Friday, December 22, 2006

The Latest on Saint Arnold's

It's been about a week since my last post on Saint Arnold's and the work they (along with other Texas Microbreweries) are doing to change Texas Legislation. As a recap they in essence would like to be allowed to sell their beer in their breweries straight to the public, without having to go through Distributors. No they are not asking to be able to sell an unlimited amount, only 5,000 barrels a year, which is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. In other words this is not some drastic change to the three tier system that distributors should be worried about (after all how has California Tasting room sales affected California Wine Distribution?).
The good news, as Brock is tirelessly working on getting someone to support the legislation in Austin, there are many newspapers and blogs that are picking up and covering the story. Here is a sampling:
The guys over at A Good Beer Blog (Canadians are writing about Saint Arnold's!) wrote about it and got some good replies.

Houston's Alternative news paper, the Houston Press has a nice story as well.

Houston's channel 11 KHOU ran a piece as well.

Finally the San Antonio Current ran this piece.

I'll again urge anyone that has any connections in Austin to help out in anyway you can. Even if you don't have connections you DO have a local representative in the State House that you can write to.
If you want to continue to stay up to date with all the happenings of Saint Arnold's quest be sure to check out their blog.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quick Hits

A few notes from around the World Wide Web:

A-B has released what they are calling the first nationally available Gluten free beer. They call it Redbridge and it is made of Sorghum, a safe grain for those with wheat allergies. Sorghum is often used in making beers in Africa, and was probably one of the grains originally used in the first beers thousands of years ago.

Barry Schlacter at the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, has a good article on brew pubs in Colorado.

Lastly a very stupid article in the San Antonio Newspaper that states the reason America is obese is because of Beer and TV. (of course it has nothing to do with Fast food or the abundance of high fructose corn syrup)

Reinheitsgebot 1516

Allow me some leeway to rant a bit today on the Reinheitsgebot of 1516. In English this is the German Beer Purity law, passed in 1516 that states that only water, hops, and barley maybe used in making beer (Yeast was later added to the law once people figured out what yeast was). The reason the law was passes was becuase brewers were using adjuncts in their beer (rice, corn) so that they could make their beer cheaper, but sell it at the same price. So in affect this was one of the first ever consumer protection laws. It also helped the governement more effectively tax the beer makers. Over the years this law has been both praised and condemned. Praised because it keeps beer pure, condemned because it limits German brewers creativity. Its this last point that drives me nuts. How ANYONE can say that this law is limiting German creativity I'll never understand. Lets look at a sampling of beers that German's are making with just water, hops, yeast, and barley (and wheat):
Hefeweizen: German Wheat Beers
Kristallweizen: Filtered wheat beers
Dunkel Weizen: Dark Wheat Beers
Rauchbier: The famous Smoke Beers
German Pilsner
Alt Bier
Berliner Weisse:
A type of wheat beer brewed only in Berlin
Eisbock: Ice beer
Bock: We all know this style
Dortmunder/Export: A sytle of beer from the city of Dortmunder
Marzen/Oktoberfest: The beer traditionally brewed for that famous celebration.

Now thats a whole lot of different styles made with just hops, water, and barley. It doesn't seem to be limiting German's imagination any.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Two Uniquiely German Beers

A man can not live by Kolsch alone.....I think that's a famous saying......if its not it should be. I love Kolsch, but Germany has so many great different types of beer, so in the last week I have gone out and picked up two very different, but very German beers.
Kostrizer Schwarzbier: Schwarzbier is what we call Black Lager. If you think Guinness is dark, you've never seen a Black Lager, truly dark, truly amazing beer. This beer weighs in at a nice 4.8% alcohol. It pours a deep inky black, with good carbonation and a thick tawny foamy head, it looks almost like a cola. Nose is thick of roasted malts, caramel, cola, a bit of chocolate. The mouthfeel is thick for a lager, you get copious amounts of caramels, chocolate, toasted malts, great carbonation, helps spread the toasted characteristics around. Very good beer.
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier: Rauch in German is Smoke, so this is a smoked beer, something we don't get to often in the states. The most popular brand in the states is the Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter. Smoked beer uses smoked malts, instead of roasting the malts. Think of the smoked peat that is used in Irish Whiskey or Scotch. The beer pours a dark cloudy brown smokey color with a nice half inch brown head. The nose is a mix of dried burning leaves, and the smell of a just put out camp fire, and at the very end is just a bit of floral notes. The mouth is full of smoked meats, its like drinking a brisket (waaay better than it sounds I promise). After the initial shock of smoke comes some malty sweetness, with a bit of bitterness at the end, but this beer is definitely all about the smoke. Its an amazingly complex and completely different. I don't think I could drink a six pack of this, or even more than one in a sitting, but to go with a meal, and as a special brew this is incredible. I can't stop talking about how different this beer is.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Weekend Kolsch Run

This weekend as I was out among the masses (and MASSES) of people dong shopping (yes Christmas shopping is just as crazy over here) I stopped by a small Italian Pizzeria for some lunch and a Kolsch. The pizza was thick crust of tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, and peperoni. The Kolsch was Sion. The Sion was poured into the 0.3L glass, pale gold (not the pale sickly yellow of American Industrial lagers) capped by a half inch thick FOAMY white head. The nose was full of green grass, a little earthy, finished out by the smell of pale malts. Plenty of carbonation as copious amounts of tiny little bubbles floated their way up the glass. In the mouth there was plenty of carbonation to help cut through the acidity of the tomatoes and fat of the cheese. The flavor profile consisted of a bit of citrus notes, some nice acidity, the smoothness of pale malts, finishing with just a bit of hop bitterness. A very nice Kolsch. One that I would put at the top of the second tier of Kolsch's, with my top tier consisting of Pfaffen and St. Peters at the moment.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Book Review: Fermenting Revolution

Besides drinking great German beer, there is another opportunity for me while I'm here. I get to catch up on some book reading. In between walking around the city, touring museums, and of course drinking beer, there's always good opportunities to read a book (even in a beer garden while drinking a beer!) around the city. I picked up Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the world, by Christopher Mark O'Brien, right before I left for Germany. It was a couple of weeks before I was able to start reading it, and I finished it up last week. The thesis to the work is that by people supporting their local breweries instead of the huge corporate brewers, people support sustainable environments. Local brewers tend to use local ingredients for their specialty beers, tend to give back to their community, and use less energy (and therefore less fossil fuels) in getting their product to the consumers. I'll have to be honest, as this book leans WAAAAY different that I do. Not that I am a hard to the right wing kinda guy, but the author leans to a certain direction and that comes out in his book, sometimes to the detriment of his cause. Having said, that I did thoroughly enjoy the book.
The book does a decent job of covering the history of beer making, talks about how beer making was a Woman's job up until the 1500's or so when the men started to take it over. Through the story of American Prohibition, the rise of Industrial Lager, and Beervolution of the 70's.
Although at time one suspects he would rather everyone go back 1000 yrs where there was no technology and only people brewing at their homes, his general idea is a great one. However, there are some issues I have with the book.
There are some facts and figures that I am not sure where he gets them from. One of his most common quotes is that most Americans leave within 10 miles of a brewery. I find this hard to believe, since very few people in Texas, LA, OK, Arkansas, Mississippi, so on and so forth leave no where near a brewery as there are only a handful (if that many) in the entire state. I wish there were more, but there aren't. Throughout his book he touts the greatness that is Organic Products. While I agree that the more organic we can buy the better it is for the earth and ourselves I don't think he is being realistic. Unfortunately, right now organic isn't cheap, and its just not economically feasible for lower income families to buy organic, and its a subject the author doesn't touch on. He does the same thing when he talks about people using more energy efficient appliances. Again great idea, but until the prices come down its not always feasible for lower income families, who unfortunately can't think about the long term energy savings, they just need a Refrigerator.
Now on to the things I like. He accordingly does take the big brewers to task, from the late 1800's when brewers started using Coal and coal products to make their beer during the Industrial Revolution, thus beginning the pollution that we are fighting against today. However he does go into a lot of detail on the things that Coors, A-B, and MillerSAB are doing today to curb their wastes. Most of the big brewers are getting close to producing zero net waste which is an amazing statistic once you think how HUGE these corporations are. In fact Industrial breweries are the most of efficient of any industry. I like that he focuses on how local brewers are doing great things. From Saint Arnold's recycling all of their 6 pack containers and giving customers shirts, mugs, etc when they bring theirs back, to Great Lakes Brewery who uses the Fatty Wagon that runs on used french Fry grease and hauls customers from the brew pub to the baseball stadium (GREAT Concept).
Its a recommended book, that I thought was a fast read. Regardless of your political leanings, it gives you somethings to think about and if you weren't a supporter of your local brewery or brew pub you will be. In fact GO there, have a beer, and get a start reading the book.

