Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rochefort is Back!

While Texas has been getting many new brewery's crossing state lines to enter our fertile market, few have been more anticipated than one that is re-entering. After a multi-year absence, Belgian Trappist brewery Rochefort is back in Texas. Rochefort is a Benedictine monestary brewery in Namur, Belgium, and is one of the 7 Trappist breweries in the world. Rochefort makes 3 different beers, the 6, 8, and 10. Many folks think that these numbers correspond to the percent alcohol however that is incorrect. Instead these numbers corresponds to the Original gravity: 6 corresponds to 1.060, 8 to 1.080 and 10. 1.100. Originally these numbers were close to the percent alcohol, however that was no longer the case, and never the actual intent of the numbers.
When I first heard that Rochefort was back in Texas I went out and picked up two of the 3 available beers.
Rochefort 8: The beer weighs in at 9.2% abv and pours a copper reddish brown color with a thick dense head of taupe colored foam. Very malty nose with notes of candied sugar, caramel and fruit. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, dried figs, raisins and other dark fruits concentrated. Finishes dry. Notes of chocolate, spicey. There is an interesting flavor here, that took me some time to place. Its like burnt sugar, with some brown sugar notes and caramel as well. The best analogy I came up with is the burnt sugar crust on creme brulee. Its a chewy beer, notes of cherry as it warms, very effervescent. No alcohol notes. A great malt forward sipping beer.
Rochefort 10: This is the big brother beer weighing in at 11.3% and pours an almost black color with a thin taupe colored head that dissipates quickly leaving a thin film capping the beer itself. Very malty nose, fruit esters almost grapey. Thick chewy mouthfeel, figs, plums, tobacco, sweet rich. Red wine like quality. Raisins, chocolate, rich chewy malty goodness. I love the fruity tobacco notes of this beer. Its like sitting in a big comfy over stuffed leather chair smoking a pipe. Notes of cola as well as it warms. This is one amazing complex brew.
For those wanting to try Trappist beers and see what all the fuss is about you must seek out Rochefort.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fight Night Beers

This past Saturday was Fight Night, which means its a good night to sit down and have a couple of beers. Unknowlingy there was a theme to the beers I had on Saturday.
Sam Adams Griffon's Bow: The second beer I've had from Sam Adams small batch series, this one is an oaked blonde barleywine. Notice that its oaked and not barrel aged. It weighs in at a hefty 11.5% and pours an orangish golden color with a quarter inch of just off white head. The nose is perfumey, notes of honeysuckle, pineapple, toasted malts, and maybe just a hint of oak. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, a good level of carbonation, slightly sweet up front, almost but not quite cloyingly so. Honeysuckle, melon, but finishes dry. Some alcohol, white grape juice flavors, an oaked white wine characteristic. There is a lack of depth to these flavors though that keep it from being really really good. Instead its ok, something worth picking up, but not one I would go out of my way for again.
North Coast Grand Cru: A new beer to the Texas market from a brewery that we've had in the state for a long time and one that makes some outstanding beers. This is a bourbon barrel aged beer made with agave nectar and weighs in at an even heftier 12.9%. It pours a hazy pale golden color with a thin white head. The nose again is perfumey with notes of honey, melon, pale malts, more oak on this one then the last. There are more phenolic notes of alcohol in this beer than the last as well. Great level of carbonation and again sweet up front, melons, honeysuckle. A rich beer, but its very bright, nothing is lost in its richness. Effervescent almost. This has an almost ice wine character to it. It finishes very dry. As it warms notes of peaches, vanilla, nectarines, even a slight tartness that rounds its character out. There is so much depth to this beer its unbelievable. I really enjoyed this one, and I think this is what the Sam Adams beer was trying to be. They are both very similar styles in certain respects, Sam Adams version was almost there, North Coast's was there and then some.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Sam Adams Third Voyage

Sam Adams is an interesting brewery. They are a brewery that has done great things for the craft beer movement, but many craft beer nerds, turn their nose up at Sam Adams, and don't really consider them a craft brewery. Sure their flagship Boston Lager is not a mind blowingly complex beer, but is a great alternative in hotels and airports when there isn't much other options. Plus they make a great many other beers than just their Lager. Their Imperial Pilsner they brewed a few years back is one of the best beers I've ever had. They really helped create the whole extreme beer movement with Utopias and their Imperial series is damn solid (although I don't care of the Imp White at all). Sure they have their misses (Triple Bock I'm looking at you), but for the most part they make beers ranging from good and solid, to outstandingly complex.
They continue to release special beers, first it was their Barrel Room collection that we unfortunately don't get in Texas (damn label laws) and now its a collection of Small Batch beers, that luckily we do get. The first one I have had the opportunity to try is their Double IPA, Third Voyage. The beer is brewed with simcoe hops and Cascade hops from England, New Zealand, and the US which is where the name for the beer comes from. The name is based off of Captain James Cook third voyage that took him from England, to New Zealand before completing his journey in the Pacific Northwest of the US. But enough of the history lesson, how does the beer taste?
The Beer: The Beer weighs in at 8.0% (not sure of the IBU's) and pours a crystal clear ruby color capped with a dense foamy slightly off white head. The nose is full of hops, citrus, along with some earthy mustiness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a comforting level of carbonation. Massively hoppy, citrus peel, and pitch. Caramel malts, buttered bread, help give balance to the beer. There is a quality to the beer that I equate to hop marmalade on toast points. There is a slight sweetness to this brew that counters the over the top hops of the beer. However after the third or fourth sip, all I get is hops, hops and more hops. The tongue becomes saturated and its all I get. I like the white pepper spice impression that the resiny hops leave on my tongue. This is a fine beer, and makes me want to go out and try the other ones from this series. This one gets a strong B+ from me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saint Arnold: Divine Reserve 9 Vs. Pumpkinator

Last week, Saint Arnold did something they've never done before, re-release a Divine Reserve (well sorta, but more than that in a minute). Last Thursday, marked the release of a new seasonal, released only in Bombers and on draft of Pumpkinator. It ended up being a lot harder to find than many expected. Most folks thought that Pumpkinator would be no different than any other Saint Arnold's seasonal, but that wasn't the case, as it turned out to be kind of a Divine Reserve type day with folks tweeting about where to find a bottle or two. Folks have been calling this a re-release of Divine Reserve 9, which in a way it is, but it also isn't an entirely correct statement either. Yes both are Imperial Pumpkin stouts, made with lots of pumpkin and spices, but DR9 weighed in at 11%, Pumpkinator weighs in at 9.5%, so there is a difference and abv can affect a lot about a beer. So how different are these beers? I have had DR9 at different stages of its life, read about my thoughts here, and here. However, in honor of Pumpkinator's release, I wanted to know how DR9 was tasting now, about 2 years after its release, so I did a tasting of both beers and here are my thoughts:
Pumpkinator: It pours very dark, with a little taupe colored head. A ton of spices on the nose with just a hint of pumpkin and some roasted malts. Medium bodies, maybe a little light, but not bad. Lots of carbonation which was surprising, very spicy, lots of cinnamon, cloves, and that same hint of pumpkin. Its liquid pumpkin pie. Really spicy, but I don't believe its as harsh as I remember fresh DR9 being. The beer is almost chewy its pie-like qualities. As it warms, it gets really good, some chocolatey coco notes come out that play really well with the pumpkin. There is some boozy notes, but again not nearly as much as DR9. A very good beer.
Divine Reserve 9: It pours a very dark chocolate black with a quarter inch head of taupe colored foam that quickly dissipates into a thin cap around the surface of the beer. The nose is of dark fruits, sweet malts and fruitiness. Some canned pumpkin and just a hint of those pumpkin pie spices. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, lots of roasted malts, figs, raisins, dark chewy malts. Cake like, I compare it to a chocolate pumpkin fudge brownie. Most of the spices are gone now, but there is still some light alcohol notes, but its not unpleasant. A great beer that has aged wonderfully and has some more years to go.
The Verdict: Two good beers. I think I might like Pumpkinator a little more fresh than I did DR9. There is a smoothness and a roundness that wasn't there on the DR release. However, I also don't think Pumpkinator will age as well as DR9 has. DR9 was so powerful when first released that it needed time, Pumpkinator is good now. Yes it will age and do so very well I think, just not as well as DR9. Both are good beers, and its a step in the right direction for Saint Arnold to start a special seasonal release of bomber beers. The next one to be released will be in the spring and will be a version of Divine Reserve 11, definitely one to look out for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stone 15th Anniversary Ale

