On the eve of hosting 16 craft beer connoisseurs at the Houstonia house for a discussion of the city's best breweries, beer bars, and much more (including the much-debated question of how long a growler will keep your beer fresh), I stocked our fridge with beer—including plenty of Houston craft brews as well as Lone Star, Shiner, and Bud to keep things honest—and wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Surely 16 people with such strong opinions—trust me, I follow them on Twitter—would never reach a consensus about the best breweries in town. Would we just spend the time arguing with each other, the evening a complete loss?
The answer is yes, and no. While we did spend the evening debating the merits of various breweries and their portfolios, the event was an unqualified success. Not only did we reach near-unanimous consensus on the No. 1 brewery in Houston, we all agreed on the entire list of Top 5 Craft Breweries which you'll now find in the August issue of Houstonia. Anyone who's spent time on the Beer Advocate forums, r/beer, or even at a friendly bottle share knows how rare this type of agreement is.
This, however, doesn't mean that our panel wasn't extremely opinionated. And of their offered opinions, only a handful made it into the print issue. Below are some of our favorite outtakes from the panel discussion, grouped by brewery:
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
"I'm not always a huge fan of the Divine Reserve styles offered but that's how you learn what beers you enjoy and what you don't want to drink as often. Most DR offerings age well, allowing you to learn how styles develop over a multi-year period. For me that's a big part of being a beer nerd—the ongoing education." —Leanna Fossler
"Love their new (to me) daring sense. Keep the Berliner coming!" —Leslie Sprague
"The godfather of craft beer in Houston." —Nena Lamb
The Lone Pint Brewery
"They're experimenting, and it's working." —John C. Speights
"Made the best beer of 2013-2014: Yellow Rose." —Chris White
"Limited array [of beers], but Yellow Rose is world class." —Jack Highberger
"If you are a hophead, Lone Pint is the brewery for you. Yellow Rose is my desert island beer. I seek it out, routinely bugging my local growler fill source to make sure it is on tap. I also enjoyed their El Dorado and Azacca SMaSH offerings under the Zythophile series." —Leanna Fossler
Karbach Brewing Co.
"Canned Weissa Versa is their strongest asset." —Leslie Sprague
"A year ago, I'd have put [them at] No. 1; quality is slipping. F.U.N. series is falling off." —Robert Stokes
"I think they sacrifice quality for growth." —Russell Wing
"Karbach is growing rapidly, which is both a good and somewhat scary thing, considering how young they are overall. That being said, I think they'll make it long term." —Leanna Fossler
"Great year-round lineup but poor pricing on seasonals." —Philip Stephenson
Southern Star Brewing
"Classic year-round lineup, but falling behind on innovation." —José Luis Cubria
"Very solid. Issues with Valkyrie and mediocre seasonals have hurt." —Robert Stokes
"More consistent now with Sam [Wright] as head brewer." —Nena Lamb
"Bombshell Blonde is a good gateway beer for newbies, available at most retailers, bars, restaurants, and venues." —Leanna Fossler
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.
"Rassul [Zarinfar]'s giddiness about his beers makes this brewery great. Watching him talk about his brewery is like seeing a kid on Christmas morning. The sheer number of assorted Wit beers they work constantly on is mind-boggling." —Leanna Fossler
"Don't like everything they brew, but they are willing to take a risk." —Robert Stokes
"1836 is meh, but tremendous record of experimentation—perhaps too much." —Jack Highberger
"Love their spirit, but as many hits as misses." —José Luis Cubria
8th Wonder Brewery
"Started slow, but have picked up in quality." —Chris White
"Great guys; need more consistency." —Leslie Sprague
"Vietnamese Coffee Porter is legit." —Jack Highberger
"The one beer I had wasn't good or bad." —Robert Stokes
Fort Bend Brewing Co.
"Not consistent; I've had infected beers." —Nena Lamb
No Label Brewing Co.
"Have loved seeing their progress. Would love to see more complex beers, but they serve their market." —Leslie Sprague
"So much better but still working. Has lots of potential." —Nena Lamb
"Perpetual Peace was shockingly good. Everything else is generic." —José Luis Cubria
"Make more Perpetual Peace!" —Matt Chow
Texian Brewing Co.
"Charlie Foxtrot is very good but totally missed the style. Everything else is forgettable." —José Luis Cubria
"What shows promise is that they didn't start out with the yawn-worthy core offerings—blonde, pale, wheat, IPA, stout. Charlie Foxtrot, an Imperial Berliner Weisse, is very hotly debated amongst local beer nerds. They either love it or hate it." —Leanna Fossler