Monday, December 31, 2007

Oak Aged Beers

A couple of days ago while I was in Denver, I picked up the most recent copy of Draft Magazine with Food Network's Dave Lieberman on the cover and I wanted to make a few brief comments on the magazine before getting to the main point of the post. While there have been many mixed reviews on the magazine (including those from me) I think this was its most solid effort. A sign of a good new magazine is that it steadily improves, and Draft over the course of its first year has done that. Its articles are more beer-centric, it always touts beer and food pairings (this edition more than any other), it has a pretty good layout, and a good balance between articles and ads (while other mag's seem to have twice as many ad pages as articles). Draft also has a strong lineup of contributors including Charlie Papazian, Stan Hieronymus, Rick Lyke, and Don Russell that give the magazine a good depth of knowledge. However you feel about Draft though, there is no denying that right now is a great time to enjoy beer magazine's with the re-tooled All About Beer, the Beer Advocate's Mag and Draft, and I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.
Now on to the main point of this post, oak aged beers. Within the aforementioned new Draft is a great article by Mr. Hieronymus covering Oak Aged Beers. The article inspired me to post my thoughts on two such beers that I was able to enjoy during my time in Denver.

2006 Old Curmudgeon: This beer comes from the Englewood, CO branch of the brew pub chain Rock Bottom Brewery. Although its part of a chain pub each restaurant has an independent brew master. There are some standards that the chains have to have, but other than that they are left to their own imaginations. At this particular Rock Bottom, the brewmaster is Rick Abitbol from Germany, and he's also a pretty honored brewer based on the awards that he has won. This particular beer is one of those that has won awards. The beer is the 2006 Barley Wine aged in oak whiskey barrels for 12 months. The beer pours a cloudy brown with a nice head, smelling of oak, raisins, a bit of alcohol and sweet caramel-y malts. The mouth is malt-y, raisins, prunes, thick and chewy, a bit of alcohol, some honey and lychee even. A very rich beer, that was great to have in very cold Denver. This one gets an A- from me.

Flying Dog Wild Dog Barrel Aged Horn Dog: This beer I picked up during my recent visit to Flying Dog. Horn Dog is their Barley Wine that is also part of the Canis Major Series. They took that beer and aged it for 13 months in Stranahan's Whiskey Barrel's. No word on whether or not this will be a regular beer of if this was just a one time experiment. The beer weighs in at 10% and pours a dark brown. There is no head and no carbonation. The nose is whiskey, vanilla, and oak. The mouth is smooth, thick due to the lack of carbonation, rich vanilla, oak, caramel, and a bit of alcohol burn. This beer tastes like a malt bomb if I've ever had one, its thick, bready, yeasty. The prominent flavor for me is the whiskey, in fact with the little carbonation its almost more whiskey like than beer. I could sip on this for hours upon hours though. Its quite amazing, quite complex. As you can tell I really enjoyed this, my one complaint is the lack of head and any carbonation. If Flying dog could get that little bit of additional creaminess I think it would put it over the top. I really hope that the folks at Flying Dog continue with this experiment (I just hope I can get my hands on a bottle since I probably won't be up at the new brewery in MD). This one gets a solid A from me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

More on Flying Dog

Well, my Christmas vacation to Denver is over and I'm back in good ole Houston. I have a few things to write about that occurred during my stay but I first wanted to touch on some additional news I've recieved from Flying Dog. Josh Mishell over at Flying Dog sent me a press release covering the two new beers that I mentioned in my previous post. As a recap, Flying Dog is creating two new beers for next year. The first is an addition to their Canis Major line up and is a Belgium Tripel named Cerberus, the second is their Spring seasonal a Bierre De Garde named Garde Dog. In the press release they sent out the new labels, still done by British artist Ralph Steadman. You can see the labels below. They look pretty cool, and I can't wait to try the new beers. The other cool news is that they will be releasing two new mixed packs of their Canis Major (Gonzo Porter, Horn Dog, Double Dog and the New Cerberus). The first will be a four pack of each of the beers, the second will be an eight pack of 7 oz bottles, so the consumer will have two short bottles of each. A pretty unique idea and a way to try some of these higher aclohol beers without drinking a full 12 oz.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Trip to Flying Dog

Last week I posted about the recent news of Flying Dog Brewery moving from downtown Denver to Frederick, MD. Since I'm in Denver for Christmas I figured this week would be perfect to make a special trip to the brewery for a tour, a tasting, and hopefully to talk to some of the fine folks there. Well I must say I couldn't be happier with my trip there. All three things happened and it ended up being great time. I spent quite a bit of time speaking with Josh Mishell and Neil Stewart at Flying dog, and had a long conversation with both. None if it was an official interview or anything so I won't get into direct quotes just some interesting news bits based on my discussions with him and others at the brewery.
Flying dog has brewed the last beer in the Denver Brewery, however, they have one more bottling run in January then everything will be moved to MD. Currently the brew tanks are holding the distillers wash for next doors Stranahan's Whiskey. After Stranahan uses up this wash, they will be contracting to another craft brewer to help out in their whiskey making (who this will be is still to be determined). Flying Dog will not be keeping open the tasting room in Denver as its not economically feasible to use that space solely for tasting, however they may work with next door's Blake Street Tavern (whom they already have a relationship with) for some tasting events. One of the big questions I had was why were they heading out East in the first place. It was explained to me that Flying Dog had been doing some contract brewing in the past (Spanish Peaks most notably) however those opportunities have started to dry up and many contracts are trying to go to other brewers for less money. After this Flying Dog looked to expand operations and since they couldn't do that in the facility they were at they initially looked at contracting their beer out east in the Frederick facility. This would allow them to expand their distribution across the US. However after a time the brewery came up for sale for a reasonable amount of money and the folks at Flying dog jumped at the opportunity. This led them to operating two facilities, one in Denver, one in Frederick. This was never good economically, and with the increase in prices for raw materials it became even more difficult to pay lease on the Denver building when it was only making 30% of the product. With that they made the difficult decision to move all operations to Frederick starting January of next year. They are offering all current employees relocation packages, and those that don't accept will be getting severance packages. Its nice to see them take such good care of their employees. While I'm disappointed that they are leaving Denver, the reasons why make sense to me.
In other interesting news I did find out that Flying Dog will be releasing two new beers next year, one will be there Spring Release and it will be a Bierre de Garde, the second will be a Trippel.
Lastly I was able to pick up 3 really amazing beers one of which I will be using as my Sessions Tasting, the other two I'll be writing up when I can. Special thanks to Josh and Neil for being so nice to me and my wife during our visit.
Thanks again to all the rest of the folks at Flying Dog and good luck to you all in MD.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 Anchor 'Our Special Ale'

In the recent Session hosted by yours truly there was one beer that was repeatedly written on. From the great taste to the passion that many felt for this particular beer, the amount of writings was amazing. Here is a seasonal beer that's been made every year sine 1975 I believe, every year the recipe is different, every year the label depicts a different tree. I had seen it before of course, who hasn't? I knew I had to buy some and try it for myself, was it really that good?
The answer of course is yes.
The Beer: The beer pours a deep dark cloudy brown capped by an 1/8 inch thick taupe head. The head disappears but there is plenty of lacing left behind. The nose is full of licorice, the smell of an evergreen forest, prunes, maltiness, and some floral hops. The mouth is the same. Its a mouthful of licorice, prunes and plums, cocoa, malts, piney hops, and a spruce-y taste. Quite frankly this beer is amazing, the amount of flavors that are floating all though this beer is incredible. I'm glad I bought multiple bottles since some will be held to age. This ones an easy A. Over at BA 99% of the folks are in favor of it.

