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The number of craft breweries in Houston has more than quadrupled in only five years
- Prior to 2013, the greater Houston area was home to just 12 craft breweries, totaling 174,795 sq. ft. of industrial (manufacturing/warehouse) space. Saint Arnold was the city’s first, opening in 1994 in a 30,000-sq.-ft. building (the brewery would later move to its current 90,000-sq.-ft. facility).
- Today that number stands at 52, according to Houston Beer Guide’s Brewery Map. That’s 41 new breweries in 5 years, or a 333% increase!
- Those 41 craft breweries added since 2013 total 344,487 sq. ft. of industrial space (with a small portion classified as retail space), representing nearly 200% growth in just five years!
- The city’s 52 craft breweries (as of this writing) total 506,295 sq. ft. of space. Citywide industrial inventory totals nearly 562 million sq. ft.
So what changed in Texas in 2013 that catalyzed such a dramatic growth swing? As part of several sweeping legislative updates, among the most significant was a new law allowing producers that held a brewpub license the ability to sell their beer to go, directly from the brewery to consumers, instead of having to rely solely on the three-tier distribution system.
This helped not only open up a new direct revenue stream for brewpubs—one that also enabled them to keep 100% of their revenue without having to cut in a middleman—but was also a huge win for the consumer, enabling beer lovers to access their favorite beer as freshly as possible instead of having to worry about whether a six-pack at the local store had been sitting on the shelf past its ideal consumption window.
Along with the law change, beer drinkers’ palates have also evolved and, quite simply, demand better quality than ever before. Given its size, Texas still has one of the lowest breweries per capita in the nation (currently ranking 46th per the Brewers Association’s most recent data) and so there is little concern about a bubble—if anything, there is a strong case to be made that cities in Texas are still wildly underserved, even with the greater Houston area’s rise in number of breweries. Consider that only 12 of the Greater Houston Area’s 52 craft breweries are inside the 610 loop, per Houston Beer Guide’s Brewery Map.
More recently, as the Houston beer scene has grown in size it has also matured, garnering both local and national buzz due in large part to the fact that Houston breweries have put their own spin on arguably the most popular style across the country—the New England Style India Pale Ale (NEIPA). The NEIPA substyle—beloved for showcasing huge tropical and fruit flavors with almost no bitterness on a soft, creamy, hazy unfiltered body that often resembles a glass of orange juice and can even taste like one—has represented a paradigm shift in craft beer. These deeply flavorful beers—which are almost always packaged in 16-oz cans—seldom make it to stores, which typically results in thirsty fans lining up outside breweries to buy cans the day these beers are packaged due to both their limited shelf lives and availability.
Among the Houston breweries leading the charge of the New England IPA—or Hazy IPA, as is sometimes preferred—are SpindleTap Brewery, B-52 Brewing in Conroe, Baa Baa Brewhouse in Brookshire, and Ingenious Brewing in Humble. Each brewery has developed well-respected anecdotal reputations for their unique and distinctive takes on the style, with the data to back their respective chops up as well. Per popular beer-rating mobile app Untappd, SpindleTap carries an average rating of an extremely robust 4.27 out of 5 for its hazy IPAs; Baa Baa a 4.1 out of 5; and B-52 and Ingenious each sit at a 4.0 out of 5; representing the top four marks among Houston breweries that have released five or more different new beers in the substyle in 2018.
And while their collective success hasn’t resulted in square footage expansions yet, SpindleTap—whose aptly-named Juiceton Double IPA (pictured on page 1) represented a watershed moment for the style and for local Houston beer—and Baa Baa Brewhouse have recently increased brewing capacity, adding new tanks and fermenters, underscoring a very healthy craft beer market in Houston today, and going forward.
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