Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year End Round Up

The last day of 2010 is as good a day as any to look back on what I think was a fantastic year in craft beer, and specifically craft beer in Texas. Look back to 2009 to see what I said about this year.
1) One of the big things this year in Texas was more Texas Breweries opened: Jester King, Ranger Creek, No Label Brewing all opened this year and are producing good beers. In the case of Jester King and Ranger Creek they are producing beers that aren't like any produced in the state. No Label produces one of the best Hefe's I've had. The good news for 2011 is that this trend is bound to continue with many new breweries planning to open. Established Texas brewers continued to put out great beers, notably Real Ale starting a barrel program, releasing popular beers like Sisyphus or Devil's Backbone aged in wine barrels. Saint Arnold released DR 10 a barleywine and started the interesting and educational Moveable Yeast Series where they take their regular beers and brew them with a different yeast. 512 out of Austin continues to expand their line-up brewing double IPA's, Bourbon Barrel Pecan Porter, and a Double Brown Ale. Expect new brews from all these breweries continuing to expand horizons.
2) Unfortunately with the good comes some bad. In a state with so few brew pubs its sad to lose any, and Texas lost two this year: Award winning Covey in Ft. Worth, and the Houston branch of Two Row's. I wasn't a huge fan of Two Rows, but they had installed a new brewer and things were looking up. Speaking of looking up, there is a movement to bring a branch of popular San Antonio Brewpub Freetail to Houston, so look for more info on this in the coming year.
3) 2010 may be remembered as the year that Beerfests finally made it. There were 3 big beer fests this year: Brewmasters International in Galveston, Houston Beer week capped by Monsters of Beer, and Austin Beer week. All were successful to various degrees, but the key is that they WERE successful, lessons were learned and the coming year will bring bigger and better things. We know things will be bigger from this interview that Ronnie Crocker had with Monsters of Beer founder Cathy Clark, going from 10 breweries and 600 attendees to 50 breweries and 3000 attendees. Quite a big step, but I have no doubt that Houston and Texas beer lovers will support it. Plan ahead, Houston Beer week will be the week of November 12.
4) Along with great beer festivals came an increase in restaurants holding beer dinners. There were quite a few during Houston Beer week of course (including this amazing one at Catalan). However other restaurants have stepped up and held other beer dinners most notably Vic & Anthony's where Chef Carlos Rodriguez stepped out side the usual V&A fare and served some amazing food pairing them with brews from Dogfish Head, Stone, and Brew dog on 3 different occasions. Chef Rodriguez promises more to come and has already announced that the first beer dinner of the new year will be on 11 February featuring beers from Colorado's Left Hand.
5) As with last year, more and more beer books are being released, further helping to educate and entertain beer lovers. This was my favorite book of the year, and frankly one of my favorite beer books period.

For next year, besides new breweries, new beers, bigger and better beer fests, one of the most important things is that the Texas Legislature will be in session and hopefully a new bill will be submitted to allow breweries to sell beer on site. Unlike wineries who can sell wine in their on site tasting rooms, breweries in Texas don't have this luxury. 2 attempts have been made, so maybe, just maybe the third time is the charm. The new year promises to be big one for Texas craft beer lovers and I'll be here posting my thoughts. What were your highlights of this past year? What are you most looking forward to? Leave your thoughts below.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stone Lucky Bastard

Stone Brewing out of California is one of those in your face craft breweries. They don't do subtlety very well. They've been that way since day 1 and announced it to the world when they released Arrogant Bastard, an American Strong ale that teases you right on the bottle with the phrase "You are not worthy". It packs a wallop of hops and an abv of 7.2%. They are well known for making very hoppy very strong beers, and in fact I count Ruination as one of my all time favorite DIPA's. Its with this knowledge that I was eager to pick up Stone's newest release Lucky Bastard, a beer celebrating its arrogant history, the beer is a blend of Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Bastard, and Double Bastard.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 8.8% and pours a chestnut rusty brown with a thick taupe colored head of dense foam. The nose has notes of vanilla, massive hops, and some caramelly malts. The scents assault you, and in your face as expected from a Stone brew. The mouthfeel is chewy, a bit harsh, tongue quenching bitterness up front. Notes of malt, caramel, a dusting of coco, vanilla. But this are all quickly washed away by a thick layer of resiny much so that nothing else is left on the pallete than hops and more hops, everything else is washed out. This beer is great as a hop bomb, but I think it fails at highlighting the great individual beers. This one gets a B- from me for that reason. A good but not great beer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Freetail Houston

A couple of weeks ago right before Thanksgiving was my birthday and as I am want to do, I celebrated with a special beer. This year wasn't just any beer it was Freetail La Muerta (thanks to Dave for picking me up a couple of bottles). There may be two questions your asking yourself. The first is "Whats Freetail?" Well its a scratch that, its an amazing brewpub out of San Antonio, TX producing some of the best beers not only in Texas but the country. Freetail has become so popular that they are looking at expanding, but instead of just looking within San Antonio, they are looking out to other cities within Texas. This news came at the same time as Houston lost its one and only brewpub Two Rows, so folks in Houston have started a grassroots movement to bring Freetail here. This group of beer folks have started a website Freetail Houston and twitter feed to show the Freetail folks how much support there is for them in this fine brewpubless city. They have even worked to bring Freetail owner Scott Metzger to town to show them the love. Hopefully Scott will see the light and bring an amazing brewpub to Houston.
Now back to the questions. We've answered the first, the second question you may be asking yourself is "What's La Muerta." Well its there once a year brewed Imperial Stout. The beer is brewed in celebration of Dia De Los Muertos and is available only at the brew pub. They have a huge party on release day and you can buy 750ml's then. This year there were 450 bottles of this fine Imperial Stout made. The bottle that I opened for my birthday was number 36. Now that we've answered the questions let's get to the beer.
The Beer: This Imperial Stout weighs in at 10.2% and pours black as coal with a thick dense cafe colored head. The nose is full of thick luscious malts, roasted malt, chocolate, some alcohol, some dark fruit notes. The mouthfeel is full with a capital F. Creamy viscous, literally chewy. Gobs of roasted malts, coffee, dark chocolate, raisins, and some alcohol astringency. With all these strong flavors I'm surprised by how drinkable the beer is now, but really wonder how awesome this beer will be with some age. This beer is simply amazing one of, if not the best, Imperial stout I've had. This is an easy A bordering on the rare A+ from me.
It's a beer like this that makes me hunger for a brew pub that will make rare and experimental beers. While Imp Stouts are starting to border on being over done, this is so well done its not to be over looked. Additionally looking at some of the Belgian and sour ales that Freetail brews just makes me want them to chose Houston even more. So if you live here, support the movement to bring Freetail here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Grand Cru

This beer represents a bitter sweet moment for me; the fourth and final installment of Sierra Nevada's wonderful series brewed to celebrate their 30th anniversary. First there was Fritz and Ken Ale (an Imperial Stout), then in July we got the Charlie, Fred, and Ken Helles, followed by Jack and Ken's Barleywine in August. While these beers not only celebrated Sierra Nevada but other founders of the craft beer movement. This last one though is all about celebrating Sierra Nevada, its a blend of Oak-Aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale, and their flagship Pale Ale.

The Beer: The Grand Cru weighs in at 9.2% and pours an orangish amber with a thick dense creamy head of taupe colored foam. Lots of hops on the nose, some caramel malts and toffee as well. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with tons of hops present, sweet caramel and toffee, treacle, before leaving lingering hop resins on the tongue. Some notes of alcohol as well. Chewy, very drinkable, but lots of citrus and piney hops. This one is very good now, but I think will age very well. The hops will lessen and the malt characteristics will come to the fore front. Sierra Nevada did an outstanding job with this series of beers and went out with a bang. Here is to at least 30 more years.

