09 Jan SpindleTap Brewery Visitors Guide
Known for an oil & gas motif, philanthropy with child-driven causes, and killin’ it in the haze craze
(SpindleTap Brewery Love Ya Brew pint glass)
What You Need to Know Before You Visit SpindleTap Brewery
Price: Pint glass + 3 beer tokens for $15
Flight with 6 4oz. pours for $10
Pints are $5 – $6
Keg prices vary + $100 keg deposit
Growlers: for $10 + price of beer which varies
Food: Food trucks on site for events and weekends, kitchen open on weekends
Kids/Pets: Kids and pets are welcome and well-accommodated
AC: Plenty of inside seating with AC as well as benches outdoors on partially (tree-covered) patio
Parking: Decent sized lot out front, free
Bathrooms: Nearly spotless
Hours: Food Truck Fridays: Noon – 9PM
Saturdays: Noon – 9PM
Tour Hours: Saturdays at 12:30PM- Make Reservations – emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (+$5)
(Super sweet picnic tables on the SpindleTap Brewery floor)
The SpindleTap Brewery Intro
Let me start by saying, everyone we’ve met with so far has either met or exceeded our expectations. These guys all love what they do and they’re (so far) all damn good at it. The reason we write these posts is because these folks brew beer; they don’t necessarily tell stories. We want to help turn up the dial on their voice and share Houston craft beer with anyone that’ll listen. Today’s review: SpindleTap Brewery.
If you’ve been following us through the last few months, you know that as we were building this blog, we searched high and low to list alllll the breweries in the Greater Houston Area. (We’re still probably missing a few, and if you know of some, please let us know). SpindleTap was one of the newer ones, but they’ve grown so quickly in just a year and the quality of the beer is definitely why!
Between Chris’s outgoing personality, Leo Longoria’s similar personality, and the beauty that is the interwebs, we were able to score an interview with Leo (Sales Rep), Shaun Ebersole (Founder/Brewmaster) and Garrison Mathis (Brewmaster). This was hands down the most fun we’ve had yet. Maybe because all four of us were able to make it? Maybe because there were 3 people on the other side of the bar to offer varying opinions? Maybe it was the refuge from the awful weather? Who knows? It was a blast either way and we could see that their passion bubbles over like the fat head on their juicy IPAs.
Side note: Three out of four of us are married, half of us have kids, and there are 8 jobs between us. That said, we try and balance our Beer Chronicle expeditions with our family and work responsibilities and have promised our wives/families that we’d only do one big event per month. We’re booked solid from January to almost August.
Here’s why all of this is important. In the month of December, not only did we meet with these great folks at SpindleTap Brewery for the write up you’re reading, but we were invited to judge a Home Brew Competition at Baa Baa Brewhouse, as well as visit with Cyclers Brewing and 11 Below Brewing for similar write-ups like this, and our wives/families are so gracious and understanding that they didn’t even put up a fight when we tripled our “workload” this month. Cheers to y’all – you the real MVPs. Back to SpindleTap.
The SpindleTap Brewery Experience
Chris and I have both had the pleasure of visiting SpindleTap before this evening and we enjoyed different experiences. Chris stopped in to grab some of their Derrickman Dubbel One Year Anniversary Ale and it was a lively atmosphere, but he was in and out pretty quickly. I experienced a welcoming, quiet atmosphere on a non-big-event Saturday afternoon; terrific beer and easy parking. I brought my son and wife with me and we relaxed for a few hours as I drank my beer.
The three of us played giant checkers in the big lawn out front, but my son and wife are cheaters, so we switched to Tetherball where I crushed both of them mercilessly despite their best attempts. The weather was decent so we enjoyed sitting outdoors. Unfortunately, the food truck was short on a few items that we had our eye on, so we forwent their food and went for the pretzels from the kitchen. We were disappointed with the snacks, but the beer made up for it in spades. Which leads me to the experience we had when we went to interview Shaun, Garrison, and Leo.
(Co-Founder/Brewmaster Shaun Ebersole enjoying a Hop Gusher IPA and joking about Raider Rash, Bobcat Bumps, or something of the sort)
The four of us pulled up in a caravan of cars, swangin’ down Hirsch and into the parking lot. It was the suburban-ite version of the Still Tippin’ video minus 84’s, candy paint, gaudy jewelry, matching vehicles… Well, come to think of it was nothing like that, but the four of us were in a consecutive line consisting of our own vehicles so we got that going for us.
