Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday night Quick Hits

Two very quick notes, one fun, and one extremely important.
- First the fun. May 11th through the 17th is Craft Beer appreciation Week. Of course this means that everyone should appreciate their favorite craft beer and Houston is lucky to have access to some great local brews. Gingerman specifically will be celebrating the week with special Flights of Craft beer. If I find out of other events going on that week I'll post those as I can.

- Secondly the important note. Ronnie Crocker of the Houston Chronicle has written an article detailing the latest news of HB 2094, the Texas Bill sponsored by State Rep Jessica Farrar. Its on the edge of not getting passed. There is one last ditch effort going on right now to get enough members together to vote it out of committee by May 14th so that it can be voted on by the time the Texas Senate shuts down on June 1. If it doesn't get passed now the next chance we'll have to get something like this passed will be 2011. Ms. Farrar thinks she has enough votes, but one can never be sure.
As a reminder this bill will allow those breweries who sell less than 250,000 barrels a year to sell a limited amount of their brew on site. The biggest opposition to this bill are the distributors who WRONGLY (and I can't say that strong enough) feel that this bill will hurt them. IT WILL NOT! (see Cal, Colorado, and many other's, there is NO damage to the distributors and to say other wise is either disingenuous or out and out lying). Therefore I ask everyone that reads this blog to write everyone that you can in the committee and ask them to pass this bill. Especially the two below. Let them know how much this would mean to Texas economy. It boggles my mine that at a time of economic downturn the politicians would turn down a bill that will actually help. If this bill fails it proves nothing less than all the politicians care about is lining their own pockets with Beer Distributors money and NOT helping this state.

Representative Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton from Southeast Texas ( ... ilton.php) and
Representative Charlie Geren from NW Tarrant County ( ... eren.php).

Anvil Bar and Refuge

For those of you that have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I have been talking about and looking forward to the opening of a bar called Anvil. The reason is that the folks behind the bar are the sames ones who were behind the bar at Beaver's, that place of great cocktails and great beer selection. Well Anvil is open, they've actually been open for a while now, and although I've been there a few times, I've held off on writing up my review of the place for a specific reason: They had not gotten their tap system set up. Well that changes over the next few days. I received an email from one of folks that run the place with some PR information, that I thought was cool enough to share. So here are the highlights:
...system is set up so that we can pour beer on tap the way brews intend and the beers deserve. We have custom regulators on every line and multiple blenders to control pressure and gas blends. Our stouts will be poured on nitrogen taps, the way they should. We use a proper tulip for beers that warrant them. In short, I think we have taken our setup about as seriously as you could and have spared no expense.
Our entire selection as I mentioned before is constantly rotating. We will never have the same beer on twice, and we are working with local and national breweries as well as distributors to bring in some really cool stuff. Our draft system has quite a few people excited about a place that takes its setup so seriously, and we have had several brewers express to us that they would love to do some specialty beers just for us.
Our pricing will be very competitive too. A standard Real Ale pint for example will only run you four dollars.
Lastly he has released his initial 12 tap line up:

Allagash White

Avery Maharaja

Brooklyn Lager

Brooklyn Summer Ale

Dogfish Immort Ale

Greenflash West Coast IPA

North Coast Old Rasputin

North Coast Scrimshaw

Ommengang Hennepin Saison

Real Ale Brewhouse Brown

Real Ale Fireman’s #4

Real Ale Full Moon Pale Rye

Real Ale Sisyphus

Saint Arnold’s Summer Pilsner

Schneider Aventinus

Southern Star Blonde Bombshell

Southern Star Buried Hatchet

Southern Star Pine Belt Pale

Spaten Optimator

Stone Ruination

Stone Smoked Porter

Unibroue Maudite

Victory Golden Monkey

Victory Hop Devil Cask

I have to say I'm pretty excited about this list, especially for the DFH Immort Ale and the Victory Hop Devil Cask. They hope to have everything up and running over the next 5 to 7 days, maybe as early as this weekend but by the beginning of next week for sure. Once I head over there and check it all out, I'll be sure to post my full review.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sam Adams Longshot

