First Look: Astral Brewing
Fresh off the heels of True Anomaly Brewing’s grand opening, Astral Brewing had their soft opening on February 27th, followed by their Grand Opening party on March 2nd. Their location, on N. Shepherd not far from Crosstimbers/W. 43rd, adds to the ever-growing list of breweries and beer bars in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area (you might sometimes hear this area referred to as GOOF). Astral joins Brash Brewing Company, Great Heights Brewing Company, Walking Stick Brewing Company, Cottonwood, Shepherd Park, and Petrol Station in a group of great beer spots all within about a five minute radius of one another, making this area a growing destination for beer fans.
Astral’s location is next to a body shop, Miller’s Auto Body Repair Experts, at one end of a building that houses both businesses. There’s a decent-sized parking lot, but it can fill up during peak business. If you live close by, you can take advantage of their bike racks. Astral has a small beer garden with picnic table seating and outdoor games like cornhole at the front of their taproom. The inside has a converted warehouse vibe, like many new breweries, but Astral added nice touches that brighten up the taproom such as a sleek long bar and cool murals. In addition to bar seating, there are also plenty of tables inside, some of which feature ironwork in the shapes of rockets on the table legs. They do not have a kitchen but have frequently featured food trucks since opening.
Astral launched with four brews and has since released two more. My favorite so far is their latest release, Solar Squeeze, a New England IPA that’s bursting with juicy citrus courtesy of Citra, Mosaic, and Columbus hops. Another plus is they achieved all of that amazing flavor without having to make this one “chicken soup level” murky.
Another favorite is the first entry into their Nebulous series, which will be a New England Pale Ale that will feature a different hop bill every batch; this one used Citra and Idaho 7. It’s quite hazy and you get exactly which you expect by looking at it, lots of hop flavor, mostly citrus, but also some tropical notes. It’s quite smooth and easy to drink.
The last hop-forward brew is Start-up, a more traditional West Coast IPA. There is a familiar, pleasant bitterness I sometimes miss these days in the times of a new hazy brew release every week. The balanced and layered hop flavor backed by a solid malt backbone is what I want from this style and this is a worthy example.
While I enjoy their hop-forward offerings, I have also been very happy with their remaining brews. Kraftwerk Kolsch (far left pictured above) is a nice, lighter malt offering that benefits from a nice punch of Saaz hops. It’s crisp, and clean, and probably the easiest-drinking Astral beer.
PUB Gb Ale (not pictured above) is their lowest ABV brew to date at 4.2% and, along with Kraftwerk Kolsch, is another great example of being very sessionable, but not sacrificing on flavor. It’s an English Golden Ale that really cranks out a deep and nuanced malt flavor for such a low abv. A bit of toastiness was an added flavor note I didn’t quite expect and put this over the top.
The final beer is Darkness Falls (far right pictured above), a Robust English Porter, which is yet another that won me over with a complex, balanced and flavorful malt profile. This is a great “every day” Porter and a nice introduction to the style.
I’ve enjoyed all six Astral brews and look forward to whatever they release next. They plan to have a focus on hoppy styles (both hazy and traditional), but have also mentioned a goal to produce a diverse range of styles, so I’m curious to see what they tackle next. I’m told Nebulous has been their best seller, so I don’t doubt that we’ll see a variety of hazy releases in the future.
Astral is a very promising addition to our growing scene and, if they keep brewing beer of this quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns into one of the places in my regular rotation. We’ll be back soon with another First Look, this time for Fortress Beerworks, who open on 3/22/19. Cheers!
Address: 4816 N Shepherd Dr, Ste A., Houston TX, 77018
Phone: (713) 534-1067
Hours: – Th-Fri – 4pm-10pm, Sat – 12pm-10pm, Sun – 12pm-8pm