The 16 Most Essential Craft Breweries in Houston
From IPA-heavy craft OGs to sour beer-soaked newcomers.
Houston’s breweries have always been good at maneuvering through a landscape of outdated TABC laws, but after this past year, they’ve truly proven themselves survivors. Many pivoted by offering to-go models, dreaming up convenient drive-thru brews when it seemed everyone needed them most, and even adding food into the mix so they could continue to keep their taprooms open throughout lockdown. And now that things are back up and running, it’s a damn good time to get yourself acquainted with Houston’s best and brightest craft brewers.
Otherworldly explorations, wild-fermented, and sour suds share menu space with traditional Belgian, German, and French styles at this garage-dream turned ten-barrel, steam-jacketed, two-vessel brewhouse founded by NASA employees. Chase a hop-forward, fresh-from-the-tank West Coast IPA with citrus and floral notes (AKA Ben's House IPA) with a pink-hued sour fruited ale spiked with raspberries and red currants (AKA the Beryl after Beryl Markham, the first person to ever fly nonstop solo across the Atlantic from the UK to North America). Stop by the taproom to partake and stay tuned to social media for fun collabs and upcoming releases.
Key beers: Contact Light Saison, Ben's House IPA
Opening at the tailend of 2019, this nearly two-year-old operation focuses on quality beer, plain and simple. You won’t find a lot of fancy-schmancy stuff here, just an open industrial layout, a few picnic tables, cornhole on the shady patio, and a short but smart list of well-executed beers. While the weather stays hot, sessionable sours like the First Bloom and Tropical Splitz really hit the spot and the super refreshingly mellow Heights Light Lager is a grillmaster’s best friend all year round.
Key beers: Heights Light Lager, Czech Amber Lager
With a change in ownership, a new head brewer, and over a decade under its belt, this Katy stalwart is currently living its best life. Its core fresh-from-the-silo lineup features a trio of heavy-hitters—including El Hefe Weizen, a classic German-style wheat ale rife with banana, cloves and citrus, the heavenly Sittin' Sidehaze New England style hazy IPA, and crispy-clean 1980 Kolsch—but its also committed to adding new, exciting beers on the regular. Expect a solid West Coast IPA dubbed the Cali Boy alongside the ambrosial when-it’s-gone-it’s-gone Ginger Ninja Gose. If you haven’t been to No Label in years, you’ll definitely want to revisit this one.
Key beers: El Hefe Weizen, 1980 Kolsch, Cali Boy
Located in Hardy Yards not too far from another brewery we all know and love (that’d be Saint A, of course), this Houston-bred haunt ups the ante with 20 taps featuring housebrewed beers plus wine, cold brew, cider, and soda alongside a kitchen pumping out eats like local game sausage-stuffed pretzels and a beer-brined fried chicken sandwich. Head brewer James “Huggy Bear” Wolfe put time in at Houston staples like Southern Star Brewing Co. and No Label Brewing Company before opening up shop (along with co-founders Todd Donewar and Michael Steeves), and his game is strong as ever, with juicy hazy IPAs (Blurry Eyes, Hop School), double fruited kettle sours (Hera's Nectar Super Razz), and easy drinking blondes (Suntoucher) leading the charge.
Key beers: Double Vertigo IPA, Hop School Hazy Juicy Pale Ale
This Astrodome-inspired brewhouse oozes coolness with a fresh, hip vibe and globe-trotting brews. That means you can get your hands on creations like Rocket Fuel, a Vietnamese coffee-infused Porter, BrewGK, a seasonal candy apple Kolsch made in collaboration with local rap hero and former UGK member Bun B, and newcomers like High Grade West Coast IPA. The taproom comes with a big ol’ yard (complete with local art installations, pop-up markets, and an Eatsie Boys food truck) and the whole shebang is a huge part of why EaDo has emerged as one of the coolest neighborhoods in town.
Key beers: Instant Classic Helles Lager, Haterade Gose, Cloud 8 Hazy IPA
You can’t talk about Houston breweries without mentioning the patron saint of craft suds, Saint Arnold. Even if it wasn’t the most established in the biz, the 27-year-old hometown hero is easily Houston’s baddest, continuing to earn its spot among Lone Star bests. Saint A’s sturdy selection of year-rounds and seasonals keep everyone coming back for more (and attending pub crawls around the city), while beer geeks are kept on their toes thanks to highly coveted specialty releases, including the barrel-aged Bishop’s Barrel and single-batch Divine Reserve series. The brewery got a major facelift a few years back, expanding its footprint to include a gorgeous indoor restaurant slinging brisket pizza and “fire emoji” wings, plus a giant, partially-covered beer garden with outdoor taps, yard games, and skyline views. To boot, Superfine Hard Seltzer has recently joined the party.
Key beers: Lawnmower Kölsch, H-Town Pils, Art Car IPA, Pumpkinator Stout
This eco-friendly outpost uses renewable energy, composts its hops, and recycles spent grain to feed a local dairy farmer's cows, which is all pretty cool. Perhaps the coolest thing about Lone Pint, though, is its beloved Yellow Rose IPA: a malty, fruit-laced number regarded as one of the tastiest beers in the state. A multitude of hoppy and quaffable Texas ales floods this joint’s refreshed beer garden, along with lively happenings like live music, pop-up markets, pub games like bingo and trivia, and weekend food trucks.
Key beers: Yellow Rose IPA, Gentleman's Relish English Brown Ale, El Cuero White Stout
Local beer whisperer Ben Fullelove unleashed this edgy beast back in 2012, before antiquated laws forced him to move operations to Massachusetts for a hot minute. Thankfully, the brewery and its big, bold, hoppy fleet eventually made its way back home in 2015. Today, you’ll want to head to its taproom, affectionately known as Brashland, to discover that the fuss is as strong as ever. Sip cheeky creations like the Cali Green West Coast IPA, Cortado coffee milk stout, or the Willy, a dangerously dank, double dry hopped monster touching down later this fall. Cooler yet, enjoy them against a backdrop of heavy metal music while you smash your way through a menagerie of retro arcade games.
