09 Oct Southern Yankee Beer Company Opening This Weekend
Southern Yankee Beer Company Opening Sat. 10/13
Over 25 years of homebrewing experience – nothing brings this North Houston family together like beer
What You Need to Know Before You Visit Southern Yankee Beer Company
Price: $4+ per pour
Growlers, Crowlers: Crowlers one day?
Food: Food trucks pretty regularly
Most Popular Beer: Who’s Paul Pale Ale
Kids/Pets: Kids yes, pets once the side patio buildout is completed
Hours: Fri-Sat 12-12, Sun 12-9
Southern Yankee Beer Company Intro
There’s a really strong family dynamic here at Southern Yankee Beer Company, and their collaborative efforts have put a new meaning to mom-n-pop shop in the very best way. From the way they spoke about one another to the way they spoke for one another, they finished one another’s sentences, and it was almost as awesome as the beer.
Meet Southern Yankee Beer Company – Jess (Dad) Christina (Mom) Alex (Son) and Sydney (Daughter).
When it came to favorite styles, this family is all over the map, but the heart of Southern Yankee’s vibe is undeniably consistent: family. They laughed and joked with us like we’d known one another for years despite admittedly facing some new-brewery jitters.
(Left to right, Alex, Sydney, and Christina)
The Southern Yankee Beer Company Experience
We pulled up to Southern Yankee’s 1960 taproom, and the moment we walked in, we were greeted with smiles from ear to ear. If we could put it into one word, it’d have to be comfort.
Dad, Jess, was working on his laptop while brother, Alex, offered us our first beer. Eagerly he asked us, “What do you want to try today?”
“Whatever you think we should start with,” we shot back. Sydney, sister and head brewer, suggested Who’s Paul Pale Ale, and Alex agreed. She instantly went in on her thoughts on the beer, but we were wondering where in the world that name came from!
We settled in on their handmade stools at one of the long, standing-height tables right in the center of the taproom. Everything in that place was built by the Porter family, by hand, with love and some help from some handy friends. “We had walls,” they laughed as they told the story of the buildout, “Everything else you see, we built!” They took a lot of pride in everything, and it shows in everything from the floors to the beer.
We started in talking about Houston’s bubbling brewery growth as well as the growth of the nation. Sydney explained how they’re really excited to be a part of what’s happening in Texas’ biggest city. “Houston’s a budding scene. I think it’s about to explode! Across the map, the South is a little bit behind, but the local growth is extremely encouraging.” Jess chimed in, “Nationally it’s saturated. Regional breweries have an uphill battle, and neighborhood breweries like ours are the future.”
(The Southern Yankee Beer Company homebrew system is now their small batch pilot system)
Southern Yankee Beer Company: The History
We asked them what made them choose the location, and they educated us a bit on location scouting. Alex, business manager and brother, explained how finding a location started with the right sewer system due to the huge demands a brewery places on them. “We knew we wanted something on the North side of town, and the Woodlands locations we were researching didn’t have the sewer access we needed, so we expanded our search a bit until we found this spot.”
It’s located right off of FM 1960, smack dab between 45 and the Hardy Toll Road. The daily traffic definitely helped concrete their decision. Mom, Christina added, “They’re building a hotel right next door, and the Park and Ride is right around the corner.” From city-driven designated drivers to a place to crash, the Southern Yankee Beer Company taproom is a killer spot; let’s not forget that it’d be a great spot to stop and wait out 1960’s hellish traffic when it’s at it’s worst.
Dad, Jess, served our country for 32 years in the US Navy, and his wife Christina was able to rattle off the years, months, and days down to a T. Serving in the Navy for over three decades allowed the family to live North, South, East and West, all across America, but Alex and Sydney were born in Idaho. When asked what state she’s from, Sydney laughs, “Uhh… America!?”
All of this relocating is what led the Porter family to name the brewery Southern Yankee Beer Company. They started off with some other names, but due to the ever-growing number of breweries in the US, their first options were a no go. 4 Keys was at the top of the list, but in hindsight, they think the name Southern Yankee Beer Company is much more fitting. “We’re from… pretty much everywhere,” they joked.