Anniversary ales are becoming more and more popular these days. Each year brewery's release a special beer celebrating their birthday. Even Texas breweries are getting in on the fun, Real Ale released their own 15th Anniversary ale, an Imperial stout earlier this year. Stone, though is different, they've been doing anniversary beers for a long time and were probably ahead of the curve on this one, as they are on many other trends in beer. When I see their anniversary beer, I'm always a little surprised at how relatively young they are. The same age as Real Ale brewing, but younger than Saint Arnold's, Avery, and some others. I guess I've always just thought of Stone as being around much longer.
For Stone's 15th they made what they are calling an Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. Now if your saying, hmmm that sounds familiar, its because it is. They have a black IPA called Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, itself based off of their 11th anniversary beer, and a beer that I enjoyed. So whats the difference?
The Beer: This Black DIPA weighs in at 10.6% far heftier than SSR's 8.7%. It pours a dark rich chocolate brown with a cafe colored head. Hoppy hop hops on the nose. Citrus peel, pith, fruit all of it. Hints of coco and roasted malts struggle to make their voices heard through the din of hops. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, some astringency either from the booze or from the hops. Roasted malts, grapefruit, citrus peel, chocolate malts. Very very resiny, course, harsh. Much more so than SSR. This is not a gentle beer. There is no balance here, its harshness and hops. Warming it helps some as it gets fruitier, but there is still that harshness that distracts from everything else. Its an interesting brew, and I love hops, but give me an SSR any day over this. I'll give it a C.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Boulevard Nommo

I count myself lucky that Texas is one of the states that gets not only Boulevard Brewing's regular line up, but their premium series of Smokestack beers as well. I've been impressed with almost everything they have put out in this series of beers. Their newest Smokestack beer is a dubbel, but of course you know its not just any dubbel. This one has been brewed with Molasses and had spices like coriander, Cinnamon and star anise added as well. That's a lot of things going on, but would it come together harmoniously or fall flat on its face?
The Beer: It weighs in at 8.1% and pours a deep rich garnet color with a thick dense of cafe colored foam. The nose is spicey, I really get some coriander here, maybe some star anise. Fruity esters, banana and cloves from the yeast used. Full bodied, and those same banana and clove esters, coriander. I was expecting this beer to be sweet, but it was surprisingly dry. It tastes of fall to me. Notes of coco, and cinnamon show up as it warms. Rich, flavorful, multiple levels. Spices get you, tickling the back of the throat not unpleasantly. Continuing to warm up allows even more coco flavors to pop out. This is a seriously rich complex beer. The dry finish really works helping to keep the beer from being sweet. This definitely did not fall on its face, it worked and worked well. This gets a B+ from me.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet

Another beer from one of the newer breweries in the Texas Market, this one is an infamous Black Pale Ale. How can something be black and pale at the same time? A question for another day perhaps. This beer as all that are labeled as such are dark heavily hopped beers, this one especially so, weighing in at 80 IBU's.
The Beer: At 7% this is not overly high, nor is it a session ale, somewhere in the middle it pours a dark black with ruby streaks when held up to the light, capped with a taupe colored head of foam. The nose is chocolate, burnt coffee beans, roasted malts, and a whiff of citrus peel on the nose. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, lots of black patent malts here. Burnt malts before being walloped with hops. Citrus pith bitterness abounds on the tongue, but I keep going back to the malts that don't hide behind the hops. There is a chalky quality to it, a burnt malt taste to it as it warms up. This overly roasted quality gives some balance to the hops, however I could do without the chalky taste. This one gets a C+ from me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

MIkkeller 10

Gypsy brewery Mikkeller is one of the more unique breweries in the world. No real place to call a home they travel around the world (mostly in Europe) brewing at different breweries. They also make some really good beers. One of the neat things they did a year or so ago was create a Single Hop series of beers. 10 different beers brewed exactly the same way with the exception of the hops used. This method allowed one to see the impact hops made on all aspects of a beer. I was lucky enough to try a few of these single hopped beers at a Camp Beer earlier this year. Mikkeller has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other with this beer. They have taken the 10 hops used in their single hop series, and blended them into 1 beer.
The Beer: This American IPA labeled beer weighs in at 6.9% and pours a cloudy orangish copper color with a thick dense head of off white foam. Spicy, citrusy, fruity, earthy nose with a hint of toasted malts. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a good level of carbonation. Resiny, floral, notes of grapefruit and tropical fruits. Marmalade with toasted biscuits comes to mind. Resiny finish. Its an OK beer, but as with the single hop series, I think it highlights why most beers use a blend of hops, and why certain hops blend better with some than others. A mishmash of hops thrown together will be hoppy of course, but many nuances are missing that leaves a good beer feeling muddled. This one gets a B- from me. A good beer worth checking out.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Clown Shoes Eagle Claw Fist

I say this a lot in the blog, but it is a great time to be a craft beer lover in the state of Texas. Craft breweries are popping up everywhere, and more and more breweries are coming into this state (of course I wish there were more coming, but that's a whole other issue). One such brewery is Clown Shoes from Ipswich, Mass. They've been here for a little over a month or so, and for whatever reason I haven't gotten around to trying any of there beers before now. They are known for controversy as much as they are for how their beer tastes which is unfortunate. There are folks out there that seem to me to be a little to easily offended when it comes to Clown Shoes labels. If that gets your dander up, then I can't imagine how one would make it through a day in this world. Frankly I don't care what the label looks like, its whats inside that matters.
The Beer: Labeled an Imperial Amber Ale this one weighs in at 8% abv. The beer pours a ruby amber with a taupe colored head. Very malty on the nose, caramel, toffee, and then you get hints of citrus fruit and hoppy oils. The mouthfeel is full bodied, creamy, very small bubbles of carbonation that lead to this creaminess. Very hoppy, far hoppier on the tongue than the nose indicated. Caramel and Vienna malts in the flavor profile. Very resiny on the finish. Initially I felt the flavors were muddled, there wasn't a vibrancy to the beer. I had just bought the beer and had put it in the fridge to cool down, and maybe I hadn't waited long enough, because when I went back to have a second one, the vibrancy was there, and the flavors were all the same, but they stood out more and this was when I realized I liked the beer thank you very much. This one gets a B + from me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Deschutes The Stoic

Deschutes is one of those breweries that has a good line up of regular beers and seasonals that are available in six packs. Then, however, they take things up a whole other level with their special releases. Their Abyss Stout is top notch and one that is considered a "must have" for beer nerds. We are lucky in Houston in that we not only get their six-pack line up but we are starting to get most of their special beers as well. We've been getting their Bond Street (named for the street where their original brew pub was on) series of beer (you may have seen Hop In The Dark, Hope Henge among others). Now we are getting their really special beers like Abyss, Black Butte anniversary, and the subject of my post today, The Stoic.
This one is an usual beer to be sure, before my tasting notes, here are the stats: A quadruple style (which really isn't a true style so call it an American Strong Ale if you want), fermented with pomegranate juice and then portions of the beer are aged in used oak wine barrels, and used oak rye whiskey barrels. Oh yeah it weighs in at 11% abv.
The Beer: The beer pours a light orange color with a thin white head. There is notes of oak, pomegranate, vanilla, fruity esters. The mouth is medium bodied, very fruity, notes of white wine, oaky, spicey, very small hints of pomegranate flavors. Some alcohol burn is present as well. A tartness starts to show up as the beer warms. I keep going back to sweet, almost cloyingly so, with no counter. Sure there is a hint of oak, and some alcohol flavors, but its just a little sweet. If it was dialed back just a bit, and maybe some more oak or even whiskey (which I didn't get at all) it would be a balanced better beer. Its a beer to try as it's not ridiculously expensive, but one I don't know if I'd go out of my way for. This one gets a C from me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