We pull up after hours on a dark, cold, rainy Wednesday evening. Before heading in, we briefly discuss the game plan for our questions, and we pile into the silent tap room. Straight to business, Tam and I are shooting a few pics of the room while Garrison makes his way behind the bar to greet us and grab us a few beers.
The four of us started off slow, knowing Shaun and Leo were in tow, and we began asking Garrison a few questions about the history of SpindleTap Brewery as it related to him as a brewmaster.
SpindleTap Brewery: History of the Brewers
Before Leo and Shaun arrived, Garrison told us how he and Shaun met and began brewing together before SpindleTap. The two Brewmasters (Shaun and Garrison) met through an A&M Football forum and the rest is history.
Garrison holds a degree in Bio-Chem from A&M and he homebrewed for 7 years before meeting with Shaun. Shaun also homebrewed for 7 years before joining Garrison at Spindletap and was inspired after a trip to Colorado; when he got home, he couldn’t find beer like what he had in Colorado so he decided to make his own.
They brewed together for a year before coming up with a few of the home base recipes. They shared their methods from their homebrew days and, even when it was just a hobby, they focused sharply on the numbers so they could scale batches without too much trouble. Sure did come in handy!
When Shaun met Garrison he thought to himself, “A guy with a Bio-Chem degree is perfect!” It created a perfect team by having someone who understood the intricate, micro-details of craft. After chatting a while with Garrison, Shaun arrived and Leo came in shortly after. They began digging a little deeper into the history of SpindleTap Brewery as a whole.
(Left: Brewmaster Garrison looking suspect in the moment and Right: Sales Rep Leo enjoying an after-work snack as he refills for the next day)
The two of them reflected fondly – almost with a twinkle in their eyes – of the first brew day at SpindleTap Brewery. Garrison started in, “It was exciting, scary, and nerve-racking all at once.” Shaun added, “So here we are, standing in front of a few thousand dollars worth of ingredients and we looked at one another and said ‘Oh shit. Well, here we go?’”
We always ask about the “crazy brew day story” because everybody has one and theirs happened on day one. They got a bit ambitious. Maybe trying to prove themselves, they went for a double batch in Sep 2015 and brewed for 28 straight hours. They learned a valuable lesson, but the results were good. Not a drop of beer was dumped. Then they tried it again and cut 10 hours off of their time. Somebody in there has to be Lean Six Sigma certified to achieve quality improvement like that!
(Beer tokens alongside super slick pint glass that was later broken and then graciously replaced by the SpindleTap Brewery Team)
SpindleTap Brewery got their name as a pun from the oil & gas boom town Spindletop. It’s an oil field located in the southern portion of Beaumont that helped pave the way for oil & gas in Houston as we know it. They gave Co-Founder Cam all the credit for the name and all of the names of the beers as well. And this brings us to the awesomely ironic birth of SpindleTap Brewery.
Co-Founders Brody Chapman, David Miller, Shaun Ebersole, Cameron Banks and Adam Wright worked together for a logistics company. Initially their intentions for the brewery were small. They wanted to create a small, humble, yet fun place to bring customers to entertain them. Golf course? Old news. Fishing trips? Done that. How about a brewery!? Hell. Yes.
But like all good things, when combined with passion and a couple of dudes with a “get the job done” attitude, the humble goals of SpindleTap Brewery grew into big, lofty ones that had them reconsidering everything. We met with Brody and Leo a few weeks later at SpindleTap’s tap takeover at Hughie’s Vietnamese Tavern where he shared a little nugget with Tam and I. “When oil hit 28 bucks a barrel, we figured why not gamble on this beer thing and grow it. That’s when we got really serious.”
So there’s your silver lining.
(Leo looking fondly upon his mini-growlers like a proud father)
Back to the original interview, Shaun shared a bit of their legal hurdles early on. “In beginning we weren’t sure which license we needed to distribute, so that proved difficult going through the process as well as applying for temporary licenses. Distribution would have started sooner if it wasn’t for those mistakes.” The distribution license they got at first allowed them to brew 10,000bbl per year, but no sale on location. This was a bit too lofty of a goal, so they scaled it back and switched to a brewpub license.
Shaun and Garrison went back and forth all night, sharing their history, perspective and wisdom, but nothing tripped them up quite like this question: If you had to choose just one, would you say brewing is more art or science?
