It seems like such a simple thing. “By definition, a brewpub sells and brews its own beer on property in conjunction with food service,” explained Moon Tower Inn brewer James McDonald. So why is Moon Tower in the East End the only real brewpub in Houston?
For one thing, Texas law didn’t allow breweries to serve beer directly to consumers and bottle the beer to sell off-site until last summer (it was one or the other until then). And even after they got their brewpub license in late 2012, the Moon Tower folks still had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get certified.
“That was an incredible amount of work, convincing all three city governing bodies as well as the TABC that it’s a viable thing to do and we won’t take advantage of it,” said Moon Tower co-owner Evan Shannon, who runs the brewpub/hot dog joint with partner Brandon Young. “We just kept throwing that ball up the hill and it does not get easier toward the top,” McDonald added.
Now that laws have been relaxed and brewers can sell up to 10,000 barrels of beer per year outside their brewpubs, Houston’s brewpub dearth may be coming to a swift end. In fact, “it’s possible you could see this be the next big trend in the brewing market,” said Matt Schlabach.
Schlabach, a well-known presence on the local craft beer scene, already brews City Acre beer out of his home north of downtown, where he hosts occasional beer tastings in conjunction with Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. In addition, he’s been planning to open a brewpub there, on the first floor, since 2012. But thanks to the byzantine process of obtaining brewpub certification, his plans keep getting pushed back. Schlabach still hopes to open City Acre Brewing this fall, but until then, Moon Tower will remain Houston’s only brewpub.
Given the frenzied interest in craft beer, it seems obvious that this city could support at least a few more spots that make and sell their own. “We’d love to see more places like us open up, because we like to drink beer and drink Houston beer,” Shannon said. “The market is ready, I think, but the supply isn’t quite there.”