Austin has jumped the shark. Houston is craft beer king now

Discussion in 'Southwest' started by Bryan12345, Aug 14, 2017.

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  1. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    I achieved a long-time beer goal this weekend - a whirlwind tour of Austin's finest and most revered breweries. My reaction, in a word, is "meh." Pandering to hipsters in itself does not a good beer make. I tried over 50 beers (most of them in 4 oz flight-increments), and well over half of those were sours or saisons. I want to love Austin beer, I really do, but I can get far superior beer (and a much greater variety) here in H-town.

    Hops and Grain - decent, worth a stop. Good variety
    Austin Beerworks - their "core four" was average at best, which I get...they're the loss leaders. All their experimental stuff was sours. Meh.
    Jester King - I've never dropped so much cash for so little payback. I had the "privilege" (or at least the staff there thought it was a privilege for me to be served by them...) of buying 10 different saisons. Really? The brewery property itself was amazing, no doubt, and I can see a typical Austinite wiling away an afternoon here, but we've got plenty of those places (with better variety!) in the Space City.
    Last Stand - a short drive from Jester King, this is the only redeeming brewery in Austin, in terms of all around beer quality. The barkeep was super cool, good variety, and very good beer. Show me Last Stand at any taproom around Texas, and I'll buy a pint.
    Live Oak - it was fine, an average brewery experience. I thought this was supposed to be the pinnacle of what Austin had to offer tho...

    Anyway, I'm sure it feels like I'm hating on Austin beer, which I really don't mean to do. The experience was...average. Which is disappointing, because the word on the street in the Lone Star State is that Austin is the place for craft beer. Now I know I can get better beer without burning so much gas. Long live Houston!
    Maich likes this.
  2. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Aspirant (227) Nov 6, 2007 Texas

    What brewery/beer do you feel Houston has better than Austin?

    They seem to have people doing good hazy IPAs where I've only heard of PHP and possibly Red Horn up north in Austin.

    I've been trying out breweries in Houston now that I've been going to visit the grandmother in-law but I've been disappointed so far except for Stesti and the breweries in Conroe.
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  3. caffeineTX

    caffeineTX Initiate (116) Aug 29, 2014 Texas

    Houston doesn't have anything close to JK/ABW/H&G/Live Oak/PHP in terms of quality.

    Brash has made a few hits but Houston still has a far way to come as far as quality of beer and different producers it has to offer before the city becomes a good beer destination like Austin.
    mattisloco likes this.
  4. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Aspirant (227) Nov 6, 2007 Texas

    I've personally not been a fan of Brash.

    Jester King is a one trick pony. If you like farmhouse/sours then you'll love them. If you don't then they won't have anything for you.

    I don't really know how Live Oak's hoppy beers are but everything else is a great version of the style.

    I think the better beers from H&G may be their hoppy beers like the greenhouse series.

    I think that Houstonians are a bunch of homers. They just want their beer to be best so they convince themselves that it is. (I really think Austinites are the same. Just look that their obsession with subpar tacos and more)

    After drinking at least Saint Arnold, No Label, Karbach, Brash, and Back Pew I really haven't seen anything special. So far Houston has seemed to be on par with DFW for beer.

    This is coming from someone who doesn't live in either Austin or Houston.
    mattisloco and erushing like this.
  5. mig100

    mig100 Meyvn (1,246) Aug 3, 2014 Texas

    Laughable. Trolls gotta troll I guess.
  6. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    Dont get me wrong, there are plenty of swings-and-misses down here. But a quick scan of my Beeradvocate scores reveals the following top choices:

