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Real Estate / Neighborhoods

Hyped Sawyer Yards Development Makes Major Changes to Grow as Houston Destination

Tennessee-Style Barbecue, New Orleans Brewery, Apple Cider and Axe Throwing on Tap

BY // 05.22.19

Houston’s much-hyped Sawyer Yards already draws crowds, thanks to spots like Poitin restaurant. But it’s only getting bigger and better, with eye-opening new additions coming this fall.

The fun here with these four newbies is fundamental. It’s as basic as your good old ABC’s — axes, brews and barbecue, plus cider.

Indoor axe-throwing center Urban Axes, Louisiana craft beer oasis Urban South Brewery, cidery City Orchard and Tennessee-style Fainmous Barbecue are all getting added to the development’s roster.

Here, we dug a little deeper into what each of these new places brings.

Urban South Brewery

It’s no secret there’s a ton of links between Louisiana to Texas — especially NOLA to Space City. So it’s no wonder that when Urban South Brewery, the largest craft brewery in New Orleans, decided to expand, it set its sights here.

Not to mention, founder Jacob Landry has family in Houston and even grew up an Astros fan.

When it came to where to post up, Landry just knew the brewery had to get a piece of that Sawyer Yards action. “We found a great opportunity. We like the creative spirit that’s evolving there,” Landry tells PaperCity.

Landry is set to open Urban South in early fall — in a sprawling 14,000-square-foot-space complete with a public taproom, 10-barrel brew house and canning line, event space, spacious patio and beer garden at 1201 Oliver Street.

Urban South plans on 16 rotating taps, tastings and beers-to-go. Their brew master is what you’d call established in the Houston craft beer scene.

“Dave Ohmer’s been on the Houston brewing scene for a number of years. He’s the founding head brewer at Whole Foods, then he went on to work with B52 Brewing in Conroe. This is a brand new space for him to work his magic,” Landry notes.

Ohmer was something of a craft beer pioneer, Landry notes as one of the first to introduce Hazy IPAs to the market and newer, more contemporary beers that hardcore craft beer fans were craving.

Urban South, the third largest brewery in Louisiana, fits the Bayou City vibe. And even though there are a number of craft breweries in Houston, and more popping up, this town’s big enough for all of them.

“Houston, overall, from a brewery per capita standpoint for other cities still has time. It still seems to have a lot of room for new breweries to open up. We want to create a really cool space for people, for the Houston core to come and enjoy,” Landry says.

sawyer yards urban south brewery food truck
The NOLA outpost of Urban South also has a food truck.

You’ll find a mix of Urban South’s bestsellers, like the light American lager Paradise Park and Hazy IPA Holly Roller. The seasonal Lime Cucumber Gose is a top one for this season, too.

But you’d better bet on brand new, Houston-centric brews. “We’re looking at this as an R&D facility. We really want this to grow organically,” Landry says.

And they’ve got plenty of legroom to experience because it’s not the distribution model of Louisiana — Urban South is selling directly to the consumer.

“We’ve got a lot more latitude. Much bolder, bigger, using ingredients that are a lot more expensive. And Dave just takes a really experimental approach,” he adds.

That’ll look like something different every time they brew and hopefully world-class sour beers.

“In the South, it’s still completely dominated be macro beer,” Landry says. “What we really hope to do is continue along with other established breweries to bring people over from drinking Budweiser and Coors into drinking craft.”

City Orchard

When up-and-coming cidery City Orchard’s co-owner Patrick Kwiatkowski started planning, he had a few options.

“We could go outside the city, or we could go into the belly of the beast. We decided to go in,” he laughs.

And that took him to the First Ward, where he’s set to open a sprawling cidery with a 2,000 square-foot-patio, 2,000-square-foot tasting room, a private area, private garden and 5,000-square-foot garden area.

“I want people to want to come back. We’re designing the space to be a nice environment, a great place to take a first date — not too formal, not too grungy. It’s going to be a nice place,” Kwiatkowski tells PaperCity.

City Orchard will be a space for discovery.

“I’m just really excited to bring down to Houston a culture I grew up with in Michigan,” Kwiatkowski says. “I was surrounded by apples and cider.” Of course, that means all of City Orchard’s apples will come from the Great Lakes Region.

city orchard sawyer yards rendering
City Orchard will have tons of ciders available — to enjoy onsite, or take home.

Kwiatkowski recognizes that cider is kind of a curious beverage to a lot of people down here. “Cider is not beer, although I think a lot of its success is due to the craft beer movement, and those people being willing to experiment. Cider will surprise people,” he says.