Friday, December 15, 2006

2000 Chorus Domain Saint Michel

After my last few weeks of beer posts, I figured I would use this week to make sure that my wine senses stayed in shape. Earlier this week I posted my thoughts on a very nice German Riesling. Today? A very nice Bordeaux. One of the nice things about being in Germany is the opportunity to pick up wines from France, Italy, Spain, and others that I don't get to often or at all in Houston. This one comes from that jet setter of wine consultants Michel Reynaud. For the uninitiated, Mr. Reynaud consults for dozens for wineries all over the world. From California, to South America, to his home country France. His wines are normally rated incredibly high which leaves him open to some pretty heavy criticism that he makes wines to meet a style that will fetch high ratings from Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and all the others, instead of using the natural terrior to create great wine. Its an interesting argument. There are times that I want a wine to have that sense of place, that when you sip it, you KNOW where it came from. The best example I have is a Rutherford Cabernet. In most great examples you get this hint of mint, which comes form the eucalyptus trees that surround many of the vineyard of the area. However, you have to have respect for a man that makes great wine in all different settings, even if as some say they all taste the same. No one argues they aren't good.
The Wine: The wine weighs in at 13.5% which is about par for a good Bordeaux red, but far under a similar American Blend. Its AOC from Corbieres France. It pours a nice rich blood red in the glass, sediment falling to the bottom of the glass (no decanter here in Germany with me) The first sniff is of dark red cherries, raspberries, blackberries and some cassis. Another sniff and I get some damp earth, tar, and leather. The mouth is full of cherries, raspberries, a hint of mint, very berry, finishing out a little dry with notes of vanilla, and charred oak. Incredibly well balanced, not to acidic, not to tannic. Say what you will about Mr. Reynaud, but he made a great wine here. I'd grade it an A-.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

2004 J.L. Wolf Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Spatlese Troken

As you may have noticed my posts of late have been rather beer-centric. However I would be foolish to come to Germany and not partake of the incredible wine. Germany, the land of Riesling, is of course where I started.
The Winery: The J.L. Wolf's vintner is the greatness that is Ernst Loosen, they make Saint M Riesling as well from the states. Ernst Loosen was the 2005 Decanter Man of the year and is probably one of the greatest Riesling producers in the world. The vineyard Forster Ungeheuer is located in the Pflaz region of Germany.
The Wine: Pours a light straw yellow in the glass. Peaches, pears, apricots, honey dew melons limestone and a hint of granite fill out the nose on this beautiful wine. In the mouth there is a surprising effervescence and tartness. The taste is of limes, and stone, honey with a bit of dryness at the very end. A very characteristic German Riesling. A tad sweet but relatively balanced with the effervescence and stone flavors. Very nice.. B+

They fought the law and the law.....

This is the latest installment on Saint Arnold's mission to change Texas Alcohol Code. Last night owner and CEO held a Teleconference and asked certain bloggers to attend. I was invited, however due to the time difference and the fact that I can't dial 1-888 numbers from Germany I was unable to attend. However, I was able to secure some notes from the conference from one of the participants in the conference, Saint Arnold's own Evan.
The first part of the post covers the change in language that Brock is fighting for:

To the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Chapter 12. Brewer's Permit, add in Sec. 12.05 the following:

Such a brewer may also sell ale and malt liquor to ultimate consumers for consumption on the brewery premises or in unbroken packages for off-premises consumption in an amount not to exceed, together with the annual sales of beer to the ultimate consumer by the holder of a manufacturer's license acting under the authority of Section 62.12 of this code at the same premises, 5,000 barrels annually;


To the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Chapter 62. Manufacturer's License add in Sec. 62.12 (a) the following:

Such a manufacturer may also sell beer to ultimate consumers for consumption on the manufacturer's premises or in unbroken packages for off-premises consumption in an amount not to exceed, together with the annual sales of ale and malt liquor to the ultimate consumer by the holder of a brewer's permit acting under the authority of Section 12.05 of this code at the same premises, 5,000 barrels annually.

The next part are the notes from the Teleconference that gives some more details into the above wording:
1. SA History
Brock opened by talking about Saint Arnold, and how it was founded 12.5 years ago. It is now the oldest microbrewery in Texas, because 14 out of 19 have failed. I believe he said it's older than any brew pub as well. He then talked a little bit between the difference in a brewery license and a brewpub license.
2. Brewery license
Breweries right now can only sell to distributors. They can never sell directly to customers, however breweries under 75K barrels/year can sell to retailers as well (known as the Shiner law, because Shiner is the one who pushed it through the legislature way back when). However, this doesn't have a very large effect on their business.
3. What the legislation is that we're pushing for (will send under separate cover)
Breweries under 75K barrels/year can sell up to 5K barrels per year for on-premises consumption [sell a pint in the brewery] or for off-premises consumption [a 6 pack of a keg].
The 75K/year is based on the Shiner law, while the 5K per year is based on the brew pub license. So both these figures have precedents.
Brock noted that just Annheuser Busch brewed 14 million barrels last year, while Saint Arnold (the largest microbrewer in the state) will brew 14 thousand. In fact if you add the 5 microbrewers together (Rahr, Independence, Live Oak, Real Ale, SA), and they all did 5K/yr directly to retailers (frankly, all the breweries together are unlikely to do 5K barrels/year cumulative in the short term). Even if the 5 microbrewers were all to sell 5K directly to consumers, it would be less than .1% of the entire beer market in the state.
4. Wineries can do what we want to do.
Because the Texas legislature has recognized that wineries (all of whom are pretty much micro-wineries) in Texas needed commonsense beverage laws, HB2593 in 2003 allowed similar changes for the wine industry.
5. This change will help microbreweries in Texas immensely by helping them compete against non-Texas microbrewers.
* Used an example of a mid-Atlantic microbrewery: for years, their beach-area brewpub subsidized their unprofitable out-of-state distribution network. Eventually their distribution became profitable, but essentially Texas microbrewers are competing against microbrewers that have more favorable laws.
* Essentially, for microbreweries, it will allow them to sell a 6 pack to people after the Saturday tour (which draws about 250 people each week). It will allow them to sell pints at events at the brewery.
* Most of all, it will allow them to sell kegs. This is huge, because people call the brewery all the time asking to buy a keg. The distributor generally only carries Amber. Thus, it's difficult to get St. Arnold's other beers on tap for parties.
Brock emphasized that these small changes will have an enormous impact in the economics of opening and running a brewery.
It's a win-win:
* Distributors benefit (microbrews are better profit, and they will have more microbrews to distribute)
* Microbrewers benefit (profit margin is higher when they sell it themself. It helps make brewers profitable). They can compete on a level playing field against non-Texas microbrews.
* Most of all, consumers benefit by having more choices. Texas beer-lovers get to drink Texas microbrews.
* Will allows microbrewers to buy more equipment, create more jobs, and even generate a little more tax revenue.

