Monday, May 30, 2011

Anvil and New Belgium

Happy Memorial Day everyone. While Anvil is celebrating Texas Brewery Ranger Creek today at 5pm, they have already announced their next beer event. On June 1, they will be hosting a New Belgium event starting at 5pm.
On Wednesday they will be pouring the following beers:
La Folie 2011 -- La Folie Wood-Aged Biere, is the brewery’s original wood-conditioned beer that rests in French Oak barrels between one and three years before being bottled. Our La Folie emulates the spontaneous fermentation beers of the brew master’s Flanders with sour apple notes, a dry effervescence, and earthy undertones.
Fat Tire -- Named in honor of New Belgium’s owner’s bike trip through Belgium, Fat Tire has won fans with its sense of balance: toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness.
Super Cru – brewed to celebrate New Belgium’s 20th Anniversary, think “double version” of Fat Tire!

With the exception of Fat Tire the other two are pretty rare to see on tap, so it will definitely be a good opportunity to try some great beers from the third largest craft brewery in the US. Additionally a New Belgium rep (I am thinking a regional sales manager) will be on hand to answer any questions. For a cocktail bar, Anvil continues to put on some great beer events, makes my high hopes for the upcoming Hay Merchant even higher.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Sad Day

Yesterday was a sad day indeed for the Texas Craft Beer industry when via Twitter, Saint Arnold's Brock Wagner announced that HB 602 was dead. Ronnie Crocker has more on how this happened here. Here is the gist of it though, to get HB 602 through committee, a cap was placed that limited the size a brewery could be and also sell direct to the public. This deal was requested by the Wholesalers Distributors lobbying group in exchange for their support of the bill. It was this same deal though that caused A-B to pull their support of the bill and thereby causing its death. A-B requested the cap be pulled in the event that they wanted to do tours and allow on premise sales. Note though that the A-B plant here in Houston doesn't offer tours and hasn't done so in years and years. Also note that the Texas Legislature, by not passing this bill is supporting a huge international based company over local Texas businesses (don't ever let them get away with telling you they support small local business, its a lie). Lastly note that the Wholesalers would have you believe that they had to pull support because allowing A-B to sell beer direct would hurt their sales (again a lie, the pittance that A-B would be allowed to sell direct would in no way have an affect on their bottom line).

In reading tweets and other blogs, a lot of folks are pointing fingers and wanting to blame someone, which begs the question, who is to blame for this failure and what can we do to help get this to pass next time? Well, here is my two cents. As much as I want to, I can't blame A-B, even if they don't do tours currently, they want the opportunity, therefore they want a level playing field, just as they have in other states (yes you can go to other A-B plants or even Coors plants and buy beer direct, but why would you?). You could blame the Wholesalers for pulling their support of the bill without the cap. I think they do share a bit of the blame, as stated above, allowing A-B to sell direct would not impact Wholesalers at all. In fact allowing tourists to buy beer at local craft brewers would increase demand, thereby allowing Wholesalers to distribute more beer, and increasing their bottom line. How they don't see this is the definition of ignorance. You could even blame the Texas Craft Beer industry. Many folks including me, point to the hypocrisy of Texas Laws that allow wineries to sell direct, but not breweries. However there is one difference. Over 15 years ago Texas Wineries got smart and created a very effective and successful lobbying group. They spoke with one loud voice (and money) and that helped change the winery laws in this state. I have yet to see that with the Craft Brewing industry. It seems to me that the lobbying groups for Texas Craft Brewers like the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, lack focus and cohesion. I believe they do a very pour job of promoting Texas craft beer and helping raise the massive amounts of money that will be needed to defeat the other lobbying groups. Until they do those things, it will continue to be unlikely that laws change. Lastly, and who I think deserves the lions share of the blame is our honored Texas Legislature. They are the ones that continue to promote large international companies at the expense of small local Texas businesses, all the while filling their pockets with the massive donations they receive from those very same companies. They listened to the lobbyists, not the people and that is disgraceful.

Now we've directed blame, what can we do about it. Well we have 2 years to put a plan in place and act on it, but lets not wait, we can start to day. We as craft beer lovers need to promote Texas Beer. Cathy Clark on her blog had an awesome post about how we can do that very thing, especially out side the state borders. I'll add something else. Demand Texas Craft beer at your favorite restaurant. Demand that where you eat carries local beers. In Houston we have a lot of restaurants that talk big about serving local food, but then don't carry any Texas beer. Don't let them get away with it. Write letters to the restaurants, send them messages via Twitter, and Facebook, talk to the manager, do it respectfully, but if they don't listen, then maybe they don't deserve your business. Talk to your friends. We all have those that still drink only BMC products. Introduce them to the lighter side of craft beer like Saint Arnold's Lawnmower and Weedwacker, or Real Ale Fireman's 4, or Southern Star Bombshell blond, etc. Educate your friends and family, the more we educate, the closer we all get to the Texas Craft Beer industry we want. Lastly vote, and really look at who you are voting for. Ask your local rep the tough questions when they are asking for your vote. If they aren't supportive of something that you are passionate about then vote for someone who is. Until we change the mindset in Austin, things aren't going to change. If you do have a local state rep that is supportive of the Craft Beer industry set up a fund raisers, featuring Texas Craft Beer, be as supportive of them as you can be. We can no longer sit on the side lines. If you haven't yet, its time to get off the couch, get in the game do what it takes to get the bill passed next time. If you don't, then you can't complain if it doesn't pass.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stone Old Guardian Belgo

