Welcome to the Bayou City Beer Club. We're here to celebrate Houston's burgeoning brewing culture, so each week we'll offer a beer review. We'll do old favorites, new sensations, and wild cards. Join us!

If you want to share a beer, email Tim at [email protected]

Southern Star: Buried Hatchet

Before arriving here I wrote a lot about the beer scene in the Hudson Valley of New York, a region trying to define itself while competing with the farm-fresh IPAs of Vermont, the hazy IPAs of Massachusetts, and the confusing brewing hellscape of New York City. The talent in the Hudson Valley was already outstanding, so everyone was focused on promoting the area as the Napa Valley of beer. 

So what of Houston? To this outsider, Houston (and Texas, by that matter) once had it backwards. The defining style was in place (easy-drinking cold beer), but the depth of quality wasn't quite there. But that was a couple years back. After being here for a little while, I see the city's beer scene is rapidly progressing. New breweries either break ground on new facilities or debut by the month. Brewmasters are expanding their skills all the time, and far beyond the basic style that for so long personified statewide swill. 

It's like a clean slate. We're seeing the cream rise in real time while understanding what makes Houston a great beer city. This is a fun time.

Newbies, loud fan favorites, and small-time family establishments are mixing it up with established titans of both craft and macro (and macro-owned craft). That means everyone has to step up their game.

That brings me to Southern Star Brewing. I love the story of the Gen-Xer tired of crap beer brewing his own stuff at home during the '90s craft explosion, then opening his own place years later. That's a well-known story, and if you're going to be a great beer city, you need those stories. Dave Fougeron's five year-round offerings are a solid quintet of styles: blonde, American pale, West Coast IPA, kolsch, and stout. For this first review, let's go with the stout (it is colder outside): Buried Hatchet.

A good, simple stout can be a backbone for a brewing scene. In the Hudson Valley there's Keegan Ales' Mother's Milk, a seriously robust milk stout grounded by big toasted malt flavors; it's been around forever and is a tried-and-true favorite. Founders's Kentucky Breakfast Stout gets all the attention, but the real workhorse in Michigan is Bell's Kalamazoo.

Buried Hatchet reminds me of that workhorse stout. I get cocoa and caramel on the nose, and it tastes like a malty hug, round and warm, enhanced by flavors of toffee and sugary candy. I wouldn't say it's the smoothest beverage, as the heat hangs out for a while (some of that might be the saphir hop, which is little more than window dressing), but I don't mind an edge on a cool night.

I wouldn't say Buried Hatchet is the perfect stout, but it's a solid foundation. Much like how Southern Star and Saint Arnold provide the building blocks to what might just be a great beer city. 

Rating: 7.3/10

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