    Buried Hatchet Stout, Southern Star (Houston)
    Elda M Milk Stout, No Label (Houston)
    Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #13 Quad (Houston)
    Cortado Imperial Stout, Brash (Houston)
    Citrus Wheat Ale, Saloon Door (Houston)
    Chocolate Milk Stout, Saloon Door (Houston)
    Watermelon Wheat, Galveston Bay (eh, I'm claim it as Houston)
    Christmas Ale, Saint Arnold (Houston)
    Winter Stout, Saint Arnold (Houston)
    Rodeo Clown, Karbach (Houston)
    BB Hellfighter Stout, Karbach (Houston)
    Medusa Quad, Copperhead (Houston)
    Breakfast Stout, B-52 Brewery (Houston)
    Blueberry Blonde, Galveston Bay
    Defying Gravity Double IPA, Bakfish (Houston)
    Citrus Vanilla, Saloon Door (Houston)
    Rye of the Storm saison, Galveston Bay
    Jabberwocky Double IPA, Lone Pint (Houston)
    Yellow Rose smash IPA, Lone Pint (Houston)
    Pumpkin Ale, No Label (Houston)
    Mexican IPA, Texas Beer Refinery (Houston)
    Catalyst Double IPA, Texas Beer Refinery (Houston)
    Premium Goods Dubbel, 8th Wonder (Houston)
    White Linen IPA, Town in City (Houston)
    Art Car IPA, Saint Arnold (Houston)
    Conspiracy Theory IPA (Houston)
    Mosaic Saison, B-52 (Houston)
    Belgian Blonde, Bakfish (Houston)
    Sam's Cream Ale, Buffalo Bayou (Houston)
    Hop Gusher IPA, Spindletap (Houston)
    Vanilla Cream Ale, Saloon Door (Houston)
    Chocolate Vanilla Swirl black and tan, Saloon Door (Houston)
    Commercial Suicide Oaked Farmhouse Mild, Jester King (Austin)
    Stash IPA, Independence Brewery (Austin)

    So, in conclusion, there are THIRTY-TWO Houston beers that I would rather have before an Austin beer. But hey, that's just, like, my opinion, man :slight_smile:
    Badfish likes this.
  7. Eddiehop

    Eddiehop Defender (631) Jun 28, 2014 Texas

    A lot of subjectivity in your post, but as a Dallas person, given the choice between all the major Texas markets, I'd rather live in Austin than any other city - strictly based on the beer, but that's just me. Pinthouse could open a 4th location based on my credit card purchases there.
  8. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    Bro, one of my favorite beer destinations in the WORLD is On Rotation in DFW. Super cool people and always great beer
    brock125 likes this.
  9. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    My take is that good beer is good beer, wherever it comes from. I had Austin up on a pedestal for a long time...I was just surprised that the rumors were not true. Cheers dude!
  10. ElChuques

    ElChuques Initiate (92) Oct 8, 2014 Arkansas

    To me, this bit here gave me a hint as to the problem. Then I saw your list of beers, and it was confirmed. Most of the ones you listed are "extreme beers" to use the douchey terminology from this website. High gravity, BA, and adjunct heavy beers populate your preference list. There doesn't seem to be much of that going on in Austin. No biggie. Some folks like simple, well constructed beer, some like pastry stouts and milkshake DIPAs, and some like both.

    Not really a reason to downplay the quality of ATX breweries. I'm curious to see how many people come in here to support your position; I'd wager it won't be many.
  11. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    Fair enough, brah (I dig your avatar, btw). I do prefer my beers big and bad, maybe that speaks to my frustration with the 3% "session" beers I encountered so often in ATX. Hey, if that's what the skinny jean hipsters are into these days, I won't make waves. Just not my bag, ya know? :slight_smile:
  12. wiingman

    wiingman Initiate (189) Aug 22, 2013 Texas

    As a Houston are native, I'll say that a ton of new breweries have opened in the last year or two and the scene is getting better and better every day. Hell, Spindletap had a can release of 3 different hazy IPAs today and the line was 200+ at openeing.

    That being said, Real Ale, ABW, Pint House, Live Oak, Jester King, Austin has a bunch of ESTABLISHED great breweries.

    Houston has some breweries doing exciting things:
    B-52 (their sour tribute to
    Baa Baa
    Whole Foods
    Saint Arnold has really stepped up their game in response to the increased competition.
    Eureka Heights

    I could go on and on. Let's just be excited that some breweries in Houston are finally doing some interesting things. Yay for Austin! Yay for Houston!
    mgr78704, Bryan12345, mightyk and 5 others like this.
  13. Karibourgeois

    Karibourgeois Poo-Bah (2,092) Jul 28, 2013 Texas

    I'll put Live Oak's Hefe up against anything on a hot Texas summer day. And Live Oak's smoked beers are pretty damn good. Lazarus is doing amazing European influenced beers and if you want to judge good IPAs in ATX, you have to hit PHP. And don't forget that the amazing Celis White is back...and tasting good.

