When EaDo newcomer True Anomaly Brewing Co. celebrated its grand opening in April, some customers were shocked to discover a tap list without one IPA, which had run out early. “All the people who came in here were forced to try something else,” says Thomas Ahlstrom, the brewery’s co-founder. “And if they liked it, they’d come back, and if not, oh well.”
True Anomaly offers the occasional IPA—as of this writing there’s one on tap called Ben’s House—along with less-familiar beers such as Belgian ales, sours, and American wild ales, the last of which is made with spontaneously reacting “wild” yeast and, often, bacteria. But don’t let that put you off! The brewery’s wild ale, Moonbow, which rotates in and out, is a testament to the innovation and ingenuity that are already making it stand out in a fast-growing local scene.
Brewed with herbal and lemon-zesty Columbus hops, Moonbow is fermented with peaches and a proprietary yeast that, yes, includes bacteria, before being aged for three months in a wooden barrel called a foeder. The result is a golden-tinged, complex ale that’s tart, sweet, creamy, bitter, sour, funky, and punchy all at once, with a tropical, earthy aroma. The 7 percent ABV beer is delicious.
“I would challenge you to find something similar to it,” says Michael Duckworth, who co-founded True Anomaly with Ahlstrom, David Lantz, and Ben Stahl in 2018.
The brewery is the culmination of a decade-long dream that began when the four met while working at NASA. They experimented with hundreds of beers over the years, developing a strong catalog of offerings, before leasing their EaDo building, increasing the volume of their batches, and, finally, going from homebrewers to pros.
It was a leap of faith, and not only because Ahlstrom and Duckworth left their careers at NASA to focus on the new business (Lantz and Stahl are still there while also contributing to the brewery). Making sours and wild ales, in particular, is a costly, riskier-than-usual venture that requires special tanks and equipment to avoid contamination.
The brewers trusted that people would be willing to try offerings outside of their IPA, lager, and light beer comfort zones, and, to their satisfaction, Houstonians have proved up for the challenge. “Generally speaking, more often than not, somebody comes in, we’ll put a sour in front of them—especially something really unique like a Moonbow,” says Duckworth. “They try it out, they’re pretty surprised, and more than 50 percent of the time they end up ordering it and having another.”