Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

By now families around the world are knee-deep in wrapping paper while kids utter those heartfelt words, "Is this all I got?". We don't have kids, so that means I won't have to fight for the controls to play any new Wii games I received. It also means I should be free to settle in and enjoy good food and some great beer.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's time for some Holiday Cheer

I've been a little distracted over the past few weeks with a cold, then the flu and most recently, the sudden passing of a friend. So, I haven't really been able to nor been in the mood to fully enjoy any of my holiday and Christmas beers. However, since Christmas is only two days away, its time to throw open the doors to the beer cellar. Here's a list of the holiday beers that are just waiting to be enjoyed:

Affligem - Noel (2007 & 2008)
Anchor Brewing - Christmas (2008)
Brasserie Dubuisson - Scaldis Noel (2008)
Bridgeport Brewing - Ebenezer Ale (2008)
De Koninck - Winter Koninck (2007)
Huyghe Brewery - Delirium Noel (2007 & 2008)
Left Hand - Snowbound (2008)
Leyerth Breweries - Urthel Hibernus Quentum (2008)
New Belgium - Frambrozen (2005 & 2008)
New Belgium - 2° Below (2008)
Ridgeway Brewing - Santa's Butt (2007 & 2008)
Ridgeway Brewing - Warm Welcome (2007 & 2008)
Ridgeway Brewing - Reindeer's Revolt (2008)
Ridgeway Brewing - Lump of Coal (2008)
Rogue - Santa's Private Reserve (2008)
Sam Adams - Holiday Pack (Winter Lager, Cream Stout, Old Fezziwig, Holiday Porter) (2008)
St. Bernardus - Christmas (2008)
Young's - Winter Warmer (2007)

As well as copious amounts of my own 2008 Holiday Cheer which turned out really well this year. Fortunately, I don't have to work until next Monday, so that gives me five days to enjoy some or all of the above beers.


Friday, December 5, 2008

75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition

If there's ever a day to drink a beer, today is the day! Its the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. So celebrate by purchasing, transporting, consuming and manufacturing (if you have the means) an alcoholic beverage as all of which were illegal between 1920 and 1933.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A few more UFO's at the saucer

After my beer run to Spec's, I met up with a friend at the Flying Saucer for lunch. Since I was in the neighborhood, I was able to knock out three more beers on my neverending quest. This time it was:
#27 North Coast Le Merle
#28 Avery IPA (Cask)
#29 St. Bernardus Abt 12

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Beer run to Spec's

I have a bunch of vacation days that I need to use up before the end of the year, so on one of them last week I made a trip to the Spec's downtown to stock up on my holiday beer. One thing that surprised me was the number of people that apparently had the same idea. It was 10:30 in the morning on a Tuesday and I followed a stream of people entering the store. Once inside I went directly to the beer section to avoid getting distracted by the myriad of wines, alcohol and fine foods. And it was a good thing too as I ended up spending a lot more then I anticipated. In addition to just the holiday releases, there's also a lot of new beers that have entered the Texas market and it was difficult to restrain myself from filling the cart. However, I kept it to just the holiday releases, as the rest of new stuff should still be around after the new year. I typically save most of them to drink on or around Christmas day, so this should keep me occupied:
Anchor Christmas
Left Hand Snowbound
Affligem Noel
St. Bernardus Christmas
Scaldis Noel
Urthel Hibernus Quentum
Sam Adams Holiday Pack (Winter Lager, Cream Stout, Old Fezziwig, Holiday Porter, Cranberry Lambic)
Bad Elf Holiday Pack (Reindeer's Revolt, Warm Welcome, Santa's Butt, Lump of Coal)

I still have a bottle or two of some of the beer above from last year in my beer cellar, so I'll be able to do my own vertical tasting as well.

Its really a shame Sam Adams only releases the Holiday Porter and Old Fezziwig in these holiday packs. They're both great beers that I'd love to buy without being forced to also take the horrendous Cranberry Lambic.

