Bar Beat

The Brews Brothers Bring Craft Beer to Galveston

Have you been to the Strand lately? Galveston's main pedestrian thoroughfare seems to have wilted somewhat despite the flurry of post-Ike rehabbing and renovation. The end of the Strand near Hendley Market is completely quiet these days. And at the opposite end, the Railroad Museum still stands sadly unopened after the hurricane that left this part of the island under eight feet of water in 2008.

I was there on Saturday night with my boyfriend and his family, getting reacquainted with some old favorites like La King's while simultaneously mourning the loss of a few places that are mere husks of themselves now, like the near-empty Peanut Butter Warehouse. We wanted to take his niece into Colonel Bubbie's and Hendley Market, but neither were open. I was starting to keen for a Strand that no longer holds much fascination, when the boy suggested that we hit up Brews Brothers.

I felt better about the entire Strand from the moment we walked in and I was handed a half-pint of Dogfish Head Burton Baton in a Tinkerbell juice glass, slid to me across a bar that held a broken coffee pot as a tip jar.

Located next door to the interestingly named Mediterranean Chef Restaurant, Brews Brothers is a shotgun-style bar with a simple aesthetic that belies the goods within. It occupies the old Bacchus Wine Bar space and brings a much-needed type of bar to not just the Strand, but Galveston as a whole: a bonafide craft beer bar, with a tap list to rival those at Petrol Station and Mongoose versus Cobra, and prices to rival the Lone Star Saloon (if poor old Lone Star sold Stone IPA).

And here's how you know Brews Brothers is serious about its craft beers, not just another tourist trap on the Strand: Proprietors Justin Strait and Wesley Critchlow kicked off the opening of their bar last fall with a "stout aged with oak from Galveston trees that were planted after the 1900 hurricane and knocked over by Hurricane Ike three years ago," reported Chronicle beer blogger Ronnie Crocker.

"I want to offer cask-conditioned Elissa just 200 feet from the Elissa," Strait told Crocker, in reference to the old wooden sailing ship that's docked only a few blocks away and the IPA made in its honor by Saint Arnold Brewing. Last Saturday night, I noticed not only the Elissa on one of Brews Brothers' chalkboards, but the far more difficult to get Homefront IPA.

Aside from just local Houston craft beers on tap, however, Brews Brothers offers everything from beautiful Belgians and serious sours to big guns like Stone Old Guardian and Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer (both of which were only $6 a pint).

And behind the bar, the two bartenders -- one in neon green glasses, the other a bear of a dude in a Hawaiian shirt and big beard -- were dancing merry jigs half the night. Seriously. Merry jigs. Accompanied by the live band playing at the front of the house. And they only broke one glass the entire time, but then went right on dancing. Brews Brothers might just be the best beer bar to work at in the greater Houston metro area, even if the bear bartender admitted that he gets occasionally frustrated by all the tourists requesting Miller Lite despite their carefully cultivated menu.

It's also the most welcome addition to the Strand since Starbucks opened about a decade ago (don't act like you don't remember when Starbucks was incredibly cool and you were all terribly excited to get one near you). Luckily, the brews at Brews Brothers are a lot better than those at Starbucks -- and they even sell bombers.

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Katharine Shilcutt