We know there are more breweries in Houston than ever before (in case you need proof, the Chronicle last year reported that the number of craft breweries in the Houston area exploded from 12 to 52 between 2013 and 2018), and Brian Kondrach and his business partner Jason Buhlman want Houstonians to visit as many of these breweries as possible.
In May 2018, the pair—who know one another through the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers—debuted Tour de Brewery. Their offerings present a straightforward but unique look at the city: three four-hour bike tours (with a fourth in development) of breweries in different neighborhoods, with participants enjoying small samples at each stop. Guests can currently book their own tours in advance.
The 2017 Tour de Brewery pub crawl served as a proof of concept, allowing Kondrach and Buhlman to launch their own small business synthesizing their dual passions for cycling and suds. But that route was basically a good portion of the city. So going further, they split the original route into three and organized smaller tours for two to 10 participants throughout the year, providing helmets, lights for night rides, and easy-to-ride seven-speed bikes from EaDo Bike Company to make the experience as accessible to as many skill levels as possible. Even a couch potato such as myself was able to more or less keep up on a recent tour through the Museum District and Montrose (though I foolishly only brought 40 ounces of water).
I deal with a partially unresolved femoral anteversion, which makes riding bikes a little more difficult than it is for the average rider, and I found the experience positive and supportive. Kondrach and the tour riders alike all stayed attuned to everyone’s location and needs the entire trip. Encouragement abounded. We stopped for water (seriously, bring more than 40 ounces), photos at the Biscuit Paint Wall, and recommendations for what to do in Montrose.
The Museum District and Montrose tour kicks off at Under the Radar Brewery and winds its way to The Phoenix on Westheimer, then Baileson Brewing Co., before circling back to Under the Radar. (On our trip, participants could only sample at the first two due to Baileson’s prohibition period.) Standouts included Under the Radar’s Kottbusser, a clean-tasting German wheat beer that fell out of fashion in the late 19th century due to purification laws and is currently experiencing a small resurgence, and The Phoenix’s slightly sweet house brew Eat Your Wheaties.
If a combination of alcohol, bicycling, and maneuvering around Houston’s famously aggressive drivers sound like a daredevil’s undertaking, rest assured that Tour de Brewery prefers a comfortable, pleasant experience at what Kondrach refers to as “a nice leisurely pace” on flat roads, rather than death-defying debauchery.
“Safety is a really big priority for us. We only give small samples of beer at each brewery and we spend time between [them] riding to make sure the alcohol is processed and you’re not getting drunk, but you’re enjoying the beer,” says Kondrach. “We ride on the less-busy roads or bike paths whenever we get a chance.”
Stephanie Suarez, who commutes via bike almost daily between Montrose and the Medical Center for school, attended a Tour de Brewery ride and found it blended her interest in craft beer and evangelizing the city’s “unique neighborhoods.”
“It’s so exciting to get people out of their homes—which is the biggest thing—and out into the world, experiencing what their community has to offer,” says Suarez. “The people on this tour from around the world are saying, ‘Texans are the nicest people. Houstonians especially are nice, intelligent, and creative.’ I want to really build a sense of community here.”
That desire to bring people together over pints and pedals extends to the brewery owners as well. Vu Truong, owner of The Phoenix on Westheimer, and a member of the Karbach cycling team alongside Kondrach, views The Phoenix’s spot on the tour as a logical extension of his involvement with the local cycling scene.
“We have continued to be involved in the cycling community, and beer, so it’s a good mixture,” says Truong. “It kind of fortifies where I am in the Houston neighborhood—not just a pub, but a brewpub, and a cycling-friendly establishment.”
Kondrach is optimistic about the tours’ success and hopes to expand his its reach in the coming year, adding planned events each weekend aimed at bringing more Houstonians outside.
Just remember to bring more than 40 ounces of water.