Next month, a new Whole Foods Market location is opening in the Galleria area that promises, for the time being, to be the biggest Whole Foods in Houston. Inside Whole Foods Post Oak will be the company's first brewery-- according to Whole Foods, the first in-store brewery of any kind in the grocery industry.
As a preview of the features available at the new location, we were able to have a media dinner with the brewmaster at the Whole Foods Market Brewing Company, Dave Ohmer. The meal was from the new location's Souvlaki Greek venue and paired with beers chosen by Ohmer. We also got to speak to Ohmer about his plans for the brewery.
Dave Ohmer comes to Houston by way of Knoxville, Tennessee, with 12 years experience as a brewer. He said his arrival here was serendipitous: "They were opening a store near my house in Knoxville, Tennessee, and [my wife and I] were really excited about that: we love Whole Foods, love what it stands for, love the quality. So I was reading about the new location, and I saw another article... that said they were opening a brewery in Houston. I filled out the application... I got a call, and before you know it, I was interviewing, and now I'm here. It was wild, it happened pretty quickly."
Ohmer's philosophy is best stated as "brew what you love": "I always believe, brew what you're passionate about. I believe you should brew what you would want to drink. " He says Whole Foods had some requests of him, "but I like to try new things."
Ohmer said that the brewery will have no flagship brews, that he'll brew whatever seems right with the time and ingredients he has, and that he is free to experiment, but he was able to preview for us the first batch of beers he has planned. His first beer for Whole Foods will be a hefeweizen, and he plans to follow that shortly with a double IPA and a hoppy session ale. Close to Thanksgiving, he intends to release a sweet potato weizenbock-- in fact, one of the beers he selected for the dinner was the Aventinus Schneider Weisse, a German weizenbock that stands as an example of what he hopes to accomplish with that beer.
I have to confess I was sold when one of the first beers Ohmer unveiled for the dinner was the Boulevard Tank 7, a farmhouse ale with just the right hints of sourness and wild yeast to be interesting and flavorful while also easy to drink. It's a personal favorite of mine, so I expect anyone who would recommend it would have good taste.
We didn't get to try any of the brews that will be at the new location-- Ohmer says they only started brewing recently, and so nothing will be ready until the store opens. But he did say that he attempted to pick beers which he finds to be of a high quality, an appropriate pairing with the food, and that will reflect what he hopes to accomplish brewing for Whole Foods.
The dinner was comprised of many selections from the new location's Souvlaki grill menu. We started with baked pita chips paired with eggplant dip, tzatziki, and Greek skordalia dip, before moving on to skewers of souvlaki grilled chicken, rosemary wine-marinated lamb, and grilled vegetables, alongside wood-fired lemon chickpeas and a pomegranate molasses eggplant dish.
I had mixed results with the meat skewers. The first ones I tried were a little dry, but subsequent ones were delicious-- the chicken was nicely blackened and still delicate on the inside, and the lamb was the right amount of done-ness, easy to chew while still maintaining tenderness and flavor. I was an easy sell on the chickpeas, but they were still done well, with the appropriate texture and just the right amount of lemon. The dips were well made; I'd never had skordalia dip before, but it was a nice blend of creamy, sturdy, and tangy.
The most unique dish was the eggplant, dotted with pomegranate seeds and served in a molasses sauce. The sweetness of the accoutrements complimented the savory meatiness of the eggplant itself, and on Ohmer's recommendation, one of the hoppy beers he had selected was a fine compliment. (He brought out the Founders Dissenter Imperial Lager and the Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, and they both worked.)
Though Ohmer is a newly transplanted Houstonian, he lives in the Post Oak area, and he said that the location is in need of a place where people can go for a good beer. (Other guests at the dinner who lived in the area seemed to agree.) Until I actually taste one of Ohmer's beers, I can't say for sure if he's the person to provide it. However, based on the quality and selection of food that was available to us, as well as Ohmer's own choice of beers to pair with the dinner, I'm optimistic, and I'm going to give him a chance to show what he can do.
The new store opens to the public November 6.