Well that's my last post of the year, well at least from Texas. I head to Denver for the holiday's where I am sure that I'll be sampling some local beer. I'm also heading to Flying Dog Brewery on Friday so I'll post my thoughts on that visit as well.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy Holidays.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Hop Shortage Impacts Local Brewery

Unless you've been living under a rock you've heard about the current hop shortage. There is even a brief mention in the MSNBC article I posted this weekend. Many breweries have already let folks know that beer prices were going to rise because of this. As brewers pay more for hops that impacts the market driving up the price of the six pack you buy in your grocery store. As lovers of craft beer most of us are used to paying more for our favorite beer, and frankly that's OK. I don't usually mind paying a bit more for something that's well crafted, whether it be a nice watch, a nice article of clothing or beer. Well crafted things tend to cost more, they are usually more labor intensive and they are made with finer ingredients.
I know that was a bit of a tangent so let me get back track. Beyond the hike in pricing the other impact to the hop shortage is changes in a beer's recipe. Certain hops are getting harder to find so a brewery may substitute Cascade Hops for Warrior hops or Amarillo hops. This is how local Houston Brewery Saint Arnold's is dealing with the hop issue. In this weeks Newsletter SA reports that although they have secured plenty of hops and malt for this year, they didn't necessarily always get the hops they wanted. For 2008 they will be using Columbus Hops instead of Cascade for bittering in the Amber and Elissa IPA (although as they state there will be plenty of Cascade hops in Elissa in late additions). They promise that the change is for this year only and they will revert to the original recipe next year. Time will tell if anyone can detect the difference.

One more piece of Saint Arnold's related news. They reported in the newsletter that their sales are up 30% for this year. That growth is absolutely astounding. Congratulations is well deserved to Brock and the gang.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

News Bits and Beer Quick Hits

I've found quite a bit of news this week in the wonderful world of beer, however instead of posting a few wordy entry's I'm taking the cheap way out and just posting one short entry on a few different news bits.

- First comes news from the Flying Dog Brewery out of Denver that they are moving to Maryland. A while back they bought out Wild Goose Brewery in Frederick, MD and began brewing a portion of their output at that facility. Well over time that output has grown to be 70% of production. With that increase in production and the fact that their current place was not conducive to expansion they have made the decision to move in January. That means the brewery in Denver will be closing down however their administrative duties will still be done out of Denver and won't be making the move. I have a couple of questions regarding this move: Will the tasting room still be open? What will happen to Stranahan's Whiskey next door? They use Flying Dog malt so I wonder how they will continue. The good news is that I am heading to Denver this week to spend Christmas with my wife's family, and I'm working on arranging a tour of Flying Dog, so hopefully I'll be able to find out the answers.

- Second bit of news is this article from MSNBC on the growth of craft brewing. The basis of the story is that craft breweries are starting to be run like a real life business. Instead of just throwing things together they have business plans and such. This organization is one of the many things that is helping craft beer increase their growth potential while the macro brewers are scrambling and seeing their sales drop. While Craft beer only takes up about 7% of the market in the last 52 weeks it has seen a growth (in term of dollar sales) of 17.2% according to this story. Thats pretty impressive. The good news is that as small breweries get smarter with their business structure they become more stable which leaves to longevity (hopefully).

- Lastly is the announcement of The Session #11. The monthly virtual beer tasting is being hosted by Brewvana, the theme is Dopplebock's. Hmmm, I love doppelbock's, especially in the cold weather. This will be a fun one to be sure. Maybe I'll even find something interesting in Denver. The session will be held on the 4th of January.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quick Hits: A Beer Writer's last Column

Those of you who are regular readers (I think there are some out there) know that I am a weekly reader of the Fort Worth's Star Telegram's Barry Schlacter. He writes two columns alternating between a beer tasting and then his 'Beer Sphere' where he writes on various beer related topics. For example this week's article is on books to buy the beer lover for Christmas. Its been nice to see a main stream newspaper in Texas writing not only about craft beer, but promoting Texas Beers as well. As far as I know he is the only regular contributor to a Texas Newspaper writing about beer. Unfortunately the column mentioned above is his last. Mr. Schlacter reports that due to budget cuts his column (and the weekly wine column) have been cut from the paper. If you appreciate well written beer articles and think that main stream papers should be writing about Craft Beer more, not less, then you're probably ticked off. If you are then you can do what I did and write some of the folks below and let them know:

Executive Editor, Jim Witt at jwitt@star-telegram
Features Editor, Catherine Mallette at
Reader’s advocate, David House,

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Session #10: The Roundup

I sure never realized how much fun hosting a session would be. Its been a blast! We 30 entries from 15 states and 5 different countries. I know that I learned a lot about winter beers, and its given me an even longer list of beers that I want to try.
With that let's get to the entries:

The early bird winner is fellow Houston blogger The Dude. Going local as I did, he chose the very well made Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale. He also made what sounds like a very good Christmas turkey and sausage Gumbo using the brew. Good job!

Stan over at Appellation Beer writes about Colorado's Great Divide Hibernation Ale, a strong Winter Warmer. Stan's idea of a pairing, is the beer, a nice big fire and a plate of cheese. Sounds like a great time.

Rick Lyke of Lyke2Drink posts his thoughts on 6 different holiday/winter beer. Going above and beyond each beer is paired with different foods (or paired with a family gathering, but sometimes that's just as good). Maybe one could make a tasting menu out of this?

Rick Sellers of Pacific Brew News takes us through a list of beers trying to find that one that says 'Christmas' to him. Which did he choose? Anchor Merry Christmas Ale, not a bad choice.

The Beer Nut over in Ireland again tries to find that perfect winter beer. It seems like he has some great choices.

The Barley Blog takes an interesting twist. He has some great winter beers alright, but not from this season, they are ones that he's been cellaring since last season. He chose the session to take a few out of the cellar for a taste and see how his cellaring performed. Sounds like it did pretty well.

Jason over at the brewbasement takes up the cellaring theme as well. This time its comparing this year's version to a past one. Sierra Nevada 2004 vs. 2007. Interesting results to be sure.

Relatively new beer blogger and fellow Texan Josh over at kegs and kitchen participates in his first Session. For this post he posts on two very different beers.

Stephen Beaumont has his post over at Thats The spirit, where he takes us on a journey of 5 different winter beers.

David takes treats us to the Twelve beers of Winter from Matt's brewing out of Utica, NY. Granted its not 12 different beers, only 6, but quite a filling post.

London's own Stonch treats us to two different beers, one of them on cask.

Another Dave, this time posting on Sierra Nevada Celebration and how that beer signals the beginning of the Season.

Captain Hops rewards us all with not 1, but 3 Beer Haiku's on Winter Beers.

Greg Clow's been so busy that he couldn't write up a separate post on winter beers, but instead guides us to an article that he wrote for the Taste of TO. The article's good so make sure to check it out.

Wilson, experiencing a much colder winter that down here in Texas (3 inches of snow and I'm jealous), treats us to two different Winter Seasonal beers, one from Goose Island, the other from Boulevard Brewing.