More Holiday Beers

I said in my previous post how much I love this season for beers and so its time for another installment of Holiday Beers.
Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper: A favorite of mine from this gypsy brewer weighs in at 10.9%. The beer changes its recipe every year tweaking each time striving to reach perfection. An ale brewed with spices this one pours a dark brown almost but not quite black with a thick tan colored head. Spicy and herbal on the nose. Notes of spruce and sweet malt. Low carbonation with a full creamy mouthfeel. Rich sweet malts up front, notes of spruce, spice, candied dark fruits, rye bread, ginger, caramel all blend together to create a Christmas experience. Santa's Helper indeed. If you left this out next to your fireplace you might wake up on Christmas morning with Santa happily asleep the empty bottle clutched in his hands. This one gets a strong A from me.
Delerium Noel: From the makers of Delerium Tremens, the last time I had this brew was back in 2008 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A 10% Belgian dark ale that pours a light hazy brown with very little head. Candied sugar, fruity esters on the nose. Medium bodied, some notes of alcohol, fruity, plums, candied sugar, fruity, slightly sweet. Some brown sugar and vanilla notes show up as it warms. Its a little sweet for me and I'd love to see how this changes as it ages. Very plummy some sour cherries as well show up. A good beer that gets a B+ from me.
Samichlaus 2009: This leads credence to the theory that Christmas seasonal beers are the best for aging. Samichlaus is an original "extreme" beer from Austria, weighing at at a robust 14%. Unlike others though this one is a lager, not an ale. Brewed once a year on December 6th, aged, and only then is it bottled. So this one bottled in 2009 was actually brewed back in 2008. The beer pours a rusty brown color with a thin and quickly dissipating head of foam. The nose is of cherries, and alcohol, dried fruit, sherry, dark bread, chocolate. Medium body with very little carbonation. Cherries and prunes, notes of alcohol. I close my eyes and think I'm drinking a fine port. The liquid coats the tongue begging to be paired with a strong cheese or chocolate. This is simply amazing and shows what beer can be. If you have a bottle of this, keep sitting on it, as I think this one can age for many more years. A great A beer.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Plethora of Holiday Beers

This year for the first time in a while there seems to be some new Christmas or winter seasonal beers on the shelves. At the very least they are new to me. Instead of filling numerous posts I'm combing my thoughts on a few of these beers. They'll be more of these in the next couple of weeks as I make my way through as many as I can. This is my favorite season for beers because so many beer during this time are cellar worthy as are each of the ones I'm posting about today.
Ommegang Adoration Ale: A Belgian Style Christmas ale from one of the best American brewers of belgian ales. This one has been around for a few years but its the first time I think its been available in Houston in bottles. A 10.% beer brewed with spices like coriander, cardamom, Mace, and grains of paradise. The beer pours a chestnut brown with a thick taupe colored head. Malty, fruity, spicy on the nose. I can smell cardamom and coriander. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy. Flavors of sweet malt, figs, prunes, candied oranges, fruit cake. Spicey, chewy, dark bread, dark fruit. As it warms qualities of scotch show up. Sweet but finishes dry. A very gog complex beer to sit in front of a warm fire with on a cold winter night. An A- from me.
Duvel Triple Hop: While not a true seasonal like others its been released around this time so I included it in this round up. Its your traditional Duvel recipe kicked up a bit. It weighs in at 9.5% and is brewed with Saaz, Amarillow, and Styrin hops, then again dry hopped with Styrin. It pours a pale golden color as expected with a thick pillowy white head of foam. The nose is of pale toasted malts, spicey yeasts. Medium mouthfeel, lots of carbonation, slightly sweet toasted malts, spicey and floral, yeasty bready notes. Letting it warms helps to bring out notes of pears and apples. A great beer that does great honor to the Duvel tradition. An A grade.
Gulden Draak Vintage Ale 2010: A vintaged version of the popular Gulden Draak Belgian age. Weighing in at 7.5% it pours a hazelnut brown with a thick dense head of taupe colored foam. Malty caramel notes on the nose. Brown sugar. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, god carbonation. Notes of Raisins, sweet caramel, malts, a slight hop bitterness. Carbonation is high giving this dark beer an effervescence. Notes of cherry as the beer warms, yeasty notes, figs. Spicey. A good beer that gets a B+ from me.
Golden Carolous Noel: We finish this round up as we started: A Belgian Style Christmas ale, except this time from an actual Belgian Brewery. This one weighs in at 10.5% and pours a rich copper color with a dark taupe colored head. Malty and spicey on the nose. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a good level of carbonation. Flavors of sweet malt, spice, Christmas bread, candied sugar. Dark fruits, raisins figs, rich, rich, malt. Ginger bread, sprucy, slightly sweet. This beer tastes like Winter, it tastes like Christmas. If someone asked me to think of a scene to compare this beer to it would be traipsing through a snow covered forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree, then back at a cabin by a fire sipping on a fine beer. In a nutshell that's what this beer is. This may be my new favorite Christmas beer. A strong go out and get this grade of A from me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blue Frog: The Big DIPA No. 3

I'm fortunate in that my wife gets to travel quite a bit, and she is always more than willing to pile various beers into her suitcase for me. She always brings back good beers, and some that I've never heard of before. This is one of those beers. All I saw though was DIPA, or Double IPA, and you KNOW I like that. My wife traveled to California recently and found this bottle from Blue Frog. Its actually Blue Frog Grog and Grill based out of Fairfield, California. The name of the brew pub is based on the song "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog" by Peter, Paul, and Mary (click here for the lyrics).
The Beer: A pumped up DIPA that has 105 IBU's and weighs in at 8.4%. The beer pours a partially hazy copper color with a thick head of off-white foam. The nose is massive hops, grapefruit, citrus peel, some caramel and toffee malts. Medium to light mouthfeel, explosive hops, lots of resinous stickiness. Grapefruit pith, caramel, maltyness, but here yes hops are king. They assault the senses from the start through the finish. No alcohol on the finish, smooth. Its a little thin, maybe some more malt to create a little backbone would help. Good, heck mouthpuckering at times, but needs a little oomph for me. This one gets a B from me.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Tale of Two Ruffians

If you've read this blog any amount of time you know I have a soft spot for Colorado beers. This is mostly due to my wife being from there and me having had a chance to taste a lot of beers from that state, including some that aren't available in Texas. This is one of those days, where I'm comparing a version of a beer that we get in the state against one we don't. Old Ruffian is Great Divide's barley wine.
09 Old Ruffian: The specs: 10.2% and 90 IBU's, bottled Dec 10 2009. This pours a brownish color with a thick dense head of taupe colored foam. The nose is full of malts, toffee, treacle, caramel, and hops along with a bit of alcohol. A creamy mouthfeel, malty up front then slammed with citrusy hops at the finish. With the next sip you get notes of toffee, caramel, raisins, before finishing even more resinous, sticky. Lots of grapefruit notes, hops are very prevalent but there is a strong malty presence here that does bring some balance. This one gets a B+ from me.

09 Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Ruffian: The Specs: 10.0%, 90 iBU's aged in Stranahn Whiskey Barrels. Hand numbered and I have bottle 375 of 1188. The beer pours a dark cloudy brown with a much thinner head of taupe colored foam. Malts and treacle, toffee, with undertones of oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Hops are very subdued here. Creamy mouthfeel, very little carbonation, some notes of wet cardboard that indicate some oxidation of the hops. Lots of caramel, vanilla, oak and bourbon, again very little hop flavor here. A little boozy. A little disappointing. I was really hoping for a bit more of hop flavor, but the hops have mostly left. A good beer though that gets a B from me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 10

Its been almost year since the last Divine Reserve was released, but finally the time has arrived. As always actually getting your hand on some Divine Reserve is part of the fun and if you want to hear about it head over to Lushtastic for a good story (read the comments!). However this post is not about the hunt, but the beer. DR 10 is an English Barleywine based off of the winning recipe from the Big Batch Brew Bash as brewed by Chris Landis. This Barleywine weighs in at a very hefty 11%. Lucky for me I was able to obtain 2 six packs, but I also headed downtown on Tuesday the release day to try it on draft at Anvil Bar and Refuge which is what my tasting notes are based off of.
The Beer: Served in a tulip glass this beer poured a ruby color with a good sized taupe colored head. Caramel, and sweet malts, mild hops and some alcohol are on the nose. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, very sweet and malty, and a good deal of hoppy bitterness. Earthy, spicey instead of citrus-y grapefruit, I'm not sure what the hop varietal is, but its definitely not your NW American hops. It leaves a resiny finish though. Some notes of cherry as well. Very hot alcohol flavor, raw and young the beer definitely needs some age to it. Its got a great base and the beer is good and drinkable now, but I think it will be amazing in a couple of years. I'm not going to give my final grade on this one yet as I don't think its at its best right now. I think this beer has some great potential though.