I have soft spot for English Brewer Samuel Smith. Back when I was first getting into craft beer a friend of mine bought me a Samuel Smith Gift pack that contained 3 beers and a logo'd pint glass. Those beers (Nut Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout) really opened my eyes to some great beers and some insight into British beer and brewing traditions. In this day and age of huge brewing companies that are getting ever bigger (see, SABMiller's recent announcement that they are buying Foster's), Samuel Smith's stands out for being a family owned, brewery that was founded in 1758. In fact according to one source that I read for this post, Sam Smith is determined to continue old school traditions, using horse drawn carriages to deliver beer near their Yorkshire brewery. However tradition goes deeper than the surface, it goes down to how they brew which is using traditional methods specifically the Yorkshire Square. A Yorkshire Square is a cubic structure usually made in stone or metal (Sam Smith's uses Welsh Slate) and its prized because of a couple of things: it collects yeast during fermentation very efficiently due to the a hole in the top of the cube. During brewing a highly flocculated yeast is used and as it ferments and foams up the yeast travels through the hole and remains there on the top, while the beer stays below. (I know a hard visual to understand, but something I would love to see in practice). The other reason this method is used is that it can lead to a full bodied beer with fruity notes.
Sam Smith uses the Yorkshire method to brew all of their ales, including this one named Stingo. Stingo is a style of beer that dates back a few hundred years, and this particular one is aged in oak casks that previously held cask conditioned ale. It is stored in these casks for up to a year or more, and then bottle conditioned.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 8.0% and pours a chestnut brown with a thin taupe colored head. The head dissipates quickly leaving just a thin barely there film on top of the beer. The nose is full of toffee, malty, vanilla, some oakiness as well, fruity esters. The mouth is medium bodied, notes of treacle, vanilla, oak, caramel, some dark fruits like figs and plums an oakiness is there as well. As it warms there is a spiciness that I can't place, it adds a nice level of depth to the beer. Also notes of cherry. There is a wine like quality to the beer as you finish it up. In true British style for what this beer is, there is an understated quality about it which is one reason why I really enjoy it. Its a big beer by traditional British standards at 8.0%, but light in body which makes it easy to drink. I don't get any alcohol quality to this one which makes sipping it slowly very enjoyable. A great beer and one more reason to go out and try some other Sam Smiths beers (I'm also partial to their Imperial Stout).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life and Limb 2

If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll notice right off the bat that I didn't put a brewery in front of the beer name. There's a simple explanation as there are two of them: Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. Two icons in the craft brewing industry came together back in 2009 and brewed the original Life and Limb. It sold so quickly that few people were able to get their hands on one including yours truly. It was because of that disappointment that I was excited to see they had decided to brew another batch of L&L for release and it was this last two weeks that it started to show up on the shelves.
L&L is an interesting brew in and of itself. As stated on Sierra Nevada's website, the life portion of the name comes from the living yeast cells in the bottle, so one knows this is a bottle conditioned ale. The Limb comes from the two syrups used, maple and birch.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at a hefty 10.2% abv and pours a very rich dark brown, almost black, with a thick taupe colored head. The nose is full of black malts, vanilla, oaky, honestly a little disappointed here. The beer doesn't have a powerful nose, and what is there is very subtle. That subtlety ends at the first sip. Its medium bodied, very malty, sweet, coffee, roasted malts, vanilla, syrupy. I don't think I have ever had birch syrup before, but there is an earthyness to the brew that I think comes from the maple syrup used. I don't get a lot of alcohol in the beer its easier drinking than expected. Some cherry notes as it warms, there is a chocolate cake quality to the beer. Its not overly sweet mind you, but its just what it reminds me of. This is a good unique beer, maybe not a home run, but a very solid brew that is worth looking out for if you can still find it around town.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wet Hopping

I'm Baaaaccckkkkk....... yes I am well aware that it has been way to long since I've last posted, and even then it hasn't been very consistent. My only excuse, is that things have gotten crazy as life can tend to do. Between having a new baby at home, and starting a little non-profit up called Open The Taps , maybe you've heard of it, but if not, check out the link. I'm hoping my limited posting has now changed, and I'll be back doing what I enjoy, blogging about beer, bars, and everything that entails. So, enough of that stuff, let's get on to the post.

I received a text message a couple of days ago from a friend about me doing a blog post on wet hops. Well now just happens to be a good time to do a post for a couple of reasons. 1) its hop harvest season, 2) a great beer resource has been released that would help give me information on Wet Hopping. That great resource is The Oxford Companion to Beer (edited by Garrett Oliver). Just in thumbing through this thick tome its clear that its something every beer lover should pick up and read.
First a little history of what wet hopping is and what it isn't. Many folks are familiar with the term dry hopping which is adding the traditional dried hops (or pellets) to completely brewed beer (usually occurs in cask or keg). Wet hopping however is very different then this process. Fresh hops off the vine are around 80% moisture, they are harvested once a year, and then they are dried or kilned and this is what is usually used in brewing beer. In the simplest of terms the drying of the hops stabilizes them so that they can be stored and used at any time of the year. However, during hop season, those that live hear hop growing areas have an opportunity to make a unique beer. Hop season runs from late August to late September depending on what hop variety you are talking about. To make a fresh hop ale, hops are harvested, packaged loosely in a cardboard box and shipped quickly to an eagerly awaiting brewery. These fresh hops need to be used within 24 hours of harvesting, so everything has to happen FAST! Once the hops arrive at the brewery they are used just like regular hops are, with one exception: (Per Oxford Beer Companion) because of the high moisture content one has to use 4 to 5 times wet hops as they do dry hops to get similar results. Because of the short turn around from harvest to brewing, wet hopped beers are one of the last truly regional ales around. You won't see many if any wet hopped beers from Texas breweries because we don't live near a hop growing region. However you do see a great many of the style in regions of California, Washington, and Oregon, all near areas of prime hop growing regions. The good news is that we do get some wet hopped beers in Texas from breweries outside the state.
Before getting to a wet hopped beer, I wanted to get a better understanding of what to expect regarding the differences in the flavor profile between a beer hopped using the traditional process and one being wet hopped. I reached out to knowledgeable beer man and owner of the soon to be open Hay Merchant, Kevin Floyd to get his thoughts on this issue. Kevin feels that wet hops have a more subtle flavor profile than their dried counterparts, but that subtlety allows for more layers of flavors. This subtlety brings more balance and more spicier notes. Kevin also gave me my favorite quote in trying to describe wet hops: "a dry hop can be a one note chorus, but in comparison that same hop when its fresh comes off like a full symphony." Well with that quote its time to have a wet hopped beer. Last week I was lucky enough that Anvil Bar and Refuge tapped a cask of Wet hopped Moylan's Hopsickle, and figured if your going to have a wet hopped beer, go big or go home.
The Beer: (Check here for my thoughts on the dry hopped version). The nose is very earthy, hops are present, but not over powering. The mouth feel is intense, mouth coating hops. I remember the other one being like biting into grapefruit, this one was more earthy, and grapefruit pith. Its big, and complex, but no single flavor wallops you over the head. Quickly though after a few sips, the flavors stick to the side of your mouth and it starts to saturate your taste buds. Its a big beer, but very little alcohol. Not a session beer, but maybe a one beer a session beer. I wouldn't know what I would drink after this one since your taste buds are overwhelmed. Having said that it was interesting because of the wet hops and wasn't a one note musical, but many subtle notes that came to together nicely.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Birth of a Movement

Well, its been quite a while since I posted anything on the blog. But know that I haven't just been sitting around drinking beer (well ok, I didn't do just that). Instead, myself along with some other Houston Beer enthusiasts have started Open The Taps. I won't use this blog to talk to much about them, but I wanted to post the formal press release here so that you can see what we are trying to do and have the contact information to get to our website.

(Houston, TX) - The recent demise of two House Bills (HB 602 & 660) that would have significantly improved the horizon for the Texas craft beer industry, coupled with the outdated restrictions on the industry, led a few citizens to band together to garner real change in our state laws to benefit the craft beer community. Thus, Open The Taps was born-- not only because the restrictions of the current system are stifling our craft beer community, but from the realization that the Texas craft beer industry could be so much more vibrant.