Buttle writes us from New York about a Winter Seasonal from his local brew pub. Its his first Session and he gets kudos from me for selecting and promoting something local.

Tom over at the brew site has started a Beer Advent Calendar where he posts on a different beer on each day of advent. Great idea, wish I had thought of it. He rolls that theme into this months Session, selecting Wild Goose's Snow Goose Winter Ale.

Christina joins us for her first Session and starts off with a bang, giving us a post with 6 different beers.

Shawn over at posts on a local beer Schafly's Christmas ale. He thinks this beer would do just fine with a desert like ginger spice cake drizzled with white chocolate shavings or even a something savory like spiced ham.

Over at Boak and Bailey they pontificate on what it means to be a Christmas ale. Noting that its different if your asking the question in the UK, Belgium or Germany.

Tim of the Soux city Journal joins us and feels so bad that he couldn't participate in last months session he offers a two-fer.

Josh of Flying Dog Brewery and posts on a Do it yourself beer dinner, focused on Seasonal beers. He write specifically on Flying Dog's K-9 and what food will go with it. But this post is much more than that, its where to go for ideas to host your own beer dinner. A great site and one that I might devote an entire separate post to.

Alan from a Good Beer Blog finds a good choice from Western Canada, Faceplant Winter Ale from Nelson Brewing in BC.

Keith doesn't just write about any Winter Warmer, he writes about his. A home brewer, Keith discusses how he made his version of a Winter Warmer, which is based on Houston's own Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale.

Josh from Humps brewing posts his thoughts on some home brewed winter seasonals and those that are commercially available as well.

Snekse over at Gastronimic Fight club takes us through the Sam Adams Winter Seasonal Pack (along with A-B's Winter's Bourbon cask Ale). Having tried most of the Sam Adam's selection I can appreciate the write up.

Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur writes up on their newest Christmas Ale Gift of the Magi. Its also more as he gives some insight into his thoughts on the season. He also makes sure to get the food and beer pairing with his mention of the cheese plates served with his two Christmas ales. One of these day's I'll make it to his brewery dang it!

J over at the Brookston Bulletin writes his thoughts on the Christmas seasonal beer. His post is also yet another one on the wonders that is Anchor's Christmas ale - or Our special ale(and I have to agree).

Kieran initially thought that this session would be difficult for him. Seeing as he is from Australia (I meant New Zealand , my sincerest apologies Kieran), and its not Winter there, how does one get into the 'Winter Beer' spirit? You do what he did and make one!

Craig over at Beers Beers Beers is our last entry (so far). His is another posting on a great selection of Winter Beers, TEN in fact!

Well that seems to be about it for this month's Session. As I mentioned this was a lot of fun and I hope to have the pleasure of hosting again sometime. Stay tuned as I'm sure that next month's theme will be announced any day now. Till next time.

UPDATE: We had one additional entry that I overlooked in all the emails.
This one from Steve at Summer of Beers, who in Southern California finds the weather as Winter-y as I do. His post is on the Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza, an oak aged Belgian Dark ale.

That makes it 31 posts for this Session.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Session: Winter Beers

Finally, December 7th has arrived! The first Friday of the month means its Session time and I'm your lucky host. The theme this month is Winter Beers. I think I'm pretty lucky in that there are quite a few local Texas breweries that make good solid winter seasonal beers. With the goal of staying local my first instinct was to go Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale, a beer that I have reviewed a couple of times on this site. However I wanted something a little different so I kept searching. My next choice was for Rahr and Sons Winter Warmer, however I never found any down in Houston. Finally I went to my local Central Market for some inspiration. I spoke to the Beer Man there Caesar and he new just what I should get: Real Ale Sisyphus Barleywine Ale 2007, so that's what I did. The second optional part of the theme was to pair beer with wine or use it in a beer inspired recipe. While Barleywines aren't traditionally used in cooking, they are used in food pairings, one food in particular: cheese, big blue cheese at that. Again I searched for local foods, and found a really nice blue cheese from Pure Luck and their Hopelessly Blue Cheese. Now I had all of my ingredients, its time for write up!
The Beer: Using a sifter shaped glass, the beer pours a cloudy brown with a thin head. The beer weighs in between 10 and 11% abv. The nose is white grapes, sweet malt a bit of floral hoppiness. The hops show up in the taste, but its very well balanced with the malts. This is not an overly hoppy Barleywine say in the style of Avery Hog's Heaven. You get more toasted malts, even a little sweet caramel, a tinge of alcohol as it drips down your throat, more white grapes and a bit of honeyness all with out being cloying. Very smooth barleywine, one that I could sip on all night long. This one is an A- in my book. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.
The Cheese: This is a pretty mild blue cheese, very creamy, with just a little bit of that blue funk that I like in this style of cheese.
The Paring: When the cheese is eaten with the beer the 'funk' as I call it explodes over the tongue really accentuating the flavors. The honeyness and maltiness really brings out the gorgeous flavors of this cheese. Great paring I think.

Well that about does it for my Session Entry, next up of course is posting a round up. I've already received quite a few entries, but if you have sent me yours you can post a link to this post with your entry or email me at I plan on posting a round up no later than Sunday. Hopefully that will catch any stragglers.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Music and Beer: A follow up

In a perfect example of 'I wish I had this piece of news last month' I came across some pretty interesting news recently. The follow up bit is a reference to last months Session Theme of Beer and Music. While Houston has a rich music history and actually has quite a few good music venues it is lacking in independent music shops. If one wanted to peruse a local music shop full of not only CD's but vinyl records as well, you headed to the great Cactus Music on W. Alabama and Shephard. You could also get local music acts promoting their CD releases, all in all it was a great place. Sadly Cactus closed last year leaving a gaping hole in the Houston Music scene.
However in wonderful news Cactus is BACK! A new location just a bit down the road from the original (2110 Portsmouth St. in Shepherd Plaza). And who do we thank for bringing Cactus back? Brock Wagner, owner of Houston's own Saint Arnold's. Along with some other fine folks Brock has invested in Cactus and has worked to bring it back. All the investors are local and they have helped bring back a local institution. In this era of local institutions falling by the way side in favor of global corporations its nice to see folks getting together and putting their money where there mouth is, doing something wonderful for the local community. Kudos to all. Having been there a few times already since their opening its a great space, with plenty of CD's, Vinyl and some really great art work. In Saint Arnold's most recent newsletter, they promise good musical acts, along with great refreshments. If that doesn't symbolize music and beer I don't know what does.

