19 Aug Under the Radar Brewery
Under the Radar Brewery
Houston’s only Midtown brewery looks to share their “small and scrappy” roots with Houston.
What You Need to Know Before Visiting Under the Radar Brewery
Growlers, Crowlers: Growlers, yes. Crowlers, not yet.
Food: Food trucks or on-site vendors most days
Most Popular Beer: Mid-Frequency IPA
Kids/Pets: Yes and yes
AC: Not yet but on the roadmap!
Bathrooms: Clean bathrooms with AC, and 2 of them have changing stations
Parking: Parking lot is limited but street parking is available
Hours: Tues – Thurs 4-10pm
Sat 10am – midnight
sun noon – 9 pm
Under the Radar Brewery: Intro
Under The Radar Brewery takes their name literally in their approach to the Houston beer. Opening in 2016, they’ve kept their focus on being approachable. That goes for the beer and the atmosphere.
Their neighborhood-style brewery brings a wide range of beer styles, each carefully crafted using a mix of the team’s personal preferences as well as building off their current line-up. Their events are just as eclectically paired. TV show trivia, on-site putt-putt golf, and even drag queen bingo help them stand out in the growing Houston beer scene.
Despite their unofficial motto, they aren’t looking to grow to huge proportions or outsell everyone. In fact, they take pride in the irony of having the same reputation as their name, literally being under the radar. Hah, get it? You’ll know what we mean once you check them out.
Under the Radar Brewery Loves Their Neighborhood
Usually we’d make some snarky remark about the face-melting heat, especially since our interview with Under The Radar Brewery was going to be outside. In July. In the middle of a hot intense Houston summer, but we didn’t.
Honestly, we were way too excited to go out there to consider the weather.
Chris has visited Under the Radar twice. Brent & Josh have each been once, and Tony’s lame, so couldn’t join us. But we drank a beer for him.
Aside from having a few of their beers around town and at festivals like Wild West Brew Fest and Brewmaster’s in Galveston, we’ve only met the Under the Radar team once. It was at Flying Saucer downtown when Parish began distributing here.
Days before our interview with UTR, let’s-call-it-a-cold-front came through during the week and it immediately felt like spring outside when we walked up. It felt somewhat magical.
Nestled just west of where 59 & 288 intersect, the brewery is set back amongst trees, gentrified condos, and townhomes. Their gates are wide open during business hours, inviting guests and beer lovers in.
As we walk in, we’re greeted by a charming view of the beer garden. A plethora of comfy benches, vividly green shrubbery bordering the garden, and plenty of TVs so that we could catch up on the game while we waited for our first beer. There’s also a miniature golf course if you feel your inner Tiger Woods kicking in and a variety of tap handles that welcomed us with open arms.
The team at Under The Radar Brewery has done a wonderful job building a brewery that feels exactly like a part of their neighborhood. With plenty of natural foot traffic down Truxillo Street, we saw lots of people, surprisingly young people, stop on into their community brewery for a pint or two.
How It All Began for Under The Radar Brewery
We sat down with Paul, the General Manager, and JJ, the Brewmaster, to take in all things Under The Radar.
Paul came over from Little Woodrow’s and took over as GM about a year ago, and JJ is a software engineer originally from The Netherlands. When JJ’s wife took a job in Houston, he found himself looking for a new adventure. He has a ton of homebrewing experience, but his gig as head brewer for UTR is his first professional brewing job. Employee of the month, anyone? Yep.
The concept for the brewery is rooted in homebrewing, “Just three goofball, gamers, and beer lovers in a garage” as Paul jokingly put it. The original owners began brewing beers for family parties and special occasions. They struck gold when they had the idea to take their homebrews to Houston Dynamo games to hand out to thirsty tailgaters. As they continued bringing their beer to Dynamo games, it was those same people that were dumping their macro beers out and encouraging the guys to open a full-on brewery. Similar to Fire-Ant’s history in the Texans lots.
When the business officially opened (without so much as a physical sign), they started small with 5 beer styles and grew mostly via word of mouth.
A lot of their setup was built by hand, including their tables and equipment. Remaining intentionally small remains in their roots, although their equipment needs are continuing to expand!
Thanks to their midtown buzz and desire to brew beers they like (Paul, IPAs and barleywines, and JJ, Saisons and some sours), the brewery finds themselves typically juggling 9 styles of beers. This takes some juggling to keep things flowing in their limited production space.
To help maintain that balance, they’ve reduced their yeast inventory to below 4 strains, which they had to manage during the first few months. In fact, when JJ came on board, his wife played a pivotal role in reorganizing their yeast lab. Family business, y’all. Love it.
All About the Beer
These guys SERIOUSLY love their beer. They seriously love Houston. And they seriously love their community in Midtown. Their love for good beer helped play a huge role in their name because they’re very conscious of how macro breweries treat their customers.
As a self-distributing brewery that’s under the radar, they pride themselves on having the customer service one would expect from a small business. Quick turnaround, a homey vibe, and easy access to their team keeps customers coming back for more.
Since JJ began his beer adventure as a homebrewer, we asked him what advice would he give to a homebrewer looking to make the jump. He said it was crucial to “understand passion vs. balance.” He also recommended starting as an intern or assistant brewer if the opportunity presents itself. “Learn how the business works and embrace the opportunity to learn from your mistakes,” he continued.
UTR’s 10 barrel system is cranking out new beers all the time.
Their mainstays, like Radar Love and Porter Authority, get plenty of tap space. But their seasonals and special beers do so well with the regulars and guests that it’s hard to keep up with production. Houston has 4 seasons in a day sometimes, but Under the Radar Brewery usually has about one a month. (That’s t-w-e-l-v-e for those of you that don’t math good.)
Brewing can be a balancing act, especially on a smaller system. So we took away the balance beam and asked if beer is more art or a science. Choose only one.
Paul said, “art with a respect for science. You don’t need every aspect of the chemistry that goes into making beer to make a good beer.”
JJ on the other hand immediately answered with, “Making beer is science.”, which is kinda what we expected that answer from an ex-software engineer. He said it as if it were fact.
So What’s Next for Under The Radar Brewery?
Being the only brewery in Midtown has helped them find their rhythm and cater to their community.
Fun, approachable, relaxed, and inviting. All things we look for in a brewery to visit. So, what does the future look like? Paul and JJ agreed quickly on this one… they want to keep doing what they do best.
There are expansion plans being considered as well as plans for air conditioning (woohoo!). But they intend to stay small and enjoy the community that they’ve built these past 3 years.
They’re always experimenting and always improving. Their latest beers, like What The Gekkie with Coffee, is ELECTRIC. Popularity is great but doing it right is more important.
Under The Radar Brewery is a staple in the craft beer community of Houston. If you’ve never been, it’s time to fix that. There’s no better time than their 3rd Anniversary Party on September 7th.
Maybe we’ll see you there? Let us know what you think of Under the Radar in the comments below. Beers to you, Houston!
Under the Radar Brewery will also be pouring some of their beloved beer at the 10th Anniversary of BrewMaster’s Craft Beer Festival in Galveston. Make your Labor Day weekend one to remember at one of the USA’s most awarded beer festivals, and save yourself some $ by using the code “BC” when you purchase General Admission tickets to the Brewhaha Grand Tasting on Saturday.