Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two Saint Arnold's Seasonals

In a great example of supply and demand and how that can change even the best laid plans, Saint Arnold's has run out of one of their seasonals and had to release another one early. Even though the folks at SA brewed more of their Octoberfest than they ever have, they still ran out halfway through the month of October. This led to SA going ahead and releasing their Christmas Ale. With their shuffling I was able to buy a 6 pack of both and decided to do a tasting.
Octoberfest: This is actually one of my favorite Octoberfests, and one of the only ones made in Texas (the other is from Rahr and Sons). I've had this many times in the past and its pretty consistent across years. This one pours a slightly cloudy orange amber with a thick off-white head. The nose is sweet caramel, malts, burnt sugar, and some bitterness. The mouth is effervescent with a great body, sweet but not cloying. Some notes of caramel, butterscotch, a little bitter kick at the finish. Overall a nice silky honey like texture, creating a very smooth very solid beer that gets a B from me.
Christmas Ale: Its actually been a couple of years since I last posted on this fine beer (well during Christmas that is). The beer pours a reddish copper brown with a thin head that dissipates into a film on top. The nose is malty (as it should be, its made with five different malts). Roasted malts, caramel, brown sugar and a cinnamon-y scent. The mouth is smooth up front before bringing a spicy character. Its malty, bready, brown sugar, and spices. It reminds me of a Christmas cookies. Extremely tasty. This one gets a B+ from me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2 Very Quick, Very late hits

I know I'm late in posting on both of these things, but I figure better late than never and maybe just maybe some of this may be news to you.
- First news from the Houston Press regarding a new Rice University Biology Study. Rice Biologists are working on a BioBeer to create a "A brew which has modified yeast that creates resveratrol – the cancer-preventing ingredient in red wine that has also been linked to lowering risks of heart disease in lab animals."

- Secondly its Battle Beer time!!! On a recent episode of Food Networks Iron Chef the secret ingredient was Beer. The chef's had 60 minutes to create at least 5 dishes using the secret ingredient. I think its awesome that Beer and food is getting this main stream, however there were good things and very bad things about this episode. First the good: One of the judges was the great Garret Oliver. There was a really nice beer selection: Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout, Bire De Miel (a mead), Ivanhoe IPA, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, and last but not least Shiner Hefeweizen. Lastly the food made from the beer ranged a pretty broad gamut from traditional Brats, to more complex deserts and cakes. The bad of course was the knowledge of beer by the hosts and the other two judges. Kevin Brauch who has hosted booze related shows in the past said that the Shiner was brewed in Austin! Also the host Alton Brown seemed to know nothing about beer. In other shows he seems extremely well researched and while that may be production and an artifact of the show, why not show the same respect towards Beer that they have shown towards other ingredients? Lastly the other judges seemed to distain the taste of beer, and not really understanding nor appreciating its complex flavors. Having said all that, even with the negatives it was extremely nice to see a show like this focusing on beer and food.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review: Red, White, and Brew