Friday, October 29, 2010

De Proef/Terrapin Monstre Rouge

Collaboration beers when done properly can be amazing, a fusion between multiple different visions, coming together to create a one of a kind elixir. In my opinion one of the more successful collaborative series has been De Proef's "Brewmaster's Collaboration". They have brewed with Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur and the brewmaster from Bell's in Michigan among many others. They've been unique and more importantly very good. De Proef's latest collaboration is with the masters of rye Terrapin Beer. Monstre Rouge is called an Imperial Flanders Red Ale and is based off of Terrapins massively hopped beer "Big Hoppy Monster" but of course with a twist: Rye has been added to the recipe as well as some brett yeast.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 8.5% and pours a cloudy hazy hazelnut brown with a thick frothy head of foam. The nose is full of malts, lots of citrusy hops, some oaky vanilla and maybe its my imagination but just a hint of horsey notes comes through from the brett. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and my tasebuds short circuit momentarily from the layers of complex flavors. Once they come back on line I get hit by citrusy hops that leave a resiny finish, sweet fruiy malts, caramel, toffee, vanilla, and a dry oaky finish. Just a faint funky, horsey, barnyardy flavor, barely there. As I'm sitting there thinking I'd like the brett flavors turned up just a bit, I let the beer warm and it starts to come through even more. The more pronounced brett flavors start to meld with the more bourbon like qualities of this beer, then mixing with the resinous hops to create an explosion of flavors unlike many I've tasted before. A dry finish and this beer is truly one of a kind, one that I will love to see how it ages. The beer gets a resounding A from me. Folks at BA dig it, but not as much as I do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes

Ommegang from Cooperstown, New York is one of the best Belgian style breweries in the country. I think their standard line up is extremely solid, and their special seasonal brews some of the best around. Ommegang has a strong connection to Belgium and its brewing traditions in that they are owned by Duvel Moortgaart makers of Duvel and Maredsous beers. Every once in a while Ommegang releases special one off beers that are blends of newer world and older world traditions. Examples in the past have been their Belgian Pale ale, or Triple Perfection. How they have brewed a special Belgian Scotch ale brewed with Belgian yeast and heather tips as well as some smoked malts.
The Beer: This brew weighs in at 6.8% and pours a light nutty brown with a thick dense head of tan colored foam. The nose is malty, smokey notes, floral. The mouth is full bodied, chewy creamy, very malty. Hints of smoke along with vanilla, raisins, figs, dark rich fruits. Spicy notes and floral ones a the beer warms, even more smoke. Some estery notes from the Belgian yeasts and slight hints of cherries. A wonderful unique beer, rich and creamy, but with the somewhat low strength one that you can drink a lot of sipping at night as the weather cools. This one gets a strong A from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Houston Beer Week Recap of Recaps

As posted yesterday, Monsters of Beer brought Houston Beer Week to a close with a bang. The entire week I think was an incredible success. Many folks, myself included, have been asking about something like this for a long time, looking for a way to put it together. However, it was a small group of people that had a vision and the drive to really put things in place, and to prod and push to make last week a success. Those people for the most part were Cathy Clark and Kevin Floyd. Yes I know that there many others involved, that put in a lot of hours and hard work, but those two were really the face of the effort. After those two, massive appreciation goes out to all the restaurants and bar's that took a risk, held an event and asked to be a part of Houston Beer Week. So a big thanks goes to: Beaver's, Petrol Station, Anvil Bar & Refuge, Spec's, Rockwell Tavern and Grill, Catalan, Divino's, Vic and Anthony's, The Usual, Gingerman, Liberty Station, Whole Foods, Canopy, Alamo Draft House, Fox Hollow, Mucky Duck, and Brenner's. Quite a long list indeed, and I am sure that many of those places had their eyes opened to the beer culture in Houston. Which brings me to my last shout out. You. My biggest fear was that HBW would be well coordinated and put together, lots of restaurants and bars would step up, and then no one would show up . Well Houston, pat yourself on the back, because if there was any doubt about it before, you love good beer, with food, or without, draft, or cask, you packed every event throughout the week. This wasn't a case of the same crowd going to each dinner. I know that most people just picked one dinner to go too, yet each one was sold out before hand. A great job and it shows that here is still some growth potential in this city.

Now for the Recaps of Recaps. I obviously couldn't hit all the events last week, lucky for us there are quite a few other's that put their thoughts down:

Monday's Beaver and Petrol Beer Dinner:
Some thoughts from Lushtastic:

The Chronicle's Ronnie Crocker posts some thoughts on the Connoisseur tasting with Audrey Keifer of Artisanal Beverage Company:

Of course a couple of folks posted thoughts on the amazing Catalan Beer Dinner:

There also a couple of reviews for Thursday's Pumpkin Ale Throwdown at Petrol Station

Here's mine from Friday's Anvil Gravity Beer event:

A review of Texas Girl’s Pint Out Rare Beers of the Midwest at Spec’s (sorry I couldn't get in)
and some pictures:

And finally, some thoughts on Monsters of Beer

If you have a recap that I didn't include, put a link in the comments section and I will update this post with the information.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monsters of Beer Recap

Sunday was the final day of the highly successful Houston Beer Week and you couldn't have asked for a better way to go out than Monsters of Beer. This was an event of Texas Music, Texas Food, and of course Texas Beer. It was a extremely successful 6 hour event with very few hiccups. I'm really impressed by the folks that put this on, the volunteers, and the attendees. Was it perfect? No. Are there things that could go better next year? Of course there are. But for it being year one I thought things went pretty well.

The first thing we noticed when we walked past the giant dragon at the entrance to Monsters of Beer and entered the blocked off area by 13 Celsius was the line-up of 9 breweries where there was supposed to be 10. Unfortunately Ranger Creek Brewing couldn't make it anytime as they were having facility issues. The second thing I noticed was that there was only one food truck when there should have been 3 (Hubcap Grill had their truck vandalized, and Melange Crepes was running late, which left only Sylvia's No Borders Truck), this would of course cause one of the biggest issues but was really beyond the control of the Monsters of Beer folks.

Once we got in line for each brewery you also realized that what was on the handy dandy check off chart was not what was being served so for reference here is what was available from each brewery:

(512) - IPA and Pecan Porter

Live Oak - Pilz and HefeWeisen

Real Ale - Oktoberfest, ESB, and Lost Gold IPA Cask

Southern Star - Burried Hatchet Stout, Blonde, Pale Ale

Independence - Stash IPA, Saison

No Label - Pale Horse Pale Ale, El Hefe Hefeweizen, and Ridgeback Amber

Jester King - Mild

Saint Arnold - Amber and Elissa IPA

Rahr and Sons - Ugly Pug, Salamander Pale Ale, Octoberfest (Imperial Version) and a Cask of Winter Warmer

Even without Ranger creek a pretty solid line up of beers. Although the brewer's couldn't touch the beers, there were some reps around to answer questions and the volunteers were (for the most part) educated about what they were serving. If you go based on lines I think a lot of folks were interested in the new folks from Katy No Label Brewing. I have to say I came away impressed. I thought there Amber was outstanding, and their El Hefe was a great hefeweisen, up there with Live Oak's. Rahr and Son's probably wins the award for bringing the most beer. Initially I was excited to see their new version of their Octoberfest being poured but around 4 pm they tapped a cask of their Winter Warmer which was amazing.

