There's something important in the fact that the first brewery located inside a grocery store is opening in Houston this week—not in Denver, or Austin, or San Francisco, but in Houston. The humble, five-barrel, two-vessel brewing system is integrated so neatly into the brand-new Whole Foods Market on Post Oak Blvd., which is set to open this week, that one wonders why—especially in our craft beer-obsessed national climate—no grocery store has ever accomplished this feat before.
Whole Foods Market—Post Oak
1700 Post Oak Blvd.
"It took years," admitted Jeanette Webster, community relations and media liason for the Whole Foods stores in Houston, from conception to implementation, to say nothing of the time it took for new beer laws to be passed in Texas—laws which finally allowed the estabishment of brewpubs such as this one. Webster was leading a small group on an advance tour of the new store, which included a sneak peek at the in-house brewery, named Whole Foods Market Brewing Company, and its attached bar.
With 20 taps, the bar at this Whole Foods location will serve plenty of other craft beers in addition to those brewed by its brewmaster, Dave Ohmer, who's hoping to generate 400 to 500 barrels a year. "He's got such great access to the produce here," said Webster, of Ohmer's plans to make seasonal beers to sell on-site with ingredients sold in the store itself. First up, said Webster: "He's making a sweet potato beer."
But an in-store brewery isn't all the new Whole Foods Market has in store. For starters, there's also a beercycle: a tricycle pedaled around the store by a Whole Foods team member who'll be selling pints of beer out of attached pony kegs, thereby taking Whole Foods' much-vaunted in-house bars to a whole new level.
Also at this new Post Oak location, which has been in the planning stages for years: an underground parking garage with escalators leading right into the store and a system of red and green lights to let patrons know which parking spots are available; an upstairs seating area featuring a second bar and a killer view of both the store and the ever-growing Galleria area outside; and an entire assortment of grab-and-go mini-restaurants for those busy Galleria shoppers.
Ringing the left side of the store, you'll find them: a taqueria station, a sushi stand, a pizza spot, and the much-touted Yianni's Souvlaki Grill. At the taqueria, you'll be able to put in your own order for a taco or burrito through a touch-screen system, which will then tell you how long your wait will be. Pizzas can be ordered ahead of time by calling the store. And the souvlaki—as well as other Mediterranean dishes from baba ghanoush to baklava—will be ready for instant pick-up any time of day.
But just to be clear: there are also plenty of actual groceries for sale in this new grocery store. An expanded produce section will offer a wide variety of both standard and more exotic fruits and vegetables. The seafood counter will be well-stocked—but not with any so-called "red list fish," says Webster. Whole Foods has long topped Greenpeace's annual report of grocery chains selling sustainable seafood, something it's accomplished in part by refusing to stock red list fish, or endangered species from fisheries that are unstable, unclean, or becoming depleted. The meat counter, too, will help customers choose from among organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, and other beef, pork, and chicken products that have been treated better than your average lunch meat slices.
There's plenty more, too—much of which you can see in our slideshow. Or just head to Whole Foods Post Oak when it opens this Thursday, November 6 at 7:30 a.m. That day, the first 500 shoppers will receive a free reusable Whole Foods grocery bag and one percent of the proceeds from total sales will go to support the Star of Hope mission. In addition, Whole Foods will be donating a pallet of diapers to the mission, which feeds, clothes, and helps support Houston's homeless. Whole Foods will also be donating one percent of its sales each day thereafter for four additional days to four Houston charities: the Houston Police Foundation on November 7; the Buffalo Bayou Partnership on November 8; Recipe for Success on November 9; and Fresh Arts on November 10—meaning you have plenty of opportunities to check out the new store yourself and support Houston non-profits while you're at it.
But let's be honest: you're probably just going for the beer. We don't blame you.