Sydney and Alex grew up helping their dad brew in garages across the country. He still has his gravity cascade system in-tact. With 26 years of homebrewing experience, and both kids under 31, the Porter family quite literally cut their teeth on beer. Christina didn’t use to care for beer, but after years and years of, “Honey, try this one,” she too fell in love eventually.
(Pretty sure we were the first paying customers, so Alex got some practice running the register)
While Sydney was away at college, they family got a wild idea to open up a brewery. This was roughly in 2015.
The family hatched up a beautiful plan, and they ambushed Sydney with it over coffee one afternoon. Jess shared the story with the simultaneous warmth and charm that could only come from a dad pushing his kids, “We told Sydney that we wanted to take her out for coffee one afternoon. She was just about to graduate from the University of Connecticut. We tried to trick her and tell her we were pregnant, but she wasn’t buying it for a minute.”
As the family sat for coffee, Sydney and Jess decided to start a brewery.
Jess went on, “We get you a formal education in beer once you graduate from UCONN… You spend a couple of years interning then working at breweries, and we’ll pay you a stipend while you do it. Once you’ve got the skills, we hire you as our head brewer.'”
Sydney chimed in, “And I said, helllll yes!” They brought Alex on because of his experience managing international supply chains and a Rice MBA. And boom. Southern Yankee Beer Company was born.
Sydney’s formal education began at Outer Light Brewing Company in Connecticut. Alex was living in Houston at the time, and he was the reason the family moved down here. “I’m magnetic. They followed me here.” He worked in oil and gas construction (which also included plenty of travel for work) and was just laid off in November 2017. He was on the hunt for his next career move, and it ended up being Southern Yankee.
(48 Spots left in their mug club, and they’ll all be gone by Saturday)
In Houston, Sydney got her chops at Karbach and Platypus, where she spoke very fondly of Kerry and the Australian, Washington Ave. outfit. After 26 years of homebrewing, and three years of planning and education, their advice to homebrewers looking to make the jump was simple. “Get professional help. Take a course. From learning brewing to sanitization, to budgeting – hire a consultant, get an education, or bring some pros on.” While they built the place with their own hands and funded it with their own wallets, this just goes to show that nobody is fully self-made. We all have to learn from somewhere, Sydney added, “Everybody can learn something from somebody. Especially in the name of innovation”
While Sydney learned how to brew from her dad, she can’t seem to learn to watch the water level on the hot liquor tank! She gets to multi-tasking, and it overflows every time. “I’m going to mop when I’m done anyways, amiright!?” The family joked about some other harmless blunders in their garage-brewing days. One time Jess was lighting a burner, and he sat the lighter down next to the flame. It exploded and scared everyone, but thankfully there were no injuries.
(Southern Yankee Beer Company will open with about 10 beers, 2 wines and a Cider. More beer to come, based on demand and whim)
Speaking of Southern Yankee Beer
Sydney leads the charge as head brewer, but Jess is in her ear as the two collaborate on pilot batches and everyone taste tests. Jess’s approach to beer has always been what he’s interested in at the time. Jess joked lovingly, “My daughter is anal as hell, but in a good way.” She’s built on his approach, “I want to take classics and innovate up from there into something new – something that gives tradition a high 5 while creating something new.”
When we ask folks about their biggest pet peeves in beer, we commonly hear stuff about cleanliness. From sanitization at SpindleTap to clean lines at 11 Below, it’s a common answer. Sydney’s was a first.
“I love good floors in a brewery. Whenever I see low spots and sitting water, I cringe.” She went on to explain that some breweries bought a location rather than building it out, and the floors are a part of the package deal. “Next time you visit a brewery, ask them how their floors are,” Sydney chuckled. We’re going to do just that. Watch.
Good floors don’t make good beers, but they sure don’t hurt. The Porter family has a few that they built from the floor up, and we got to try several.
Who’s Paul American Pale Ale
Joose Pop Juicy IPA
Foolish Monk Belgian Witbier (15 year old recipe in the making, and still tweaking)
Dope Village Oktoberfest Altbier
Mole Mole Mole Imperial Stout with ancho chiles, Sumatra coffee, cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla beans
Dope Village isn’t a hip way of saying cool village, nor is it some forlorn drug reference. The name comes from the city that’s home to the Altbier style, Düsseldorf, Germany. Alex broke it down for us, “The name of that village literally translates into dumb village. Dussel = dumb, slow, dopey, and Dorf = village, so that’s how we came up with the name.”
