Thursday, July 19, 2007

Traquair House Ale

A week or so ago, I was having a bad day and my fiance, surprised me by stopping by Spec's and picking up a special beer. It just so happened it was one that I had wanted to try for a while and for one reason or another had failed to pick up. When I saw it, I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to open it up for a taste. Before we get to that, a little history on the brewery.
The Brewery: At 900 years old, Traquair is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. Back in 1107 it was originally a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland. The Traquair brewery itself was founded in 1965 within what was the house domestic brewery. Domestic brewing had ceased around 1800 until Peter Maxwell Stuart began brewing again in 1965 until his death in 1990. Now managing is his daughter Catherine Maxwell Stuart. Currently the brewery produces around 600 to 700 barrels annually, but has plans to increase production by about 20%. They make a few different types of beers: The house ale (a Scottish Ale), Jacobite (an ale spiced with coriander), Bear ale (a lighter ale at 5%), and The Laird's Liquor (a dark ale).
The Beer: This Scottish ale weighs in at 7.2% abv and pours a deep amber brown capped with a thin taupe head. On the nose there is some mild hops up front with malty sweetness, raisins and figs showing up in force on the back end. Those being most predominate on the nose. The mouthfeel is thick rich and complex. Plenty of roasted malts, bitter espresso, raisins, and surprisingly a mild bit of sour taste just at the end. Not in a bad way either. A very nice beer, one that I would give an A-. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Christmas in July

As mentioned earlier this week, Saint Arnolds has released their Christmas Ale in the Summer bringing a little Christmas Cheer in the middle of the Texas heat. I tried it last Christmas, and it was pretty good, but missing something from previous years. I was eager to grab a six pack to see how Summer has affected the taste and enjoyment of the ale.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at around 7.0% abv. It pours a nice bright golden amber, capped by a thin whispy head. The nose is full of sweet caramel malts, raisins, figs, and a hint of citrus. The mouth is thick and gummy, plenty of caramel notes, maybe even honey. Just a tad of hop bitterness showing up as the beer warms. Very nice, and much better than the bottle of beer I had during Christmas. I'd give it a B+.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

News from Saint Arnold

On this very rainy Sunday morning I thought that I'd give a brief update on Houston's own Saint Arnold's Brewery. The following news bits are from Saint Arnold's news letter.

They have released their Christmas Ale in July! A few months back they took on a vote on how many people would like to see their Christmas beer available for a limited time in July. Enough people responded with a resounding YES that they brewed it, bottled it, and its now out for consumption. Stay tuned to some tasting notes and see how it compares to last year.

The official announcement has been made regarding the next Divine Reserve. As mentioned last month it will be an Imperial Stout and it will be released at the end of August.

Finally Saint Arnold's sales are up 27% for the first half of 2007. Congratulations go out to Brock and rest of the brew crew!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Session #6 Announcement

Fresh off a wonderful Session number five a week ago, comes the announcement of The Session #6. For the uninitiated, The Session is a monthly tasting, held on the first Friday of the month. Each one is hosted by a different Beer blogger who picks the them of the month. Then on that first Friday, everyone posts a tasting around that theme. A great idea if I ever heard one. This month the host is Greg Clow of Beer, Beats and Bites. The theme this month? Well with all the wonderful fruit that Greg gets from the local farmers market he thought that Fruit Beer would be wonderful choice. Its OK, all you Lambic Haters out there, your choices are not that limited. Here are the guidelines according to Greg:
be a beer brewed/augmented with fruit (or fruit juice or extract), there are no other rules or guidelines. Anything is fair game, from a tart and funky Kriek or Framboise, to a sugar-laden "lambic", to a Blueberry Wheat or Raspberry Ale from your local brewpub.
This should be a fun one, and another Session that will probably open a few beer lovers taste buds to something new and different. Due date for this session? August 3rd. So if your interested in joining write up your post and email it to Greg on August 3rd.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Denver Weekend

Another Holiday weekend, another trip to Denver for wedding planning fun. Lucky for me, my future wife doesn't mind when I slip away to check out the great beer scene in Denver. Last Friday, I went out with my future Brother In-Law and headed to a couple of breweries located in historic LODO. First off was Breckenridge Brewery. While we get many of their beers down in Texas, there were some interesting choices available that I hadn't tried. The first was a refreshing if simple beer called SummerBright Ale, a wheat ale with flavors of citrus. The second, and by far much better was the small batch Thunderhead Stout, a thick stout with copious amounts of coffee and chocolate flavors. A very nice beer that I had in their half pint glasses. From there we headed down the street to the Great Divide Brewery where I grabbed a chalice of Hades Ale. An amazingly complex and tasty Belgian Strong Golden ale. This was definitely a winner, the only disappointment coming when I realized that for whatever reason this is one of the few beers from Great Divide I haven't seen here in Houston.
That was Friday, but the real treat for me was the day before when I headed down to Falling Rock Tap House. Falling Rock is one of the top tap houses in America, and has an incredible selection of draft and cask beer. The bar holds a special place for me, as one of the owner's, Chris, is from Houston having gotten his start at the great Mucky Duck before heading to Denver. Those familiar with the Beer scene in Houston probably remember when he came to the Duck last Summer for a special Beer Tasting Saturday. Well good new people, I had the chance to meet and talk with Chris, and he is working with the Duck to set up a time next year for another Beer Tasting. It was a great time to visit the taphouse since it's there 10th anniversary, some local brewers have made some special brews and supplied them to Falling Rock. I was lucky enough to try out New Belgiums Special Edition La Folie, in a half pint chalice shaped glass. A couldy brown ale, full of sour cherries, hops, citrus, it weighs in at 6% alcohol and is blended from 10 different fermentation tanks that had been aged in wood. Quite an amazing beer, and while I am not a huge fan of Belgian Flanders Red Ale this was quite nice.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Session #5

