B-52 Brewing in Conroe, Texas
B-52 Brewing is a Brewery You Just Have to Visit
Some breweries, for whatever reason, you just have to visit. Maybe it’s to worship at the throne of their creativity like Cigar City Brewery in Tampa, FL. Or maybe it’s to gorge on kick-ass food alongside superbly crafted beers like North Country Brewery in Slippery Rock, PA. Or maybe it’s to participate in community driven conversation while sipping brews as inspiring as the talk like Rust Belt Brewing in Youngstown, OH. B-52 Brewing, located about an hour’s trek north of Houston, is one of those breweries you just have to visit. Bring the kids; bring the dogs; heck, even bring your father-in-law (I did). Make an event out of the afternoon, and enjoy the ambience and well-crafted beers.
I knew I was going to like B-52 Brewing from the moment we pulled into the overflowing parking lot. With its ample beer garden chalk full of occupied picnic tables located under a forest of shade trees and facilities set in converted shipping containers, I wasn’t sure if I was in Germany or Mexico. A Mexican beer garden! Did it really matter? I was in Texas after all. Just as long as the beers didn’t resemble the German knock-offs Mexicans love to produce (Don’t worry. They don’t.).
We were greeted by patrons tossing corn hole bags, warming fire pits, and the occasional windstorm of falling acorns bouncing off the tin roofs. And let’s not forget the brewery pug. It felt like a mature college frat party picnic tailgate beer afternoon (that doesn’t make sense to me either). I knew I was at home. That is until I tried to order a beer.
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Ordering a Beer at B-52 Brewing
This is where it gets confusing. You can’t just mosey on up to the bar and slide a few bucks to the bartender for a frothy pint. You have to pay for a tour from the ticket booth which includes vouchers for three tastings of either full pints or eight ounce tasters. If your thirst for liquid libation isn’t quenched after your third round, then you can purchase individual glasses, but you have to buy them from the ticket booth.
I asked why the process was so difficult figuring it had to do with some archaic laws. That didn’t make sense though. This is Texas where doing business is supposed to be easy (At least that’s what Rick Perry’s radio ads in Maryland said). I was right. It did have to do with a Texas law that has since been repealed. However, several breweries, like B-52 Brewing, still operate by it.
While I was as impressed with the beers as I was with the camp-like beer garden, I do have to toss in one statement that is more of a Debbie Downer. I was a tad disappointed with the lack of variety. When I was there (on Black Friday) the only beers served were the three flagships and one randalized version of a flagship. Sorry, while a cranberry Pilsner sounds interesting, I’m not paying extra for it. Thus, I stuck to the Payload Pilsner, Wingman Wheat IPA, and the Double IPA. I would have liked to sample a creative offshoot or seasonal as I know the brewery is capable, but also understand (and somewhat admire) the capacity issues of a 1,000 barrel brewery.
Normally I start with the least hoppy beer and work my way up the spectrum. This isn’t because I’m a hop head and want to get the inferior beers out of the way. I find this helps for a better tasting experience as hops tend to ruin the palate for less hoppy beers. But I’m not a big fan of Pilsners so I decided to save that one for last figuring my father-in-law’s patience would wear off (most people’s do) as I slowly sipped each pint trying to take the proper tasting notes and capture the right light for beer photos. If I had to chug that last pint because the car was leaving, it might as well not be a DIPA.
So I started with the Wingman Wheat IPA. The tasting notes describe it as a true session IPA. I can agree from it’s balanced flavor but not it’s 5.7% ABV. In my opinion, anything above 5% ABV does not qualify as a session ale. But maybe that’s because my drinking sessions tend to last longer than most requiring a lower ABV. The Wingman was a perfect balance of the two ales in its blend. The beer starts off soft with tropical, citrus, and grassy notes from the wheat and finishes like a fine IPA blending the bitterness of citrus, pine, and resin. The Wingman was by far my favorite of the three and one that I would look to order regularly if I lived in Houston.
Next I went for the Double IPA. This bad boy lands at over 100 IBUs and 8.8% ABV. The nose was a perfect teaser of hops that greeted you in inviting wafts well before you went for a sip. It’s like the beer is calling you. “Drink me! Drink me!” Of course you answer that call. While I could see the popularity of this beer, it wasn’t to my tasting when it comes to a DIPA. It was a tad too medium bodied lacking enough malt to back up the hops. I also found the hops fell more to the dank than the citrus and piney side of bitter. Some people love dank hops. I, however, don’t.
Last, but surely not least, was the Payload Pilsner that I wanted to overlook. Thank goodness B-52 Brewing didn’t allow me to ignore. The Payload almost resembled a blonde ale more than a pilsner giving off strong fruit esters of citrus alongside the graininess and clean finish reminiscent of a traditional Pilsner. B-52 managed to add a creative touch to a style most craft beer drinkers have written off from the piss-flavored yellow water we grew up knowing as Pilsner.
B-52 is truly a brewery to watch in the coming years as they continue to grow. I can only imagine what kind of tasty ales they can create with a larger capacity to experiment with. Until they do, it’s worth the trip for a pleasant afternoon outside in the beer garden.
Have you visited B-52 Brewing? What was your impression? Please comment below!
Disclosure – Sometimes breweries and wineries invite me in, often including a complimentary tasting. Sometimes, I stop by anonymously as I follow my passion. B-52 Brewing was an occasion were I stopped on my own. Regardless, readers receive my honest opinions as unlike Yelp, my opinions are not for sale.