Monday, June 29, 2009

A couple of Anniversary Brews

One of the neat things that a lot of brewer's do is releasing special Anniversary beers. These releases usually take one of two forms. The first is releasing a special beer around a significant anniversary (5th, 10th, 15, etc). The second is releasing a special beer every year around their anniversary. Today I'll be posting on two beers one from each of the above categories. Both are from Colorado.
Avery Sixteen: Avery has been releasing an anniversary beer for the past few years, each one being a different style. This year the style is a Saison which frankly is a perfect summer beer. This one weighs in at 7.69% and pours a very pale light yellow with a thin head. Before I forget I should mention that this ale is made with jasmine, peaches and honey. The first whiff brings the honey, floral and fruity, peaches and jasmine are all there. The first sip reveals a vibrant mouthfeel that sparkles across the tongue. The initial flavor is honey then some fruity esters flavors, notes of candied sugar, and peaches. A little on the sweet side, but with food this was a winner. I served it with a basil, tomato, mozzarella pizzeta. The sweetness of the beer counteracted the acidity of the pizza very well. I enjoyed it, this gets a B from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.
Great Divide 15th Anniversary Ale: This comes from the first category, the first anniversary ale for Great Divide to celebrate a huge milestone, 15 years making good beer. This particular one is a souped up version of their flagship Denver Pale Ale aged with American and French Oak. The beer weighs in at a hefty 10%. The beer pours a dark copper with a thick taupe colored creamy head. The nose is very woody. The first whiff reminded me of walking into a winery's cellar with all the wooden barrels aging red wine, it musty, oaky, earthy, then some hops, caramel show up. The mouthfeel is creamy, caramelly malty, oak, vanilla, a more subdued hop profile. More earthy than citrusy. However at the finish long after the beer has faded there is a nice hoppy resinous flavor. As it warms the rich woodiness really starts to show up, notes of bourbon, and vanilla show up creating a luxurious sipping beer that would go amazingly well with strong cheeses particularly of the blue kind. Initially I wasn't too high on the beer, but as it opened up I really started to enjoy it so much so that I plan to age it a bit to see how it develops further. This one gets a B+ from me. Here's how the folks at BA see it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Restaurant Reviews: Textile

This is blog has not been one to post a lot of Restaurant reviews, unless those reviews also involved beer or in certain cases lack there of. Today is going to be different, because I've been to a restaurant that so impressed me I wanted to share my experience. Myself and another couple celebrated my wife's birthday yesterday. We all love good food and good drink, and having wanted a good excuse for a while we headed to Textile up in the Heights area. Textile is a new 'it' place for 'foodies' (i know I'm not a huge fan of the word, but not sure what else to use, so bare with me). Its owned and operated by Chef Scot Tycer (owner of Gravitas and Kraftsmen Bakery), the focus on high quality ingredients and high quality food. He serves two tasting menus daily, one 7 courses and the other 5. Beyond the savory courses, Textile is also getting a reputation due to its Pastry Chef Plinio Sandalio, and his amazing and sometimes eccentric desserts. In short the meal we had was amazing. All four of us chose the 5 course Degustation Menu.
1st course: Mixed Hydro Greens, Gromage D'Ambert, Onion strudel - This consisted of some bibb lettuce, blue cheese an onion tart, and dehydrated fennel. Yes its much more than the sum of its parts. Each piece by itself may not have been much, but together it was amazing. The blue cheese was mild and smooth creamy like butter, mixing incredibly well with the onion tart.
2nd Course: Bacon Tart, Basted Quail Egg, Wilted Bitter Greens, Balsmic - This was probably one of my favorite savory dishes of the night. Rich, creamy, eggs and bacon. One of our party commented that it was like a deconstructed wilted green salad that they used to have. Absolutely amazing.
3rd Course: Wild Salmon, Escargot, Morels - This is where you see Textile's attention to detail. One of our party mentioned that the escargot had fed on fresh herbs (its snail foie gras!), and I kid you not you could taste those herbs in the snails. The salmon was perfectly cooked just an amazingly simple dish that tasted exquisitly.
4th Course: Wagyu Strip Loin, Pommes Puree, Wild Mushrooms: If any dish left me feeling meh, this was probably it. Don't get me wrong it was good, but at its basic it was steak with sauteed mushrooms and mash potatoes. All were good, and all used great ingredients, but I'd rather see something a little more unique.
5th Course: Bitter Sweet Chocolate "Torchon", Cherries, pop rocks - This was a really incredible dessert. My spoon cutting through the chocolate unleashing a gorgeous oozing red cherry out of the torchon, spooning it up sprinkling some pop rocks on top and putting it my mouth, created quite the experience. This was a fabulous dish. The two small bowls of pop rocks that we got were quickly devoured, it brought back a lot of laughter and thoughts of being a kid.
No we weren't done there. I read a lot of the local food blogs, and restaurant reviews from the Chronicle and Houston Press so I had heard of Chef Sandalio's newest desert creation: Corn Dog ice cream (yes you heard correctly). I'm a pretty adventurous eater so as soon as I heard about I knew I had to try it, luckily for me the folks in our group are just as adventurous as I am. So after talking to one of the waiters we had them bring out the dessert (Check the picture out, courtesy of Chef Sandalio's blog). Its basically Corndog batter, with sweet ketchup and mustard Ice cream. The most amazing thing on the plate had to be the ice cream. It absolutely blew my mind. The mustard hit you first then the sweet sugar of the cream took over and it just worked. I can't explain it. There were smiles all around, and whispers of disbelief that it was this good. It was a dessert that reminded everyone of the Texas State fare. Again, I don't know how, but it worked. We ended the night with another creation of Chef Sandalio's: bacon ice cream. I thought initially it would be ice cream with bits of bacon in it, but it wasn't. When it came out it looked like regular ordinary ice cream, but that first bite, was almost butterscothcy, then at the finish you get this bacony almost lardy (I know its not a word) taste that tells you unmistakeably it's bacon. An awesome combination and one that I plan on experimenting in the future. The last two desserts completely and utterly blew me away and really expanded my mind when it came to desserts. I'm proud that Houston has a restaurant like this. The service was impeccable, very attentive, coming over with each plate describing things in detail and answering any questions we may have regarding ingredients or how things were made. The other thing that impressed me was the wine service. Along with the tasting menu's you can choose to get wines paired with each course. We did not choose this option, instead getting two bottles of wine, one white, and one read to share between the four of us. After looking at the reasonably priced wine list for a bit, we asked the Sommelier to come over and help us out. Now at many restaurants I've been to, when you ask their wine person for help they always point you to a much more expensive wine than you were looking for. Not here, he pointed out two incredible values and they went very well with the dinner.
As you can tell I loved this place, and think its got almost everything you could hope for in an upscale restaurant. But you know I have one complaint, or at least a thought about Textile. I love how each course is paired carefully and with great consideration to wine, but how cool would it be to see some place like Textile to do the same thing with Beer? Now recently we talked about wanting beer bars to have better food to go with beer. That discussion was not about having to up the price of a beer just to get good food in your favorite local, but instead of offering simple honest food to pair with craft beer. The point I'm making today is different, why can't upscale restaurants like Textile pair their amazing food with amazing beer? And how cool of an experience would that be? That way you as the consumer could choose if you so desired to enjoy your fine craft ale with very fine food.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beer and Food Quick Hit

