Untapped Festival has quickly become a household name in Texas. Thanks to successful events already having taken place in Fort Worth and Dallas, it was only a matter of time before they expanded down to Houston. Matching an excellent music line-up with more delicious beer than any one human could even begin to grasp, Untapped has managed to combine the best of both worlds by bringing the two together for a day-long celebration.
The gates were open early to VIP ticket holders, allowing them to explore the sampling options before the masses filled in. Several of the highly sought-after beers were nearly tapped out by the time the gates were opened to the general public, but thankfully I arrived a bit early and managed to get a taste of my Holy Grail of beers, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. It was much sweeter than expected, but had a nice strong, hoppy finish.
Dallas’ Lakewood Brewing Company offered a tasty black lager called Goatman. It was lighter than its dark hue led me to believe but still had a rich balanced flavor — not too bitter, but still enough to give it a kick. Magnolia, TX’s Lone Pint featured a citrus-tinged, malty IPA called Yellow Rose that also stood out as a favorite.
Houston was strongly represented with 8th Wonder, Buffalo Bayou, Southern Star (Conroe) and Karbach all pulling in significant crowds, but it was the line at the St. Arnold’s tent that was considerably larger than the rest. Their Divine Reserve’s #8, #10 and #12 all went quickly, but the festival favorite seemed to be the Bishop’s Barrel #3. I also finally had the chance to try their fall seasonal brew Pumpkinator for the first time, and despite it now being Christmas beer season, it was still a treat.
A few of the beers at the festival were just downright odd: take the Indra Kunindra from San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewery. One of the only savory choices, it was spiced with curry, cayenne and cumin, and I like I was sitting down to a fine Indian meal rather than sampling a beer. I’m not sure if it’s for everyday drinking, but its unique flavor had everyone at the festival buzzing.
Just like the beer, Untapped made sure to feature some of the brightest musical talent Houston has to offer. A DJ set from Bagheera welcomed the early arrivals, while Walker Lukens really got things going with a set of spirited stompers. The Suffers were soon to follow and you could immediately see why this soul-meets-ska group is starting to make quite the name for themselves. Backed by an assemblage of Houston’s best players, front-woman Kam Franklin is a show-stopper. The only thing that could attract more attention that night was the adorably cheesy marriage proposal that took place mid-way through their set.
With dark setting in and a few sprinkles in the air, Wild Moccasins offered an energetic performance of indie-pop originals that resembled early greats like The B52’s, Talking Heads and Blondie. Next to hit the stage were The Tontons, and with singer Asli Omar’s sultry voice and the rest of the band’s relentless rhythm they seemed to garner the greatest crowd response of all the local acts.
The Heartless Bastards closed out one of the stages with a rollicking set straight out of the garage. Highlighted by Erika Wennerstrom’s fearless vocals, they proved their worth as a second headliner. The evening finished with The Walkmen, still steadily touring in support of last year’s highly lauded Heaven. Their hour went by entirely too quickly, but was packed with fan favorites like “In The New Year,” “We Can’t Be Beat,” “On The Water” and “Angela Surf City.”
Untapped seemed to go off without a hitch, with delicious beer and quality music programming from open to close. While each band had their chance to shine throughout the day, it was the beer that stood out above anything else. It’s not often that you have the opportunity to try so many rare specialty beers from microbreweries all across the nation. Back that with a heaping helping of great tunes by top-notch local and national acts, and it equated to one fine day.
Now I’m just counting down the days until Untapped Atlanta in 2014. It’ll be well worth the road trip.