Houston’s Karbach Brewing Co.

Being the biggest doesn’t always make you the best. And when it comes to breweries, that’s especially true.


The first time I saw Karbach Beer was in March 2011. My favorite grocery store was promoting Texas-made products in association with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Always on the look out for new and interesting items, I scanned the aisle. My eyes stopped at a red and blue can holding Rodeo Clown Double IPA. With a tag line, “Get Down with the Clown!” I couldn’t help but giggle. I studied the can a bit more and discovered that the cute can with a funny name was brewed in Houston by Karbach Brewing Company. I’d never even heard of the place. Not being a big beer drinker, I left the four pack on the shelf.


After nearly a year and a half of seeing that eye-catching can in places like Whole Foods and Central Market,Β  I thought it time to find out what Karbach Brewery was all about. And with a simple tweet, I had an invitation from the self-professed social media nerd, David Graham, for a private tour.

Just minutes from the Galleria at the 610 and 290 interchange is Karbach Brewing Company. Once the location of CR Goodman Distribution Company, the founders of Karbach, Ken Goodman and Chuck Robertson, sold their beer portfolio in 2007 to Ben E. Keith after two decades in the distribution business. They sold in order finance their new venture and also because of a pesky Texas law that prevents alcohol producers from distributing their own product.


Named after the street the building is located on, not the village in Bavaria, Karbach Brewing Co. is relatively new, opening its doors in September 2011. Originally only available in draft form at bars and restaurants, they made the move to cans and stores in March 2011. Karbach opted for cans over bottles for a number of reasons: Cans weigh less, which reduce transportation costs; cans are more likely to be recycled; cans can be taken places that bottles are not allowed; cans keep out oxygen and light better than bottles {which apparently is bad for beer}.


The man behind the beer magic is brewmaster, Eric Warner. Formerly the CEO of Flying Dog Brewing Co. in Maryland, Eric moved to Texas to help start up Karbach. With a Diplom-Braumeister degree from the Technical University of Munich, this man knows his beer.


Karbach has four core varieties of beer available year-round. Their biggest seller is Hopadillo IPA, which I learned stands for India Pale Ale. Originally made for the British troops in India, the beer was shipped in barrels at a high percentage of alcohol in order to keep it from going flat. The soldiers were supposed to cut it with water to make it “pub strength”. Of course that didn’t happen. Karbach’s version has an alcohol content of 6.3% and is “dry hopped for added intensity of hop flavor and aroma”. I don’t know about all that technical stuff; I just know that it is delicious.


Karbach’s second best seller, yet gaining fast on Hopadillo IPA, is Weisse Versa Wheat. This was the first beer I tried on my tour and was also my favorite. With the smell ofΒ  tropical citrus fruits, coriander, and cloves, I wasn’t expecting such a light and delicious flavor. It certainly was refreshing on a hot and muggy Houston summer day, and at 5.2% alcohol, I could see myself throwing back more than one.

Sympathy for the Lager is named as a tribute to the Rolling Stones hit, “Sympathy for the Devil”. Apparently lager gets a bad wrap as a flavorless beer, so this is brewmaster, Eric Warner’s attempt to change that perception. With his German brewing background, Warner has developed this Bavarian-style beer. And even though I’m not a huge beer drinker, I found it delicious.


The last beer I tried was the Rodeo Clown Double IPA, the beer that first brought Karbach onto my radar. With an alcohol content of 9.5%, it is the strongest of all their beers. It also explains why Rodeo Clown is sold in four packs rather than six packs. With an alcohol content so high, it’s like getting two beers in one can. And to keep the price point below $10, Karbach sells them in fours. Essentially, consumers are getting eight wonderful craft beers for about $10. That’s a hard concept to argue with, plus it’s just simply tasty.


In addition to the four core beers, Karbach puts out seasonal favors. Barn Burner, a Saison beer, is for summer, while Oktoberfest debuts in August for the fall. The seasonal beer that I’m most excited to try is Pumpkin Beer, which should be available around October 1. Actual pumpkins will be roasted for flavoring this beer, as will cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Another limited-edition beer I’m eager to try is Yule Shoot Your Eye Out, a tip of the hat to the movie, A Christmas Story. The name alone is enough for me to put it in my shopping cart come November 1. Add the clever name to the dark chocolate being used in the beer, and I’m sold.


Growing by leaps and bounds, Karbach put out 6,500 barrels in 2011 compared to an estimated 8,000 in 2012. Projections for 2013 are as high as 20,000 barrels, and with a recent deal with Silver Eagle, the nation’s second-largest beer wholesaler, this goal should be within reach. With such muscle behind them, Karbach is likely to become a larger player in the craft brew business. Come this fall, football fans will be able to purchase their favorite flavor on tap at Reliant Stadium during the Texans games. Football and beer…it doesn’t get any more Texan than that.


Karbach offers tours of their production facility on Fridays from 5-7 {tour starts at 6} and Saturdays from 12-3 {tours start at 1 and 2:15}. The 30-45 minute tour is informal and questions are encouraged. For $7 you get the tour, a 9 oz glass, and four tokens. The tour attracts about 200 people each day. Friday is a popular spot for an end of the week happy hour. During the tour times, food trucks set up just outside of the warehouse. They sell a variety of food including hamburgers, pizza, food-on-a-stick, and even Korean/Mexican fusion.

#march 9 #photooftheday #picofday #photo #red #selfperceptions #31days #instagram #houston #rain #karbach #craftbeer #beer #chips #rodeoclown Credit

Karbach Brewing Company might not be a household name yet, but it will be soon enough. With their forward thinking, innovative flavors, and new partnerships, it’s just a matter of time.