    As for JK, as much as I love the place and their beers, its becoming too much of a pain going out there. On weekends of special releases, I've just stopped going. Too many people cheating "the system" and really they need more staff. The waits for beers at various times, even on "normal" weekends, is just getting too long and too much of a hassle for a local in the summer heat.
  14. TTUJohn

    TTUJohn Initiate (164) Nov 13, 2012 Texas

    I wouldn't agree or disagree with the majority of Austin breweries vs Houston ones, both have some really good breweries, some average ones, some that are pretty meh. Neither is the best beer city in the US, but I would be fine with either city's options.

    I've always thought the JK staff/volunteers(??) are great, but some of the pretentiousness from some of the customers and the sheer crowds can be a turnoff for me (and I know for a fact other people think this as well), so I don't fault people who don't kneel before the throne. I try to go every time I'm in Austin though.

    Live Oak is the shit though. I don't know what an average brewery experience means, but if you can't enjoy it there, I don't know how you enjoy any other brewery
    champ103 likes this.
  15. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (11,611) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I can understand the take on Jester King, and I feel they are a little over-rated, but if you look a little deeper there's more there.

    And I love Live Oak. Just solid brews. Can't agree with dismissing them.

    What about Blue Owl (sours, I know, but good), and the Kamala/Whip in (also mostly sours, but again...)? You can't dismiss a brewery just because they don't brew styles you like.

    Looks like I'll have to make a trip to Houston!!! :slight_smile::slight_smile::slight_smile:

    BTW, I should also note, the last time I was in Houston they had basically nothing, so things have definitely changed.
  16. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    I think this encapsulates my feelings well. No hate towards ATX, it's just not far-and-away better like the mystique would suggest :slight_smile:
  17. mig100

    mig100 Meyvn (1,246) Aug 3, 2014 Texas

    I think it also depends how you define "better."

    Houston has a number of larger breweries (Karbach, St Arnold, Buffalo Bayou) doing stuff that's more geared towards converting the mainstream drinker and then a shitload of upstart NEIPA-wannabe/adjunct heavy breweries. This isn't to say they aren't good, but I think there's a little bit more originality and subtlety in the Austin beer scene.

    YR is indisputable, but Lone Pint is a one-trick pony and hasn't produced any other beer that even comes close, and their consistency issues with YR are legendary.

    To those that are knocking JK for the hype, that's not the breweries fault, and besides Live Oak I think they're the best brewery in the state. Both cities have great beer.
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  18. MarshallBirdhouse

    MarshallBirdhouse Devotee (450) Feb 19, 2013 South Carolina

    The only thing that sucks about Austin is that I have to drive through Houston to get there.
  19. kbenson

    kbenson Initiate (126) Aug 15, 2012 Texas

    Houston doesn't have any breweries that are producing consistently excellent sours like Jester King and Real Ale. Having said that Raspberry AF is fantastic, available and affordable and is probably one of my favorite go-to beers.

    Houston doesn't have any breweries that are producing as consistently great IPAs like PHP. Lone Pint Yellow Rose may be the best IPA in Texas but outside of that, Lone Pint doesn't produce anything special. Nobody else, Brash included, is even close.

    My Austin experience is limited, but I highly doubt anyone is producing as consistently excellent stouts as Brash. Score on for Houston in my mind.

    Both Houston and Austin have breweries producing great classical styles, such as Live Oak (Hef) and Saint Arnolds (5 O'Clock Pis is the best pilsner I've had this side of the Atlantic).

    I'm going to venture to guess the mid-tier breweries in Houston are basically on par with the mid-tier breweries in Austin at the point.
    champ103 and mig100 like this.
  20. aschwab

    aschwab Zealot (501) Mar 3, 2009 Texas

    I don't really get the point of this post. Houston has some great beer, so does Austin. Austin has a much better brewery scene than Houston does, though.

    You can look at that from a purely numbers standpoint....Houston has less breweries than Austin and over 4 to 5 times the population. Houston lacks any "brewery" like districts, and everything is much more spread out (which really sucks form a tourism standpoint).

    In that sense, Austin's beer scene IS better.

