I once thought it was hard trying to keep up with all the wineries in the state, but now I think the growing number of breweries might give them a good run for their money.
The latest to hit San Antonio is Karbach Brewing Co. from Houston, which has set up taps all over town. The beers are the work, in part, of brewmaster Eric Warner, who earned his degree in brewery science and has worked everywhere from Munich, Germany, to Flying Dog Brewery in Colorado. In just two years, Warner and his partners have helped make Karbach “Houston’s largest craft brewery,” he said in a telephone interview.
A diversified portfolio has helped attract attention, and so have the fancifully named selections, such as Sympathy for the Lager, Hopadillo IPA, Rodeo Clown Double IPA, Weisse Versa Wheat and Weekend Warrior. But it’s the beer behind that is drawing customers back for more.
“We’re very fortunate to have developed such a strong local following that it gives us the luxury to be able to expand close to home,” Warner said.
The San Antonio expansion is happening in several stages. Right now, Karbach is only available on tap, but you won’t have to look too hard to find it. The beer has been placed in more than 100 establishments throughout the city. I found the bracingly strong Rodeo Clown Double IPA at the Point Park and Eats and the refreshing Sympathy for the Lager at the Flying Saucer.
“Just look for the good places that carry craft beer,” he advised.
In the fall, you can expect to find Karbach available in cans. That’s right. No bottles for the brewery. Warner wants it that way.
He finds cans are far better for preserving the flavor he wants than bottles — and there are a number of reasons why this is.
One is that the can does not allow any light to interact with the beer.
Why is that bad? “If you leave a bottle in the sunlight, the beer can get skunky. This becomes more pronounced with clear glass,” he said.
Warner went on to criticize the bottle caps, which are not as airtight as you might think. “The seal’s not perfect,” he said. “On a can, the seal’s more impervious.”
Besides, a freshly popped beer can is perfect for grilling chicken. Warner suggested the Sympathy for the Lager, his tribute to German- and Czech-style lagers, as the best to use.
Making so many beers and making each one consistent are challenges that Warner seems to welcome. Part of making can after can and keg after keg of a particular brew taste the same is being able to use the same hops. Home brewers know this can be a problem because there’s been a worldwide hops shortage for several years now, and “the most-coveted hop varieties are now contracted a year or two in advance,” he said.
Warner has skilled brewers working with him to ensure standards are met and consistent flavor profiles emerge every time someone goes to the tap. But he was also straightforward that the job pool of master beer craftsmen in Texas isn’t what you’d find in micro-brewery havens like Colorado or Oregon. “It’s not perfect, but we’re doing well with it,” he said.
By the way, the name of the brewery comes from its location in Houston: Karbach Street. It’s also the name of a town in Bavaria, and, as the brewery’s website says, “We hear they drink a lot of great beer there.”
The growing field of food and beer pairing naturally appeals to Warner, who suggests newcomers start by trying to match the intensity of the beer with the intensity of the food they’re eating. And get playful with both. Think about matching Karbach’s Weisse Versa Wheat with pancakes, while the fall seasonal offering, Karbachtoberfest, goes great with, what else?, brats and pretzels.
Putting beer and food together is made even easier when you consider, as Warner said, “It’s hard to find a food that beer doesn’t go with.”
For more information on Karbach Brewing Co. and for some videos of Warner discussing his beers, click here.