It seems I've been drinking a lot of Sam Adams beers lately. Not that, that's a bad thing. I'm a fan of Sam Adams not only because I think they make some good beer, but also because its a good company. One of the many things they do is support home brewers, but they do this in a very fun unique way. Every year they hold a completion called Longshot where home brewers from around the country submit their home made beers. Through this competition two finalists are chosen, and they get to have their beers made and distributed by Sam Adams (with their picture on the front of the label). Pretty neat huh? Well this year's mixed 6 pack has been released, except instead of two different styles we get three. The reason for this is that one of last year's winners was a DIPA and due to the hop shortage chose to not make the beer since there would have been changes to his recipe. Therefore it was released this year along with a Cranberry Wit and a Traditional Bock.
Double IPA: This one was made by Mike McDole. This one weighs in at 9.0% and has 7 different types of hops. The story goes that this is a clone of Russian Rivers Pliny the Elder. It pours an orange color with a thick white head. Citrus and grapefruit, some malt, round out this bright floral nose. The mouthfeel is creamy but not thick, a kind of medium body. Hugely bitter up front, citrus peel, floral hops, toasted malts at the finish, with no alcohol flavor. Saturates the tongue, hops stick to the sides of the mouth. Very nice DIPA, my only complaint is that I'd like a little fuller mouthfeel. The flavor is great, it just 'feels' watery. It gets a strong B+ from me.
Traditional Bock: This is from California home brewer Alex Drobshoff. This one comes in at 6.8% and pours a very bright copper color with a thick cream colored head. Caramel malts, roasted malts, plum all come out in the nose. The mouth is rich and creamy, with caramel, roasted malts, a bit of molasses. This is really nice, a great bock that's not overly sweet like some others. Very smooth easy drinking beer that gets a B from me.
Crandberry Wit: This one comes from Sam Adams employee Carissa Sweigart. I have to tell you I was very trepidatious about this beer. I'm not a huge fruit beer fan, and Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is probably one my least favorite beers ever. Needless to say I didn't have high hopes for this one. Well I was wrong. The beer pours a hazy cloudy orange with a thick dense head of white foam. The nose is full of orange, cinnamon, cloves, citrus. The mouthfeel is light and refreshing, notes of orange and cloves, fruity, then there at the finish comes a nice subtle tartness from the cranberries. Nothing over the top, nothing extreme, but a wonderful hot summer day beer. This is one I could sip by the pool all day long. Greatly refreshing and the tartness at the finish adds something really nice. This one gets another strong B from me.

This was my first time getting the Longshot 6 pack, but its a great idea by Sam Adams to celebrate home brewers, near all of which are craft beer drinkers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rogue Old Crustacean 2008

This may very well be my last barleywine of the season. As the temperature warms I find my self turning away from these heavier styles and reaching for something else. I won't say no of course, so I'll just say, we'll see. This is part of Rogue's XS series which all come packages in a big black ceramic bottle with a swing top. All this pretty packaging increases the price significantly to 16.99, so not a drop in the bucket. So whats the inside like?
The Beer: The bottle says 110 IBU's and 11.5%. It pours a very dark cloudy brown with a thick head of tan colored foam. The nose is full of malt and fig flavors. Some hops and espresso, fudge cake even. The mouthfeel is syrupy. There are flavors of toffee, raising, molasses, figs, dried dark fruits, and of course an abundance of hop resin. Bitterness really is the hit here, with the other dark fruit flavors taking a comfortable back seat. With warming there are flavors of dried fruit peel, cinnamon, and the beer takes on a more sherry or bourbon like quality. Really a high depth of flavor here. Even as it warms and other flavors develop the hops are always there and always in force, leaving resin coating the insides of my mouth. However taking everything together its a really wonderful combination of sweet malt, rich dark fruit flavors against the bitter bitter hops. A really fine beer, that under normal circumstances I'd give an A to, but with a beer that's this expensive you have to take that into consideration so I give it a slightly lower A-. Definitely worth the price, but its hard to buy multiple of these to see how they develop over time. I've said my piece, here's what the folks at BA think.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The rest of the Sam Adams Imperial Series

