12 Nov Walking Stick Brewing Co. Bringing Some Colorado to Houston
Walking Stick Brewing Co. Coming Real Soon
Known for bringing Colorado to Houston, one cold beer at a time and possibly having a zip line
What You Need to Know Before You Visit Walking Stick Brewing Co.
Growlers, Crowlers: Possibly soon
Food: Food trucks eventually with long term goals of having their own on-site
Most Popular Beer: ESB
Bathrooms: Spotless. It’s brand new.
Parking: A few spots out front and to the side of the brewery. Street parking surrounding the facility. Parking will be one of the biggest immediate challenges here.
Hours: Most likely Wed-Sun, but the hours are still unconfirmed
(Friends atop a 14er, courtesy of 14ers.com)
Walking Stick Brewing Co. Intro
We sat for the evening with Andy, Walking Stick Brewing’s co-owner and brewer. Usually these interviews take place at the brewery, but much like our sit down with Fire Ant Brewing in Tomball, the facility is still under construction. We grabbed a few beers at Crowe Bar, just across the street.
It was a sticky Houston evening, and as we chatted and watched folks play volleyball, Andy hit us with some jaw dropping stories about 16 mile hikes up and down mountains, with busted shoes flapping open like a cartoon hobo. We were not ready for this level of Colorado-mountain-man-intensity.
Andy shared stories about his friends, family, and business partners Ramon and Tony. The history and stories of Walking Stick Brewing all had a very intimate, close-knit feeling.
(A small sign on the door of the “crack shack” behind Walking Stick Brewing’s buildings)
Walking Stick Brewing Co. Experience
After a beer at Crowe Bar, we ventured across the street to Walking Stick’s still-under-construction home, as Andy painted vivid pictures of what he hoped to accomplish with every nook and cranny of the small lot on Judiway.
Andy’s an ex-derivative-mathematician holding positions in trading as well as pricing in oil and gas refining, and now he’s the head brewer. Ramon – his counterpart – will be focusing on food and the ancillary businesses that help breweries tick, and Tony’s the sales and marketing guy (our Tony is the same way). Ramon and Tony weren’t able to make it, but Andy held it down for Walking Stick Brewing and kept us entertained with story after story. He lives one block away from the brewery, and he makes his way back and forth on a bike or a skateboard.
He explained, “My wife and I only own one car that we share, and it’s really only for going grocery shopping. I ride my bike everywhere, and I even have a trailer outfitted to deliver our kegs around the neighborhood once we get going.”
Suburbanites, Chris and Tony couldn’t help but tease a bit. “What do you do when you’ve drank too many beers, man!?”
Andy laughed it off in the most genuine way, “Usually I’ll walk my bike, but there have been a few times that I wrecked on my bike and landed in a ditch.” The worst part is, he elaborated that he didn’t crash because he was drunk; instead, it was due to a hellafied pothole. We totally believe him too.
Every other question we asked Andy yielded a response that involved the word “neighborhood,” and it was clear that Andy wasn’t just putting on for the sake of the interview – super genuine dude.
When we asked Andy how he’d describe the local craft beer community, he continued on with the neighborhood replies. Walking Stick Brewing will have a Portland brewery vibe like Town in City with English beers inspired by their Colorado roots. Sort of an odd hodge-podge geographically, but in beer-terms, it makes perfect sense. His favorite beer style is ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, a common English ale. Go figure.
He went on, “Houston’s still got plenty of room for small, neighborhood breweries like Walking Stick Brewing. Doing 2-5K barrels annually with a focus on taproom sales. There’s plenty of room for that here.”
It’s hard to nail down the experience at Walking Stick Brewing Co. since we interviewed them before they were open, but if Andy’s vibe makes it’s way into the feel of the place, a few words come to mind: Local and neighborhood.
(One of a kind fabricated metal benches will fill the yard at Walking Stick Brewing before long)
Walking Stick Brewing Co.: The History
When we asked Andy what made them choose this location, and he replied with another family-oriented story.
“My wife and I lived in the Galleria, and she’s an avid volleyball player. We came to the Crowe Bar for her to play and watch a Broncos game one day, and we simply fell in love with the lot across the street. It needed some TLC, but that’s what we wanted. We decided it had to house a brewery!”
He continued, “My son Drew crafts handmade walking sticks and sells them at music festivals. They’re all one of a kind with unique wood-burning, crystals and feathers, and we named the brewery in honor of his hard work.”
With a background in numbers and refining, Andy’s focus was obsessively on efficiency. The city’s involvement in every step of the process was something that held Walking Stick Brewing back in some ways, but Andy gushed at their attention to detail. “Every square inch of the brewery has to be accounted for – from parking to drainage, the city wants to know how we’ll affect the community we serve. While it slowed the process down more than we all expected, we’re glad to partner with a local government that cares so much.”
The biggest challenges they faced were the city and all the details of the building. The building will feature a full-on lab, so Andy can focus some of his brewing expertise on yeast experiments and propagation. (He’ll probably read the word expertise and cringe. Andy taught us, “A person has to have at least 10,000 hours doing a specific task to call themselves an aficionado. I’m probably at about 1,000, so I’ve got a long way to go.”)
