HOUSTON — Houston’s newest brewpub is getting ready to open its doors on February 28, offering guests an abbreviated beer menu and full food menu in anticipation of the grand opening celebration to follow a few weeks later. The brewpub will be open Tuesday through Thursday, 3 – 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., with brunch available exclusively on Sundays. Owners note that Local Group Brewing, located in Houston’s Hardy Yards in Near Northside at 1504 Chapman Street, places a high importance on bites as well as brews.
“You could call us a brewery that has its own restaurant, or a restaurant that brews its own beer,” said co-owner and general manager Michael Steeves. “We’re looking to expand the brewpub experience; elevate it. Nothing takes a backseat here.”
In addition to their upscale take on traditional brewery fare, a management team with 50 years of combined experience sets this 7,500+ square-foot brewpub apart and bodes well for initial success.
Executive Chef Jeff Samoska, who hails most recently from Houston’s The Post Oak Hotel, has been cooking professionally since age 16. With help from Sous Chef Pablo Varas, Samoska will put his extensive experience to use in executing a thoughtful, refined take on American comfort food.
“From sourcing the highest quality ingredients, to how we treat them in house, to how they are composed and served, we’ve focused a lot of effort into showing guests something special, different than the typical brewpub culinary experience,” Samoska notes. “We’re committed to creating high-quality, fresh products in-house, and we have a mindset of constant evolution—we always want to be trying new things and ideas, being playful and adventurous in the kitchen. I think this will keep things exciting for guests.”
Local Group’s more conventional offerings will include the crispy chicken sandwich brined with house-made pickle juice and house-brewed beer as well as the Texas Angus beef burger (both served on house-made brioche buns). Other options unique to Local Group include duck confit poutine with black pepper gravy on house cut fries, a house-cured and smoked Berkshire “bacon steak” and two variations of their house-made pretzel: “The Bratzel” stuffed with local game sausages and the oversized “everything” pretzel served with beer queso and spicy mustard. Great care will also go into their local cheese and meat platter offering a selection of Texas cheeses to accompany their house cured and prepared charcuterie, dips, breads and pickles.
The chefs expect their unique access to an assortment of fresh-brewed beers and beer-making ingredients will continue to spark creativity as they bring out new menu items in the future.
“We plan to change our menus frequently based on the seasons, guest feedback and what we’re inspired by at any given moment,” says Samoska.
No effort was spared with the dessert menu, which includes a croissant-based banana foster bread pudding with bruleed bananas and house-made ice cream, or with the kids and Sunday brunch menus. They will also offer specialized menus for private events.
Local Group’s 2,700 square-foot brewhouse and cellar space is helmed by co-owner and Head Brewer James “HuggyBear” Wolfe, whose eight-year professional brewing background includes numerous Houston breweries such as Southern Star Brewing Co. and No Label Brewing Company, where he earned a name for himself. Huggy, Michael and third co-owner Todd Donewar plan to start with a variety of beers and see what people respond to. Like the chefs, they plan to adjust according to the demand and feedback from customers, pumping out new brews every couple of weeks.
In preparation for opening, the team brewed 71 batches, totaling 131 test beers during the past year. What they’ve ended up with is a solid block of beers to debut with, starting off with four during the soft opening and moving up to eight for the grand. The team expects the initial brews to include an easy-drinking Stout named Li’l Star; Double Vertigo, a hazy, hoppy New England Imperial IPA; Sparkle Motion, an American Sparkling Ale; and Chef’s Hefe, a German-style Hefeweizen. Later will come a light, horchata-inspired brew titled Horchatanita; Athena’s Elixir, a fruited kettle sour that will rotate fruits and other flavors; a juicy New England IPA; and an easy-drinking, hop-lover’s IPA. Future plans include barrel aged brews, additional IPAs and Imperial Stouts.
“I want to make the beer that people drink,” said Huggy. “I also want to make great beer that we’re proud of; create, experiment and push the edges of what beer can be. The landscape is changing. I think people are more open to experimentation.”
For tasting the team’s frequent new beers, the brewpub will offer fixed and make-your-own flights as well as half-pours.
Eventually, 20 taps will be filled, eight of which will pour straight from the tanks for fresher beers with less transfer, along with a few non-beer options like Texas wines, cold-brew coffee, ciders and sodas. In these cases, they’ve sourced beverages from local businesses such as Saint Arnold Brewing and Kuhlman Cellars. A nitro system, which they expect to be available for the grand opening, will serve cold brew coffee and more.
Overall, Local Group has pushed to provide the best experience possible for guests. In addition to placing a high importance on meals as well as brews, details like bike racks, an order window on their pet-friendly patio, high chairs and toy stations for children and a point of sales system that doesn’t require them to hold customer’s credit cards were considered and attended to. Front-of-House Manager AnnMarie Cantu, who comes with ample experience from past management positions at spots like Saint Arnold Brewing, will helm the service team, which has been training for months.
“From planning to brewing to cooking, we are hyper-focused on the guest experience,” says Michael. “We want to bring people back.”
For More Information: localgroupbrewing.com