As for who won? Saint Arnolds or the Law? Stay tuned.......

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Another Weekend another Kolsch

I tend to look forward to my weekends while living here in Cologne. One reason is that of late I have been working an overnight shift for my job (yes its actually NOT beer) and haven't been able to go out to much during the week. So when I am out on the weekend sightseeing, looking at the amazingly old churches, Cathedrals, museums and the like I tend to build up a bit of a thirst. And in Cologne, there's no better way to quench that thirst than a glass (or two) of Kolsch. This weekend I visited one of my favorite's, Paffgen on Friezen Str. Its smaller than some other breweries, and it feels a little homier to me. To have with my Kolsch I ordered a lunch of speck, potatoes, and split green beans. A nice hearty Kolsch fair.
The Kolsch poured an orangish yellow capped with a fairly foamy head. There was more bitterness in the nose than other Kolsch's. Less carbonation, with a smoother aftertaste, a bit citrusy even. As the beer went down in the glass it left a nice sheen of lacing in its wake, very nice. My overall impression of the beer was its smoothness. It partnered well with the starch in the potatoes, and the beans, but didn't have the carbonation for the fat of the speck. A solid if not spectacular Kolsch. One I will have again (and again....)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More on the quest of Saint Arnold's

As a I posted a couple of days ago Saint Arnold's is going to Austin to help change the laws of the Great State of Texas. Well I am happy to report that this quest has not gone unnoticed. People, not just in Texas are taking notice and are writing about it. Here are just a few links to some write-ups, from Newspapers and blogs.

The Brookston Beer blog posts a short write up.
Over at Appellation beer they reference the Jimmy Stewart aspect of the story, and talk in a little more detail about Texas Beer law.
Barry Schlacter at the Star-Telegram has a write up in his weekly Beer column.
Finally Saint Arnold's themselves have written up a list of places that have mentioned their quest (including yours truly!)

Lastly just let me opine a bit more on Brock's quest and how important it is to Texas and beer drinkers in general. A few years back Texas passed a law that would allow Texas Wineries to sell small amounts of their own wine in their tasting rooms. The result was not lawlessness, or drunkenness, but higher profits for the wineries and an increase in tourism to Texas wine country (Hill country). To me this should be a slam dunk issue. Letting breweries sell some cases of their own would not only help small business profits, but as places like Colorado, and California can attest will increase tourism as people come from not only within Texas, but outside to taste some of the great beers that Texas has to offer. Texas should be about the small business, those people that are willing to take a chance, start something from nothing and being a bit of a maverick. Isn't that what Texas is all about?d
Let me close, by saying, if your reading this blog and support local Texas beer, try and support the quest of Saint Arnold's in any way you can. Whether that's by doing the simple thing of buying a six pack of Lawnmower or writing a letter to you State Representative, do what you can.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Peter's Kolsch

I have spent a lot of my spare time visiting the numerous Christmas Markets around the town of Cologne. These are small groups of bungalows in various squares (or Platz) around town. One of the nice things about Cologne is that where there's a Platz there is more than likely a pub or Kolsch Brewery near by. So the other day when I had my fill of Christmas markets I decided to head into the near by St. Peters Brewery near Heumartk for a Kolsch and a bit to eat. I wasn't starving, just a little snack so I opted for the Halven Hahn, nice thick German bread with a huge slice of Dutch Cheese. I ordered my Kolsch and it came out in the traditional 0.2l glass. Bright golden with a thick pillowy and foamy head almost over flowing the glass, yet never cascading down the side. Great amounts of tiny little bubbles like a fine champagne. The nose had some nice green and grassy notes with a bit of stone minerality filling it out. The mouth had those same flavors with the greeness of the beer turning into hop bitterness at the end. As the head dissipated it left behind copious amounts of lacing sticking to the side of the glass. The carbonation was excellent and really cut through the fat in the thick slab of cheese. This maybe my second favorite Kolsch that I have enjoyed here, with Pfaffen still in the lead.

New's From Saint Arnold's

Even way over here in Europe I am trying to stay in touch with the local Houston beer scene, and I have noticed a couple of newsy items regarding Houston's own Saint Arnold's Brewery.
First they have an all new redesigned website, so go check it out.
The second news worthy item is much more important not only to Saint Arnold's, but to craft brewers all over Texas. Saint Arnold's Owner Brock Wagner, along with some of the other Craft brewer's are heading to Austin to help change some of the ridiculous alcohol laws that Texas has.
1) They want to be able to sell their own beer - this means being able to sell at the brewery! (would be nice at Saint Arnold's after a Saturday afternoon of tasting to grab a six pack or two or three)
2) Make it easier for Craft Breweries to open. In the great big state of Texas there are only a handful of Craft breweries and even less Brew pub's, to me this just isn't acceptable, Texans LOVE good beer.
Here is a link to Saint Arnold's Going to Austin blog. Check it out and try and support them in anyway you can.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Raise a glass and toast to Tuesday

That's right folks, today as much as any day is a great day to raise your glass and make a toast. And no its not just because today is Tuesday, its a much more important day to those of us who like to drink a beer, or glass of wine. Back on this date in 1933 the 21st Amendment was passed. This amendment repealed Prohibition, ending 13 years of of that failed experiment. Although forms of Prohibition still exist in some counties and parishes throughout the States, laws are passing every day that allow all of us to grab a pint at the local bar. So Raise your glass today, whether it be a pint of ale, a glass of wine, or a snifter of spirits, and toast to Tuesday.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


As most have read about now there is a new holiday beer out there that is banned in New York because the image of Santa on the label might lead children to drinking. I had built myself up to write a long rant on this topic and the role of Parental responsibility, freedom of speech, and the stupidity of American liquor laws, but then J over at Brookston Beer Bulletin beat me too it. So instead of me writing, I'll guide everyone over there to check out his well written piece.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


A man can not live by Kolsch alone...not even in Cologne. So as I have spent my time here I have looked for some other unique beers around town. Lo and behold I live just down the street from a great little store appropriately called the Bier Museum. An amazing place with a great selection of beers from all over Germany, Belguim, and Czech. This being Christmas season I found a couple of Weihnachts-bier's (think winter festival beers). These beers do not have a set style, they are more like the American version of Winter beers instead of the traditional BRitish Winter Warmer's. Meaning that they are just specially brewed beers but don't fall in to any stylistic category. Now on to the tastings
Post Brauerie Karl Meyer Nesselweg Weihnachtsbier: From a style standpoint the folks over at BA categorize it as a Helles Munich Lager. Fair enough. The beer pours golden honey in the glass with a thick one inch foamy head. The nose has some fruity tanginess, some malt flavors and some spiciness however not from hops. The mouth is full of that nice fruity flavors with just a bit of bitterness at the end. Very nice and the beer weighs in at 5.45%. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.
Neuschwansteiner Weihnachts-Bier: The folks at Ba call this a Marzen style of lager. The beer pours a nice rich brown with streaks of red a nice 1.5 inch thick pillowy tawny head that quickly dissipated into good amounts of lacing. The nose is full of sweet malty flavors, maybe some cinnamon, hazelnuts, and brown sugar. The mouth has some good layers of sweetness, brown sugar coming out with toasted malt flavors in abundance. A good level of bitterness rounds out the full flavor of this beer. Very different from what I was expecting, but I did enjoy it. The beer weighed in at 5.2%. Seems like some at BA didn't seem to like it much, but I did find it rather enjoyable

