The Houston bar scene is as diverse as Houston itself. However, the Houston beer culture is quite underdeveloped, and the city's virtual lack of craft beer producers is perplexing given the explosion of microbreweries and brewpubs in the Northeastern and Northwestern States. A good beer bar, however, is the perfect remedy for the Houston beer-hunter. The ideal watering hole is an amalgamation of many atmosphere x-factors and a beverage selection beyond the predictable basic menu of InBev/Miller-Coors products. The following represent The Ferm's Top 15 recommended places to get a beer. In basic terms, the criteria for the ranking were based on a combination of our subjective opinion of the atmosphere and quality of beers available.
The ideal watering hole is an amalgamation of many atmosphere x-factors and a beverage selection beyond the predictable basic menu of InBev/Miller-Coors products. The following represent The Ferm's Top 15 recommended places to get a beer. In basic terms, the criteria for the ranking were based on a combination of our subjective opinion of the atmosphere and quality of beers available.
#15 West Alabama Ice House
Address: 1919 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77098
How it made the list: While it shows up at the end of our list, it would be wrong to let the horrid Houston climate force West Alabama Ice House off a list of great places to get a beer in Houston. So what if it's an outdoor bar in a city that is 90+F and humid for nine months of the year, this just might be the best dive "bar" in all of H-town. WAIH is so old school… they still maintain a MySpace page! They are family and dog friendly, host live music, and serve free hot dogs on Friday. The hungry customer can also catch something from the food vendors that drop by frequently. The beer selection is a little average, but the unique charm lands West Alabama Ice House the #15 slot.
#14 The Hobbit Café
Address: 2243 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Upper Kirby
How it made the list: While not necessarily a foodie nor a beer lover's paradise, this quirky eatery became the only traditional restaurant on our list by being good in all the categories that count. The Hobbit is a perfect place to stop for dinner during an Upper Kirby pub crawl. I wasn't aware Tex-Mex and Caribbean inspired foods were the preferred cuisine of Middle Earth, but I do know that Hobbits enjoy their drinking… and the Hobbit has a limited, but great beer menu, including several Texas craft beers on draft.
#13 The Red Lion
Address: 2316 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019
Neighborhood: River Oaks
How it made the list: It is a British Pub, so expect the typical Bass-Harp-Guinness-Stella draft selections. Some craft beers such as Anchor Steam and Fireman's #4 also adorn the draft menu, all of which are served in 20oz imperial pints… nice touch. The pub grub here is exceptional. Baked Chicken Tandoori Quesadillas, uhh yum!
#12 Molly's Pub
Address: 24905 I-45, Spring, TX 77380
Neighborhood: The Woodlands
How it made the list: Mr. Smokeypants, who reps The Ferm in The Woodlands, vouches for this north-of-town bar. With around 30 taps, including many local craft beers, Molly's earns our title of best dive bar in the W, and the only non-Houston bar to make the Top 15.
#11 Flying Saucer
Address: 705 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
How it made the list: To be honest, I considered leaving Flying Saucer off the list. The changes to the inside and the location downtown are a turn off to me. So what saves the Sauce despite its lack of much personality or atmosphere and less than ideal downtown location? The ginormous draft wall. Respect the wall, my friends.
#10 Front Porch Pub
Address: 217 Gray St, Houston, TX 77002
How it made the list: You might be getting some sushi at Fish or a crepe at Coco's, but when hanging out in the increasingly swanky Midtown, this small old house-like pub across from low rise mixed development condos just feels right. The forty something taps are nothing to sneeze at either.
#9 McGonigel's Mucky Duck
Address: 2425 Norfolk St, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Upper Kirby
How it made the list: It would be quite an exaggeration to say the Mucky Duck is a hidden gem, but this stellar live music venue is probably underrated as a great beer bar. The tap list is impressive, and when it is not packed during a concert, the Mucky Duck feels like a comfortable neighborhood joint.
#8 Onion Creek Coffee House
Address: 3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
Neighborhood: The Heights
How it made the list: This Heights hangout combines a coffeehouse, lounge, and bar with a neighborhood atmosphere. A previous "Best Coffee House" winner from the Houston Press, O.C. also has loads of beer options (both bottles and drafts). The menu also contains several good breakfast and pub food options. For those not sporting a hangie from the night before, this location also hosts the Houston Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.
#7 Little Woodrows
Address: 2306 Brazos St, Houston, TX 77006
Neighborhood: Midtown (also others)
How it made the list: Little Woodrows has a lot of beers… like 20-30 taps and 100 beers in stock. I find them good for meet up places or large gatherings. The place gets packed, so don't expect to have a nice comfortable beer and a chat with your BFF here. Plus, the atmosphere is kind of reminiscent of a converted warehouse/garage. The Rice Village location, next Ginger Man, is a convenient place to play darts if the boards at Ginger Man are full but you still want a decent beer.
