THEIR LOVE OF THE BREW
There’s something special about craft beer from Texas.
Maybe it’s a small batch thing, or that some are made with pure aquifer water fed by mystical Hill Country streams. Maybe it’s that many of these craft brewers are self taught and started with a two gallon keg-shaped fermentation tank bought at MrBeer.com.
I think what really makes Texas craft beer special are the men and women who truly enjoy making it. For them it’s not just a job . . . it’s a passion and that passion shows through in every pint of PA or stout they create.
Some of the nicest folks I’ve met while on the road are craft brewers, and those who wish they were, who gather every Saturday afternoon for the experience. They’re always willing to share a story, explain how they do what they do, and make you feel glad to be there among friends.
Though there are really good craft breweries all across the state, my most recent stops were at two outside of Houston. The Southern Star Brewery in Conroe is only a couple of minutes east of I-45 north on FM 3083. With the slogan “Clarity is Overrated” you might assume that these guys don’t take their beer seriously, but what they lack in clarity is made up for in taste.
From the clean tasting American-style Bombshell Blonde to my favorite, the Pine Belt Pale Ale, and the Buried Hatchet Stout laced with hints of chocolate and coffee, Southern Star has a really good product.
Hundreds of craft beer lovers were at Southern Star the Saturday I visited to sample the selection and enjoy the beer boiled brats grilling at the loading dock out back. What a great combination for a lazy Texas afternoon.
Inside the brewery were heavy wooden benches and biergarten-style tables where craft beer lovers sat and talked about everything from the Astro’s dismal baseball season to work. Joe Hague and his crew of tap-tenders behind the bar filled pint after pint from the taps on the wall. While serving a first time guest Joe was overheard saying, “Southern Star is Aggie owned, and Aggie brewed!” Can’t fault that.
If ambience is a plus, the No Label Brewery scores large. The NLB is tucked away in a rambling complex of deserted rice silos along the railroad tracks in historic Katy. To the sound of classic rock and country music, and the smell of pulled pork barbecue on the smoker, hundreds of craft brew lovers had gathered this day to sip and sample.
NLB’s El Hefe (Hefeweizen) is a light body refreshing brew with hints of banana and cloves. The
Pale Horse American Pale Ale is made with whole hops fresh for a clean finish, while
the American Amber-style Ridgeback Ale has slight toasty/chocolate character balanced with the right amount of hops. All were great tastes on a hot summer day.
While the adults hung out and talked in shade of the towering old rice elevators and brightly colored pop-up shade structures scattered around, children played ball and chased each other in the nearby grass. It was like an old fashioned Saturday afternoon social in small town Texas. On second thought . . . that’s exactly what it was; locals and out-of-towners with a common interest coming together for a laid-back afternoon revolving around one thing . . . their love of the brew.