By approaching legislative change from the consumer side, as opposed to from within the industry, Open The Taps hopes to reach more Texas residents on a personal level in order to bring change from the ground-up, unifying voters and consumers into one voice.

With the recent boom in new breweries and brewpubs in the state, now more than ever is the time to make meaningful change in Texas as it relates to the beer industry. From allowing sales at breweries and lifting restrictive limitations on production and distribution for brewpubs, to reaching outside of our state to make entering the Texas market more feasible by easing antiquated labeling restrictions, Open The Taps wants to advocate craft beer in a complete, holistic sense.

Open The Taps will have a launch party on Saturday, July 23rd, at 4PM at Moon Tower Inn (3004 Canal St.). Moon Tower features a great craft beer selection along with some amazing hot dogs, the perfect setting to introduce Open The Taps to the general public. Open The Taps will also be at the Bay Area Mashtronauts’ homebrew competition, the Lunar Rendezbrew, on Saturday, August 6th, 2011. The Lunar Rendezbrew is an AHA (American Homebrewers Association) approved homebrew competition and a member of the Lonestar Circuit. See their website,, for more details. Open The Taps will be accepting memberships and the board members will be on hand to discuss their plans for the future of the organization.

The Houston citizens that founded Open The Taps and sit on the board are Ted Duchesne (President) of the beer blog Barley Vine, Leslie Sprague (Secretary/Media Relations) of the beer blog Lushtastic and Chris White (Treasurer/Controller), an avid craft beer enthusiast and home brewer. Also part of the Executive Committee are Cathy Clark Rascoe of the beer blog Brewtiful and John Speights, another craft beer lover and home brewer.

About Open The Taps:
Open the taps is a grassroots, non-profit organization that will act as an advocate for craft beer enthusiasts in Texas within the bounds of the multi-tier system and the legislative process. We are incorporated in Texas and are operating as a 501(c)(6). The organization is headquartered in Houston, Texas, but regional branches will be established as support grows. More information on Open The Taps is available at, on Twitter at and Facebook at

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

What are you going to do about it?

Its been a little over a week since we learned that HB 602 was dead in the Senate and that once again micro breweries in Texas were given the short end of the stick. Its been interesting to see the local reaction to the death of the bill. Many folks are blaming ABInbev. In fact in an article on the Houston Press, they report that some restaurants are removing ABInbev products. That's a great idea only if they are replacing those beers with local Texas Craft ones. But if anyone really things boycotting ABInbev is the answer to all our problems, I think your wrong, we must do more.
I'm also happy to hear that both Brock Wagner of Saint Arnold and Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing are not giving up, that they are going to continue the fight in two years. I think that's great, but unfortunately I do not believe its enough. If any Texas Craft beer lover out there truly believes that with only the breweries fighting the fight that things in this state are going to change, they are very sadly mistaken, we must do more.
I think the only way things in this state change are if the consumers stand up and demand a change. Its that line of thinking that brings me to this post today. I received some inspiration from this post from the wonderful Cathy Clark (founder of Live It Big, Camp Beer, Monsters of Beer, and Houston Beer Week). Here is a beer enthusiast that gets it, she is involved, and I encourage everyone to read the whole post, but I do want to highlight a few points.
In her blog, Cathy states she would like to see the following done:
Un-elect Those Not With Us: who the heck are these TX legislative people? I’d like to find out exactly how these people feel about craft beer in Texas. If they don’t feel as we feel, let’s start by getting them tossed out. Take it to The Man.
Shame Those On the Fence: since politicians aren’t exactly known for their forthrightness and honesty, let’s ensure their support with ads and active campaigns in their hometowns. It’s easy to lie to someone who isn’t your neighbor. It’s hard to go to church and look at someone you stabbed in the back. Shame, and fear of shame, are pretty good motivators. Again, Take it to The Man.
Commission a Study: let’s get some better numbers behind what we all believe is the truth – that more small breweries/brewpubs = more jobs/income to Texas.

Those are all great ideas, and things we should be doing. I want to add a few of my own.
1) Educate our Legislatures. Here is some talking points: Texas is number 2 in beer consumption. Let's get more Texans drinking Texas beer, and keep more money in state helping local economies. Speaking of the local economy, a strong micro brewing culture can increase tourism. In Colorado alone (a state with a much smaller economy, but much larger craft beer culture), craft beer brings in $12 Billion. You don't think that would help the state coffers some?
2) Support those that support Craft Beer. Now that you've educated your legislatures. Support those like Jessica Farrar that have been supportive of Texas Micro breweries. Fund raise for them, campaign for them, etc. Support the restaurants and bars that support craft beer. I mentioned above that some restaurants are getting rid of ABInbev products, that's OK, but if they aren't carrying Texas craft beer, then whats the point? There are many local restaurants that promote a local, and seasonal menu, yet carry either macro brews, or imports exclusively. Don't let them get away with it, ask them to carry local beer, it will go with their menu much better.
3) Educate your friends. Texas has a lot of folks that drink BMC products. Hey I understand that not everyone loves a Double IPA, Sour, Barrel Aged Quad. Many folks just like lighter tasting beers. Well, thats OK. Steer your friends to something local. Texas Craft Breweries make some great easy drinking, very approachable, sessionable beers. Here is a short list, but if you have others leave them in the comments: Southern Star Bombshell Blond, Saint Arnold Lawnmower and Weedwacker, Rahr and Sons Blond, Summer Wheat, Independence Freestyle Wheat, Live Oak Hefeweizen, No Label Brewing El Hefe to name a few.
4) Invite your friends. Houston is pretty lucky, there are a ton of beer events in this town. Heck Rudyards has a monthly beer dinner (3rd Thursday of the Month). Thinks like Camp Beer, Houston Beer Week, Vic and Anthony Beer Dinners, Flying Saucer or Petrol Station Anniversary parties. There are plenty of opportunities to invite your friends, whether or not they are into craft beers, they will have a good time. Craft beer lovers are good people. We'll make you welcome.

Lastly, a question to you. Will you put your money where your mouth is? Its easy to say that you support craft beer, and that you want the Texas Craft beer scene to be better. But other states, like Mississippi (Raise your Pints) and Alabama (Free the Hops) had Consumer Advocacy groups that banded together to help change the laws in their states. Let me be clear, I believe that is the only way things will change in our state. Texas State laws need to change. They need to be changed to support local breweries, and brew pubs, to get rid of antiquated labeling laws, and to help create an environment that will allow local businesses to thrive. My question then is, will you support a Consumer Advocacy group that worked to change these laws?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Anvil and New Belgium

Happy Memorial Day everyone. While Anvil is celebrating Texas Brewery Ranger Creek today at 5pm, they have already announced their next beer event. On June 1, they will be hosting a New Belgium event starting at 5pm.
On Wednesday they will be pouring the following beers:
La Folie 2011 -- La Folie Wood-Aged Biere, is the brewery’s original wood-conditioned beer that rests in French Oak barrels between one and three years before being bottled. Our La Folie emulates the spontaneous fermentation beers of the brew master’s Flanders with sour apple notes, a dry effervescence, and earthy undertones.
Fat Tire -- Named in honor of New Belgium’s owner’s bike trip through Belgium, Fat Tire has won fans with its sense of balance: toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness.
Super Cru – brewed to celebrate New Belgium’s 20th Anniversary, think “double version” of Fat Tire!

With the exception of Fat Tire the other two are pretty rare to see on tap, so it will definitely be a good opportunity to try some great beers from the third largest craft brewery in the US. Additionally a New Belgium rep (I am thinking a regional sales manager) will be on hand to answer any questions. For a cocktail bar, Anvil continues to put on some great beer events, makes my high hopes for the upcoming Hay Merchant even higher.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Sad Day

Yesterday was a sad day indeed for the Texas Craft Beer industry when via Twitter, Saint Arnold's Brock Wagner announced that HB 602 was dead. Ronnie Crocker has more on how this happened here. Here is the gist of it though, to get HB 602 through committee, a cap was placed that limited the size a brewery could be and also sell direct to the public. This deal was requested by the Wholesalers Distributors lobbying group in exchange for their support of the bill. It was this same deal though that caused A-B to pull their support of the bill and thereby causing its death. A-B requested the cap be pulled in the event that they wanted to do tours and allow on premise sales. Note though that the A-B plant here in Houston doesn't offer tours and hasn't done so in years and years. Also note that the Texas Legislature, by not passing this bill is supporting a huge international based company over local Texas businesses (don't ever let them get away with telling you they support small local business, its a lie). Lastly note that the Wholesalers would have you believe that they had to pull support because allowing A-B to sell beer direct would hurt their sales (again a lie, the pittance that A-B would be allowed to sell direct would in no way have an affect on their bottom line).

