Beer Reviews: Your Guide to Ales and Lagers Across Houston

Below, you’ll find a depository of all beer reviews written by Timothy Malcolm, Houstonia dining editor and longtime beer writer. Most of the reviews are of Houston-area beers, but there are a few non-Houston beers highlighted.

We were set to publish this piece just before Covid-19, then we shelved it because of, well, the pandemic. We’re bringing it out now to re-start the conversation. So, reviews were largely written two to three years ago, so consider them a guide into understanding some of the beers listed. Also, some of the beers aren’t available currently or may be out of production; we’ll keep them here because you never know when they reemerge.

New reviews will live at the top until they’re replaced, but anything reviewed in the last month will be in red. Also, every review includes the date the review was initially published.

Here’s a key to the ratings:

  • 9.5–10 – Classics: These are first-ballot hall of fame beers. They might have a few peers globally, but that’s about it. Find ’em and drink ’em.
  • 9.0–9.4 – The best beers in Houston or anywhere: Not much to say other than “get these beers.” These are the best of their styles in this or any town.
  • 8.0–8.9 – Among the better beers in Houston or anywhere: If you’re a beer geek, this is the “beers you should seek out” line. If you’re just someone who likes a beer once in a while, or if you come across one of these beers and are interested in the style, order it, full stop. These are among the best beers of their styles in town.
  • 7.0–7.9 – Really good beers: This is where I’d draw my six-pack line, as in, if these are available in six-packs, you’re good to go. If not, drink up and enjoy. These are some of the better beers of their styles in town.
  • 6.0–6.9 – Worth it to try these beers at least once: If you’re at the bar or brewery and are curious about one of these beers, you’re good ordering them outright. They won’t be the best expressions of a style, or maybe they’re just lacking something that makes them eminently drinkable, but you’ll usually enjoy them.
  • 5.0–5.9 – Definitely sample these before ordering: Say you’re at the bar and one of these beers is available. Ask to taste it first—you may loathe the beer … you may love the beer. Some of these beers are divisive for one reason or another, while some are just middling in quality but could be someone’s cup of … uh, tea. Either way, consider these “on the fence” beers.
  • 3.0–4.9 – Tread lightly with these beers: These are beers that, even after a full glass, I wouldn’t recommend. Maybe the style is all wrong, or maybe the flavor just doesn’t hit. Maybe (and this is very possible) I had a bad sample. For that reason alone, I’ll be sure to come back to these later on for an updated review.
  • 0.0–2.9 – Avoid these beers: Luckily, nobody lives here yet. Of course, I’ve also chosen not to write about them yet. 

Amber Ale

11 Below Oso Bueno (10/31/19): This is one of the big amber ales in the city, and I really enjoy it, as it captures that perfect balance of malt and hop. Oso Bueno has Warrior hops, which are known for just the right hit of piney and resinous flavors, giving a little kick to an otherwise sweet and smooth malty beer. If No Label Ridgeback is my fall or winter cooler beer—the one I take with me to the tailgate—then Oso Bueno is my everyday fall or winter beer. Rating: 8.7

No Label Ridgeback Amber (10/31/19): I’ll be honest, I don’t drink many amber ales. If I want a solid, up-the-middle, “tastes-like-beer” beer, I’m probably drinking a bock or a brown ale. But No Label’s Ridgeback is very pleasant, even if it’s on the slightly sweeter side (by a hair) thanks to its caramel malt quality. If I need a fall or winter cooler beer, this might be my choice. Rating: 7.0

Barleywine / Oatwine

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 19 (1/31/19): Saint Arnold tried to capture the complexity of that deceptively simple oatmeal cookie in Divine Reserve series, No. 19. It pours a shimmering copper and gives off scents of oats, cinnamon, some raisins, a lingering bite of bitter chocolate, and just a touch of alcoholic heat. Immediately, it introduces itself as a slow sipper, preferably when it’s darker longer and good company is near. On the taste, I get more baking spices like allspice (the hop used is Perle, known for its spice character), hits of cherry and raisin, a good bit of caramel and other sugars, and even a hit of ginger. It reminds me of a spiced wafer, essentially a ginger snap (but oh, so much better). No. 19 is labeled a spiced oatwine, and that clearly shows with its sugary character. But clocking in at 10.4-percent ABV, it plays like a sneaky beer than an upfront boozefest. So be careful. Rating: 7.1

Belgian Strong Ale

Copperhead Athena (8/21/19): My first taste of Copperhead was Athena, a Belgian golden strong ale that’s available all the time at the taproom and comes in at 8.6-percent ABV. It’s boozier with subtle dryness, a lack of punchy hop flavor, and a slightly sweet yeast taste up front that doesn’t get treacly. It’s on point for the style while tweaking the rules just a bit. Without getting too far in the weeds: Seek this out, especially if you like Belgians. Athena is a big, balanced, beautiful little beer, and one of my favorite drinks in the area. Rating: 9.0

Eureka Heights Buenos Amigos (2/14/20): This Selena-inspired (at least the title) beer is a Belgian strong-aged in Añejo barrels for nearly a year. Because of the profile, I was imaging a boozier, warmer beer like a barleywine. But amazingly, it’s not as boozy and as sugary, though you can still get a lacing of tequila (and oak) underneath a fairly balanced character. At 12 percent, it’s a long sipper and might not be for everyone—sample it first before giving it a go. That said, this is a nice change of pace from Eureka Heights. Rating: 7.8

Bakfish All Y’all (4/25/19): This beer is labeled a “Texas golden ale,” which needs some defining. All Y’all is based primarily on the Belgian strong golden ale style, known for tricking drinkers into thinking they’re about to dive into a straight-up crisp, clean beer. These beers are typically colored like an Edison bulb hanging in a new American bistro, and when poured, they show tiny bubbles that rise to a creamy white head, but they’re sweeter, fruitier, and higher in alcoholic content than easy-drinking lagers. All Y’all isn’t gold, instead somewhere between gold and amber. It comes in at 6.5-percent ABV, which isn’t as high as typical Belgian strong golden ales, but isn’t low enough to be a summer session beer. Bakfish claims aromas of banana and pear with a honeyed malt base and a fruity Belgian yeast strain. I get a touch of the pear on the nose, and I really get the honey, with that yeasty sweetness, with little to no bitterness in the mouth. It’s a little too sugary, to be honest. In short, it’s an acceptably drinkable variation of a style that doesn’t get a whole lot of play around these parts. Rating: 5.9

Blonde Ale

Southern Star Bombshell Blonde (9/25/19): This is one of the better blonde ales I’ve ever had. It’s made with Vienna malts, and not too many hops, so it’s not very sweet or heavy as much as it is smooth and well-rounded. That’s key, as you want something lighter that doesn’t make you work too hard to enjoy. A good beer, especially when it’s still warm out there. Rating: 8.1

