Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beaver's Revisited

I've been to Beaver's Restaurant many times since my first visit and I've never left disappointed. The food is always top notch, the beer selection is great, and of course the cocktails are amazing. Their mixologist Bobby Heugel even has his own blog on cocktails, the well put together Drink Dogma. My wife and I went over to Beaver's on Wednesday for their Green Evening. The gist of the idea is that on Wednesday they'll offer an appetizer, a beer, and a cocktail that are all "green" and proceeds go to Green causes. Ahh a good excuse to drink! Not that I need one. The main purpose of this post though is to tell about an amazing beer related experience. Bobby is a pretty insane mixologist when it comes to developing ingredients for his cocktails, and he has a new one (well new to me) that blew my socks off: Stout Liqueur. He took Guinness, Victory Storm King and a porter whose name escapes me this morning, and created a liqueur with them. A little sip was all we were given and it was amazing, the flavors of the beer were still there, extremely concentrated notes of stout and roasted malts, mixed with the liquor. It was incredible to think that this nectar started out as three different and distinct beers. It was something that I never would have thought of and an industrious use of putting beer into cocktails.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Afternoon Quick Hits

A few notes around the world of beer this beautiful Monday afternoon.

- The Today show talks craft beer. Specifically good summer beers, with a nice focus on one of my favorites, Kolsch.

- In my recent interview with Brock Wagner of Saint Arnold's we talked about him getting involved in the community. Well they will be participating in the upcoming White Linen Nights in the Heights. A unique outdoor event in the Houston Heights "Championing art, culture, and community." Saint Arnold's will be providing some much needed refreshments. Needless to say I'll be attending.

- Lastly, don't forget that this Friday is The Session # 18.

Green Flash Trippel

Just a few days ago I had my first Green Flash and I'm already a big fan. Such a fan in fact that I have eagerly picked up another one of their beers to try out. Another one of their big bottled beers, this time going from an American staple to a Belgian one.
The Beer: Pouring this one into a Duvel glass it weighs in at 8.5% (a little low compared to other trippel's) and looks a golden orange color capped with a thick frothy dense bright white head. The nose is fruity, hoppy, apricots, and white grapes along with other citrusy notes. The mouth is full of effervescence, like pop rocks going off in your mouth. There are notes of honey, lemoncello, caramel, candied sugar and white fruits. This one is NICE! Very crisp. The only negative is there is a bit of astringency and alcohol burn at the finish. A great trippel. This one gets a strong B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green Flash Imperial IPA

You know I gotta say it, I love my wife. I come home the other day from a long day at work and I find a note on the door saying there's a surprise in the fridge. I head on over to the kitchen and open the door to find a wonderful bottle of Green Flash IIPA. How awesome is that??? Green Flash Brewery is one more brewery that has made its way into Texas to distribute their beers. I've heard a lot about this San Diego Brewery but never had the chance to try their beers, until now! I've said it once I'll say it again, it seems like there is a new brewery coming into Texas every month and I don't think there has ever been a better time to be a lover of craft beer in the Lonestar state than right now.
The Beer: Pouring this one into a snifter. It weighs in at 9% and 101 IBU's and pours a golden honey color with a half inch frothy white head. The nose unsurprisingly is all hops....make that HOPS. Citrus, pine, and lemon custard. The mouth is hoppy but it doesn't pop you over the head, instead it slowly penetrates your taste buds, slowly and sip by sip leaving them saturated with hoppy goodness. Its got a great mouth feel, full of citrus, apricots along with some earthy notes. Surprisingly this DIPA is drinkable, I mean you couldn't have multiple in one sitting, but this one doesn't hit you over the head, the affect is there, it's just slower in creeping up on you. Great great beer, this one gets an B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Full Sail LTD 02

