The Brews Sisters - Three Houston Breweries to Visit Now
This October, Platypus Brewing opened a shiny new taproom and kitchen along Washington Corridor, directed by Head Brewer Kerry Embertson and owners Sean and Rachna Hanrahan and Morgan Hughes. Boasting a Texas heart and Australian spirit, the new concept welcomes Houstonians to sample its unique brand of Aussie–Lone Star offerings.
Enthusiastic about the chance to launch a new brew house, Embertson moved to Houston from California after five years as head brewer at Lost Coast Brewing in Humboldt County, where she helped oversee the 25-year-old brewery’s $25 million expansion and staff of 30.
Despite this success, Embertson didn’t discover her calling within the heady world of beer until age 30. While taking prerequisites for a dentistry program, she waited tables at Crescent City Brewhouse in New Orleans’ French Quarter. “I was talking to the brewer one day, and told him, ‘You have the coolest job!’” she recalled, “and he was, like, ‘You know those science classes you’re taking? That’s how I make beer.’”
After exposure to the production side and the beermaking community, Embertson was hooked. She wasted no time in enrolling in beer school, accepted an internship and subsequent hire at Karl Strauss Brewing Company in San Diego, and eventually led brew operations at Lost Coast.
At Platypus, Embertson’s happy to be back in her rubber boots amidst the dirty, sweaty action of making beer, rather than behind a desk. She notes this preference as a requirement of the gig: “You actually have to enjoy using your body in a job, or it’s not going to work out.”
The California native now produces easy-drinking beers that incorporate Australian hops, which produce bright, tropical profiles similar to West Coast styles. “Beer you want to drink at the beach,” as the brewers say. Keep an eye out for a saison made with Texas citrus to enjoy this spring alongside the kitchen’s meat pies and other Aussie pub snacks.
Hopping around the globe every few years with their military family, siblings Heather Niederhofer and Trevor Brown became close out of necessity. Years later, looking for fulfillment beyond the corporate grind, they’ve built a brewery together. Still working energy sector jobs, they set up a microbrewery in Brown’s garage and spent four years researching and testing recipes before officially launching Lone Pint Brewery in Magnolia, Texas, where Heather’s husband, Blake, is head brewer.
“We’re IPA lovers,” says Niederhofer. “Our portfolio is very IPA heavy. And even what’s not an IPA, like our English brown and American wheat, are hoppy for those styles.” Apparently, Texas is full of hopheads: The brewery now distributes across Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. Yellow Rose, their most beloved brew, is made with citrusy Mosaic hops, which led to the Zythophile series, which features single-hop IPAs that allow individual hop varieties to shine.
Lone Pint is excited to double the footprint of its brewery this spring by adding a taproom where they can finally sell beer on premises. Soon, Niederhofer and Brown hope to hire themselves full-time at the brewery to dedicate even more time to their craft.
“The beer community is a really neat community to be involved with,” says Niederhofer, who loves that beer and the people who make it are just fun. “I can’t imagine what drycleaning guild meetings are like.”
“We kind of let the garden tell us what to make,” says Mandy Jeronimus regarding what inspires new beers, pickles and sodas—the latter two her domain as in-house fermentologist—at City Acre Brewing, the charming brewpub opened last July by Jeronimus and fellow owners Brewmaster Matt Schlabach and his wife, Meredith Borders.
Like most breweries, City Acre offers a mix of core brews—in their case influenced by German styles—as well as seasonal suds. However, tucked just minutes north of downtown, the brewery boasts a modest arsenal of gardenfresh ingredients that influence the beer menu, too. The sprawling yard is populated by picnic tables, lawn games, a small orchard and several raised beds of herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Originally intended just for the kitchen’s scratch-made, German-inspired fare, the produce has found its way into shrubs for sodas, as well as the small-batched beers, which are exclusively available to enjoy in City Acre’s taproom, save for the Cellar Bounty Series. These special runs are imbued with gifts of the garden—recently, a saison base was finished in turn with kumquat and grapefruit, lemongrass and Lenoir grapes— before being bottled in bombers, which can be purchased for takeaway.
Jeronimus’ love of fermentation runs deep; she’s been brewing with Schlabach since they met at the University of Texas at Austin. Growing up in Minneapolis, she relished time pickling with her mother each fall. “It’s the old-fashioned, painstaking science of it all,” she says of her love for the craft. “I like that it’s this almost ancient art. It’s taking things from the earth and making them edible and, frankly, delicious.”