Reminder for The Session

Just a friendly reminder that this Friday is the latest Session. The theme this month is Winter Beers, the rules are as follows:
  • Pick any Winter Seasonal beer you want. Or a sampler if you’d like (think the Sam Adam’s seasonal pack).
  • If you select a single beer, let us know why you choose this beer.
  • Extra credit for paring your winter seasonal beer with a winter meal, or better yet a recipe based on the beer of your choice.
  • Post your contribution to The Session on Friday December 7th. Send me the links to your post and a few short days later I'll post a round up of every one's contributions.
This month should be fun as the temperature cools I find myself more and more reaching for a winter beer. Once you've posted your write-up you can just send me an email with a link to the post:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tommy Knocker Cocoa Porter

This past weekend found me at one of my all time favorite beer places. While not necessarily local (it is a chain) Flying Saucer has one of the best beer selections around, bar none. Usually when I head into my local Saucer my eyes are immediately drawn to the chalk board above the bar, here is where you find what's just landed, whats new on tap and in the bottle. This time was no different, and my eyes were immediately drawn to Tommy Knocker's Cocoa Porter in the bottle. I had heard about this beer and was eager to try it. No sooner had a sat down and ordered one than my friendly waitress set one before me poured into a pint glass.
The Brewery: Tommy Knocker is not only a brewery but a pub in Idaho Springs, CO. I actually went there, well before I had delved deep into craft beer so its a place I want to visit again. They've been around for about 10 years, and while some of the beers can be run of the mill, they do make some interesting fair, chief among them their Maple Nut brown, a brown ale made with maple syrup. In fact they've just released an Imperial version that I'm dying to try but alas I don't think it will make its way to Texas.
The Beer: The Cocoa Porter is a winter warmer made with real ground cocoa. The beer pours an almost opaque with a thin barely visible toffee colored head. The nose is full of cocoa, honey, roasted malts. The mouth is creamy chocolatey, slightly sweet and incredibly smooth. It has a sense of Swiss Miss cocoa mix, and trust me this is a good thing. Its quite amazing in its cocoa-ness. The hop profile is pretty low as this is a creamy malty beer. I thoroughly enjoyed this beer as the only negative I could find was its utter lack of head. I think that would have made the beer even creamier. That withstanding I found this beer to be outstanding, its a strong B+ in my book. While a quite a lot of folks at BA didn't like it, I think they missed the point. This is not a serious Porter or stout, this is drinking hot cocoa by the fire. I believe this is what TK wanted to do, and if it is, its a success.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Santa Fe Chicken Killer

One of my favorite style of beers to have during the Holiday season is barley wine. Its actually one of my favorite style periods, but I sometimes have a hard time finding a really good one, some are either overtly hoppy or just completely unbalanced in another way. Therefore I'm always out searching for more, so imagine my excitement when at my local Central Market I see Santa Fe's barley wine Chicken killer staring back at me on the shelves.
The Brewery: As you would think this brewery is based in Santa Fe, and is New Mexico's oldest mirco-brewery, they distribute to only nearby states. They started brewing beer in 1988 using the former Boulder Brewing Companies equipment. In addition to the brewery they have a tap room and a pub right next to the brewery. While I've never had any of there other beers, Central Market does carry their pale ale and nut brown ale. After tasting this beer I may have to try them.
The Beer: This Chicken Killer weighs in at a robust 10% abv, pours a hazy cloudy amber with a quarter inch off white head. The head dissipates quickly but it leaves plenty of lacing on the glass. The nose is full of toasted malts, rich and complex, raisins and concentrated fruits. The mouth is full of pale toasted malts, raisins, with a lower hop profile than some. Extremely smooth, with little of the alcohol showing up. Caramel malts show up as the beer warms as does something that I could only compare to brown sugar, it wasn't but it had that same taste. Very good beer, one that I could drink all night next to a fire. In fact I did sip on it for a good forty-five minutes and it only got better. This one is a strong A-. A beer that 100% of the folks at BA enjoy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Collection of Christmas Beers from Ridgeway Brewing

In my effort to try as many new and different Christmas beers as possible I like trying to find sampler packs from brewery's. So imagine my delight when at my local Spec's I see a collection of four Christmas beers from Ridgeway Brewing. I posted about Ridgeway's elfish beers recently, but this collection was a different sort.
Santa's Butt Porter: This is the beer that got Ridgeway into all sorts of trouble as people thought that if children saw Santa on a beer they would rush to drink it. For a while it was even banned in certain states. Alas not Texas thankfully. This is a Winter Porter and weighs in at 6% abv. It pours a pitch black with a nice tan head, a nose full of raisins and roasted malts. The mouth full of bitter chocolate, coco powder, raisins and a bit of burnt coffee. Very good, smooth aftertaste and highly drinkable, I'll give it a B+. 90% of the folks at BA give it the old thumbs up.
Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale: Yet another offering with ole Santa on the label. Again this one weighs in at a mild 6&. It pours a golden amber color, which was definitely not as dark as I expected. Nice white head, malty and yeasty on the nose. The mouth was light, fruity with an underlying nuttiness, mild hops and smooth. Not as good as the previous and I'd give it a B-. Over at BA you still see 90% of the folks like it.
Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout: I love stouts so I was excited to see this one in the collection. It weighs in at a heftier 8%. Dark, very dark, with a small head on it that quickly dissipates. The nose is rich and chocolatey, with roasted malts, espresso, burnt coffee. The mouth is creamy, with very little alcohol and those same notes of espresso and burnt coffee. There is definitely that sense of chocolate covered espresso beans that I like so much in certain stouts. Very nice, this one gets an A- from me, however only 84% of the folks at BA give it the thumbs up.
Reindeer Revolt English Christmas Ale: The last of the bunch and boy was I sorry to see them go. This beer weighs in at 6% abv. It pours a golden amber with a quarter inch head. Hoppy, pale malts float on the nose. The mouth is almost buttery, with some earthy hoppy flavors, minerally maybe. Again a very smooth very drinkable beer. This one gets a B from me. Still waiting for enough folks at BA to weigh in on this one for the final outcome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Update on Southern Star Brewing

I wrote about the Texas's newest brewery Souther Star Brewing out of Conroe, Texas a few months ago. Since that time, the brewery has made a couple of announcements:
The first is that they announced their first beer is Pine Belt Pale, and American Pale Ale. The bigger news is that it's going to be packaged in cans! Now I really like this idea. There is definitely not enough craft brewers packaging in this manor, in fact the only one that comes to mind is Oskar Blues out of Colorado.
They've also announced that their second beer will be a Dortmunder Style Lager, but will be available only in draft in select locations. Hopefully I'll be able to go over to Gingerman's or Houston's Flying Saucer to have a taste. So far I really like what this new brewery is doing. I can't wait to taste their beers. Be sure that as soon as I do, I'll post my thoughts on Texas's newest brewery.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sam Adams Winter Lager

In my search for the perfect beer I reached out for something widely available. A beer that one can find on most any grocery store shelf. Sam Adams Winter Lager, their regular seasonal beer, is also part of their winter seasonal variety pack.
The Beer: The beer wrapped in a wintery looking blue label, pours a nice deep dark brown with streaks of red and capped off by a huge frothy white head. Note that I used a chalice shaped glass instead of a pint glass. The beer was malty with notes of cinamon and hints of floral hops. The mouth is rich and chewy, roasty malty flavors, with notes of caramel, cinamon, and the slight astringency of hops. I really enjoyed this beer, probably my favorite seasonal from Sam Adams. I'll give it a B+. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A couple of no good Very Criminally Bad Elves

