The Houston brewery scene has been on fire lately, and with new breweries cropping up, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be slowing down anytime soon. With so many options in Houston, trying to choose one to visit can be overwhelming, but many choose based on location. 11 Below Brewing Company have their niche at 6820 Bourgeois Road off 249. Relatively new and coming up on their three-year anniversary, 11 Below has become a favorite for Houstonians across the city as their popularity continues to grow.
Situated in an industrial park with other businesses, with plenty of parking, the taproom is an honest to goodness working brewery. As you walk into the warehouse, you are greeted by pallets upon pallets of stacked cans along with all the tanks that make their delicious lager. The taproom is not climate controlled, but there is a massive industrial fan that’s up high in the ceiling and helps keep the heat away. The brewery is wide open and littered with plenty of places to sit or stand. 11 Below keeps board and card games handy to give in to your competitive instinct while imbibing, as well as a couple of TVs on opposite sides of the taproom to keep you entertained with sports, and rotating food trucks are on hand to keep you fed. The brewery is kid- and pet-friendly as long as you don’t let them roam about; although it is a beer hall there is still large, heavy equipment throughout.
As for the suds, 11 Below has four faithful year-round beers — 7-Iron Blonde, Oso Bueno, Lame Duck and Color Blind — along with a rotating tap of Negative Space and, at the time of my visit, Irish Red. They go by the tried and true beer token system, meaning you can reuse your tokens on another visit in case you don’t use them all in one go.
But how’s the beer? 7-Iron Blonde is your basic blonde with a refreshing finish; Oso Bueno I found to be slightly sweet and malty, a good amber to be enjoyed any time of the year; Lame Duck is an American pale ale that’s hoppy with citrus notes to it—think grapefruit. Lastly, and my personal favorite, is the Color Blind Red, an American IPA—it’s got a ruby hue and is all kinds of hoppy, although bitter, with a hint of grapefruit. This is a stellar lineup through and through.
How did 11 Below end up where they ended up? I had an opportunity to talk to Bryce Baker, one of the founders of 11 Below, about their decision to get into the brewery business.
“We [founders Baker, Hondojo and Moss] all live within three or four miles from here, and there was not a brewery on this side of town," he said. "The closest brewery to us was Karbach and that’s a solid 15 minutes away. We decided to carve out our part of the community. In fact, a lot of the people here today are just friends and neighbors that live in the area and they would come by; we would test out our beers on them while we homebrewed. Essentially, we wanted something on our part of town and to be a part of the community, all the while making beer.”
While getting a bite to eat in the northwest side of town, I met a couple of 11 Below fans that were decked in the brewery’s shirt and hat, and they could not sing their praises high enough. Not only did they love the beer, but were adamant that they had a place that they could rightfully call their own less than a five-minute drive away. That want of community had come full circle, as 11 Below has crafted some fine beers and a loyal fan base.