The week starts with a special offering from Full Sail Brewing out of Hood River, Oregon. They're known for making pretty solid beers and I'm a HUGE fan of their Session beer which is exactly what its name says it is. Lately they've started to release a limited series of beers Each beer a special one time only recipe (sound familiar?). Now these aren't necessarily extreme beers, just good solid ones. The O2 LTD is a limited edition lager made with Saaz hops, Viennese malts. wheat malts and caramel malts.
The Beer: This one weighs in at a slightly high 6.4% and pours a nice clear copper color with a thick off white head. The nose is roasty Viennese malts. Rich and caramel-y on the nose with slight coppery notes. On the mouth its rich, tasty, malty, slightly sweet of caramel. Light notes of honey and molasses. A good solid beer almost like a bock. Smooth and crisp. The only turn off here is that its a little sweet for me. Regardless this one gets a solid B from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Friday, July 18, 2008

International Brewer's Day

July 18th, today has been decreed to be International Brewer's day. An unofficial (and hopefully some day soon official) holiday to celebrate those great and wonderful artists that create the drink we love and are so passionate about. International Brewers Day (henceforth IBD) is the brain child of Jay Brookston. This day is used to celebrate brewer's and the idea is for beer bloggers like me and many others to participate by profiling, interviewing, talking about, etc brewers. July 18th was chosen as the date because its the feast day for Saint Arnold of Metz, the patron saint of brewers. If you want more information head over to the IBD's website.
When I first heard about this, I got really excited because I thought it would be a great excuse to get to know a local brewer a little better and to write about the beer he creates and that I enjoy so much, it also didn't help the date for this was July 18th.
It should be obvious by now that I'm profiling Saint Arnold Brewing Company and specifically its owner Brock Wagner. With it being the local brewery in Houston (for a while the only one in the area) I've written a lot about Saint Arnolds in the past couple of years on the blog. For good reason, they are a great brewery and more important good folks.
Let me start by giving folks a little background on how I became introduced to their beer. I went to school in Louisiana where I drank mostly Shiner and Abita,both good solid beers. When I moved to Houston I was trying to find a good local beer, and one day my then girlfriend (now wife) took me to the Saturday tour at Saint Arnold's. I was instantly hooked. The atmosphere at these tastings is amazing. Everyone standing in line for the free beer, then sitting down communal style on these long long benches, talking not only with your own group but everyone around you sharing experiences, and of course food, food that you've brought from home, from the grocery store, or pizza place etc. It's one big family atmosphere. I thought to myself then that this was a pretty cool deal. Well needless to say I've been back numerous times even in the heat of the summer (no AC!!!!).
Another neat thing about the tour is looking at the wall by the long bar and seeing all these letters of thanks from different organizations that Saint Arnold's has helped in some way. They really care about the community there as do many small craft brewers which is one more reason why these folks mean so much to us. Needless to say I think Saint Arnold's is a top notch company so I really wanted to be able to sit down and do an interview with Brock. I'm happy to say that while I didn't have the time to sit down with Brock he was gracious enough to answer numerous questions via with out further ado.
A little introduction to Brock first. He went to college at Rice University here in Houston and got into home brewing during his stay. Once he graduated he stayed in Houston and worked as a financial analyst doing corporate finance and mergers & acquisitions, primarily in the oil service industry. At some point his work was getting in the way of his homebrewing and as he says "one of them had to go." Lucky for us kept brewing beer. So time for some questions:
You chose the name Saint Arnold's to celebrate the patron Saint of Brewing correct?

What got you into Homebrewing in the first place?
The RA in my college at Rice (who also plays trumpet in the Houston Symphony) introduced me to homebrewing. I'd go over to DeFalco's (then next door to the GingerMan) and get my supplies and brew in the dorm.

Whats the most unexpected thing you have noticed being a brewer?
The way women throw themselves at you. That was a joke. The lack of control we have over the selling process. We control brewing the beer, but once it leaves the brewery, it is a challenge to control the process from then on. We work hard trying to do so.

Whats the hardest thing?
Getting people to be aware of us. As a craft brewer, we don't have the money to advertise and our customers don't really seek out beers that way. The result is the only way to make people aware of us is word-of-mouth. This takes years, which is why the first 10 years are such a challenge for most small brewers.