Buffalo Bayou Dreamsicle (11/14/19): As always, Buffalo Bayou isn’t afraid to take risks (okay, no milkshake beers or anything here, but still). Dreamsicle promises a creamy orange flavor laced in an easy-drinking blonde ale. What’s true: Dreamsicle is easy drinking, and the flavors are about right here, but the malts here (Pilsner, Light Munich) seem to stick out too much and clash with what should be a cleaner beer. Maybe I would’ve liked to see Valencia oranges used in a beer with some vanilla. Maybe a low-alcohol porter? Creamsicle is fine, but it’s down a few tiers in my easy-drinking ranks. Rating: 6.1

Blonde Lager

Copperhead Bite Me (8/21/19): Bite Me is Copperhead’s “accessible” beer, a 5.2-percent ABV blonde lager. Says the brewery: “If we were going to brew a lager, it had to be perfectly balanced and full flavored.” I’m not even sure it’s necessary. Bite Me is one of those beers that I define as “a beer.” You’ll taste the sweet cracker-flavored malt profile, a bit of hop hit from Czech Saaz and German Herkules varieties, and a relatively clean finish. It’s a decent lager, and I’ve had a lot of beers like it. Rating: 6.2


Karbach Crawford Bock (3/6/2019): The can is pretty. It looks great in the fridge, and it stands out to anyone wanting a beer to pair with a ballgame. Crack one open and whiff a biscuity, buttery scent coming from a big dose of malts—2 Row, Munich, Medium Crystal, Black Malt. Hops are Chinook and Cascade, though I wonder if they were simply used to bitter the beer, because the sweetness of the malts overpowers. Crawford Bock reminds me a lot of an old-school lager like Yuengling. I’ve never tasted Michelob Amber Bock, but I wonder how close these two are to one another. Rating: 4.5

Brown Ale

Lone Pint Gentleman’s Relish (10/10/19 – NITRO): This was a bit darker and creamier than the non-nitro version. And since it’s the nitro, it’s hard to judge the beer as it was originally intended, but I liked the beer’s roasted chocolate and coffee tones. Its body (taking out the nitrogen effect as much as possible) certainly reminded me more of a stout than a brown ale, which to me is more nutty and caramel forward; however, the maltiness died off quickly. Whether or not it’s on nitro, Gentleman’s Relish makes for a nice cold-weather sipper, but it’s not a beer I’d immediately seek out. Rating: 6.0

Cream Ale

Eureka Heights Buckle Bunny (4/25/19): Cream ales are brewed like any other beer, using pilsner malt or some other lighter malt varietal, but could incorporate non-traditional, un-malted grains, or adjuncts, like corn or rice. Cream ales won’t have big hops; instead, you’re looking for a combination of dryness, breadiness, and sweetness (mostly on scent), boosted by tons of carbonation. There are two ubiquitous Houston cream ales: 8th Wonder’s Dome Faux’m and Eureka Heights’s Buckle Bunny, brewed with 2-Row and carafoam malt (which is close to a pilsner malt and helps with strengthening the beer’s body), plus flaked maize. Hops are Magnum and Willamette; the former is a clean bittering hop, while the latter is more floral, helping boost the beer’s scent. Thus, Buckle Bunny is attempting to be pretty on target with the traditional definition of a cream ale. Coming in at 4.5-percent ABV with low hop strength, it’s designed to be consumed more than once per afternoon. That’s what I like about Buckle Bunny—I can enjoy two or three of them over a long afternoon and never think twice about what’s going on in the beer. It’s pleasant, what a beer should be, down to its bones. Maybe it can be a little more nuanced (for instance, I don’t get much more on the nose than the sweetness of the corn and some bready maltiness), but if I wanted a beer to get me through, say, a day at the yard (front or baseball), I’ll choose this. Rating: 7.7

8th Wonder Dome Fauxm (7/3/19): I don’t have memories of summer nights in the Astrodome, but I do have memories of summer nights in the even-worse Veterans Stadium of Philadelphia, where beleaguered Phillies teams annually limped to September, tethered to the National League basement. Sipping a Dome Faux’m doesn’t exactly transport me to the days of Von Hayes, Jeff Parrett, and Don Carman, but it does make me feel relaxed enough when the weather is searing hot. Dome Faux’m emphasizes its hops more than Buckle Bunny, resulting in a slightly more bitter beer, but it’s still relatively light with the right malty characteristics that make it a well-rounded drink. I probably prefer Buckle Bunny to this by a hair, but you honestly can’t go wrong with either. Rating: 7.1


Holler ESB (2/13/19): ESB can mean a couple things (Extra Special Bitter or English Strong Bitter), but it really just means a malty and sweet beer with a bitter finish, popular in British pubs but also strong enough to withstand being exported into other locations. Generally I want a good sipper with a little backbone and malted sweetness. Holler’s ESB, which has been around for more than two years, is exactly that. It recreates the style with a biscuity aroma, and caramel and bread taste whose bitterness lingers a bit. When I was at Holler, it also had an ESB in cask, which for the drinker means lower carbonation and a rounder flavor. Here the subtle floral notes of the beer come out; while I’m not a big cask guy (mostly because my experience is overwhelmingly non-cask), I found an appreciation for the gentle nature of the ESB this way. Rating: 8.7


True Anomaly Small Giant (3/21/19): For those unaware of the grisette style, it’s a Belgian beer made for laborers. It’s not unlike a saison, but instead it’s brewed with malted wheat, giving it a stronger body. Grisettes are lower in alcohol and refreshing, and have been trending a bit in the American craft scene (mostly at breweries specializing in farm styles and Belgians). Essentially, it’s a lighter beer with a pleasing wheat and lemony entrance. Soon the maltiness kicks in, tasting like a sweet bread, before it stops cold and dries out. Grisettes were brewed to refresh Belgian miners, and tasting Small Giant, you can understand its purpose. It doesn’t linger, doesn’t make any big statements, just hits the right notes all the way through. Rating: 7.9


No Label El Hefe (5/7/19): Reviews of El Hefe (on various beer review websites) are all over the place, but the average call is that it showcases that bubblegum and banana tone but then falls off the cliff, a far-too “clean” and dry beer for a style that should be roundly socking you with beautiful sugary notes. Some reviews have been outright angry. I won’t be angry, but I’ll say that El Hefe certainly lacks the depth necessary to be a go-to hefeweizen. Faint banana and bubblegum on the nose, and it’s the same up front when you taste it, but then it just washes away. Nothing remains, as if it’s a crisp lager. I really want a lot more out of it. Rating: 4.6


Saint Arnold Double Art Car (1/10/20): This is a big move by Saint Arnold, taking arguably its most popular beer and offering a new expression (a.k.a. more malts and a Citra punch to match). Art Car is a fantastic beer, and Double amps up the tropical notes with a heavier smack of bitterness. Citra obviously is overdone to this point, but Saint Arnold wisely keeps its impact low enough; moreover, I’m so glad the brewery declined to go hazy here—no need to be cute. While drinking Double Art Car, I couldn’t help but think about Sixpoint Resin, an everyday double IPA if there ever was. Sadly Double won’t be around all the time, but if Saint Arnold changes its mind, it could have a Texas version of Resin on its hands, an everyday DIPA fit for any beer fridge. Rating: 9.5