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sunday's Quest

I yet again ventured out into the great and wonderful city of Cologne yesterday. As I walked around the beautiful city past the Dom, walking along the Rhine, I began to get a little thirsty (amazing how that happens). So I looked around for the nearest watering hole and found a small cafe along the river serving a brand of Kolsch that I had never had before. So in my state of discovery I decided to have a late lunch and some kolsch. The Kolsch in question was Ganser, which is an outfit that no longer has a brewery in Cologne city proper. It was poured into the 0.3 L not the traditional 0.2L glass. A nice pillowy white head capped the glass. The beer itself was bubbly and a slightly darker shade of yellow than a pils. The nose was green and grassy with maybe a hint of limestone and earth. The first taste was really rich, with pale malts on the forefront a little tartness that mellows out on the aftertaste with just a hint of hop bitterness. Very nice. The carbonation was very good just bordering on too much. For lunch I had a goulash soup (think beef stew in a tomato broth). The combination worked very well together as the carbonation of the Kolsch cut through the acidity of the tomatoes. This is another Kolsch that I will be on the look out at cafe's aroiund Cologne.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturday around Cologne

I experienced my first Saturday in Cologne by myself yesterday. So I got up and went to the great Christmas Markets, a sight to see to be sure, but thats not the reason that you are reading this. During my jaunts from market to market I got a little thirsty so I decided to stop by a couple of Kolsch Brewery's for a beer. While I am here, I will try to do most of my tastings from the brewery since that is a great way to experience Kolsch. I will always try to have the beer out of the tap since that is when it is at its freshest. Now on to the tastings:
Pfaffen: I came to the brewery the other day with a bunch of friends so I wanted to go back by self for a tasting as I think this may be my favorite Koslch. I had my beer standing up against the tables outside as the weather was beautiful. The beer poured a light amber, much darker than the traditional golden pilsner color of most Kolsch's. The head was about 1.5 inches and pillowy floating atop the beer with ample lacing throughtout. There was an underlying spiciness on the nose along with the familiar malty sweetness. The mouth was more of the same, with that same spiciness that I can't quite put my finger on, not from hops from something else, it almost reminds me of a winter warmer...almost. Such a great beer.
Fruh: This is one of the most popular breweries in Cologne, and I can see why. FIrst of all its HUGE....multiple stories, rooms off of rooms, when I had some friends meet me there a couple of days back they got lost....the atsmosphere is truly kolsch, with the waiters slinging their carriers around (these round contrapations that carry about 8-16 glassses) I am suprised that no on loses a glass. So I sat down ordered a Halven Hahn (nope note half a hen) which is a Kolsch snakc of cheddar and good German Bread, goes great with the beer. The beer isn't bad either. The beer is the traditional color, with a nice foamy head, but limited lacing. The taste was more traditional as well, with nice malt at the top and slight hoppy bitterness on the aftertaste. Very smooth, very crispy. While nothing special, this is agreat example of a fine Kolsch.

More as I walk around the town.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Quick Hits

Some random posts from the Beer and Wine blogosphere:

Alder over at Vinography talks about just what that flavor is and comes up with an alternative to the aroma wheel.

Don't forget to check out the latest beer at the 10 year perspective. Its sad how many of those breweries are not defunct.

Hail the ale has even more Holiday gifts for the beer lover in your life.

Finally try out Wine Spectators latest "What am I tasting" quiz....just how good are you?

Friday, November 24, 2006

So what did you have with Thanksgiving Dinner

A little online poll for everyone out there that would like to participate.
What did you have to drink with Thanksgiving Dinner? Wine? Beer? Both? Other?

Living in Germany I didn't get to celebrate the holiday yesterday. I did however partake in a Thanksgiving Feast prior to coming out drink? A Oregon Pinot Noir. nice and fruity and it stood up to the herbs of the meal. My second joice? A fall beer in particular a Pumpkin ale, where the spiceness of the beer would hold up well against all the flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving day feast.....I hope everyone had a grand time yesterday and let me know what you all had.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

WBW # 28 Announced

I know I know, I have been promising for a while to get back into the the Wine Blogging Wednesday but due to what ended up being a pretty hectic period I was unable to....that stops this month! The Culinary fool is hosting this month..and the theme is Sparklers, ie Sparkling wine. He has three categories to put this wine into:
  • Party Sparklers – Bargain sparklers that if you needed several bottles for a party wouldn’t break your budget but you wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve
  • Special Sparklers – those bottles that might be a bit higher cost but for a little splurge you think they are worth the price
  • Duds – you tried a bottle, thought it held promise but when it comes down to it you wouldn't buy it again. Hopefully we won't have many in this category!

Being over here in Europe I figure I'll be exposed to a few different styles of sparkling wine so I definetely will partake in this venture. Lets hope I don't find one in that last category. The roundup will be posted on Dec 15 so come back then and see how it all went.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My First Days in Cologne

I have made it through my travels and reached Cologne Germany. So I am working on making it through my first weekend and thought I'd give an update on what I have been doing. Obviously here in Cologne there is one big thing to partake in and that is of course Kolsch.
In reality Kolsch means anything that comes from Koln (Cologne). Which means there is a Kolsch dialect, Kolsch food, Kolsch style, and of course Kolsch Beer. Kolsch beer is a warm fermenting beer like an ale, instead of lagered as many believe. This misconception is due to the fact that Kolsch looks so much like a Pilsner in its light golden color, nice white head, and crisp clean taste. Kolsch's taste profile has a suprising range from crisp, clean, and malty to slightly hoppy with sweet fruity characteristics, and everythnig in between. Its a great beer to enjoy, as it weighs in at around 4.6 to 4.8 % and is served in 0.2L or 0.3 L. In otherwords you can have many beers and not feel all that bad afterwards.
In my short time here I have had the opportunity to try quite a few Kolsch: Sion, Gilden, Gaffel, Paffgen, Pfaffel, and Dom. Most were really great, but they were all very different. In the next few weeks I'll do as many individual write ups on these as I can. I'll include the brew house experience as well since that is a big part of the Kolsch Beer Experience. And for Jay, I am hoping to make it up to Dusseldorf in the next couple of weeks for some AltBier.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Land of Kolsch and Riesling

Today is a BIG day for me. Due to work I'll be living the next three months in Cologne Germany. I know its rough, but someone has to do it. For those that don't know, Cologne is the land of Kolsch beer, a clean crisp style of beer only brewed in Cologne (although there are a few American Craft breweries taking up the style). Cologne is also just north of the Mosel Wine region, aka the land of Riesling. As you can imagine I will be partaking in both, along with trips to Belgium, Munich, Dusseldorf, Berlin, and other places to check out the local drinks. Somewhere in there I'll also find some time to write about my experiences, so the blog will continue to be updated.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Trio of Christmas Beers