The crowd was great, well behaved and all seemed interested in the beers being served. There were 600 tickets sold, so there times when it got crowded but it was never out of hand. The crowd ranged from the beer folks that I always see at events like this, to folks just curious about what's going on which at 20.00 a pop allowed regular folks to attend just out of curiosity.

Yep it was a great time, but as mentioned there were a couple of minor things that could better. The first thing I already briefly mentioned which was only having Sylvia's Food Truck out there. I know it was beyond their control, but standing in line for 20 minutes for a couple of taco's was not a good time. Hopefully the success of this event will allow more trucks to come and participate. The second issue, was there weren't enough chairs. I know that the space was not huge, but a few more tables and chairs would be nice. There were a couple of things mentioned by other folks that frankly didn't bother my that much. The first was long lines, which admittedly were there, but I don't think I ever stood in line for longer than 5 or so minutes which is a testament to the hard work of the volunteers. The second issue was the heat. Again it was hot, but it was also an outdoor festival in Houston so it could have been cloudy and rainy, cold, or hot. Luckily the clouds came around 3 pm and it helped, but it didn't bother me much. That's it though, those were really the only issues I had, or heard about. Not bad for a first event of this size.

Throughout the day there was a tent set up with items available via Silent Auction, all proceeds going to Friday Harbor. Some of the things available were Glasses from Ranger Creek, Brewer for a Day at Southern Star, 2 each of the Saison Du Buff from Victory, Stone and Dogfish, a Vertical from Stone's Epic series (Can't remember the years), vertical of Dark Lord, and a Vertical of Abyss. I am very happy to say that I got the Abyss vertical! It was a great way to raise money and was exciting to see folks running to the tent at just before 4pm when the auction closed and trying to get one last bid in. Again though even with all the excitement everyone was extremely well behaved even if it was the 4 hours into the festival and a lot of folks had a lot of beer.

I just want to say again how impressed I was by the event, how few logistical issues there were, how good the beer was (nothing lukewarm, everything was served fresh and cold), and how awesome everyone at the event was. Its truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of the folks behind Monsters of Beer Cathy Clark and Kevin Floyd. Great job guys, no pressure, but we are all eagerly anticipating next year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Anvil's Gravity Beer 2010

There were a lot of events I was looking forward to at the beginning of Houston Beer Week, and the Gravity Beer Event at Anvil last night was at the top of the list. The dream of Kevin Floyd, Co-Owner of Anvil the idea was to have a bunch of beer's that were either completely unavailable to Texas, or one off's of local beer's that would be special and unique. None of these beers would be available on draft, instead all served in cask and either poured via gravity or Cask Engine. When we arrived at Anvil there were two types of keg's set up. The first the traditional English Firkin (a 9 imperial Gallon keg) filled with unique Texas Craft beers or a German Anstich (5.28 US Gallons) filled Franconian Lager's that until last night were unavailable in Texas. Anvil handed out a nice "Consumption Guide" with info on all the beer's listed and a little bit of info on each beer, some of which I'll use below. I'll also include tasting notes on the beer's I was able to try:
Texas Firkin's
(512) Dry Hopped Two: This was (512) second anniversary beer and an imperial IPA. This was served via a Gravity Cask. I've had this beer before on draft and really enjoyed it. Last night it was great on cask, hoppy, spicy, almost creamy texture, it slaps you across the face with hops. Good carbonation (don't let anyone tell you cask beer should be flat!) some malty sweetness and mild alcohol notes. Great beer.
Jester King Dark Mild: The first cask that new Austin Area brewery Jester King has made. A traditional English Dark mild that weighs in at 3% and was dry hopped with East Kent Goldings. This beer was served on Anvil's cask Engine and one of the beer's I was most looking forward too. It poured a rich dark chestnut brown with a creamy head. Very malty, very easy drinking, but extremely flavorable. Some mild earthy hoppy notes adds to the beer without taking away from the showcase of malt flavors. A great cask ale that should be on regular rotations around town, hopefully it will be in the future.
Independence Convict Hill Stout aged with Anvil Bourbon Cherries: This was the second beer I was really looking forward to. Independence's Imperial Oatmeal Stout with Anvil's house made Bourbon cherries. This was tapped after Jester King's Mild was gone, and it took a loooonggg time, at least it was a long time for those of us eagerly waiting it, crowding around the bar, hoping that every time Kevin went to the ice box he would come out with an empty keg signaling that it was time of this beer. Well when it finally arrived none of us was left disappointed. It was served on Anvil's Cask Engine and came out black with just a hint of ruby streaks, and a thick creamy head. The nose was of roasted malts, chocolate, and maybe just a bit of bourbon. The mouth was medium bodied, lots of roasted malts, a small amount of bourbon up front and just a faint hint of cherries on the finish. Some notes of alcohol which is to be expected for a brew weighing in at just over 9%. I was surprised by how easy it drank. A really solid great beer and a wonderful collaboration between bar and brewer.
Southern Star Cocoa and Madagascar Vanilla Aged Smoked Porter: A very special version of Southern Star's Pro Am beer. Whole vanilla beans and Coco nibs were added into this cask.
The German Beers served in Anstich
Brauerie Bayer: A landbier
Ahornberger: A schwartzbier. This beer poured a rich dark black with an almost bright white head. Lots of dark roasted malts, some sweetness up front before it finishes dry. A creaminess to this lager, very good.
Braueri Beck (Trabelsdorf): Lager
Monschsambach: Unfiltered Lager
Guenther Braeu: Lager

Rightfully so Anvil has a reputation around not only Houston but the country as a top notch Cocktail bar, but last night it was definitely all about the beer. This morning via Twitter, Kevin reported that the Independence Cask was gone in 75 minutes. That's pretty good for such a high octane brew. Speaking of twitter, there were rumors going around this morning that Anvil had broken its single night sales record. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that. A beer night setting sales records at Anvil so I needed it confirmed, so I sent a message to Kevin who replied back with a hearty YES! That's pretty amazing and is one more example of how successful Houston Beer Week has been.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Beer Dinner: Catalan

Last night just about marked the middle point of Houston Beer Week. A couple of days ago I wrote a summary of the amazing time I had at Flying Saucer's Divine Reserve Vertical Tasting. Well last night I attended the Catalan Beer Dinner, which had Food from Chef Chris Shepard and beer parings from Kevin Floyd of Anvil. This was a 6 course dinner with an appetizer course that left me full, and amazed at some of the pairings. During each course Chef Shepard would come out and briefly talk about the food, before stepping aside and letting Kevin talk about the beer, some history, some stories, and a little about the pairing.

Appetizer Course: I have to admit when they first brought out the beer for this course I thought it was a joke, but later learned there was a good reason for it. The course was Keystone Light served in a Champagne flute with a home made bologna sandwich topped with home made spicy bread and butter pickles. I can't remember the last time I've had Keystone, and there is a good reason for that. Luckily it was served ice cold and the initial sips weren't too bad, but man the finish is horrible. It was a fun pairing as the highly carbonated beer helped cut through the fat of the sand which. Kevin then came out and talked about why Keystone. Turns out this was the first beer that Kevin bough at 21, and he wanted to start off the dinner with your typical American Lager before showing those in attendance (many who had never been to a beer dinner) how far the craft beer industry has moved away from that.