Spindletap Diamonds in My Mouth (1/2/19): Diamonds is considered a double IPA, which I like as it hides its true nature. But pour it into a glass and get a glimpse of a hazy yellow-orange drink that resembles orange juice. With mango and pineapple on the nose, its scent matches its look. And its taste is sublime. A brilliant explosion of tropical flavors, plus a bit of citrus, blends with a moderate hop quality. This was brewed with Citra (of course), plus Mosaic, and Galaxy, and there’s a smoothness to the combination while still offering a little dankness. It ends creamy and bright with little heat. It’s tremendous. Rating: 9.5

Spindletap Hops Drop IPA (9/11/20): I happily found some Hops Drop while grocery shopping recently. Like with Spindletap’s over hoppy beers, Hops Drop—dry-hopped with Citra, El Dorado, and Motueka—never burns. It offers a pleasant, tropical scent and a complex taste with grapefruit, mango, and herbal notes. I easily drank this and craved more and more. Rating: 9.2

Lone Pint Yellow Rose (5/22/19): Yellow Rose, called a “smash” IPA because of its single malt (pilsner) and single hop (Mosaic) profile, is extremely balanced. I get a bitterness with mango, pine, and grapefruit, just as much as I get a smooth, crisp malt backbone, and an effervescent sweetness that’s definitely more than just the Mosaic hops. It’s one thing to throw a bunch of hops into the tank and dry-hop repeatedly, but I can’t get enough of the skill it takes to fine tune a beer to this kind of outstanding balance. That balance is what separates Yellow Rose from most IPAs in Texas. And while it’s not quite on the level of national classics like Sierra Nevada IPA, Stone IPA, and Dogfish Head 60 and 90 Minute, it belongs near the top of Texas’ beer chain. Maybe, as the scene grows ever larger and distinguishes itself, we’ll look at Yellow Rose as an important milestone. Refreshing, surprising, citrusy, boldly different: This feels like what Texas IPA should taste like. Rating: 9.2

Saint Arnold Art Car (9/11/19): I haven’t yet reviewed Art Car, and it’s not like my words are going to add anything illuminating to the experience of drinking one of these. It isn’t overly bitter or sweet, bridging citrus flavor (one dry hop of mild Amarillo, Mosaic, and Simcoe) with moderate hoppiness (Cascade, Columbus, Simcoe) and a strong backbone (three kinds of malted barley). It’s one of the most balanced, thoroughly enjoyable and down-the-middle American IPAs I’ve ever had, and it’s my go-to in a lot of occasions. And it’s a testament to the fact that a beer doesn’t have to be sexy or trendy to be outstanding. Rating: 9.0

Baa Baa Brewhouse Woolter White (9/18/19): Often when folks attempt to break new ground in the hazy IPA game, they opt to up the hop count, creating the dankest, most aggressive beers on the planet. The problem with this is most of these brewers can’t nail the nuance and balance necessary to make something people, you know, want to drink. Woolter White (beautiful play on words here) is different, instead leaning hard on the citrus profile of the East Coast IPA, turning it into something more like a Belgian white ale. The good thing? The balance remains. Subtle hoppiness and beautiful rounded malt flavor bring out the best in this fruity beer. It’s a real winner. Rating: 8.9

Baileson Juice Box Hero (1/24/20): It had been a while between Baileson visits, but during a recent trip I grew really impressed with the beer coming out of the tap. Juice Box Hero is an unapologetic New England IPA at 8.3-percent ABV with hazy and booming tropical flavors, more so than most NEIPAs I’ve had in town. That’s thanks to an addition of mangoes and peaches during secondary fermentation, as yeast continues to eat the sugars. Atypical hops from Oceania (Ella, Rakau) plus Amarillo gives this a rounded fruity taste. I’ll come back for this one anytime. Rating: 8.8

Saint Arnold Texas Winter IPA (1/10/20): This IPA is loaded with Texas-sourced grapefruit. Also here: a dry-hopping of Galaxy and a pile-up of tropical and citrusy hops in the boil: Columbus, Simcoe, Cascade, and more Galaxy. That hop profile really shines here, with a big, bitter punch at the top and a nice grapefruit flavor lingering on the way out. It’s seriously enjoyable, bigger than I expected, and a perfect foil for your sweeter, more fruit-forward grapefruit IPAs of summer. Another big win for Saint Arnold. Rating: 8.7

Holler Good Clean Fun (9/4/19): Good Clean Fun is made with Citra (of course) and Nelson Sauvin, which is a major favorite of mine right now, offering big tropical bursts of flavor. But the secret ingredient is the not-so-popular Cashmere hop, which smooths the beer out just a little with an herbal punch. I really like this beer. Rating: 8.5

Astral EarthRise (8/7/19): EarthRise is a very down-the-middle IPA at 5.6-percent ABV that plays off the nuances of its hops. Made with Chinook and Columbus hops, it could be a piney, bitter spectacle that goes too far, but instead it’s refreshingly balanced, even creamy at one point. You might smell some grapefruit and grassiness, and the taste is easy and just hoppy enough. I could drink multiple. Rating: 8.4

No Label Squeeze & Twist (1/17/20): Ooh, citrus. It’s nice to have a tropical IPA that weighs in at less than 5-percent ABV. Squeeze & Twist packs in the heavy-hitter hops: Citra, Mosaic, Idaho 7, Amarillo, but the malt power is dialed back to create a punchier, more bitter, but less boozy beer. Proof that fruity and bitter can co-exist, and without haze, and with minor consequence. I’d order this if it’s on a tap list. Rating: 7.7

Texas Leaguer 2 Hopper Pale Ale (12/13/19): For those who aren’t aware, in baseball a two-hopper is a ground ball that takes a second (usually nefarious) bounce before getting to an infielder. Sometimes the two-hopper baffles the fielder into making an error. Thus, a two-hopper is a unique, strange little occurrence. This beer is also a unique, strange little occurrence. It’s called an Indian (sic) pale ale, and while there’s a grapefruit, hoppy scent up front, the taste is very balanced, even malty. It’s a nice version of a straight-up IPA, but the flavors on my second round are more pronounced. Maybe it’s not the most bitter, dank thing I’ve had, but for an anytime IPA, it really hits (like a crisp double in the gap). Rating: 7.7