Well I picked up three more Christmas ales this past week. I've been able to work through them and decided to post all three in short notes instead of post 3 longer posts since with the exception of one, I have tried beers from all of the breweries.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: A pretty popular ale around this time, this was my first time trying it out. It poured a nice amber in the glass with a very thick foamy head. Lots of floral spicy hops in the nose. The mouth was more of the same, reminding me much more of an IPA than a traditional Winter Ale. The finish was evergreen and piney, very nice especially as an IPA, but not what I was expecting. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.
Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale: A deep dark amber brown, minimal head with even less lacing. Very nice level of carbonation. The nose had some green apple hints to it along with some malty sweetness. Mild hoppiness on the palate with just a slightly bitter finish. Very ok beer and a somewhat disappointment as I have really enjoyed this in the past. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.
Wychwood BahHumbug Christmas Ale: Last but not least comes this Christmas ale from England. The beer weighs in at 6.0% and is slightly stronger than the other two. It pours a nice brown with streaks of red shooting through it, capped with a nice thick tan head. Malts and some spice pour forth filling the nose. Very malty on the palate, spicey as well but not from hops almost a little like a German Marzen ale to me. Smooth. A pretty OK beer, not great, but not to bad either. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Best Cities for Beer Lovers

I came across an article on MSNBC.COM today touting the best 10 cities in the world for beer lovers. Its a pretty diverse list with cities on three different continents and multiple countries. The top ten are Amsterdam, Berlin, Brugge (a city in Belgium), Burlington, VT, Dublin, Mexico City, Montreal, Portland, Prague and finally Sapporo.
As you can see its a pretty interesting list. Some of the picks are puzzling to me, for instance Burlington, and why not a place like Denver that has become a center for so many microbreweries and home of the largest beer festival in America. I like the choices of Prague, Dublin, even Mexico City home of the largest Cervezas. Portland of course is a great pick, you can't go wrong with a city that doesn't have Budweiser as its top beer. Brugge is a pretty interesting choice as when most think Belgium they think of Brussels, but its a choice I like.
Check out the article for more details on each city and why they chose them.

Gifts for the Beer Lover

Yeah I know its hard to believe, but we are just over a month and half from Christmas and even closer to that horrific shopping day, Black Friday, (the day after thanksgiving). As I have surfed around the blogosphere I see that many are posting things for the beer lover. So instead of coming up with my own list, I'll just give everyone links to everyone elses.

The Hail the Ale Beer store at

Hop Talk's list of gifts for the beer geeks - Books, and Beers of the month clubs.

Drink my SHORTS!!!!

Barry Shlachter's Christmas list includes books, pictures and a calendar spread.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Warming Trend

The weather is getting cooler even down here in Texas. Not cold mind you, but a little cooler, cool enough even that there are thoughts of drinking a liquid warmer. That elixir that warms the spirit and the body. With that in mind I picked up a couple of Winter Ales from my local Central Market the other day. Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome and Young's Winter Warmer.
Young's Winter Warmer: Young's Brewery makes beer out of the Ram brewery in Britain and has done so since 1851. They make one of my favorite beers ever in their Double Chocolate Stout. The Winter Warmer weighs in at 5.2%, pouring a dark woody brown with a thick, pillowy tan head. There is malty sweetness on the nose, a slight breadiness and raisin scents. The mouthfeel is a little light, but with plenty of malt and a bit of bitterness on the aftertaste with that same raisin flavor. As the beer warms notes of coffee and chocolate show up. This is a very nice very smooth beer. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.
Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome: I have always loved this beer. Each year the label is different, with new artwork of a Dickensonian feel to it. Samuel Smith's was founded in 1758 in Tadcaster England and make some absolutely wonderful ales, with their Tadcaster Porter being one of my favorites. This beer weighs in at 6.0% and pours a nice rich reddish brown with a nice half inch white creamy head. More spiceness than Young's, less malt and more hops on the nose. A much heavier mouthfeel, a much heavier beer overall in fact. Hops are a the front with this, but still smooth and raisiny flavors. Some nutmeg and spices come out as the beer warms. Again, here is what the folks over at BA had to say.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Saint Arnold's new Business

The other day I came across this article in the Ft. Worth Star-telegram detailing a new business arrangement between Houston's own Saint Arnold's Brewery and the restaurant/brewery chain BJ's Restaurant. Traditionally when BJ's moves into a new state they build a large restaurant brewery and use that as a distribution point to the other units within the state. However, that is illegal here in Texas (Texas has a few arcane beer laws). So to get around this they basically have to have their beer contract brewed. This is where Saint Arnold's comes in. Owner Brock Wagner has a contract with BJ's to brew their beer and get it distributed to the restaurants. They can actually distributed it anywhere they want, but due to lack of advertising the only requests come from BJ's itself. In the long run, this is actually going to really help out Saint Arnold's. Including the BJ's beer means they are increasing production and it let's Brock buy new and better equipment long before he might have if he was just brewing Saint Arnold's. This can help with better beer, better consistency, and help in expansion. I say good business deal for Brock.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quick Hits

A few hits from around the blogosphere:

Sexy Taps a discussion of the art of Taphandles that Craft brewers have created over at Appelation Beer.

New York times actually reviews a beer book, the aforementioned Ambitious Brew.

Microbrews a 10 year perspective, a look at the craft beers that have survived the last ten years.

Guiness Red???? Enough said.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ambitious Brew

First things first, I know its been a while since I've posted anything, and for good reason. I moved out of my apt into a new house and between the move and having to set up internet at my new place I haven't had the time to post anything. Well that's about to change as I have a lot of pent of things to write about.
As posted a few weeks back I made it to Denver this year for the Great American Beer Festival. While at there I ran into Maureen Ogle author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer and picked up an autograph copy. Well what a book. It was truly fascinating, covering from the late 1800's to current time. The book details the creating of A-B, Schlitz, Best, and other of the big Milwaukee Brewers. It does expose a big misconception in my part. Along with many, it was my understanding that after Prohibition the big boys started making weak water beer with corn, rice, and other things. This is simply not true. It was American tastes that in the early 1900's couldn't stand the strong German Lager that these companies made so it was then that they started making weak just got even weaker after prohibition.
Great book, that you might think could be very dry reads incredibly easy. The guys over at RealBeer have a GREAT 3 part interview with Ms. Ogle so go check that out, along with her website.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve #3

As I have mentioned before I am a big proponent of supporting Local Breweries. Well here in Houston there is no brewery more local than the great Saint Arnold's Brewery. I have talked about the brewery before here. They brew very good straight forward beers. Very rarely do they stray to far into extreme beers. One regular example is their Christmas Ale, that while not extreme is a very big departure from their regular beers. Another is their recent Divine Beer series. 3 Versions have been released so far, all are small batch artesian ales, and all are very different. The first was a barley wine style, that was due to a filtration problem pretty hit and miss from what I understand since I didn't get a chance to taste it. The second one I actually got to taste was an incredibly rich malty caramelly sweet quadrupel style Belgian ale. The third? Well that's what I got to taste today at the great downtown beer hall Gingerman's. I love this place as it has an incredible beer selection and you have some really good seats outside, which in this recent weather is a nice to have.
The Beer: Ahh yes Divine Reserve Imperial IPA. The beer was poured from the bottle into a regular British Pint glass. It was nice deep amber with a good inch head. The head dissipated into nice amounts of lacing. The nose was full of floral hops, grapefruit and some underneath sweetness that was hard to identify. The mouth was overpowering hops great amounts of that zippy bitterness, but with that same underlying clove type sweetness. I couldn't identify it so I went to the website and its Honey and Molasses. It was added to the kettle to up the starting gravity and lighten out the beer. It was a nice touch that seemed to keep the hops from burning the tongue. I really enjoyed the beer, so hats off to Brock and the guys. I didn't even notice that it was 9.5% until I got to the bottom of the glass, so its not something overly noticeable in my opinion. Very nice beer. Heres what the folks at BA had to say.