“Cider — there is a lot of room for us to define what cider is, especially down in the South. We have to introduce people to fantastic cider. It’s not a fatty drink. It doesn’t have an overly sophisticated identity.

“It’s also very refreshing. Like a beer, it can be enjoyed casually. But it can also be formal at a dinner table.”

Just like grapes, different styles of apples will produce a completely different alcoholic beverages. “We hope to have a really good, broad spectrum of ciders for people,” Kwiatkowski says.

Versatility and variety are key. Kwiatkowski wants to make at least 10 ciders, feature some guest ciders from folks he knows across the country and three or four ciders they distribute throughout the region.

Oh, and another dozen or more at the cidery itself.

He envisions it kind of like Saint Arnold’s, where there’s a core stable of products, but also new and innovative options always on tap. “We’re going to be doing the same with cider.”

City Orchard will also make its own beer and wine alongside its cider, though cider will remain the focus. For beer, Kwiatkowski wants to focus on Belgian-style beers, which he feels are underserved here. There’s also talk of beer-cider concoctions.

The food approach is every bit as personal, with City Orchard setting up their exclusive, permanent food truck. Partnering with local restaurants is definitely a possibility.

“We’ll do very nice foods that goes well with cider — we may do pizza, we may do crepes. Barbecue goes well with cider. Cider really goes well with Houston food, like Mexican, Tex-Mex, Asian food. Anything spicy. Like a white wine, it really cuts through spice,” Kwiatkowski says.

Kwiatkowski’s targeting Halloween for the opening date, his favorite holiday. “I love Halloween. It goes with apples,” he laughs.

Urban Axes

If you’ve been to the Urban Axes in Austin, you’ll know it’s more than meets the eye. It’s not just flinging weapons at targets. It’s learning the proper form, it’s participating in round robins and competing in leagues — plus sipping on local beers.

The 10,300-square-foot space at Sawyer Yards is just one of the indoor axe-throwing facilities Philadelphia-based Urban Axes has got in the works in Houston. Another is slated for EaDo.

“This is our first city opening two locations at the same time. We’re really kind of doubling down on Houston. We fell in love with the vibe of different parts of the city, they all have such personality,” Urban Axes co-owner Krista Paton says.

“And the building itself. Every time you can take these old industrial buildings that kind of start out looking barren and empty and have such inherent character and you re-use them, I love that.”

Recreational axe-throwing may be blowing up these days, but Urban Axes is the OG, kicking off the trend back in 2016.

Paton insists it’s for everyone. “We’re really focused on the experience people have. We want to make it accessible to everyone,” she says.

“People first hear about axe-throwing, they first think ‘Oh, it’s going to be bearded lumberjacks, it’s not for me.’ Or they think it’s hipsters. But it’s got broad appeal,” she adds.

On your average Friday night, she spots a group of 50-year-old lawyers throwing next to a bachelorette party, next to a 40-year-old birthday featuring mom, grandma, all generations. 150 axe-throwers can fit at a time.

“I love that it’s something everyone can do. When people come in, they feel like ‘OK, yeah, this is for me, I didn’t realize it. I want to keep doing it to see how good I can get,’” Paton notes.

She credits the coaches with that, instructing comprehensively and carefully to encourage safety and confidence.

On your trip, the coach teaches you and your friend of group proper form for throwing. Then you compete against each other in a round robin, earning points in the hopes of becoming the champion.

Urban Axes boasts leagues for the hardcore fans, where people compete for seven weeks for the honor to enter the playoffs on week eight.

Believe it or not, there will be a bar onsite, just like their other locations. Think craft beer and wine. You just can’t bring it into the cage, of course. Don’t get any ideas.

Look out for a late fall opening.

Fainmous Barbecue

Tennessee-style, Houston-based pork haven Fainmous Barbecue is also making its mark with a new Sawyer Yards outpost this fall. The 1,480-square-foot space will be nice and cozy, ideal for seating about 60 or so people.

The ‘cue joint has an existing location in a strip center on South Post Oak, where it serves up pulled pork and uber-tender brisket.

sawyer yards fainmous barbecue
Fainmous Barbecue is Tennessee-style ‘cue at its finest.

You can tuck in for all the classics, from chopped beef sandwiches to turkey legs, slab ribs and whole chickens. Enjoy it a la carte or on a one-meat, two-meat or three-meat plate — and the latter will only set you back $17.75.

And don’t forget the sides, like coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad.

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