In reading tweets and other blogs, a lot of folks are pointing fingers and wanting to blame someone, which begs the question, who is to blame for this failure and what can we do to help get this to pass next time? Well, here is my two cents. As much as I want to, I can't blame A-B, even if they don't do tours currently, they want the opportunity, therefore they want a level playing field, just as they have in other states (yes you can go to other A-B plants or even Coors plants and buy beer direct, but why would you?). You could blame the Wholesalers for pulling their support of the bill without the cap. I think they do share a bit of the blame, as stated above, allowing A-B to sell direct would not impact Wholesalers at all. In fact allowing tourists to buy beer at local craft brewers would increase demand, thereby allowing Wholesalers to distribute more beer, and increasing their bottom line. How they don't see this is the definition of ignorance. You could even blame the Texas Craft Beer industry. Many folks including me, point to the hypocrisy of Texas Laws that allow wineries to sell direct, but not breweries. However there is one difference. Over 15 years ago Texas Wineries got smart and created a very effective and successful lobbying group. They spoke with one loud voice (and money) and that helped change the winery laws in this state. I have yet to see that with the Craft Brewing industry. It seems to me that the lobbying groups for Texas Craft Brewers like the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, lack focus and cohesion. I believe they do a very pour job of promoting Texas craft beer and helping raise the massive amounts of money that will be needed to defeat the other lobbying groups. Until they do those things, it will continue to be unlikely that laws change. Lastly, and who I think deserves the lions share of the blame is our honored Texas Legislature. They are the ones that continue to promote large international companies at the expense of small local Texas businesses, all the while filling their pockets with the massive donations they receive from those very same companies. They listened to the lobbyists, not the people and that is disgraceful.

Now we've directed blame, what can we do about it. Well we have 2 years to put a plan in place and act on it, but lets not wait, we can start to day. We as craft beer lovers need to promote Texas Beer. Cathy Clark on her blog had an awesome post about how we can do that very thing, especially out side the state borders. I'll add something else. Demand Texas Craft beer at your favorite restaurant. Demand that where you eat carries local beers. In Houston we have a lot of restaurants that talk big about serving local food, but then don't carry any Texas beer. Don't let them get away with it. Write letters to the restaurants, send them messages via Twitter, and Facebook, talk to the manager, do it respectfully, but if they don't listen, then maybe they don't deserve your business. Talk to your friends. We all have those that still drink only BMC products. Introduce them to the lighter side of craft beer like Saint Arnold's Lawnmower and Weedwacker, or Real Ale Fireman's 4, or Southern Star Bombshell blond, etc. Educate your friends and family, the more we educate, the closer we all get to the Texas Craft Beer industry we want. Lastly vote, and really look at who you are voting for. Ask your local rep the tough questions when they are asking for your vote. If they aren't supportive of something that you are passionate about then vote for someone who is. Until we change the mindset in Austin, things aren't going to change. If you do have a local state rep that is supportive of the Craft Beer industry set up a fund raisers, featuring Texas Craft Beer, be as supportive of them as you can be. We can no longer sit on the side lines. If you haven't yet, its time to get off the couch, get in the game do what it takes to get the bill passed next time. If you don't, then you can't complain if it doesn't pass.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stone Old Guardian Belgo

Not surprisingly I enjoy Stone's some times over the top beers. They push the limits of being off balance, but occasionally I want that explosion of hops, or booze. One of my favorite beers that they make is their barleywine Old Guardian. Very boozy when young, it ages incredibly well. Starting this year, Stone is doing something a little different. Along with their Russian Imperial Stout they will be releasing version brewed with Belgian yeasts, a little twist on an old standby, that I was excited to see at my local Spec's. Its all the same ingredients before with the exception of the yeast used, which as we've seen with Saint Arnold's moveable yeast series can change a beer significantly.
The beer: This one weighs in at a very robust 12% and pours an orangish amber with a thick off white head. The nose is full of fruity esters, white grapes, peaches, a bit of boozy notes. A full mouthfeel, fruit yeasty notes up front, followed by some malty, caramel, toffee notes, some alcohol burn on the back of the throat, then ending and lingering with resinous citrus-y hops. As expected, this one needs some time. Its boozy. Big flavors which is what I expect from Stone: yeasty fruity esters, booze, hops. A bit on the sweet side, but as it lingers and warms, notes of white pepper show up lending some spiceyness to the beer. Its a sipper to be sure, and I can't wait to see how this one changes over time. A good beer and one recommended to pick up if you enjoy big beers.

News and Notes

Whew, its been a whirl wind couple of weeks me, but there is some upcoming events, as well as some local beer news that I'd like to finally post on this here blog.
- First up, for anyone looking for something fun to do on Memorial Day, Anvil has you covered. As they did with Jester King a few months back so too will they do with Ranger Creek Brewing. Starting at 4pm on Memorial Day, Anvil will be tapping 8 special Ranger Creek Beers:
1. South Texas Lager - Dortmunder Export Style Lager
2. La Bestia Amaible
3. La Bestia Amaible aged in Port Barrels
4. La Bestia Amaible Cask aged for 5 months in Cabernet barrels.
5. Oatmeal Pale Ale
6. Cask Oatmeal Pale Ale
7. Mesquite Smoked Porter
8. 6 Month Cabernet barrel aged Mesquite Smoked Porter

Additionally Mark and Rob from Ranger Creek will be on hand to answer any questions. That should be enough to get local beer geeks excited.

- Speaking of excited, one of the few things that Houston is missing to make it a top beer city is a good beer pub. Well it looks like that is coming to an end. Thanks in no small part to the local beer community and social media, Freetail Houston has announced its second location will be in Downtown Houston. Read more here in Ronnie Crockers Beer, Tx Blog.

- Speaking of Beer, TX Ronnie also has the latest and greatest on HB 602. Will it pass? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath, thanks to some interference from ABINBEV.

- Last but definitely not least, Leslie at local beer blog Lushtastic has done an absolutely amazing job posting a round up of all the new and soon to be Texas Breweries. The list is amazing, and shows that Texas has to be on of the best up and coming markets for craft beer. Go check it out, and if you see any missing from the list, leave a comment on her blog and she'll update it as necessary.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Texas Beer Fest Beer Wall

As mentioned in a previous post this Saturday is the Texas Beer Fest in Spring Texas. Tickets for the event are $34.00 now, or $40.00 at the door. Ticket price gets you 12 coupons for 2 oz tasters. A lot of folks have complained that they don't want to shell out 40.00 for a bunch of beer they can get a lot of other places for much cheaper. A fare argument to be sure. As much as I want to say that this is due to TABC laws for Beer Festivals and that if we don't support the ones that are occuring things will never change, I get the financial argument. However, the beers being served Saturday aren't just any old beers that you can get at your local bar, even if your local is Flying Saucer, Anvil or Petrol. Texas Beer fest has released their specialty beer wall list and its quite a doozy:
No Label Panamanian Coffee Milk Stout
Avery Hog Heaven
Southern Star Jasmine Infused Bombshell Blonde Cask
Petrus Barrel Aged Sour
BrewDog Tokyo
Brooklyn Brewmaster's Reserve Main Engine Start
Thirsty Planet Double Buckethead
Ommegang Rare Vos
Independence Brewluminati
(512) Casabel Cream Stout Firkin
Stone Old Guardian Belgo
Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve No. 11
Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
Cask Conditioned Bear Republic Racer 5
Rahr Barrel Aged Winter Warmer
Real Ale Pheonixx Double ESB Cask