I guess you could call it practice, or prepping, either way its fun. The topic for this month's Session is of course Winter Beer, so what better way to uhm, practice, then go out and try as many different winter beers as possible in prep for December 7th? I've been going out scouring the local beer stores for unique winter beer's so imagine my excitement when I saw two very special beers that I had heard so much about. What am I talking about? Shelton Brother's Very Bad Elf, and Criminally Bad Elf beers.
The Brewery: Shelton Bros. is not actually a brewery, they are importers based out of Massachusetts. They import from all over the world, importing from breweries that brew in small batches, and beer that is unpasteurized, and unfiltered. They are all craft beers. The imports come from Belgium, England, Scotland and even Brazil. These two are from England's Ridgeway Brewery, and they are pretty famous for their unique and controversial Christmas beers, most notably Santa's Butt.
Very Bad Elf: The beer is a Special Reserve ale that weighs in at 7.5%, and made with a unique malt and Fuggle hops. The beer pours a pale amber with about a quarter inch head. The nose is full of pale malts, spice, earthy hops. The mouth is toasty, smooth, spicey with a bit of bitterness. It has an unusual aftertaste that I just couldn't place. A solid beer that kept me guessing and attempting to decipher what that taste was. I'll give it a B. Here's what the folks over at BA have to say.
Criminally Bad Elf: This one is a Barleywine and weighs in at 10.5%. This is a bomb of a beer, pouring a pale golden with a quarter inch head. Floural hops, earthy, pale malts all on the nose. The mouth is syrupy, spicey, concentrated white grapeyness. Honey, and a bit of hops round out the taste. Much maltier than most American Barleywines which is exactly what I want. I really enjoyed this beer, I'd give it an A-. The folks over at BA don't necessarily agree as only 88% of the folks give it a thumbs up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quick Hits: Beer and Food

Just a quick post on some interesting happenings in the beer and food department.
The first comes from Houston's own Saint Arnold's and involves a new event that they are hosting.
On January 27th, Saint Arnold's will host the first annual One Pot Showdown. The basis of the competition is that everyone is invited to cook a dish, cooked in one pot (think stew, gumbo, soup, etc), and using a Saint Arnold's beer. The top three will receive a prize:
1st place: $500 and a super neat trophy
2nd place: $200 and a neat, but not as super trophy
3rd place: $50 and some other wacky prize
Now how cool is that?
The second cool thing is that the Brewers Association is hosting Savor: an American Craft Beer and Food Experience on May 16-17 in Washington D.C. The goal of this event is to show how well great beer goes with good food. Stan over at Appellation Beer posted about this, and posted the following on how the event will work:

Tickets for each of the three sessions (May 16-17) are limited to the first 700 ticket purchasers. The $85 ticket includes a commemorative tasting glass, souvenir program and Craft Beer Taster’s Commemorative Journal, fabulous food and craft beer pairings, seminars, and 2- ounce samples of specially selected craft beer.”

48 breweries from eight regions will participate.

I know I've said it once already, but how cool is that! It's a great thing that events are being held promoting how well craft beer goes with food. Not only on the local scale but the national scale as well.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Session #10: Let it snow ,let it snow, Winter Seasonal Beers

This month I have the pleasure of being the host of The Session. For the unitiated, the Session is a monthly virtual beer tasting. Hosted by a different blogger each month, and each month has a different theme chose by the host. Sometimes its more difficult than you think to come up with a theme. I’ve known for quite some time that I was going to be host for this month and I’ve been going back and forth on what this month’s theme should be. Then something happened. The weather became cooler, local markets started putting out their winter vegetables, local restaurants started coming out with their winter menu’s and of course one started to see winter seasonal beers on the shelf. From a food and beer perspective I love this time of the year. The food’s are rich, flavorful, robust if you will. The beer’s are the same way. Winter seasonal’s are usually rich, and darker, but they don't always fit one style. They can be spiced ales, like the Wassail Style, the English style Winter Warmer is usually more malty, with a less hop profile, then there are ales that breweries release as a Winter Seasonal, like Saint Arnold's Winter Stout. All of these beers are made to go with the rich, body warming food of the season. The next thing that kept me in the direction I’m headed was drinking the few seasonal beers that I posted about this week. I think that sealed the deal.

Now that we're finished with the background the theme for this month is Winter Seasonal Beers. This can be any style you want as long as it’s a Winter Seasonal. Don’t limit yourself to just the big heavy beers as so many breweries put out so many different styles there something for everyone. With that, here are the rules:

  • Pick any Winter Seasonal beer you want. Or a sampler if you’d like (think the Sam Adam’s one I picked up earlier this week).
  • If you select a single beer, let us know why you choose this beer.
  • Extra credit for paring your winter seasonal beer with a winter meal, or better yet a recipe based on the beer of your choice.
  • Post your contribution to The Session on Friday December 7th. Send me the links to your post and a few short days later I'll post a round up of everyone's contributions.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

Now that I'm getting into the winter beers, I picked up the Sam Adams Winter Pack. This is variety pack of 12 bottles containing two each of Sam Adam's Holiday Porter, Boston Ale, Cream Stout, Cranberry Lambic, Winter Lager, and Old Fezziwig, named for a Dicken's character.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 5.9%, pours a nice rich brown with a thin white head. Sweet rich malty, caramel-y on the nose along with hints of chocolate and raisins. The mouth has the same rich flavors. Not sweet, but malty and smooth. A bit of the ginger and cinnamon that the label says it contains, but I didn't really get the orange. A very nice winter beer, and exactly what I wanted. I'd give it a nice A-. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Call it a self imposed restriction, but I just can't start having Winter Ales until after Halloween. To me the start of Winter and all that that means is November 1 (even if its not all that cold in Houston). So once November came around I eagerly went to my local Central Market to see what was on the shelves and low and behold I see something that I'd never tried, and from Sierra Nevada no less. This will be the first winter seasonal of many I'm sure as over the next few weeks I'll be trying as many winter beers as I possibly can.
The Beer: Celebration Ale, Sierra Nevada's Holiday beer weighs in at a potent 6.8% alcohol. It pours a nice brownish amber with a thin creamy white head. Its dry hopped and its IBU's are around 68. The nose is rich, malty, some caramel and a bit of floural hops. However the mouth is BIG on the hops and I guess this is where my disappointment is. When I think of winter ales, I want something rich and malty, not hoppy. While this is a very fine beer full of citrus and piney-ness, its just not what I was expecting, and frankly not what I wanted. As a beer I'd rank it as a solid B +, as a Winter style ale which is what I wanted it would be, I'd give it a C. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Session #9: Roundup

Over the weekend, Tomme posted the roundup of the last Session. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this months theme. I initially wasn't sure how well it would turn out, but I think everyone had a good time with it, and there were 29 entries, which is pretty dang nice.
As for next month? I'm honored to be the host of the next Session. I'll post by the end of the week the theme.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Session #9: Beer and Music