Key beers: Smoglifter Milk Stout, EZ-7 American Pale Ale, Cali Green IPA
The rules are that there are no rules at this adventurous locale, which outgrew its first home on Nolda thanks to surging demand. Its new digs are a three-story, 28,000-square-foot brewtopia in Sawyer Yards, where fans can score BuffBrews along with outrageous eats (i.e. beer cheese with barbecue-dusted chicharron) and prime views of downtown. Said brews come in radical flavors that challenge everything you thought you knew about craft beer—think Smoke on the Bayou, a “bigass malt bomb” made with malts smoked at local barbecue spots, or the crisp and crushable Key Lime Pie. In non-beer related but still important news, the brewery’s also entered the hard seltzer game (surprise, surprise).
Key beers: Black Raz Stout, Peanut Butter Wake 'N Bake Coffee Blonde, More Cowbell Double IPA
This homegrown original considers itself less of a brewery and more of a laboratory, pumping out complex sippers in what appears to be the middle of the woods. With over seven acres in the great outdoors—plus cool additions like food trucks, ping-pong, and horseshoes—hanging at the brewery is a choice way to spend your time (kids and pets are welcome, too). Most importantly, it’s where you‘ll find B-52’s latest, limited-release tinkerings like Smoothie Tart, a grapefruit, mango, and Tajin fruited sour.
Key beers: B52 Pils, Boysen Da Hood Sour Ale, Wheez the Juice American Pale Ale
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this lovable company knows its stuff. The brainchild of two homebrewers with scientific backgrounds, Ingenious’ small-batch fleet proves that blending science with imagination (plus beer knowledge, passion, and a dash of hard work) results in some pretty outstanding brews. The air-conditioned taproom rocks 24 fresh, inspired drafts each day, harnessing offbeat ingredients to create tart fruited sours, hopped-up pale ales, and velvety pastry stouts. There’s also an outdoor beer garden and frothy “frozen beer toppers” to keep your brews properly frosted, and they’ll happily fill up crowlers and growlers to-go.
Key beers: Citra Pils ,Strawberry Daiquiri Double IPA, Pina Colada Sour Fruited
Yes, this fast-growing brewery is now a part of AB InBev’s craft-focused High End portfolio. And yes, we realize much of the microbrew community considers selling out to “big beer” a sin beyond atonement. Still, Karbach’s stable of gargantuan brews is an undeniable powerhouse, and it’s earned the brewery a perpetual mention in any list of Houston essentials. Sellout or not (we’ll leave that up to you to decide), the brewery’s 15 million dollar expansion is a sight to see, with a restaurant, revamped beer garden complete with a stage for live music, and shiny new heavy-duty production facilities. Most refreshing new addition to the Karbach scene? A killer Ranch Water hard seltzer.
Key beers: Crawford Bock, Hop Tongue IPA, Strawberry Fields Blonde
Named after the fault line that runs beneath the brewery, there’s no shaky ground at this neighborhood tour de force, just easy livin’... and even easier drinking. That’s thanks to a stronghold of crisp, approachable brews that pretty much everybody can get down with. Like many breweries before it, Eureka started out as a dream job for three homebrewers (one of whom cut his chops at Saint Arnold). And once their homebrews turned out tasty enough, the wives got on board and the Houston beer community quickly followed suit. Today, Eureka is a place for good beer and fun times, with year-round crafts (like the surprisingly light and sessionable cream ale, the Buckle Bunny) and bold new additions (try the pineapple and toasted coconut kissed Le Tigre Hazy IPA) available by the pint, taster, flight, and take-home crowler, plus goodies like trivia, steak nights, and monthly bike rides.
Key beers: Wowfactor Mandarina Pils, Spacetrain IPA, Wicket Awesome ESB
With backgrounds ranging from oil and gas to theater, this group of passionate beer drinkers-turned-creators took a barebones warehouse and transformed it into one of Houston’s most sought-after breweries. These guys realize it’s basically always hot in Houston, so the focus here is on drinkable styles that both excite your palate and quench your thirst when it's 100 degrees outside. Grab regulars like the super sessionable 7-Iron Blonde or special and seasonal releases like the Duck Duck Juice hazy pale ale alongside food truck bites at the taproom or get ‘em to go via the drive-thru pickup.
Key beers: 7-Iron Blonde Ale, Hipster Sauce IPA
This East End game-changer started life as Sigma Brewing Company, eventually changing its moniker to Equal Parts Brewing after the pandemic shut it down last year. Sporting the same ownership and staff (but a fresh new outlook on life), expect a 20-tap expanse teeming with thoughtful brews, from hazy IPAs and tart fruited sours to bone dry Japanese-style lagers, plus food trucks and specials like “One-Off Wednesdays,” where you can get your paws on ultra-limited drafts before they’re gone for good.
Key beers: Black Rain Imperial Stout, Intermezzo Fruited Sour Ale
East Little York/Homestead
It’s been a boomtown ever since SpindleTap first opened its doors at the turn of 2015. Paying homage to Texas’ gusher age, the theme throughout this liquid gold purveyor is all things Lone Star State. The brewery goes hard on hops, with hazy IPAs and DIPAs like the all American Hop Gusher IPA and the juicy and tropical Houston Haze, hit with lush notes of guava, pineapple, and grapefruit. Pony up to the taproom to gush over them all.
Key beers: Hop Gusher IPA, Houston Haze, Black Gold Imperial Coffee Stout