ON SUNDAY MORNING, A WIDE-SMILING JOHN HOLLER presided over a table at the entrance of his Sawyer Yards brewery, asking customers if they wanted some canned beer. It was the first time he could do this as a brewery owner, since starting Sunday, manufacturing breweries like Holler could—finally—legally sell to-go beer to taproom customers. With a couple stocked coolers behind him, Holler sold cans of his pilsners Dollar Pils Y'All and Czech My Phone, his ESB (which had sold out almost immediately), and two of his New England-style IPAs, Good Clean Fun and Haze the Roof.
We grabbed a couple of four-packs, then stopped in for a seriously delicious Hype PA, and got to work.
Holler Brewing's Dollar Pils Y'all
This is a German pilsner, which means a little deeper hop profile, though there should still be noticeable maltiness and a crisp, clean finish. My favorite all-time German pilsner is Palatine Pils from Suarez Family Brewing in New York, an extremely balanced beer that's incredibly flavorful and cleaner than a freshly-Roomba'd living room. Dollar Pils Y'all isn't quite that, but it carries all the right elements. If you want a simple backyard beer with a spicy hop quality (from Hallertau hops, I believe), this is yours to enjoy. Rating: 7.0/10
Holler Brewing's Good Clean Fun
Let me state this here: Holler might be doing the best work in the Houston beer scene right now. Not only are the brewery's established styles strong, but John Holler and his crew are really turning out some outstanding trendy beers. Haze PA might be the best local NEIPA I've had outside of Spindletap, and this one is right behind it. Good Clean Fun is made with Citra (of course) and Nelson Sauvin, which is a major favorite of mine right now, offering big tropical bursts of flavor. But the secret ingredient is the not-so-popular Cashmere hop, which smooths the beer out just a little with an herbal punch. I really like this beer. Rating: 8.5/10
On The Shelf: Southern Star's Oktoberfest
It's September, which means Oktoberfest season is upon us. You'll be seeing some classic Oktoberfest beers on grocery shelves over the next few weeks, but what does that mean? These beers are malt-forward with caramel sweetness, balanced with German or Czech hops that give off a spicier, herbal flavor. Southern Star's version comes seasonally and includes the herbal Perle hop, plus three different types of malt. It leans sweet but also carries a fine roasted, nutty character. It's deceptively light (6.3 percent ABV) and easy to drink. While not a groundbreaker, it's a very solid offering, and a perfect accompaniment for the beginning of patio season. Prost! Rating: 7.4/10
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.