Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 11

Today is the day that Texas beer lovers go insane, its Divine Reserve day. A day that twitter goes crazy with #dr11 hash tags with people informing the world where they could score some of this beer. Its the day that Saint Arnold's releases there inconsistently scheduled special brew. Each DR a different recipe, some based on winning recipes from home brew contests, others like DR11 are done in house. The Divine Reserve release today is a Double (or Imperial) IPA (DR3 also was a DIPA, but this is a different recipe). For those looking for DR you may have more luck then previous releases: production for DR 10 was 1800 cases, for DR 11 it's 4100 cases, so more than double. Also various places around the state will be tapping kegs and/or casks. In Houston I know Petrol Station, Anvil, Flying Saucer, and Stag's Head are tapping tonight. Down in my neck of the woods in Clear Lake, Boondoggles will be tapping a keg tomorrow. Like all DR's this one is higher in ABV weighing at 9% and with a lab tested 76 IBU. Believe it or not the lab tested is an important note. Many breweries that state 100 IBU's or more are basing that off of calculations and not an actual lab test (its more expensive). Lab tests have shown calculated IBU's to be significantly off (there really are a lot less 100+ IBU beers than you think). As it should be hops are the show case here and this DIPA is brewed with Columbus, Simcoe and Centennial hops. The Beer: This one pours an orange-y copper color with a thick white head. Before I even poured it in the glass you could start to get notes of hops. Its massive, tons of grapefruit, just massively hoppy on the nose. The first sip is an explosion of citrus pith, grapefruit rind, tongue coating, sticky hops. Its brightly hoppy, lots of citrus, but underneath, just kinda hiding out there, is some carmel-y notes, that add just touch of sweetness. Its this touch that makes me think the brew will age some what well. Most DIPA's are made to drink fresh and this should be no exception, however, as the hops fade, I think (and yes I could be way off) there is enough malt in the back ground that it will come forward with time and create a sweeter more concentrated beer. Now off of the tangent and back to the now, this is a great DIPA, to me its not Avery Maharaja, but its very damn good. It gets an A from me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fight Night Beers

A little late in posting this, but a week ago last Saturday was Fight Night, and as I'm likely to do, I sat down watched some fights and had some great beer. A local beer, and English Beer, and a barrel aged beer made it a good night.
Real Ale Phoenixx: First up is a local beer, a juiced up version of an English ale, this is Real Ale's Double ESB. The beer weighs in at a very un-English 7.2%, but made with English Malts and English Hops including Phoenix. Phoenix is a high alpha hop that is similar to Challenger. This beer pours a cloudy chestnut brown with a thick taupe colored head. Plenty of caramel malts, on the nose along with earthy musty notes and light on the hops. The mouth is much more hop-centric, medium bodied, with some caramel malt undertones. Earthiness, but some tongue coating resin. Let me repeat, highly resinous. Lots of caramel malts, this one is a great beer, that highlights some great English Ale flavors on steroids. A very enjoyable beer.
Kernel S.C.C.A.NS: Next up the English Ale, this one a version of an American brew. An IPA weighing in at 6.9% hopped with Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin. The beer pours a bright golden yellow with a thick white head. Lots of sediment in the pour, but thats OK. All hops on the nose, bright, big hops. Citrus, grapefruit peel, some piney noes, and just a hint of toasty pale malts. Medium body, but the tongue is met with an explosion of hops, tongue coating resinous hops. Like biting into a grapefruit peel and all. There's more, and its hard to pick out all the flavors but this unique blend of hops creates a very complex flavor profile. There is spicy pepper notes along with citrus and earthy notes. A great beer that really shows some of the amazing beers that the English Microbrewer's are producing.
Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout: We end he night with a the barrel aged beer, Bourbon barrel to be exact. This is Central Waters Imperial stout. It pours an incredibly rich dark black with a thick taupe colored head. The nose is heavy on bourbon and vanilla notes, chocolate, roasted malts, charred oak, some caramel sweetness. The mouthfeel is thick, chewy, luscious is a good word to describe it. Lots of bourbon and vanilla and chocolate up front. Some booziness that would mellow with age (which this beer should do beautifully). If I had to compare this beer to food I would say Chocolate vanilla bread pudding with a bourbon sauce. Don't get me wrong though it's not sweet, but there it is rich. Very creamy, milk chocolate is also there, and more bourbon notes as it warms. A great beer, I've really enjoyed the Central Waters beers I've had so far.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Camp Beer VI Recap

