Friday, January 25, 2008

Saint Arnold's Spring Bock

Wow, didn't it seem that I just reviewed Winter Stout? Its hard to believe but brewers are already starting to release their spring seasonal releases. I was up at my local Central Market the other day, and saw this on the shelves, and decided what the heck, I'm feeling springy.
The Beer: It weighs in at around 6.4% abv. As you would expect from a German Style Bock the beer has low IBU's of around 24. German Style Bocks are bottom fermented lagers, however stronger than traditional ones. There should be a STRONG malt character, and the underlying hops should never get in the way of the character of the malt. This spring bock fits well into the category. The beer pours a copper bronze color, with a frothy white head. The nose is sweet malts, notes of roasty flavors, a bit of floral hops are there as well. The mouth is all sweet caramelly hops. Rich and smooth, slightly sweet, but never cloyingly so. The hops are there, but barely detected. Even though I know they shouldn't interfere with the malt, I'd have liked to seen just a bit more hop to this bock, just enough to give it some underlying oomph or 'pop'. Other than that, a fine example of a bock. I rate this one a B+. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What is Divine?

Twice a year for the past two years or so Saint Arnold's has released a special beer under the Divine Reserve Label. It started with a Barley Wine, and the last time was an absolutely incredible Russian Imperial Stout. I haven't had the pleasure of tasting all 5 Divine's, but I've had the last 4, and posted on the last 3.
It seems as soon as Brock and company release a Divine Reserve, we all start eagerly anticipating the announcement of when the next one will be released and what it will be. While I don't have an answer to the former, I may have found a hint to the answer on the latter question.
In the past Saint Arnold has used the Big Batch Brew Bash Homebrewing contest to get the recipe for their Divine Reserve. The BBBB is the largest single style home brewing competition in the country and is hosted by Saint Arnold's. They set the rules with a specific style, and then homebrewers brew their best version. With their permission SA has used the winner as the Divine Reserve. Pretty cool idea and both their RIS and Double IPA Divine Reserve were brewed in this manner. In their latest newsletter Saint Arnold's announced that the next BBBB will be in May and the style will be a Weizenbock.
Beeradvocate defines a Weizenbock as the following:
A more powerful Dunkel Weizen (of "bock strength"), with a pronounced estery alcohol character, perhaps some spiciness from this, and bolder and more complex malt characters of dark fruits.
Average ABV: 7-10%.
With that higher abv and it being a bigger more 'powerful' beer it sure sounds like this could be the next Divine Reserve. We'll have to see, but I hope so.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Covey Restaurant

This past holiday weekend found me in Fort Worth, Tx visiting with my family. While there, I thought I'd try out a place I've been hearing about for quite some time but never had made it too. With that, one of my best friends, my wife, and I headed to Covey Restaurant and Brewery in downtown Ft. Worth. The Covey touts itself as a Texas wild game restaurant and brew pub. This means that they serve things like elk, quail, buffalo, venison, etc. We arrived around 7 pm, as we entered my eyes were immediately drawn to the small brew room in the middle of the room containing about 5 tanks, along with the mash tun, kettle, etc. On the right side of the brew room was a pub, the other side was a dining room full of white clothed tables. The pub was full so we headed to the dining room and looked over the menu, seeing items like quail quesadillas, wild game stuffed poblano, buffalo strip steak, buffalo burgers, and wood fired pizzas. Prices range from $11 for appetizers to $13-16 for pizzas, and up to $36 for the buffalo steak. Each item on the menu has symbols next to it that correlate to Covey's beer list, helping patrons out with food and beer pairings. We quickly made our appetizer orders, my friend and I split the quail quesadilla, my wife had the wild game lettuce wraps filled with smoked duck, quail, and venison. With the quesadilla I had Covey's Kent IPA made with Kent Hops. It took about 15 minutes but finally our beer arrived. My IPA was about 7.5% abv, poured a cloudy amber orange, with a great foamy frothy head. Good earthy notes, hops, and some toasted pale malts. The mouth was smooth, creamy, hoppy. This is not an overpowering IPA, very subtle, very good, very smooth, a beer I enjoyed. The beer went really well with the quesadilla, filled with quail, Gorgonzola and caramelized onions. It was a pretty good quesadilla, I could have done with a little more quail, and a little less cheese as the cheese flavors tended to overwhelm the quail. My wife's lettuce wraps were pretty good as well, however the sauce again tended to overwhelm the meats.
For dinner I had the Chicken Diablo Pizza that came with Mesquite Smoked Chicken, chipotle sauce, roasted poblano's, and red peppers. With all these smoked flavors I was excite to try the one beer they had that I knew would go with it: Covey's Rauchbier. Rauchbier is a smoked beer, descended from German brewing tradition, specifically from the town of Bamburg. My buddy had the Buffalo Pizza topped with strips of Buffalo sirloin, my wife had the French onion soup. The food again took a while to make it to our table, however it all came with the drinks. My Rauchbier was amazing. Very dark with a cappuccino colored head. Smokey malt's raisins on the nose. The mouth is smooth, smokey peaty, roasty. At 7.0% abv its very smooth. There's a small dusty taste from the smokey flavors, but its understated. A very good Rauchbier. The pizza was great. The dough made with Covey's amber ale, was crisp throughout, not soggy from the toppings. The smokey ingredients on the pizza paired incredibly well. Everyone enjoyed their entrees.
After Dinner as we headed out, we ran into the brew master Jamie Fulton. We got to talk to him a bit, as with most brewer he was incredible nice and was happy to talk beer with us. He mentioned that he was in the process of making a Triple, but it would be a few weeks more before it was ready. I mentioned I was disappointed that I wouldn't get a chance to try it since I was heading back to Houston. He told us to stay put and headed into the brewery for three tasting glasses of the triple. Wow is all I can say. Even though it needed some time, you could tell it was very good, very crisp, clean, white raisins, fruity, very similar to Victory's Golden Monkey. We thanked him for the beer and headed out into the night.
Overall The Covey is a GREAT addition to Downtown Ft. Worth. A very good restaurant, but an even better brewery. The beer's that I tried are not over powering and in your face, they are subtle, full of flavor, and hide their alcohol very well. Now if only we could get something like this in Houston.
Food: B
Beer: B+
Atmosphere: B
Service: B-

