Love for H-Town

Houston Oilers truck in Big Star Bar's parking lot.
  • Houston Oilers truck in Big Star Bar's parking lot.

Ahh, Houston! As soon as I landed, my shirt got stuck to my body as I breathed in that humid thick air. Siri told me that my week visiting Texas for my cousin’s wedding was going to be filled with rain. Siri lied. Yes, it rained, but it was heavy and sporadic. The rain acted more as mosquito-revitalizing juice than a wet inconvenience.

Throughout my stay, the weather remained very hot and damp. I had to constantly race from the car to inside a building to avoid instant moisture.

A sampling of local Houston and Texas beers.

A sampling of local Houston and Texas beers.

What to do in Houston: drink beer

Ahh, Houston: a giant concrete slab with skyscrapers in the middle, surrounded by warehouses and square houses with AC at full blast. Circles of highways surround the city like ripples in a lake. Gas station, strip mall, neighborhoods with their political ideologies projected on their lawns, bigger mall, warehouse or car dealership usually with Mexican, American, and Texas flags, rinse and repeat.

Ahh, Houston. Because of family, I have visited my whole life, but never truly as an adult. It was always family time with the occasional shopping. This time — besides visiting for my cousin’s wedding — I was ready to know H-town as a grown-up. Meaning I wanted to try out the Lone Star state’s craft beers.

First stop was Spec’s, the local liquor shop, to buy booze for the wedding. I took this opportunity to sample a few cans while the bride and groom bought a ton of liquor for the party. From the nine I sampled, Four Squares dry-hopped pale ale by Real Ale Brewing was my winner. Stash IPA by Independence was nice and piney, but nothing beyond the norms. The rest were very drinkable, alas not very memorable (and some weren’t from Texas).

Bar decor.

Bar decor.

That was my first jump into the Texas world of craft beer, and then came Big Star Bar.

“Don’t tell me we came all the way to Houston to visit a bar that looks like Tijuana,” commented my sister-in-law as we walked into the dive bar.

A big metal star with half-functioning lights is near the entrance, and a broken guitar counts as decoration as well as Christmas lights strung around in no particular direction. A "Vote for Beto" sign, an old jukebox, pinball machine, a Mortal Kombat II arcade near a pool table, dirty bathrooms. Near the door to the back patio, an old childish drawing of a colorful smiling caterpillar reads “Hi! I’m painfully ordinary!”

The outside is spacious but swampy, with dozens of picnic tables. Mosquitos and cockroaches abound to the point that a courtesy “Off” repeller sits at each table. A Houston Oilers truck is usually outside in the parking lot. Ting Ting, the bar’s cat, goes in and out of the bar as it pleases. Most drinks (included craft can beers) went for $3-5.

I could tell why this was my cousin’s favorite bar.

Meeting Ting Ting, Big Star Bar's resident cat.

Meeting Ting Ting, Big Star Bar's resident cat.

Behind the bar sat empty cans of the craft beers available with poor illumination. With the intent of trying only Texas beers, I tried ordering “the one in a yellow can.”

The bartender opened a yellow-with-green can before I could tell her that wasn’t the one I meant. She yelled at me for not describing the can appropriately as “yellow and black,” and told me she was going to throw it away. I told her not to worry and grabbed what turned out to be Squatters Hop Rising Double IPA.

Piney, resinous, and simply put, delicious — especially for a beer with 9.0%. Squatters delivers a great beer, but it's not from Texas (it’s from Utah).

I returned to the bar to try the "yellow and black," the Crush City IPA by Buffalo Bayou, a super drinkable crisp IPA brewed not far from the bar. The bartender apologized for the previous encounter and turned out to be super nice once I told her I grew up by Mexico City.

Yellow Rose, a single hope (Mosaic) by Lone Pint, was recommended as some of the best Texas had to offer. Though it's a well executed beer, I'd had countless single-hop brews that tasted similar. Also locally recommended, the Hans’ Pils (by Real Ale), a grassy smooth German pilsner.

The following day, I convinced my cousin to visit a brewery before the wedding’s rehearsal party. We visited Eureka Heights Brewing as soon as it opened its doors at 3:00 pm. The spacious warehouse felt particularly big with only two people there. I sampled five for $12, Mostly Harmless (Kölsch), Buckle Bunny (cream ale), Space Train (IPA), Mini Boss (IPA), and Pew Pew (pale ale). All straight up, very drinkable beers – nothing spectacular, but with fun, cutesy labels reflective of the atmosphere. Mini Boss was the best of the lot.

Then it was wedding time!! H-town beer adventures to be continued...

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