Sunday brought us the sixth installment of Camp Beer. For the unfamiliar, Camp Beer is an organized beer tasting event for charity (yes drinking for charity!!). Camp Beer is hosted by the amazing beer enthusiast Cathy Clark, founder of LIVE IT BIG, and Kevin Floyd, owner of Anvil Bar and Refuge as well as the upcoming Hay Merchant. Cathy brings the beer, and Kevin brings his knowledge to give participants some education. Each Camp Beer gives the participants an opportunity to try rare beers that are many times not available in the state. Each tasting has a theme, and this one was no different. The theme for Sunday's tasting was "From Scandinavia with Love" featuring, you guessed it, beers from Scandinavia. The countries represented Sunday were Norway and Denmark with 4 different breweries between the two.
Mikkeller: Mikkeller brewery is technically from Denmark, however they don't actually own a brewery. Mikkeller is actually a Gypsy brewery that goes around the world brewing beers at a different brewery's. As Kevin pointed out, in 2010 alone, Mikkeller produced 76 new beers. A pretty amazing feat. One of the neat things that Mikkeller has done is produce a series of single hop beers. Each of these beers are the exact same, just with a different hop. This series is where we started our tasting.
The base for each of the single hop beers has a base malt bill of pilsner, cara crystal along with English ale yeast and each weighs in at 6.9%.
East Kent Golding: East Kent Golding is a traditional hop used in many British beers. Kevin points out East Kent is just one of many different types of Golding hops each marked by the location they are grown. This beer as all the others pour a light pale golden color. Lots of floral earthy notes on the nose. The taste is the same, a little sweetness on the pallete, tastes just like many of the British beers I had in London minus the Maris Otter malts.
Centinnial - Kevin reports this is a cross between a Brewer's Gold and another hop variety, a true American hop. Spicey, citrusy, some grapefruit pith in the beer. A very resiny finish.
Chinook - This beer started out with a sweet taste with a very bitter finish. Not overly citrusy or earthy, just very high amounts of resin left over on the tongue.
Nelson Sauvin - A New Zealand variety that gets its name for being similar to Sauvignon Blanc. I didn't know what to think about this one. Its very unusual, some flavors of earthy sweetness, but an underlying flavor that I couldn't place. Interesting.
Warrior: A trademark variety of hops, and another truly American hop. The nose is sweet, earthy, the mouth is lots of grapefruit and citrus at the end. This one really show cased the hop well.
Simcoe: Very intense beer, lots of aggressive floral notes, dry bitter at the finish. This one very similar to the cascade hop.
Nugget: Kevin points out that this one was one of the first hybrid hops available in the states. The beer has a sweeter nose up front than others, not a lot of hop aroma up front. The finish however is all hops lots of grapefruit.

