Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Belgium: Mothership Wit

Not a bad way to celebrate my 200th post than by talking about a beer from one of my favorite breweries. While New Belgium can get a bad rap for their flagship beer Fat Tire, no one can deny that they do make some outstanding beers such as their Abbey and 1554. Also they are at the forefront of being a responsible company, using sustaining practices and the first brewery to go all wind....100% of their power comes from wind energy. They have now added Organic Brewery to their list of Green Achievements. Their newest beer is an organic Belgian Wit Beer.
The Beer: In traditional Belgian Wit fashion this beer is brewed with orange peel and coriander, and weighs in at a session worthy 4.8% alcohol. The beer pours a pale hazy straw color capped with a half inch frothy stark white head. The head does a decent job of sticking around through most of the beer. The nose is of oranges, bananas, coriander, cloves, and yeasty dough. The mouth is of sour lemons, sourdough bread, and oranges. Very zesty, very refreshing, great tasty summer beer. I'd grade it a strong B. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Quick Hits: Beer in the News

Here's a smattering of some pretty good articles on Beer, some in pretty mainstream places....

The first is a travel article on MSNBC. Getting great British Microbrews, may not be as easy as walking into any pub since may in England are still 'tied' houses, or something pretty close to it, but it doesn't seem that its that hard to find great craft real ale either.

Another great article by Barry Shlacter from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on why Texans should drink Texas....its more than Lonestar Beer now.

Lastly is an absolutely awesome article in the New York times on German Beer. The author focuses on three very uniquely German styles, but the draw for me was the focus on Cologne. The article brought back a lot of memories about a city that I really miss.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sad News for Texas Beer Lovers

I have blogged a lot about it in the past (check out the Saint Arnolds page) but it appears that Texas House Bill 1926 that would allow Texas Microbrewers to actually sell their own products is dead on arrival. Brock Wagner has stated in an interview for the Austin Chronicle that the bill was opposed by a Mr. Mike McKinney of Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas. And of course once he opposed the bill it was dead, because we all know that the politicians will cower before the big money of distributors due to their incredible lack of spine they possess. Also reported by the Austin Chronicle is that Mr. McKinney has given thousands of dollars to Chair, Kino Flores D-Palmview. I know it shouldn't surprise me, but it still appalls me, that such a reasonable request is shot down without even a hearing because of the corruptness of our political system. Brock has stated that he is looking forward to trying to get the bill passed in 2009. In the meantime maybe we can start working on getting Flores out of office and hoping that the next chairperson is not in the deep pockets of the Beer Distributors.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

There's a Beer in my Wine.....

...Magazine. Imagine my suprise this month, when flipping through my copy of Food and Wine Magazine I found an article on beer. Titled The Keg Vs the Cork it focuses on Chef Sang Yoon of The Father's Office in Sonoma California. Its quite a good article taken from the point of the great beer finds in this top end wine country. Chef Yoon has 36 taps in his restaurant and even has a couple in his home! To me its a very well written article accept for the prerequisite wine snobbery dig at beer lovers. This comes when talking about the fact that the sign that hangs outside of Lagunitas Brewing has been stolen four times in the past:
Typicall wine afficianados do not rip winery signs out of the ground and transport them back to their homes (or dorm rooms).

While this dig is unnecessary and cheap it shouldn't take away from an otherwise very beer friendly article. The author and Chef take a beer tour through Sonoma going to Lagunitas, Russian River, Beer Republic, and Anderson Valley. All amazing breweries. The Chef is allowed to make some really great points about how food friendly beer is. Some of my favorite quotes revolve around Chef Yoon telling his Sommelier friends to put down the Riesling and pick up on of the great beers from Sonoma. As with many people Chef Yoon grew up hating beer, because his only reference was cheap industrial swill. However while working for Joel Robochon in Paris he came upon the great Delirium Tremens and fell in love with beer. By the time he came back to the states the Craft Beer movement was getting in full swing and he found out great beer and food parings. These pairings is where the article really shines through for me. Taking some pretty complex food dishes, such as Rack Of Lamb with Arugula pest and paring it with a Belgian Dark Ale, to Sichuan Peppercorn shrimp paired with a White Ale like Allagash, he is able to show to a much wider, much more apprehensive audience the diversity of beer. Of course Chef Yoon does lose some points when he disses Texas BBQ Brisket, but that may be a small price to pay for good Beer coverage in a Wine Magazine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is Now the Best Time to be a Beer Drinker?