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Flying Dog Oak Aged Gonzo

When I posted about my stay in Denver over Christmas, I talked about going to Flying Dog Brewery. While there I was able to pick up three great unique beers, first there was the Oak Aged Horn Dog, then Collaborator, and lastly this beer. Its an Oak Aged (for 6 months) Imperial Porter that has been "infected" with Brett. Brett is short for Brettanomyces, and is a acidogenic yeast compound and when grown on glucose the yeast produces a large amount of acetic acid. In the wine world, winemakers will go to great lengths to keep Brett out of their wine beyond very very low levels. At these low levels Brett can create positive sensory complexity, however beyond that the wines can be described as mousy which doesn't really sound like a good thing. However beer behaves differently when Brett is introduced. Certain styles of beer, specifically Belgian styles such as Lambic and gueuze owe much of their complexity to Brett. In Orval for example, the brewers add Brett to the bottles helping to give it its unique taste. With all of these examples you can see that the addition of Brett gives a degree of 'sourness' to the beer.
The Beer: The beer pours a very dark brown with a thick cappuccino colored head. The nose has raisins, chocolate, cherries, vanilla and some oakyness. The taste has an underlying sourness, along with cocoa, raisins, toffee, roasted malts, bitter espresso, and a hint of molasses. The beer is smooth, its an interesting brew, and its not a session beer. I think there's too much going on here, to drink more than one. The sourness is not that overpowering, but the bitterness is. Its a weird combination of sour bitterness, going on but the bitter compounds far outweigh the sour ones. A little alcohol-y too. This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the beer, I did, and I also respect what the folks at Flying Dog were attempting here. I think its incredibly interesting beer, but definitely not my favorite. I'd give it a C+.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

News and Notes around the beer world

- An update from Southern Star Brewing, Texas's newest craft brewery. They are a little behind schedule, but they've got their malt and hops on site. They need to complete the boiler room, get their city inspections performed. Hopefully, they'll start brewing in the next month or so. I can't wait as I'm really excited about a new brewery in Texas and what they are trying to do. I'm hoping to go up and see the brewery as soon as possible.

- The New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov covers beer. This week he wrote on extreme beer, however its more of an article on Double IPA's instead of a broad thesis on what is extreme beer. Its a good article, so please check it out, but I think by narrowing his focus so much he cheats his readers a little.

- Published a couple of weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to posting on it, but Lew Byson writes on 'Malt Disneyland' for Conde Nest Magazine (published on MSNBC's website). A very good read on traveling to Belgium and experiencing their great beer culture. It made me miss being over in Germany and being able to get to Brussels with ease.