    If you want to talk about beer tastes, that is an opinion thing. Houston, in the last year, has been putting out more variety of beer than in the past. They definitely have had more NE IPAs lately, which seems to be where a lot of hype is. But, I don't know if you can base a brewery scene off just one beer style's hype. Austin has a far greater range of dedicated breweries making certain styles. You will not beat Live Oak in German beer. Jester King is the best farmhouse brewery in Texas. PHPs IPA program is top notch. Austin does lack some quality BA beers. But, every scene lacks some things.

    I am just failing to see where you can just list 32 beers from Houston and say they are all better than anything from Austin like it somehow means anything.
    13DegN, mattisloco, Esoutter and 5 others like this.
  21. erushing

    erushing Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2014 Texas

    Let me know when you get back from GABF and have the country's beer scene pegged after 100 1oz samples.
    Sabtos, mgr78704 and kevinscott like this.
  22. champ103

    champ103 Poo-Bah (4,809) Sep 3, 2007 Texas

    Nobody has even mentioned 512. Pecan Porter is still one of my favorites, and they make plenty of other excellent beers. Not that I am going to make a ranking right now, but definitely one of my favorite breweries in Texas.
  23. Kappakoosh

    Kappakoosh Disciple (314) Dec 26, 2013 Texas

    I would recommend hitting up B-52 Brewery who has really stepped up their sour game recently. In comparison to Real Ale, its no JK not close...However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well their sours have come along. Look at their Untappd and BA ratings. Not to mention their barrel aged stuff, which is also pretty damn good. They arent JK by any means, but i would go as far as to they have the #2 sour game in TX. I think honestly, both Austin and Houston have solid game, each having extremely good breweries and I can spend any weekend in either and really enjoy myself.
  24. mig100

    mig100 Meyvn (1,246) Aug 3, 2014 Texas

    A classic for sure. I think 512 tends to get slighted because they're basically draft only and don't seem to branch out beyond their core beers much.

    I would love Pecan Porter in bottles or cans.
    champ103 likes this.
  25. aschwab

    aschwab Zealot (501) Mar 3, 2009 Texas

    I really feel that 512 missed a chance to be one of the best breweries in Austin. I do think they are good, but, they hit the timing spot on, quality beers, and just floundered into the middle of the pack.

    I really think they had potential to expand their offerings, get a creative pilot batches, package (I get why the owner is against it), and own the market.

    Instead, they lived off of some good beers, but now are sorta forgotten by people visiting town. They finally got rid of the pay for a beer system. They still have very limited hours, never built a taproom. They screwed up the same beer many times in a row and won't admit it. They stopped putting out new stuff. And never got into packaging. I know they were really constrained by their location, but same with pretty much every other brewery in town.

    They are finally building a new location, but even that is taking forever. The last i heard is that they still do not plan on packaging. But, maybe, they will finally get some new beers and a taproom. Hopefully not too late.

    Then there is Thirsty Planet who had a GREAT taproom before anyone else did...but never had it open. But, that is for another post.
    BDCannon likes this.
  26. mig100

    mig100 Meyvn (1,246) Aug 3, 2014 Texas

    Totally agree. Especially as a draft-only brewery, you need a taproom. Live Oak lived off of a similar model for a long time too though and are doing better than ever now. Looking forward to seeing more from 512.
  27. aschwab

    aschwab Zealot (501) Mar 3, 2009 Texas

    I do think their new brewery revitalized them. But, they always had the best Hefe in the US, so, that always helped. Maybe 512 will have the same improvements....but I still haven't seen anything really move forward with their new brewery.
  28. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Aspirant (227) Nov 6, 2007 Texas

    I've always really liked (512), but now with Celis back I don't really want to drink the (512) Wit... I've been loving their Export Lager though, and Pecan Porter is delish (Right up with Buried Hatchet for my favorite porter/stouts).

    I think that one driving point of the Austin beer scene is they seem to like more of the outdoors active lifestyle which is more conducive to the more balanced and sessionable beers.

    Just because a brewery makes big extreme beers does not mean they are good brewers. A large number of Austin breweries are excellent brewers which they show by making good balanced beers.

    You really don't seem to like sours... So WHY did you go to Jester King? It's well known that they are focused on farmhouse/sour beers. EVERYTHING they make is one. If you don't like those types of beers then you won't like the brewery obviously. It doesn't make them bad just a one trick pony.