I'm always on the look for a new book on beer. Sometimes this can be difficult at the local book store. It seems you can always find a new book on wine (the aisles are FILLED with 'em) but good beer books can be few and far between. So when Brian Yaeger recently commented to a post of mine, and I found out he had a book coming out, I got excited. Luckily I wasn't disappointed. I finished this book during my trip to GABF (unfortunately I didn't get a chance to catch up with Brian). To start this is as much a book about cross country traveling as it is about beer. Much like the lauded Travels with Barley, this is not a book to read if you are just looking for a book on beer tastings, food matching, or any of the sort. Instead its a deeper look into the breweries, and brewers behind the beer. Brian doesn't stick to just the hard to find craft breweries, although they are there (Bell's, Goose Island, Grand Teton, etc) but he also hits some of the bigger craft breweries as well (New Belgium, Spoetzl, Widmer, D.G. Yuengling, etc). The book revolves around him traveling the country, moving from brewery to brewery and listening to the stories of the founders and workers. Brian's travels start at the Yuengling Brewery, heading west to breweries in the midwest, through Colorado, along the west coast, around through Texas and a visit to local Shiner, before heading back east and finishing up at Brooklyn Brewery. All in all a fascinating trip. The one part that interested me is the stop in Texas where he gets a tour around Shiner, Texas (sure it didn't take long, but its a great little town) and the brewery. Some really fascinating history here, providing me with a little information that I didn't know.
Brian's writing style brings out the good and the bad. The good is that its so conversational, and comfortable that you feel as if you're in the car driving cross country with him. The bad is that at times when writing about the local pub scene he can come across a little frat boyish (she didn't know much about beer, but good thing she was cute, that kind of thing). It's a minor knock on my part I know, and it doesn't keep this book from being thoroughly enjoyable, and making me incredible envious of Brian and his trip. Maybe I can join him on his next one........
Overall this book is such an excellent study in what drives brewers, from the bigger craft beer makes to your local brew pub. Its a strong social study of why they do what they do. There are some that don't even drink beer, but yet are driven to continue a brewery if for no other reason than to support the local neighborhood. Needless to say I enjoyed the book, and hope that Brian continues the work, and produces more writings.
In Summary: Highly Recommended.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Houston Press Cover Article - Texas Beer

This week's cover of the Houston Alternative newspaper is all about Texas Beer. Written by the great Robb Walsh, this is a really great article and I encourage everyone who has an interest in Texas Beer to read it, whether you pick up a paper copy, or read it on-line. Just a few items that I want to point out. The article gives a good history on Texas Beer, how it got its start with German Settlers, and how the three-tier system works in the state. One of the big issues that Mr. Walsh discusses is the stranglehold the distributors have on the Texas Legislatures (try 1.38 million in political contributions, across party lines, so all are to blame for this one). How it makes zero sense that wineries can sell their wares in on site gift shops, while beer (lower in alcohol, so that can't be the reason) are unable to do the same. You may remember a few years ago when Saint Arnold's Brock Wagner tried to take on this stupid antiquated law and failed. Oh he had plenty of folks tell him they supported him, but when it came time to walk the walk the cowardly Texas Legislature wouldn't even put the bill up for discussion. As pointed out in the article do Texas Legislatures not realize that not only will it not impact Beer Distributors but it will bring in MONEY to the state, by not only promoting Texas Breweries (hopefully allowing more to be created) but also promote other Texas Artisan Foods and Texas Restaurants. I guess these laws are what you get when most of the TABC code was written by failed Texas Prohibitionists. As you can see this article got me fired up this morning. Brock has stated that he is going to try again next year to get a fair bill passed to allow small breweries to sell their beer on site. I urge everyone to contribute whatever you can to this cause, whether it be money or letters to your local state Representatives asking them to support your neighborhood business.
Lastly, a couple of other side bars that Robb discussed: His top 5 Texas Beers (year round and seasonal). I can't say I disagree with too much, although I would have liked to see Sisyphus on there, and I'm just not a huge fan of Ugly Pug.
For more information on the Legislative struggle that Brock faced check this link out.

Houston Cellar Classic and Saint Arnold's

Fresh off of the Great American Beer Festival, we enter the week of the Houston Cellar Classic, put on by The Tasting Room. This is a unique week in Houston filled with wine tasting, wine and food pairings, dinners, etc. It also includes a special day for beer, specifically Houston's own Saint Arnold's. That day was yesterday. When it was announced that the HCC would be having a special Saint Arnold's Beer tasting, I can't tell you how excited I was. Remember this was the same group of folks that put together the awesome Saint Arnold's and Texas Cheese pairing afternoon last year. So what was I expecting? This being held at the TTR Midtown location, known locally for its "Grilling and Chilling" Wednesdays, I was expecting small bites grilled of course, and paired with individual Saint Arnold's beers. What did I get? Some small grilled bites (great Buffalo Slides, ribs, and frites from Max's Wine Dive), and Saint Arnold's beer (the regular line up along with their Octoberfest), but no pairing. It was just a grab your food and grab a beer, any beer will do set up. No pairing, no showing how well each specific beer can go well with different types of food.
Would HCC do this and call it a Wine Tasting? No, they would have specific foods matched with each wine, so why not the same respect shown for good beer? You have such a wide range of beers here, from the light crispness of Lawnmower to go perfectly with grilled seafood, to the richness of the Octoberfest, perfect for some grilled brats, or even the grilled ribs they served. To call my extremely disappointed in yesterday's evenings festivities is an understatement as I really think HCC, TTR, and yes even Saint Arnold's missed the boat on this one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

