Wednesday, August 31, 2016

All The Gose

American craft beer drinkers are an unusual lot.  They aren't particularly loyal to any one brand or style, instead floating from new beer to new beer, and new style to new style.  The craft beer craze has chased double IPA's, Triple IPA's, barrel aged beers, sours of various intensity, and many many more.  Of late it seems that the craze has transitioned from high alcohol beers, to lower ABV beers that are just as flavorful as their stronger cousins.  Craft beer nerds have looked back to the old world to fulfill their needs, looking specifically to Germany and consuming some of their sour beers like berlinerweisse, and gose, which is the purpose of this post.  It seems gose is the beer of the summer, as many craft brewers are releasing all types of gose, flavored with fruits, spices, herbs among other things.  These beers of course range in range of quality, but for local picks, I would look at any of the gose offerings from Texas Beer Refinery, and the gose from Galveston Bay Brewery is very good as well.  However, this post is focusing on gose from the mother country, specifically a brewery from Cologne, where I used to live: Freigiest Geiserzug.  My tasting notes will look at their standard Gose as well as their Quince Gose, but first let's answer the question of What is gose?
The Style:  Gose was traditionally brewed in the German city Goslar.  It is a wheat beer that is soured post boil with lactobaccilus, although originally it was a spontaneously fermented beer.  Additionally, gose is brewed with corriander and salt adding an herbal sea note to the beer.  Gose is an ancient beer going back to the 16th Century.  Over the years its popularity declined and shortly after World War II, the last producer of gose close.  However, shortly thereafter in 1949 Friedrich Wurzler brewery started producing the beer in their home town of Leipzig which is where it was produced until 1960.  At that point there was no gose being commercially produced.  It remained that way until the 1980's where it popped up briefly before disappearing again briefly in 1988.  However by the late 80's there was one small brewery in Germany producing a gose.  However, as with many styles, it found its way to America where craft breweries started experimenting and helped revive the style, and as always they added their own twist to the original recipe with many version made with added fruit.
The Brewery:  Freigiest Geiserzug is based out of Cologne, Germany.  Cologne is mainly known for their namesake beer, the easy drinking Kolsch. Friegiest started as an offshoot of Cologne brewpub Braustelle.  Their whole goal is to stretch the boundaries of German beer culture and work to bring back and reinvigoarte old styles of beer.  Their line up of beers is tremendous with a ton of different and strange styles being made. But the two I am focusing on are their Gose, and Quince Gose.
The Beer:
Spruced Gose - This beer weighs in at 5.2% and pours a cloudy hazy straw colored with a thin white head of foam.  The nose is tangy, tart, smells of salt air, coriander.  Mouthfeel is effervescent, medium bodied.  Satly, tangy, sour, coriander, lemon peel.  Very easy drinking.  The label mentioned there were some funky notes, but I really didn't get that.  Maybe a hint of buttermilk?  Lots of acidity.  Lemon cookie batter.  This beer was awesome, and a near perfect example of the style.
Quince Gose:  Again this one weighs in at 5.2% and pours a honey golden color with a bright white head of foam.  This one is slightly darker then the previous example.  On the nose there are some fruity esters, tartness, sea air.  The mouthfeel is fuller bodied than the traditional gose.  Notes of salt, tanginess, quince on toast, some astringency, sour.  Not mouth puckeringly sour, but a nice hit in the back of the tongue.  A really nice level of acidity, really good.  Thirst quenching, but you want more.  Seems less salty then the previous version, or maybe there is a little more going on so it hides the saltiness.  More orange/lemony notes, versus just lemon notes from the other beer.  Another really good example of a gose.
Highly recommend picking up either one of these beers from Freigiest or any of their other offerings.