Its the first Friday of the month so it must be time to open up another Session. This month's session is hosted by Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey Brewery. The theme this month is Beer and Music. Tomme just wants to see how others experience beer and music.
For myself I initially struggled mightily with this topic as its a departure from a typical tasting session. I mean beer and music do go together and not just in the jingolistic '99 bottles of beer on the wall..' but I wasn't quite sure what direction I wanted to go in. I looked for inspiration, thinking it shouldn't be that hard. So I started to think about Tomme's original post, about how you can walk into any brewery and you'll hear some sort of music playing in various styles and various sound levels. My local brewery even has multiple Polka Music Videos posted on their site. Oskar Blues out of Colorado not only brews great beers, have a fine restaurant, they also are home to some killer live blues music. These are just a few ways of how beer and music pair so well with eachother. Both are incredibly artistic endeavors and when a true artist gets involved its a wonderous thing. I'm in the process of reading Eric Clapton's Autobiography, a true artist in music if there ever was one. One of the really interesting things in the book is his discussion about who influenced his playing, from the great Robert Johnson, to J.J. Cale, to Howlin Wolf, he has a passion for the history of music especially blues. He listened to these early masters and it influenced the way he played. How is this any different than the master brewer? Its not. Most brewers of craft beer started by tasting, and experiencing old world beers, whether they be German, British or Belgian it opened up a world of influence. Just as Clapton took what the masters did and improved on it in his own way, so have the master brewer's improved or stepped up the efforts of old. From making extremly hoppy beers, to barrel aging the beers, to any number of things craft brewer's do today, its the artist putting their own stamp on beer making. As much fun as it is to hear an amazing musician like Clapton play, its just as much of a pleasure to sit down at pub and savour the flavors of a finely craft brew, appreciating the artistic energy that went into it.
While I don't have a specific Beer and Music memory or story, these past few days after work, you'll usually find me in my chair reading Clapton's biography, a beer in my hand, listening to music, which is more often then not old blues like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Howlin Wolf, and Robert Johnson. As its fall, I've been reaching for a nice autumn beer, the latest of which was the Abita Pecan Harvest Beer.
The Beer: This is a fun little beer from the Louisiana Brewery. A ale made with Louisiana grown pecans and it pours a nice amber color with a quarter inch head. Not as strong a nose as I expected, but hints of a malty nuttiness make it through along with some floral scents from the hops. The mouth is smooth, very pecan-y, some caramel malty sweetness, a bit of pecan pie here, pretty nice if not a little mild. I'd have preferred it to be a little less subtle, but still a very good beer that I'd give a B-. It was a good beer to have reading the Clapton Book, listening to the blues on an unexpectedly cool Texas night.
Now, head over to Tomme's blog and checkout his story and see how others incorporate Beer and Music.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Quick Hits: Newspaper Edition

In the past week or so there has been quite a few good articles on Beer and/or what goes into beer. The first two come from the New York Times and the last two come from a couple of Texas newspapers.
- Although he is primarily the chief wine critic for the New York Times, every once in a while Eric Asimov will write about beer, usually they are really good articles. This one is no different as he blogs about Cask Beer. Mostly from the perspective of where one can get Cask Ale in New York. A good article about one of my favorite styles of beer. I wish more Texas brewers would follow Saint Arnold's lead and produce at least one of their beers in Cask.
- The second article from the New York times concerns a place a little further away. The rise of Craft Beer in Japan. I had the opportunity to travel to Japan for work a few years back, unfortunately, and I'm really kicking myself, I didn't get to sample these beers. Most of my beer drinking was Asahi Dark, or Ebisu beers, while good, definetely not craft.
- The next two articles are both about the same thing. The shortage of hops and the affect it will have on beer and beer prices. The first from Barry Schlacter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the second an AP piece in the Houston Chronicle, both give some good info on what we should all expect over the next few months. From rising beer prices, to changes in how some brewer's make their beer (maybe not as many extremely hoppy beers). Some report that we could see a 10% increase in our craft beer prices, which is a lot, but how much is to much to pay for a craft made beer? While this may all sound dire, there is still hope for beer drinkers. The first is that hopefully many brewers had contracts with their hop growers so they can keep prices reasonable. The second is the microbrewer's ingenuity. If there's one thing that we can all bank on is that these craftsmen (and women) will find out a way to continue to make good beer, whether that's using less hops but making more maltier beers, or using other spices to make uniquely flavored beers, this could be used as a time for experimentation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meantime London Porter

Its been quite nice down here in Houston of late. A little cool even, which has been wonderful. With the cooling weather I have been searching for a great 'cool weather' beer. While many breweries are already putting out their Winter/Holiday Beers, I can't get into Holiday Beers in October, so on my search went. One day while perusing the beer selection at my local Central Market I came across a big bottle capped with a cork title Meantime London Porter. I thought it looked rather promising so I picked it up.
The Brewery: Meantime Brewing is based in Greenwich London, the brewmaster is Alastair Hook. They started brewing in April of 2000, focusing on creating beers of full flavor, and trying as hard as possible to be as different from the big British Beer makers as possible. So far it looks like they have succeeded having won a Gold at the World Beer Cup and now exporting their beers to the US. Their pub is the Greenwich Union, having become Meantimes first tied house in 2001.
The Beer: According to their website 7 different malts have gone into this beer helping to recreate a recipe from 1750. The beer like many of Meantime's wares is bottle conditioned, it pours a nice rich dark brown with a thick cappuccino colored head. The nose is full of roasted malts, hints of burnt coffee. The mouth is wonderful, rich, thick, toasty, just what I want on a cool fall day. There are flavors of coffee, esspresso, toffee, sweet roasted malts. A very nice beer, one that I'd rate an A-. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Next Session

Well unfortunately I wasn't able to participate in last month's Session of Food and Beer pairings. Never fear though as this months has been announced! This time around The Session is being hosted by the newly crowned Small Brewer of the Year at GABF, Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey Brewing. The theme is Beer and Music, and here is what Tomme has in mind:

"For this session, I am looking towards my fellow bloggers to share a music and beer moment with. It could be that Pearl Jam show I attended 7 years ago where I was forced to drink 5 Coronas to stay warm. But more likely, it could be an album or song that you’re always listening to. I, for my part, will be writing two blogs. One will be about a particular memory and the other will be about musical stylings and my beers.

Mostly though, I would really like to see how others experience music and beer. I have so many ideas that to only work with two seems crazy. Music as an art form inspires me in so many ways. I think it infuses my writings and brewing and I can’t wait to share that with you. I hope you find this an agreeable Session…"

For me the key is the second paragraph. I know a couple of brewer's that listen to specific music while brewing beer, it helps them to focus their artistic energies (never forget brewing IS an art form). So how does music affect us the beer drinker? Thats what needs to be answered for this month's Session. Due date? Nov 2.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm Back

After two weeks away, I'm back in Houston. Between getting married and going on my honeymoon it was a great two weeks. I have a lot of catching up to do, both in the world of beer and at my work, so posts this week will probably be slim, but a couple of notes and observations from the last couple of weeks:
- Went to my honeymoon in Costa Rica, while the biggest beer their is the ubiquitous and quite boring Imperial Lager, there is some interesting choices. For me the best was Bavaria, both the Golden which was very nice on hot days, and their Black Lager, which was quite tasty. While I wasn't able to travel their, San Jose even has a small micro-brewery called K&S Brewery. They had some interesting beers so I'm sad I missed it.
- Great American Beer Festival is over, but some great news for a couple of Texas Breweries now that the winners are announced. Saint Arnold's won a GOLD for their Lawnmower beer in the Kolsch category, and Fredericksburg Brewery won a GOLD for their Pioneer Porter in the Brown Porter category. Great job to both!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Barley Vine going on a Hiatus

I've been blogging on this site for well over a year now, first with wine, then with my true love, beer. In all that time, I haven't taken much time off, but that changes today. I won't be blogging much over the next week, and none the week and a half after. I'm heading to Denver today to get ready for my wedding next weekend, and then off to my honeymoon. I'll try and post some thoughts on some great Colorado beer, and I'm even going to try and post my entry for the next Session over the next week. Other than that posts will be scarce if nonexistent until the middle of October. See you all then.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Avery's Kaiser Imprerial Oktoberfest Lager 2007