Now some of these beers are available now and then and here and there, but rarely if ever have all these beers been at one place. There is a catch of course, you have to stick around for a bit as these brews will be tapped every 30 minutes. Sounds like a great time to listen to some local Texas Bands, and drink some great beer. Some of these breweries are new up and coming ones from Texas like Thirsty Planet that we have yet to taste in Houston. So have a great weekend and head up to Humble and the Humble Convention Center to drink some good beer.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

English Ale Tasting

I've mentioned a couple of times, but back in February I had the opportunity to spend some time in London, and lucky me brought a few beers back. Since then I've been looking for time to sit down and have a few of them, and well that time turned out to be last week. Joined by fellow beer geek Chris, we sat down to 5 different English Ales.
Adnam's Innovation: First up was this beer from Adnam's who are very well known for their solid best bitter. Innovation is labeled as a Strong Amber Pale Ale and weighs in at 6.7%. Its made with a blend of wheat and pale malts as well as a blend of American, English and Solvenian hops: Columbus, Stryian Goldings, and Boadicea (A welsh hop that I''m not very familiar with). The beer poured a golden amber color with a thin white head. The nose has some earthy funky, citrus, and some wheat notes. The mouthfeel is smooth, citrus flavors, earthy notes, a little bit of funkyness, but I think that's from the wheat malt. Some resiny qualities show up on the finish and linger. Chris thought (and I agreed) that was a Cider like edge up front before falling off into a more hoppy beer. Light bodied, a good interesting beer.
Fraoch Heather Ale: This is probably one of the brews I was most excited to try. Heather ales have a very long history in Scotland. Hops have never grown well in Scotland and therefore most of their beers are very low hopped, but to add some bitterness to brews they would often use herbs, and flowers in making beer. Heather Ale was one of the most famous and there are many popular stories told about long lost Pict recipes that I won't get into in this post (maybe some other time, or better yet over a beer). Fraoch is owned by Williams Brothers Brewery in Scotland and makes a few different Historical Ales, this being just one. This Heather Ale is made in the traditional method, with sweet gale and heather added to the hot wort, then upon cooling its poured into a vat of fresh heather where the mixture is then left to infuse for an hour before entering the fermenter. This is a lighter beer at 5% and pours a pale golden color with a thin head. The nose is sweet syrupy, some roasted malts, some scotch ale characteristics. The mouthfeel is medium, flavors of crystal malts, light floral notes, wine-y notes. Flavors of white grapes, herbal, sweet. A very interesting beer. A weird blend of what we think of a typical scotch ale, with other wine-y herbal notes.
Kernel Brewing Black IPA: Yes everyone is getting into the Black IPA, Black India Ale, Dark Cascadian Ale, whatever you want to call it. This beer is from what has quickly become my favorite British Brewery weighs in at 7% and brewed with lots of American hops. The beers a very very dark brownish black, almost opaque with a taupe colored head. The nose is greeted with a wallop of Cascade and maybe a hint of malts, but its hard to break through all those hops. The mouthfeel is chewy, you get some good English malts like maris otter before being blind sided by American hops. There is some astringency, but its not unpleasant and adds a balance between the plethora of hops and the hint of a malt backbone.
Brewdog Nanny State: This next beer from the Brewing Bad Boys of Scotland has a funny story behind it. When Brewdog brewed Tokio an 18% behemoth it caused the British Government to go into an uproar about responsible drinking and that high abv beers would cause alcoholism, public lewdness, and basically the end of the world. In answer to this outburst the folks at Brewdog released this beer, a 0.5% beer with 1000 ibu's. As much as I was looking forward to trying this beer, I did not hold any illusions that it would actually taste good (foreshadowing alert!). The beer poured a reddish amber with a slightly off white head. Hops and more hops, and what is that, oh yes more hops on the nose. The first sip is hard, its like hop tea, hop tea that's been steeped waaaaaayyy to long. Very tannic tasting. Chris mentioned boiled celery but I couldn't get past the tannins. For reference, take a couple of those hop pellets you can get at the home brew store. Make sure you are really thirsty, and your mouth is dry. Now eat the pellets...don't drink any water. That about sums up the experience. Which it was an interesting one, but interesting experiences don't always make good beer.
Robinson Old Tom: Probably one of the beers I was most looking forward too. Old Tom is widely regarded as one of the great beers of England and at the top of the list for anyone that wants to try a great Old Ale. Hefty for your typical British beer, this one weighs in at 8.8% and pours a dark brown with ruby highlights. The nose has notes of toffee, plum, fruity and some alcohol esters, some chocolate even. The mouthfeel is chewy, notes of cherry, figs, plums. The beer finishes like a port, leggy when swirled in the glass. Dark fruits, concentrated dark cherries, molasses, vinous, and a little coco. This is a wonderful beer and a great representation of the Old Ale style. Some sweetness, but not cloyingly so..

Well that finishes up a great British Ale session. A wide range of English ales. Traditional, historical, cutting edge, and one blending the best of American and English brews. English Ales are some of the best in the world and their micro brew culture is growing in leaps and bounds with folks producing some out standing brews.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel

I've always had a soft spot for Sierra Nevada Brewing. Their Pale Ale introduced me to hoppy beers many years ago and the first beer I ever brewed was a clone of that beer. Their Bigfoot is one of the best American Barleywines around and I always pick up a six pack when it comes out. Over the last year they've really upped their game. Last year it was the release of their special 30th anniversary beers. This year they've come out with a series of beers called Ovila Abbey Ales.
Ovila Abbey ales are a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux. SN's goal is to brew beers based on monastic tradition, similar to many abbey ales in Belgium. While these aren't Trappist Ales (they aren't brewed at an abbey), they closely follow traditions set forth by them. A portion of the proceeds from each Ovila beer sold will go towards restoration projects at the abbey. Its very cool project by a great brewery and its one that I fully support. SN plans to brew a Saison (release in June) and a Quad (release in Nov), but the first release is their Dubbel.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 7.5% and pours a chestnut brown with a thin taupe colored head. Malty, fruity, figs, caramelized sugars, yeast esters on the nose. Mouthfeel is full bodied with a creaminess to it. Fruity esters, caramel, brown sugar, figs, spices, cloves (from the yeast?), peppery. Very fruity a little bit on the sweet side, a little too sweet in my mind. Its not a bad beer, but the sweetness has nothing to balance it really. This one gets a B- from me. Worth picking up, but not sure I would pick it up again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Texas Beer Fest

One of the most exciting things that happened locally in beer culture was the amazing amount of beer festivals being held in Texas and locally in and around Houston. It seems that 2011 will be no different. We know that Houston Beer Week and Monsters of Beer will be held later this year, but fret not beer lovers, we don't have to wait that long for a great festival dedicated to our favorite beverage. The Texas Beer Festival is held up in Humble on May 7th however there will be plenty of events in Houston.
- First up will be a Pub Crawl on April 30th starting at 1pm. Stops include:

The Ginger Man Pub (5607 Morningside Dr.)
Liberty Station (2101 Washington St., Houston, TX)
Petrol Station (985 Wakefield Dr., Houston, TX)
Rudyards Pub (2010 Waugh Drive, Houston, TX)
Food will be available at Petrol and Rudyards as well as food trucks at some of the stops.
Ticket price for the Pub Crawl is $20.00 which includes transportation (via The Houston Wave), a special pub crawl T-Shirt, and access to a special selection of beers at each bar. Our first stop, The Ginger Man, will make Real Ale Barrel Aged Highlander and Real Ale Anniversary and (512) Cascabel Cream Stout and (512) Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter available.