Not surprisingly I enjoy Stone's some times over the top beers. They push the limits of being off balance, but occasionally I want that explosion of hops, or booze. One of my favorite beers that they make is their barleywine Old Guardian. Very boozy when young, it ages incredibly well. Starting this year, Stone is doing something a little different. Along with their Russian Imperial Stout they will be releasing version brewed with Belgian yeasts, a little twist on an old standby, that I was excited to see at my local Spec's. Its all the same ingredients before with the exception of the yeast used, which as we've seen with Saint Arnold's moveable yeast series can change a beer significantly.
The beer: This one weighs in at a very robust 12% and pours an orangish amber with a thick off white head. The nose is full of fruity esters, white grapes, peaches, a bit of boozy notes. A full mouthfeel, fruit yeasty notes up front, followed by some malty, caramel, toffee notes, some alcohol burn on the back of the throat, then ending and lingering with resinous citrus-y hops. As expected, this one needs some time. Its boozy. Big flavors which is what I expect from Stone: yeasty fruity esters, booze, hops. A bit on the sweet side, but as it lingers and warms, notes of white pepper show up lending some spiceyness to the beer. Its a sipper to be sure, and I can't wait to see how this one changes over time. A good beer and one recommended to pick up if you enjoy big beers.

News and Notes

Whew, its been a whirl wind couple of weeks me, but there is some upcoming events, as well as some local beer news that I'd like to finally post on this here blog.
- First up, for anyone looking for something fun to do on Memorial Day, Anvil has you covered. As they did with Jester King a few months back so too will they do with Ranger Creek Brewing. Starting at 4pm on Memorial Day, Anvil will be tapping 8 special Ranger Creek Beers:
1. South Texas Lager - Dortmunder Export Style Lager
2. La Bestia Amaible
3. La Bestia Amaible aged in Port Barrels
4. La Bestia Amaible Cask aged for 5 months in Cabernet barrels.
5. Oatmeal Pale Ale
6. Cask Oatmeal Pale Ale
7. Mesquite Smoked Porter
8. 6 Month Cabernet barrel aged Mesquite Smoked Porter

Additionally Mark and Rob from Ranger Creek will be on hand to answer any questions. That should be enough to get local beer geeks excited.

- Speaking of excited, one of the few things that Houston is missing to make it a top beer city is a good beer pub. Well it looks like that is coming to an end. Thanks in no small part to the local beer community and social media, Freetail Houston has announced its second location will be in Downtown Houston. Read more here in Ronnie Crockers Beer, Tx Blog.

- Speaking of Beer, TX Ronnie also has the latest and greatest on HB 602. Will it pass? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath, thanks to some interference from ABINBEV.

- Last but definitely not least, Leslie at local beer blog Lushtastic has done an absolutely amazing job posting a round up of all the new and soon to be Texas Breweries. The list is amazing, and shows that Texas has to be on of the best up and coming markets for craft beer. Go check it out, and if you see any missing from the list, leave a comment on her blog and she'll update it as necessary.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Texas Beer Fest Beer Wall

As mentioned in a previous post this Saturday is the Texas Beer Fest in Spring Texas. Tickets for the event are $34.00 now, or $40.00 at the door. Ticket price gets you 12 coupons for 2 oz tasters. A lot of folks have complained that they don't want to shell out 40.00 for a bunch of beer they can get a lot of other places for much cheaper. A fare argument to be sure. As much as I want to say that this is due to TABC laws for Beer Festivals and that if we don't support the ones that are occuring things will never change, I get the financial argument. However, the beers being served Saturday aren't just any old beers that you can get at your local bar, even if your local is Flying Saucer, Anvil or Petrol. Texas Beer fest has released their specialty beer wall list and its quite a doozy:
No Label Panamanian Coffee Milk Stout
Avery Hog Heaven
Southern Star Jasmine Infused Bombshell Blonde Cask
Petrus Barrel Aged Sour
BrewDog Tokyo
Brooklyn Brewmaster's Reserve Main Engine Start
Thirsty Planet Double Buckethead
Ommegang Rare Vos
Independence Brewluminati
(512) Casabel Cream Stout Firkin
Stone Old Guardian Belgo
Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve No. 11
Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
Cask Conditioned Bear Republic Racer 5
Rahr Barrel Aged Winter Warmer
Real Ale Pheonixx Double ESB Cask

