Even though we’ve been away for a while, our love for local craft beer never went away. One of the things we’ve realized is how much great craft beer is being made throughout the state with much of it coming from new and exciting breweries like 160ft Beerworks. What we didn’t expect was another inspirational story of turning adversity into something great.
On a whim, we decided to head over to the newly opened nanobrewery close to downtown Houston to try out their beer and enjoy a beautiful Sunday. Fortunately, we encountered owner Mike Olenick behind the bar serving up the beers and got a chance to talk shop with him to find out his story.
His journey is one of turning personal change into a dream. Mike came to Texas by way of Long Island, New York and is the definition of the Davy Crockett quote, “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.” Like so many others in the city, he worked in the oil and gas field for several years and when the market for energy turned sour, he was laid off and looking for a change. As an avid homebrewer, he made the decision to open a brewery one day in his garage while working on his brewing techniques. He made that dream a reality when 160ft Beerworks opened at the beginning of April to a huge crowd of thirsty Houstonians.
The story of the name relates to the elevation of The Woodlands (Mike’s home) and the experimental nature of the brewery. Instead of calling it, “160ft Brewing Company”, he chose the “Beerworks” name as a testament to the experimenting and tweaking of recipes that are constantly happening week-to-week. He relies on feedback, good and bad, from his customers to see what people want and what is going to remain on tap. For example, one of the beers we tried, the Frankenhefe, was not as well-received as his other hefeweizens during their event the previous weekend. We felt the hefeweizen/blonde ale mix was actually a solid brew with banana notes on the nose and a clean, blonde ale finish, but may not return as it’s not something the public wanted compared to 713 Hefe, which was outstanding.
For us, the Chocolate Town stout was the clear winner of the brews on tap. With the chocolate and vanilla flavor of a milk stout and the very light ABV (roughly 4.3%), this beer made drinking a dark beer on a warm spring day very palatable and refreshing. It may absolutely be one of the best stouts in the Houston area not from Brash. Plus, instead of drinking one high alcohol content stout and being done for the day, 160ft Beerworks made a stout that you can drink multiple and not be stumbling drunk. With the renewed interest in sessionable beers, this beer should be on your radar and according to Mike, may end up being their first beer distributed to bars due to its positive reception from people all around.
Sitting in the space for several hours, we got a chance to chat and see how much Mike and his team really care about the craft and putting out a quality product to people in the Houston area. Several regulars came in during our time there and Mike not only knew them by name, he also forged a personal relationship and wants to make this a comfortable place for everybody who comes by. He even played an EP that one of his regulars had finished mixing that day and said he’d love to host an album release party for the patron when he wants. That is the kind of personal attention you don’t see often.
160ft Beerworks is the small nanobrewery that should get more attention from you, the Texas craft beer drinking public. The small and cozy nature brings back a romantic feel of the homebrew gone professional and that’s what we love about it. The beer is solid, the space is central and ideal, and the people are personal and make you feel comfortable. What more is there in craft beer? What more is there in small business?