I had to stifle my happy laughter upon stepping onto the third-floor patio area at the new Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. brewery, taproom, and restaurant by Sawer Yards. As the perfect November breeze settled in late at night, the Houston skyline twinkled in a distance so close you swore you could almost touch it. I put my porter on a concrete ledge and took in the scene.
Houston has a winner here.
Buffalo Bayou opened its commanding Summer Street facility last Friday evening. On that first night, folks came in and out, cheerily scoping the grounds while taking in all three levels. Just two days later, on a perfect fall football afternoon, the place was rocking. Fire pits blazed as crowds converged around tables and in yard chairs.
The space feels quintessential. A large cutout of the brewery's mascot buffalo head welcomes visitors to a casual first level adjacent to the brewhouse. Here, an indoor/outdoor space (that isn't quite finished) will serve as the main taproom. Families should swarm here on weekend afternoons. Upstairs is the second-level restaurant with a menu overseen by chef Arash Kharat (formerly Beaver's). I've yet to eat here (it's more of a sneak-peak menu right now), but the menu includes 72-hour fermented pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and other beer-friendly bites.
The second level is good for families, as well, and has two dining areas plus a patio. But it's the third level that really shines—this rooftop-style beer garden has long tables, fire pits, high-tops, and plenty of standing space with televisions. One might imagine some fun game-watching events here. Plus, the skyline view is unbeatable.
To this point, Saint Arnold Brewing Co. has been the gold standard in beer experiences in town, offering a robust menu of elevated pub bites, plus plenty of gathering space, great architecture, games, and multiple entry points. Moreover, it's the only brewery that boasts that kind of size, scope, and quality of product. After just one weekend, it's fair to say that it now has competition. Buffalo Bayou's new facility, which cost about $14 million and was constructed over a year and change (though it's still being finished), raises Houston's still-nascent beer game.
While at the brewery last Sunday, a visitor told me some people on Saturday decided not to wait in crowds (remember, it's opening weekend) and, instead of staying at BuffBrew, went to Holler Brewing Co. Considering Holler is a 10-minute walk away, I'd imagine more people might want to visit both BuffBrew and Holler as a mini-crawl. Moreover, with Urban South opening a facility at Sawyer Yards soon, how's a three-brewery tour? That's good news for Houston beer.
Essentially, there's more room for beer in Houston, especially when it's a place like this where there's a restaurant, game-playing and game-watching experiences, and a family-friendly vibe. And when it looks this good, it makes Houston's beer scene look even stronger.