Immediately they began trying to convince one another of their perspective. Shaun said art and Garrison said science – both nearly immovable in their stance. Shaun started, “It’s an art. Regardless of the science, if you spend enough time on the art, the science just happens and you’ll get it down.” Garrison, as if he never even heard Shaun, “Science first and foremost. Craft is asking a question and using the scientific process to answer that question. Once we get that down, we can get the art involved.”
We all laughed as the two of them went round and round, but in the end they agreed that it starts with art and scales with science. “You’ll always make great beer in science, but art will make even better beer.” “Agreed” might not be the proper word.
(SpindleTap Brewery Aceite Crudo Russian Imperial Stout and Hop Gusher IPA lace-laden pint glass and can)
The SpindleTap Brewery Beer
We laughed and drank, laughed and drank. When we started asking real questions about the beer – that’s when the two of them began having differing perspectives, and I think that’s largely why they work so well together. When we asked them what their goal as a brewery is (an intentionally vague question), they both immediately agreed, “To make the best beer WE can. If we focus on doing our thing and designing organically from our strengths, the rest comes naturally.”
Another intentionally vague question, we asked them what they’re known for. Different brewers/owners interpret our questions differently and that’s what we want. But the common thread here is these guys were all about the beer. Period.
Leo chimed in a bit and echoed the sentiment, while Honey Hole ESB isn’t necessarily their favorite beer personally, it’s what they’re most known for. (Three of us have written about it, and all of us enjoyed it.) Garrison said he’d like to think they were known for his favorite, Acieto Crudo, and Shaun echoed a similar sentiment about Hop Gusher. Both came back to the initial point: when looking at the numbers, there’s no denying Honey Hole is what they’re best known for.
While we weren’t there to review beer, we did drink a few, and since we’re here to share Houston craft beer, we gotta share a little about the beer, right?
- BoomTown Blonde – 5.5% ABV, 20 IBU
- Toolpusher Pale Ale – 5.5% ABV, 50 IBU
- Honey Hole ESB – 7% ABV, 20 IBU
- Hop Gusher IPA – 6.5% ABV, 70 IBU
- Hop Option Mosaic – 7% ABV, 60 IBU
- Wildcatter Wit – 7% ABV, 70 IBU
- Aceite Crudo RIS – 12% ABV, 80 IBU
- Derrickman Dubbel 1 Yr. Anniversary – 8% ABV, 20 IBU
They would all land somewhere between great and “Man, hold up,” but we weren’t there to write about beer this time. None of us really enjoyed BoomTown Blonde, but none of us care much for blondes as a rule so take that with a grain of salt. It got better and better as we climbed up the board though.
We’ve got a few of these already reviewed on the site, with more to come and they’ll be linked once they’re posted. Toolpusher is a crisp, well-balanced APA that drinks like a working man’s beer, but has the flavor notes a beer snob can appreciate. Of all their beers, it’s the one Shaun said he spent the most time tweaking.
(Author Tam looking ultra creepy as he admired a gift the SpindleTap Brewery team gave him)
On to the next, Honey Hole ESB is the epitome of balance with subtle honey notes and also drinks like a working man’s beer, but the 7% ABV can easily sneak up on you if you’re not careful. Hop Gusher IPA is the brainchild of true art and science with fresh, crisp, fruity notes – it’s reminiscent of a West Coast IPA. Hop Option Mosaic is one of my personal favorites and they switch out the premier hop periodically. There are variations with Cascade, Eldorado and Amarillo hops (that we know of), and I’ve had the Cascade and Mosaic. Both are terrific and use 2 Row Pils & Carrot malts so the malt backbone is as light as possible, allowing the hops to really shine. Wildcatter Wit is another that’s not distributed, but it’s a shame. It’s a mildly sweet Belgian beer that would work perfectly with lunch, dinner, or household chores.
Let’s take a break for a second. All the beers above are great. Every one of them. But Aceite Crudo is different. It’s the smokiest, roastiest, toastiest mm-mm-good-iest RIS I’ve had this year, and it’s no wonder that when kegs are distributed around town, they’re floated soon after. Derrickman Dubbel is their 1-year anniversary beer that was only packaged in bombers and sold on location for their, you guessed it, 1-year celebration. It’s got some dark-fruity notes and a unique sweetness. We found out that we scored 5% of the entire bottled batch thanks to Chris and reviews will be coming one of these days.