- Finally there is this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about Franconian beers. A good article over all about the diverse beers that come from this area of Germany. I've actually had the pleasure of tasting some of these.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

This weekend I was in the mood for something hoppy, so I headed to Central Market to see what was on the shelves. When not seeing anything that jumped out at me as new, I went for something more familiar to me. While I've never done an "official" tasting of it, this is a beer I've had many times. Great Divide is a brewery based in downtown Denver not to far a walk from Flying Dog, or the Rockies Baseball Stadium.
The Beer: The beer pours an orangish amber capped with a thin white head. The head dissipates relatively quickly but leaves behind plenty of lacing throughout. The nose is all hops, some floral, some piney, and a lot of grapefruit. My first thought as I started to drink this fine brew was "Yup its a hop bomb." WHile thats true it also doesn't mean there isn't some balance here. While grapefruit is in abundance, there is some toasted pale malts, even some toffeness character to the beer. Not a lot of alcohol burn even though its there as I sipped. A very fine Double IPA. I'll give it an A-. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Whats in a name?

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the new beers that Flying Dog will be releasing this year. Yesterday I received their e-newsletter and noticed something strange. They had changed the name of their Tripel Beer.
Here's the label from the original press release:

Now here is the label from this weeks newsletter:

As you can see the beer has gone from Cerberus to Kerberos. Why the change? I spoke with the folks at Flying Dog today and they let me know that as soon as they sent out the press release they learned that there was already a Cerberus Tripel being brewed in Baltimore, so they changed the name of the beer to the Greek spelling of the three headed hell-hound. Mystery solved, but regardless of the name, I can't wait to try the beer. The beer's either been release or will be shortly so hopefully its only a matter of time before it gets to Houston.

Saint Arnolds Winter Stout

I was really happy to see this beer on the shelves when I went to my local Central Market. Last year at this time I was still in Germany so I missed the release. I've really enjoyed the Winter Stout in previous years so I was bummed that I missed it last year.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 5.6% and pours a very dark, but not quite opaque black. A thinnish head caps the beer poured into a pint glass. The nose is full of roasted malts, cocoa powder, chocolately malts. The big flavor here was the roastiness. The mouth was very malty, coco, chocolatey, maybe a little bit of espresso. That may be the only real negative with this beer. I enjoy a little bit of that espresso bitterness in my stouts and this didn't have it. A very smooth beer, easy drinking, low carbonation so it just sits and coats the mouth. The malt is the predominant flavor as hops are nowhere to be seen. Saint Arnold calls this a Sweet Stout and I can't really disagree with its lower alcohol (even though this is a bit higher), smooth and malty slightly sweet. A very good beer, I give it a B. Here's what the folks over at BA think.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Session #12 Announcement

Its that time again, the 12th time to be exact. The announcement of the Session. For the unitiated, the Session is a virtual beer tasting hosted each month by a different blogger with a different theme. On the first Friday of the month everyone posts their tastings and the hosts posts a round up with everyone's contribution. This months host is Jon at the Brew Site. The theme is Barleywine!!!! I can't tell you how excited I am for this. I love barleywine, its one of my favorite styles, so I am going to try to do something different this month, we'll see if I succeed. Due date for this month's session is Friday February 1st.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Restaurant Review: Beavers

For the second time in a month my wife and I went to the new BBQ/Ice House/New 'It Spot' Beaver's in the Heights in Houston. Owned by Monica Pope (check out her other scrumptious and amazing restaurant T'afia's), Beaver's is primarily pit BBQ joint. It serves only hormone free beef, quail, fish, etc. The first time we went there was when it had first opened and to say it had some kinks to work out was an understatement. The food came out in a disorganized manner. You would get your sides, then maybe an appetizer, then you entree. Or some of the folks at our table would get their Entree before their sides or any appetizers came out. Now the waiter let us know before hand this would be the case but it was still a little chaotic. Thankfully the food was amazing. Smoky, flavorful, and for the most part tender.
We were expecting much better things when we went back this weekend, and we weren't disappointed. We got there around 7 pm and were told it would be a 45 minute wait. Which was fine because I wanted to check the bar out anyways. They are supposed to have some really good mixed drinks there, and I wanted to get one for my wife. The mixologist is a fellow blogger so if your interested in cocktails go checkout his Explore the pour. The drinks were really good, and really well made, my wife had a Mayahaul Fizz. Myself? I partook in one of the 60 bottled beers they offer. They have an incredible selection of microbrews here and their beer list is organized really well dark to light by style. Very well done. Only a few on tap but many bottles from the local Texas Microbrews Saint Arnold's and Real Ale. I started the evening off with a BANG and had a bottle of Real Ale Sisyphus. When we got to the table we ordered appetizers of Campechana Seafood and Sweet Potato French Fries. Both were absolutely incredible. With the food I decided to order a Saint Arnold's Winter Stout (served on Draft). Thinking that the nice sweetness of the beer would go well with the sweet smokiness of the BBQ. For dinner I ordered a Rack of ribs and my wife got the brisket. The brisket was amazing, tender juicy and just fabulous. The rub on the brisket and the sauce were outstanding. The ribs were fairly good. they were dry rubbed and very tasty, however they were not fall off the bone tender which is what I'm used to. They were a little tough at times nearly impossible to pull away from the bone with my teeth. I was disappointed in that because they were extremely flavorful. However the food came out quickly and the service was excellent. We finished the night with a dessert cocktail that Robert made us. It again like all the cocktails we had was fabulous. All in all Beavers is a great new addition to the Houston dining scene, with its own twist on Texas BBQ and Texas Icehouses.
Service: A
Food: B
Beer Selection: A
Cocktails: A