A week or so ago, I got my hands on one of the new beers in Sam Adams Imperial Series, their Imperial Stout. I rather enjoyed it, so I've been eager to try the other two beers in the series, their Double Bock, and their Imperial White. One of these, the Double Bock, is a style I'm a fan of, and a style I've had my fair share of. The other, the Imperial White, is a rare style, that not to many breweries try, so I was pretty excited to see what Sam Adams could do.
Double Bock: This is actually a beer that has been around a lot longer than the new Imperial Series. Its a beer that Sam Adams has been brewing for about 20 years or so. It was one of their first 'big' beers they made. The beer weighs in at a hefty 9.5% and pours a reddish brown with a thick tan color foamy head. The nose is rich with malts, and a slight hint of earthy hops. The mouthfeel is creamy, malty, caramel, sweet figs, some brown sugar, molasses, and some raisins. Its rich and creamy, a strong beer, but not a lot of alcohol in the flavor. Very malty and smooth, some coco notes as the beer warms. This one's another winner, very enjoyable. The BA's like it too.
Imperial White: This beer has been getting some mixed reviews. In fact I've heard it called a big alcohol infused mess. Well call me a glutton for punishment but I needed to figure it out for my self. This one does have some alcohol to it for sure as it weighs in at 10.3%. It pours a cloudy hazy orange with a thine white heads. Lots of alcohol on the nose, along with orange peel, clove, spices, coriander, honey, honeysuckle, floral notes. Mouthfeel is syrupy, still, very little carbonation. Orange and honey explode in the mouth and as expected there is a large amount of alcohol in the mouth. Its a strong beer that has a tendency to hit you over the head. But as big as the alcohol is, the other flavors of orange and honey, floral and spice, are rather intense, they don't take a second seat to anything. I like it, maybe not as much as other beers, but I like what they were trying to do. I think this beer needs some time for the alcohol flavors to mellow. A decent beer that I think has some promise. So for now it gets a C+. The folks at BA are mixed but overall give it higher grades then me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am not a craft brewer

But I do love craft beer, and in that vein I wanted to post the video below. It's called 'I am a craft brewer' and it's been posted almost everywhere today, so I figured I join in. The video was created by Greg Koch of Stone Brewery, and he used as part of his keynote speech at the Craft Beer Conference going on this week in Boston. Spend the 4 minutes it takes to watch this video, as lover of craft beer it will give you chills.
Bonus points if you spot the Texas connection in the video.

I Am A Craft Brewer from I Am A Craft Brewer on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stone Old Guardian 2009

I'm a big huge gigantic fan of Stone, is that enough superlatives for you. From their ubiquitous Arrogant Bastard that one can find in almost any grocery store these day's to their Double Bastard, they make some amazing hoppy fun beers. Over the last 6 months or so we in Texas have been treated to an ever expanding line up of offerings. Before we only got Arrogant Bastard, their pale ale and IPA and that was about it. However now we get the smoked porter, Ruination, oaked Arrogant, and once in a while Double Bastard on tap. So imagine my glee when I walked into my local Spec's and saw Old Guardian, Stone's barleywine. One of my favorite styles. I quickly picked a couple of bottles up (gotta see how it ages) and brought it home to see how it was.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 11.3% and pours an orangish color with a quarter inch dense head of off white colored foam. The nose is grapefruit, citrus, caramel malts, and toffee. The mouthfeel is creamy, hoppy, Bitter with a capital B. Drinking it is like chewing on some grapefruit peel. Then notes of caramel, toffee show up and create a sense of a rich luxurious beer. Yes its really hoppy, and it sits in the mouth coating the tongue and sides. But then there is this malty sherry like taste that really brings a nice complexity to the beer. A great example of an American Barleywine, this one gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gingerman's Belgian Beer Tasting