Whats the funnest thing about being a brewer?
Making beer. Really! At the end of the day, drinking exactly the beer that you want, and you made it to boot, is really satisfying. Now for funniest:
Beer is every-man's drink. There are no affectations surrounding it (or at least there shouldn't be.) As a result, people feel a strong connection to our brewery and that we are part of their lives. This leads people to tell you very funny and sometimes personal stories about Saint Arnold drinking experiences. Some of them fall under the "too much information" category!

One of the really great things about Saint Arnold's is its community involvement. I love going to the brewery and checking out the wall with all of the letters of thanks from the folks that you've helped. From working with the Elissa Project to Buffalo Bayou, you do a lot for the city, why go to all the effort? Do you have a favorite causes? Do you have plans to support any other big causes?
I believe strongly in the community, and in order for the community to be strong, people and businesses need to be involved. We probably do more than we should, but it makes us feel good, so why not? Usually our process is that we look to get involved in things that we like, and then we try to come up with a business rationale. If we succeed (even if it's a stretch), we do it. We plan on doing more things with the Orange Show, partially to support that organization, but more than anything, to make sure that the Art Car Parade is financially healthy. That is a Houston institution that is quite expensive to put on and, surprisingly, doesn't get much support from the City.

So how have those Saturday sessions evolved, from way back in 1994 to now?
They started with 10 to 25 people for the first couple of years. It took about six years to get up to 50 people, then they started exploding. We had over 600 people here last Saturday, and it was hotter than Hades!

I love your every day beers, but your Divine Series is otherwordly, how did the decision to make more extreme beers come about? I know some are made by homebrewers, but what about others?
We just wanted to have fun and brew some beers that we really wanted to make but wasn't sure how large the audience would be for them. Pretty much all of the recipes for our beers are mine, but with the Divine Reserves, the guys here compete to come up with a recipe that we decide to brew up. We don't publicize whose recipe it is, but everybody here knows. For example, when Divine Reserve No. 4 won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup this year, Vince was as giddy as a school girl. Every year one of the Divine Reserve recipes comes from the winner of the Big Batch Brew Bash. That homebrew does get a lot of publicity for winning the competition and having this beer brewed. Also, we enter that beer in the Pro-Am category at the Great American Beer Festival.
You've recently bought new property closer to downtown. Why that property? Was it the location? Size? Price? Or a combination of all three?
It was all three. I wanted to locate the brewery close to town, preferred an older building that had some character, and we were able to afford (sort of) this location.
Besides the obvious expansion to capabilities what other things will having this new place bring?Air-conditioned space for the tours! And more bathrooms. I know it's goofy, but actually owning a place gives a certain feeling of permanence and a greater connection to the city as well.

Any plans to go outside of Texas? Why or why not?
Not at the moment, but I don't rule it out as a possibility. Traditionally beer has been local. It is best when it is fresh. It is expensive to ship something as heavy as beer. I think we would all be best served if we first and foremost focused on our local communities.

Do you have a favorite Saint Arnold's Brew? if so what is it?

No, I don't have a favorite Saint Arnold beer overall, but any given evening, I certainly will be in the mood for one specific of our beers. With this heat, I have been consuming a lot of Summer Pils, but earlier in the summer it was Elissa. I will often finish the evening with an Amber Ale. And I always long for some Christmas Ale, although not usually when it's in the 90's outside, but I did enjoy having some off of our Christmas in July run. OK, so you see my issue.

If you aren't drinking Saint Arnold's what do you reach for?

There isn't one beer I look for other than Saint Arnold's. If I am someplace that doesn't serve Saint Arnold, I will get whatever the most interesting, flavorful beer there is, but it could be many different beers.

