January 23rd, 2012

H-Town Showdown: Karbach vs. No Label vs. Southern Star vs. Your Pick

With all of the fresh competition on the horizon (Buffalo Bayou/Moon Tower/Gulf Brewing Co.), new Texas micro-brews have miles to go before they sleep. There’s the top dog St. Arnold’s, but there’s also that middle ground of sud-makers doing whatever they can to entrench themselves before the next challenger enters this game of thrones. So, loyal Loopsters, who’s got the right stuff? Who will still be around in a decade? If you don’t see your favorite up-and-comer, leave a comment and let us know who you think will be standing when the smoke clears. We might just add them to the master Showdown bracket at the end of the year!


No Label Brewing Company

This brewer’s version of a kickass garage band out of Katy is aiming to defy definition- hence their “We don’t need no stinking labels!” attitude. No Label’s dark wheat brew, aptly named Black Wit-O, is sinking its fangs into the competition, and their more traditional offerings are gaining a steady following.



Karbach Brewing Company

These guys didn’t pussyfoot around when they burst onto the scene. Instead of playing it safe with a bland pilsner for the masses, they’re pushing two IPA’s and an imperial porter right off the bat. There’s always their Sympathy for the Lager and the Weisse Versa Wheat, but you have to admire a startup that’s swinging for the fences with some polarizing first-takes.



Southern Star Brewing Company

There’s no finer southern tradition than stacking a pyramid of cans in a pasture or your buddy’s living room. Southern Star embraces that, but it’s their taps of Buried Hatchet, Pinebelt Ale and Bombshell Blonde that are starting to leave other startups in the dust in the popularity contest.



Reader’s Choice

You got a local brew that you feel deserves to be in the running? Add it in the comments. All breweries listed there will be tallied alongside the three in the poll below.

— The Loop Scoop


8th Wonder Brewery — Monday, January 23, 2012 5:24 pm

8th Wonder Brewery

Barbara Brannon — Monday, January 23, 2012 10:17 pm


Barbara Brannon — Monday, January 23, 2012 10:18 pm


Wally Brannon — Monday, January 23, 2012 10:20 pm

No Label El Hefe is my Favorite

Mark V — Monday, January 23, 2012 10:39 pm

NO LABEL!!!!!!!! I have tried everything from the Ridgeback, El Hefe, and LOVED the Black Wito…they are brewing some AWESOME beer!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeff R — Monday, January 23, 2012 10:58 pm

I love me some No Label! I’m awaiting their entry into the IPA market!

That being said, though, I do LOVE Sympathy for the Lager… DAMN FINE beer!

In the end, we all win… but I vote No Label because they bring excellent beer outside the loop to my hometown!

shadyacresbeeradvocate — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 4:18 am

This is an absolute no brainer. Karbach is by far the best brewery in town, and will far surpass all the others, Saint Arnold included within the next few years! The experience and financial backing Karbach possesses cannot be touched by any other microbrewery in the state. Eric Warner is one of the most respected Brewmasters in the nation, all of their staff has been handpicked from other top companies throughout the scope of the industry, and the pockets at Karbach are very deep. Look how widespread they have become within only 4 months. While I definitely support all Houston breweries, this showdown is a no contest! As far as beer goes, I consider it a no contest as well. No Label and Southern Star do not even offer an IPA, while Karbach has already produced 3. Eric Warner has been running the show at several of the nations bigger craft breweries for nearly as long as Brian at No Label has been alive . While I am rooting for No Label and Southern Star to do well, to expect the same from them as Karbach is simply ridiculous. Best of luck to all Houston Breweries! It’s great to see local craft beer becoming so prevalent.

Rob Denton — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 6:51 am

For me its hands down No Label. Their Ridgeback is my favorite but I love them all. Having lived in the pacific northwest during the start of the craft brewing movement it is exciting to see the growth of craft brewers inn Houston I had the chance to sample many if the craft beers at the Galveston chili fest this weekend and I enjoyed most of them. But the No Label japoleno was by far the start of the event.

Good luck too all I look forward to many nice beers in. My future

Richard — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:51 am

@8th Wonder, How far along are you guys?

pdp — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:27 pm

No Label? More like No Distribution. (yuk yuk yuk)
Seriously though it’s kind of a disqualification if you can’t find any place that sells our pours your beer. I’ve just never seen it. Their lineup sounds good but man cmon get that stuff in to cans and kegs!
Karbach is the new badass on the block. Local brewed double hopped IPA. NUFF. SAID.

But Southern Star is in stores. Pine belt tallboy 4 packs and the mighty buried hatchet.

1. Southern Star
2. Karbach
3. St. Arnold’s

Paul — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 1:19 pm

pdp, No Label certainly doesn’t have the distribution power of the other two yet. But I was pleasantly surprised to see they have the porter on draft at Fitzgerald’s. That being said, I still had my fill of Pine Belt Pale Ale from Southern Star the last time I was there. I’m with you on that count.