If you follow me on twitter you know that last Saturday I was at the Gingerman's Belgian Beer tasting. I have to say I went to this tasting extremely excited, but at the same time unsure of what to expect. On one hand I knew that Gingerman would have a great selection of Belgian beer's available for tasting. On the other hand, this was a Belgian beer and FOOD tasting, and for anyone that's been to Gingerman, you know they don't have much food available beyond cheese, some chips, and a meat plate. So what kind of food was it going to be? And how is this Michael O'Connor the chef that was going to cook the food? And how was he going to cook it?
Well you'll be happy to know the event was amazing. The food was for the most part excellent, the chef O'Connor is the chef at the Houston Country club (you can also follow him on twitter), and also surprisingly elegantly plated. There were a total of 8 courses, each paired with a small sample of beer and a small plate of food.
Course 1: Chimay White paired with Chimay Cheese and beer soup w/ sausage: This may be been my favorite dish over all. Chimay White is a Triple that weighs in at 8.0% and has flavors of oranges, floral perfumey hops, spicy cloves, honey, along with some bready and yeasty notes. The soup was served in a tall shot glass, the sausage was Italian from Central Market. The soup was creamy with just a bit of spice from the sausage, and small bits of onions and carrots that added a nice texture. The Chimay really paired well with it, marrying the flavors in the beer and soup, also cutting through the fat in the soup since the beer is so effervescent it wiped the fat off the tongue. The fruitiness of the beer also was a great match for the slight spiciness of the sausage.
Course 2: Stella Artois paired with Sezchuan Peppercorn Shrimp:
From one of my favorite dishes to my least favorite. The plate came out and looked very nice, with two shrimp covered in a light sauce with some peppers. Stella of course is the ubiquitous Belgian Lager. Initially I thought this would be good pairing the crispness of the Stella against the spiciness of the shrimp. Unfortunately the shrimp were cold by the time they were served and there was very little if any spice to the dish. It was a nice pairing from a shell fish standpoint, but I was really hoping for more.
Course 3: Houblon Chouffe paired with Black Eyed Pea Cake w/ smoked trout and IPA mousse:
Does the title alone get you excited? Houblon Chouffe is an IPA Tripel with flavors of pineapple oranges, spice, fruity esters, and bananas. The dish came out with the Blacked eye cake (looking for all the world like a little crab cake) topped with the salmon IPA mousse. Again this was a really solid pairing, my only issue was that I didn't get much of the IPA in the mousse. The smokiness of the black eye peas worked well against the fruitiness and spiciness of the beer, and at the same time, the IPA didn't overshadow the salmon. It was really a nice almost perfect pairing.
Course 4: Hoegaarden paired with beer steamed thai mussels: Ah yes the classic Belgian pairing, mussels steamed in beer paired with a Hoegaarden. Of course the there is a Thai twist here. Hoegaarden is THE wit and weighs in at a light 4.9%. The mussels were served two to a square shaped bowl with a slice of bread sitting in a rich brown Thai sauce. This was another really great pairing. Of course the mussels and beer paired well together but the surprise here was how the wit stood up to the spiciness of the Thai broth (a broth by the way that was sopped up by the bread and any leftovers were drank. I wish I could bottle it!).
Course 5: Maredsous 8 paired with a honey mustard marinated pork loin w/ Maredsous 8 sauce:
Again doesn't just the name of the dish get you excited? Maredsous is a dubbel that weighs in at 8%. It has flavors of caramel, raisins, toffee, and chocolate. The dish came out on a small plate with 4 slices of the loin with the sauce drizzled over them. Again the sauce here was amazing and I think you could actually taste the richness of the Maredsous. The pork was a little dry, but having it with the beer really brought out the flavors with the sauce marrying everything together, really enriching the dish flavor wise.
Course 6: St. Bernardus ABT. 12 with beef short ribs carbonade:
This beer is a Quadrupel that weighs in at 10.5%. This is your big cab to go with beef. There are flavors of raisins, figs, licorice, brown sugar, and a slight alcohol burn. The short rib was served simple with a side of potatoes. Again the slight effervescence of this beer cut through the fat of the short ribs, opening up the flavors of the beef bringing the dish together. Really nice pairing.

Now on to our two desert courses.
Course 7: Kasteel Rouge with Chocolate Truffles: Kasteel Rouge is new to the Texas market. Its a top fermented cherry beer and weighs in at 8%. There are flavors of honey, cherry, Cinnamon, with very low carbonation. The chocolates are served two to a place, one lime chocolate the other just chocolate. The Kasteel paired amazing well with the regular truffle. The slight sourness of the beer feeding off the rich dark chocolate. I thought the lime Chocolate was a little off putting.
Course 8: Lindemans Framboise paired with raspberry topped pound cake with Framboise Foam:
I think every knows of this beer, even if like me they had never had it. The beer pours a bright rose color and weighs in at a light 4%. Sour raspberries is the flavor here. The cake came out on a small plate topped with the raspberries and then the nicely pink tinted Framboise foam. This was a pairing made in heaven. Everything really worked and fed off of each other. I'm not a huge lambic fan but this was a really nice pairing.

Overall I thought Gingerman's hit a home run on this tasting. It was there first time to do something like this and there plans are to do one once a quarter with the next one being in July. There were about 14 or 15 people participating and everyone that reserved showed up even with the horrible weather. It was a really fun time, the people all talked to eachother about the dishes, and someone even brought along some extra beer to share with everyone which was quite a treat (the beers were a 2004 Chimay Reserve and a 2003 Cantillion).
Joe from Gingerman gave a little back ground on each beer a little history, and was a very gracious host. A knowledgeable way to spend a wonderful afternoon. If you get the chance to go to the one in July I would highly encourage it. The topic will be Beer Vs. Wine.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Deschutes Hopehenge Experimental IPA