GABF 2008 Roundup

Before I get into the meat of this post, I have to say that I am a lucky lucky man. For my first wedding anniversary, what did my wife do? She flew us to Denver, and got me tickets to Saturday's GABF session! How awesome is that? An amazing woman if I do say so myself.
Yes I got to go to GABF, my second time to go, and it was a blast! I got to taste a lot of beers that we don't get down here in Houston and even visited the booths of Real Ale, Southern Star, and Saint Arnold's. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Texas had a couple of winners too. Below is a list of some of the breweries I visited, some of the beers I tasted and a few of them have some notes as well. The notes are my quick impressions since the 1 oz pour we get is not nearly enough to make a strong judgement on a beer (plus your palate gets saturated with all those different beers).

Firestone Walker - Tried their amazing double barrel ale.

Shmaltz Brewing - Had their RIPA which was sweet malts and very hoppy, very good.
- Jewbilation 12 Anniversary ale. This was pretty cool beer as it had 12 hop varieties, 12 Malts and 12 percent alcohol to celebrate Shmaltz's 12th anniversary. This was a dark rich creamy ale. My wife noted that this would be awesome with some vanilla ice cream.

Portsmouth Brewing - Had their Kolsch (not impressed), and oatmeal stout.

Six Point Brewing - Double Belgian IPA was hoppy and malty, very well balanced, very good brew from this New York brewery.

Pelican Pub and Brewery
- Doryman's Dark.

Walking Man Brewing
- I had their Awesome Stumblefoot Barley wine. The name's appropriate, too many of these and you would be stumbling.

Weyerbacher Brewing - Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This was one of the best pumpkin beer's I've had and hides its 8% abv very well. The other beer I got to have was their rich, complex 13th anniversary ale. Very tasty although the alcohol level was definitely apparent.

Troegs - I was really excited to try this brewery as I've heard so much about their dopplebock. Everything I've heard was well founded. this thing way rich and smooth, really hid the 8.2% abv. This was a beer I could drink all night. Also tried their Scratch 14 Saison which was very good as well.

Carter's Brewing - Tried their Saison and De Railed IPA. Neither of which impressed me.

New Belgium - Yeah I know we get most of their brews, but what we don't get is their Eric's Ale which was probably one of the best sour beers I've ever had.

Dillon Dam Brewery
- Some really good beers, that I forgot to write down!

Fort Collins Brewery - I've had a few of their beers before but this was the first time to try their Doplebock Rauchbier. In one word: amazing. In a few more, this had all the chewy sweetness of a dopplebock with a back bone of smokiness.

Grand Teton Brewing - I had their XX Bitch Creek which was thick, and syrupy, and hoppy. I couldn't have a bunch of these but the little that I did have was really good, complex. A great sipping in front of the fire beer.

Barley Brothers - Double Espresso Stout. This was one of my favorite beers I had at the festival. Incredibly rich and complex, it was like drinking an espresso shot so rich and creamy.

Lakefront Brewery - I tried their very rich and smooth Octoberfest.

Jolly Pumpkin
- Hmm sour ales. I had the La Roja which was sour and tart, extremely well done from the brewery that's an expert on the style. Also had their Oro de Calabaza.

