Bite Me: third from the left, first in our hearts?

It may be up in Conroe, but Copperhead Brewery is making some of the best beer in the entire Houston area.

This is a moderately sized brewery with a small, cozy taproom that looks a little like your cool uncle's basement bar area. There's also a breezeway acting as an outdoor seating area. In all, nothing terribly beautiful, but the beer is worth the drive.

Copperhead Brewery's Athena

My first taste of Copperhead was Athena, a Belgian golden strong ale that's available all the time at the taproom and comes in at 8.6 percent ABV. It's boozier with subtle dryness, a lack of punchy hop flavor, and a slightly sweet yeast taste up front that doesn't get treacly. It's on point for the style while tweaking the rules just a bit. Without getting too far in the weeds: seek this out, especially if you like Belgians. Athena is a big, balanced, beautiful little beer, and one of my favorite drinks in the area. Rating: 9.0/10

Copperhead Brewery's Bite Me

Bite Me is Copperhead's "accessible" beer, a 5.2 percent ABV blonde lager. Says the brewery: "If we were going to brew a lager, it had to be perfectly balanced and full flavored." I'm not even sure it's necessary. Bite Me is one of those beers that I define as "a beer." You'll taste the sweet cracker-flavored malt profile, a bit of hop hit from Czech Saaz and German Herkules varieties, and a relatively clean finish. It's a decent lager, and I've had a lot of beers like it.  Rating: 6.2/10

On The Shelf: Parish Brewing Co.'s Ghost in the Machine

Back in January, Broussard, Louisiana-brewery Parish announced it was distributing in Texas, sending Houston beer drinkers in a mild frenzy because that meant its flagship beer, Ghost in the Machine, would be available at home. No more driving east or bottle trading just to get what people consider one of the best beers of its kind in America.

So, how is it? Ghost is a double at 8 percent ABV. Made with Citra hops, it gets called a New England IPA, but it really tastes more like a double, and if anything, something in between a hoppy double and a juicy New England. It actually reminds me more of Sixpoint's Resin—my personal go-to beer back in New York and, sadly, not as good in a can here—carrying a perfect hop flavor. It's piney, not overly dank, comes close to burning but never achieves it, and ultimately leaves one feeling pretty satisfied. Essentially, it's a mad scientist's test to see how far one can push a double IPA. This is probably as close to the edge as it gets. So yes, it's a great hoppy beer. Best in the country? It's up there. Have some around for when your beer-geek relatives or friends come visiting. Rating: 9.7/10

Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America.

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