Deschutes is one more brewery that has recently (within the last year) entered the Texas market. They are based out of Oregon, and began brewing 20 years ago. The main beers that you can find in Texas are there Mirror Pond Pale Ale and their Black Butte Porter, both very solid beers. However for the beer geek, they are best known for the deep dark Abyss, an Imperial Stout aged in French Oak barrels. This one gets the beer people all excited. Unfortunately we don't get it in Texas.....yet. What we do get is their Bond Street Series of beers. These beers are "hop-forward" as their website says, and many began at the original Deschutes Brewery and Public House that was located on Bond Street....wait a minute did someone say Hop Forward? That sounds like its right up my alley.
The Beer: This is an Imperial IPA for sure. 95 IBU's and 8.75% abv. The beer pours a bright orange amber color capped by a generous taupe colored head. Ahh the nose. There's grapefruit, citrus, apricots and just a hint of bready toasty caramel-y malts. The hops tingle the nose. The mouth feel is thick and resin-y, with an explosion of grapefruit and citrus rind. Bitterness hits all parts of the tongue saturating the taste buds before slowly subsiding, and showing just a bit of sweet maltiness. Its there, but its hidden. It hits your tongue like a hop sledgehammer, but ends up being surprisingly drinkable. It starts off sticky with hop resin, but as it warms the maltiness as well as white peppery notes show up creating a nice balance to the hops. This ones a keeper for sure and gets an A- from me. The folks at BA enjoy it as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beer Wars: A review

Just got home from seeing the movie Beer Wars. Its the craft beercentric movie being labeled a David vs Goliath story. If you are in the craft beer scene it seems that you have been inundated with advertisements to this film (which is a bit like preaching to the choir don't ya think?). Well I went to my local theatre down here in the CLC, and if you've been following me on Twitter, you know that the theatre wasn't packed at all. In fact I'd put the number of people there at right around 20, so very very sparse. I'll be interested to hear if the theatres that were down town had a bigger crowd. Before the movie started, they showed a series of clips, and some beer trivia and 'beertoid's' which was kinda fun. Then when the LIVE event started it was at a theatre with writer, director, producure Anat Baron. She gave an intro to the film and thanked those that worked on it. Let me say she is not very comfortable in front of the camera and was pretty stiff (this should have been a warning for the film). Then the movie started. I won't go into every detail of the film, but I'll hit the highlights.
It mainly followed two people in the beer industry showing how they competed against the big guys. One was the great Sam Calagione of Dogfish, the other was Rachel Kallman who I think is the owner or marketing person for Moonshot Beer a beer made with caffeine. The documentary really shows her struggle of trying to get this product off the ground and into stores. They use the struggle to show the issues that all craft beer's have in wedging their products in between the ever expanding line up of Macro Brewers as well as the issues of getting beer distributors to pick up their products in the first place. Dogfish was shown as the brewery that has made good. That struggled and has overcome and is expanding beyond peoples wildest imagination. Throughout the film there are interview with 'beer people'. The great Charlie Papazian, Todd Alstrom of Beer Advocate, Greg Koch of Stone, Maureen Ogle, author of Ambitious Brew. The main points the film gets across is 1) The fact of Macro Breweries marketing beer, but not letting consumers know that they are behind it (think Stone Mill Organic Pale Ale. Can you tell that's an A-B product by the label?); 2) How the three tier system has made it hard for craft brewers to get into the market; 3) How the Macro Breweries work the retail stores to ensure they get the most space and the best location in the cooler; 3) How much power the Beer Industry/Distributors have in DC. All in all its an interesting film but one that I have a lot of issues with.
1) The pacing and narration of the film is pretty bad. Anat may be passionate about the subject but her narration is incredible stiff and almost jerky in its delivery.
2) I have to agree with Mr. Alstrom, why is a 'beer' like Moonshot in this film anyways? They could have chosen a much better subject to showcase a struggling brewer just trying to survive. There is a reason Ms Kallman is finding it difficult to market her beer, its crap. I hate to say it, but there it is, no one wants a Caffeine Beer.
3) I said it before, I'll say it again. I feel like its preaching to the choir. I don't think I really learned anything I didn't already know, and I'll bet for the most part that the people that went to see this film are already converts to the Craft Beer scene and support 'the little guy'. So whats the purpose of this film?