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Session #11: Roundup

Wilson at Brewvana is FAST. He already has his round up of the 11th Session posted. It was a great time and I think exposed quite a few people to Doppelbock's outside of the usual Salvator and Celebrator. I was surprised that there were quite a few that tried Flying Dog's Collaborator along with me. All in all a great Session full of learning which as I've said in the past is the whole point. Check the round up, and in a few days we'll have the announcement for the next session the 12th! Who can believe that its been almost a year since we had our first?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Some new stuff on the Blog

A quick note on some additions I've made to the website that I wanted to point them out. On the right hand side I've added two additional categories.
The first category is Houston area Food and Drink blogs.
'A Cooks Tour' the food blog for the Houston Chronicle's Allison Cook.
'Eat our Word's' the food blog for the Houston Press.
'Explore the Pour' is a great website on drinks from a local Houston bartender.

The other new category is me attempting to promote Beer and Food. Right now I only have one link from So I am asking for YOUR help. If you know of any other websites, blogs, etc that promote beer and food please let me know and I'll add their link.

The Session # 11 - Doppelbock,

Its the first Friday of the month so that means its time for the Session. The Session is a monthly virtual beer tasting, hosted by a different beer blogger every month, each session with a different theme. This month's host is Wilson over at Brewvana, and the theme this month is Illuminator: Doppelbock.
Before getting into the beer I chose for my tasting let's look at what a Doppelbock is. While the birth of Bock beer can most likely be traced to the German town of Einbeck, Doppelbocks originated in Munich, Germany. Bock as a whole are traditionally strong and malty, smooth with toasty and caramel flavors, usually weighing in at 6 to 7 percent abv. Doppelbock's originated from the monk's that were in Munich (which in German means place of the monnks). They were Lenten beers, made to be bigger to help get the monk's through their fasting. The first doppelbock released to the public in 1780, its name was Salvator (meaning Savior). This began the tradition of Doppelbock beers having names that ended in -ator. From a style Doppelbock's are stronger that 7% with a lot of smooth malt flavor, and dark colored.
Now on to the beer I chose. Since no Texas Brewer makes a doppelbock I knew I was going to have to search around for something unique (i.e. not Salvator or even Celebrator). Luckily I was heading to Denver for Christmas and when I went to Flying Dog recently I found the beer I would use: Flying Dog's Wild Dog Collaborator. This is a complex beer before even opening it. Last year Flying Dog started what they called an Open Source Beer Project. The goal of this project was to post a recipe to a beer (in this case a Doppelbock) on line. Then over the course of a few months allow anyone to change and tweak the recipe. Changing malts, hops, specific gravity, how much of those ingredients, etc. The original post with a full explanation is here. The final beer ended up looking like this:
Alc: 8.3%
IBU: 24
Malts: Munich “Type I” 2240 75, Munich “Type II 550 19, Cara-Munich 55 2, Cara-Amber 55 2, Melanoidin 55 2 .
Warrior, Mt. Hood.
Now on to the Beer: The beer pours a nice amber with a thick head. Malt and caramel even some floral hops on the nose. The mouth is malty, caramel balanced with some pinyness, a little bitter, even something that I equated to cherries on the palate. This is a very smooth very drinkable beer. It hides it's alcohol well. Its not so rich that you couldn't drink the whole bottle in one sittiing. It's a well made drinkable Doppelbock. I give this one a strong B.

Now head over to Brewvana for more Doppelbock posts.