Goose Island - Very solid Saison, and the Matilda which is their version of a Belgian Strong ale. An interesting beer as it was also extremely malty.

Flossmoor Station
- I had a beer called the CollabEvil which was a collaborative beer and weighed in at 10% abv.

- Again I know that we get a lot of their beers here, but for whatever reason I haven't seen any of their special Smokestack series down in Houston so that's what I went too. They had two version of their Saison. One made traditionally, the other infected with Brett. This was a really interested study to do the side by side's to see the impact that Brett has to a beer. Also tried the double wide IPA, which while fairly standard IPA was very tasty.

Russian River - At this point in my tasting, my palate is starting to go, and my pen is finding the paper a little less often. I did get to try Supplication.

- I was hoping to try their Dissident, but by the time we got to their booth they were out so I settled for their very good Anniversary Ale.

Moylan's - They were out of their Triple IPA unfortunately, so I tried their Double IPA. What I wrote in my tasting book was basically HOLY ^*#$ Hop Bomb. I think that about sums it up.

Dogfish Head - This is where we finished it up. Tried the Theobrama which I thought suprisingly tasted a lot like Midas Touch, with a bit of spice, and the Palo Santo which was sweet and rich.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the festival. Afterwards we headed to the Falling Rock taphouse for even more beer. Saw quite a few folks their, including the Alstrom Brothers of Beer Advocate, and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Bulletin (actually introduced myself to him, nice guy). A few quick observations from the festival that may not be evident by my tasting notes above. While IPA's and other hoppy beers were out in force I also saw a lot of branching out. There were quite a few Saisons, Kolsch's (although not many good ones) and more smoked beers than I remember seeing before. The question I discussed with my wife and brother In-Law is the hop shortage and hop prices having an impact, and are we seeing the ramifications? Don't get me wrong I think this is a great thing, seeing American brewery's branch out away from IPA's and towards other complex unique styles of beer. I can't wait till next year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

GABF Winners Announced

The Great American Beer Fest is this weekend in Denver, and as luck would have it I'm actually here and got to go to the festival. I'll have a lot more on my day at the Fest and all that goes along with it, but I wanted to drop a special post congratulating those Texas Breweries that were awarded.
- In the Kellerbier/Zwickelbier category Texas had two winners:
Gold: Helles Keller from Fredicksburg Brewery
Silver: Hell In Keller from Uncle Billy's Brew and Que
- In the Munich Helles Category Texas had one winner:
Silver: Saint Arnold's Summer Pils

Congratulations folks.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Session # 21

Fresh off of a very successful Session 20, I received an announcement for the next one. This time The Session is legal! For the uninitiated, the Session is a monthly virtual beer tasting. Hosted each month by a different blog with a different theme. On the first Friday of the month beer bloggers the world over post their response to the theme, sending a link to the host. The host then posts a round up so that everyone can see all the different entries.
This month the host is Matt over at A world of brews. The theme this month is to answer the question: What is your favorite beer and why? A little more info from Matt:
Before you say I don't have a favorite beer or how do I pick just one. I say BS everyone has a favorite. There will always be a beer that you would grab above all others, your go to beer per say. The one beer you will almost always choose over the others. When I get asked that question I almost always say I don't have one but then when I came up with this topic I realized I did and I know you do too.

I would like to take this topic one step farther for purely selfish reasons. I am trying to do better reviews on beers that I drink and I would like to see how other rate and review their beers. So put on your BJCP hat and Review and Rate your Favorite Beer.
This should be an interesting one. I know its really going to get me to thinking of what is my favorite beer. Of all the beer's that I've had which one do I consider my go to, or beer that I have to check out every season when it comes out. What will it be? Well check back on Nov 7th, due date for the next session.