(Organization is a staple behind the scenes at Southern Yankee Beer Company – the grain room is even nerdier than these clipboards)
We had to ask, though, “Jess… Christina… Alex and Sydney… Soooo… Who’s Paul?” It’s a bit of an odd way to name a beer, but go ahead and ask them when you stop in. You’ll get the the most anticlimactic beer-name-story of all time, but they’ll say it far better than we can type it.
While they were all good beers, Dope Village stuck out to both of us. Mole Mole Mole was pretty dang good too, but it needs to sit for another week or so, and it’ll be even better once they can barrel age it. They’re forever dialing in recipes in the name of innovation, so they’ll keep a steady rotation of new beers, and they’re even considering a suggestion box! We’ll make the first suggestion: Mexican Lager, please – asking for a friend.
One thing Southern Yankee Beer Company won’t do is list IBUs on their tap wall. For one, it’s a little more than annoying when somebody bellies up to a bar and asks for the highest IBU beer like they’ve got something to prove. (Ask Sydney her take on it for an enthusiastic reply).
For two, IBUs are calculated based on iso-alpha acids in the beer and not necessarily perceived bitterness. And for three, there’s more than one way to measure it which leads to approximate numbers. In other words, no two IBUs are built the same, and they can be misleading. “IBUs scare some people away from a certain beer,” they continued.
Breweries are doing collabs seemingly left and right, both with within cities and crossing state borders. We asked the Porter family if they’d be open to that. “I LOVE collaborations,” Sydney replied emphatically. Ingenious, 11 Below, and SpindleTap are all geographic contenders in case y’all are reading. 😀
Eureka Heights and Great Heights were at the top of the list when asked about local breweries that impressed them. Sydney also halfway joked about some funk in Conroe, “I’d love to do something sour that involved B52 and some barrels as long as it didn’t happen here!”
While the collabs are nothing more than dreams at this point, you can expect a saison series in the near future that may start with jalapeno honey and end with the Beer Chronicle team belly up at the hotel next door.
(The Porter family in full effect in front of Southern Yankee Beer Company’s shiny metal)
The Future for Southern Yankee Beer
They’ll be ready for customers this Saturday October 13, 2018, and you can be the third patron to join their mug club. First was their handy friend that helped with the build out, and second was us. Rumor has it a family friend called dibs on #34 but hasn’t paid yet, so maybe you can beat them to it!
Aside from a crazy saison series, you can expect a patio coming soon. There’s a dog kennel opening up next door, so of course it’ll be pup-friendly, and you can probably expect some canine-related events too.
They’ve also got a beer dinner scheduled with North Side staple, Lasagna House, so be on the lookout for that.
The family discussed long term goals of a jam-packed brewery floor full of 3.5 BBL fermenters. They built the spot with expansion in mind, so all they need is thirsty Houstonians like yourself to make it happen. Beyond goals, they dream of one day opening a larger production facility on a few acres complete with a brewpub and a rugby field. Beer? Food? Rugby? Bet. While those are just dreams, it definitely sounds more than ok.
They’ll focus on their taproom when it comes to distribution, but they’re open to sending kegs around town once they get into the swing of things. There was also mention of a crowler machine, but it didn’t sound like a done deal just yet.
They’re also one of very few breweries that plan to blog actively, above just updates and events. They mentioned blogging every couple of weeks about things like recipe design, women in beer, and Sydney’s soon to be famous IBU rant. I don’t know if y’all know this or not, but we think writing about beer is cool. You can expect to see something written by a Southern Yankee right here one day.
And finally, they’re going to stay true to their roots of homebrewing. If you’re into the sport like we are, they’ve got a gift for you: “Yeast for the people!” In a dual attempt to both pay it forward and give the sewer system a break, they’ll give you some yeast. Just ask. Also, apparently yeast is hard on sewer systems – who knew?!
See you on 1960. Beers to you, Houston! 🍻