The Perfect Glass

Barry Shlachter of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has a new article out. Mr. Shlacter is becoming one of my favorite writers from a major newspaper that writes about beer. This weeks article is about finding the perfect glass. Is it the Belgium globe shaped glass? or the tall pilsner glass? or the British pint? To me it obviously depends on what the beer is that your drinking. To me I love the chalice shaped glass as it gives the beer room to breath, especially when tasting it. Good article though so check it out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Magnolia Taphouse - Historical Landmark

In Skimming the Houston Chronicle the other day I came across this really cool article. The article details the efforts of Bart Truxillo and the city of Houston government on creating a Houston Protected Landmark out of the old Magnolia Taphouse. What this means is that this truly magnificent building will not be razed to create another high rise apartment building. To me this is really neat and shows the historical significance of a once prized brewery.
The Magnolia Brewery had around 1- building spread out along Buffalo bayou and in 1903 produced half a million barrels of ice and brewed 200,000 barrels of beer. A few years later they were producing enough beer that they were running boats from Houston to Key West marking the beginning of plans to spread their beer to Cuba. The taproom actually opened up around 1912, however as with most breweries prohibition was not kind, that and a pair of floods caused the brewery to eventually close in 1950. Mr. Truxillo bought the building in 1967 and has worked to restore it since then.
All in all I couldn't be happier that the City of Houston decided to create this protected landmark.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 2006

YES! Success! I have been a lover of Dogfish Head for quite some time. I think the 60 minute IPA is one of the great every day beers you can have. The Punkin Ale is amazing. But this past weekend I finally found at the Big Superstore Spec's the beer I have been looking for, the holy grail for hop heads: The 120 Minute IPA!
The Beer: They call this an Imperial IPA a super duper hopped up India Pale Ale. The details: 20% abv, 120 IBU, boiled for 2 hours (where the 120 comes in) while being continuously hopped, then dry hopped daily for thirty days, then aged for another month in whole-leaf hops. Its hop infused to the max. It pours a light orange color with a thick pillowy cream colored head. The nose is hoplicious, floural, pungent, overpowering. The mouthfeel is THICK you know your drinking something. Total hops in the mouth, spicy, tingles the tongue it almost burns. There are hints of raisins that start to come out, but there is a definite burn of alcohol in the aftertaste. There are so many different complex layers of bitterness you can't tell where one starts and another begins, you just feel the waves and differences. Honestly I don't know what to think, its almost too much. I bought a few bottles so I plan on letting them sit, and see if they mellow out before I make my final verdict. In the mean time here is what the folks over at BA had to say.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lefthand Twin Sister Double IPA

I actually tried this beer the latest from Lefthand's Big MO series before I went to Denver for GABF, I just didn't have time to write about it. I talked about Lefthand back when I had their Imperial Stout (another of the Big MO series).
The Style: Ahh yes the Double IPA, a truly American Invention. The British created the India Pale ale as a way of hopping up and preserving their Pale Ale to ship to the British soldiers that were stationed in India. These souped up beers were higher alcohol and were better preserved for those far flung soldiers of the British Empire. However one day one of the ships crashed on the rocks of British Coast. The barrels washed up on shore and once the locals got a test they clamored for the brewer's to make more of this amazing nectar so that the locals at home could have some. The rest as they say is history. A Double IPA or Imperial IPA is just an even more hopped up IPA, more alcohol and more hop greatness.
The Beer: As mentioned this is part of Lefthand's BIG MO series, bottle conditioned topped with a champagne cork and weighing in at 9.6% alcohol. Here are the stats. Malts: Castle Pale, Rye and a proprietary custom malt. Hops include cascade, glacier, tomahawk, liberty, and crystal dry. The IBU is 87.
Now on to the tasting. The beer pours a bright orange with a thick foamy head. Floral hops in copious amounts on the nose. The mouth is full of spicy bitter hops, that tingles the tongue, biting you in the jaw. An amazing beer. One of the nice things I liked is that the alcohol was really well hidden with the hop bitterness. Here is what the folks over at BA had to say about this thoroughly enjoyable beer.

Monday, October 02, 2006

GABF Roundup

What an experience this past weekend was. I flew up to Denver on Thursday and was able to spend Friday at the 25th Great American Beer Festival. This was my first experience and it was amazing. As I walked into the Denver convention center I got chills stepping into the Festival. As far as the eye could see were booths and booths of beer. And me standing their with this small little four oz glass, mouth watering in anticipation, my program marked up and ready, folded beneath my arm waiting to act as my guide to the new and untasted.
I'll give some tasting notes in a bit, but just wanted to expound on my little adventure. I went with my fiance (who is from Denver) her sister and her friends. I went with the goal of trying either new beers from brewers that I was familiar with, but had never tasted (think Dogfish head), or breweries I had heard of, but had never tasted any products from (think Russian River which doesn't get distributed to Texas). Lastly I went looking to meet as many people as I could. And that was a success. At the Dogfish Head booth, Sam the man himself was their pouring beers as fast as he could. At the Brooklyn Brewery Mr. Garrett Oliver was standing there. I was able to get just a few minutes of his time to talk to him. Very very nice guy, very down to earth. The last person I met was Maureen Ogle the author of the new book Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. I picked up a copy of her book at the Festival, and she promplty autographed it. She seemed somewhat at ease that everyone wanted a copy of her book and that people had heard such good things about it. Again very nice lady.
Ok on to the tastings. Since the festival is not conducive to true tastings (small pours, beer not at its freshest, inappropriate glass wear, too many different styles and flavors piling up on top of eachother) I will give a list of the beers that I tasted as best as I can remember from my notes. Unless stated otherwise assume that I enjoyed the beers.
21st. Amendment - 21A IPA (HOPPY!!!) and watermelon wheat (amazingly refreshing, not to sweet.
Alaskan Brewing Company - Alaskan Smoked Porter 2005 (awesome, I now know what the fuss is about) and Alaskan Stout.
Allagash - Interlude
Anchor Brewing Company - Foghorn (amazing barley wine, very nice)
Boston Beer Company - Sam Adams Cream Stout
Boulder Beer Co - Mojo IPA (WOW was this amazing, hops zinging the tongue) and Hazed and Confused (even better than the Mojo).
Brewery Ommegang - Three Philosophers Quadruple (amazing malty goodness, this was one of the best quads I ever had).
The Brooklyn Brewery - Brooklyn Chocolate stout (chocolate covered esspresso beans), Fortitude (amazing), Brooklyn Weisse (bananas, bananas, bananas)
Butte Creek Brewing Company - Organic Revolution X (very nice organic brew).
Deschutes Brewery - Broken Top Bock (amazing) Inversion IPA
Dogfish Head Ale - 90 minute IPA run through Sam's wet hop contraption, Red Ale Cask Ale
Firestone Walker Brewing Co - Firestone Walker "10" (did not enjoy this at all too sickly sweet)
Goose Island Beer Co - Pere Jacques
Healthy Brew - Snowman's Revenge and Wheat Serenity (my fiance really really enjoyed this Texas Organic wheat beer).
He'Brew Beer - Messiah Bold and Bitter Sweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. (this was an amazing very unique rye IPA, great balance of flavors).
Leinenkugel Brewing Company -Cream Dark (very nice, many of my northern friends swear by this beer, now I know why).
Live Oak Brewing Co - Old Treehugger (an ok barley wine).
Odell Brewing Co - Cutthroat Porter (disappointing from a brewer I tend to enjoy)
Pennsylvania Brewing Co - Penn Oktoberfest
Rogue Ales - Brutal Bitter (Oh yes its BRUTAL (in a good way)) and 12PA
Russian River Brewing Co - Supplication (utterly disappointing, wish I had tried some others but they were out of Pliny the elder that I really wanted to try)
Sierra Nevada Brewing CO - Wood Aged Bigfoot Barely Wine (very nice, the oak aging added a whole other experience to this already amazing barleywine)
Snake River Brewing - Zonker Stout and OB-1 Certified Organic Brown Ale
Stone Brewing - Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard (talk about arrogant! this was GREAT) and 10th Anniversary IPA (as close to to much hops as one can get and still love it)