    Pay attention to the time of year that you went to Austin also. You went in the middle of the heat of the summer. The Austin breweries have all their Summer seasonal (hot season) beers. Austin Beerworks does have almost all sours right now. BUT try going back in the winter and you'll see a different set of beers outside of their year-rounds. When I went to the brewery it was all big stouts and big IPA's... Seems more your style.
    Austin Beerworks is a great brewery because they do the big stouts and IPA's very well while they also have excellent standard offerings. Pearl Snap and Black Thunder would be staples if I lived in their distribution area.
  29. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,932) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Society Trader

    From Houston and hate this thread. Never should compare cities, just starts a shit show. To me the major downfall of Houston is that not many breweries are offering sessionable beers in their taproom. I live 23 miles from downtown and if my wife isn't going to cart me around (God bless her soul, she does this a lot) I am one and done at most breweries. I would also kill for the ability to walk from brewery to brewery which doesn't exist here. This is where Austin rules. And to be honest with you when I go into a brewery to drink their beer, I don't need my socks blown off. I am looking for defect free beer that taste good. And I think most breweries in both places have this and have a good vibe, which is what it is all about.
  30. mig100

    mig100 Meyvn (1,246) Aug 3, 2014 Texas

    Agreed, the fact that anyone feels the need to do this shows insecurity with their city. Plus the title is total clickbait and it worked. Damn...
    zonker17 likes this.
  31. Techichi

    Techichi Zealot (507) Sep 25, 2012 Texas

    I was going to troll and say everyone knows DFW is the's just so far fetched it wouldn't work.
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  32. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    I think "sessionable" is a word that lures people into drinking beers without alcohol or flavor. But if that lights your fire, then shine on you crazy diamond.

    And, for the record, I would prefer my socks to be blown off in every brewery I visit. I was really hoping that that would happen in the Capitol, but turns out they are on par (at best) with everyone else.

    All IMHO, FWIW. :-)
  33. aschwab

    aschwab Zealot (501) Mar 3, 2009 Texas

    I remember when I first started drinking craft beer too!
  34. ilikebeer03

    ilikebeer03 Meyvn (1,107) Oct 17, 2012 Texas

    Live Oak is fantastic.
    donspublic likes this.
  35. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    I'm sure that slays with the Jester King crowd :slight_smile:

    I do dig your shirt tho :wink:
  36. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,932) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Society Trader

    Yes it is, not sure what the English across the pond have been doing all these years drinking those fine low alcohol, flavorless beers. That is one of the reasons I like Holler brewing downtown, they do half pours and they usually have around 5 sessionable beers on tap.

    And yes, Live Oak is fantastic and their top 3 beers in cans all ring in below 5.2%.
    These type breweries in my mind are where you go have fun, hang out and have a good time with family and friends.
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  37. Bryan12345

    Bryan12345 Zealot (526) Mar 17, 2016 Texas

    Did I imply that Live Oak's hefe was subpar or even sessionable at 5.2%??

    If so, then I apologize profusely, with no sarcasm.
  38. aschwab

    aschwab Zealot (501) Mar 3, 2009 Texas

    You referred to sessionable beers as lacking flavor.

    Pretty much all of Live Oak's core lineup are sessionable.
    donspublic likes this.
  39. aschwab

    aschwab Zealot (501) Mar 3, 2009 Texas

    Really, all that you should have said in your first post is "I like big beers, Austin doesn't have as good of big beers as Houston"

    And then most people would probably be OK with that. Austin definitely lacks some bigger consistent BA beers. But, luckily for us who like to buy a 6 pack of beer to drink at home, Austin has a great selection of great beers that are easy to get.
    donspublic likes this.
  40. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Aspirant (227) Nov 6, 2007 Texas

    Austin does have more balanced beers than the big extreme ones but it's important to remember that the OP visited during the hottest part of the year when all the breweries have their summer seasonals out.

    Live Oak right now has a BUNCH of beers below 5% abv and sours (Berliner Weisse, lichtenheiner, and grodziskie) But during the winter they bring out Primus at 8% and their dopplebock.

    Right now ABW has a bunch of low alcohol sours when they release their einhorn seasonal. But if the OP had gone in October-January they would have had the Battle Axe imperial red ale or Sputnik imperial coffee oatmeal stout. During the winter the limited offerings are what the OP would want.

    So yes the OP should say that Austin in the summer doesn't have the beers that he likes drinking, but that doesn't mean anything other than he didn't think through his trip.
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