It’s no secret to the many craft beer lovers who show up on Saturday afternoons for beer tasting that there’s a new craft brewery in town named Back Pew Brewery. The brewery is located just a stone’s throw from Lonestar College-Kingwood on Sorters McClellan Road in Porter. 

Bobby Harl, founder and head of brewing operations at Back Pew, opened the brewery in March of 2015 with the help of a handful of Houston-based investors. After retrofitting the 10,000-square-foot main building, that formerly housed a church, the first Back Pew beer was brewed in October 2015. The beer is currently available on tap in over 180 locations, including many local establishments such as The Draft, Zachary’s, 3Bs, Tin Roof BBQ, Green Oak Tavern and the Hop Stop. As of December 2016, the beer is also available in can form at nine Spec’s locations and will be available in local supermarkets in 2017. In 2016, the brewery made 1,000 barrels of beer.

Harl said the origin for the name of the brewery came in part from the building’s history as a church and also gives a nod to their approach to life. 

“We are the ones who do things differently, because it’s the only way we know. We are the misfits, the ones who don’t do things by the book, the ones who

A saint or a sinner brew?

spurn convention, the ones who occupy the back pew.”

Harl just finished school a few years ago, having earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and his MBA from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He also received his undergraduate degree from Trinity University. Harl grew up in Tomball and graduated from Klein High School in 2005.

It was in Nashville that Harl began brewing his own beer and became involved in the home-brewing community. After finishing school, he decided to come back home to Houston, a city with potential in the brewery market. 

“Houston is really an underdeveloped craft brew market, for the size of the city that it is. If you go to San Diego or Denver, there are hundreds of craft breweries. In Houston, there are only about 20,” said Harl.

Back Pew Brewery makes several varieties of beer, classified as either “saints or sinners,” with names like Satyr’s Swill, 9th Circle, Hopostle, Sweet Salvation, and their most popular, Blue Testament. 

“Our saint line of beer includes all of our sessionable, approachable beers,” Harl said. “The sinner line holds our more robust, higher-gravity beers. The Back Pew holds both of these because that is where the saints sat, those who would speak the whole time during service and would speak or sing very loudly, as well as the sinners, those coming in late and leaving early, usually with a hangover from the night before.” 

Harl said the process Back Pew uses to make beer sets them apart. 

“We use old German techniques to make our beer. We use decoction mashing to take our grain/water mixture and boil it, thereby caramelizing the sugars, which adds a depth of flavor that is exceptional. We put a lot of time, effort and energy into making our beers, which really sets us apart from the competition,” said Harl.

Beer tastings happen every Saturday from 12-5 p.m. at the 14-acre brewery property. Currently, tables are set up right on the brewery floor for the tastings. However, as it gets more than a little hot in Houston in the summer, they are currently working to retrofit a 4,500 square-foot-building on the property into a new, climate-controlled tasting room. 

“People bring their dogs and kids and just hang out. For the tasting, tasters can purchase a 9-ounce glass, which comes with four pours for $9, or a 16-ounce glass, which comes with three pours for $12. For future trips back, tasters can bring their glass and purchase $2 or $3 tokens for pours of beer,” said Harl.

Back Pew Brewing is located at 26452 Sorters McClellan Road in Porter.

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Susan McFarland
Author: Susan McFarlandEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am a northerner by birth, but got to Texas as quick as I could more than a dozen years ago. I am very curious by nature and love peppering people with questions for Tribune stories. In my spare time I sell real estate, write my travel blog, and hang out with my family and my adorable Boston Terrier, Charlie. I cover local businesses, special interest topics, and area events.

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