"I have no idea why people are here, at this beat-up warehouse to drink some fucking weird beers," Rassul Zarinfar, founder and CEO of Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., said to me sarcastically, yet straight-faced, as he regarded the large, enthusiastic crowd that showed up for the brewery's sneak peek on Sunday.
As the event unfolded, and after chatting with Rassul for a while, I saw no mystery as to why so many people had shown up. Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.'s unusual beers have been making a name for themselves since December 2011, when they became available on tap at hotspots such as Beaver's, Petrol Station and Grand Prize.
Since then, Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. has also created a one-time brew for the Houston Grand Opera's opening of The Barber of Seville, a fig-based beer in honor of the character Figaro. Who does that? Such creations embody a passion for and dedication to the craft.
For the sneak peek, the folks behind Buffalo Bayou aged their year-round brew -- called 1836, after the year Houston was founded -- in eight different types of wood -- white oak, soft maple, cedar, cherry, French oak, applewood, white ash and red oak. Each of these was on hand at the event, poured in extremely generous amounts. Tastes of each revealed subtle and not so subtle changes in the flavor of 1836, which "combines the brewing traditions of British bitters, Trappist ales and the American hop movement."
Also offered for sampling in copious amounts were: the refreshing pink-hued summer brew, made from Belgian Withier yeast flavored with hibiscus flowers, ginger, coriander and orange peel; Jaggery IPA, a fantastic black IPA flavored with coconut and jaggery (unrefined sugar made from dale palms' sap); an interesting 2x IPA that was born out of an Iron Chef-style competition within the brewery (mystery ingredient: coriander); and the Gingerbread Stout and Chai Porter.
If this sounds like a lot of beer, trust me -- it was. Fortunately, most guests were of the "sip and chat" style rather than the irresponsible kind. Still, the beer had its effect -- one group of friends standing around a tall cocktail table simultaneously jumped in response to a napkin they had accidentally lit on fire with a cute little tea light on the table. They quickly threw the napkin on the ground and stomped on it -- the flame was out in seconds. Few people actually noticed, and those who did resumed their sipping as if nothing had happened.
Meanwhile, the sounds of local band Nick Gaitan and the Umbrella Man filled the cozy brewery with their signature mix of "swamp pop, Tex-Mex, and rock and roll." Translation: Some of the most freaking awesome music I've heard in a really long time. Their energized, catchy tunes involved an upright bass, a console steel, an accordion, drums and singing in English, Spanish and Spanglish. They set a cheerful mood that was perfect for the occasion.
Rassul says his beers are actually "rooted in deep, fundamental ideas." He raved about his liquid art and emphasized that a lot of the brews Buffalo Bayou will be making are based not only on chance combinations, but on science. Three of the team members are biochemistry researchers. This, combined with the fact that "50 co-founders [are] the ultimate arbiters of which beers will be brewed and exactly how they will taste," is what makes the brewery exciting.
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"With our creations, we just wanted to join the centuries-old [beer] conversation," Rassul casually remarked. So far, Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. has done much more than that. With their crazy concoctions and unparalleled passion for brew, they are the topic of conversation. And it's my prediction that the chatter won't die down anytime soon.
Missed the party and the accompanying glorious beer sampling? Don't worry -- you can drink their brews at local bars. For the time being, Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. does not plan to bottle or can their products. But, on the upside, the brewery will very, very soon be open for Saturday tours from noon to 3 p.m., offering samples of their latest creations.