I've been thinking of writing on this topic for a couple of weeks now. I think the past few books I've read put it in the back of my mind. From Ambitious Brew, to Beer and Food and even Fermenting Revolution, all of them, in some manner speak on Beer Culture, and it got me thinking about comparing today's Culture to yesteryear's. There are those that would argue that the peak of Beer Culture has passed, come and gone sometime in the late 1800's where everyone went down to their local pub or saloon to grab a pint of local brew. However, as is the purpose of this post, I disagree. I think NOW is the best time to be a lover of beer and to participate in beer culture. Maybe its because having grown up in Texas the local beers were Lone Star and Shiner (nothing against the Spoetzl Brewery) but the fact that most Americans are within 10 miles of a brewery (thanks to Fermenting Revolution for the stat) has to mean something. Today's beer drinkers have more GOOD choices than ever. From great local brewers (like Houston's Saint Arnold's) to Craft Brewers that ship nationally like Sam Adams, Dogfish Head and others the consumer has a plethora of amazing beer choices.
There are those that would argue that although the aforementioned is true there has been a loss of unique beer styles like Scottish Hawthorne Beer. While I will admit that point I would counter that we have seen an increase in new beer styles. The Brewer's Association recognizes well over a hundred different styles of beer, some which didn't even exist 20 years ago. Original beers such as Double IPA, and Double Red Ale are uniquely American and uniquely now. While our culture does not prioritize the use of older methods using traditional Belgian brewing techniques and wild yeasts, American Brewers are coming back strong utilizing these techniques. Brewers such as Allagash or Ommegang make some of the best Belgian style beers in the WORLD. Brewers at Dogfish Head are using fruit and herbs to create unique and complex beers that are closer to some wines in flavor profiles than traditional malt beverages. More and more beers are coming out that are oak aged, some from old bourbon barrels, others from used wine barrels. There has never been a time before that we have had a chance to taste so many amazing beers and to have so many amazing Beer experiences.
I don't believe that anyone can deny that the average person has less of an excuse now to drink bad beer. With so many choices, even at the local grocery store there is no reason to drink swill. This is one of the good things that has come with being able to easily ship things across country, everyone has the chance to taste great beer.
In the argument over Beer Culture and when it was at its peak, there is one thing I will concede. We are lacking in local Pub Culture, a place where one can go and (to quote an old TV Show) everyone knows your name and pours your favorite beer. Outside of a few places such as New York, Boston, even San Francisco good neighborhood pubs are a thing of the past. I hope that that trend turns around.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Left Hand Imperial Oak Aged Stout

In the Texas heat there's not much better than nice pint of Kolsch or a good crisp clean pilsner. That being said there are times that I need something different, something a bit heavier. The other day I found such a beer and grabbed it in ernest. Left Hand is one of my favorite Colorado Brewerys along with Avery. They have a tendency to make some really good simple beers, and they also make some amazingly complex beers, usually bottled in their Big Bottle Series.
The Beer: This beer of course is a Big Beer, with a nice champagne like cork closure. The beer was bottled in 2007, with 25% aged in Oak Barrels. The beer weighs in at 10.4% alcohol so you know its a sipping beer. The beer pours a jet black coffee color, capped with a still thick toffee head. The nose is full of raisins, espresso, roasted and chocolate malts with an underlying vanilla oakiness.. The mouth is thick like syrup, raisiny, notes of bitter chocolate, burnt coffee. Quite an amazingly thick mouthfeel, as I was drinking it, I thought of reaching for a straw. But this thickness was not a bad thing, instead it made it seem like liquid chocolate cake. An awesome creaminess lasted throughout the whole experience. Just small notes of alcohol at the end that left a slight twinge of astringency was the only weakness to this beer. Great Beer, B+. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Session #4 Announced!