Now some of these beers are available now and then and here and there, but rarely if ever have all these beers been at one place. There is a catch of course, you have to stick around for a bit as these brews will be tapped every 30 minutes. Sounds like a great time to listen to some local Texas Bands, and drink some great beer. Some of these breweries are new up and coming ones from Texas like Thirsty Planet that we have yet to taste in Houston. So have a great weekend and head up to Humble and the Humble Convention Center to drink some good beer.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

English Ale Tasting

I've mentioned a couple of times, but back in February I had the opportunity to spend some time in London, and lucky me brought a few beers back. Since then I've been looking for time to sit down and have a few of them, and well that time turned out to be last week. Joined by fellow beer geek Chris, we sat down to 5 different English Ales.
Adnam's Innovation: First up was this beer from Adnam's who are very well known for their solid best bitter. Innovation is labeled as a Strong Amber Pale Ale and weighs in at 6.7%. Its made with a blend of wheat and pale malts as well as a blend of American, English and Solvenian hops: Columbus, Stryian Goldings, and Boadicea (A welsh hop that I''m not very familiar with). The beer poured a golden amber color with a thin white head. The nose has some earthy funky, citrus, and some wheat notes. The mouthfeel is smooth, citrus flavors, earthy notes, a little bit of funkyness, but I think that's from the wheat malt. Some resiny qualities show up on the finish and linger. Chris thought (and I agreed) that was a Cider like edge up front before falling off into a more hoppy beer. Light bodied, a good interesting beer.
Fraoch Heather Ale: This is probably one of the brews I was most excited to try. Heather ales have a very long history in Scotland. Hops have never grown well in Scotland and therefore most of their beers are very low hopped, but to add some bitterness to brews they would often use herbs, and flowers in making beer. Heather Ale was one of the most famous and there are many popular stories told about long lost Pict recipes that I won't get into in this post (maybe some other time, or better yet over a beer). Fraoch is owned by Williams Brothers Brewery in Scotland and makes a few different Historical Ales, this being just one. This Heather Ale is made in the traditional method, with sweet gale and heather added to the hot wort, then upon cooling its poured into a vat of fresh heather where the mixture is then left to infuse for an hour before entering the fermenter. This is a lighter beer at 5% and pours a pale golden color with a thin head. The nose is sweet syrupy, some roasted malts, some scotch ale characteristics. The mouthfeel is medium, flavors of crystal malts, light floral notes, wine-y notes. Flavors of white grapes, herbal, sweet. A very interesting beer. A weird blend of what we think of a typical scotch ale, with other wine-y herbal notes.
Kernel Brewing Black IPA: Yes everyone is getting into the Black IPA, Black India Ale, Dark Cascadian Ale, whatever you want to call it. This beer is from what has quickly become my favorite British Brewery weighs in at 7% and brewed with lots of American hops. The beers a very very dark brownish black, almost opaque with a taupe colored head. The nose is greeted with a wallop of Cascade and maybe a hint of malts, but its hard to break through all those hops. The mouthfeel is chewy, you get some good English malts like maris otter before being blind sided by American hops. There is some astringency, but its not unpleasant and adds a balance between the plethora of hops and the hint of a malt backbone.
Brewdog Nanny State: This next beer from the Brewing Bad Boys of Scotland has a funny story behind it. When Brewdog brewed Tokio an 18% behemoth it caused the British Government to go into an uproar about responsible drinking and that high abv beers would cause alcoholism, public lewdness, and basically the end of the world. In answer to this outburst the folks at Brewdog released this beer, a 0.5% beer with 1000 ibu's. As much as I was looking forward to trying this beer, I did not hold any illusions that it would actually taste good (foreshadowing alert!). The beer poured a reddish amber with a slightly off white head. Hops and more hops, and what is that, oh yes more hops on the nose. The first sip is hard, its like hop tea, hop tea that's been steeped waaaaaayyy to long. Very tannic tasting. Chris mentioned boiled celery but I couldn't get past the tannins. For reference, take a couple of those hop pellets you can get at the home brew store. Make sure you are really thirsty, and your mouth is dry. Now eat the pellets...don't drink any water. That about sums up the experience. Which it was an interesting one, but interesting experiences don't always make good beer.
Robinson Old Tom: Probably one of the beers I was most looking forward too. Old Tom is widely regarded as one of the great beers of England and at the top of the list for anyone that wants to try a great Old Ale. Hefty for your typical British beer, this one weighs in at 8.8% and pours a dark brown with ruby highlights. The nose has notes of toffee, plum, fruity and some alcohol esters, some chocolate even. The mouthfeel is chewy, notes of cherry, figs, plums. The beer finishes like a port, leggy when swirled in the glass. Dark fruits, concentrated dark cherries, molasses, vinous, and a little coco. This is a wonderful beer and a great representation of the Old Ale style. Some sweetness, but not cloyingly so..

Well that finishes up a great British Ale session. A wide range of English ales. Traditional, historical, cutting edge, and one blending the best of American and English brews. English Ales are some of the best in the world and their micro brew culture is growing in leaps and bounds with folks producing some out standing brews.