#6 Rudyard's British Pub
Address: 2010 Waugh Dr, Houston, TX 77006
How it made the list: While dubbed a British Pub, this is more of a dive bar and live music venue than a pub. The tap selection is great, including many Texas beers and other crafts. In the back, you'll find a handful of dart boards. Rudyard's has that local feel and is relatively pretentious free… a very good recipe for a great beer bar.
#5 The State Bar & Lounge
Address: 909 Texas St, Houston, TX 77002
How it made the list: Given the hassle of getting to and from downtown and the lack of a concentrated area of rock solid hangout options, I have a bias against most downtown establishments. State Bar is the exception for me. Its classy feel and location inside the Rice Loft mixed development (old Rice Hotel) makes it one of my favorite downtown hangouts. The beer selection is limited, but they usually have a Saint Arnold on draft and both the bar and couch areas *are* the kind of place you would want to bring your BFF (sorry Woodrows).
#4 Stag's Head
Address: 2128 Portsmouth St, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Upper Kirby
How it made the list: You will be glad you made the effort to locate Stag's Head, which is tucked away in a shopping center and located within the triangular convergence of Shepherd/Greenbriar/Richmond just north of Hwy 59. The British pub succeeds in satisfying the patrons seeking the pub experience, craft beer advocates, and sports fans alike. Although it's been years since I've seen this deal officially offered, they still honor their old post-Astros game free pint deal if you give them your ticket stub. Stag's Head devotes many of their 30-ish taps to craft beers, and they almost always have a cask tapped. The food is quite good too, making this as close to a gastropub as Houston may have.
#3 Petrol Station Coffeehouse
Address: 985 Wakefield Dr, Houston, TX 77018
Neighborhood: Oak Forest
How it made the list: Petrol Station is hands down one of the coolest drinking establishments I've ever been to… anywhere. The bar is located in the middle of a residential area in a converted gas station. A peek at the 14 taps and two cask engines reveals an obvious dedication to providing all high quality American craft beers. Get ready for this folks; there are no Bud/Miller/Coors to be found here. As far as I can tell, the owner runs the place most of the time. Not in the mood for a fermented malty beverage? Petrol Station also has various coffee drinks available, all from coffee beans roasted in house. If I lived or worked nearby it would be easily move up a spot on this list.
#2 Hans' Bier Haus
Address: 2523 Quenby St, Houston, TX 77005
Neighborhood: Rice Village
How it made the list: It is safe to say that the establishments listed inside the top 5 possess all the characteristics of a great place to have a beer. For Hans, atmosphere could be used with either a negative or positive connotation. The structure itself is an unassuming hole in the wall. The bar area is quite small… the air conditioner struggles to provide anything much cooler than the outside air temperature... they have a stack of old board games on a table near the tiny restrooms… and I LOVE IT. The beer selection is outstanding and their impressive draft wall (20-30 taps) lean toward the craft end of the beer spectrum. As much of an inside drinker as I am, I have to admit that Hans' biggest asset is the huge outdoor beer garden. Out back you will find a dog friendly patio bar, a gondola lift car (?), and bocce ball courts. Hans' also frequently hosts live music acts. The quintessential hole in the wall beer bar? Quite possibly.
#1 The Ginger Man
Address: 5607 Morningside, Houston, TX 77005
Neighborhood: Rice Village
How it made the list: Houston is home to the oldest of the Ginger Man family of pubs, and it has a charm that is unmatched by any of their others… or any of their peers. Serving beer since 1985, this Rice Village pub was a favorite of Michael Jackson, and not the "hee hee" Michael, the world-renowned beer expert Michael. Inside you will find a dark wood filled setting with low ceilings and old bottles, cans, and beer paraphernalia decorated about. Outside you will find a great beer garden in the back and patio with picnic tables in the front. I've never counted tap handles, but there must be somewhere between 50-75 draft beers available, with many more options available by bottle. It is hard to say whether The Ginger Man has defined what a beer pub should be or just provides the finest example.
Not every good beer hangout could make the list, so we have added a few honorable mentions that were under consideration, but missed the cut.
Boondoggles - Clear Lake area. Taps galore.
Brewery Tap - Downtown location. "Cool" location (used to be a tap room for the old Magnolia brewery)
Catbird's - Interesting, low key, Montrose area bar
Washington Ave Drinkery - Owned by The Corkscrew guys (who distribute my favorite weekly email newsletter), so it has to be good.
McElroy's Pub - A good bar, but missed the list because there was only so much room for Irish/British/Scottish pubs, and it is not as distinguishing as the others. Sister pub State Bar is on the list, so no harm no foul.
Kelvin Arms - You can lounge in an actual bank vault here, but being a Scottish bar and having been served stale beer on a few occasions kept this off the list.