A divine dinner

If you're in the mood for a good beer and food post, head over to my wife's blog Green Grazing. Last Sunday, we made chicken burgers, but these weren't just any chicken burgers, they were divinely inspired by Saint Arnold's. My wife made beer bread using the latest Divine Reserve, and the chicken burgers themselves were topped off with some Redneck Cheddar made with Divine Reserve 5. It was an amazing dinner.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Session # 20 Roundup

The folks over at Bathtub Brewery has posted the roundup from the lastest Session, Beer memories. Lots of great participation to go with those memories. As I stated in my post, this was a really fun session, and I am looking forward to the announcement of the next one. This time, The sessions legal!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Session 20: Beer and Memories

Its Friday October 3rd, the first Friday of October and what does that mean? Its time for The Session, the virtual beer tasting where beer bloggers the world over unite under a common theme. The host this month is the Bathtub brewery and as the title says the theme this month is Beer and memories.
I personally looked forward to the Session this month as I really liked the theme. If nothing else I think beer brings people together and helps create memories. Whether its a finely crafted beer that when tasted with close friends offers a one of a kind memory, or whether it's a cold brew enjoyed with friends at a baseball game, the theme is good times, good friends and hopefully good beer. This specific post is about my memories of beer as I grew up. Unlike a lot of people my mom didn't have a huge issue with me having a beer (yes even if I was under 21) as long as I was at home and didn't go anywhere afterwards. This allowed me to understand what a beer would do to my senses without being at a bar slamming drinks back as fast as I could. Anyways I don't want to get on an Under 21 tangent, that's not the purpose of this post. The point is that I remember often me coming home from college and my mom having a 6-pack of Shiner waiting in the fridge. Not Bud, not Coors, not Miller, but Texas's own Shiner Bock. This beer was my introduction into things not named BMC. It let me know that beer wasn't just yellow, it had different colors!!! Who knew? Now my mom is not a beer drinker, but she knew that this is what I liked so she always made sure there was a sixer in the fridge waiting for me when I arrived. I really enjoyed that, coming back home from being away months at a time and visiting my mom, popping open a Shiner, having a BBQ, or if it was 4th of July weekend, climbing on top of my roof to see the local fireworks Drinking Shiner just reminds me of simpler times, fun times with my family and friends. Shiner became my gateway beer to the greater world of Craft Beer and all it has to offer. To be honest I haven't cracked a Shiner open in quite a few years, so what better time than today when I'm in a reminiscing mood than to try one out.
The Beer: Ahh its been a long long time. Pouring it into a pint glass (is there any other serving vessel you could use?) it pours a nice copper amber with a thick off white head that quickly dissipates. You can really see the carbonation in the liquid. The nose is malty, sweet roasted malts and caramel. The mouth has some tin-y notes, like from an aluminum can. There's a lot of carbonation (maybe a bit too much), notes of caramel and sweet malts. Its not a complex beer, but its an easy drinking, smooth, decent tasting beer. Maybe its not everything I remember it to be, but it's still a nice beer. It gets a C+ from me.

The folks at Bathtub Brewery will be posting the roundup in the next few days so check back and see all the other memories.

Upcoming Octoberfest Events

Yes I know that this weekend is actually the end of the Oktoberfest celebration in Germany. However over here I don't really think Oktoberfest really gets into swing until this weekend. With that, our local breweries are holding some events to celebrate:

- This weekend is Saint Arnold's Oktoberfest Pub crawl. Check out their latest newsletter for details.
- Speaking of Saint Arnold's they'll be having their HUGE annual Oktoberfest celebration on Oct 17th and 18th. Click here for more details.
- Other local brewery Southern Star Brewing will be holding their first Oktoberfest celebration on October 25th. Price of admission gets you a special commemorative glass.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Divine Vertical