There you have it folks. Thanks so much to Brock for taking the time to answer a few questions. And for everyone else out there, have you hugged your brewmaster today? Happy International Brewer's Day everyone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Boulevard Brewing Lunar Ale

OK, enough with the InBev deal, time to talk craft beer! Boulevard brewing Co is one of the newest craft beer makers to make its way to Texas (following hot on the heals of Oskar Blues, and leading the way for many many others). They are based out of Kansas City and were founded in 1989. I've heard a lot about them, so I was pretty excited to see their wares at my local Spec's. The packaging is unique as well. The bottles don't come in a traditional 6 pack container, instead come in a full box. A little bit of a waste of cardboard if you ask me, but I'm interested in whats in the box (or more specifically whats in the bottle inside the box). Lunar Ale is their brown ale offering, but its a pretty unique one in my mind. Its bottle conditioned and made with a lot of wheat malt, both unusual offerings for a brown ale.
The Beer: Now that we've been introduced lets get to know each other a little better. This one weighs in at 4.5% making it a perfect session beer. It pours a very hazy hazelnut brown color capped with a good thick taupe head. The hazy comes from the wheat used and it being bottle conditioned. The nose is fruity, bananas, pruney, some malts and little bit of floral notes. The mouth is wonderful. There's a nice thick mouthfeel, with a tart sourness on the tongue followed by malty, fruity, and yeasty notes. This is such a complex "basic" beer. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I feel that I could have multiple of these in one sitting and each beer would reveal itself in a different way. This one gets a very strong A from me. Seems like a lot of folks at BA don't agree with me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

InBev and A-B

Well it happened. It of course (unless you've been asleep under a rock) is the buyout of Anheuser-Busch by Belgian Super industrial brewing company InBev. The beer blogosphere and main stream media have written numerous stories in the last few days. I wanted to wait a couple of days, see folks reactions before posting my own thoughts. I've had a good time reading peoples comments to other stories and the response is pretty wide ranging. From "this is an outrage how can something so American be bought out" (whats more American than capitalism?) to "Great now maybe someone will make Bud taste good" (they won't, InBev hasn't done great things with Becks and Stella now have they?) and of course everything in between. Now here are my thoughts.
Is it in outrage that a Foreign country can buy an "American icon?" Well first of all let's discuss Bud as an American Icon. What many don't realize or are too lazy to look up is the fact that while A-B may have been run by the Busch family, they weren't necessarily owned by them. They were owned by shareholders, and they weren't all from the good ole U.S. of A, but instead represented people and companies from all over the world, so let's stop the nonsense of complaining about a foreign company buying out Bud. Bud was already owned by companies and people from foreign countries so whats the difference? The Busch family not running things? This is a loss? Now is Bud an American Icon? I guess you could lump them in the same category as McDonalds and Coke, but Icon's? Buying out small breweries, suing small breweries until they can't afford to run their businesses, buying out other breweries from around the world (sound familiar InBev?) and taking them over? That's not how I define an Icon.
As for the comments about InBev making Bud better, again this is nonsense. InBev isn't going to mess with the recipe of Budweiser, the same folks that brewed it yesterday will brew it tomorrow and the next day. Those aren't the employees that have to worry about their jobs. Unfortunately I'm sure that InBev will be consolidating things and that's the saddest part of this buyout.
Lastly, what does this mean for what we care about, Craft Beer? Well there are two thoughts, what I think will happen and what I hope happens. When the possible merger was first discussed I posted my original thoughts on the issue here. Let me expand a bit on my initial thesis. I still think this could be bad for craft brewers. The larger the company the more tentacles they have into distributorships, the more leverage they have. If they tell distributors to only carry their products, and they have a large inventory of said products then the distributor may be enticed to work exclusively with them. This limits the choice for the consumer. Along with the InBev/A-B merger you have MolsonCoors and SABMiller merging their North American Distributors. This means in North America you have two brewing companies controlling (for the most part) beer and its distribution. How does this help the consumer? I don't think it does and that frankly is a shame.
Now I don't want to end on a downer, so let's talk about what I HOPE will happen. Reading the comments to stories, I've seen a lot of folks talk about "well I won't drink Bud anymore, I want an American Beer". Let's forget for the moment that Bud will still be made in America and focus on what that comment can mean. It means people want to drink American. Hopefully that can mean local. For instance here in Texas, maybe people go from Bud to Shiner, and from Shiner to Saint Arnolds or Real Ale, or Southern Star as their taste buds are opened to better beer. Could this happen? Why not? Even if a small percentage of Bud drinkers turn away and switch to craft beer, it could be a HUGE swing in over all sales. Its a unique opportunity for small craft brewers, to tout the localness of their products. As for me, I haven't had a Bud in years and years, I'll keep drinking my craft beer and promoting it, and talking about it as much as I possibly can.
Thanks to Jay for this last little tidbit. Maybe craft brewing is already on the upswing.....with Bud now being owned by a foreign company who is the largest brewer (a company that actually brews beer not contracts it) in the country? Boston Beer Co maker of Sam Adams.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Newsy News Bits on Saint Arnold's