Spindletap Houston Haze (3/27/19): Available year-round, both at the brewery and in grocery stores, Houston Haze is the little pink wonder that sets the bar for the city’s NEIPA scene. Haze is heavy on the Citra hops (giving it that tropical character) plus Galaxy hops, which come from Australia and have insane amounts of rich essential oils and are the key to flavor. Moreover, the beer is double-dry-hopped, meaning all those tropical, punchy, juicy flavors are even stronger because they’re not lost in the boil. But all that juice box flavor is tempered by the malty bones of its yeast, called London Ale III. That means it’s not the kind of fruity explosion that haze chasers dream of experiencing; instead, Houston Haze is a restrained, almost sessionable NEIPA that acts as a fine introduction for style newcomers. Rating: 7.6

Great Heights Fruity Pellets (7/24/19): It lacks that upfront fruity punch I crave with a New England IPA, and just misses that perfectly dank hop taste on the back end that borders on hop burn but never gets there. Here the hops aren’t so pushy. That’s fine—I’d rather NEIPAs be more nuanced than powerful because that’s when the burn comes, and then it’s tough to drink. Fruity Pellets is a perfectly down-the-middle NEIPA that maybe doesn’t go full-bore, but doesn’t necessarily need to. Essentially, this is the beer tired hop-loving parents drink when they want to drink beer. Rating: 7.5

Baa Baa Brewhouse SabroTage (9/18/19): Baa Baa loves its hazy IPAs, and this one (a 6.9-percent ABV IPA with Citra and Sabro hops and oats) is no exception. My biggest knock is the lack of a juicy punch, something that I still long for when drinking a lot of local New England IPA varieties. Still, the hop quality is good here, with a piney flavor most apparent. I’d call this a middle-of-the-pack NEIPA. Rating: 7.3

Karbach Light Circus (9/18/19): Introduced to coincide with Karbach’s spring festival Light Circus, and now available in stores and at the taproom, Light Circus is a hazy IPA at 6-percent ABV, meaning it should be lighter and more easily drinkable. And that it is. Instead of a dank burst of hops, or a very juicy experience, Light Circus tastes nuanced and careful. It’s a little floral, a little tropical, somewhat hoppy, but altogether easy to put down. Almost too quickly, actually. It’s a nice hazy IPA for when you may not want the big flavors and creamy finish. Rating: 7.3

Spindletap 5% Tint (6/26/19): At 5-percent ABV it’s a less potent beer on the very tippy top of what’s considered “sessionable,” at least in America (anything 5 percent and under). That means having two or three won’t ruin your day. It smells tropical, from orange to mango. And it tastes like it, too, but the tropical flavors fade quickly and sharply. It’s maybe a touch too sharp and too crisp. For some people that’s good—maybe you don’t want a beer whose hoppy taste lingers for a while—but I suppose I want just a touch more on the back end. Rating: 7.3

11 Below Hipster Sauce (3/13/19): Brewed with Mosaic, Amarillo, and Citra (the it-girl hop that every NEIPA seems to have), Hipster Sauce has a moderately hazy body and lightly juicy flavor. I love that it’s a complex combination of piney and tropical aromas, caramel sweetness, and refreshing hefeweizen spice (wheat malts really help here). It’s not trying to be a West Coast or New England—it’s kind of a loose collection of things that make an IPA good, and that’s unique and fun. Plus, it works in a can—the kind of beer that’s really nice to drink at home on a weekend afternoon. Rating: 7.2

Ingenious Hopwing (5/14/20): Ingenious, which leans in on superhero movies and science fiction, has a Game of Thrones-inspired New England IPA called Hopwing. It’s dry-hopped with Citra (naturally), plus Eureka and Cascade. It’s the Eureka hop that I really get here, combining with ever-strong Citra to deliver a more resinous taste that fills the back end. I feel like I’m missing some juiciness, but it’s creamy upfront (thanks to oats), and there’s plenty of mango, pineapple, and grapefruit on the nose to satisfy. Maybe not the most balanced New England IPA I’ve had—in my experience, Ingenious tends to lean bitter over juicy with its NEIPAs—but it’s absolutely enjoyable. After my palate accustomed itself to Hopwing’s aggressive flavor, I found myself craving it repeatedly. Rating: 7.2

Equal Parts/Sigma I Would Drink Me (2/7/20): I Would Drink Me seems to be a success, but with some hops you haven’t quite had around these parts: Sabro (a 2018 release from Hop Breeding Company) and HBC 472 (an experimental hop from the same company). Coconut and other island-style flavors were promised, and if I squinted I could get a little bit of that sweetness. More, though, the funky power of these wild and young hops seemed to blast right through. The super dank beer isn’t for the faint of heart, and while I’ve been enjoying my cans of it, I probably won’t turn back to it, as I’m not sure the nuances are fine enough. Still, I love that Sigma isn’t afraid to push themselves and not simply rely on well-worn hop styles. Rating: 7.0

Astral Kveik (8/7/19): This uses kveik—or a kind of Norwegian yeast cultures—which is pretty popular in beer circles. Kveik is a workhorse yeast that can operate in warmer fermentation temperatures and still eat tons of sugar to deliver a dry, clean beer. Astral fermented its Kveik beer in temps 20 degrees higher than usual, and the fermentation ended in two days, which is borderline outrageous. It was then dry-hopped with Australian Vic Secret hops. The result is a cloudy, yellow-golden beer that imparts citrus and grapefruit on the nose, and ends drier than expected. I wouldn’t go back to it repeatedly, but it’s a well-made beer that utilizes the yeast well. Rating: 6.9

City Acre TXPA (1/24/19): TXPA is straightforward, nothing too dank or malty. There’s a lingering tropical hop profile to it, plus a grassiness in the finish that cuts it cold. I wanted a little more backbone, but otherwise I felt TXPA was pretty darn sessionable. This was a beer that knew its place (5.3-percent IPA) and delivered its flavor in a clean, simple way. Rating: 6.8

Eureka Heights Embiggens (11/14/19): Here’s a beer that Eureka Heights created in honor of its Halloween transformation into the Duff Brewery. Certainly I’ve had some nice hazy offerings from Eureka Heights as of late, and this fits cleanly into the “if I find it in the wild, sure, I’ll have one” camp. Cooked with Galaxy and Idaho 7 hops (and I imagine there’s some dry-hopping going on here), Embiggens has a big, resinous first taste, like a punch to the face. But I’d love more tropical nuance. As it stands, this results in more of a hop bomb than it does a juice bomb. Good, but not essential. Rating: 6.8

Eureka Heights Palate Fatigue (1/9/19): Palate Fatigue is perfectly acceptable. If I’m in the market for a craft double that defines what we think of as a double IPA, this is a good choice. It doesn’t have the stalwart simplicity of my favorite go-to DIPA, Sixpoint Resin, but it’ll do just fine. But I wonder if a beer like Palate Fatigue might get lost in the shuffle. We love our hops, but that means every other beer in every taproom has Citra or Azacca or Simcoe. At what point do we just forget most of these DIPAs and NEIPAs and Session IPAs and Bruts that we’ve been drinking? Rating: 6.7