That about wraps up my review of the film itself, however next was the LIVE part of this event. After the film there was a panel discussion moderated by Ben Stein. The panel consisted of Mr. Papazian, Greg Koch, Sam Calagione, Rachel Kallman, Maureen Ogle, Todd Alstrom, and Ms Baron. This was a very interesting idea that was pretty shaky throughout and never really seemed to hit a good rhythm. Mr. Stein trying to guide the discussion was at times uncomfortable because it was evident he had no idea what he was talking about. At times he and Ms Baron didn't seem to have a clue as to what the next thing to do was. Were they going to show a clip or ask one of the panelists a question? After a while it got into a better groove and they actually had some good discussion. One of the better debates was between Ms. Ogle and Mr. Koch and Calagione. On one side you had Ogle saying that in America everyone strives to be the biggest and the best and that's historically how its been. Even A-B started small before they became this monolithic creature. On the other side you had the folks from Stone and Dogfish saying they didn't want to be big, they wanted to be able to be artisan and smaller. I think in a way Ogle is right and had one of the better lines of the night when she told them to come talk to her in 10 years and we'll see if they still think they won't grow to be huge companies.

All in all it was a good event and a rather decent documentary. It was shaky at times, but it had a very important point, especially in today's time. The point being at least in my mind is that it is hard for the small guy to make it in this world of huge corporations, and that as consumers we do have a choice. As American's a place where entrepeneurs have florished, don't we as consumers have an obligation to help support the little guys. Those people whether they are making bread, or cheese or beer and making it in a craft manner, isn't it better to support those people than the large corporations? The problem is, did the point get to the right people? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Abita Abbey

This past Easter my wife surprised me with a special beer to celebrate the day with. A beer from Louisiana's Abita brewing. This is the second of Abita's Big Beer series and I enjoyed the first so I was pretty excited to see this one, their Abbey Ale. There is more to this beer than just whats in side though. For every bottle sold 25 cents goes to St. Joesph's Abbey, in Convington, LA. Personally I think that's pretty neat. Having said all that, I know you want to know how whats in the bottle tastes.
The Beer: This Dubbel style ale comes in at 8.0% abv, and pours a slightly cloudy brown with hints of red streaks throughout. Its capped by a very stark white head. The nose is of candied sugar, plums, brown sugar even, cloves, caramel. The mouthfeel has some effervescent quality to it. There are notes of candied sugar, yeast, breadyness, apricot, some cloves in there. There a sourness and tartness there. There are some dark fruits like raisins, and plums, but not much. I would have liked to have seen a little more of that. There's a sense of burnt sugar in the mouth as well, that's not unpleasant. A good beer that gets a B from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Top 50 Breweries

Today the Brewers Association released a list of the top 50 Craft breweries in the country and the top 50 over all breweries. An interesting list to be sure. Its ranked by beer sales volume (based on 2008 sales. The link to the list is here. However I did want to point a couple of interesting things out. The larges craft brewery Boston Beer Co is also the 4th largest brewery overall. In the craft brewery list there are two Texas breweries represented, Spoetzl maker of Shiner and Pete's brewery in San Antonio. Spoetzl is also the 10 largest brewery over all. Nice to see some Texas representation. One complaint with this list is I would have liked to see the volume numbers listed. It would have been nice to compare a Boston Beer Co, with a A-B, or a New Belgium with a brewery like North Coast out of California. Still an interesting list.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Real Ale Sisyphus 2008

On December 7, 2007 I posted my tasting notes on the 2007 version of Real Ale's barleywine Sisyphus. It was rather outstanding. Through December I waited, and waited for the 2008 to make it my local Spec's, my only reprieve coming in late January when I was able to have a glass of the well aged 2005 Sisyphus. Where or where was the 2008? Rumors came that it wasn't going to be bottled, but those were quickly squashed, but still no Sisyphus. Finally I made it to the downtown Spec's a couple of weekends ago and what did my wondering eyes find? Sisyphus 2008! Yes! I picked up a bottle or two (ok ok, more than that) putting one in the fridge. It took a while, but I finally had time to crack it open, sit down and really enjoy this beer.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at around 10-11% abv. It pours a slightly cloudy orange along with a thin off-white head. Up front there is an abundance of hops, citrus, apricots, bready. The mouthfeel is thick and tongue coating. Hoppy, resin-y, citrus, grapefruit peel. Apricots with a lot of malt backbone. Yes hops are the king here, but its balanced. Not a lot of alcohol burn with this one, it only showed up later as the beer warmed. There is a marmalade like sweetness to the finish, really good. I'm interested to see how this one will age. The hops may start to dissipate, and the malt become more concentrated with some raisin notes or some bourbon feel to it. We'll see, as I have a few bottles that I'll be aging. This one, the current fresh year, is very good and gets an A- from me.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Schnoor Brau Dunkel