I know its only September, but this will be my last Okotoberfest Beer post for a while (more on that later today). Ever since the Oktoberfest beers started showing up at my store, I have been looking forward to seeing this beer in particular on the shelves. I had it last year and really enjoyed it. So how was the consistency between years you ask?
The Beer: The beer weighs in at a powerful 9.37%, slightly more than the 9.1 of last year. It pours a nice orange amber, with a foamy quarter inch creamy head. The nose is full of malt, caramel, some floral hops, roastiness. The mouth is incredibly complex. It starts with some malty sweetness, then there is some hits of hoppy bitterness and spiciness, before ending with a creamy caramelly sweetness. Just a very multilayered beer. Its rich, very rich. As the beer warms, you get more and more caramel sweetness, maybe a little too much. The richness of the beer, more than the alcohol is the reason why I don't think I enjoy much more than a glass. A fine beer, just a little too rich for my tastes. I'd give it a B. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say. (note that they do not break their tasting notes into separate years).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A quick post on Beer and food

In my ever expanding search for articles on beer and food I was excited to see this article from Barry Schlacter in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Not only a good article praising two Texas Octoberfest beers, one the great Saint Arnold's version, the other from Rahr and Son's that I have yet to taste. But it goes on to discuss food pairings and how well Marzen style brews hold up to good food, showcased by a great recipe from Sam Adams.

Lagunitas Kill Ugly Radio

I saw this beer the other day at Central Market, and although I'm not a huge fan of Frank Zappa, I do like unusual beers so I picked it up. Dedicated to one of the singer's albums this is the second of Lagunitas Zappa Beer's (the first being Freak Out). I also noticed that the same day I bought the beer, the Jay over at Hedonist Beer Jive posted his thoughts on the beer. Now let's see where I stand.
The Beer: This is a highly hopped IPA and weighs in at a robust but not over powering 7.8% alcohol. The beer pours a golden amber with a thin white head. A noseful of pine needles welcomes you when you peak over the lip of the glass. The mouth is over the top with grapefruit and pine needles, minerally and something that I associated with limestone. But beyond that the pine needles over shadowed EVERYTHING. It was just to much, it was like eating a pine needles, bark and all. Very little balance, very little of anything else actually. I wanted to like this beer, but I just couldn't get myself to. I'd give it a very disappointing C. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Breckenridge Autumn Ale

My latest quest for fine fall brews has taken me to this brewery in Downtown Denver. I have actually had the chance to go the brewery on one of my visits to Denver with my Fiance so I am more than familiar with their beers. There most famous is their Amber ale, however they have made some pretty good beers. To me the most notable of these being Vanilla Porter, 471 ESB (their 471 are 'small batch' beers), and Oatmeal stout. All very good beers, so I was pretty excited to try this one out when I saw it at my local Central Market.
The Beer: First things first, the website calls it an old ale, however I thought the flavor was more of Black Lager. The beer pours a dark rich brown with minimal head. Rich toasted malts up front with some underlying floral hoppiness. Bready yeasts, caramel, with roasted malts on the mouth. A warming smooth beer. Very nice, a bit of hops but really noticeable. At the end as the beer warmed up I started to get hints of raisins so maybe these are the traits of the old ale coming out. Not a bad beer, thoroughly enjoyable. I'd give it a B, but here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Business of Saint Arnold's

Not sure how I missed this, but yesterday's Houston Chronicle had an article on Saint Arnold's Brewery. Mostly an interview with founder Brock Wagner, there were some interesting tidbits of information that I thought I'd pass along:
1) Their search for a new place for the brewery is on going, but to find the perfect place for the right amount of money is proving to be difficult in the current Houston market. Hopefully this will change and they can find a great locale.
2) Since 2001 they have grown by an average of 20 percent annually! Way to go guys, that's awesome.
3) Lastly a comment from Brock regarding the wonderful beer and cheese tasting of a couple of weeks ago:
People are also discovering that beer goes great with food, and that you can pair beer with food often better than wine. Two weeks ago we did a beer and cheese tasting. It was an incredible event. A majority of the crowd was predominantly craft beer drinkers, but there were wine drinkers along with their beer-drinking friends. At the end, they were the ones who were the biggest proponents of how wonderful it was.
Its good to see that Brock along with many others are pushing food, beer, and how well the two go together.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bear Republic: Pete Brown's Tribute Ale

Its been a good time since Bear Republic has made its way to Texas and I have tried four of their beers. My thoughts on those beers are posted here and here. I was pretty excited when I walked into my Central Market and saw a new offering and a brown ale no less. I was pretty excited as the other beers I had were mostly a derivative of a pale ale.
The Beer: A traditional American brown ale made with molasses and brown sugar this beer was a tribute to a member of the Bear Republic family Pete Brown. The beer weighs in at 6.3% and pours a rich dark chocolate brown with streaks of red shining through, capped off with a thick pillowy taupe head. The nose is sweet roasted and caramel malts with molasses. The mouth is rich with notes of molasses and brown sugar. A very solid beer, but it missed that deep roasted malt flavor that I love about some brown ales. Still a good beer one I'd give a strong B. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Session #8 Announcement

YES! Time for the monthly announcement of The Session, a monthly virtual beer tasting. The host this month is Beer Haiku Daily the theme this is month is Beer and Food. This is a great theme and one that is quite appropriate with the recent beer and food postings. More details from BHD:
I am looking for posts about pairing beer with food or using beer as an ingredient in food. I hope to see recipes, pictures, tasting notes, stories, menus, reviews or anything else that fits the bill of fare. Whether you write about which beer goes best with chili dogs or give your family’s secret recipe for vegan stout stew or post pictures of those ale braised lamb shanks you had last week, I want to know every mouth watering detail.
Sounds appetizing! I think this could lead to some great posts and more importantly a greater amount of educating, showing people how well beer and good food go together. Due date? 5 October. This means that I will probably be posting a little earlier as I am going to be pretty busy around that time......

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Food and Beer

One of my passions is food and drink. I love cooking and consider myself a pretty good home cook, and I feel there is nothing better than a well made dinner paired with a wine or a craft beer. I am always interested in events or articles on good food pairings. One of my all time favorite beer books is Garrett Oliver's Brewmaster Table, the gold standard I think for food and beer pairings. This is a prime reason for my excitement over the recent Saint Arnold's Beer and Cheese tasting, plus it showed there are certain things that pair better with beer than wine. In addition to my post there's been a couple of articles and postings about food and beer that I thought I'd pass along.
First, Stan over at Appellation beer writes about three brewery's setting up Beer and Food dinners. This is a really great way for the brewery's to do a little self promotion and eat some really great foods. I'd love it if a local brewery could set something like this up. (hint hint for anyone out there reading this).
Secondly Fort Worth Star Telegram's Barry Schlacter has a great article on beer and food. Covey Restaurant and Brewing holds a four course beer dinner each course pairing with one of their fine beers handcrafted right there. What a great idea and a place I will definitely have to check out next time I am up in Ft. Worth.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