- The following 2 weeks there will be quite a few beer dinners in Houston:
May 2nd, 2011: Beaver’s and Independence Brewing Co. (ticket price: $75)
May 2nd, 2011: Feast and Paulaner HP (ticket price: $50)
May 2nd, 2011: Moon Tower Inn and New Belgium Brewing (ticket price: $50)
May 3rd, 2011: Public House (Katy) and No Label Brewing Co. (ticket price: $55)
May 4th, 2011: Rudyards Pub and Jester King Craft Brewery (ticket price: $75)
May 4th, 2011: Le Mistral Restaurant and Shiner Beers (ticket price: $75)
May 5th, 2011: Brookstreet Barbeque (Missouri City) and Kreuz Creek Brewing Co. (ticket price: $35)
May 8th, 2011: Brasserie Max &Julie and Real Ale Brewing Co. (ticket price: $70)
May 10th, 2011: Bootsie’s Heritage Café and Southern Star Brewing Co. (ticket price: $75)
May 10th, 2011: Quattro Restaurant and Stone Brewing Co. (ticket price: $75)
May 11th, 2011: Backstreet Café and various Texas Beers (ticket price: $72)
May 11th, 2011: T’afia and Southern Star Brewing Co. (ticket price: $55)
May 11th, 2011: Cinq at Columbe d’Or and St. Arnold Brewing (ticket price: $70)
May 12th, 2011: The Tasting Room at CityCentre and Chimay Trappist Beers (ticket price: $65)

- Of course on May 7th in Humble is the actual beer festival itself. The event is at the Humbel Convention center and tickets cost $34.00 pre-sale and $40.00 the day of the event. There will be 70 breweries represented from around the country as well as 17 Texas breweries. Their website is up and running here. The cost of the ticket gets you 12 coupons for beers, with 25% of the proceeds going to Houston Food Bank (drinking for a cause is something I can get behind).

All in all this sounds like a great addition to the Beer Festival scene in Texas and Houston in particular. If this one is as successful as Houston Beer week, it will be pretty nice to have one great beer festival in late Sprint and another in Fall. I am planning on going to some of the beer dinners if I can so hopefully I'll see you there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stone Double Bastard

I mentioned not to long ago, that we are getting a lot of new beers from some very familiar breweries and today is one of those beers. Double Bastard is kind of an iconic brew from Stone. First released way back in 1998, it is for the first time available in Texas. It was supposed to be released in 2010 however due to some TABC Labeling issues (shocking I know), it is just now appearing on the shelves. Note that the bottles you are seeing on the shelf are from 2010 and not a new 2011 release. For those familiar with the arrogant releases of Stone, this is the forth version: Regular old Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Bastard, Lucky Bastard (a blend of the other 3) and now Double Bastard. This is the definition of a big beer weighing in at 11.2%.
The Beer: I actually poured this into my Double Bastard glass that I picked up during my visit to Stone a few years back (you can see a pic here). The beer is a chestnut color with a thin taupe colored head. Very malty on the nose, lots of toffee and caramel, with some hops in the aroma. The first sip however is a punch in the mouth of hops. A ton of flavors, this is now weak or subtle brew. Malts, sweet malts, and a wallop of hops, with a bit of alchol burn. Toffee and caramel, piney resin, Grapefruit pith, peel, and wedges. Lots of barleywine characteristics. This beer is young, and kind of unbalanced. It needs some age, and with it, will be a wonderful sipping nectar. It gets a B from me now, but I have bottles stored and will come back and see how it ages.

Friday, April 22, 2011

News, Notes, and Upcoming Events

Its been a while since I've done a news round up, but there has been a few things that have occurred this week that I wanted to post on.

- First off, in some awesome news, HB602 has passed!!!! For those that have been reading this blog, this is something we've been hoping for for many many years. Now, this is the updated version of HB602 that answered some of my earlier concerns. It's still tied to tours and there is still a limit, but its worded as such that you can go to Live Oak and pick up a growler of their amazing Hefeweizen. Next up is the Senate, where SB1863 is the companion bill to the bill that passed the house. This bill was sponsored by Ft. Worth, State Senator Wendy Davis (anyone notice that the folks that are championing small business are Democrats?). It is currently in committee, but hopefully it will pass and Governor Perry will sign it in to law. If all goes smoothly, this September, you will be able to go to a local brewery, go through a tour and pick up some beer while there.

- In not so good news, I think that HB 660 is dead. This is the bill that would allow brewpubs to sell their beer through distributors. However this beer is sitting in committee, which in my experience in following these things is code for its dead and the committee is full of too many cowards that won't even put the bill up for a vote. Having said that, those that supported this bill, don't ever give up hope. It took 3 separate session to get the brewery bill passed, and HB 660 got much further on their first try then the original brewery bill did back in 2007.

- In one more example of why I am extremely excited at what Jester King Brewery is doing, they write this post on farmhouse ales. A great post on what farmhouse brewing is, what it takes to make a great farmhouse ale, and how Jester King is going about creating some truly unique Texas Hill Country beers.

- Finally in the upcoming events announcements, Real Ale will be finishing up their local tour tomorrow at Anvil. They've hosted tappings at The Flying Saucer on Thursday, and Petrol Station today. Tomorrow at Anvil, Real Ale brewer Erik Ogershok will be available to answer questions (just as he was at Saucer and Petrol), on tap though is where it gets really exciting: Lost Gold IPA, cask-conditioned Lost Gold IPA and the barrel-aged version known as Empire. So if you want to get your fill of Lost Gold in all of its many different version, head over to Anvil, for its 5pm Tapping.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Left Hand TNT

Two posts in one day, its catch up day!!! Another new beer from a brewery that's been in our market for a quite a while. This one is interesting: Weizen Dopplebock brewed with Lapsang Souchong tea. From the wiki page (so take it with a grain of salt), Lapsang Souchong is a smoked tea traditionally over pinewood fires. I love Weizen Doppled bocks, one of my favortie beers is Aventinues, however I also feel that it is really an underbrewed style. Very happy to try Left Hands version with the twist of smoked tea added. The Beer: The beer weighs 7.9% and pours a cloudy chocolatey brown, with a thin colored head. A very unusual nose, smokey, notes of tobacco maybe? Then the familiar banana and cloves show up, along with some fruity earthy notes. Medium bodied, but creamy, banana and cloves on the flavor profile. Tobacco maybe? Chocolate, some fruity earthy smokey flavors. As it warms, tea flavors come out, more tobacco, dried leaves, earthy flavors, some more smoked. Not smoked meat like a German Rauchbier, more of a earthy smokiness if that makes sense. A interesting and enjoyable twist to a weizen dopplebock. Its a unique mix of flavors that I've not seen before in a beer. Eye opening. I liked it, but not sure how many of these I could drink. This gets a B from me.

Stone/Port/Green Flash Highway 78

In the last week Houston has received quite a few new beers, some completely new breweries to the area like Maui brewing (go try to the coconut porter!), others like this beer, new offerings from breweries that have been in the area for years. This particular brew is a collaborative beer from Port Brewing, Green Flash, and Stone, all from the San Diego area. A collaborative effort this Scotch ale was brewed at Stone. I found it ironic that 3 breweries who are known for some pretty hoppy beers, brewed a style with very little hops. In fact this one has around 30 IBU's. As with most scotch ales this one is brewed with some peat smoked malt. The Beer: The beer weighs in at 8.8% and pours a reddish brown with a thin head. The nose is smokey malts, raisins, figs, and a hint of coco. Rich and smooth on the mouthfeel, medium bodied. Smokey peat flavors. Dark dried fruits, plums, raisins, figs. Dry finish, with some sweetness up front from the dark fruits along with notes of caramel and toffee.. A sipper for sure, as its pretty rich, but not overly heavy in boozy notes. I liked this one and it gets a B+ from me. Folks on BA tend to agree with the assessment.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No More Texas Wheat