Buffalo Bayou More Cowbell (1/2/19): More Cowbell makes me think about what we want out of beer. We place labels on everything—double IPA, New England IPA, brut IPA—and while a select few correspond with a documented, official recipe, like with brut, brewers are open to interpret just about everything. Does the double IPA have to be one thing? When we taste a double IPA, does it have to be dank to meet our approval? Do we need to feel immediately knocked out of the chair, or can we think highly of a more balanced beer that creeps up on us? Can a double have a deeper malt profile? As long as it follows the general rules of an IPA and hits the acceptable range of ABV, isn’t that enough? Well, it comes down to taste, and I suppose, if anything, it means More Cowbell is a good beer that isn’t what you’d expect from a double IPA. And that’s totally cool. Rating: 6.7

Platypus Kiss My Piney (1/10/20): At 7.6-percent ABV, this winter IPA is arguably a double, and it certainly tastes like it, with a big blitz of resin and pine. That’s thanks to generous amounts of Simcoe (which can bring out a smoky grass flavor) and Denali and Zythos (both have pine flavors deep in the mix). What’s unfortunate is it’s too strong, and I can’t quite get a handle on sweetness. I imagine that Kiss My Piney would make a great pairing for spicy foods, so keep that in mind when you’re at Platypus, which has a full kitchen. Rating: 6.6

B-52 Wheez The Shake [MILKSHAKE IPA] (4/10/19): B-52, which conditions non-traditional ingredients in a bunch of sour and farmhouse beers, also has a milkshake beer called Wheez The Shake. Basically the brewery takes its IPA Wheez The Juice (a New England IPA brewed with oats, plus Citra and Mosaic hops) and conditions it on a ton of vanilla. At 5.5-percent ABV, it dials back on the alcohol while turning up the creaminess. That, plus the vanilla, is what you get right off the bat here, as if someone poured an IPA atop some vanilla ice cream. It can be jarring and isn’t for everyone, which has to be taken into account. And because of this, I nearly found myself regretting purchasing a full four-pack, but then I kept drinking and warmed up to it a bit more. The hops start to shine, the flavors start to balance out, and, ultimately, Wheez is a pretty decent attempt at a creamier, smoother, sweeter, hazy IPA. Rating: 6.5

True Anomaly Haze Dust (10/24/19): Between its wild fermentation work, its complex and balanced Belgians, and its nuanced pales, True Anomaly is raising the bar for beer sophistication in the city. One of its latest, a New England IPA called Haze Dust, doesn’t quite reach the heights that I’ve experienced previously with them, but it’s still drinkable. A bit too dank (closing in on hop burn), Haze Dust feels more like a shameless attempt to go big on hops, and at 8.2-percent ABV, big on alcohol. I love how True Anomaly is able to make even the most singular of beer styles taste multi-faceted, but this is a little more simplistic. Rating: 6.4

Eureka Heights New Year New Me (2/14/20): From Eureka Heights, we get this hazy double IPA with Azacca, Galaxy, and Vic Secret hops. This is more of an Oceanic IPA (Galaxy and Vic Secret are Australian) that blends tropical notes with a big bitter bite and plentiful carbonation. It’s not my favorite Eureka Heights hazy offering, surprisingly more of a chore to drink than I expected. Rating: 6.3

Southern Star Conspiracy Theory (11/21/19): The Conroe brewery’s attempt at a straightforward, West-Coast-leaning IPA pushes Washington-based Amarillo and Simcoe hops, and both are very evident here. The former can be pretty acidic, while the latter is one of the stronger bittering hops that brings out a piney flavor; together, they overwhelm a diverse mix of malts. The good news is it’s not too dank or hot; in fact, for a major hop-head this could be a pleasant afternoon beer. I want a little more nuance, however, so I’d ultimately drop this into a latter tier of West Coast IPAs. Your grade may vary. Rating: 6.2

Brazos Valley The Road Goes on Forever (4/3/19): The Road Goes on Forever promises fruity notes (orange, grapefruit, melon), and on the nose I certainly got that, with grapefruit overpowering. It poured a cloudier golden tint, so I couldn’t mistake this for a New England IPA. This is a basic IPA at 6.8-percent ABV with fruity notes. Brazos Valley uses Amarillo and Comet hops in The Road Goes on Forever; the former is great for bringing out the grapefruit and citrus scent, while the latter is used for bittering. I’m not sure how much Comet was used, but I wanted a far more bitter experience. It was all fruit up front and little body. The fruit lingered beyond the initial taste with no dryness. Rating: 5.8

Southern Star Subatomico (11/21/19): This is advertised as a juicy IPA (read: not a hazy or a New England IPA), but I’ll be honest, I’m not getting IPA. I’m not really getting juice, either, unless that slight bit of citrus I grab at the top counts. Southern Star should call this a session pale ale, because the moment you call a beer a style, you expect that style. Very little hoppiness, plus sweet smell and light, grassy taste with a dry finish. A backyard beer and not at all a juicy IPA. Rating: 5.6


Great Heights Lager-ish (4/30/19): Brewed like an ale but conditioned like a lager, the style of kolsch has a lot going on but comes off pretty effortlessly. It has a slightly sweet, fruity taste, and yet drinks crisp and clean with little to no bitterness. You can have multiple on a warm day. Lager-ish stays relatively true to the defined style of kolsch, though there are a few tweaks along the way. In the end, it’s like a lot of Great Heights’s offerings: easy to drink and not taking itself too seriously. Settling gold with a moderate white head, it looks like a lager and, moreover, a welcoming treat on a summer day. The aggressiveness continues after tasting it, as Lager-ish is malty up front with just a bit of a biscuity, bready backbone. Hints of lemon, or at least something acidic, come through, too, which is a fun discovery. No bitterness here, which I’m not missing. Rating: 6.1  

Marzen / Oktoberfest

Southern Star Oktoberfest (9/4/19): Oktoberfest beers are malt-forward with caramel sweetness, balanced with German or Czech hops that give off a spicier, herbal flavor. Southern Star’s version comes seasonally and includes the herbal Perle hop, plus three different types of malt. It leans sweet but also carries a fine roasted, nutty character. It’s deceptively light (6.3-percent ABV) and easy to drink. While not a groundbreaker, it’s a very solid offering, and a perfect accompaniment for the beginning of patio season. Prost! Rating: 7.4

Saint Arnold Oktoberfest (9/11/20): It’s brewed with three kinds of malted barley (not unusual for this style), and you can taste that caramel sweetness along with a hefty body with a bread-forward flavor. It’s also low on hops (again, per the style), but what’s there are two noble hops (meaning they’re traditional German/Czech varieties). One slight knock: It’s another deceptive Oktoberfest, coming in at 6.6-percent ABV. I like big boozy beers, sure, but I guess I’d rather my Oktoberfest beers not sneak up behind me. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking some home. Rating: 7.2