Course 1: The first course brought a surprise, a beer that we don't get in Texas: Saison De Dottignes from De Ranke Brewery in Belgium. Simply this was just a great example of a Belgian Saison and one that we can't get here in Houston, yet. Notes of lemon, yeasty peppery notes, just a bit of funk on the finish. It was served with mussels in a chorizo garlic broth. The mussels were HUGE. Good pairing, spicy broth goes well with the yeasty peppery notes of the beer and its dry finish.

Course 2: The third beer of the evening was Left Hand Polestar Pilsner. A great example of a European Pilsner, poured a very pale straw color with notes of pils malts, a little funk on the finish, grassy. Good beer that was perfect for the dish of fish and chips. Chef Shepard fried up Gulf Hake and paired with malt vinegar potato chips. This was a good dish, and the beer paired well by basically getting out of the way, the beer washing away some of the fat from the batter while not over powering the dish. This was a good dish, but not one of my favorites.

Course 3: Kevin brought out a second beer that we don't get here in Texas, Nogne O Imperial Dunkel Wit. I've never had an Imperial Dark Belgian Wit ale, let alone one that weighs in at 10.0%. This beer was amazing, it blew me away with its level of spices, figs, some alcohol, brown sugar, even some bannana chocolate and a bit of malty sweetness. But it was so much more than what I'm describing, really just an amazing beer. It was paired with suckling pig taco's, pickled onions and homemade hot sauce. A pairing of spicy and sweet, richness of beer, and richness of dish, a really perfect pairing. Kevin reports we may just be getting some Nogne O in Texas, let's hope that we get this one.

Course 4: Kevin brought out a familiar favorite here, pouring Victory Wild Devil and paired with an usual dish called Mofongo, that Chef Shepard informed the eager crowd was a combination Jamacan and Puerto Rican dish. Chef took some plantains and mashed them with some braised pork belly, and then topped it with braised baby goat that had been shredded and mixed with All Spice, cloves, and scotch bonnet peppers. The funky spiciness of the beer paired well with the heat of the dish. Dryness and carbonation of the beer really contrasted with the rich sweetness of the dish.

Course 5: A traditional food pairing here of beer and burgers. Of course you know its more than that. The beer was Lagunitas Hopstoopid, the burger was cooked medium rare and stuffed with cheese, the bun made of pretzel from Slow Dough bakery. The side dish was barbecue baked field peas. A pretty solid pairing, but I wasn't the biggest fan of the burger....maybe it was because by this point I was STUFFED, barely able to eat (should have taken some food home with me!).

Course 6: Yes I'm stuffed, but that didn't mean I couldn't eat dessert especially when it's paired with Stone Russian Imperial Stout 2009. The dish was chocolate ice cream and rich rich dense chocolate cake. A perfect pairing of course the roasted coffee, chocolate, burnt beans of the beer with the sweet dark rich chocolate of the cake. With some encouragement from Kevin a bunch of us threw the ice cream in with the beer....I love beer floats!

Over all last night was incredibly successful. When Kevin asked who had never been to a beer dinner before the majority of the room raised their hands. In fact I'd say only a half dozen folks had been to one. This is what I had hoped Houston Beer Week would do, bring non-beer people to beer events and if last night is any indication that's exactly what it's doing.

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out fellow beer blogger Steve from All Good Beer was at the dinner as well and has posted his thoughts (with pictures) as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: Amber, Gold & Black

Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain's Great Beers by Martyn Cornell is an extremely well researched book that covers all the styles of beer that Britain has produced over many centuries. The book covers 16 chapters, each chapter a different style of beer: Bitter, Mild, Burton Ale, Porter, Stout, India Pale Ale, Golden Ale, Low-Gravity Beers, Brown Ale, Wheat Ale, Barley Wine and Old Ale, Herb and Flavored Ales, Honey Beer, Heather Ale, Wood-Aged Beers, and Lager. Each chapter begins with the history of the beer and the etymology of the style, and then at the end of each chapter it discusses the present and mentions some of the brewer's still producing they style of beer. Its a very well written book and a quick read at essentially 226 pages, although its packed with information. He delves into how styles progressed through the centuries and how they evolved, sometimes going from one style and blending into others. To me especially, it's fascinating reading concerning the impact that the two World Wars had on the beer culture in Britain, primarily creating low gravity beers. Although this essentially killed some styles, it also forced British brewer's to brew very full flavored ales at relatively low alcohol, something that I feel is still missing on this side of the pond. If you pick this book up, you'll see its extremely well written (if a little bit poorly edited) that covers the depth and breadth of British brewing history. Another fun aspect of the book, that anyone familiar with Mr. Cornell's work will know, is the debunking of several beer related myth's (I won't give any away here, just go read the book). Overall Amber Gold and Black is a fascinating read that truly shows the impact Britain and its beer culture had on the beer cultures around the world.

A couple of additional notes that I wanted to make because I think the book itself has an interesting history. This book was originally published as an e-book in Britain a couple of years ago and won huge rave's from beer lovers. It won the book of the year before finally getting published hardcopy and made available over here in the states. Mr. Cornell has a great blog if you are more interested in the etymology and history of words and beer, he is also the founder of the British Beer Writers Guild.

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve Vertical Tasting

The week to end all weeks for beer lovers is here. Houston Beer week started off with a BANG on Sunday and continues at a feverish pace the rest of the week. Monday you didn't see me at any beer dinners, instead I headed to the Flying Saucer for a very special beer tasting. Brock Wagner, owner and co-founder of Houston's own Saint Arnold was there to lead a tasting of all 9 Divine Reserves (Flying Saucer also provided some very fine cheeses courtesy of the Houston Dairy Maids). Brock had lots of great stories to go with the beer as we all worked our way through these 9 beers. The oldest of which has almost hit 5 years.
DR 1: The first Divine Reserve and the only one that I didn't get to drink fresh (I did have it about a year and a half ago for the first time). This was bottled on 17 October 2005 and weighed in at 10%. It was made with a 100% Maris Otter malts with Northern Brewer and Cascade hops in the kettle. In an unusual twist it was later dry hopped with the German noble hop Saaz. The beer pours a cloudy amber brownish. The nose is syrupy sweet, malts, toffee. The body if medium, some notes of alcohol up front, the hops have subsided, concentrated flavors, sherry like notes. Bread pudding quality, caramel, treacle. Still a good after dinner drink, but I wonder how much longer this one still has.
DR 2: This is Saint Arnold's 10% Belgian Quadruppel, bottled on 18 July 2006. Brewed in two different batches, with two separate yeasts, a Chimay yeast and then Chico yeast. Right at the end of fermentation and before bottling the two batches were blended together before allowing fermentation to complete. The hops used for this one were Perle, Liberty, and Saaz, and its also the first Saint Arnold beer to use an adjunct, in this case brown sugar). The beer poured a cloudy orangish amber, the nose is full of fruity esters from the yeast, pears, grapes almost a Sauternes quality. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, those same yeasty estery notes, brown sugar, some white fruits, really complex and tasty, I loved this beer fresh and still really enjoyed it.
DR 3: A double IPA weighing in at 10% this one is a winner of the Big Beer Brew Bash and was bottled on 21 September 2006. The pours a clear orange color with notes of syrup, caramel, but not a lot of hops on the nose. However this changes with the firs sip. The beer is sticky with hops, resinous, massive hops on the finish, extremely malty as well, caramel, toffee, some hop oxidation that gives it a sherry like quality, makes this beer taste more like an American Strong Ale than a DIPA.
DR 4: This was the first Divine Reserve that I was able to get in a 6 pack and I loved it. A 8% Wee Heavy that was bottled on 20 February 2007. This is also the only DR that has won a medal bringing home a Gold Medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup. The beer pours a very rich dark brown notes of raisins, figs, concentrated dark fruits and a smokiness are all on the nose. More of the same in the mouth. Dark crystal malts, plums and cherry's are all there as well. Surprised by the smoke, as I don't really remember this one having a lot of smokiness to it.
DR 5: This is the one a lot of folks were looking forward to. A 9% Russian Imperial Stout that has won massive raves and was named one of the top beers of the year in 2007. It was bottled on 28 August of that year and has an interesting story as well. Evidently when the beer was being thrown into the fermenter it was under hopped, so to bring the hop levels back up Saint Arnold ended up using hop oils and hop extract. The beer pours a pitch black and smells of massively roasted black malts, chocolate, coffee, burnt malts. The mouthfeel is still pretty full bodied, Chocolate, darkly roasted coffee beans, some astringency, figs, raisins. After 3 years this one still could go many many more and continue to be amazing.
DR 6: A massively hopped American Barleywine that weighs in at 10%. 225 lbs of 100% Columbus hops were used to create this monster, bottled on 6 April 2008. It pours an almost reddish color, some hops on the nose, but lots of malts, toffee, caramel, some piney notes, sugary sweetness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with pine notes a plenty. Some oxidation here as I got notes of sherry, along with caramel, toffee, treacle, some fruity notes as well. This one is still good and probably has another year or two.
DR 7: This one I expected to like the least due to fact I didn't expect the style to age very well. A 8% Weizenbock this one was bottled on 5 September 2008. The beer pours a light cloudy brownish color. No banana flavors, but there is a spiciness, some cloves and chocolate. Light bodied, with lots of spices and cloves. The harshness that was there fresh is gone and this one is smooth if a little light flavored. It's evolved (or devolved) into a light dunkel weissen.
DR 8: At this point my palate was starting to go so my notes aren't the best. This was a 9% Scotch ale bottled on 20 August 2009. It poured a hazy orange color, still some peat-y qualities on the nose some residual sweetness as well. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and good levels of smokiness still present, grapes, prunes, sweet malts, fruity esters from the yeast. A good beer that I think still has some time.
DR 9: Even though this one is not quite a year old I was extremely excited to see how this Imperial Pumpkin Stout has held up. Bottled on 11 November of last year it is the strongest of the Divine Reserves weighing in at 11%. It pours a dark ruby brown color with a lot of pumpkin still present on the nose. Lots of pumpkin pie spice as well along with a good dose of chocolate and roasted malts. Its a full bodied beer, lots of chocolate, spices, pumpkin. This tastes AMAZINGLY still. Lots of all spice, cinnamon, brown sugar. Really Really good. It was at this point that Brock made the biggest announcement of the night: This Imperial Pumpkin Stout will become a yearly seasonal release starting next year! That is great news for any beer lover.