A few days ago on twitter, someone mentioned seeing a new Saint Arnold label approved for Weedwacker ale, and that this beer was going to replace Texas Wheat. Well today the Chronicle's Ronnie Crocker posted confirmation, that yes Texas Wheat is gone and Weedwacker will replace it. For those that remember, Weedwacker was the first release of Saint Arnold's moveable yeast series. To brew the beer, Saint Arnold took their Kolsch style beer Lawnmower and changed the yeast to a Hefewiezen yeast. I have some pretty strong opinions on this move, and it has nothing to do with eliminating Texas Wheat. Frankly it was my least favorite of all Saint Arnold beers. I'm not a huge fan of American Wheat beers, and I never could get into this beer. Having said that I don't really get replacing it with Weedwacker. I know in Mr. Crocker's post he quoted Brock as saying "Everybody loves it", but most of the folks I talked to didn't really like the beer. Oh sure they appreciated the educational experience of seeing how yeast changes the flavor of beer, but no one I'm aware every said "Gee, I'd love this to be available year round." I'm a staunch defender of Saint Arnold, and have never understood why some "Beer Nerds" talk bad about them. They make a solid range of regular beers, very good seasonals, the Divine Reserve series is extremely good, and the moveable yeast series is one of two being done in the world as far as I know. All in all Saint Arnolds is a great award winning brewery. But (you just knew there would be one), I really don't get this move. If your going to add a new beer to the line up to replace TX Wheat, why not go one of two routes: 1) I get the desire to have a ligther beer in the lineup, and yes weedwacker does that, but why not produce a wit, something that I think would go great in TX. The only other brewery in TX that brews one is (512) but they don't bottle it, so Saint Arnold would be the first bottled offering by a TX brewery. 2) Why not go big? They just finished brewing a very good double IPA in Divine Reserve 11, why not turn that into a year round offering. The first and only year round DIPA by a Texas Brewery. Offer it in Louisiana where Saint Arnold's is just expanding and really make some in roads into that market. I would bet good money that a well made DIPA sold year round would sell more than TX Wheat did and Weedwacker will. I know its my two cents, and Saint Arnold will do what they want, but that's the beauty of a blog, a place to write down my opinions. What do you think? Did Saint Arnold make the right decision?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Texas Three Step

No, its not a new dance that you'll see folks doing at your favorite honkey tonk. Instead this post will be about three beers newly available in bottles from some exciting new breweries from Texas. The breweries I'm talking about are Jester King out in the Hill Country and Ranger Creek in San Antonio. Jester King excites me for a couple of reasons. The first being is that they are taking an aggressive approach to being a Farmhouse brewery, starting from day one on developing a barrel program, and harvesting local wild yeasts from the surrounding hill country. Additionally, they are not only making the extreme high alcohol beers that craft brewers love, they are making amazingly flavorful lower alcohol beers. The first up was Commercial Suicide a English Dark Mild ale weighing in at 3.8%. However they are also making a Belgian tafelbier (or table) that I'll be excited to try. Another interesting thing that Jester King does is that all the beers are partially made with harvested rain water which is pretty cool. I'm excited about Ranger Creek for different reasons. They are not only a craft brewer, but a craft distillery as well. My hope for them is that as they produce great bourbon, they'll re-use those barrels to age some amazing beers. Jester King Wytchmaker: A bottle conditioned rye IPA weighing in at 81 IBU and 6.1%. An amazing looking label, I love the art work that Jester King uses. I enjoy that all the ingredients the beers use are on the label, each malt, each hop, each yeast (English ale in this case). Hops used were Warrior, Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, and Centennial. Malt bill contained 15% rye. The beer pours a cloudy hazy copper brown, with a thick off white head. Lots of hops on the nose, citrusy with just a hint of pine and some pale malts. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, spicey, grapefruit, citrus peel, piney. Some notes of white pepper, spicey. Lots of rye bread notes. A very good beer, I give an A to. Jester King Black Metal: A bottle conditioned Imperial Stout, yes please! 10.4% and 60 IBU's this beer pours a viscous oily black with a quarter inch reddish cafe colored head. Dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts on the nose. Thick chewy mouthfeel, denser than I remember from having this on draft previously. Notes of chocolate, dark and milky. Coffee with creamer, some roasted malts. Earthy hops at the finish. Its a huge beer, but highly drinkable. Another wonderful beer that gets an A from me. Ranger Creek La Bestia Aimable: This is Ranger Creek's take on a Belgian Strong Ale, named after the Aimable, the ship La Salle used, landed at Matagorda Bay to claim Texas for France. The beer weighs in at 9.4% with 25 IBU's and pours a hazy cloudy brown with a thin frothy head. Very malty nose, full of raisins and figs some caramel and yeasty notes. Medium bodied, rich concentrated dark fruits like figs and raisins. Caramelized figs with balsamic. Notes of honey, creme caramel, very smooth and easy drinking. A thoroughly enjoyable beer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 11

Today is the day that Texas beer lovers go insane, its Divine Reserve day. A day that twitter goes crazy with #dr11 hash tags with people informing the world where they could score some of this beer. Its the day that Saint Arnold's releases there inconsistently scheduled special brew. Each DR a different recipe, some based on winning recipes from home brew contests, others like DR11 are done in house. The Divine Reserve release today is a Double (or Imperial) IPA (DR3 also was a DIPA, but this is a different recipe). For those looking for DR you may have more luck then previous releases: production for DR 10 was 1800 cases, for DR 11 it's 4100 cases, so more than double. Also various places around the state will be tapping kegs and/or casks. In Houston I know Petrol Station, Anvil, Flying Saucer, and Stag's Head are tapping tonight. Down in my neck of the woods in Clear Lake, Boondoggles will be tapping a keg tomorrow. Like all DR's this one is higher in ABV weighing at 9% and with a lab tested 76 IBU. Believe it or not the lab tested is an important note. Many breweries that state 100 IBU's or more are basing that off of calculations and not an actual lab test (its more expensive). Lab tests have shown calculated IBU's to be significantly off (there really are a lot less 100+ IBU beers than you think). As it should be hops are the show case here and this DIPA is brewed with Columbus, Simcoe and Centennial hops. The Beer: This one pours an orange-y copper color with a thick white head. Before I even poured it in the glass you could start to get notes of hops. Its massive, tons of grapefruit, just massively hoppy on the nose. The first sip is an explosion of citrus pith, grapefruit rind, tongue coating, sticky hops. Its brightly hoppy, lots of citrus, but underneath, just kinda hiding out there, is some carmel-y notes, that add just touch of sweetness. Its this touch that makes me think the brew will age some what well. Most DIPA's are made to drink fresh and this should be no exception, however, as the hops fade, I think (and yes I could be way off) there is enough malt in the back ground that it will come forward with time and create a sweeter more concentrated beer. Now off of the tangent and back to the now, this is a great DIPA, to me its not Avery Maharaja, but its very damn good. It gets an A from me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fight Night Beers

A little late in posting this, but a week ago last Saturday was Fight Night, and as I'm likely to do, I sat down watched some fights and had some great beer. A local beer, and English Beer, and a barrel aged beer made it a good night.
Real Ale Phoenixx: First up is a local beer, a juiced up version of an English ale, this is Real Ale's Double ESB. The beer weighs in at a very un-English 7.2%, but made with English Malts and English Hops including Phoenix. Phoenix is a high alpha hop that is similar to Challenger. This beer pours a cloudy chestnut brown with a thick taupe colored head. Plenty of caramel malts, on the nose along with earthy musty notes and light on the hops. The mouth is much more hop-centric, medium bodied, with some caramel malt undertones. Earthiness, but some tongue coating resin. Let me repeat, highly resinous. Lots of caramel malts, this one is a great beer, that highlights some great English Ale flavors on steroids. A very enjoyable beer.
Kernel S.C.C.A.NS: Next up the English Ale, this one a version of an American brew. An IPA weighing in at 6.9% hopped with Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin. The beer pours a bright golden yellow with a thick white head. Lots of sediment in the pour, but thats OK. All hops on the nose, bright, big hops. Citrus, grapefruit peel, some piney noes, and just a hint of toasty pale malts. Medium body, but the tongue is met with an explosion of hops, tongue coating resinous hops. Like biting into a grapefruit peel and all. There's more, and its hard to pick out all the flavors but this unique blend of hops creates a very complex flavor profile. There is spicy pepper notes along with citrus and earthy notes. A great beer that really shows some of the amazing beers that the English Microbrewer's are producing.
Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout: We end he night with a the barrel aged beer, Bourbon barrel to be exact. This is Central Waters Imperial stout. It pours an incredibly rich dark black with a thick taupe colored head. The nose is heavy on bourbon and vanilla notes, chocolate, roasted malts, charred oak, some caramel sweetness. The mouthfeel is thick, chewy, luscious is a good word to describe it. Lots of bourbon and vanilla and chocolate up front. Some booziness that would mellow with age (which this beer should do beautifully). If I had to compare this beer to food I would say Chocolate vanilla bread pudding with a bourbon sauce. Don't get me wrong though it's not sweet, but there it is rich. Very creamy, milk chocolate is also there, and more bourbon notes as it warms. A great beer, I've really enjoyed the Central Waters beers I've had so far.