Saint Arnold Guten Tag (10/24/19): Guten Tag reminds me of my days playing Wolfenstein 3-D. It’s considered a Bavarian-style lager, promising breadiness and toastiness from its higher malt quantity. Certainly, those characteristics are there, while upon first taste Guten Tag lacks hoppiness in favor of smooth sweetness. It’s a close cousin to an Oktoberfest beer, just a little cleaner, and while I like it, I can see it getting lost in the shuffle to similar amber-colored beers. A key as to how you should enjoy it: There’s a soft pretzel cartoon on the beer label. Rating: 6.8

11 Below Oktoberfest (9/18/19): There’s big caramel scent off the top, and it’s heavily malted and sweet going down, with a dry finish. I’m a little down on this one because of the sweetness—while it’s appropriate for the märzen style to lean treacly (especially if this is following an Austrian recipe, which favors high caramel tones), I really wanted to get a hint of another flavor (whether floral hops or nutty roasted malts). I imagine some folks might want a sweeter, more warming Oktoberfest experience, so this would work perfectly. Me? I’ll probably stick to the more balanced, slightly nutty Southern Star offering. Rating: 5.9

Mexican Lager

Platypus Olé Chit (1/16/19): There’s just one hop here, Saaz, which is typical in Czech pilsners. And Platypus also puts corn in the wort, which adds a sweetness to the heavily pilsner malt texture. So what I get is a refreshing, golden beer with a small bite and … what’s that … lime? There’s a twinge of citrus up front, not even counting the wedge the bartender places on the glass rim. I have to say, I have a soft spot for Mexican lagers, and this isn’t a bad try at it. I adore the lime character and light breadiness. I could drink two or three of these, though with the 6-percent ABV maybe two is enough. Rating: 7.0


Eureka Heights Wow Factor (7/17/19): It boasts the backbone of a traditional German pilsner—crisp and clean, cold and smooth—with a little something extra: a citrusy blast from Mandarina Bavaria hops. You can smell the orange up front, and while it’s not the cleanest pilsner I’ve ever tasted, it’s pretty smooth. As the sip ends, I get that little twist of citrus, which more or less blends in with the malts. The more beer I have from Eureka Heights, the more I’m impressed with the brewery’s consistency. It’s an excellent pound-for-pound brewery, never overreaching but always delivering on traditional styles, while offering just a little character each time out. Wow Factor finds a way to stand out in the pilsner category. Another good summer beer from the Heights brewery. Rating: 7.4

Holler Dollar Pils Y’all (9/4/19): This is a German pilsner, which means a little deeper hop profile, though there should still be noticeable maltiness and a crisp, clean finish. My favorite all-time German pilsner is Palatine Pils from Suarez Family Brewing in New York, an extremely balanced beer that’s incredibly flavorful and cleaner than a freshly-Roomba’d living room. Dollar Pils Y’all isn’t quite that, but it carries all the right elements. If you want a simple backyard beer with a spicy hop quality (from Hallertau hops, I believe), this is yours to enjoy. Rating: 7.0 


8th Wonder’s Viet-Irish Coffee (2/7/20): Take Rocket Fuel, arguably 8th Wonder’s best beer, turn it into an imperial, then put it in Jameson whiskey casks. The result: a killer beer. Part of the Jameson Caskmates series, Viet-Irish Coffee was released in bottles—the first ever 8th Wonder bottling—on January 25, 2020. You’ll want to buy two and store one. Like Rocket Fuel, the cafe sua sa taste is strong, but goodness this beer is smooth. Thank the lactose addition for that. A hint of oak rounds it out, completing one of the best sips you’ll have this winter. It’s a treat to drink. Rating: 9.1

Equal Parts/Sigma Murry Chrimmus 2019 (2/7/20): It’s fast becoming a tradition for me to have at least one good serving of Murry Chrimmus, the brewery’s imperial porter aged on cacao nibs and Vietnamese cinnamon. Intended to be a 12-percent ABV mix of chocolate, spice, and heavy malt, it delivers. With all the variables swirling in the mix, this beer is able to balance everything out quite well. Great warm, wintry hit with a beautiful backbone that leaves you wanting more. One of the better imperial darks in Houston. Buy a couple and store ’em for future celebrations. Rating: 8.9

Equal Parts/Sigma Murry Fuggin Chrimmus 2018 (12/19/18): MFC’s chocolate notes are right on top. I’m wondering if chocolate malt was used in the porter brew, because it’s a strong, almost dark chocolate aroma. I also got plenty of that sweet rum barrel scent, drawing me closer to the near-black beer. The rum barrel informs the taste of the beer, as well, along with the rye barrel. Those finishes supply a boozy punch up front, and when that begins to fade, the complexity of Murry Chrimmus comes out. Cinnamon shines over a subtle chocolate taste. Good malt flavor hangs with it, letting the beer fade out and not kick you overboard. In fact, the finish is even a bit creamy. This beer is seriously well rounded. Rating: 8.7

Saint Arnold French Press (12/12/18): Saint Arnold uses an espresso blend from Java Pura for this beer—the same espresso used in the previous Icon Blue and Bishop’s Barrel No. 14—promising “a balanced roast bitterness and mild sweetness.” At 9.4 percent ABV, it’s labeled imperial. But it doesn’t taste at all like a 9-percent beer, letting simplicity shine throughout the experience. The chocolate is more on the nose than the mouth, which relives me a bit, as early sips had the bitter coffee right up front. That faded pretty well and gave way to a more sturdy, roasted malt backbone. The hops even flourished, too, bringing some boozy heat at the tail end. There seems to be a lot of restraint in this beer, which is appreciated. It tastes like the kind of workhorse big coffee beer that only an experienced, thoughtful brewmaster can concoct. Rating: 8.2

8th Wonder’s Rocket Fuel (10/10/19): Here’s 8th Wonder’s famous porter made with cafe sua da, courtesy Greenway Coffee. First off, it’s an ingenious beer concept, pulling in Houston’s strong Vietnamese culture. Second, it’s nice to have a relatively iconic porter in town. That said, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a fan of coffee, and especially strong and sweet (thanks to condensed milk) Vietnamese coffee, you’ll have a hard time with Rocket Fuel, as it really amplifies the defining characteristics of the beverage. But that’s the point: This is exactly what I’d want if I’m combining cafe sua da and beer. It’s well executed and a perfect dessert (or kegs-and-eggs) beer, but I’ll be honest, I can’t have more than maybe one-and-a-half at a time. Rating: 8.1

Walking Stick Massive Brown Porter (2/6/19): Don’t be fooled by the name—this isn’t a high-ABV bomb, but it’s named for one of those 14ers in Colorado (Mount Massive is 14,428 feet high). Massive has just a 5.4-percent ABV, but within that is a punch of toasted malt flavor. As that subsides it lacks a heavy base, leaning a little too yeasty, but if anything the balance is thrown off slightly. I’d definitely get this in a pitcher (or growler, as Walking Stick does $20 fills) and share with friends. It’s easy to drink, has good flavors, and is a nice representation of the mild British porter style. Rating: 7.4 