A quick post today just to share some fun information that Saint Arnold's put into their newsletter.

- First things first, Saint Arnold's is doing it again, Christmas in July. One of my favorite times of the year. They are releasing a limited amount of their Christmas beer this week in bottles and a few places will have it on tap. In its third year this is really starting to be a fun little tradition.

- Secondly and more impressively Saint Arnold's reports that their sales were up 30% for the first half of 2008. That's awesome and one more reason why they can go buy the new place and expand a little. Congratulations to Brock and the gang.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two beers from a Business trip

My wife's business trip at that! My wife got back from a conference on the west coast recently and brought back two beers for me..what a great woman! Although from a well known brewer and one that I'm familiar with, I hadn't had either of this. The beers are Rogue's Brutal Bitter and Eugene City Brewing Triple Jump Pale Ale (also from Rogue Brewing)....hmm pale ale's! Needless to say it didn't take me very long to open these two bomber's up for a drink.
Brutal Bitter: Rogue describes this as an Imperial Bitter with 59 IBU's. The beer pours a cloudy orange capped with a thing off white head. Grapefruit and pine with a bit of earthiness is on the nose. There's also this lemon meringue scent that's really nice and then some toasty pale malts finish it off. The mouth is very bitter hops, its definitely in your face, but not quite to the point of being over the top. Its actually somewhat balanced, effervescent, citrusy, crisp and smooth. Very nice. This one gets a B from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.
Eugene City Brewing Triple Jump Pale Ale: As weird as it sounds I couldn't find much info on this beer. Both BA and Rogue list Eugene City's Tracktown IPA but not this one. Anyway this ones a fine one. Pours a hazy orange with a thick white heads. Hops grapefruit, a lot of citrus peel. The mouth is strongly hops, more than the previous, but doesn't get astringent which happens so often with these over hopped beers. This one is NICE. Great lacing, smooth, grapefruit, zest, creamy. I really liked this one. This on gets a B+ from me.

The Session # 18 Announcement

Fresh off our round up of the 17th Session, we get an announcement of the 18th. The host this month is the Barleyblog, the theme is Anniversary Beer. Here are the details:
Use this as an excuse to celebrate. Open a limited release anniversary beer from your favorite brewer. Enjoy that special beer you normally only open on your wedding anniversary or birthday. Either way, tell us about it. Why is it a beer you may only drink once a year? Why is that brewery’s annual release the one you selected?