I had the oktoberfest, so now its on to Pumpkin ale, one of my favorite beers. I don't know why, but to me the combination of pumpkin and beer is a wonderful thing. I tried the Dogfish Head version last year and enjoyed it so I was excited when I saw this years version in my local Central Market.
The Beer: Pours a bright amber with a thin foamy white head. A bit lighter than last year, more amber than brown. The nose is full of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, allspice and a bit of floral hops. The mouth is amazing, my tongue was shocked by the layers of cinnamon, and the creaminess of pumpkin with some sweetness of brown sugar. This is better than last year from what I remember and reviewing my notes. This beer has got it all. Its liquid pumpkin pie. As it warmed up, the spicey flavors really start to pop with nutmeg and allspice being the most prevalent. Very strong addition to anyone's pumpkin beer collection. I'd give it an A-.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Beer, Cheese, & Divine Reserve #5

On many Saturday's you will find my fiance, my friends and me at an afternoon wine tasting at the Tasting Room cafe. They usually do a good job of having 4 or 5 wines along with some interesting food pairings from their menu. Well this weekend was a little different, sure I was at the tasting room, but this time it was for the beer and not the wine. Tasting Room hosted their first Beer and Cheese tasting. I know that this will be hard for many wine lovers to believe, but beer actually pairs better with cheese, actually MUCH better, so this was something I was extremely excited about. To be clear, this wasn't any beer and cheese pairing....this was Saint Arnold's beer paired with Texas Cheeses, courtesy of the Houston Dairy Maids. The Houston Dairymaids are two young lady's that have traveled all over Texas to find cheeses grown in sustainable and organic methods. They distribute and sell these cheeses to local restaurants and farmer's markets. Now one to the pairings.
The first was pairing one cheese, a creamy hand rolled goats milk cheese with Texas Wheat and Elisa IPA. This tasting was used to show how two different beers bring out two different flavors in the cheese. The wheat really brought out the creaminess and tangyness of the goat cheese while the IPA brought out the earthy and nutty flavors. I preferred the wheat, while my fiance liked the IPA.
The second pairing was a Paragon cheese from the Velduizen family, a raw milk cheese, semi soft with a rich yellow color, paired with Lawnmower. This was probably my favorite pairing of the night as the Lawnmower really brought out the creaminess and nuttiness of the cheese.
Next up was the Brown ale paired with a fresh goat's cheese wrapped in Hoja Santa leaves. This gave the cheese a mild minty flavor, that I personally didn't care for and the match with the sweet maltiness of the Brown was a dud.
The Fifth pairing was Amber with a Queso Blanco with Chiles and Epazote. Epazote is an herb similar to oregano. The flavor combination of the queso blanco and the Amber created something completely unexpected that I can only compare to oven baked pizza dough topped with fresh mozzarella, very nice.
Then came the Oktoberfest paired with Deep Ellum Blue, a mild blue cheese from Dallas, TX. The sweet maltiness of the Oktoberfest blended seamlessly with the creamy tangyness of the blue cheese.
Last, was the treat of the day, Divine Reserve 5, a Russian Imperial Stout paired with a Texas Gold Cheddar. Now the Divine Reserve 5 isn't being released until the 11th, so having the opportunity to try it early was a treat. This is an amazing beer at 10%, opaque with a huge dark chocolate head. Chocolate, espresso and a bit of hops on the nose. The mouth is full of chocolate covered espresso beans a bit of burnt coffee, and just a hint of alcohol on the finish. Incredibly smooth and I sure didn't feel the 10%. Very nice and of all the Divine Reserves this is my favorite. The pairing with the cheese was just as incredible. You start with this nice sharpness of the cheddar and nuttiness. However when paired with this incredibly complex beer there is an underlying sweetness that comes out in both the beer and cheese melding the two together.

As you can see this was a pretty fun afternoon at the Tasting room. I also got to purchase a six pack of the soon to be released Divine Reserve another special treat!
Thanks to TTR, Brock and the Saint Arnold's Crew, and of course the Houston Dairymaids for putting on such a wonderful event, I hope they are able to put together another one.

The Session #7 Roundup

Well it was a fun time this month, the Brew Zoo, the seventh session, this time hosted by Rick Lyke. It's been fun to watch it grow, this month to 33 participants! Amazing. Head on over to Rick's page and check out his roundup. Stay tuned for the announcement of Session #8.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Session #7: The Brew Zoo

Its the first Friday of the month, which means its Session Time. The host this month is Rick over at Lyke 2 Drink, the theme is the Brew Zoo. The idea is to pick a beer with an animal theme to it. With that in mind I searched high and low in trying to find a local Texas beer. I originally thought of Rahr and Son's Ugly Pug, a very nice Black lager, but I eventually settled on a small brewery from Austin, Independence Brewery. The beer was Old Jasperillo was named after the brewers old dog and features its likeness on the bottle.
The Brewery: The head brewer Rob Cartwright, a Canadian by birth, has been brewing since he was 14 years old! This was due to his parents trying to save money on beer because of the high beer taxes in his native Victoria, British Columbia. Eventually he headed down to the Lone Star State for college at University of Texas. During this time he started working at the Copper Tank where he learned the art of brewing from various mentors. It was at this time that Rob started getting that dream that all brewers get, opening up his own brewery. That has now been realized, and Independence Brewery has been running for a little while turning out some fine Texas brew.
The Beer: As mentioned above its named after the owners dog, is an Old Ale and comes in a 22 oz bottle. This may be the only Texas micro brew to come in a Big Bottle format. The Beer weighs in at 9% and pours a nice copper brown with a somewhat thin bubbly head. I have to admit I was pretty excited to try this beer as it seemed pretty unique in comparison to some of the other Texas Brews out there. Unfortunately my excitement was short lived. The nose was incredibly rich with floral notes, bready yeasts, sweet malts, warm caramel, and fermented fruit. It sounded good until I took my first taste, which was sickly sweet and full of fermented pears. I'm not sure if this was a bad bottle or not, but I was clearly disappointed. There were hints of goodness but they were far out shown by the bad. A C- for this beer. The folks over at BA have varying opinions.
I know this tasting was a disappointment, but I know that there are plenty of other members of the Brew Zoo to go check out. So head over to Rick's posting to see all the other wild animals.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Saint Arnold's Octoberfest

Labor day has finally gone. More than just symbolizing the end of summer and beginning of a school year it also symbolized a time to get ready for fall, and many brewers use this time to start putting out their fall beers, whether they be Octoberfest style brews or pumpkin ale these are some of my favorite beers. So over the course of the next month or so, I'll be trying as many fall brews as I possibly can, then maybe at the end, around the end of October I'll do a mass tasting to see which one I thought the best was. My first foray is one I had last year.
The Beer: Looking over last years notes it's held up very well and its a pretty consistent beer. It pours a bright amber color with a nice quarter inch taupe head, that has more staying power than last years. The nose is of roasted malts and caramel, with notes of yeast and floral hops. The mouth is sweet and caramel-y. Very little bitterness here, but copious amounts of malt-y goodness. Sweet without being cloying or overpowering. A very good beer in my book.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thoughts on Michael Jackson

As mentioned yesterday, the Father of Beer Writing Michael Jackson has passed on. Like most lovers of beer, I have never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I consider him a great influence. However, there are many who have met him, some of there stories and thoughts are below:

Thoughts from Stan at Appellation Beer.
A great article and post from Lew Bryson
Another good article from the folks at Realbeer.
All About Beer has posted his last article where he talks a little bit about his illness.
A post from Rick Lyke and his experiences with Mr. Jackson.
The brewers over at Lost Abbey take their turn expressing their sadness at the loss of the Leader of the Pack