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.