July 6, 2022

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WEBSITE NEWS UPDATE

Popular Houston-area breweries are shutting down. Here’s why.

4 min read

Despite weathering the COVID-19 pandemic for two years, Bearded Fox Brewing in Tomball became the second Houston-area brewery to announce it was closing for good in the last month, following recent news that 6 Wards Brewing in Dickinson had shuttered its doors. 

Bearded Fox, which will serve its last rounds on April 10, announced the closure via Instagram on March 21. When the brewery first opened its brick-and-mortar location five years ago, it was the first of its kind in Tomball; two others breweries have sprung up in the area since then, Fire Ant and Paradigm, which Bearded Fox’s post encouraged followers to support when they’re gone.

The outgoing brewery is only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They are pulling all the pints they can before April 10—including their GOAT IPA, No. 48 Porter and Aunt Rose Helles beers, each on tap for $4 before 7 p.m.—as well as selling off merchandise, collector’s items and memorabilia. This weekend will be the last to visit.

“This was a difficult decision, but one that was necessary,” Bearded Fox wrote in the Instagram post. Representatives at Bearded Fox have not returned requests for comment.

Meanwhile, 6 Wards officially closed its doors Feb. 27, but opened for two extra days at the end of March to sell off inventory and offer 50 percent off merchandise. Only two years old, the brewery had opened just after the pandemic started.


The health crisis—and the resulting fallout for businesses—has been difficult for the hospitality industry as a whole, and has presented a unique set of challenges for breweries.

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In Texas, the establishments were classified as bars during the pandemic, and weren’t allowed to reopen like restaurants were under Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan. Many brewery operators felt this was misguided: Taprooms typically have large outdoor areas and warehouse spaces with good airflow, but had to stay shut while restaurants crammed patrons indoors.

Breweries were still brewing during that time, but rather than kegging suds for on-site consumption at the taproom or on-premise restaurant sales, they had to pivot entirely to takeout and, for those with large enough distribution, grocery store sales. Eventually, Texas breweries, like bars, were able to apply for temporary food licenses to become de-facto restaurants and resume dine-in operations.

Despite the challenges of the early-pandemic era, only one Houston-area brewery, Fetching Lab in Texas City, closed during the first two years since COVID-19 cases started to disrupt our lives. Now, it seems breweries’ struggles are coming to a head.

The Dallas Morning News reported last week that three popular breweries in the DFW area recently closed. “Just because your favorite brewery has seemingly made it through the pandemic, it doesn’t mean they’re not still reeling from the impacts of business from the past few years,” Caroline Wallace, Texas Craft Brewers Guild deputy director, told the newspaper.

Charles Vallhonrat, the guild’s executive director, said that while there has been some recovery from the pandemic due to people visiting taprooms and beer being distributed to bars and restaurants again, conditions are still very difficult for breweries.

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Getting equipment, sourcing ingredients and keeping staff are extremely challenging right now, Vallhonrat explained. Those issues follow suit with the two main ripple effects of the pandemic: supply chain issues and labor shortages. Even trouble with merchandise including hats, T-shirts and glassware, while not a core part of any brewery’s business, is an additional revenue stream that’s been disrupted by these on-going issues.

“People are evaluating their business models and seeing what they need to do to stay afloat,” Vallhonrat  said. “Or make a tough decision like these two breweries have made.”

By far the biggest headache for the industry today is access to cans. Not only have breweries shifted from topping off kegs to filling cans in the past two years, many products from other sectors have also made the switch to aluminum packaging, Vallhonrat said, adding that the three primary can producers in the U.S. aren’t able to keep up with demand.

Ball Corporation, which has the largest market share of the major can producers, recently increased its minimum order capacity to such a high figure that it effectively excludes almost all but the largest breweries from being able to order from them, Vallhonrat noted.

Vallhonrat is optimistic about an Austin-based company, American Canning, which is expanding to a larger production facility this year solely to meet the increased demand for cans in the beer industry.

While the majority of Houston-area breweries are holding strong, they’re still struggling, whether visible or not. Local Group Brewing in Northside announced on March 24 that “due to some unforeseen circumstances” it will be shutting down its kitchen, which served some of the best and most ambitious food of any brewery in town.

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The Local Group team could not be reached for comment, but a note on the brewery’s website states: “Our kitchen is temporarily closed. We will let you know as soon as we reopen it.”



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