City Acre Brewing: Houston's Homegrown Brewpub
The hearts of beer-loving Houstonians were aflutter when it was announced last year that popular San Antonio brewpub Freetail Brewing Co. would be opening a Bayou City location in the heart of downtown. After all, for a city that loves its beer, we are sadly bereft of any proper brewpubs. (I love the "pizookie" at BJ's, too, but it just doesn't count.)
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt Matt Schlabach in front of his home, which doubles as City Acre Brewing.
However, expansion plans for Freetail fizzled almost as quickly as they were announced, leaving Houston brewpub-less once again. But instead of waiting around for another city to throw us its brewpub scraps, Houstonian Matt Schlabach and his wife Meredith Borders stepped up to create a brewpub of our own: City Acre Brewing, which is gearing up to open this October.
City Acre hosted its second-to-last beer tasting this past Saturday, an invitation-only event (to get around the TABC's outdated beer laws) that featured lighter brews like a citrusy Fermette de Saison and a Prost! Toasty Munich Helles that will be perfect for the humid Houston summers, as well as some darker options: Choctopus Stout (and a strawberry version of the same) and three different variations on a Chai Porter.
It was these darker beers that showed the more intrepid and creative side of City Acre, as well as its willingness to collaborate with other start-up brewers in town: One of the Chai Porters was made by Buffalo Bayou Brewing, and guests on Saturday were asked to choose which Chai Porter they liked best. Schlabach and Buffalo Bayou founder Rassul Zarinfar plan to create a blend based on the best components of all three porters, which featured varying notes of cardamom, cloves and ginger along with the darkly nutty notes of a good, strong porter.
"We used freshly-ground cardamom in our Chai Porters," Schlabach said. "And we only used half as much as [Buffalo Bayou] did, but it really made a difference." Zarinfar said they'd bought pre-ground cardamom and other chai spices from Penzey's, which -- remarkably -- made for the better tasting beer, with far less bitterness from the cardamom pods.
Beer blogger and Open The Taps co-founder Leslie Sprague and Buffalo Bayou Brewing's own Rassul Zarinfar were among the people who packed the tasting event this past Saturday.
"Who'd have thought?" laughed Schlabach. They're still learning, after all. And he wants to make sure that City Acre maintains that creative brewing spirit after opening.
Says Schlabach: "We want to stay relatively small for a while so we can experiment with making many different beers along with the more conventional mainstays" like their hop-forward Girl From IPA-nema and their Hitchcock Blonde. The team isn't ruling out the eventual possibility of distributing City Acre's beers one day down the road, but for the time being, City Acre plans to open as a brewpub first and foremost.