But I can say I knew about them back when…

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  • Paul
    August 14, 2012

    Great review, Leah – and I (being a craft beer lover myself) am pleased to hear you enjoyed those hearty beers! Dallas and Houston are in close competition in terms of best quality and variety of locally-produced beer. You’d probably also enjoy a visit to Saint Arnold, which is Downtown not far from Karbach. Plus Saint Arnold is air conditioned! πŸ™‚ I need to make my way to some of the North Texas breweries for tours.

    • Leah Travels
      August 15, 2012

      Thanks a lot, Paul. I know you’re a huge craft beer lover, since your tweet put Karbach back on my radar. πŸ™‚ I’ve been to Saint Arnold and will do a post about that at some point. I went on a Saturday and it was PACKED. What an atmosphere. I’d like to go again when it’s a bit less crowded.

  • Tawny- Captain and Clark
    August 14, 2012

    Did you write this post just for us? Chris and I love to try new beers whenever we travel. Looks like we’re going to be busy whenever we make it to Texas. We might need you to show us around and sample some of the local flavors!

    • Leah Travels
      August 15, 2012

      There are lots of craft brews made in Texas; Karbach is one of the newest, but also one of the fastest rising in terms of distribution. As always, I’d love to show you the Texas ropes.

  • John
    August 14, 2012

    I love craft breweries – there is so much passion and whimsy in their products. I’m a big fan of this craft-canned revolution too, and it looks like Karbach is on board with it!

    • Leah Travels
      August 15, 2012

      Being from Colorado, you have to love craft brews, don’t you John? I figure they would revoke your CO citizenship if you didn’t.

  • Fiona
    August 15, 2012

    Have to say I love nothing better than trying the local brew when I travel too! Texas looks like a real treat, amber nectar indeed! πŸ™‚

    • Leah Travels
      August 15, 2012

      I have to agree, Fiona. I never liked Guinness, but it tasted like the best beer in the world while I was in Dublin. πŸ™‚

  • D.J. - The World of Deej
    August 15, 2012

    Would you believe I’ve never visited a brewery? I’ve been to Asheville and Austin in the last year or so, both have huge local beer presence, and never stopped in one. Really makes no sense…

    • Leah Travels
      August 15, 2012

      No, Deej, I don’t believe you’ve never visited a brewery. I’ve been to a couple and it’s really a cool experience even if you don’t like beer. Something about getting it from the source makes it better. Back up…you’ve been in Austin this year? My phone didn’t ring. πŸ˜‰

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    August 16, 2012

    You know I am not a beer drinker, but really enjoyed this little tour of yours, as I enjoyed Guinness in Dublin and Heineken in Amsterdam. Do you reckon if I keep trying, I will like it more?? Also, always wanted to know what IPA stood for πŸ˜‰ now I know!

    • Leah Travels
      August 16, 2012

      I have a feeling that being where the beer is produced gives it a little better flavor…at least that’s what I tell myself. I found the IPA story pretty interesting myself. Those drunken soldiers!

  • the lazy travelers
    August 16, 2012

    i learned a lot from this post, but the biggest lesson? i would classify a rodeo clown drinking beer with a higher-than-average alcohol content as HORRIFYING rather than cute. one of our few differences, leah.

    • Leah Travels
      August 16, 2012

      Look, I’m not sure how things are in big, bad New York City, but down here in Texas, we like our rodeo clowns a little drunk. That’s just how we roll.

  • Raul (ilivetotravel in Twitter)
    August 16, 2012

    Wow, what great attention to detail and great pix! The India Pale Ale, drunk like the soldiers did, would have been my choice – bang for the buck! I have been to breweries in NZ and the States but never a small one – worth exploring!

    • Leah Travels
      August 16, 2012

      I guess if I were a soldier living in India back then, I wouldn’t have wanted to cut my beer either. Drink it strong and straight, I always say. πŸ™‚

  • lola
    August 18, 2012

    this post makes me thirsty for a cold one! gorgeous photos and thank you for helping us all discover what is sure to be a popular new beer company! we’ll have to give you credit when we all see it on the shelves of liquor stores nationwide!

    • Leah Travels
      August 21, 2012

      What do you mean “this post”? Aren’t you always thirsty for a cold one?

  • Traveling Ted
    August 18, 2012

    I am actually just about to leave to have a few beers (actually many) with the Magical Flying Unicorns as we celebrate our championship season. This post was the perfect read before I leave to consume too many drinks with my beloved team.

    Great post by the way. I like the way you broke down the different varieties and explained them in laymen terms.

    • Leah Travels
      August 21, 2012

      I thought that you might like this post, Ted. If I hiked after taking this tour it would be your ideal day. My hearty congratulations to the Magical Flying Unicorns. May you have many more championship seasons.

  • Craig Zabransky
    August 18, 2012

    I often learn so much about Texas on Texas Tuesday posts, but this time it was about IPA. As a beer drinker I knew what it stood for, but I never knew the story about the English soldiers…. cut it to make it pub strength…. ballocks.

    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Leah Travels
      August 21, 2012

      Yes, Craig, I thought it was a pretty cool story myself. I imagine that by the time the beer arrived to India from England those soldiers were pretty thirsty. There was no time to cut it with water. πŸ™‚

  • Pola (@jettingaround)
    August 21, 2012

    Mr. Jetting Around and I LOVE visiting microbreweries. This one goes on the list, Leah!

    • Leah Travels
      August 22, 2012

      It’d be a good one to start with. Texas has many famous breweries and couple here in Houston. Come on down and I’ll show y’all. Maybe for a Dynamo game? πŸ˜‰

  • Richard Varr
    February 11, 2014

    Hi Leah, I was googling the alcohol content for Hopidillo IPA while at the bar and came across your blog. Thanks for the info!

    • Leah Walker
      February 15, 2014

      Hey, awesome! It’s a great little brewery. You should go for a visit.


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