Welcome to the fourth part of a series where we showcase the noteworthy food and drink experiences of a very weird year. In the spirit of the holidays, it's also a very special collaboration between the food writers of the Houston Press and Houston Food Finder, the online publication founded by former Houston Press restaurant critic and food editor Phaedra Cook. This edition features some of our writers' favorite beer experiences. Part five will cover the Houston chefs who stood out and offered diners some of the most intriguing experiences, even during a year when takeout and delivery dominated. If you missed Part 3: Wine, click to read. For other articles in the series, check out the list at the end of this article.
Favorite Brewery Restaurant/Beer Garden
In search of socially distant options for both dining and imbibing, Houstonians flocked to breweries this year once restrictions allowed. While not immune to the pandemic’s economic havoc, brewery restaurants with ample outdoor seating and full dining proved popular destinations for the socially starved in 2020.
Platypus Brewing, 1902 Washington Avenue: Founded in part by two native Aussies living in the Bayou City, Platypus Brewing is the only Houston brewery producing authentic Australian ales. Flagship brews such as the Bobby Dazzler Australian Blonde and the Freckled Dingo Pale Ale offer a taste of the Gold Coast right here at home. Add to that the kitchen’s expanded menu of authentic pub fare like Australian meat pies, beer-battered fish and chips and a surf-and-turf special on Wednesday nights, this local microbrewery offers the rare combination of international authenticity and hyper-local charm. Ample outdoor seating also makes this a safe option for dining out during the pandemic. — Carlos Brandon, contributing writer, Houston Food Finder & Houston Press
Favorite Craft Beer Shop
Premium Draught, 733 Studewood: Tucked between a convenience store and Antidote Coffee, this craft beer shop in the Heights, which opened in 2012, runs 16 taps for filling your growlers and offers a large selection of individual cans and bottles from both Texas and national craft breweries, conveniently sorted by style of beer. Owner Johnny Orr and his knowledgeable staff are always quick with a witty comment and a good recommendation. Whether you are looking for Saint Arnold's latest release, a new hazy IPA from Wisconsin's Untitled Art or Blue Owl's Cool & The Gang (a session sour brewed with Earl Grey tea, which was surprisingly one of the best new beers I tried this year), the Premium Draught team has you covered. — David Leftwich, associate editor, Houston Food Finder
Favorite Limited Beer Series
A limited-release craft beer isn’t a new concept. For the past several years, many beer lovers camped out in front of the Smith Street Spec’s on Black Friday in order to score that year’s set of Bourbon County Brand Stout by Goose Island. Locally, Saint Arnold has produced several limited-run beers in series that include Divine Reserve, Bishop's Barrel and Icon. After Hurricane Harvey, several Houston area breweries came together and created the Daisy Chain series, all using the same strain of yeast in celebration of the city’s resilience and undying commitment to community. This year, that spirit of community has taken root in the beer industry once again and yielded a stunning display of love and support.
Black Is Beautiful: After the murder of Houstonian George Floyd by Minneapolis police, there was a renewed wave of protests focused on the civil rights of Black Americans, and with that came a rush of big companies voicing their support for advocacy groups such as Black Likes Matter. In the beer industry, solidarity was shown by a simple but powerful action: making beer. Marcus Baskerville, co-founder and head brewer at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, one of few Black brewers in the industry, decided he needed to raise awareness about the discrimination faced by people of color — something that he personally has experienced — and help end police brutality. Baskerville developed a base oatmeal stout recipe, and other breweries who signed up for the project could apply unique twists to it. The proceeds from the beers went to charities that support racial justice and police reform. To date, over 1,100 breweries in 50 states and 22 countries have signed up the the project. Houston-area participants 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 writer, Houston Food Finder
Favorite Local Beer
In the past five years, the Houston area has added what feels like an army of new breweries to its market, so it’s been getting steadily more difficult to definitely state what is Houston’s top beer. In 2019, local breweries only netted three of the 16 Great American Beer Festival awards given to Texas beers. However, in 2020, four of the 10 awards went to Houston breweries. Suffice it to say, our local breweries are coming into their own.
Veri by Vallenson’s Brewing Company, 4081 Rice Drier, Pearland: Veri is a raspberry sour that is deeply juicy and packed with fresh fruit flavor, yet has just enough tartness to generate a pucker. Though it has rich flavor, it is medium-bodied so it doesn’t overwhelm the palate — plus it has a lovely balance of acid and sweetness. Sours are the trend in beer these days and this one is simply perfect. If you want to explore the sour-beer style, this is the one to try. — Samantha Morris, contributing writer, Houston Food Finder
Favorite New Breweries
COVID-19 disrupted the global supply of aluminum cans, which affected virtually all beverage producers and distributors. That hasn’t stopped people from opening new breweries in Houston. Craft beer, as an industry, has always attracted the bold, the rebellious and those of questionable sanity, and those qualities are on full display at our favorite new breweries of 2020.
Local Group Brewing, 1504 Chapman: Co-founders and Houston transplants Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves, and James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe are either out of their minds or recognize that Houston has yet to reach full saturation in the brewery market. Their 7,500-square-foot brewery and restaurant, which opened at the end of February sits in the shadow of Saint Arnold and its massive beer garden. The raspberry version of Local Group's fruited sour, Athena’s Elixir, had bright character with a tart and acidic finish. The body of the 4.5 percent ABV Lil Star Lil Stout is a bit thin, but the roasted flavor and lingering chocolate notes still makes for good, easy drinking.
Urban South, 1201 Oliver: Urban South, founded in New Orleans, push the boundaries of what beer is, which was its mission when the Houston location opened in February. The cooler of one favorite beer retailer, Beers Looking At You in Webster, is packed with several iterations of Urban South's fruited sours, so clearly it found a fan base for their experiments that sometimes drink more like smoothies than beers. Nevertheless, it's impossible to not admire the brewer's spirit and willingness to defy convention and challenge expectations. I might not love everything brewed by these scrappy newcomers, but I’ll always pull for a rebel. — Samantha Morris, contributing writer, Houston Food Finder
The Other Favorite Houston Food & Drink Experiences of 2020
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