Well that's about it, at least as far as those that I took notes on and that I can remember.
Shout out to local Saint Arnolds Brewing for gathering in another award for its Kolsch style Lawnmower Beer, great job guys!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Well the announcement for the latest Wine Blogging Wednesday has been announced and boy is it interesting. For the uninitiated WBW is a virtual wine tasting hosted by a blogger/webcaster/wine geek etc. A theme is set and then the host posts all the tastings in one location. This week the host is Beau over at BasicJuice. The theme? Choose either a Red wine from Washington, Spain or France, or choose a white wine from New York, Oregon, or Italy. Write up description of said wine, then email it to the host. The name or origin of the wines won't be included in the entry and a contest will be held to see who gets the most wines correct. Pretty damn interesting if I do say so myself. The deadline? Wednesday Oct 11. Come on back and see the results because for sure I will join in on this fun.

Its Time, Its Time!

Yep its that time of the year, the greatest beer festival in America is being held this weekend. The Great American Beer Festival held annually in Denver, Colorado. This is the 25th annual event. Marked by brewers all over the world, food pairings and this year a very cool event called Inside The Brewer's Studio, a spin off the popular Inside the Actor's studio where someone is going to be able to interview well known brewers from all over America. Anyways the point of this is that for the first time I will be going. I will be in Denver for another reason but I am going to attend at least one if not more days of the Festival. I'll post my experiences as I have time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

2004 Corbera Nero d' Avola

My girlfriend is finally back in the country after 7 months living in Germany. A few months ago I was able to visit her over there and we took an excursion down to Italy which I wrote about. The other night we opened up one of the bottles that I picked up while over there.
The Grape: This little known grape grown almost exclusively in Sicily is starting to become more well known. While it will never be as popular as Merlot or Cab it's influence is spreading within its home country. The name means "the black grape of Avola." In its native home of Sicily Nero d' Avola also goes by the name Calabrese. Avola is a wine growing region in southern Sicily, and this particular grape has evolved over the centuries of grape selection and cross breeding.
The Winery: Unfortunately I couldn't find much on the winery other than they are from Sicily. They also seem to be well distributed over here in the states, also making a Syrah which is an interesting choice from an Italian winery.
The Wine: The wine weighed in at about 13% alcohol. It poured a deep dark ruby red with a nose full of musty earth, berries, and oak with maybe a hint of raspberries. The mouth was full of cherries, dried fruit, and quite a bit of alcohol which was suprising. The wine finished dry with not a lot of tannins. I think that this wine could probably have used a little more aging to mellow out the alcohol. A wine I'd grade a C-.

Avery: The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest

My latest excursion into the world of Oktoberfest beers came in the form of a BIG beer from a great Colorado brewery. I have spoken a couple of times in the past on Avery Brewery so you can check out that here. I have also spoken about the Oktoberfest style here. I will make a note that as it always seems, since its called Imperial, it is usually slightly more hoppy than the original and a lot more alcohol.
The Beer: Pours an orangish brown almost amber liquid in the glass capped off with a pillowy creamy head. The head dissipated over time leaving copious amounts of lacing. The nose is malty with just a bit of floural hops, some honey and raisiny scents as well. The mouth has more sweet caramel and roasted hops with a bit of hop bitterness and some alcohol burn on the finish which isn't too suppressing as the beer weighs in at 9.1%. The beer was very creamy, very nice, and very smooth. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shiner 97 Black Lager

Time for a taste of anther Texas home grown brew. This time with the largest distributed brewery in Texas.
The Style: Dark lager or in German Schwarzbier is quite a unique beer. A Bohemian style of beer from the East German town of Bad Kostriz this beer is so dark it resembles an Irish Stout. Not something that usually comes to mind when one thinks of lagers. They are known for being opaque with little to any light showing through. Full of snappy bitterness, dry coffee flavors and a light to medium body that conflicts with its dark nature.
The Brewery: This beer is brewed in Shiner Texas at the Spoetzl brewery. The oldest brewery in Texas is no longer a small family run business, but a brewery that distributes across the country. While I am not a huge fan of many of their beers, especially their ubiquitous Shiner Bock, there are some other's that I quite enjoy. Their Dunkelweisse is very nice as is their summer beer Shiner Kolsch. While I wish they would increase their quality across the board they make enough interesting beers to keep me coming back and checking them out.
The Beer: As advertised this beer pours a rich deep opaque black in the glass with a thick thick tannish head, that slowly dissipated over the course of my drinking it down, but leaving plenty of lacing. The nose is full of malt, roasted and caramel, hints of esspresso bitterness. The mouth shines with those same malty flavors with more pronounced esspresso and burnt coffee notes and a slight chocolatey note. This is VERY nice, I really did enjoy it. Here is what the folks over at BA had to say.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WBW#25 Roundup has been posted!

I have been remiss lately in posting about wine and completely forgot about Wine Blogging Wednesday. This months event was hosted by Sam over at Beck's and Posh with the theme being Champagne...not sparking wine, but Champagne, meaning it had to come from there. Well the event went incredibly well and they received well over 40 entries. Check it out at their well written Roundup. Also stay tuned for WBW #26 to be soon announced and hopefully I'll remember to participate.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale

My latest excursion into all things that are Pumpkin. I have tried one from Shipyard ale, and another from Dogfish Head in the last week or so. However I had never had either of those, this time the choice was one of my seasonal favorites.
The Brewery: Buffalo Bill's is a brewery and restaurant located about 20 minutes south east of San Francisco in the town of Hayward. They are also one of the oldest brewpubs in America having started waaaaay back in 1983. The brewers are Goeff Harries and John Carbone and they have created some pretty unique beers including Orange Cream Ale, Blue Christmas (made with Blueberries), and of course the Pumpkin Ale.
The Beer: The last few seasons I have picked this up at my local Spec's or tried it at the local Flying Saucer and have always enjoyed it. This will be the first time drinking it as a "Taster" (whatever that means). The beer pours a nice amber brown in the glass with a foamy head that disappointingly dissipates completely with minimal lacing. Ahh but the nose was fabulous, with Pumpkin being the king and the spices taking back seat. On the mouth there is still that overwhelming pumpkin flavor and at first the spices didn't seem to be there. However as I continued to sip the nutmeg, and cinnamon finally started to come out introducing themselves in a wonderful way. To me this was less pumpkin pieish than the other two and more Pumpkin with some spices. The beer weighed in at 4.9%, and while not heavy, the richness of the pumpkin flavor would keep me from drinking more than 1 or 2 in a sitting. This is a pretty nice little beer. And although most didn't like it here is what the folks over at BA had to say.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Barley Enzymes

I came across a rather interesting story today about the creation of a new beer enzyme. The article starts out explaining the purpose of barley:

Before brewing can begin, barley kernels must be 'malted', explained the ARS. Malting begins with steeping the kernels in water until the seeds begin to sprout, or germinate. This process helps cue production of enzymes that are crucial for turning starch into sugar. In nature, the young seed needs this sugar for energy to grow. In malting, brewers need it for fermentation.