Overall I was really impressed by how well most of these beers have developed over time. The 5 year old DR1 is still really good. Last night shows that Saint Arnold brews some of the best beer around and that DR series has developed into an amazing line up of beers. Remember that DR 10 an English Barleywine comes out November 1.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Houston Beer Week: What are you doing?

Tomorrow starts a week of celebrating beer in Houston. As I've written before this is something that I've been waiting for a long time for and am extremely excited about. There is at least one event every day starting tomorrow and culminating in the awesome Monsters of Beer next Sunday, however many days have multiple events. Check out the official Houston Beer Week website, or look on the right hand said of this page to see the Beer Events Calendar for whats happening each day.
From dinners, to education events, to tastings there is something for everyone. There are some amazing dinners at places like Catalan, Beavers, and Rockwell Tavern, nightly tastings at Gingerman Pub. There are events for everyone, from activities prices from around $11.00 to dinners up to $100.00. Besides the daily events listed on the Beer Events Calendar there is also events going on all week long: Liberty Station will be having Happy Hour prices on draft beer all week along, and Whole Foods Markets will be having specials on beer throughout the week.
Now that you know what's happening, the question remains, what are you going to do? Beer lovers, this is the event you've been waiting for, now its up to you to support it as much as you can. What am I going to do? Definitely doing the Monsters of Beer event, but I'll also be at the Catalan Beer dinner, with pairings from Kevin Floyd of Anvil Bar and Refuge. I'll also be at the Gravity Cask Event at Anvil on Friday. I'm going to try to hit up one of the tastings at Gingerman and Petrol Station. Next week will be busy for me, so if you see me around, come by and say hi.
I'll be posting my thoughts of the individual events throughout the week, then a round up next Sunday on how I think HBW went.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lagunitas Lil Sumpin Wild

I'm a huge fan of Lagunitas Brewery out of California, because they make great beer at a great price. Very few other brewer's release the beers Lagunitas does at 3 to 5 dollars a bomber. It's becuase of this price point that I go and pick up a lot of their beers, especialy when I see one that I think will interest me. Something that interested me on this one was the word wild on the label. Thinking I was getting their popular Lil Sumpin IPA with wild yeast I picked it up to check it out. Luckily I read the label before taking it home so I wasn't too dissapointed. Regardless of what the name implies this is not a wild ale, instead it is an IPA fermented with the Belgian brewery Westmalle's yeast (not sure what's wild about that but oh well). Still this sounded interesting enough for me to check it out.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 8.85% and pours a pale golden honey color with a thick white head that slowly dissipates over time to a thin white cap of foam. Nose is hoppy, citrusy, spicey, peppery, malty. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, very hoppy up front with lots of citrus and grapefruit peel. Finish is spicey, estery, lots of that typical Belgian yeast. Fruity, slightly effervescent. The lingering effect and impression though is of the hops, they are definetely the highlight. A good solid Belgian IPA attempt by Lagunits, just need to change the name so folks aren't confused or dissapointed. This one gets a B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Houston Beer Week Press Release

I've talked about it many times but I have recieved the press release for the first ever Houston Beer Week. The Press release details all the events currently planned. While the press release is below, please note that there will continue to be additions so remember to check out, and I will also be updating the Events calendar on the right hand side of the page as much as I can.
One last note before getting to the press release. I've learned that Anvil Bar and Refuge will be hosting "A taste of Houston Beer Week" on Thursday October 8th by tapping some very special beers. I have an idea of what will be tapped and it will be awesome, and as soon as I get confirmation of that I'll post additional details on here. Without further ado the press release:

Local bars, chefs and breweries collaborate to create an amazing week of Events, Dinners and Tappings to be held all over the City of Houston in celebration of the Craft Beer Movement.
Co-Chairs Cathy Clark and Kevin Floyd “Monsters of Beer Charity” Grand Finale Event to benefit local charities
Houston TX -- Beer Lovers, start your engines, purchase your tickets, and get ready for the first Houston Beer Week. Organized by a network of local beer-savvy operators, beer aficionados and craft breweries, HBF features a week-long calendar of spectacular beer events and general beer magic that will take place at bars, restaurants and retail establishments all over the city and into the suburbs. The week will conclude with the Monsters of Beer Charity Festival on Sunday, October 17, 2010, organized by Co-Chairs Cathy Clark, founder of the popular Houston Beer Camp and the Live it Big charity, and Kevin Floyd, co-owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge. Proceeds from Sunday’s event will benefit local charities.
Events, Beer Dinners and Hard-to-Find Beers
Every event will be its own adventure. Costs will vary by event. Expect to taste cask-conditioned newcomers, hard-to-score beers, and learn from the best beer nerds in the city at a featured beer dinner each night of the week. While a complete calendar for each day of the week can be found at [updates are ongoing], below is a selection of noteworthy events, including the beer dinners to be featured each night:

Sunday, Oct.10
Kick-off party at The Usual Pub, beginning 4pm; plus A Home brewer’s Tutorial with DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer Supplies and Southern Star Brewery, also at The Usual.
The Usual Pub, 5519 Allen St.

Monday, Oct. 11
Featured Beer Dinner:
Chef Jonathan Jones of Beaver’s Ice House & Ben Fullelove of Petrol Station
Details: 6pm beer & cocktail reception followed by a 5-course dinner paired with beers hand-selected by Ben. $70 per person.
To reserve, call Beaver’s, 713-864-2328; a credit card is required to confirm your reservation.
Beaver’s Ice House, 2310 Decatur St.