As I mentioned Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 7 has been released and I decided to celebrate that release in a special way, by doing a tasting of several DR's. For the tasting I got together DR's 7, 6, and 5. I figured this would be a great way to experience the new DR and at the same time seeing how other DR's have aged over time. So let's get to it.
Divine Reserve 7: This is of course a weizenbock that weighs in at 8.7%. It pours a deep almost pitch black (see pic on the right) with a tan colored thick foamy head. The nose on this one has lots of banana, wheat, roasted malts and nutmeg. The mouth is chewy and thickly coats the tongue. There are flavors of banana's, munich malts, nutmeg, and rye bread flavors. There is a little bit of alcohol burn. As I mentioned yesterday I got to try this on tap at Gingermans, I actually think its much better out of the bottle, smoother, less harsh. Its a very rich beer, something that I think will lighten up as it ages. This is a great beer and gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.
Divine Reserve 6: This is the American Barley wine. Here is my review from when I tasted it on June 12, 2008. The beer pours a cloudy brown with a thick taupe colored head. The nose is of hops and sweet roasted malts, citrus and earthy notes, yeasty even. The mouthfeel is thick, resiny from the hops with a great big wallop of roasted malt flavors, raisins and figs. There is some caramel sweetness but not as much as I remember before. While hops are still at the forefront, malt flavors are coming up in a big way with this beer. I actually would LOVE to have this beer aged in oak and try it in a year, I think it would be absolutely amazing. Continuing my local eating and drinking I actually had this particular beer with some local cheese, the Veldhuizen Bosque Blue Cheese and it paired really really well.
The Divine Reserve 5: The last one and its the famous Russian Imperial Stout. Again here's my review from the first time I had it on September 09, 2007. Yes it's made it a year, it was difficult not to drink it! This one pours an absolutely pitch black with a dark crema colored head(sorry about the picture quality on this one). The nose has an extreme amount of roasted malts, coffee, dark bitter chocolate. It has a chewy mouthfeel a little chalky with flavors of cocoa, burnt malts, dark chocolate covered espresso beans. Very malty. There was no alcohol burn this was one smooth beer. There is some bitterness from the richly dark roasted malt flavors but it adds such a deep complexity. This may have been one of the best beers I've ever had, better than the first time. My wife and I shared this beer with some local cheddar that was actually made with this Divine Reserve. Unsurprisingly this was an absolutely wonderful pairing.

This was a really interesting tasting, not a true vertical of course, but extremely insightful for me as it was the first time for me to taste a beer that I had aged. It was my last DR5 which makes me sad, but I've hopefully put enough DR6 and 7 away to continue these tastings as subsequent Divine Reserves come out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Southern Star Logger

What better way to start off my month of drinking locally, then well, drinking something really local. In this case I'm talking about a draft only release from our very own Southern Star Brewery. This particular beer is Southern Star's summer seasonal brew, its a Dortmund Export style lager (get it: Lager; Logger!). My first time to try this beer, heck it was actually the first time I'd seen it (got to get this on tap at my local watering hole Boondoggles!).
The Beer: This one weighs in at 6.0% abv and pours a cloudy straw color with a thin but foamy head. The nose is sweet pale malts and a bit of bitter hops on the nose. The mouth is crisp with bitter hops and sweet pale malts. Reminds me a bit of a North German Lager like a Jever or something. Very smooth with a nice crisp slightly bitter taste. A very refreshing brew. This one gets a strong B from me.

Eat Local, Drink Local

My wife and I have been trying to eat local as much as possible. Just something to do our part to support the local economy (which in this day an age is important) and being able to know where we eat our food and how its grown/produced. Well it just so happens that there is a challenge for the month of October to eat local. My wife's blog has detailed out the food part and how we plan to eat as local as possible for the next 31 days. As part of our effort I've decided to only drink local for the next 31 days. That's right no wine, liquor, and most importantly, no beer unless its local. There are of course some caveats so here they are:
1) Local for me is Texas
2) If I picked it up in the brewery on travel then I can drink it during October.
3) I can not pick up anything from the liquor/grocery store that's out of state, period.

For me this will be a good reason to try some Texas beers that for whatever reason I haven't. As the month goes I'll be posting my tasting notes as always, however at the end of the month I'll talk about how easy or hard it was to drink local (I think the drinking part will be very easy, Texas has some great beers).