Homegrown Eureka Heights Brew Co., located at 941 West 18th in the Heights, is the new cool kid on the block, down the street from Hunky Dory and Bernadine's. The Houston Press caught up with one of the founders, Casey Motes, for a first look at where Eureka came from, where it's at, where it plans to go and, of course, the beer.
The brewery was started by three friendships between couples: Casey and Lori Motes, Rob and Shelley Eichenlaub, and Joel and Heather Swift. They share a love of home brewing and entrepreneurship. Casey, Rob and Joel have been home brewers for many years, and Casey used to brew for Saint Arnold. Each person has a different role at Eureka, but Casey is the official "brewmaster."
The staff is small, yet they take care of all activities in-house. Casey takes pride in their bad puns and humble beginnings. With unfinished picnic tables in the taproom, a stack of board games on the side table and beautiful stainless-steel equipment quietly working its fermentation magic in the background, the stage is set for endless weekend afternoons of friends gathering and sharing good beer. Although there are plans for a kitchen addition, they are happy with having a variety of food trucks available for patrons to satisfy the need to nosh while having cold brewskis. Eureka beer is served in 45 local bars and restaurants, and there are plans to expand to taps all over Houston.
They currently brew five core beers year-round, all of which are "sessionable," which means they will not be too heavy on the ABV (alcohol by volume) scale. The Press sampled each of these in the tap room and here's a quick lowdown:
Buckle Bunny (playfully named after rodeo groupies) is the easiest to drink. It is a light cream ale with just enough crisp to quench a thirst. Casey explained that the brewery uses a "high-quality flaked corn," which is a style used before the days of Prohibition, allowing the beer to keep a "perceived sweetness" because of the corn. For measuring only 4.2 percent ABV, this beer has lots of body.
Wicket Awesome is an ESB (English Special Bitter) with an ABV of 4.7 percent created with traditional British malts and hops. Two hundred years ago, an ESB would be considered a bitter beer, but these days, although the name stuck, the level of bitterness of an ESB is quite mild compared to that of other bitter beers on the market. He says this one in particular is a "malt-forward" beer and although the style is that of an ESB, the Wicket Awesome is probably the least bitter of Eureka's brews, with a slight caramel and biscuit flavor. Biscuit, you say? "You'll taste for yourself," he says.
A quick sidebar lesson on the difference between a sour and a bitter beer was completely enlightening at this point in the conversation. Casey explained that bacteria is used to lower pH levels and add acidity to create the tartness in sours and that both sours and bitters possess the "aggressiveness that puts the pucker on your lips." He warned that "a sour and bitter should never be combined." Judging from the look on his face, we trust him.
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Mostly Harmless, at 4.5 percent ABV, is a citra pale made from German malt and yeast and American Pacific Northwest citra hops (musky tropical fruit and strong citrus combined to produce fruity flavors and aromas in hops). Using the citra hops in creating this beer produces a cleaner, crisper version of a typical American pale. Notes of grapefruit are definitely present, and many have asked if citrus zest is used, but Casey can attest that it’s just the citra hops doing its thing, keeping the beer light and fruity.
"Full hop-seed ahead" to Space Train, the resident IPA (India Pale Ale). At 5.5 percent ABV, it is on the lower end of what typical IPAs register. Casey mentions again that one of their committed goals was to "keep most of the brews sessionable," so keeping it under 6.0 percent was very important to them. With five varieties of American hops in the mix, tropical fruit notes are more defined, with hints of mango and other fruits instead of the standard notes of pine or resin. Space Train is the most bitter beer on the brewery's taps at the moment.
The Moo Caliente, with an ABV of 6.0 percent, rounds out the lineup. Inspired by Mexican-style brownies, baked with cinnamon and cayenne, by Casey's wife, Lori, the milk stout has a roasted taste and is heavy on the chocolate. Casey explains that it's a 6 percent stout with lactose, or milk sugar, added back to the beer, which provides sweetness that is missing because of the type of brewer's yeast that is used. The introduction of lactose gives it more body and sweetness. Normally, to balance out the sweetness, bitterness is added, but for this brew, cinnamon and cayenne are added. Many have compared it to a Mexican-style hot chocolate. The beer is deliciously interesting and the cinnamon is not as noticeable as the cayenne.
Eureka sold its first keg on August 3, marking its official introduction to the market. Casey says Eureka is planning a grand opening event for mid-October. Patrons are ready for cooler days to enjoy a Moo Caliente in the tap room or to take a 32-ounce crowler (aluminum-canned growler) of beer home. Hours of operation are 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Eventually the brewery would like to add Thursday and Sundays to the mix.