10 Oct Fire Ant Brewing Company Visitors Guide
Fire Ant Brewing Company
Known for being at local festivals and really interacting with patrons
What You Need to Know Before You Visit Fire Ant Brewing Company
(An 3-D Rendering of their proposed facility, scheduled to open Spring 2017. Note the address in the rendering is incorrect, as plans have changed)
The Fire Ant Brewing Company Experience
To begin, the reason all of the need to know stuff is in question is because these guys aren’t fully up and running yet. Don’t let that stop you from tracking them down to try one of their nearly 20-some-odd unique flavors – they’re good. Real good.
If you’ve been following us through the last few months, you know that as we were building this blog, we searched high and low to list alllll of the breweries in the Greater Houston Area. (We’re still probably missing a few, and if you know of some, please let us know.) This was another of the smaller ones that we had to dig for a little bit, but it was worth it!
Chris reached out to Fire Ant Brewing and introduced Beer Chronicle. He mentioned that we’d like to check the place out for a little write up. Owners Kurt, Bruce and Carl were kind enough to invite us to their home.
Chris, Nick and I arrive in a three car caravan to a middle class home in Tomball. It was just an hour before sunset on a warm, humid evening. Walking up to a man-cave of a garage with the door open, we’re immediately welcomed by Bruce as Kurt and Carl grabbed us a few chairs at their pub table. From the moment we arrived, these guys were hospitable, nearly tripping over themselves to make us feel right at home. At home-home.
When we visited our last brewery with the intention of writing up one of these guides, I was honestly tempted to close my notepad and just hang out, they were so welcoming – these guys were no different. I fought the urge, though.
They poured the three of us a few beers starting off with their Hell’s Heavenweizen, and we just shot the breeze. They told us a handful of crazy stories about how they named the company and a few of the beers. They shared their ambitions and preferences without holding their tongues one bit – these guys were as genuine as it gets.
Fire Ant Brewing Company: About the Owners
Kurt is the brewmaster, and he’s a chemist that works in pharma. Kurt has a passion for all things beer, and his curiosity was a bit ahead of its time. He’s got a keen interest in German beer. He spoke fondly of tasting authentic Munich Lagers and Hefeweizens. Kurt shared the story of being inspired by friends to brew his own beer back in 1999. “A friend and I were bs’ing over a beer, and he told me ‘y’know you can brew your own?’ I said to him, ‘are you sure that’s legal!?'” That curiosity has grown into almost 20 Fire Ant Brewing Company beers today.
Bruce is the marketing arm of the ant, and he’s a self-employed IT professional. He’s the loudest and proudest of the bunch, and he’s just happy to share his passion of good beer with strangers as they become friends.
Finally, Carl is the handyman. He’s the most reserved of the three, but he bears the battle wounds that helped Fire Ant Brewing Company get their name. Since Fire Ant is most known for being at fairs, Carl’s the man that makes it happen. Carl and Kurt are brothers and the three are long-time friends.
(Fire Ant Brewing Company owners, in front of the land that’ll soon house their facility. Pictured from left to right, Carl, Kurt, and Bruce)
They told us about some of the struggles they encountered with the building of a brewery, and mentioned that the TTB (federal level) has been tougher than the TABC (state level) in their experience. Bruce shared with us that the builders, the developers, their fans and even the mayor have all been a great asset and extremely supportive. He mentioned, “We’re just figuring it out as we go, but it’s taking a bit longer than we expected” – referring to the build.
“Tomball was just waiting for a brewery to want to move in,” Bruce and Kurt shared. They speak very fondly of the mayor and local support.
They also shared some issues they had early on with names and designs for their beers. They’re DIY-ers to the fullest, and that led them to discovering a few things the hard way, but their progress is a badge of honor to them.
Kurt explained to us the thought process behind each beer. “We want to brew drinkable beers that lower the barrier of entry for people that drink macro.” Their philosophy of brewing low ABV beers in various styles is an attempt to share more good beer with more people. They’re also largely inspired when they’re drinking, Bruce explained. “I usually have a beer of XYZ flavor, and I say to Kurt, we haven’t made one of these yet, huh? Let’s try this. And Kurt gets busy thinking up the flavor profiles” With such a big roster, it’s proof that many of them turn out good enough to be keepers.
In addition, the gang can be found in Grid Iron, Texas on Sunday mornings when the Texans are playing at home. They’ve built a large following by giving away beer in the Yellow lot week in and week out, as well as attending lots of local beer festivals. When somebody approaches their booth at the game or a festival, they’re usually intrigued and ask what beer would the Fire Ant crew would recommend. Kurt laughingly continues, “When somebody says they don’t like dark beers, I hand them our darkest one and tell them ‘well, check this one out.’ They’re always blown away at how light and drinkable it is, even though it’s dark in color.” They’ve got a signature drink they make only at Texans games, and it’s definitely become a beacon to those passersby – we’ll let you visit them to find out for yourself.
