With the recent opening of the Menil Drawing Institute, Houston has solidified its place as a fine art capital of the south. Part of the Menil Collection, the first freestanding museum dedicated to modern drawing in the United States joins the likes of Museum of Fine Arts and the Rothko Chapel in this cultural hub. Yet the city’s art is hardly limited to gallery walls. Houston’s breweries provide their own canvases—on their walls, on their labels—or serve as watering holes in close proximity to some of the city’s best public works.
So, take a colorful tour of the nation’s fourth-largest and, by some measures, most diverse city—and go ahead and do so with a beer in your hand.
St. Arnold Brewing Company
What You’ll Drink: St. Arnold Brewing Company holds the title of the oldest craft brewer in Texas, and with its new beer garden and restaurant, there’s even more reason to visit this stalwart of the Houston craft beer community. Toast the city’s art scene with St. Arnold’s Art Car IPA, a nod to Houston's annual Art Car Parade, or its Orange Show, a blonde ale brewed with blood oranges that’s named after an eccentric monument built by a local postman who was passionate about the fruit. Loyal fans go on the hunt when St. Arnold releases a single batch of beer from its Divine Reserve Series, which features a completely different recipe for each beer with one-of-a-kind flavor profiles ranging from oatmeal raisin cookies to peaches.
What You’ll See: It’s only fitting that a brewery named after the patron saint of brewers would build a restaurant that looks like a grand cathedral to beer. Dark wood beams arch across a ceiling reminiscent of a pointy bishop’s hat while faux stained glass windows highlight the brewing process. The six-sided "chapels" along the walls are each designed by a different local artist. While most of the chapels take inspiration from hops and beer or saintly images, serigraphy artist Carlos Hernandez gives his alcove a dose of rock and roll with his signature Día de Los Muertos-style skulls, honky tonk musicians. and vintage pin-up girls. A visit to the brewery wouldn’t be complete without a photo op featuring art cars parked on-site or the vibrant, mural-clad exterior walls of the brewery.
8th Wonder Brewery
What You’ll Drink: Named after the Astrodome’s not so humble nickname, 8th Wonder Brewery is a local favorite thanks to its lineup of Houston-centric beers, from the light and refreshing Weisstheimer—a hefeweizen that’s a play on Westheimer, Houston’s main drag—to the dark and rich Vietnamese coffee porter Rocket Fuel, a combined reference to NASA, the Houston Rockets, and the city’s Vietnamese community. Use one of your beer cap tokens to try one of 8th Wonder’s seasonal “collabor8ions” with local hip hop artists featuring rapper Bun B’s Brew GK, a candy apple ale, or Slim Thug’s BO$$ Beer, a pineapple wheat brew.
What You’ll See: A trip to 8th Wonder is destined for the ‘Gram. Before heading into the brewery, check out the walls of the neighboring building bearing street art masterpieces by local artists. Inside 8th Wonder, the tap room features a mural illustrating the step-by-step brewing process by resident artist Donkeeboy, along with Astrodome memorabilia, including original seats from the iconic sports stadium. The beer garden is home to downtown skyline views, Donkeeboy’s Greetings from Brewston mural, and larger-than-life sculptures by David Adickes, a local artist in his nineties. Strike a pose with his 36-foot-tall, four-ton rendition of the Beatles or show off your city pride with his popular We Love Houston sculpted sign.
Holler Brewing Co.
What You’ll Drink: In 2016, Holler Brewing Co. opened its taproom in Sawyer Yards, a 55-acre arts complex converted from a former rice packaging plant. The brewery’s 2017 Great American Beer Festivalbronze medal winner, Holler ESB (Extra Special Bitter), is known to make a reappearance on the rotating tap list, which ranges in styles from bière de garde to IPA. Holler scored Certified Cicerone cred in its first year of operation, but these brewers sometimes have more than beer on tap, including nitro cold brew coffee and house-made root beer.
What You’ll See: Head down the open-air hallway after your tasting session at Holler for some visual stimulation. You’ll find rice silos occasionally functioning as gallery spaces, warehouses occupied by artists, and an eye-popping Art Alley offering 800 feet of murals by local and international artists. Plan your visit to Sawyer Yards for the second Saturday of each month to watch creatives at work in their studios along with an outdoor makers market. This complex is also home to FotoFest, which hosts a photography biennial and frequent exhibitions.
Sigma Brewing Company
What You’ll Drink: Houston’s East End has a longstanding history as an industrial hub that now includes beer. In 2017, Sigma Brewing Company opened its warehouse doors to the public with a soundtrack of heavy metal that pairs well with its high-ABV offerings. Sigma’s porter and its citrusy IPA, Hoarder’s Endowment 004, are standouts that tend to stick around on the ever-changing tap selection. There’s a clubhouse feel to the brewery, where you can play retro video games, join a running club, and watch for Doomsday Wrestling, a hilariously homegrown version of the WWE that makes an appearance at Sigma in the spring and fall.
What You’ll See: Plan an afternoon outing to see the nearby Harrisburg Art Museum, a.k.a. the HAM, a covered warehouse showcasing murals and street art since 2017. The unconventional space is curated by Daniel Anguilu, an acclaimed muralist who assigns artists to the bay doors. On any given day, you might witness a jam session with aerosol cans instead of guitars on walls reserved for anything-goes graffiti. There’s also an occasional art market on the premises.
What You’ll Drink: Valhalla, Rice University's graduate student pub, offers everything from Lone Star to local brews at budget-friendly prices served by some of the smartest bartenders in town. Past tap takeovers have included Portland’s Gigantic Brewing Company and St. Arnold, founded by Rice alum Brock Wagner. There’s even a mystery tap for those who are adventurous. (Insider Tip: Don’t wear a necktie to this watering hole or the bar staff might cut it off and add it to their collection. Elbow patches on blazers are permissible, however.)
What You’ll See: Make a free reservation for the sunset light show at James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany Skyspace. Be sure to also view the latest exhibits at the Moody Center for the Arts and give yourself a walking tour of the outdoor sculptures on campus. Relax in The Hangout, a student-designed space offering hammocks for those in need of a beer nap.
Last Call: The Beer Can House
Pay your respects to a man who turned his passion for drinking beer into a form of artistic expression. In 1968, John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, began covering his quaint three-bedroom bungalow and yard with flattened aluminum beer cans. The home is now a quirky folk art destination known as the Beer Can House. Guided tours of the home’s interior are available on most weekends but you can always view this creative reuse of over 50,000 beer cans from the street.