Lone Pint Brewery

December 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Tap Into Houston

Recently, I had the good fortune to visit the Lone Pint brewery on a day they were brewing a double batch of their soon-to-be-world-famous Yellow Rose IPA.  I showed up just after they were done sparging the first batch (see the vocab lesson, below, about all the funny words I am about to use).  Since the mash tun had yet to be cleaned and the boil was still a while from starting, Blake Niederhofer (co-founder, co-owner, and the day’s brewmaster) was able to take some time out of an otherwise very busy day to show me around the brewery and tell me a little about what goes on there.

Tap Wall, Dylan, Brandon

Even though one can find Lone Pint beers in many venues and stores around and outside of the greater Houston area, it still is a very small operation.   Founded in 2013 by Trevor Brown, Heather Bolla, and Niederhofer, the three got the operation underway while still keeping their day jobs and brewing only on the weekends.  After a recent expansion, one can now find folks brewing on weekdays, cranking out 60-90 barrels (1860-2790 US gallons) per week.  Even when Lone Pint is not brewing, everyone there stays quite busy kegging, bottling, cleaning, conducting their Saturday tours, and taking care of the other approximately 9.7 million jobs involved in running a brewery.  With further expansion planned, the work and Lone Pint’s availability only will grow.

Blake at Command

For those that do have never visited an operating commercial brewery, it is not like some club house where a bunch of guys smile, laugh, and toast numerous pints over the course of a day.  It is real work, hard work, something like running a commercial kitchen but with a lot of heavy lifting.  Put best by a former brewer from Fuller’s I once met, “there is no work harder than brewery work.”  While I am certain some other professions may legitimately argue that assertion, no one can deny how hard any floor brewer works.  The folks at Lone Pint are no exception.  They have the passion required to make the sort of beer that so many are praising so highly. The owners and employees are not the only one passionate about Lone Pint, either.  Many fans go out of their way to visit the small, Magnolia brewery every Saturday.  A local dentist, who visits often, even hard-carved many of the taps used to serve the beer straight from the cold room (that once served as the paint room for the body shop that used to occupy the premises).  Some of the gents working were even volunteering on their day off from their regular jobs.  It is a passionate person who wants to clean out a mash tub on his day off.

A Well Deserved Break

Fortunately, Blake and two volunteers (Dylan and Brandon) were able to take a little time and show me around the beers they currently had on offer.  The Yellow Rose that everyone raves about is a crisp, hoppy SMaSH (“Single Malt and Single Hop”) brewed with Weyermann Pilsner malt and ample late addition mosaic hops (currently a darling in the craft and home brewing worlds).  Zeno’s Pale Ale is a similarly hoppy American Pale Ale with a lightly softer and rounder malt character.  667 Neighbor of the Beast is a full-fledged American IPA with a strong and complex (but not overwhelming) malt backbone to support and compliment the powerful hop aroma and flavor it delivers.  Gentleman’s Relish is an English Brown Ale that is a maltier, nutty departure from the hoppy, hoppy beers and absolutely delicious.  Lily & Seamus departs in a different direction with a healthy dose of wheat and a sour mash to shape a more refreshing beer, and one of the beers I have ever tasted that successfully blends hoppy and sour notes.

Mash Tun after Sparging
The unusual offerings on tap that day were from Lone Pint’s “Zythophile” line, a series of beers that are limited batches with new, rare, or experimental hops.  I was lucky enough to try both the Rakau (from New Zealand) and Belma.  The Rakau was complex and rich with fresh stone fruit (peach and apricot), accented with a touch of piney resin and herbal notes (we talked about rosemary and sage).  The Belma was more tropical and purely fruity (we were kicking around words like “strawberry,” “fruit salad,” and “melon.”  Upon a return trip, I was treated to the Po-Cha-Na-Quar-Hip braggot, a combination of mead (honey wine) and beer—something nearly impossible to find from commercial breweries.  The annual release, named for a Texas Comanche War Chief is made with traditional American malted barley, local honey, and just enough hops to balance the sweetness.

Hand-Carved Taps

If you are interested in visiting the brewery, you’ll find them open from noon-4:00 PM on Saturdays, with a tour at 1:30PM (and later, if needed).  For $10, you get a pint glass and three tastings.  Food is available for free (donations welcome).  Seating is limited, but you are welcome to bring your own chairs.  You can find them on the web at: www.lonepint.com

 

I hope to see you out there, sometime!

Doak

 

It’s Just Beer

September 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Tap Into Houston

Beer in glasses isolated on white background

“It’s just beer.”
Many beer lovers cringe when they hear that. For so long, it has been the song of those who
denegrate our beloved beverage, as if it were no better than prison hooch. They are judging us
for allegedly wasting our time on something not at all worth it, often while they write endless
poetry about some secluded spot in Sonoma. For those of us that enjoy discussing beer, seek out
different beers, and even travel all over the country and globe in the name of beer, “it’s just beer”
is the ultimate insult.

However, it also was the motto of one of the wisest beer lovers I’ve ever known. Ken Rich, a
long-time homebrewer and homebrew shop owner, often said “it’s just beer.” Let me tell you
why. As the craft beer movement grows more quickly than a snowball in an avalanche, I hear
(and even find myself) in more and more nitpicky arguments about details of beer styles, beer
names, beer ingredients, beer politics, and a whole raft of other overblown subjects. In fact,
there are websites with volumes of such arguments. Instead of using our mouths for something
more useful (such as removing beer from a glass), we go on and on for hours about how worthy a
beer is when it does not meet Reinheitsgebot, how sour a saison really should be, what place any
fruit has in any beer, whether this IPA really is a good IPA, and (o, the mother of them all for the
last few years) how in the world can we call a beer both “black” and “pale” at the same time.

You know you’ve done it. We all have. Chances are we will again.
When Ken was still walking this Earth, though, he would tire quickly of all that. He would let us
know that he had with “guys, it’s just beer.” However, when Ken said it, he was holding beer on
high. He meant that we needed to relax, open our minds, and leave all the persnickety details
behind. Would we visit Mount Rushmore and spend all our time complaining that George
Washington might have a hair out of place? Of course not. Likewise, we shouldn’t sit there at
the bar and hold this glorious thing, this gift that human hands have crafted for ten thousand
years, and just go back and forth like barking dogs. Of course not. Rather, we must enjoy that
beer, any beer, for what it is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times and places for all those details and arguments, but
they really are quite few and far between. Most of the time, we need to sit back, enjoy the
moment, and remember that “it’s just beer.”