20 Aug New Craft Beers Pour Into Houston – How and Why
How do I get craft beers from outside of Texas? Easy. They’re already here and more are on the way! Texas has a healthy appetite for a good libation … especially our beloved beer.
The word on the street is that Texas is the 2nd largest consumer of craft beer – right behind California. Since Houston is the largest city in the state, we represent the large majority of that Texas consumption and breweries have noticed.
But before we dive in – let me be clear: We love our Houston breweries and craft beer – we are loyal fanatics…no question (our fridges are loaded with Houston area craft beer – promise!). But craft beer goes far beyond our Houston boundaries. It’s a large national community that we all cherish and appreciate. If you’re strolling the aisles at your local grocer or beer retailer, you will find many options from craft breweries outside of the loop, and even outside of our Lone Star State.
How does Craft Beer Get Here From Out-of-State Breweries?
Distributors are the chosen ones to make this happen. They are licensed companies that get beer from the brewery, in all its forms: bottles, cans, & kegs, to store shelves and restaurants and taprooms near you.
It’s a simple three-tier system:
Many distributors work with breweries to get them to new markets by playing matchmaker. Distributors notice when beers are trending or rising in popularity and are always looking for partners with a great product. Once they’ve identified a potential brewery, the key question is: Can they produce enough beer to meet a market’s demand?
To help answer that key question, distributors focus on these two main factors:
- Can the brewery produce the volume to maintain a steady pace?
- Is the operation scalable so they can push the pedal to the metal when demand goes up?
Breweries with automated canning lines and higher barrel* capacities have the obvious advantage and preference here.
*One US barrel or ‘bbl’ is 31 gallons or 248 cans of 16oz tall boys! In order to sport the Independent Craft Brewer seal, craft brewers must be at or under an annual production of 6 million barrels. Top 3 Craft Brewers by production: 1. Yuengling ~ 2.7M bbls 2. Boston Beer ~1.8M bbls 3. Sierra Nevada ~1M bbls Compare that to a commercial brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) that produces a whopping 478M bbls.
If breweries can’t produce the required volume from their current operation, they can look at partner (or contract) brewing to achieve that production level. This is when they work with a brewing operation where beer is brewed to their exact specifications under the supervision of their own brewmaster. Contract brewing allows them to increase their production and add new distribution points in other geographies without the huge cost of new tanks and production space.
After all is said and done – deals are made, contracts are written up and we, the consumers, get a taste of what we normally couldn’t have unless we traveled to that state or the brewery itself.
How Do Craft Brewers Determine if Houston is a Potential Market?
Savvy breweries are monitoring the social media landscape for interest in their beers. Breweries are looking at check-ins across several platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Untappd. They have the ability to see where those check-ins are coming from and analyze the data and determine product interest.
Parish Brewing in Broussard, Louisiana, had mentioned they would notice vehicles in their taproom parking lot with Texas plates daily and saw that many of them were from Houston (Beer Chronicle bumper stickers must have given it away).
We noticed a lot of our taproom visitors were from the Houston area. Up until the Covid shut down we literally had at least one vehicle with a Texas plate in our parking lot almost every single day so even since we began to distribute beer to Houston/Beaumont/Galveston areas we still see visitors from Texas regularly.Matt Naquin – Western Territory Manager, Parish Brewing Co.
Once breweries decide to distribute to a new area, they can test the market by putting kegs in taprooms and gauging customer interest. If draft pour sales meet expectations, they go to the next stage and package beer to have it distributed to retail outlets in cans & bottles.
I can personally attest to seeing this approach: I remember having downed numerous glasses of Upland sours & Parish’s Ghost in the Machine DIPA at our favorite taproom. These rock star beers became customer favorites, and inevitably, those taps would kick quickly. Fortunately for all of us, those beers (and others) started showing up on shelves several months later.
I’m a craft brewery – why is Houston a good fit for us?
Houston loves Craft Beer!
