One week in Texas, split between Houston and Austin, gave me plenty of opportunities to sample a number of craft beers from the state. The refreshment of the beverages (and the air conditioning in the bars) was much needed as the temperatures were pushing into the 30s the entire trip. Here are a few of the beers I got to try and a couple of the craft beer bars I visited in Houston and Austin:
Mongoose Versus Cobra – Houston
On the way back from a Sunday afternoon Houston Texans game, I got off the train a couple of stops early so I could pop into Mongoose Versus Cobra. This was my kind of bar – very laid back and mellow. Here I tried two Texas beers – on the left, an Uncle Billy’s Lazy Day Lager, and on the right, a Buffalo Bayou 1836. I liked the 1836 the best with its malty taste and dry finish. It was unique and reminded me of a cross between a British bitters ale and an American pale ale. I couldn’t resist perhaps the perfect beer snack of chicharrón with chile sauce, salt and lime.
Flying Saucer – Houston
Luckily for me, the Flying Saucer bar was located on the same block as my hotel in Houston. I made two visits here to sample from their extensive tap lists that featured beers from all over the USA and the world. I stuck to Texas beers as I didn’t travel all this way to have a glass of something I could get anywhere else in the world. From left to right: Hops & Grain “The one they call Zoe” (pale lager, dry hopped, solid sessionable/summer beer), Real Ale “Full Moon” rye IPA, and a Live Oak hefeweizen.
The bar itself was quirky – part sports bar with big screens (catering to an after work crowd in the downtown) and part neighbourhood place with some nice nooks and crannies, all decorated with “flying saucers”. Having this place next to my hotel was a saving grace as there wasn’t much other activity around the hotel on the weekend.
Snackbar in Austin
Speaking of bars next to my hotels, “Snackbar” was located right in front of my first hotel in Austin. When my cab pulled up in front of the hotel, I knew I’d spend a bit of time sitting on their covered patio with a pint or two. True to my first thought, I watched the world wander past South Congress while enjoying two really, really good beers. On the left, Thirsty Planet’s “Thirsty Goat” was a slightly spicy amber ale. On the right, and probably my favourite beer of the entire trip, was the Revolver “Blood and Honey”. It was a wheat beer with blood orange zest and local honey and was kick-butt strong at 7%.
I’m fairly sure it wasn’t just the 7% pint because others in the bar were amused by the same sights of a photoshoot involving someone in an astronaut suit. They were shooting for a French magazine and I had a nice chat with the photographer using my broken French (which is always helped along with the moderate application of alcohol). A “Keep Austin Weird” moment for sure.
Craft Pride – Austin
In the burgeoning Rainey Street district just southeast of downtown Austin, I found my spiritual home. Food trucks, small restaurants and informal bars, and the lovely Craft Pride. A tap list that must go close to 50 deep made for a difficult selection on my first visit, so I went with a flight of 5 sample sized beers. Starting from the 12:00 position on the lovely tree stump serving tray and going counter-clockwise: 8th Wonder “Astroturf” (cream ale, very refreshing in the 30C Austin heat), Goliad “Redfish IPA” (exceptional hoppiness, tasted more full flavoured than a 6% IPA, would be a great sessionable IPA), Four Corners “Heart O’ Texas Red (very malty and dry, one of the better beers on this trip!), Southern Star “Bombshell Blonde” (the only one of the five that didn’t impress me) and 512 Brewing IPA (dangerously smooth for a 7% IPA, perfect for a hot day). As I enjoyed these beers, I was streaming the eventual pennant clinching game for the Blue Jays to my phone which made the experience all the better.
Given the selection, the laid back vibe of the bar and the neighbourhood, and a food truck that I wanted to visit next door, I made a return visit here on my last night in Austin. On a scorcher of a day, I stuck to lighter beers – an Oasis “Slow Ride” pale ale (crisp, nice hop finish) and a Big Bend Hefeweizen (notes of banana, clove) before venturing back out into the oppressive heat for my dinner of carnitas tacos. In hindsight, I should have picked up the tacos and brought them into the air conditioned bar… the pull of the beer must have been too strong to resist.
Lobby Bar in JW Marriott
Ok, so not a craft beer bar per se, but it was where I had my last taste of a Texas craft beer while I had a late lunch before heading to the airport for the long journey home. My last Texas beer was a really good one – Austin Beerworks “Pearl Snap Pils”. I like to think of myself as a bit of a pilsner connoisseur… I’ve made a pilgrimage to visit the birthplace of the original pilsner and have sampled a lot of pils in my time. This one was exceptional – light, delicate, floral with a hint of spiciness on the finish. A perfect end to sampling my way through the beers of Texas.