Monday, August 29, 2016

An Update on Texas Beer Related lawsuits

Last week some HUGE news came out of the Texas legal system that made it seem like a good time to review some of the current lawsuits that are working their way through the courts.  But before I get to that, let's get to what happened last week, and to do that, we need to go all the way back to the Spring of 2013. That was the first session that Open The Taps was around, so I remember those days clearly as the organization worked along with the Texas Craft Brewers guild, legislatures, and distributors.  On the positive side several bills were passed that had hugely positive effects on the industry.  Some of the highlights from those bills include SB518 allowing breweries to sell beer directly to consumers for on premise consumption (this is why we have tap room sales at St. Arnold), and SB515 that allows brewpubs to distribute their products (this is why Freetail is available at places like Nobi).  However, there was one bill that very few people wanted, but we were forced to support to get the bills passed we wanted.  That bill was SB 639 which restricts breweries from selling their territorial rights.  What does this mean? It means a brewery can't enter into a monetary agreement with a distributor to sell their beer.  It means a brewery can start out, building their brand, investing a ton of money, develop relationships with consumers, bars, restaurants, and retail places, and then once they feel like they need some help distributing, they can't make money off of that hard work.  Now some may ask, why oh why did anyone want this bill, and why was it signed as law back in 2013.  Well, that answer is relatively easy, the Austin legislature, the people that you voted for and put in office, are bought and paid for by large beer distribution companies (go look at which legislatures receive money from the big beer distributors).  This bill was put forth to appease the distributors who would have otherwise used their influence to stop the positive bills from passing.  So folks held their tongues and didn't fight back against SB639 so that the other bills could pass.  However, almost as soon as the bill passed, Texas Craft Breweries, started talking about a lawsuit because I think most everyone realized that what the legislation passed wasn't legal.  Which brings us back to the current day.
Last week, State District Judge Karin Crump ruled in favor of Live Oak Brewing, Revolver and Peticolas in their lawsuit that argues the 2013 state law unfairly hinders their ability to grow their business. This will now allow breweries to enter into monetary agreements with distributors, no longer having to give away their biggest asset. This will allow for greater growth within the Texas Craft beer industry as it gives them better access to capital, and maybe, just maybe help stave off more buyouts from big breweries like AB-InBev.  TABC can still appeal this decision, so all is not won yet, but I'm hoping that they don't, and that we can move on to working bigger and better things. Maybe just maybe this next session will legalize to-go sales at breweries.
Its unfortunate that issues like this have to be solved in the courts because we can't trust our legislatures to pass common sense laws. Make no mistake, there are more cases like this in the works. Your tax payer money will be used fighting lawsuits because your legislatures are bought. So let's take a look at some of the upcoming cases that should be resolved in the next couple of months:
1) Dallas's Deep Ellum Brewing has sued TABC to allow the aforementioned to-go sales. Currently, wineries, distilleries and brewpubs can all sale their products to go, however it is illegal for breweries to do so. This was something that was attempted to get through the legislature back in 2011, and 2013 (as well as many times before that) to no avail. Therefore Deep Ellum is doing the only thing they can, take it through the legal system.
2) Cuvee Coffee has sued TABC over the issue of whether retailers can sell Crowlers. For those that are unaware, Crowlers are like growlers, except they are cans, sealed at the site you fill them, and are single use, where as growlers can be re-used for ever. TABC came out and stopped bars, stores, etc from using Crowlers, because they consider them as re-canning beer which only a manufacturer can do. Cuvee Coffee was one of the first places doing Crowlers in Texas and they were also one of the first places that TABC went after. Currently the only places that can do Crowlers are licensed brewpubs and then only of the beer they produce on site.

Hoping to hear good news regarding both of these lawsuits in the next month or two.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Manhattan