From the bitter defeat of the last Session, the Day of Mild, comes the announcement of The Session #4 from the Gastronimic Fight Club. For the uninitiated, The Session is held usually the first Friday of the month and is a Virtual Beer Tasting, each with a theme, hosted by a different blogger. This month's theme is a departure from the first 3 sessions in that it is not a style. The theme this month is you must taste a beer from your local brewery. By local the beer must be brewed within 15o miles of where you live. Here are the rest of the rules:
  • You can select any beer or even a sampler if you want.
  • If you select a single beer, let us know why you choose this beer (e.g. favorite,seasonal,limited edition, best seller).
  • Preferably you'll shy away from beers with wide distribution outside your immediate area.
I am PUMPED about this month. For one I am a HUGE supporter of local breweries so this is right up my aisle. Secondly it will let me give some good pub to my favorite local brewer, Saint Arnold's. Now all I have to decide is which brew to taste (although I think I have a pretty good idea). So come back on June 1st for the results.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Its Session Time: A day of Mild's

Today normally would be day that I would have normally looked forward to. The first Friday of the month means its the day of The Session, the monthly virtual beer tasting. The host is Jay over at Brookston Beer Bulletin and the theme is the British Mild, a dark, malty, somewhat low in alcohol beer. Unfortunately for two very different reasons, I wasn't able to participate in this months tasting. Normally I would love searching for something like Mild for a couple of reasons, one I have never had the style and I love tasting new things, two, its a sesson beer, something that you can have one two, or three of in one sitting and not fall on the floor. However this time around I searched high and low, from Central Market, to Spec's with no success in finding a Mild, or really even something that I felt was comparable. The other issue is that I got hit by a bad case of allergies, and couldn't have tasted a Mild even if I could have found one.
All that being said, head over to the website and check out the roundup.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Book Review: Pint Sized Ireland

The title of this book by Australian Evan McHugh doesn't initially sound like much a beer book, but its the subtitle where the joy lies 'In Search of the Perfect Guiness.' While there are many craft beer lovers that turn their nose up at this dark bitter liquid, it has opened many novice beer drinkers to the fact that there is something else to drink than yellow colored water so it deserves a better place than most give it.
This book as stated on the jacket is part travel guide, part beer lovers diary. I couldn't agree more. Evan and his future wife travel around Ireland in search of the Perfect Guiness, from Dublin and the Guiness brewery to Westport on the West coast of Ireland and on up to Belfast the capital of Northern Ireland. The book is full of raucous tales and rather hilarious stories of his time in pubs with locals and other fellow travellers from Italy, Germany and other places that they met along the way. It is a great book, and I'd love to take it along to me if I ever get to go to Ireland, trying to match pace, visiting some of the pubs mentioned. If I could compare it to one book I have read it would be Travels with Barley by Ken Wells. The focus here is not drinking any beer, or Guiness specifically, but more about being in a Pub with friends (spoiler alert: that's a hint to where the Perfect Guiness really is). I think its something we miss here in the states where a Pub Culture is all but nonexistant, alas thats a post for another day. In the mean time this wouldn't be a bad book to read.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dogfish Head Red and White

Time for another Dogfish Head. Rick Lyke spoke briefly about this beer in a seminar he gave at the World Beer Festival. Generically speaking this beer is a Belgium wit beer, but as with most from Dogfish head its much more than that.
The Style: Witbier or wit beer is a Belgian wheat beer, usually very pale, and hazy with lots of yeast. Commonly it is brewed with coriander and/or orange peel. The color is a golden with a rocky white head. Citrus aromas with light spiciness usually shine through. Witbier's are traditionally unfiltered and brewed with pale malts and raw wheat. The most popular witbier is Hoegarden, although another famous brand was made by Peirre Celis who all but introduced this style of beer in the States with his namesake brewery in Austin Texas, that unfortunately was taken over by SABMiller.
The Beer: This beer is so amazingly complex its unbelievable. First off the beer has some traditional notes of being a witbier being brewed with orange peel and coriander. However that's about as traditional as this beer gets. Its then blended with Pinot Noir concentrate, and aged in oak. 11% of that oak being Pinot Noir Barrels, the other 89% being aged on oak staves. The beer weighs in at 10% alcohol and pours a bright cherry color capped with a white slightly pinked tinged frothy head. Over time the head dissipates but leaves behind streams of thick lacing all over the glass. The nose is has notes of coriander, but is full of oranges, grapefruit, and hoppiness. The mouth has oranges, grapefruits, some oaky toastiness shows up as well. The beer starts out quite refreshing and zesty as a witbier should before leaving a mellow complex toasty aftertaste. As the beer warmed notes of wine-yness began showing up on the aftertaste. To me this was a great example of what Dogfish can do, not to much alcohol and an amazingly complex hybrid of traditional and old. For me a solid B+ beer. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.