You may be noticing more of Back Pew Brewing's cans in your local supermarket or beverage store. Maybe you've seen Me Beer, a blonde dopplebock at 10-percent ABV that pays tribute to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
If you've purchased Me Beer wanting to know exactly what a blonde dopplebock is, you might be surprised that it's a malty treat with booziness to match. It's a fun, big beer to enjoy for dessert. In a world of bourbon-barrel-aged stouts and triple IPAs, it's a unique choice.
That's Back Pew: unique. And these days it's worth your beer fridge, even if they're not all about hops all the time.
"This is an IPA city," says Randy Harl, co-owner of Back Pew and father of co-owner and brewmaster Bobby Harl. "And in the beginning, Bobby wasn't that interested in being another guy who made a big IPA or a Russian imperial milk stout, so we shied away from that."
Back Pew was born in 2015 after Bobby Harl came home to Houston, bringing with him brewing tools he picked up in Nashville. He and his family raised the money to build and open the Porter brewery and taproom, set in a former church sanctuary (thus the name). Along with the place of worship and a brewery expansion, Back Pew has ample outdoor space on its 14-acre property. It's perfect for a day with the family with live music, regular food truck offerings, and a playscape for kids.
The brewery specializes in a genre of beer we'll call "everything that isn't IPA." Core brews include a crisp American pilsner called Blue Testament, a delicious and boozier-than-you-think bock called Satyr's Swill, a Hefeweizen called Lucy, and their version of an American light lager (you know, Michelob Light and the like) called Hyper Light. Okay, there is an IPA among the core beers—a balanced West Coast-ish version called Tanuki—but you'll find far more lagers and European styles here.
Among the finest beers at Back Pew are Mexican lager Chola and English dark mild ale Muddy Thames. You'll want to age Belgian golden strong beer Rand for a little while, if only to let the oakiness from its barrel fermentation to truly shine.
The crazy thing about Back Pew's recent surge in the market is it's happening through self-distribution. Covid-19 cut sales dramatically, leading the Harls to amicably end a working relationship with their distributors. You wouldn't be able to tell, however, as Back Pew seems to be on more shelves than ever. And harder-to-get beers, like Me Beer, and other specials, like the top-notch double IPA effort Hopzuna, are getting to folks inside the Loop.
Thank goodness for that. Back Pew's uniqueness is direly needed in a city still carving out its beer identity.
"The good thing is we made it through Covid as an economically viable business," says the elder Harl, "and we're growing again."