Wednesday, May 25, 2016

First Look: Volcano Room

It wasn't but a short two weeks ago, that I wrote about what I would consider the first craft cocktail bar in Clear Lake, and a second one has joined the ranks.  What's really special in my mind is how different this one is.  While Preamble focuses more on traditional craft cocktails, and a little upscale (or they try to be at least), newly opened Volcano Room is an island themed bar, laid back, almost tiki, with lots of bamboo accents, nautical, Caribbean, and Hawaiian features abound.  Volcano Room is located in the old Coffee Oasis spot on NASA Rd 1 and Kirby Ln in a shopping center with Arlen's Market.  At this point, they are early in a soft opening phase, having only opened about a week ago.  Right now, when you drive up to the space its hard to even know that there is something occupying the space.  There is no sign, and the windows are heavily blacked out.  The only thing that gives you a clue that there may be something interesting going on are the tiki torches surrounding the place.  Once you walk in, you are welcomed by a very large open area, with a bar at the back, two more cozier lounge rooms on either side of the main area.
Both times I've been there I've been able to talk to the owner Steven, who is very passionate about bringing a laid back craft cocktail bar to Clear Lake.  He has a lot of experience in the restaurant business, and seems to know the area, and what folks want.  The head bartender is a gentlemen by the name of William who again seems to have a great passion for making good cocktails. Most of his experience is local CLC joins, but what he doesn't have in experience he makes up for in an eagerness to learn, read, and study about cocktails.  I really enjoyed sitting down with him and talking cocktails, and the making of different drinks, and philosophies on different spirits and cocktails.
Speaking of the cocktails, they starting off with a small list of incredibly well priced cocktails, including one of my favorites the Hemmingway Daiquiri ($7) along with some more tiki drinks like Mai Tai, Painkiller, and a Pina Coloada, all under $10.  Eventually they will expand their cocktail menu, offering a group of 7 cocktails for $7, and then a larger section with various prices depending on what it is.  In addition they'll have a food menu.  As of right now they are working out the kinks, but have a couple of Hawaiian Roll sliders, and a tropical mac & Cheese, which is an interesting mix of sweet, salty, and spicey.  They are bringing in a chef from a pretty popular spot in side the loop, which is nice to see talented folks come to Clear Lake from downtown.
Overall the space is nice, and has a genuinely relaxed vibe.  That along with well made cocktails, and good food, I can see this Volcano Room being very popular with Clear Lake area residents.  Even at this early stage its quickly become a place I enjoy immensely.  If they continue to move forward from where they have started I believe Volcano Room can do some incredible things for Clear Lake with respect to helping making craft cocktails popular in the suburbs.
There are some quibbles with the Volcano Room.  They don't seem interested in beer at all.  There bottle selection is full of macro lagers, with a couple of Karbach cans thrown in.  They'll have 6-8 taps probably soon, but beer is definitely not a focal point.  Additionally, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I worry about bench depth, meaning beyond their primary bartender, do they have enough talent to put out consistently good cocktails.  Time will tell.
Look for a follow up in a couple of months, and we'll see how the cocktail menu has evolved and what the food menu looks like.  In the meantime go check it out, and make a pit stop in the restrooms as they are not your typical boring bathrooms.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Quick Hits and Upcoming Events

The still small, but ever expanding cocktail scene in the Clear Lake area has a new member.  Tiki bar, island drink themed bar Volcano Room is opened in the old Coffee Oasis spot on Nasa Road 1 and Kirby lane.  I'll have a first look review up tomorrow.

In upcoming events news, my calendar is always up to date, but I wanted to point out two cool events coming up this weekend:

  • Saturday starting at 11 AM when Nobi opens they will be celebrating Real Ale's 20th anniversary with a tap takeover.  And the tap list looks ridiculous.  Multiple Myserium Vernum's, 20th anniversary beer, and many many more.  Go celebrate one of the fathers of Texas craft beer.
  • New brewery Saloon Door continues to have some neat events and this Saturday they will be celebrating the birthday of their brewmaster by having music, food, beer and other fun things going on.  So go grab some Real Ale at Nobi, and then head over to Saloon Door to sing happy birthday.

As always if anyone knows of any upcoming events not on the calendar let me know.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Quick Hits - American Craft Beer Week edition

Happy American Craft Beer week everyone!  Starting today and running through next Sunday is the annual American Craft Beer week.  A time to honor great American beer, where bars and breweries around town are hosting special events, and tapping special beers all week long.  However, before I get to that, I do want to mention some pretty cool news.  Houston Beer guide, published my review of Clear Lake's newest craft beer grolwer spot Beers Looking At You.  Feel free to go over and checkout the article and leave a comment if you so wish.