Sounds fun, I might have one or two special beers laying around that I could break open. Due date? August 1 will be when every ones posts their take on this theme and shortly thereafter The Barleyblog will post a round up.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Session Roundup

I thought this month's session was relatively inspired. With a great theme, and going back to a more beer-centric one is a plus in my book. Rob posted his round up a few days ago, and at least 28 (maybe more by now) joined in the fun. So head over to Pfiff and check out the round up. Check back in the next few days for the announcement of the next session.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Session # 17: Drinking Anti-Seasonally

Its the 4th of July, so Happy Independence Day everyone. Its also the first Friday of the month which means its Session Time. This month the event is hosted by Rob Denunzio over at Pfiff! The theme this month is the Anti Seasonal. We all drink easy going session beers in the summer but every once in a while we have our guilty pleasures, big alcoholic hoppy, malty bombs, that frankly don't go well with the heat of the summer (especially if you live down here in Texas). As I've written about these past few weeks, there's not much better than a nice flavorful, easy drinking beer in this heat, but man (or woman of course) can not live by these beers alone. Nay I say, we must seek out this big flavorful robust beers, even if they don't make sense, our taste buds cry out for them. So it was with that mindset that I went to my recent Spec's seeking out something that's not a session beer, something with a little more PUNCH! What did I find? Well Rogue Russian Imperial Stout, definetely not seasonal, and definetely not some easy going session beer.
The Beer: This is Rogue's XS series so it shows up in a black ceramic bottle with a flip top closure. The beer pours a jet black with a tan colored head. the head reminded me of the crema in an esspresso. Malts are all over the nose, chocolate, burnt and roasty with just a bit of alcohol on the nose. The mouth is strong and bitter, very dry with a bit of dark bitter chocolate flavors. Very little fruit flavor left in the malt as this one is bitter, not from hops but from the burnt malts. Its a good RIS, not too strong of an alcohol flavor. With its dryness it would pair wonderfully with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla icecream so heck maybe this is a summer beer! The only complaint I have with the beer is its maybe a little too bitter from the this one gets a B- from me. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Stay tuned Rob over at Pfiff will be posting a round up soon.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Texas Beer and Brew Pubs

Just a quick note today, but a good note nonetheless. Lee Nichols of the Austin Chronicle has an article out today on the Texas brewery scene. While noting that it has a long way to go to reach the epic standards set by Oregon, California, Colorado (and many others) acknowledges that the scene is growing and growing every day. The article does a really good job of touching on all the current breweries in Texas, their flagship beers and then the beers you ought to try. It touches on the brew pub scene in Texas (which outside of Austin is really lacking) before giving information on the breweries and brewpub's that are in work. As I've said before its an exciting time to be a Texas beer lover because the situation is only looking better.
Bonus plug for this article is a quote from your truly. Go check it out.

Two Beers from Flying Dog

I'm a huge fan of Flying Dog beers. When they were in Downtown Denver I went to the tour and tasting on multiple occasions, but just because they've moved across country to Maryland doesn't mean I like their beers any less. Walking through my local Spec's I came across Flying Dog's Sample Pack containing 5 different beers: Amber, Wheat, Pale Ale, Kolsch, and Porter. Well not quite...due to the archaic beer labeling laws in Texas we don't get the Porter, instead Flying Dog put their seasonal beer: Woody Creek White a Belgium Wheat Beer. I'm ok with that change (although I do need to try their Porter, heck and their new Triple). So in the process of trying good session beers I figured it would be fun to try two different wheat beers, one the Woody Creek, the other Flying Dog's In Heat Wheat a German style Hefeweizen.
The Beer: Woody Creek White: The beer weighs in at 4.8% abv, pouring a beautiful hazy cloudy gold capped with a thick white head. The nose is spicy, some banana notes, orange zest, spices, coriander. Great thick mouthfeel, really strong notes of citrus; oranges, lemon pie. Very thirst quenching and a great beer on a hot Texas day. This on gets a B+ from me.
The Beer: In-Heat Wheat: This one weighs in at 4.7% pours a good cloudy orange with a good dense head, a little thinner than I like, but its very dense. The nose is full of banana's and cloves. This is what I love in a good German Hefe. This is what is missing in most American Wheat beers so I'm extremely glad to see it here. As stated the nose is good, but not great, I'd like to see the banana and cloves to be a little stronger. Great mouthfeel, thick, good bananas, some citrus notes, just a bit of sourness. All in all a very solid wheat beer, this one gets a B from me.
More from Flying Dog to come as I make my way through their pack.