Ever since I found out about Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company making plans to open In Houston, I have been following Rassul (the founder) and crew on their journey towards getting into production, securing the permits, and of course, taste testing some beer for them! I first spoke with Rassul back in June to get the story about the new brewery and his unique business model. He plans to have only two beers on the market at any given time; one flagship beer, the 1836 Copper Ale, and the other will be a frequently rotating one-off. Rassul spoke to a group of about 15 people last night at the brewery about not wanting to call these one-offs “seasonals”, as that implies a certain timing or certain style profile. Ryan Robertson, the brewmaster, was also on hand to explain his brewing processes, the “peculiar” ingredients they are using, and future beer plans.
We started off with their 1836 Copper Ale, their flagship beer. Not quite a session beer, at just under 6% ABV, but something you can definitely drink more than 1 of and not feel bad about it. It wasn’t too hoppy, had a nice balance between the malt and hop profiles, their version of a “light beer”. Truly a flagship, something you can drink year round.
As a special treat, there were four food stations set up at the brewery, each with a different dish that incorporated Buff beer in their dishes, or was inspired by the flavors of the beer. First up was Matt Schlabach (of the upcoming City Acre Brewpub) with his 1836 beer bread topped with beef, pork, garlic, and jalapeno sausage (steamed in some of his own beer), beer mustard and homemade sauerkraut. He also had some pickled green tomatoes to pair with the brat. I love anything pickled, so of course this was a winner for me. The sausage was flavorful and the beer bread was fresh and soft. The mustard and sauerkraut went very well with 1836, a nice refreshing beer to cut the acidity and spiciness of the mustard and sauerkraut.
Next we tried Buff Brew’s Hibiscus wit beer. They took a very traditional wit recipe and added Hibiscus flowers and fresh ground ginger. I loved the aroma, the beer smelled like funky Belgian beer with a tropical flair, almost like it was going to be a little sour (a girl can dream!). Even if it wasn’t sour, it had great flavor, especially as it warmed up a bit, really letting the nuanced ginger and hibiscus shine through the heavy yeast and spice flavors. To accompany the hibiscus wit, Monica Pope had prepared a pickled shrimp dish with shaved beets, tarator sauce, and walnut macaroon. The acidity of the pickled shrimp and sweetness of the macaroon paired very well with the citrus notes of the hibiscus wit.
After the wit, we moved on to a side-by-side of sorts. We tried a Belgian Dubbel that Ryan made, then the same base beer, but with Brettanomyces added in during the early stages of secondary fermentation. When I think of Dubbel’s, I think about malty, spicy and slightly sweet beers; this was the case for Buff’s dubbel, it had a nice dark fruit, figs and raisins, characteristic, but it was hardly sweet. The 9% ABV was hidden very well, which is important to me in judging a beers “drinkability”. They aren’t trying to brew the quintessential dubbel and honestly, it would be hard to put any beer up next to the big boys in this category: Rochefort 8, Westy 8, Maredsous, etc.
The interesting part was tasting the same beer that had the Brett added to it. It played very well with the dubbel, not surprisingly. The Brettanomyces didn’t add a funky flavor (yet, I imagine the longer this beer sits, the funkier it will become) but rather, almost a sweet, citrus note that made for an interesting play with the spices. I want to see this batch of beer develop in the next few months and try it again.
While trying both of the dubbels, I snacked on [more than 1] of Ryan Pera’s crostin’s. He used a Texas goat cheese, Revival Market lardo, autumn squash purèe and a Hibiscus wit gastrique. The squash’s sweet and spicy flavor paired very well with the soft goat cheese, and what doesn’t go well with pork fat?!
Last up was a desert made with my favorite Buff beer, their Gingerbread stout. Rebeccas Masson, or Sugar Fairy as she is known on twitter, made a syllabub ( a cross between a mousse and a pudding), topped with crème fraîche, spiced caramel sauce, crunchy pearls, sea salt and nutmeg. It was so decadent, but the spice and carbonation of the gingerbread stout helped cut through the sweetness of the syllabub. I’ve been fortunate to now have tried at least 3 small batches of the gingerbread stout, trying to pay attention to the minor tweaks that Ryan and Rassul keep telling me about. This version was a bit less sweet than the previous version that I loved, but the body was ramped up due to the sugar he substituted in this version. I really liked this version as well, but i missed the aroma of a gingerbread cookie from the last version that I adored so much. Then again, they aren’t brewing beers specifically for me!
Overall it was a great event, Rassul and Ryan are obviously passionate and experienced and they have a great support team over at the Black Sheep Agency. Aimee and Hannah did an amazing job turning a building under construction into a sweet little holiday set-up. Their business model is unique and I love to hear about their plans for being involved in the community. The location of the brewery is great as well, nestled in a sort of a half-residential, half-commercial part of town. The beers were excellent and I can’t wait to see their progress. The guys are waiting on a few more city inspections and installation of the brew house and fermenters, but hope to have beer on the market by the end of December, early January. Exciting times for craft beer in Houston, to say the least!
For a set of [better] photos, check out Ronnie Crocker’s blog, Beer, TX.