Over on the right hand side of this blog is a calendar list of up coming events, including this weeks activities for ACBW.  If anyone sees something that I haven't listed please let me know and I'll add it to the list.  I do want to highlight a couple of cool things going on this week:

  • Galveston Island Brewing will be having a bunch of different tappings, or special pricing on beers throughout this week.
  • Thursday the great Nobi Pub will be hosting an Odell Brewery tap take over.  Expect some special beers to be available as well.
  • Friday Nobi will be hosting another brewery, this type new to Texas New Holland Brewery.  This will be a good chance to try some beers that are new to the area.
  • Also Friday, J. Henry's will be tapping a cask of Karbach's 3 Legged Lab with lactose.
  • Saturday Dickinson's own Texas Beer Refinery will be celebrating their second anniversary.  Go out and celebrate their second birthday with some amazing beers, music and food.
  • Finally, on Sunday, Nobi will be hosting another tap take over, this time for one of the original American craft breweries, Sierra Nevada.
Again, if anyone knows of ACBW events going on around the area please let me know and I'll post it on this google calendar.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

First Look: Preamble Lounge & Craft House

For a few years now the Clear Lake area has been doing some pretty exciting things with respect to craft beer.  For my money CLC has one of the best craft beer bars in the Houston area with Nobi Pub.  Add stalwart Boondoggles and other new comers like J. Henry's and Skallywags, CLC has done pretty well for itself with craft beer.  Unfortunately that's not the case with cocktails.  CLC is pretty much a cocktail desert. There are hardly any places to get a well made craft cocktail. Sure there are places to get margaritas, and flavored martini, but I'm talking about a place that can serve great classic cocktails.  That just hasn't existed.  Until now.  Preamble is the first of quite a few new cocktail bars that will be opening up over the course of the next few months in the CLC area.  Preamble's location is a little surprising, located across from the Cinemark, in a shopping center that hasn't seen a lot of love.  The slot Preamble has filled actually belonged to a Daiquiri shop.  Walking in, you immediately know that this place is as far away from the previous tenant as it can be.  There is lots of stone and brick walls, steel, glass.  Modern, but comfortable, with a corner filled with couch's.  The back wall is filled with glass shelves full of a really strong selection of various spirits.
The bar itself has enough for a few bartenders to work, and there is a handful of taps on the wall, all Houston area selections.
I spent a couple visits sitting at the bar, talking to the bartenders and even the owner, trying to understand what their vision is for this place.  They are truly passionate about craft cocktails and bringing that to CLC.  They want to cater to the community, will be offering a food menu in the future (from the looks of things, the area for the kitchen looks like a decent size), as well as classes focusing on various different spirits which I think is a really good idea.  Of course I didn't just go to the bar to talk, I came to drink, and I have to say overall I was pleasantly surprised.  They have put together a small menu of cocktails right now, and as they train their staff (more on that in a bit) they'll expand the menu, but they want their bartenders to be proficient in what they have on the menu first.  I had a few different cocktails, including a Boulvardier which is my go to drink at a new bar to see how they make it, i wasn't disappointed in this well made version.  Other drinks like the bees knees were amazingly presented, and tasty as well.  I was impressed by the speed, consistency, taste, and presentation of all the cocktails I had.  While they have a small standard menu, when the head bartender is around you can pretty much ask for anything and he'll make it.  Speaking of which, the owner brought Carlo, the head bartender, down from Dallas where he worked at a top cocktail bar.  Carlo is a great bartender, makes great drinks, has a wealth of information, interacts very well with the customers, and is always willing to make a suggestion on something to drink.
However, there are some things that can be worrisome.  Primarily, lack of bartending depth.  If Carlo is there, you are assured of getting a good drink.  If he isn't?  It can be a crapshoot.  They are having some difficulty getting good bartenders, that can make good drinks consistently.  Being a bartender at a craft cocktail spot isn't necessarily like working at Chili's.  Not that someone can't go from that to Preamble, but it's not an easy transition, and I think Preamble is struggling with that.  Additionally, I think the cost of some of their cocktails can be a little high outside of happy hour.  Some of the prices for their cocktails can be 1 or even 2 dollars higher than cocktail bars downtown.  I think there will need to be an adjustment on the price over time.
Overall, though, I'm extremely excited for a place like Preamble in Clear Lake.  I think this is a place that is much needed in the area and they are already doing some great business.  I'm excited to see where they go, what the food menu looks like, what the expanded cocktail menu develops into, and all the other plans they have.  I'm always rooting for folks that have a deep passion for food and or drink, doing good things in the right way, and the folks behind Preamble are one of those people.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Beer Review: Ommegang Game Of Thrones - Seven Kingdoms

I'm a sucker for a beer that has a tie into pop culture.  I can't turn down a nice tasty Brothers Thelonious from North Coast, or a Bitches Brew from Dogfish Head.  There are many of these type of beers, most tying into music.  However, American brewery Ommegang (owned by Belgian brewery Duvel) has made a line up beers tying into the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones, a show I'm a huge fan of.  I was out of town last week for the season premier, and didn't sit down to watch it until yesterday, figuring I would do a double header of watching the premier, and then yesterday's show live.  What better beer to drink with a GOT doubleheader than one that ties into the show.
All of these Game Of Thrones beers are a different style, this particular one is a Hoppy Wheat Ale that weighs in at 6.9%.  It pours a cloudy hazy pale straw yellow capped by a half inch head of white frothy foam.  The nose is lemony, biscuits, pale malts, yeasty bready dough.  The mouth feel is bubbly, effervescent, almost tingly.  The taste is of lemon, marmalade, biscuits, lightly toasted bread, yeasty esters.  There's a bitterness, it lies like a film on the tongue.  Some notes of orange peel as it warms, citrus resiny notes grow as well with the warmth.  A nice wheat beer.  Fairly easy drinking, light bodied, but with quite a bit of flavor and a nice hoppy bite as well.  A good beer, that paired well with two amazing episodes of Game of Thrones.