The article then explains that by creating a new barley enzyme that can yield up to 30 percent more sugar thereby being more efficient. This new barley enzyme was built based on the enzymes of a sugar beet the most efficient model the scientists could find. This article raises some interesting questions for me. I have written about organic beers a few times in the past regarding the growth of this trend. But how bout the opposite direction...what about custom beers? Would we all buy beers that were made of custom created barley, or how about hops that generated a certain amount of bitterness and grassy flavor with none of it being created by nature?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

In my latest quest to try as many pumpkin style beers as I can, I picked up one at the local Central Market that I had never tasted, by a brewery that I love. I have written about the egnigmatic brewery Dogfish Head before so I'll go straight to the tasting of this unique pumpkin ale.
The Beer: The beer weighed in at a robust 7%. It poured a very dark brownish Amber, much darker than the Shipyard version I tried previously. This brown liquid was capped by a pillowy tan head, that dissipated to a thin line of foam with copious amounts of lacing. The nose was full of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and of course a good dose of pumpkin. My first sip was of liquid pumpkin pie, all the flavors were there with maybe cinnamon being the powerhouse, just a bit of hoppy bitterness at the end. This was a wonderful drink. The beer warmed as I sipped this beer, the flavors only intensifying with the warmth. I rather enjoyed the experience here. This is what the folks over at BA had to say.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saint Arnold's Octoberfest

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to try the Sam Adam's Octoberfest beer and rather enjoyed it. However I was very excited when Houston's own Saint Arnolds released their version this week. I have gone over the style of beer in an earlier post.
The Brewery: Saint Arnold's is located on the north west side of Houston. I love this brewery and have made many a travel up on a Saturday for their tastings. The brewery was started by Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol on June 8, 1994. This is a small operation of 17 people and having talked to many of the employees including Brock its more of a family and not a business relationship. Brock began as a homebrewer, his day job being a financial analyst in downtown Houston. After realizing he would rather make beer than work in finances he worked with Mr. Bartol to create Saint Arnold's the patron Saint of Beer. Mr. Bartol is no longer involved in Saint Arnold's (nope nothing sinister). All of Saint Arnold's beers are not pasturized creating beers of greater depth, taste and complexity.
The Beer: It pours a nice dark amber with an inch or so of light tan head. The head dissipates into a thin line with ample lacing. On the nose, malt is the highlight, plenty of caramel and roasted flavors with just a hint of floral hoppy bitterness. The mouthfeel is heavy, smooth malty sweetness more of that caramel and roastyness with some underlying toffee flavors coming out. The sweetness is noticeable but not cloying. A bit of bitterness at the end. Nice carbonation in the beer. As the beer warms up it develops a little bit of spicy undertones adding some nice complexity to the beer. Very nice beer, I'd grade it above the Sam Adams version. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Independence Pale Ale

In my efforts to try and taste more local Texas beer I picked this up at the Central Market in downtown Houston.
The Brewery: The little brewery located in Austin Texas is owned and operated by Rob Cartwright. Rob got his start home brewing in his native Canada due to the incredibly high beer taxes. He came to Austin to attend the University of Texas and in an effort to save money he brewed his own beer. However as any college student knows he needed to earn money so he started brewing at the Copper Tank a nice brew pub. After working at the brewpub for a couple of years Rob realized he wanted to create his own style, his own beer. Independence Brewery is the culmination of his dreams.
The Beer: The beer pours the typical pale ale color, an orangish brown. There is almost no head in this beer and minimal lacing. There is a nice amount of hoppy bitterness in the nose, but in the mouth it seems to have disappeared and it not nearly as apparent. Limited malt notes in the beer and the mouthfeel was somewhat watery. I'd rate this beer a disappointment. Heres what the folks at BA had to say.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shipyard Pumpkin Head Ale

As I mentioned in my previous post on Fall Beers, Pumpkin spiced ales are some of my favorite. They have such a unique blend of spices, malt, and hops to create an incredible experience. This weekend I picked up my first six pack of the season. This from Shipyard Ale.
The Brewery: Shipyard Brewery is the largest brewery in Maine, based out of Portland. The brewery began in 1992 by master brewer Alan Pugsley and businessman Fred Forsley as Federal Jack's Restaurant and Brew Pub in Kennebruk Maine. Eventually demand outgrew the location and Shipyard was set up as an independent operation in April of 1994. As stated above it is the largest brewery in Maine and last year shipped over 770,000 cases to over 30 states. This is not a Microbrewery anymore, but it is a top notch Craft Brewery.
The beer: It pours a bright orange in the glass with a quarter inch head that quickly dissipates into a thin line with some (not much) lacing. The nose is full of pumpkin pie spices, hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and of course pumpkin. The mouth is much of the same. This is liquid pumpkin pie, exactly what I was hoping for, which just a bit of hoppy bitterness on the aftertaste. I do have some minor complaints as the mouthfeel is not as thick as I would have liked, its almost a little watery feeling, but still a pretty good beer. It seems that most of the folks at BA didn't enjoy it much.

Oktoberfest and Fall Brews

This time of the year is one of my favorites. Leaving August behind and welcoming in September brings a good many things to the table. The tease of cooler weather, the beginning of the end of Hurricane Season, fall fruits and vegetables begin showing up at the markets, things like butternut squash, apples, sweet potatoes and of course pumpkin. This time also brings us some of my favorite style of beers. These beers can be broken down into two main categories: Traditioal Oktoberfest Beers, and American Fall beers, two very distinct styles, but both incredibly enjoyable.
Oktoberfest beers are the traditional style of beers that were at one time brewed for the Oktoberfest in Munich that takes place in late September. The tradition harks back to around 1841 when a Viennese brewer created a high malt beer. This beer was the basis of Gabriel Sedlmayr's (he of Spaten Brewery in Munich) beer that he named Marzen (or March). These traditionally strong beers were made in March, then stored in ice filled caves until the next fall. Marzen style beers became linked to Oktoberfest and some beers still call there brews Oktoberfest Marzen (think Spaten's version).
American Style fall beers are either the above Marzen style ales or what I call Spicy ales. In my experience these beers use fall spices, (think nutmeg, cinnamon, etc) to create a unique experience. My favorite of these are the Pumpkin ales that many a Craft brewer makes.
Over the next few weeks I will be tasting and reporting on as many of these beers as I can get my hand on.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Abita Update

I found a good article today in the Fort Worth Star Telegram about the Louisiana Brewery Abita. Abita is located across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Like most places in that area Abita suffered mightily from Katrina, and while its been a struggle, they are doing pretty well, in fact their production will increase this year, from 52,000 barrels to 60, 000. Not to shabby for this small brewery in Abita Springs. I have a special place in my heart for Abita. As a college student in Louisiana it was Abita's Turbodog and Purple Haze that got me away from the Miller and Bud that I had been drinking. This was my introduction to good beer, and it was quite an introduction. The dark smoky liquid that is Turbodog shocked me with my first sip, I didn't realize that beer could have this coffee flavor, honestly, at first I wasn't even sure I liked it...till that second and third sip. Then I had their Purple haze and that about jolted me out of my shoes. The taste of wheat and the vibrant electricity of the raspberries, I wasn't sure what to think, but I knew I had to try more. This was my introduction to good craft beer, and what an introduction it was. Abita has been around for 20 years now and it has released a very nice 20th Anniversary Pilsner, I haven't had it yet, but it will be around till the end of the year, so I have some time to pick it up.
The sad part of this article is the demise of another local New Orleans Brewery Dixie Brewing. While not a huge fan of their ubiquitous Dixie Brew which is basically no different than any other old school regional pilsner (think Pabst), their Blackened Voodoo beer was enough to get anyone's attention and it will be sad day if this is the last we have seen of it.