I wanted to post a quick thought on a recent article written by Eric Asimov of the New York Times. The idea is one that many have been preaching about for a while, craft beer deserves more than beer nuts, and frozen and fried mozzarella sticks. Its not that we need to add a level of pretension to beer, I don't think anyone wants that, its that if you are sitting down to drink a craft beer with dinner, don't you want something a little more? Something well made, with good fresh ingredients? Go see Belgian. In most every restaurant good beer is served with good food. I'm not talking about upscale expensive food, but honest, well made, rustic food.
Many bars take great care in serving good beer, and shouldn't they take the same care in serving good food, and if not isn't that a disservice to the beer. This is just as true in Houston as it is in New York. I'm not talking about places like Gingerman that are places to sit, relax in the beer garden and have a good beer. They don't serve crappy food, they don't serve food at all, and frankly thats ok. This is directed at those places, that take care to serve good beer, but do so with mediocre to frankly crappy food. Why?

I also want to point out the somewhat dissenting opinion (be sure to checkout the comments).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ska Modus Hoperandi

This beer comes from yet another brewery new to the Texas market. I have to admit its getting pretty fun seeing all the new breweries coming into this state. Ska (yes its named for Ska music which the owners were/are big fans of) is from Durango, CO and is actually not a huge operation so its nice to see them come here. They even can some of their beer! Their beers have some pretty nice labels on them, and their is an interesting story behind them as they represent characters in mob style comic world they created. We don't currently get their entire line up, so far getting their Blond, and Red Ale, and now their IPA. Hopefully their Porter and Imperial Porter will be coming soon.
The Beer: This particular beer is Ska's IPA and weighs in at 6.8% and 65 IBU's. It pours a deep amber orange color capped by a dense thick slightly off white head. The nose is of huge hops, piney, citrus-y, pale toasted malts, and again wave on wave of hops. The mouthfeel is creamy, slightly chewy with a bitter explosion of hops across the tongue, grapefruit peel, a bit of caramel, toasted malt mildly spring up at the finish before being over whelmed by the hops again at the finish. The tongue is coated in a hoppy resin film, flavors of orange creamcicle. Plenty of lacing left on the glass when I'm done. This is wonderful beer, that seems more bitter and more citrusy than its listed IBU's. This one gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review: Anvil Bar and Refuge

If you've been reading my blog or following my twitter feed, you've probably heard me talk about Anvil Bar and Refuge. Its the new 'it' place it seems, down on Westheimer. A place that has become known for making amazing cocktails mostly pre-prohibition style, all fresh ingredients, with things like homemade bitters and syrups. These cocktails take time to make, so don't expect to order and quickly get your drink. There are no dispensing guns behind the bar, everything is hand made and shaken by the bartenders. This takes time, but don't fret, you'll learn something while waiting.
In addition to cocktails they also have a passion for great beer, an in fact I wrote not to long ago about their new draft beer list. A lot of folks have been reviewing it lately and saying great things, but I wanted to wait. Why you ask? Well when they first opened, while they had a great beer list most of it was on bottles. Then as mentioned above they got their new draft beer system in, so I gave them some time to get in the grove before putting together an "official" review. Well that time is today. Yesterday Anvil hosted a Hopfest, celeberating all