They discovered that going from home brewing to scaling production was a bit of a challenge. After brewing solid, consistent stuff at home, a friend inspired them to bust out a keg at the Texans tailgate. They brought a 5 gallon keg the first time, and reminisced on, “pouring nothing but foam that day.” They doubled it up, and found success. It was all just for fun until they started growing a solid following, and somebody suggested to sell it.
That’s when they started to get serious.
The name Fire Ant Brewing Company came about from a Saturday morning brew like many that came before it. As the team worked away, Carl happened to step in a big fire ant pile, but he was too busy with the brew to notice. Once it was too late, one whole leg was covered with ants as they began their siege. He ended up hospitalized with all the welts along one side of his body, but the brewing continued. They figured a story like that was one worth telling.
Furthermore, we learned all this while Kurt contently and hospitably made laps back and forth from the pub table to the deep freezer/fridge. That thing housed what looked like more than half a dozen sixth barrel or slim quarter kegs. Thank God it was a balmy evening, and they had lots of stories to share.
The Fire Ant Brewing Company Beer
The guys at Fire Ant Brewing Company are really confident about how good their beers are. As we sampled 5 flavors, they didn’t try and tell us how good this one was or how complex that one was. Not once. Instead, they just poured them and let us form our own opinions.
We had three from their signature series, one seasonal and the fifth was a top-secret beer they were planning on launching the following weekend at a local festival. Kurt explained that he focuses heavily on consistency, and it shows.
Fire Ant Brewing has 14 signature brews, and they plan to keep 2 seasonals constantly in rotation. “That’s a hell of a brew schedule,” our newest writer, Nick, urged. These guys laughed it off, and said they’d figure out a way. They’ve got grit for sure.
We weren’t there to review beers, but of course, we took a few notes. Here’s the compilation:
- Hell’s Heavenweizen – 4.6% ABV, 13.1 IBU
- Summer Craze Blonde – 5.1% ABV, 27 IBU
- Antoberfest Oktoberfest – 5.5% ABV, 34 IBU
- Working Ant German Porter – 5.1% ABV, 27 IBU
- Mosaic Ant APA – 5.7% ABV, 49 IBU
They would all land somewhere between good and man, hold up, but we weren’t there to review them individually. We’re hoping to stop by again, grab a few growlers, and share more in detail about specific beers. They don’t focus on taps or professional artwork as much yet, because they’re not in stores or bars. Instead, they put a bit more effort into the beers and their displays, thanks to the handy work of Carl.
The Hell’s Heavenweizen was pretty good. It was a little clovey, but it was light, drinkable and good. It went up from here.
Summer Craze Blonde was also pretty dang good, especially for a blonde. Blondes, in the accumulative opinion of the Beer Chronicle authors are tough to nail. This one was light, bright and refreshing, but it wasn’t a flavorless weenie, either.
Moving on, their Antoberfest was really good too. It had everything you’d expect flavor wise, but it was light and low ABV at the same time.
Working Ant German Porter was a big surprise. It was dark and full of chocolatey notes, but it was super thin on the mouth feel. It was almost too thin, but it was them staying consistent and true to their goals. Similar to the Antoberfest, everything you expect flavor-wise, but light at the same time.
And last, but most certainly not least, was the Mosiac Ant APA. Man, hold up. At first, we didn’t know this was a Mosaic APA or an APA at all, for that matter. They said this one was top-secret, and they were going to unveil it at Beetles, Brew and Barbeque the following day. After letting us try 4 beers, they had a change of heart, but they made a game of it. “Here try this,” Kurt said, but when we asked which of their beers it was, he told us it was the secret one, to guess. Chris, on his game and smacking his tongue as a sip went down, cautiously said American Pale Ale. Bingo! I guess for a bonus, Kurt said, “Ok, it’s single-hopped. What kinda hops.” Chris, a bit more confident this time, shot back, “Mosaic.” Ding Ding Ding! Anyhow, this beer was fantastic. Well balanced, high in flavor and drinkability, Mosiac Ant APA was a winner.
The Future for Fire Ant Brewing Company
Finally, the future is near for them. They’re heavily focused on completing the build out of their brand new brewpub located at 306 & 308 Market St. The plans for a 3800 sq. ft. facility are getting closer to completion each day. Fire Ant Brewing partnered with Hutson Group to develop themselves a built-to-spec facility that’ll be the best of brewpub, with a full brewery experience as well as a full restaurant.
They mentioned wanting to keep a large rotation of signature beers because, “they’re all signature,” said Bruce. While they know what beers they’ll be brewing, they’re not 100% sure on the cuisine just yet. They mentioned wanting to go German, but weren’t completely sold just yet.
Fire Ant Brewing Company plans to open the doors in spring of 2017, and we hope to join them.
Beers to you, Houston!