You won't be hard pressed to find a craft beer establishment in Houston, and that's not to suggest they are like liquor stores that appear on every corner, but there has been quite a rise in their presence within the last few years. The places we are fond of usually offer a fairly expansive craft beer selection and quite the menu; with a higher than normal price tag. During a recent media dinner, we got the opportunity to check out The Barrel and Brew, a Texas Craft Beer restaurant that took over the old Sam's Boat in the Fountains Shopping Center in Stafford, Texas, overlooking the lake-sized fountain across from Razzoo's. You will find a ton of craft beer, but what you will not find at The Barrel and Brew is pricey food. On first sight, The Barrel and Brew reminded us of an upscale Applebee's (Urban Girl's favorite place when she was in college), mixed with a swanky sports bar (two 150" projection screens and 25 LED TV's), that serves up some pretty nice beers.
Large posters labeled with local breweries adorned the walls from every corner hinting to the theme even if you didn't know it. As far as the actual selections are concerned, The Barrel and Brew proudly boasts over fifty different types, from light to dark, Lager to Stout. A few standouts for you Texas beer loyalist...Rahr Stormcloud IPA, Lone Pint Gentlemen's Relish Brown Ale, Real Ale Fireman's 4 Blonde Ale, Fort Bend Thunder Stout, and the 512 Pecan Porter all make regular appearances.
The owner, Joe Harrington, is quite proud of the specialty cocktail offerings as well; since he was a bartender many, many moons ago. When asked by Swanky Girl, "Are the cocktails good or just okay since beer is more your thing here at the restaurant?", he quickly had the waitress bring an Old Fashion to the table in and effort to show and prove. The Marker's Mark Old Fashion was smooth and boozy - well duh it is an Old Fashion! Joe is also very focused on serving and providing delicious food. He wants to make sure his food tastes great and is full of flavor and throws in small surprises like using freshly sliced avocados, mushrooms, and even beer in many of his "prepared to order" recipes and entrees. Joe pretty much serves the food that he personally enjoys and has no intention on reinventing the wheel. In his eyes, comfort food is the way to go.
With a motto we have all heard at some point in time, K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple Stupid, the preferred method of service at The Barrel and Brew is just that. For example, when you order your entree, you get to choose your sides! We agree that it is just more convenient to choose exactly what you want. Exchanging sides is nerve-recking for everybody...you, the server and the kitchen! Getting down to the food, you can find all of what you would expect plus some. Of course, burgers are present, in regular or slider form, tacos can be filled with anything your little heart desires, the menu wouldn't be complete without wings, fried catfish and shrimp are in the house, salads for the healthy conscious, poboys, and even steak is available. Hell, maybe they should just throw in the kitchen sink for good measure! There is really something for everybody. With that said, Chef Robert Cortez is definitely doing his thing in the kitchen.
Word of advise, being that Chef Cortez is a bounty hunter on the weekends and an ex-member of the Chilean army, you may want to think twice before sending anything back to the kitchen! Okay, okay, we're just joking about the whole "needing to send your food back" comment, but that is the only part that wasn't true. Quite honestly, you wouldn't want to send anything back. Notables: The side of Mac and Cheese made with Zing Zong Texas beer is pretty amazing. Even though we've had better Philly Cheese Steaks, the well seasoned sautéed mushrooms are enough to make you a loyal patron. The tacos were really good, full of flavor, and you can't really go wrong with anything that is topped with fresh slices of avocado or grilled spice pineapple. We recommend the snapper tacos for sure. And for dessert, the Mixed Berry Cobbler is not to be missed. We almost wrapped up this post without mentioning one of the stars of the night the Green Chile Cheeseburger ~ Hatch Chile, Monterrey Jack and Parmesean Cheese Sauce and Pickled Red Onions. All we can say is it was STUPID good- yes the kind of good that makes no kind of sense. The kind of good that's lacking all kind of intelligent reasoning for a burger to be this good.
The Barrel and Brew brings something to Houston that we needed. A roomy place to enjoy craft beer, good and reasonably priced food, in a welcoming environment. We appreciate what Joe is trying to bring to Houston. The hell with killing two birds with one stone, why don't you just go for three: good beer, good food, good atmosphere. The Barrel and Brew is located in the Fountains Shopping Center, 12720 Southwest Freeway, Stafford, Texas, 77477. Hours: Thursday thru Saturday: 11:00 AM-2:00 AM and Sunday thru Wednesday: 11:00 AM-12:00 AM. For more information about The Barrel and Brew, please visit TheBarrelAndBrew.com, or call 281-277-9333.
Urban Swank did receive a complimentary tasting, but the opinions expressed are our own.