name I cannot remember, but the folks were very nice). While playing round-after-round of Exploding Kittens, we shared several flights of Eureka Heights brews as we had only enjoyed their Mostly Harmless brew at other local bars. Their Wicket Awesome ESB (Extra Special / Strong Bitter) provided the biggest impression on me from everything I tasted that day. ESBs are an underrated type of brew: not exactly a brown ale or pale ale, ESBs often balance hops and malts to create an approachable beer that can be enjoyed at anytime of year. Now ESBs are a British style of beer, and so Fuller's ESB is most likely the primary version of this beer most folks have seen or tried. However, more and more US breweries are attempting their own take on the style. As for Eureka Heights version, it was very well-balanced and easy to drink. It pours a clear amber, with a medium head, and a nicely mild biscuit aroma on the nose. The flavor was sweet malts with a mild finish. Overall, it was very tasty. I could see enjoying this as a regular go-to brew at any bar, easily drinking two or three over good conversation with friends and feeling fine to continue the night elsewhere (the beer only clocks in at ~4-5% abv). If you can make it to 18th street within the Loop (inside the 610 loop in Houston), this brewery offers a great selection of brews (such as the Moo Caliente Milk Stout and the Space Train IPA), an ample parking lot (which can be hard to find in the Heights area), and a large area to hangout inside (the brewery itself seems to have been used as something else before but I am not certain, they have a large amount of room to explore as well as TVs for sports and games such as Foosball and bags). My biggest takeaway was that it was a comfortable place to hangout and you could easily strike-up conversation with other beer enthusiast.
2. Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company - Sams's Daily Cream Ale
I recently attended the fifth anniversary party for this very dynamic, risk-taking brewery. In saying risk-taking, I mean they brew beers with the idea to try something different that what others have done before them. However, they also offer very approachable brews such as Sam's Daily Cream Ale and their flagship 1836 Copper Ale, which can be seen by their names to show love and respect to Houston and Texas history. What made me become such a big fan of this brewery five years ago when Rassul Zarinfar started it, were such unique beers as their Gingerbread Stout and the Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, FIIGAAARO Quadrupel Ale. If you have not tried many different styles just yet, approach Buffalo Bayou.
For example, they just released their Thin Mint Stout: perfect for pairing with the Girl Scout cookies you couldn't avoid buying when you were walking out of HEB with your weekly groceries. Although the Thin Mint Stout may only be available on-draft, they have a variety of bombers available at your local grocer, such as the very tasty Beez Nutz (Porter brewed with hazelnuts and Honey). So I continue to focus on the unique variety of beers that they offer, however, I thoroughly also enjoy the aforementioned Sam's Daily Cream Ale. Cream Ale is a style of beer that is light and refreshing. If there is one style of beer that I can immediately recommend to folks who usually enjoy Bud Light or Miller Lite, it's a Cream Ale. It will pour with a golden color and is crisply carbonated and refreshing. What a cream ale offers is a sessionable* beer that can be enjoyed throughout an afternoon sporting event or in-between tasting of other beers, especially such varieties offered by Buffalo Bayou. If you can make it to the brewery (also within the loop with Eureka Heights), they are open Fridays for Happy Hour (5-9pm) with very reasonably priced drafts and Saturdays from 12-3pm with tour-pricing options. I honestly don't know how they maintain production within their small facility, but they make it work and they continue to produce great beers that will challenge your palate and make you wonder how they made the concoction work in the first place. If the names of their beers alone draw your interest, take a chance and try a pint at a local bar, a bomber from your local grocer, or make the trek to the brewery to try it their brews from the source.
3. Platypus Brewing Company - Stars at Night Coffee Porter
I could not help but write about Platypus Brewing as my wife loves all things Duck-related, and from a brewery perspective, the mascot for Platypus Brewing is the closest thing to her duck friends in the Houston-area. We have been to the brewery several times and have thoroughly enjoyed each experience as they not only offer distinctly Australian-style brews but great Australian food as well. The names of the beers will intrigue you (such as the Freckled Dingo and Bobby Dazzler), and the tastes will make you question the flavors and try to figure out what other brews you have had before that remind you of the flavors. I focused on relatively safe beers for the recommendations from Eureka Heights and Buffalo Bayou (although pointing out the other varieties they offer that you should try as well!), but with Platypus, I want to focus on their Stars at Night Coffee Porter. We were lucky enough to try this beer on our first visit, and we were immediate fans. This brew pours a dark brown, with a coffee nose that hits you right away and make you think of it as a great morning coffee-alternative. The taste is coffee through-and-through with chocolate notes coming out towards the end to balance any coffee bitterness. Just as with the Brash Brewing Cortado Stout, Stars at Night is brewed with a local coffee (from Catalina Coffee), which I appreciate to see as collaboration is very evident within the local Houston brewing scene. What I like so much about Stars at Night is the lighter abv (~6%, which is light for me as I normally gear for 7-8% and up as I naively associate abv with flavor most of the time, but for my palate, this generally proves true) and medium body which makes it approachable for anyone who has not ventured towards many porters or stouts thus far. Generally when recommending darker beers for folks who have not journeyed past light lagers and ales, I only look for options within the 5-7% abv range, and this coffee porter fits the bill and is great especially if you enjoy coffee. I highly recommend visiting this brewery and restaurant in the Washington corridor as they offer tasty, unique brews and great food pairings such as Lamb meat pies and the Three Little Pig Nachos (Chicharrons, Sambal Beer Cheese, Smoked Pork, Bacon, Pico, and Cotija cheese). The waitstaff was friendly, approachable, and ready to help you figure out which Australian brew is right for you.
I may have only focused on three local breweries, but I encourage you to do what I did when I first started getting into craft beer: regardless of where I am in the Houston area or elsewhere, I pull up my phone's map application and type in 'brewery' and see what comes up. From there, take a chance and a drive, and be open to trying something new that might just make you a fan for years to come.
Chris Davila is a native Houstonian, who grew up in Pearland, Texas. He now lives in League City with wife and foodie Irene, whom he affectionately calls "Miss Chan." Within shouting distance of several local craft breweries Chris and Irene spend weekends visiting craft breweries within the city of Houston and beyond.