Connoisseur tasting at The Ginger Man Pub with Artisanal Imports
Join Chris Campana of Artisanal Imports of Austin for a tour through his incredible portfolio of international brews including Urthel (Belgium), Malheur (Belgium), Sunner (Germany), Triple Karmeliet (Belgium), Koningshoeven (Belgium) and Tilburg (Netherlands).
Details: $11.25/p; the event starts at 7:30pm.
The Ginger Man, 5607 Morningside Dr.

Tuesday, Oct. 12
Featured Beer Dinner:
Chef Elizabeth Brooks of Canopy and Brock Wagner of St. Arnold Brewery
Details: 5-courses, $65 per person at 7pm
This dinner is limited to 20 people; to reserve, please call 713-528-6848.
Canopy, 3939 Montrose Ave.

Moylan’s Tasting at Petrol Station
Sample the entire line of Moylan’s Brewery (at least those available in Texas).
Movies & a Beer at Alamo Drafthouse
Matinee prices for movies (excluding special events), $3 craft beer pints, and Growler specials. Available at both locations, 1000 West Oaks Mall and 531 South Mason Rd in Katy

Wed, Oct. 13
Featured Beer Dinner:
Chef Chris Shepherd of Catalan & Kevin Floyd of Anvil Bar & Refuge
Details: Hors d’oeuvres at 7pm, followed by a 6-course dinner paired with beers hand selected by Kevin. $100 per person; to reserve, call Catalan 713-426-4260; a credit card is required to confirm your reservation.
Catalan Food & Wine is located at 5555 Washington Ave.,

Stone Brewing at the Flying Saucer
Come visit with Jason Armstrong of Stone Brewing and enjoy specials on pints of 4-5 Stone selections.
Flying Saucer, 705 Main St.

Thursday, Oct. 14
Featured Beer Dinner:
Chef Patrick McCray of Divino and Pike Brewing
Details: Reception at 7pm followed by 4-courses paired with Pike beers
$65/pp + 18% gratuity. Seating is limited to 20.
Reservations can be made by calling 713-807-1123 or via email; a credit card is required to confirm your reservation.
Divino, 1830 W. Alabama St.

Connoisseur tasting at The Ginger Man Pub with Nadine Jones of Brooklyn Brewery.
Nadine will discuss the array of award-winning beers from Brooklyn Brewery, plus there will be a cooking demonstration with beer and instructional lecture regarding designing your meals around your beer of choice.
Details: $11.25 per person; event begins at 7:30pm
The Ginger Man, 5607 Morningside Dr.

Southern Star Tasting at Rockwell Tavern
Plus a dinner special of BURIED HATCHET FISH & CHIPS, showcasing a classic way to cook delicious and creative meals with craft beer.
Details: tasting from @ 6pm – 8pm
Rockwell Tavern, 12640 Telge Rd., Cypress

Friday, Oct. 15
Featured Beer Dinner:
Chef Carlos Rodriguez of Vic & Anthony’s and Brew Dog Brewery
Details: Drinks at 7pm followed by a 7-course dinner paired with beers from this maverick Scottish brewery.
$85 + tax/gratuity. To reserve, please call Stacie Chambers at 713-228-1111; a credit card is required to hold your reservation.
Vic & Anthony’s, 1510 Texas St.

Gravity Cask 2010 at Anvil Bar & Refuge
Featuring beers custom-made for Anvil Bar & Refuge -- you will not find these beers any place else. With rare and unique casks from local and continental European breweries, including Southern Star Smoked Porter flavored with cocoa nibs and vanilla and a Cask-conditioned Independence Oatmeal Stout infused with Anvil’s bourbon cherries.
Anvil Bar & Refuge, 1424 Westheimer

Dixie Cup Homebrew Competition: Strange Brew
The Dixie Cup is one of the nation’s oldest home brewing competitions and is noted for its great mix of irreverent fun as well as its seriousness about beer. or more information, contact Scott Weitzenhoffer by email at or call DeFalco’s at 713-668-9440.

Saturday, October 16
Brenner’s Beer Festival
Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou will host its first beer festival featuring more than 50 beers from local and regional craft breweries. Many breweries will showcase their fall seasonal selections. Live entertainment will be provided by Ezra Charles & The Works. Jason Armstrong of Stone Brewing will also be in attendance. .
Details: From 2pm to 6pm; only 400 tickets are available.
Tickets are $45/per person in advance or $55/at the door. Tickets are on sale online at
Brenner’s, 1 Birdsall Place

Connoisseur tasting at The Ginger Man Pub with Prescott Carter of Duvel-Moortgat Brewery.
Prescott will discuss the renowned family of beers including Ommegang (New York), Duvel (Belgium), Maredsous (Belgium), and the Chouffe Brewery (Belgium).
Details: $11.25 per person and the event begins at 3pm
The Ginger Man, 5607 Morningside Dr.

The Monster of Beer Charity Festival, Sunday, October 17
Houston Beer Week will conclude Sunday, October 17, 2010 with the Monsters of Beer Charity Festival hosted by Live It BIG, Inc, a non-profit who helps provide seed money for local charities in Houston. Proceeds from this event will go to support Live It BIG’s 2010 focal charity Friday Harbour, which provides housing assistance to cancer patients receiving treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Hospital and their families.
The event will take place adjacent to 13 Celsius on Anita St. Twelve Texas breweries, including 2010 Great American Beer Festival winners Saint Arnold and Real Ale will be in attendance. The festival will focus on Texas craft breweries and the growing Texas craft beer movement. Several breweries will be bringing special cask and firkin beers as well.
There will be live music by Mason Lankford & The Folk Family Revival along with other bands yet to be announced; food can be purchased at Hubcap Burger’s food truck, Melange Crêperie, and from the 13 Celsius menu. A silent auction of aged beers, beer tours, beer paraphernalia, and all things good in beer will raise additional monies for charity.
To learn more, visit or follow on Twitter @monstersofbeer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Death knell for Brewpubs?

Houston has been the recipient of some great beer news lately. Whether it's been amazing beer dinners, or the announcement of Houston Beer Week, good things are happening in this city with respect to beer. However, it still very sad when a beer related business goes under, more so when that business is the last brew pub in town. On Monday, Ronnie Crocker of the Chronicle reported that Rice Village's Two Row's will be closing effective October 2nd due to lease issues with the building owner Weingarten Realties. Whether you liked Two Row's beer or not (I didn't) its a sad day when the 4th largest city in the country no longer has a brewpub (I don't count the numerous BJ's around town since all of their beer is contract brewed by Saint Arnold's). Not too long ago I ranted about the fact that there were too few places in this city that truly cared about beer and food. Well over the course of the last year places like BRC Gastropub and Queen Vic's have opened that serve good solid food with a great list of craft beer. Old stand buys like Hobbit Cafe have expanded their beer list (Sunday I was able to get a 512 Double IPA on Draft there). Petrol Station, with their amazing beer list, hosts Eggs and Keggs brunch events where they pair brunch food with beer. Higher end places like Vic and Anthony's have hosted two beer dinners (Dogfish Head and Stone) with plans to host more. As mentioned earlier, huge beer events are occurring in this area: 1st annual Cask Festival hosted by Anvil, Petrol Station, and Flying Saucer, Flying Saucer's Anniversary Party, Galveston's Brewmasers Festival, and of course the upcoming and highly anticipated Houston Beer Week. This event that features beer education, beer tastings, and multiple beer dinners around town proves as much as any others that Houston is becoming a beer town. Some will say its the same folks at each event, and for things like Flying Saucer's Anniversary Party or the Cask Festival, they might be correct, but I've been to the beer dinners, and the people attending aren't all a part of what many would consider the regular beer folk. In fact, Houston Chronicle's Restaurant Critic Allison Cook recently attended the Vic and Anthony Stone Beer dinner and raved about it.
Back to Houston Beer week for a second. The beer dinners will include places like Beavers, Catalan, Canopy, Divino, Vic and Anthony, and Brenner's. I must emphasize how amazing that list of restaruants is and how wide ranging the food being served will actually be. What does this tell us? It is evident that Houston is primed for a place that makes both great beer and great food. Houston has evolved to the point where they won't put up with mediocre beer being served in a brew pub, and the same goes for food. It doesn't have to be complex upscale food; it just has to be good. Brew pub's have come and gone through this city since the early 1990's, but for the first time since 1993, Houston is without a brewpub. Even with all the great beer events occurring in this city, it's still sad to think of a town this size without a brew pub. The question is: will a chef, a brewer, a restaurateur, or someone else step up and fill that void?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dogfish Head Theobroma

