Karbach Brewing Co.
2032 Karbach Street, Houston TX 77092
As mentioned in a couple reviews, I made a trip down to Texas a few weeks back. While I was down there mainly to visit family and friends, I couldn’t resist hitting up some Texas craft beer breweries along the way. I’ll be reviewing those brewery tours (which I’ll be calling “Brew Tours”) in the coming weeks. Today I will start with the first brewery I visited, Karbach Brewing Company.
It was a Friday and a hot one at that, turned out to be one of the hottest days on record in Houston, for that time of year. I had left Illinois in jeans, a long sleeved shirt and a jacket. I would be in shorts and a t-shirt for the entirety of my stay in Texas. I met up with my friend Hung around 2PM. I had initially wanted to go to the St. Arnold’s Tour. We both hadn’t eaten lunch, and a solid foundation of food is imperative before going on any brewery tour. As the St. Arnold’s tour had already started, it was not going to be doable. I asked Hung if he would mind going with me to the Karbach brewery tour that started at 4:30. He was more than willing. We found a Jason’s Deli less than a mile from Karbach and filled our bellies in preparation for the beer we would soon be consuming.
Karbach holds tastings on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30-7:30 PM, also on Saturdays from 12-3PM. You can go on a tour on Mondays and Thursdays at 6PM. On Fridays they offer two chances to take a tour, 5:15PM and 6:15PM. Saturdays you get two chances as well, 1pm and 2;15PM. They have a great atmosphere with large picnic tables, a bag toss station and rotating food trucks. The taps are situated outside and the lines can get long, but move very quickly. I made the mistake of getting a beer and immediately got back in line, thinking it would take awhile. Before I knew it I was at the taps again and had to chug down my beer so I could refill.
Hung and I arrived right at 4:30PM that Friday. The one downside to Karbach is that only street parking is available. I recommend showing up early so you don’t have to park too far away. We walked up to the admission table and were presented with two choices. We could pay $8 and get a 9oz tour glass, which you get to keep, and receive 4 beer tokens. 3 of the tokens are for the “classic” beers, which translates into the lower ABV brews. 1 token is a “specialty” which can be redeemed for their excellent Rodeo Clown DIPA, which sits at 9.5% ABV, or if you are lucky and its available one of their Cask or F.U.N. Series offerings. The second choice was to pay $12 and receive a 16oz tour glass, yours to keep, and receive only 2 “classic” tokens and 1 “speciality” token1. They are both great deals. As I like trying as many different beers as possible, I went with the 9oz tasting glass, giving me more tokens. I persuaded Hung to do the same.
While immediately making our way to the taps, I discovered that an extra token has found it’s way into my glass. The best part of going to a brewery tour with a friend is you can both get different beers and then taste each others. It doubles the number of beers you get to sample. Karbach happened to have 9 different beers on tap at this tasting, with my bonus token we would be able sample all 9, lucky us! Our first two beers were the Prickly Pear Wheat and the Port Spiral Oktoberfest Both are well made beers. We finished those and then filled our glasses with the Rodeo Clown and El Hopadillo Negro just in time for the 5:15PM tour.
Ellen, a volunteer, was our tour guide. She was both incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining throughout the entirety of the tour. She started off the tour by showing us the 30 gallon mash container, informing us that the spent grain is used by local farmers to feed cattle. She also let us know that the longer the hops are brewed the more bitter of a taste the beer will have. This room was quite warm and also cramped for the 25 people allowed per tour. She quickly moved us into a cooler room.
This is where all their F.U.N. Series beers are aged in various liquor barrels. They have Rum barrels, Bourbon barrels from Maker’s Mark, and even Merlot barrels that they have aged Rodeo Clown in. Ellen told us that the F.U.N. Series brews are “Destination Beers,” as in you want to be at your destination for the night when you drink them. They are all 10% ABV or higher. I look forward to making it down to Texas again so I can try out one of these F.U.N Series beers.
Ellen also provided us with a brief history of the brewery. Karbach was founded in 2011. The founders were originally distributors who introduced craft beers to the college station area back in the 80’s. They owned the building on Karbach street as part of their distribution network and started brewing in that building, hence the name of the brewery. They also liked the fact that Karbach happens to be the name of a small town in Bavaria. Never a bad thing for a brewery to have a German connection.
In Karbach’s first year, 2011, they produced 8,100 barrels of beer. They more than doubled that number in the following year, producing 19,000 barrels. In their 3rd year they were up to 30,000 barrels. They are currently expanding and building a new Brewery/Restaurant right next to their current location that will have a 60,000 barrel capacity. That is a nice snapshot of the exponential growth occurring in the craft beer world.
Karbach produces kegs, canned beers and bottled beers. The only beers they bottle are their F.U.N. Series brews, which come in the larger bomber bottle size. The rest of their brews they can, as it is more environmentally friendly and also prevents light pollution from effecting the beer. I’ve noticed the canning of beer instead of bottling, is a big trend with a lot of the newer Texas breweries.
After thanking Ellen for the great tour, we got in the tap line as our glasses were empty and we still had 5 more beers to try out. We had the Weisse Versa Wheat which we didn’t particularly enjoy. We had the Sympathy for the Lager which is a great session beer. Perfect to share at a tailgate party or really at any setting while watching a game. At this point Hung had to cut himself off as he was driving. I was forced to sample the remaining beers on my own, what a horrible sacrifice.
The Weekend Warrior and Hopadillo IPA were next up, both solid APAs and AIPAs respectively. I finished up the tasting with a Mother In Lager. Hung and I both agreed that the best beers we tasted were the Rodeo Clown DIPA, just a fantastically well made and well balance Double IPA and the Sympathy for the Lager. Karbach does a great job with the Lager styles and with the Pale Ales (APA, AIPA, DIPA, and Black IPA).
I highly recommend you try out a few of Karbach’s beers and the best way to do it is to hit up one of their Tastings and enjoy a Tour while you are at it. Karbach provides a great relaxed atmosphere that feels like a backyard grill party, where you can enjoy delicious beers and mingle with fellow beer aficionados. Don’t forget to bring your dog, just remember they can’t go on the tour with you.
- If you bring your own 16oz glass, you get a $1 off admission. You also get a $1 off admission if you bring a canned food good for donation. You can also pay by the glass, if you bring your own glass. $2 for 9oz “classic.” $3 for 9oz “specialty.” $4 for 16oz “classic.” $5 for 16oz “specialty.” $5 for 9oz F.U.N. Series when available ↩