When we asked, “What advice would you give to a homebrewer thinking of making the jump?” Andy laughed, and replied verbatim the same as Seth from Copperhead. “Twice the money and twice the time. Simple as that.”
One of our favorite questions to ask is, “Every brewery has a crazy brew day story. What’s yours?” Without being open yet, his answer was of a brew day in his at home.
“I was in my brew shed, and it was a complete sweatfest. Houston summer. In a shed. Plus boiling liquid. You get the picture… I forgot a little filter for one of the valves, but my water was already up to 160 degrees, so I wasn’t going to cool it or dump it. I put on my gloves, braced myself, and I dunked my arm in the water as quick as I could to put the filter in place. It was like being in a nuke. Just a few split seconds, and I could already feel my arm burning up through the glove!”
Andy was able to get the filter in place and yank his arm out without injury. His first time homebrewing was with a friend that engineered his own system and wrote his own temp control software, so he’s had some diverse experiences in the brew house. Er… uh… Brew shed!
(Andy and Chris admire one another’s fair skin and red hair on a patch of concrete that’ll house a grain silo)
Speaking of Walking Stick Brewing Co.’s Beer
There have only been a couple of interviews where we didn’t drink the actual beer we were writing about. That was the Hop Drop interview because it was last minute at a Starbucks and this one at the Crowe Bar. Even though we didn’t drink Walking Stick Brewing beer, we did ask Andy a few questions specifically about beer.
Working in refining was one of the biggest draws to beer for him. “Learning about how a few chemicals enter in and out of a few vessels, and they’re changed by temperature, that felt a lot like what happens with beer.” Both Chris and Tony have oil and gas backgrounds, specifically in refining, and they’ve noted the similarities as well.
Walking Stick Brewing Company’s beers won’t be named after anything relating to refining though. Instead, they’ll be named after Colorado’s Rocky Mountain peaks that are bigger than 14,000 feet — AKA 14ers — like Conundrum, Crestone, Massive and Blanca.
Conundrum Grapefruit IPA
Sneffels Black & Blueberry Milk Stout
Longs Peak Peach Pale Ale
Massive Brown Porter
Blanca Peak Weizen IPA
Every single one of these beers sounds pretty dang delicious, and we’re chomping at the bits to try them all. There are 58 total 14ers, but some of them have names that Walking Stick Brewing can’t use – names like Oxford, Princeton and Yale. Still others have names that are uninteresting or could cause issues down the line as they grew. He didn’t seemed bothered by the restraint that put on the beers at all because he doesn’t see Walking Stick brewing hundreds of different beers.
Our single favorite question to ask brewers is, “Is brewing more art or science?” The best replies always come when there’s more than one interviewee and they get to arguing, but we’ve had far more replies of science in the end. Andy was a little different, and in a snap, he summed up why.
“Brewing is more art. Art outweighs science. There are a dozen categories of science, and they can all be learned. But art… The sky is the limit with art. Science isn’t as absorbable or infinite as art, so it’d have to be more art than anything.” While it flies in the face of a few other great replies, it makes sense.
Breweries are doing collabs seemingly left and right, and it’s one of the coolest aspects of craft beer. We asked Andy if Walking Stick brewing would be doing any, as we made our eyes big and pointed right up the road to Great Heights.
“We’d love to do collabs, and we’ve discussed some, but it’s still too early for all that to be finalized.”
He mentioned being really impressed by 8th Wonder, Holler, Great Heights and Eureka Heights the most, so if you’re reading this, give Andy a shout!
(The 1965-built warehouse that’ll house Walking Stick Brewing’s indoor seating area)
The Future for Walking Stick Brewing Co.
The sky’s the limit for Andy, Ramon, Tony and their families. They hope to have their beer garden open with fresh hops and fruit growing to supplement those sent from their farm in Florida. He’ll use his own produce for some of the beers as well as wood for Walking Stick taphandles. “We have more wood than we know what to do with on the farm. Taphandles seemed like a great use.”
Walking Stick Brewing Co. will have a neighborhood first focus with Andy slangin’ kegs off a bike trailer. He hopes to have about 100 taps in establishments in and around Garden Oaks after the first year, and they won’t focus on cans and shelves for now. Instead the brewery will host movie and game nights, play local sports on the projection screen, as well as becoming the go to spot for pac 12 games. Since Andy’s a Houstonian now, he roots for the local teams when they aren’t playing his Colorado teams, but he’d like to show some Rockies games for a little extra taste of home.
In addition to the beer garden and big games on a big projector, Walking Stick Brewing is considering their own food truck that’ll stay on site during business hours and journey Houston’s concrete mountainscape of potholes advocating for the brewery. A volleyball team and custom walking stick booty shorts are also in discussion.
And finally, the single coolest thing we discussed is a potential zip line between Walking Stick and Great Heights, since they’re so close to one another. “We discussed a zip line, but we’re stalling on the progress. We’re not sure who will be the recipients of the zip line, since that’d be an imbalance of power,” he joked.
We hope he’s not joking, though!
Walking Stick Brewing Co. will be opening hopefully within the next 2-3 weeks or less for patrons to sit down and have a beer. The tap room and beer garden is coming up in a second phase in conjunction with the planned food truck.