We weren’t there to write about the beers, specifically, and much of the above is either from memory or from reviews that are still in my journal waiting to be posted to the site. If the overview isn’t good enough for you, go try some in the wild, and if they don’t have any SpindleTap at your local craft spot, just ask, “Why not?!”
As we were asking questions and shooting the breeze, Garrison was back and forth from behind the bar to the brewery floor helping out Matthew, another of their brewers. As he came back into the taproom, we asked how do they decide what to brew? They looked at each other, and as if it were scripted, looked back at us in unison, “WHATEVER WE WANT!” They told us that they get unlimited creative freedom, and at Hughies, Brody even shared with us, “Sometimes I tell them to get their noses outta the books and just go experiment!”
(Heavy metal on the SpindleTap Brewery floor)
While there’s no formal process for how they select what to brew next, they both agreed that hop notes are often what make or break a beer, and they shared a cool story on the matter. Back when they were home brewing together, they wanted to see which hops would make for the best IPA, so they did what any respectable brewer would do – a big science experiment. Shaun and Garrison brewed a handful of hop teas using different hop varieties (that they scored from DeFalco’s) and set ratios of dilution, both hot and cold. They covered every variable, and made their hop decision scientifically. In addition, they mentioned that nothing’s perfect and there have been slight adjustments made to recipes, but that tea experiment is what birthed the Hop Gusher we love today.
Speaking of which, they had just canned a batch of Hop Gusher, so Garrison grabbed a six pack and had us each pour one from the can, as he smirked, “You know, it’s bad luck not to drink a 6-pack on the day they’re canned!”
They shared a bit of the actual process and their pet peeves. When asked what bugs them the most, Shaun replied without hesitation, “CHICKEN SOUP IPAs. I hate it when an IPA is all cloudy and yellow – looking like a glass of broth.” They shared a bit more on the subject, but not before Garrison explained his. “Being unclean will really piss me off. We clean everything by hand in between every brew because nothing will mess up our effort quicker than being dirty.” While Shaun said his piece lightheartedly, Garrison had full conviction.
They also shared that if beer isn’t great, they’re gonna dump it. No questions asked. “We start by making a few small batches then go to scale. Dial in on the product before a ton of ingredients go in.” They were really open about dumping beer – proud even. “We’ve dumped 3 batches to date – 1,860 gallons; Each time it’s a sad sight, but it’d hurt us a lot more in the long run if we didn’t do it.” They’re always thinking about the future and how what they’re brewing today will impact them, and the craft beer scene in Houston, tomorrow. Sean finished with, “Our biggest competition isn’t other breweries, it’s bad beer”
“One more thing that bugs me… When there’s no craft option in a restaurant.” Garrison added a few minutes and a few topics later.
The Future for SpindleTap Brewery
The team at SpindleTap has had huge success in just a year. Despite the haters and naysayers, good beer speaks for itself, and these guys are talking pretty loudly. That success is only the beginning. What’s the future hold for the Wildcatters and Toolpushers over at SpindleTap Brewery?
Next year holds expansion for the brewery. In 2016, SpindleTap Brewery made 2,500 BBLs and will easily double that in 2017. They currently have beer stands in all the major sport arenas, and plan to expand: NRG – SEC 103, Toyota Center – Toyota Club and we’re still waiting on them to send us the info for Minute Maid, but we didn’t want to let it hold up sharing this post!
The expansion is two-fold: one, to be able to keep up with the growing demand; two, to have a bit more room to “play” with new recipes.
(Left: Brewer Matthew and Brewmaster Garrison working while Tool plays in the background)
When asked about any potential collaborations coming soon, they quietly replied, “We don’t have anything in the pipes just yet, but we’re open to the idea.” They even tagged Eureka Heights in a post we made on IG discussing possible collabs. Let’s see what 2017 brings?
One final random note that doesn’t really have a clean home in this write up: these guys love their families and it shows in their plans for SpindleTap Brewery. They wanted to create a place they could be proud to bring their kids so we could all do the same. They allow employees to bring their kids to work and they have a small area set up just for them to play. If I remember correctly, they also plan on expanding the front-lawn area with a playground one of these days. That’s big.
They sent us off with a handful of beer, so expect some more SpindleTap beer reviews from the team in 2017, but please be patient with us. We drink faster than we can post!
Do yourself a favor, and visit SpindleTap Brewery. Let us know what you think below. Beers to you, Houston!