My wife just returned from a week and a half business trip to Bremen, Germany, and brought back some beer for me (what a great wife). Now Bremen is the home of Beck's and St. Pauli Girl so I wasn't quite sure what my wife would be able to bring back that would be a local beer. I sure didn't want Bremen's big local beers! However, I shouldn't have worried the particular beer she brought me was from what seems to be a pretty small brewery in Bremen called Schnoor. From what I can find out about it the only beer they make is a Dunkelbier, so no euro pale lager's! Sounds good so far, let's see how it tastes.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 5.2% and pours a brownish amber with a good half inch off white head. The nose is primarily of roasted malts, caramel, then a wave of floral hops. The mouthfeel on this beer is medium body, a little carbonation. There are flavors of caramel, roasted malty sweetness, rye bread, an earthiness and mineralness to the taste as well. Its somewhat light, very drinkable beer. It shows that a lighter beer can have a great amount of flavor. This is a beer that one could drink many of in a beer hall in Bremen (and I'm sure they do). I enjoyed this one, it gets a B from me.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Upcoming Houston Beer Events

April is shaping up to be a pretty good month for craft beer lovers as there are several events worth checking out.
- This week is Cask Appreciation week and in celebration Saint Arnold's is hosting a special Twitter crawl this Thursday. The crawl will be held downtown and at the end a special cask ale will be tapped. The event starts at the Brewery Tap (717 Franklin St). There will be 3 stops total the subsequent ones being sent out via Twitter. However, I think Flying Saucer has let the cat out of the bag so to speak as they are tapping a cask of Saint Arnold's Bourbon Barrel Stout that same night, so unless there are two cask tappings I think that will be the final stopping point. Unfortunately me working the night shift this week at my real job will keep me from participating, but if you have the chance you should definetely check it out.
- As mentioned many times, next Thursday the 16th of April, THE craft beer move Beer Wars will be released one night, and one night only. Please go and support this movie, there are quite a few places that its showing in our fair city.
- On the 17th of April Blanco, Tx's own Real Ale will be hosting a very special event at the Alamo Drafthouse to tap an exclusive cask of their new Drafthouse ESB.
- The very next Saturday April 18th, Gingerman is hosting a Belgian Beer tasting, with food provided by Chef Michael O' Connor. Cost is $35.00, reservations are highly recommended.
- Lastly, and as previously mentioned Saint Arnold's and Brenner's will be hosting what looks to be an amazing Beer Dinner on April 23rd. Its not cheap, but it should be a wonderful evening of great food and beer.

These were just the special events, but there are numerous weekly things always going on in Houston. In addition to the special cask being tapped this Thursday, the Flying Saucer is tapping a special keg every Thursday. A when its gone its gone special. Past kegs have been DFH 120 minute IPA and DFH FORT. Wednesday nights at both the Saucer and Gingerman is Pint glass night, buy the pint keep the glass.

Like I said April looks to be a great month to support craft beer in Houston.
You also may notice I've added a list of the upcoming events. If anyone finds out something that should be added let me know.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Session # 26 Round Up

Lew over at his Seen Through a Glass blog has posted a wonderful write up from the past session. This month saw around 30 folks trying Smoked Beers, some for the first time. That's in a nut shell why I think the Session could be a great thing, it opens folks up to new beers. Go check out the session (where you're truly got corrected, Rauchbiers are from Bamburg and NOT Hamburg, DOH!, I knew that, I just had Hamburg on my mind for some reason).

As for the next session? The host for next month is Joe and Jasmine of the Beer at Joe's Blog. The theme looks rather interesting: Beer Cocktails, Beyond A black and tan.
Here's the question they want you to answer:
What’s your favorite beer cocktail (and yes, despite the title of this post, it can be a black & tan or a shandy)? Find a recipe for that or a new one, try it, and tell us why you did or didn’t like it–even if you think beer cocktails are nothing but a good way to waste a beer. Have fun and try something new!
Off the top I must say I'm not a huge fan of beer blends, or beer cocktails, but as I said at the beginning of the post The Session should be used to open your mind to new things, so I'll go into this session with just that, hoping to find something new. (Plus it will give me an excuse to go to Anvil and see what those folks can make me). Due date for the session is May 1st. Check back then and see how it all turns out.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Avery Brabant No. 1