Baileson Stone Temple Porter (1/24/20): This porter is named after the most underrated band of the ’90s post-grunge movement. It uses cacao nibs from Tejas Chocolate & BBQ, so right off the bat you’re getting a nice aroma and deep taste of smoke, though I wish there was more sweet chocolate up front. Nonetheless, this is a very drinkable porter with a solid malty backbone. Rating: 7.1

Galveston Island Brewing Co. Pit Pat Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (12/13/19): Oh, the chocolate peanut butter beer. We went there with Saloon Door, and its Ridiculous AF is a winner, thanks to its complex, balanced flavor that accentuates but never overpowers. This attempt from Galveston Island is a funny alternative to that one. The smell is big peanut butter and coffee, but going down, it thins out with the bitter tang of a baking chocolate and just a streak of nutty flavor. Not sweet or dessert-like at all. It’s as if Galveston Island is drawing you in with buzzwords and turning heel as soon as you have a taste. Is that what I want out of a chocolate peanut butter beer? Not necessarily, but I dig the execution in creating a drinkable beer that gives you the impression of what’s on the label. If you’re scared of sweet but want the flavor hit on the nose, get this, but if you want a sweet-as-heck chocolate PB beer, get Ridiculous AF. Rating: 6.6

Platypus Stars at Night (8/14/19): Let’s stay with the dark stuff and talk about Platypus’ porter Stars at Night, a very down-the-middle beer with medium-roasted malt taste, some acidity, and chocolaty smoothness toward the end of the sip. It’s nice having a few of these at home to offer to folks who are new to darker beers, as the lighter body and flavor profile makes it an easy introduction to porters. Rating: 6.4

Pumpkin / Fall Spice

Saint Arnold Pumpkinator 2019 (10/31/19 – CASK): Most of the pumpkin stuff you like is really all about the spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, etc.). Pumpkinator is warming and tingly with a sweet maltiness. Like in 2018, it would really benefit from some aging, but nonetheless, it’s a good beer for when the weather is cold. Rating: 7.7

Southern Star Cygourd (9/25/19): When you taste a pumpkin beer, chances are you’re actually tasting nutmeg, cinnamon, and other baking spices that we most identify with pumpkins and fall. Generally, that will be front and center, but there should also be a malty taste—sweet and roasted, hopefully—along with a starchy finish from gourds used in the cook (whether pumpkin or other gourds, or even puree). So for me, a pumpkin beer is more like a “fall spice” beer. All this is to say, Southern Star hits all the notes with Cygourd. You’ll get nutmeg and cinnamon, caramel, and cracker (from the nicely balanced malts—not too sweet, not too roasted). After the initial hit, the beer rounds off with breadiness and starch. It’s not very adventurous, but it’s a nice sipper that I’d be glad to have as my baseline fall spice beer. Rating: 6.7


Saint Arnold 25th Anniversary Grand Cru (5/29/19): The beer combines three Saint Arnold recipes, made and aged in bourbon barrels. The combination: Belgian-style quadrupel (50 percent of the beer), which brings in a fruitier flavor; Russian imperial stout (25 percent of the beer), which adds notes of roasted malt and chocolate; and English-style barleywine (25 percent of the beer), which supplies a sugary caramel flavor and sufficiently boozy taste. Combining multiple styles can make for a strange taste, but to this day, and including the Grand Cru, I’ve yet to find a Saint Arnold beer that stumps me. Brock Wagner’s crew nails its flavor profiles without fail, delivering suds that are easy to drink. It’s not as sweet as a traditional barleywine, not as malty as a traditional stout, and not as estery as a traditional quad. It is boozy, though, and a fun trip that often changes in taste from sip to sip. Rating: 8.6

Red Ale / Irish

Karbach Yule Shoot Your Eye Out (12/5/18): The Karbach Christmas beer is brewed with candied orange peel, which is supposed to add sugary and bitter citrus elements to an otherwise lightly biscuity, toasty ale with a strong amber hue. I only detected a faint hint of the orange, and it would’ve been nice to get a little more zip out of it. I like the biscuity profile, though I longed for a more complex flavor, as it came and went pretty quickly. It’s not what I’d immediately consider a Christmas seasonal, but Yule Shoot Your Eye Out recalls a fresh baked batch of Christmas cookies. It’s a nice changeup from the big, bold, and spiced. And it’s one December beer non-beer drinkers could get into. Rating: 6.0


Saloon Door Ridiculous AF (7/10/19): Ridiculous AF is a Russian imperial stout with peanut butter and chocolate, a boozy step up from its Tasty AF (a non-imperial stout with peanut butter and chocolate). Essentially, this is a big, dark, alcoholic beverage (12-percent ABV) with a peanut butter and chocolate profile. Stouts are simple (though still hard to make). Chocolate stouts can be tricky to master. Imperial stouts with chocolate are even more challenging. Then adding peanut butter? You can see how it can go off the rails. But Ridiculous AF doesn’t go off the rails, delighting me with a malty backbone and the perfect amount of rich, bitter chocolate and smooth, sweet peanut butter flavor that fades until the beer dries. It’s great. Rating: 9.0 

Brash Abide (8/14/19): Abide is a white-Russian-flavored Russian imperial stout, obviously in honor of The Big Lebowski. I get roasted coffee notes, sweet vanilla, and a touch of chocolate, along with heavy booziness. I’d imagine telling someone you’ve made a white Russian beer would result in some funny looks, but this strikes the right balance between milky cocktail and malty stout. I’d love to try this after aging it a bit, or maybe with dessert. There’s huge potential here. Rating: 8.5

11 Below Negative Space (12/13/19): I can’t believe this special-release imperial milk stout is a 9.5-percent ABV beer. I also can’t believe it’s a milk stout. This is a malt-forward, slightly bitter chocolate stout with a hint of cinnamon and even lighter hint of heat on the back end (it’s aged on cacao nibs, cinnamon, and ancho chiles). It’s layered, balanced, and easy to drink. Part of me wishes it had more power, but I can’t fault a beer that you want to go back to over and over again, simply because it’s a good beer. Rating: 8.4

Southern Star Buried Hatchet (11/28/18): A good, simple stout can be a backbone for a brewing scene, and Buried Hatchet reminds me of that workhorse stout. I get cocoa and caramel on the nose, and it tastes like a malty hug, round and warm, enhanced by flavors of toffee and sugary candy. I wouldn’t say it’s the smoothest beverage, as the heat hangs out for a while (some of that might be the Saphir hop, which is little more than window dressing), but I don’t mind an edge on a cool night. Rating: 7.3