Houston has long enjoyed the convenience and availability of everything “big box” at our fingertips. In recent years, there’s been a remarkable surge in demand for artisanal, handcrafted, small-batch products – all of which have been eagerly embraced by Houston. This pent-up demand extends to craft beer, especially now that we can finally get it to-go direct from the source. Even though we are somewhat of a ‘young’ craft beer culture, it’s growing at a rocket’s pace. I feel like we’re making up for lost time – as evidenced by breweries and beer bars popping up everywhere like Thistle Draftshop, Hop Scholar Ale House and Tapped Drafthouse/Kitchen. Restaurants are also ensuring they have a variety of craft beer on their menus – Citizen’s Grill and The Draft 1488 both have a great selection. Houston is loving the craft beer lifestyle and wants more of it!
It’s hot AF here
If you make a good pale ale, Pilsner, Gose, Berliner Weisse, Kölsch, etc. we’re down for it. It’s hot here for a long time, so your window of opportunity to provide us with “summer ales” is longer than most other places in the country.
It’s cold AF here-ish
Since our temperaments have adjusted to the heat, we bundle up as soon as it hits 60 degrees out. We’ll drink any beer to keep us warm by the fire…in sweats..under a blanket.
We are the 4th largest city in the country… it’s just a matter of time until we overtake Chicago for the #3 spot. The Houston metropolitan area spreads across 9 counties and occupies a geographical footprint of 9400 square miles. The population of that area comes in at almost 7 million people – that’s a LOT of current and soon-to-be craft beer customers! Imagine your craft beers spread across groceries, retail outlets, and on tap amongst our restaurants and taprooms… bring it and we will drink it!
Geographically speaking, Houston is the biggest city in the U.S. You could fit Boston, San Diego, and New York City inside of Houston, and STILL have room. This means that even within the city, we have to travel for the goods sometimes. The convenience factor is ripe for the picking.
We’re a great diverse city!
The Houston metropolitan area is the most racially/ethnically diverse city in the US! We’re a multicultural melting pot with different beer tastes. We thrive on variety as it makes us more well-rounded. Truth be told, getting our hands on new and different craft beers is our idea of fun!
We’re seeing a surge of that diversity making room for themselves within the craft beer community. Our friends Brew Bros, The Pint Exchange, and Hop Topic are just a few that are vocally bringing diversity to the bayou city.
We’re from all walks of life and different parts of the country – if you bring beer here, you are providing a population with a taste of their hometown OR you get the opportunity to bring a piece of your hometown to us… it’s a win-win. Houstonians have never met a stranger and we’ll gladly welcome y’all with open arms (and an invite to get some awesome Tex-Mex food)!
Yes, we are loyal, beloved fans of our Houston breweries, but we have big hearts and open minds… We have lots of love and a little bit of fridge space to share with plenty of breweries across America that want to call their Houston home away from home.
And after all, it’s not polite if you don’t share. 😉 There’s also beermail for those breweries that haven’t heard about how thirsty Texans are.
Our friends over at Hop Drop have made out of town beers a bit more accessible. Check out HopDrop for 10% off your first craft beer delivery using our code “BEERCHRONICLE” at checkout.
We’re brewing up a big list of out-of-towner beers that are available in the 281/346/713/832 areas now. Look for that release coming soon!
Beers to you, Houston
Chris B is from a lot of places (military brat) but has settled home in Houston since 1999. He’s an Army veteran, gadget nerd, foodie, woodworker, poker player, computer geek and old school hip-hop DJ. You can spot him at a brewery or taproom sheepishly asking for samples of everything.
Matt BPosted at 14:19h, 30 August
Do you actually talk to people before writing these? Upland package and draft launched simultaneously. There was no “testing of draft” before bringing in other products. If package actually arrived months later, it was likely a delay in label approval.
Chris BPosted at 22:35h, 04 September
We sure do Matt! The example on testing (or validating) the market was Parish’s approach and wasn’t intended to say that’s how everyone does it.