In these years of posting my thoughts on beer I've said it many times, and it bears saying again: I'm a huge fan of Dogfish Head Ales out of Deleware. Not only do they make great hoppy beers, they also make great unusual styles, sometimes historic, and owner Sam Caglione is a great ambassador for craft beer. The latest beer new to the Houston market is a historic ale, an ale based on a historic recipe. If you are familiar with DFH think a beer like Midas Touch as being a historic ale. This recipe is based on an ancient Aztec alcoholic chocolate drink called Food of the God's (which is what Theobroma loosely translates too). You already know its not going to be your traditional beer and a peak at the recipe list confirms it: Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds). Well we know some background for this one, let's see how it tastes.
The Beer: It weighs in at 9% and pours a pale golden orange with a thin white head. Just from the color you know its not a typical chocolate ale. The nose is a complex, an assault of different scents. Honey, coco powder, flowers, melon, spice. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, not a lot of carbonation. Like the nose there is a whole lot going on here, almost too much to keep up with. Flavors of honey, coco, honey suckle, green peppers, notes of boozy alcohol. Chocolatey without being sweet which is interesting. There are strange notes that I can only compare to tasting like tea. The individual flavors are incredibly interesting, and together its complex, but it just doesn't all meld well together. I respect what DFH did here, but this is not my favorite offering from them. It's just too discombobulated for me. This one gets a C+ from me. The folks at BA like it more than I do.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Abita SOS

There are many reasons to love craft beer. The complex flavors, the unusual styles, the "localness" of the beer, etc. Another reason is that for the most part, local breweries, care about their hometown. Few breweries show that love and passion of their community like Abita Brewing out of Louisiana. When Katrina happened and wrecked New Orleans Abita released Restoration Ale with a certain amount of the profits going to help rebuild New Orleans. With the recent oil disaster in the Gulf, Abita has once again brewed a beer to help: Save Our Shores. For every 750 ml bottle sold Abita will donate $0.75 to the rescue and restoration of the environment. Not that we needed one, but Abita has provided one more reason to drink beer. SOS is an unusual beer in and of itself its a Weizen Pils dry hopped with Sterling and German Perle hops.
The Beer: This brew weighs in at 7.0% and pours a golden honey color with a good sized frothy white head. The nose is herbal hops, spices, some banana flavor, toasted grains. The mouthfeel has a creaminess to it, sweet malts, grassy, spicey, earthy....almost herbal. It drinks pretty smooth, slightly sweet from the pale toasted malts. Some banana wheat flavors are there, subtle but there with just a bit of bitterness to the brew to create a very nice balance. Its a solid brew that gets a B from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Jack and Ken's Barleywine

Today's post bring's us the 3rd installment of Sierra Nevada's amazing 30th Anniversary Beers. For those keeping score at home, so far, we've had the Fritz and Ken Stout, and the Charlie, Fred, and Ken Helles. Each of the anniversary brew's are collaborations between Sierra Nevada owner Ken Grossman and a pioneer in the craft beer industry. The newest beer is not brewed with just anyone, but with someone many call the father of Microbrewery Jack McAuliffe. Mr McAuliffe founded a tiny little brewery in California called New Albion Brewery in 1977. The brewery operated until 1982. Mr. McAuliffe wasn't brewing any extreme beers by today's standards, instead it was full flavored beers, mostly English style ales. Back then that was extreme, it was such a change from the American Adjunct lagers that were pretty much the only thing available. Unfortunately the demand on Mr. McAuliffe was too much, the money wasn't coming in and New Albion was closed. Neat fact: The brewery equipment made it's way to Mendocino Brewery. Since the closure of New Albion, Mr. McAuliffe has stayed out of the public eye, however he did help Mr. Grossman in the brewing of this beer, a Black Barleywine.
The Beer: This Black Barleywine weighs in at a hefty 10.2% and pours a very dark brown with a thick taupe colored head. Hoppy on the nose, citrus peel, grapefruit, roasted malts, sweetness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied. Massive hop flavor, a grapefruit-y punch if you will. It follows with a tartness, milk chocolate, then slams you back to earth with tongue saturating hoppiness. There is a sweetness in this beer, caramel-y, almost notes of creme brulee, some fruity notes, but yes it is the hops that leave the lasting impression on this beer. This is a great beer, so far my favorite of the three. This one gets a strong A from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Land of Beer Festivals

Texas has been called many things, and is a great state showcasing many of the things that makes it wonderful. On any given weekend you can find a festival for most everything. One thing that Texas has not been known for has been Beer Festivals. In fact Beer fests have been notably absent from this state of beer lovers. Well that fact seems to have changed over the course of the last few months and continues through to the end of the year.

The first notable beer fest to gain steam was June's Great Austin Beer Festival. While it seemed that the organizers were still getting their feet under them, from all reports it was an amazing success. Bringing together Beer, Brewers and beer enthusiasts not only from Texas but from around the country.

The next Beer festival that was announced is scheduled to occur over Labor Day weekend, Sept 2-6, the Brewmasters International Beer Festival at Moody Gardens down in Galveston. Admittedly I have been pretty cautious about this one as they didn't release the names of any attendees, however that has changed with this article from the Chronicle's Ronnie Crocker. Now that's a pretty sporty list of beers to get the opportunity to taste all in one place.

But wait that's not all! This week there has been two awesome announcements for beer lovers.

The Texas Craft Brewer's Guild has announced their first event will be Austin Beer Week to be held October 24-30. There is not a lot of information out there yet, but from their website:
This week-long celebration, brought to you
by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, serves as
a showcase for Texas craft brewers as well as
area restaurants, pubs and other businesses
with ties to the craft beer community.

The last announcement though is the one that has me the most excited. Early this morning a twitter popped up: @HoustonBeerWeek: Houston, Beer Week has landed. Say what!!! The week of October 11-17 will be Houston Beer Week The week will consist of beer dinners, beer education (something that I am excited about), tastings, and many other things. The week long extraveganza will conclude Sunday with a MONSTERS OF BEER charity beer event. A side note that Houston Beer week and Monsters of Beer has been organized in part by Cathy Clark, the same Cathy Clark that has done an outstanding job with Beer Camp. Back to Monsters of Beer, the event is on Sunday the 17th and will feature Texas Beer, Texas Food, Texas Music! The beer will be brought in by breweries from around the state including Jester King, (512), Saint Arnold's, Real Ale, Live Oak, and more including a couple that may not even be open yet.

4 beer huge beer events/festivals in a few short months? Is Texas becoming the land of beer festivals? I don't know about that, but Texas is definitely stepping up its game and as these events successfully conclude will continue to drive Texas in the right direction of increasingly supporting craft beer and all that means. I'm not telling you all to go to everyone of these (I won't be able to) but support as many as you can. Volunteer, attend, promote, etc to help make these a success. The first year out of the gate for many of these festivals may not be smooth, there will be mistakes made, but that just means they can be better the next year, and if they get the support they need will continuously approve. Think about it, in 2009 would you have though there would be 4 huge days long beer festivals in Texas in 2010?