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Whole Foods to start brewing beer at a Houston location

Arianna Auber

With one of its upcoming stores, Whole Foods is branching into new territory for a grocery chain: a Houston location will brew its own beer when it opens in early November.

The Austin-based company doesn’t have any plans to bring a brewpub into one of its stores here, but the Whole Foods Market Brewing Company, licensed as a brewpub in the soon-to-open Galleria area store, is going to have the capacity to produce between 400 and 500 barrels annually, a press release said. “It would be cool to find a way for our Austin shoppers to try the beer someday,” Rachel Malish, Whole Foods’ Austin media and community relations coordinator, said.

In the meantime, once the Houston Whole Foods opens on Nov. 6, beer lovers there will be able to sit at the on-site bar and enjoy brews from 20 taps. Eight to 10 of those, as Ronnie Crocker of the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday, will be the “ales and lagers” of the Whole Foods brewpub.

It might seem a little odd that a grocery store is interested in brewing its own freshly made beer. But given how much beer Whole Foods sells annually at its various in-store bars — more than 885,00 pints and growlers, according to the press release — a brewpub with Whole Foods branded beer is almost a natural next move.

As Crocker’s article mentioned, Whole Foods started implementing bars within stores in March 2010. Their success (including the one at Whole Foods Domain, which might currently have the largest selection of beers on draft in Texas Whole Foods stores) “helped make a convincing case for the brewpub,” Crocker reported, citing Karma Clark, the company’s specialty coordinator for the four-state southwest region that includes Texas.

The brewmaster for Whole Foods Market Brewing Co. will be Dave Ohmer, who has more than 12 years of brewing experience, most recently at SawWorks in Knoxville, Tennessee. He already appreciates the unusual quarters where he’ll now be brewing.

“The access to fresh, seasonal ingredients is a quest all brewers seek,” Ohmer said in the press release. “With a brewpub inside of a Whole Foods Market store, I will have access to the highest quality natural ingredients daily to experiment and make new and innovative brews.”

He’ll offer classes, tours and events at the Houston store — and Austinites might one day get a taste of the beers he comes up with, too. Whole Foods, Crocker wrote, has plans to ship the Whole Foods beers to other stores (maybe even competitors) through a wholesaler.