We took a short break here, before moving on to more Mikkeller beers, this time tasting the Beer Geek Breakfast series of beers. This series is all Oatmeal Coffee stouts each with a little twist.
Beer Geek Breakfast - The original weighs in at 7.5% and pours a very rich deep dark brown. Notes of coffee, chocolate and toffee on the nose and mouth. It's smooth with not very bitter coffee (I would guess cold extracted?). Silky smooth, rich and full bodied. This was a great stout.
Rauch Geek Breakfast (AKA Bacon Beer Geek Breakfast) - This version is made with smoked malts and again weighs in at 7.5%. It pours very dark, the nose is incredibly smokey, smoked meats and a semi-unpleasant band-aid smell. The mouth is full of smoked malts, a hint of smoked meats, silky, and it seems just a bit lighter bodied than the original.
Beer Geek Breakfast Weasel - This is an Imperial version of beer geek breakfast, and is brewed with a special coffee. The beer is brewed with the famous Civet coffee. Civet coffee is made from raw beans that were picked up after passing through the digestive system of the civet (a weasel like mammal), so yes this is pooped coffee. Since this is an imperial version it's a little bigger weighing in at 10.9%. It pours a really dark black with a taupe colored head. Some alcohol, coffee, chocolate notes on the nose. There is some acidity on the mouth, just a tad bit of alcohol heat along with roasted coffee beans, chocolate, slightly burnt malts, hints of bourbon and vanilla. This was one of my favorite beers.
Black Hole - A huge coffee stout weighing in at 13.9% made with honey and vanilla. Strong nose, you smell this and know it's big. Very roasted malts (black patent?). The mouth has some astringency, very rich, slightly sweet, lots of dark fruits, very strong, needs some age.
Nogne O: A Norwegian brewery that is known for producing strong unique beers. Nøgne Ø means naked island.
Andhrimir Barleywine - Of course one of my favorite styles, this one weighs in at 10.0% and pours a cloudy amber. It smells syrupy, caramel and toffee, biscuity. The mouth is rich on this one, biscuity, toffee, caramel, syrup, some sugars. Not a lot of alcohol, but it is sweet, I would love to see this with some age.
Imperial Dunkel Wit - If you read my recap of the beer dinner at Catalan, you know I love this beer. This is from the same batch as the ones we had at the dinner, and it has changed quite a bit actually. Much spicier, a lot more coriander and less sweetness than before. Still a great beer. I would compare it to a rich dark bread baked with coriander seeds.
Winter Ale - I've had this 8.5% beer once before. This is good, but its not great. There is some dark fruits, rich malts here. It's similar to a good porter.
HaandBryggeriet: This is a very small brewery out of Norway, its basically four friends who are part time brewers. However they are making some unique farmhouse beers as well as some traditional ales with a Norwegian twist.
Dark Force - This is a 9% wheat stout. Very dark, with lots of roasted malts, and well hidden alcohol. Some fruitiness from the wheat maybe. Also some black patent malts. A smoother beer than I would have expected for 9%.
Norse Porter - A 6.5% porter that is quite good. It pours a dark brown with ruby red streaks, sweet and effervescent. Some vanilla extract and brown sugar notes. Coffee. Its got quite a lot of effervescence which would be the only thing keeping this from being easy drinking.
Akevitt Porter - A beer unlike anything I've had before. The same porter as above aged in aquavit barrels. Aquavit is a Norwegian alcohol that is aged in used sherry barrels. The beer weighs in at 10.0%. Lots of roasted malts, some notes of licorice, and wood. Smooth, licorice notes in the mouth at the front and at the finish. Oaky, vanilla, chocolate and just a tad bit of alcohol heat. A wonderful beer that I would love to have more of.
Beer Here: Our last brewery of the evening. Another very small brewery that does a lot of their brewing out of Nogne O.
Morke Pumpernickel Porter - A 7.5% porter that pours a dense black, spicy, bready with chocolate notes on the nose. The mouth is more of the same, spicy and dark bread notes. But that's about it, there isn't much more complexity and would like a little more oomph on this one.
Dark Hops - A Scandinavian brewery hopping on the Black IPA bandwagon is OK with me. This one weighs in at 8.5% and pours a rich black color. The nose is of massive hops and slight dark chocolate. The mouth is all grapefruit with maybe just a bit of roasted malts. Its mostly crisp bitter hops though. A good version of the style.

Well that wrapped up a great tasting. I enjoyed this one as much as any I had been to previously as I felt it balanced stronger ales with ones that weren't so high in alcohol. I didn't leave this session feeling over served which I have felt in the past. A good time and a big thanks to Kevin and Cathy.
Mark you calendars as the next Camp Beer will be June 12.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Texas legislature Update

Its been a while since I've posted anything on the Texas Beer bills. I've been out on vacation (more on that in a day or two) and a lot has happened. I hope that you have been able to make it out to one of the rallies either supporting hB 660 or HB 602. The good news is that both bills have been submitted to the appropriate committee for hearings. The oversight committee will be the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. Below is the list of each committee member, with a link to their webpage so that if you feel moved you can write them a letter telling them how important these two bills are. Not only for the craft beer movement, but both bills I believe will increase state revenues. I've also added a link to their ballotpedia page that will allow you to see who their top contributors are. You will not be surprised to see that many times big beer distributors or their lobbying arm are filling the coffers of your local politicians.

Mike Hamilton (R) - Serving since 2003 - Chair of the Committee - Click here for list of donors.
Chente Quintanilla (D) - Serving since 2003 - Vice Chair of the Committee - Click here for top donors. Licensed Beverage Distributors was one of his larger donors.
Joe Driver (R) - Serving since 1993 - Click here for list of top donors. Has received money from Licensed Beverage Distributors in the past.
Charlie Geren (R) - Serving since 2001 - Click here for list of top donors.
Roland Gutierrez (D) - Serving since 2008 - Click here for list of top donors. Interesting note is he is for repeal of blue laws, he states that its to help level the playing field for small business...
Patricia Harless (R) - Serving since 2007 - Click here for list of top donors.
John Kuempel (R) - Serving since 2010 - Mr. Kuempel is replacing his father who passed away last year.
Jose Menendez (D) - Serving since 2001 - Click here for list of top donors.
Senfronia Thompson (D) - Serving since 1973 - Click here for list of top donors.

Hopefully this gives you more information on the folks that will be deciding HB 660 and 602. No date has been scheduled but I'll post that once I know. Again I encourage you all to write not only your local representative, but all these members on the board.

Lastly I'd like to point everyone to the Texas Beer Freedom website. A one stop shop for news on HB 660. You can sign a petition to help get this bill passed, you can also donate funds to help lobbying efforts. Obviously the backers behind this bill don't have the money that the big distributors have, so every little bit will help.