Wee Heavy / Scotch Ale

Buffalo Bayou Smoke on the Bayou (11/14/19): This may be my favorite Buffalo Bayou beer. Charged up with a beautifully smoky scent—and taste—this scotch ale pours nearly pitch black, tastes robust, and has a subtle boozy kick, especially for a beer with an ABV at about 9 percent. What I love most about Smoke on the Bayou is that it doesn’t force the issue—this isn’t a sweet beer with high caramel content. It doesn’t burn you up with alcohol. And most of all, it has a hearty backbone that makes you want another. Smoke on the Bayou is perfect for cold weather, and I’m already dreaming of my next. A favorite. Rating: 9.0

Brash Spud (8/14/19): An on-again, off-again beer at Brash, Spud is a wee heavy, a malty and boozier style of beer created by Scots. It’s the kind of beer you drink if you want something dark and heavy on the alcohol without the creaminess or oak flavor that comes with, say, an imperial stout. Spud hits the right heavy notes, as it’s big on malt flavor, especially caramel. I had a little more trouble drinking it on a hot night inside the warm taproom, but that isn’t the beer’s fault. This is a good example of the style that I’d gladly come back to when it’s a bit cooler out there. Rating: 7.1

Weiss / Witbier

8th Wonder People’s Champ (7/31/19): People’s Champ the beer is a beverage whose short-lasting flavor is more befitting the career of a one-hit wonder white rapper like Snow rather than Paul Wall. It kind of tastes like snow, too. People’s Champ is a kristalweizen, a German style of wheat beer that’s basically a hefewiezen (banana, cloves) but cleaner and crisper (kind of like a pilsner). People’s Champ has a nice transparent, amber color and is light bodied, plus it has the banana and clove characteristics (but mostly on the nose), and while it’s “clean,” it’s actually devoid of flavor. It’s more watery than anything. Rating: 5.0

Winter Warmer

Platypus Woolly Jumper (1/24/20): I adore a good winter warmer, a cozy dark beer with a nice malt character and boozy finish. While not the best winter warmer I’ve had, it definitely hits the notes with a bit of molasses on the tongue, plus a boozy tweak at the end. Plenty of carbonation with it, which made this a little tougher to drink. Seeking smooth. Rating: 5.5

The following reviews are of beers not produced in the Houston area. If you spot them (some are available around here), you might want to get them: 

Hudson Valley Brewery

Hudson Valley King Wavy (NY, 12/5/19): I’ll be honest—I stored this write-up away because I had the beer a couple years ago, but it’s such an important beer. I first visited the warehouse-like Hudson Valley Brewery a few years ago and sampled everything. But King Wavy was a revelation, proving a beer could tilt so fruity (grapefruit, mango, pineapple) that it became part of a new style. Yes, it’s Citra and Simcoe, and yes, it’s classified as a New England, but King Wavy took Sloop Brewing’s Juice Bomb and furthered it another thousand yards. Rating: 10.0

Martin House Brewing

Martin House Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer (DFW, 2/14/20): This beer, from the Fort Worth brewery Martin House, came out in 2019 to huge buzz, and now you can find it at the grocery store. Martin House is known for making experimental fare like Pretzel Stout, but Sour Pickle is the one that got the brewery attention, at least across the state. I couldn’t get through my first can of it, but for some reason, the second went down easier and I started to understand the beer. It’s a sea-salt sour base, with pickle brine added, and for those who love sours and shandies, and can handle pickle juice, it’s a fun option. If you’re at all interested in drinking pickle juice with a hint of beer, go for it. If you’re like most people and don’t want to try it, you’re not missing anything. Rating: 5.5

Parish Brewing

Parish Ghost in the Machine (LA, 9/21/19): Ghost is a double at 8-percent ABV. Made with Citra hops, it gets called a New England IPA, but it really tastes more like a double, and if anything, something in between a hoppy double and a juicy New England. It actually reminds me more of Sixpoint’s Resin—my personal go-to beer back in New York and, sadly, not as good in a can here—carrying a perfect hop flavor. It’s piney, not overly dank, comes close to burning but never achieves it, and ultimately leaves one feeling pretty satisfied. Essentially, it’s a mad scientist’s test to see how far one can push a double IPA. This is probably as close to the edge as it gets. So yes, it’s a great hoppy beer. Best in the country? It’s up there. Have some around for when your beer-geek relatives or friends come visiting. Rating: 9.7

Parish Pure Tropics (LA, 1/17/20): Pure Tropics is one of the several beers you’ll find on shelves from this popular Broussard, Louisiana, brewery, and it’s easily recognizable by its flashy label and hilariously cloudy profile. Up front you’ll smell a fruit salad of grapefruit, pineapple, guava, and on and on. It tastes hoppier than that, at least at first, before a big fruit swing hits. This reminds me of the best New England IPAs I’ve ever had. Dry and tangy on the back. A real treat. And now I want Spindletap to go even further. Rating: 9.6

Parish Rêve (LA, 1/17/20): My wife isn’t a huge coffee stout person, but she loves Rêve, which is funny because it doesn’t hide the beans, sourced from Rêve Coffee Roasters in Lafayette, Louisiana. Bluntly, this is big coffee flavor, a superb dessert beer, and at 7.2-percent ABV, I’m so happy it exists. You don’t need bourbon-barrel aged or big boozy bombs to enjoy coffee and beer together. Parish is making some of the best beer in America right now. Outstanding. Rating: 9.6

Threes Brewing

Threes Logical Conclusion (NY, 12/5/19): Let’s get hazy. Threes, in Brooklyn, is highly regarded among East Coast beer freaks, and they make some delicious beverages. Logical Conclusion was hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic, and goes down surprisingly smooth for a New England going hard on some very obvious hops with dank potential. With NEIPAs I’m always looking for that “wow” moment when the tropical notes bowl me over—this doesn’t have it, but take that away, and this is a very solid second-tier offering. Rating: 8.1

Victory Brewing

Victory Dirtwolf (PA, 12/5/19): Victory’s double IPA Dirtwolf comes in at 8.7-percent ABV. It’s well-balanced and, despite its usage of Citra, somehow remains complex and not overpoweringly tropical. Plus, with a host of malts including pilsner and caramel, sweetness is elevated just enough to make this more of a well-rounded double. Really tasty. You can have two, but you also should have one if you can find it. A terrific IPA. Rating: 9.3

Victory Prima Pils (PA, 12/5/19): The Downingtown, Pennsylvania, brewery has been in my life for years. It’s most notable creation is Golden Monkey, arguably the most ubiquitous American-made Belgian tripel. That beer was one of the first to turn me onto Belgians, and for that I’ll be forever grateful, but these days I recognize the deep candied-sugar flavor in Monkey, rendering it a bit too sweet for my tastes. But then there’s Prima Pils, the brewery’s attempt at a German-style pilsner, and it’s one of the best mass-produced pils beers made in America. It’s sharper than you’d expect with herbal and citrus tones, thanks to an accentuated hop character. Also, it sneaks up on you despite a 5.3-percent ABV. Available throughout the East, it’s a great pils for parties. Rating: 8.7

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