City Acre Brewing: Houston's Homegrown Brewpub

Categories: Brew Blog

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Matt Schlabach in front of his home, which doubles as City Acre Brewing.
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.)

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City Acre hosted its second-to-last beer tasting this past Saturday, an invitation-only event (to get around the TABC's outdated beer laws) that featured lighter brews like a citrusy Fermette de Saison and a Prost!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.

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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.
"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.

"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.


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25 comments
ConfusedSay
ConfusedSay

Residence/food establishment? Whaaat? How? Did something dramatically change in Texas health code or is there some fantabulous work around?

thelittlebaker
thelittlebaker

there is some really cool stuff going on over there and i am super excited for them. the chai porter was outstanding along with the excellent saison. it is a great time for craft beer in houston.

kelly bishop
kelly bishop

I have been really stoked about City Acre but the fact that there seem to be multiple people that have attended several, if not all, of the Open Houses while others have yet to go is a bit disheartening.  The process for getting an invitation is to e-mail City Acre and then wait to see if you get a confirmation. I personally know five people that requested an invite to this past Open House and no one received an invite.

A large part of growing the craft beer industry is to make it accessible.  Hosting the same people over and over for the Open House seems to fly in the face of that mentality.  I understand that a portion of the spots would be reserved for industry and close friends but it would be nice if City Acre took steps to see that people who have already attended an Open House were wait listed for future events in order to allow others a chance.  City Acre tweeted on 1/16 at 9:56 AM that reservation requests were being accepted.  I sent my request on 1/16 10:14 AM.  Not that City Acre ever claimed the process was first come first serve, but since they didn't stop accepting reservation requests until 1/18 at noon, it seems like I would have gotten my request in early enough.

Oh well.  As my light of hope dims on ever getting into a City Acre Open House, I will head to Petrol Station and Hay Merchant to drown my sorrows in craft beer. C'est la vie.

Josh
Josh

I'm gonna echo this frustration. I know its a work around system and its limited space and City Acre has better things to do then sift through emails, it doesn't make it less frustrating to those of us who follow the city and state beer scene religously and have requested every event.

I'm over the Dark Lord/Black Tuesday/$150 beer dinner/ebay resale exclusionary mentality going on right now in the industry and I am aware it's not even fair to lump City Acre in here but I've never been one to promote rational discussion on the internet.

You do have to conceed that it's easy for outsiders to perceive kellys point to be true when the articles photo is of the cities most prominent beer blogger and a brewer.

Anyway, I do hope absolutely nothing but the best for City Acre. I'll catch it once they open.

Assman
Assman

Everybody gets butthurt.... 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Hey, now. There were a TON of other people there that I didn't want to bug for photos. Leslie and Rassul were just kind enough to let me sit with them and snap a quick photo, since my photog got sick that day and I was left to my own devices with a point-and-shoot. Please don't let my limited photography skills serve as any indication of City Acre's invitation system.

Josh
Josh

That was a complete and total joke. I forget what total trolls you guys see in here daily. Sorry the cntext didn't translate.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Dissing one of our best and most hard-working photographers for absolutely no reason in the comments section. Real pro stuff.

Leslie
Leslie

I knew that was you, asshole bear. 

Josh
Josh

My reply got eaten, but my comment was simply a passing observation as to the fact the photo jived with kellys point. Plus I like harassing Leslie. Neither kelly nor I are saying there is some nefarious plot. It was just amusing coincidence. And I thought the photos were waaaay better than that horrible groovehouse guy anyway. Real pro stuff.

The houston food and alcohol scene is the most shockingly collabrative and inclusive I imagine exists anywhere in America. If our main problem is getting around idiotic tabc laws, we got it good.

Thank you meredith for taking the time to respond. I will see you once you open your doors. Often I will bet.

Meredith Borders
Meredith Borders

Hi, I'm Meredith and I'm opening City Acre with Matt. Saturday was Leslie's first visit to City Acre and Rassul's brewery Buffalo Bayou collaborated on the chai porter with us. We want nothing more than to be inclusive and will try to accommodate all requests, but our hands are tied as to the system. Please let us know when you request an invitation to the April event that you've sent a request for previous events and haven't received one and we will do our best to make sure you can attend.

Josh
Josh

Or rather: CONCEDE.

delanoe
delanoe

MOON TOWER FOR LIFE!

CityAcreBrewing
CityAcreBrewing

We do our best to ensure that people who have never attended get an invite; please be sure to tell us if/when you request an invitation to the April event that you've tried to go in the past and have never received an invitation. We just have far more requests than space, but the only people who have come to every event are close friends who help work the events. The rest of the crowd changes every time. We really appreciate your interest and would love it if you can attend the April event.

"John" Katz
"John" Katz

Wish I could've been there.  City Acre is going to be an amazing asset to Houston.

Irishjohn
Irishjohn

Really looking forward to this place opening. Yet another reason to visit Houston!

Daniel Glover
Daniel Glover

Was a great event to be a part of!  Also the smoked pork shoulder tacos with brussel sprout slaw were amazing!  As were the flourless chocolate tortes with Kaluha whipped cream!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I want the recipe for that Brussels sprout slaw. Do you know who made it? So good.

CityAcreBrewing
CityAcreBrewing

I made the pork and slaw and my friend, Erin Curtis, made the torte.  Our many wonderful friends helped assemble nearly 300 tacos and plate the cake.  The slaw is incredibly easy.  Just shred Brussels sprouts and toss them in a vinaigrette made of grapeseed oil, cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

Brookecan
Brookecan

Sounds delish.The Brussels sprouts slaw at Dolce Vita inspired me to make a version at home as a side dish. Katherine, you can add splash of fresh lemon juice, finely julienned radishes of your choice and shaven Pecorino Romano. It was a hit at a dinner party I hosted!

Fridge
Fridge

Best of luck and well wishes to City Acre! Houston's beer outlook is getting better and better.

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