I know its been a couple of days since the Session #5 wrapped up, but I have only now been able to get back to my computer to post about the wrap up due to being busy in Denver last week (more on that trip later). As with the previous four this Session was a rousing success. It seems like everyone had a great time and Hop Talk received entries from all over the beer loving globe. With that said, head over there and check out the round up.
Stay tuned for the Announcement to Session #6 sometime later this week.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Session #5

Can't believe its been a month already...this time around The Session is hosted by Hop Talk, the theme is atmosphere. The questions they want answered is: Where is your favorite place to have a beer? When? With whom? Most importantly Why? I have tried to do this when taking about one of my favorite places to have a beer. If you have read this blog then you know I am talking about the great Gingerman's. Gingerman's is a small beer pub chain, with locations in Austin, Dallas, New York and the Original Houston. Its a wonderful place with bartenders that know their beer and a pretty eclectic clientele. College students from the nearby Rice U, to some British Expats, to people like myself that just enjoy good beer and hanging out with friends. What makes this place great beyond the amazing beer selection is the building itself. A great front porch with plenty of sitting, leads up a couple of steps to a relatively dark interior. All wood beams its dominated by a few distinct features. One of course is a short bar in front of a wall that is absolutely packed with tap handles. The others are a good jukebox, and two glass cases that are filled with wonderful examples of Belgium glasses. Walking through the dark interior past the bar (not without stopping for a pint of Elissa cask ale of course) leads you to what makes me love this place. The closest thing I have come to in Houston to a beer garden. A courtyard with a lot of good seating and a HUGE oak tree that lends plenty of shading to the entire place. Its such a wonderful place to sip a good beer with friends. Many a Saturday will find my Fiance and I sitting across from each other talking and drinking good beer out in the courtyard. Now that's a great time. Saturday or Friday nights its the perfect place to hang out with friends listening to the Juke box, drinking good beer and enjoying good company, and I guess that answers the why question. Because what is better than that? One last thing that makes me love Gingerman's...half pints...because sometimes that's all you need.
The Beer: This wouldn't be a beer tasting post without a little talk of beer now would it? Of course I went down with some friends sat back in the courtyard and tried Sierra Nevada's new Anniversary IPA named Torpedo. Available in draft only I was happy to get to try this one out. From one of the forefathers of the craft beer movement and American style Pale ale's I knew it would be a treat. The beer poured a dark amber with a thick dense taupe colored head, that stayed around until the last drop. The nose was floral, citrus, specifically grapefruit. A slight astringency on the tongue, bitter throughout, but not over the top. Copious amounts of grapefruit with a little bit of maltiness in the back giving a mild lemony taste to my taste buds. Its hoppy alright but not in that over the top way many IPA's have. To me it was just right. A beer I would be more than happy to give an A-. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.
The Folks at Hoptalk will be posting their Session Roundup in the next couple of days, so stay tuned......

Quick Hits: Monday's Beer Edition

Just some random posts around the world wide web.....

The world of Wine gets Elvis and Marilyn Monroe gets Larry the Cable Guy. Nebraska Microbrewery SchillingBridge Winery & MicroBrewery located near Omaha where The Cable Guys is from will be putting out some beers in his honor. Named Git-R-Done beer it will be a light beer with "More flavor and Body than popular corporate beers."

Metal Prices and the Beer industry. A really good article on MSNBC covering the impact that stolen kegs are having on the beer industry. As reported people are taking the keg's and selling them to scrap metal shops for good sums of money. While deposits can be as little as $15.00-20.00, kegs can be sold for scraps for as much as $55.00. According to the article this has an unbalanced affect on the Craft industry. While over all keg sales are only about 12% of all beer sold, however keg sales can be up to as much as 40% of their business.

And finally, reminder that this Friday is The Session #5.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

North Coast Blue Star Wheat

Call this one inspired by Jay. That's Jay of Hedonist Beer Jive. Last week he started his Great Summer Wheat Off where he tasted a very nice one from Goose Island. So well inspired I decided to get on the action and have my own taste of a good ole American Wheat Beer.
The Beer: North Coasts version weighs in at a very light and crisph 4.5% alcohol (now thats a good summer session beer). Its not a seasonal but one of their year round offerings. The beer pours a hazy cloudy straw color with a nice foaming white head. Citrus notes abound here, a bit of yeast, low on the banana scent. The mouth is effervescent, lemony, a bit of yeast, zesty and ultimately refreshing which is what I want out of a good American Wheat beer. Not complex but very nice nonethe less. I'd give it a good strong B. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.