Inner loopers: It's time to get to know the Porter family.
Siblings Alex and Sydney Porter are the brains behind Southern Yankee Brewing Company, which for nearly three years has kept relatively quiet in the Westfield area a few miles south of Spring. While haze chasers invade Spindletap and weekend can collectors make regular trips to nearby Ingenious for smoothie beers, Southern Yankee has been producing quality ales and lagers of all stripes in a modest brewhouse with a friendly taproom.
But now Alex—the brewery's managing owner—and Sydney—the head brewer—are making a big move, officially announcing a new gastropub concept featuring their beer and a lot more smack in the middle of Montrose.
Southern Yankee Craft House will open as early as spring 2021 at 1312 W Alabama St, the former Good Dog Houston space. The Porters closed on the space around the same time Good Dog announced its closing and have been renovating inside and out ever since. For the Porter family, the move is about seizing an opportunity to grow their brand and maintain on momentum.
"We think about what's going to make us survive next, like what's gonna make this move forward," says Sydney Porter. "How are we gonna pay our bills, how are we gonna pay our staff's bills? We want to make sure that we're good, that they're good, and that we have longevity in that."
Southern Yankee opened on FM 1960 in 2018, the culmination of years of homebrewing by Porter patriarch Jess (a decorated Naval captain who commanded the USS Illinois between 2015 and '16). Upon moving from Connecticut to Texas, the Porters put a dream into action by starting the brewery (with dad putting the kids in charge of the day-to-day), promising a variety of beers meant to attract a diverse set of drinkers.
By 2019 the brewery began producing its own food in a truck parked just outside its taproom. Items like thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas—think gorgonzola bacon and pepperoni with honey and chili oil—and wood-fired chicken wings coated in a variety of sauces (including delectable garlic parmesan) have been a hit with the customers.
The beer, which spans a variety of styles from saison to New England IPA, has also been a hit. Late in 2019, as the Porters realized they were growing too big for its existing space, they started thinking about a second location, with a preference of being inside the Loop. They came close to signing leases on a few spaces just before Covid-19 changed the hospitality industry, but with profits coming back after they reopened the taproom, the Porters decided to once again look for a second spot. That's when they found the Good Dog space on Alabama.
At Craft House, they'll offer the same food they serve in their existing food truck but with plenty more on the menu, like sandwiches, salads, and other plates. They'll start with dinner service, then they hope to expand to brunch and lunch. A full bar will serve Southern Yankee beer, of course, but with that will be an original cocktail program.
"I think we got a solid base of food, but I think we can do more," says Alex Porter. "We can push the limits culinarily in conjunction with our beer and the cocktails."
Southern Yankee is working with Construction Concepts, a firm whose portfolio includes restaurants like Truth BBQ, the Original Ninfa's Uptown, Steak 48, and Doris Metropolitan, on the build-out. They're opening up the interior and adding more bar seating, raising the ceiling slightly, and demolishing the front façade and rebuilding with a shaded patio that extends further out to the sidewalk. Moreover, they hope to increase the backyard's space and add seating there.
This is the first time a Houston brewery has added a second location, a bold move (especially going into a Montrose neighborhood known for its restaurants and bar scene) but one the Porters think they can handle. The hope is that Southern Yankee Craft House becomes a hangout for Montrose residents seeking good food, a cocktail or two, and, of course, good beer.
"We've also started not only being known for our beer but also our food. We have people come in and don't drink, but they still come in and they're regulars," says Sydney Porter. "That tells us that we're doing something right not only with the quality of our beer, but the quality of our food and the quality of our experience."