In the last few years there has been a new theme in cocktail books.  Initially it seemed most cocktail books were a collection of recipes, with some stories interspersed, then more and more books came out from different owners of bars that focused on how the bar came to be, along with different cocktail recipes that the bar may be known for.  Thinking Dead Rabbit, or PDT.  The third family of cocktail books is taking a single cocktail, then diving deep into the history, with the second half of the book containing different variant recipes.  The first of these, at least as far as I'm aware, was Gaz Regan's Negroni, another great example is Robert Simonson's Old-Fashioned.  Now there is a new one on the block.  Phillip Green, co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail has written The Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail.
The book is packed, with a capital P, full of information.  As with others it's divided into two primary parts.  The first takes a look back at the history of the Manhattan, with the second part containing different recipes from the past, along with some modern variations.  The historical part of this book is just tremendous, and anyone with any interest in cocktail history will enjoy it.  Its quite interesting to see the roots of the Manhattan starting with the origins of the simple basic cocktail of bitters, spirit, water (or eventually ice).  How the creation of Angostura bitters helped shift things along, and then came the popularity of the European produced vermouth.  I enjoyed how Mr. Greene took each piece, and went down the various rabbit holes, producing vast amount of data backed by impeccable research.  A lot of the research is re-produced on the pages of the book with copies of advertisements, or recipes, and in some cases old letters. 
As with many cocktails, how and where the Manhattan was named is disputed with many a bar claiming to be the founding home.  Mr. Green does a fantastic job of breaking down each case, detailing why certain claims are nonsense, and then presenting a most likely case.  I will say, there are portions of this book that are not the easiest to read, meaning it may not be something to just pick up if you want to read something easy.  You are drawn into the book, and following along down a researchers path and to me its fascinating, although I can also see where  some folks could get lost. Overall the first half of the book is an outstanding example of a well researched cocktail book, that would educate even the most knowledgeable drinker.
The second half of the book is full of well written and easy to follow cocktail recipes, broken down into six different categories.  The first is a short section of classic Manhattans, Traditional, Dry, and Perfect.  The next section are inspired variations from the Manhattan Club, then pre world war drinks based on the Manhattan formula of spirit, vermouth, bitters.  Then Americano, Contemporary variations, and finally Sons of Brooklyn, which focuses on drinks based on the different boroughs of New York City.  
Most of these recipes have short stories go along with them, all of them are relatively easy to make. Some have some very specific vermouth's, that really can make a huge difference in the taste of the cocktail.  Almost all of them pack a big punch, as they are heavy on the alcohol.  Again, overall, this is a great addition to any cocktail library as it gives you some really great ideas as a foundation, and will help in creating your very own Manhattan variation.
In summary, a highly recommended read for the cocktail historian, or just someone that wants to gain a little more insight into what makes a Manhattan a Manhattan.
If you're interested, you can purchase the book here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Saloon Door: Summer IPA

The other day, I got to run by Webster's own Saloon Door, the new local brewery that I've written about before. I had heard that they had come out with a summer IPA and wanted to go and check it out.  This summer IPA was brewed to be light, refreshing, and utilized the more tropical flavored New Zealand hops of Nelson and Motueka.
Both of these hops are relatively new to the market.  Neslon Sauvin was released in 2000 through a breeding process lead by the Horticulture and Food Research Institute.  This hops brings Savignon Blanc, grapefruit, and rhubarb flavors and is normally used as an aromatic hop. Motueka is another new and interesting hop, bred from the great noble European hop Saaz.  It has a low alpha acid, and shares the clean bitterness of its parent. Normally utilized as an aroma hop this will bring some notes of citrus and flowers. Nelson is definitely a darling of the craft beer community with many beers out there highlighting this hop. Motueka I was less familiar with, so a beer with this combination had me intrigued.
The Beer:  The beer poured a sunny golden color with a thin white head of foam that remained throughout drinking.  The nose was like a bowl of citrus, or walking through the citrus section of a grocery store.  It was very bright, clean smelling.  Mouthfeel was a little thin.  Maybe medium bodied up front, but finished a little thin.  There some tongue coating, tingling resinyness.  Lots of floral hoppy notes, grapefruit, and citrus pith.  Star fruit, marmalade, biscuits were all there.  The flavors remained bright, crisp and clean throughout drinking the pint.  Some notes of apricots, maybe a hint of lemon as it warmed.  Overall I really enjoyed this beer.  The hop flavors were on point, and the main expression of the beer, however there was enough pale malt backbone to give the beer some spirit. I'd wish for just a little more body, maybe a bit more carbonation, but overall a solid B+ beer.