Jennifer Royo — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 3:15 pm

Pdp, which bars to you visit? A few places that carry No Label: Flying Saucer, BRC Gastropub, Ziggys Bar and Grill, Alamo Drafthouse (Both), Hans Bier Haus, Ashford Arms Pub, JP Hopshouse, Hay Merchant, Whole Foods (growlers), etc. to name a few. It’s true we don’t have the man power that Karbach has. That will take some time for us. That is why we have larger equipment coming and our moving into a larger space in the next few months and bottling starting this summer. Hope you can find some out there!

pdp — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 3:57 pm

Jennifer, just some friendly razzing. I will make an exclusive trip to Whole Foods this week to fill my growler and support you guys. Nowadays when I go to bars I stick to petrol station, shepherd park draft house and rudyards. Looking forward to yall’s growth. Cheers!

Jason — Tuesday, January 24, 2012 11:36 pm

Karbach hands down. Game over. The double IPA isn’t my favorite however everyone of their beers are excellent.

Kenneth Oldham — Wednesday, January 25, 2012 2:11 am

I’m not loyal to any of them i visit all three. Love the Elsa milk stout from no label, love the rodeo clown from Karbach, and the buried hatchet stout from southern star, and also the elissa from saint arnolds. CHEERS!!

Bradley P — Wednesday, January 25, 2012 3:55 am

Love them all…each brewery has a completely different personality and they each make some great beers. Keep up the good work, guys. Drink local and support your hometown breweries.

jack — Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:12 am

Karbach FTW!

Dave — Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:11 am

Southern Star is the best so far.

They are all good though.

Jim — Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:28 pm

I haven’t been to Southern Star. I have been to the others and this is my take. A trip to No Label is like visiting family or a good friend. The visitors are great to meet and talk to and the brewers and their family are there to welcome and talk to you. Since No Label doesn’t bottle yet, I go out of my way to visit places that serve their beer. Its is a good product made by good people.

Mike — Thursday, January 26, 2012 6:55 pm

Karbach for sure. The others a really good to. Live the local scene that has boomed in Houston but personal favorite is Karbach. ESP the double IPA RODEO CLOWN

Mike — Thursday, January 26, 2012 6:55 pm

Karbach for sure. The others a really good to. Live the local scene that has boomed in Houston but personal favorite is Karbach. ESP the double IPA RODEO CLOWN

wms — Friday, January 27, 2012 6:25 pm

Didn’t like Karbach’s IPA vs. Elissa.

Keith — Friday, January 27, 2012 6:27 pm

No Label Whit-o and Pale Horse, Karbach Sympathy and Southern Star Buried Hatchet. Love the Royo’s, respect the hell outa Eric and enjoy all my visits to Southern Star. So glad we have them all-especially at Rockwell’s.

Neal — Friday, January 27, 2012 6:40 pm

How do you compare? All are making delicious beers, and still only cracking a few small percentage points of the local market. There’s room for them all to excel and succeed. My faves? In no significant order: Buried Hatchet; Hell Fighter; Black Wit-O; Christmas Ale; Elissa; Pro-Am 2010; El Hefe; and Hopadillo.

Mikhail — Friday, January 27, 2012 7:55 pm

No Label produces by far the best Hefe beer I ever tried, not just in Houston but anywhere. Their other beers a great too, but El Hefe is so good that makes NL my favorite. Unfortunately, as someone already noticed, this beer is hard to find within I-610. It showed up in many places last year but eventually disappeared. I hope it will be back as they increase production. Karbach Weisse Versa is also good Hefe beer, and it is my second choice after El Hefe. The good thing that it is ubiquitous. Southern Star once produced great seasonal wheat beer – Walloon. But it became extinct by the end of summer and a brewing company, that does not produce a wheat beer is clearly inferior to others on my scale.

Maybe Tea — Wednesday, February 1, 2012 1:42 pm

Just an FYI, all these guys better watch their six. Had the Bayou Copper Ale a few nights ago at Onion Creek. Mad good, yo.

ayoussefi — Wednesday, February 1, 2012 8:21 pm

So far the best beer I’ve had produced locally is Southern Star’s Buried Hatchet Stout. I did have the Rodeo Clown DIPA from Karbach, while the bittering hops were there the aroma hops were completely gone. They need to fix that…

TheDirtyV — Thursday, January 17, 2013 2:15 pm

Karbach makes the best beer in Houston. Period. Bourbon Barrel Hellfighter is an amazing special run and the regular line up is solid and has variety. Good one-offs, local involvement, events, brewery. Great place to be and drink.

Southern Star has great beers too, just not as many as Karbach. Their one-offs are solid as well. They really shine at distribution. Brewery is fun and they are good about involvement.

NL beers are just plain disappointing. I really wanted to like them, but their beers just aren’t there.

Houston Ranking

Southern Star……………..A
St. Arnold’s…………………B
8th Wonder…………………B-
Buffalo Bayou……………..C+
No Label…………………….C
AB InBev……………………F-

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