If you've been following my twitter feed you know that I made my way to Houston's Flying Saucer for a very special beer this past Friday: Avery's Brabant No 1. This is the first in a series of beers that Avery brewing will be doing. Each beer will be unique and barrel aged. This one is definitely an anything goes kinda beer. A beer made with two strains of Brett then aged in Zinfindel barrels for 8 months. You can see why I was excited to try this beer. First though a note on what a Brabant is. A Brabant is a work horse and is also called the European Belgian horse. Looking at some of these pictures, one could just imagine a slew of these magnificent animals carrying a wagon full of Belgian ale through the streets.
The Beer: This came in a 12 oz bottle and weighs in at 8.7% abv. It pours a deep dark brown almost black color with a thin taupe colored head. My first impression was "wild and funky". There are yeasty bretty notes in the nose, barnyardy, sour cherries, then finally roasted malts, raisins and even figs. My friend who was with me said it reminded him of being back home in Iowa. The mouthfeel is thick, tart and sour cherries. Horsey. Its rich, there is a wave of malts and raisins, figs and a bit of oakiness underneath the funk. Its actually surprisingly smooth finish. As it warms notes of sour bitter dark chocolate come out. Then may be one of my favorite Brett beers. This is not a beer for the faint of heart, for someone just getting into craft beer, its an acquired taste to be sure, but once you acquire it, its amazing. This is a beer that if presented to one who knows only BMC it would blow their minds. It shows everything a beer can be, and how amazingly complex it is. Its solid and gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Session # 26: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em

Its the first Friday of April which means its Session time. For the unititiated the first Friday of every month is designated as The Session. A virtual beer tasting hosted each month by a different blogger of beer, and each with a different theme. This month's host is Lew Bryson, the theme is Smoked Beers.
I gotta say I was pretty excited about this month's theme. The style is somewhat rare, and there aren't many to choose from in the Houston market, but it shows how complex beers can be even when made with 4 simple ingredients: hops, yeast, water, and malt. Its malt in this case that is the important ingredient. No matter what style of smoked beer you sample this month, the malt is the key, its the part that gives it that smokey flavor. One of the flavor components that I always uses concerns the malty flavor of a beer, it may be toasty, or roasted malts or even choolately. This comes from the way that malts are dried, which today is mostly through roasting. However this wasn't always the case, malts used to be smoked over wood fired. This is still the traditional method used in Hamburg, Germany, the center of the world for smoked beers (or rauchbier). Hamburg not only makes many different smoked beers, they also produce most of the smoked malts that are used by breweries around the world. Smoked malts give beer a unique flavor (think of Scotch where the whiskey producers use peat smoked malt), that can range from smokey, woody, and even smell like bacon (my personal favorite). I've been fortunate to have a rauchbier from Hamburg, and I've been able to compare it to some American versions as well. For this Session I sampled an American version of smoked beer: Stone Smoked Porter.
The Beer: This beer weighs in at 5.9% and pours a rich dark dark brown almost black with a thin taupe colored head. The nose is rich and malty, initially more chocolately notes before noticing a slight smokyness a little bit of brisket. The mouthfeel is thick and chocolatey, roastey, and woody. Its very dry, it seems to suck the moisture from my mouth. There is some smokeyness, but its subtle, a little too subtle for me. There are notes of raisins, and figs and light coffee notes. A very solid porter, but lacking in much smokeyness. I was really hoping for something a little bit more in my face, especially from Stone who is known for putting some potent beers out there. Its good, but not great, and gets a B- from me.

Well that's it for me for this month's session, check back later this weekend for a link to the roundup.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Beer Wars, A reminder

A quick note to all who read this here blog. If your a lover of craft beer, or your getting interested in it, one of the most important movie releases is just two weeks away. Beer Wars, a movie detailing the rise of Craft Breweries and their fight against the big boys. This movie could be HUGE for spreading the Craft Beer word Unfortunately it's distribution is such that it will only be released one day, and one day only, April 16 at select theatres. For those like me that live in Houston here are the theatres its playing at:
AMC Gulf Point 30 Houston, TX
AMC Willowbrook 24 Houston, TX
Houston Maq*E Stadium plus IMAX Houston, TX
Cinemark Memorial City Hall Houston, TX
AMC Deerbrook 24 Humble, TX
Cinemark 19 Katy, TX
Cinemark 18 Webster, TX

For info on buying tickets go here.
I encourage everyone to go, and if you want to meet up at a particular theatre let me know and maybe we can get a group to attend.