Okay, I couldn't resist, I did pick up a few more things:
St. Bernardus gift pack with glass
Rogue Double Dead Guy

What can I say, I'm weak. I finally had to just close my eyes and push the cart in the direction of the checkout lines!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Houston regains it's Independence

The beers brewed by Independence Brewing in Austin are available in Houston once again! Their beer was available at a few different stores around Houston for a while last year, but the distribution agreement with a local distributor was ended and Independence made the decision to concentrate on self distributing in Austin and San Antonio only. However, Spec's in Houston continued to receive many requests for Independence from local customers. So, a special shipment was just brought in fresh from the brewery by Amy Cartwright herself to the main Spec's location downtown. Spec's will then decide if they want to carry it at other locations and move the beer to those stores on their own. Depending on the level of sales, Independence will continue to make direct delivers to Spec's in Houston on an as-needed basis.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I don't play favourites

"What's your favourite beer?" It's a question that I get asked occasionally, particularly after someone has found out that I'm such a Beer Enthusiast (sounds better then Beer Geek). "The beer that's currently in my hand" is the usual smart-ass reply, but it's probably the most correct answer. To not have a clear "favourite" seems odd to most people. I think that comes from the general lack of knowledge about the diverse styles of beer. The beer I choose to drink is typically based on the current circumstances and the style that best suits it. The beer I select from that style may also vary as flavours can vary greatly within a style. Sitting outside on a patio in the summer? A pilsner or saison. Eating grilled meat? A rauchbier or smoked porter. Pizza? A pale or IPA. Watching hockey? Depends on whether my team is winning or losing. As a Beer Enthusiast, I'm also constantly searching for new beers that I haven't tried. I've found beers that I really like, beers that are just okay and beers that I would never drink again... and sometimes they've all been from the same brewery! At any given time, there could easily be ten or more completely different beers in the fridge (much to my wife's dismay) with dozens more in my beer cellar (even more to my wife's dismay). Given the large and ever-increasing number of beers available, how could I, or more to the point, why should I, choose just one as a "favourite"?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

'tis the season for Winter Warmers

The winter seasonal beers are starting to arrive in stores and bars. Its my favourite time of the beer year. I like a lot of the summer beers, but with a few exceptions, the fall and Oktoberfest beers usually just disappoint me. Spring is a little better then fall as breweries tend to turn out bocks, white ales and bitters, but its hard to beat the winter seasonals. Strong, dark, meaty beers that are filled with exotic spices, specialty malts and hops and heightened alcohol levels. Beers that will send other seasonal beers crying and whimpering back to the brew kettle. The only thing that could make it better is if I could sip them while sitting in front of a roaring fire and watching it snow outside. Instead, I tend to be drinking them while wearing shorts with the air-conditioner running. But I don't let my inappropriate geographical location affect my enjoyment of these winter warmers.

I won't bother listing all the winter seasonals now, but a couple that immediately come to mind are:

Our Special Beer from Anchor Steam. It just wouldn't be Christmas without Anchor's Christmas beer and many others must agree as this is the 34th annual release. Each year both the recipe of the beer and the tree on the label changes. The Ginger Man in Houston often has multiple years of it on tap, allowing for a vertical tasting. However, since the recipe changes each year, you're not really comparing the different years to each other, just seeing how well it's aging.

2° Below (also referred to as "Tupelo" in one rather humours thread a few years ago on Beer Advocate) from New Belgium. Definitely a great beer (regardless of the season). A hoppy beer with a floral aroma and slight spiciness in the finish. I wouldn't really classify this as a Winter Warmer, but since they only release it in the winter time and the higher alcohol content will provide a warm glow if I drink enough of them, I'll let it slide in under the wire. I also think the label is great, makes me shiver just looking at it.

I'll probably try and post a little something about each one as I try them this year. I have a few of my favourites from previous years stashed away in my beer cellar (also know as the hall closet) and I'm looking forward to having a few of my own vertical tastings this year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World's Best... says who?!

The World's Best Ale is Tripel Karmeliet! According to the recently announced 2008 World Beer Awards, that is. Do not confuse the World Beer Awards with the World Beer Cup. One was created in 1996 by beer legend and founder of the Brewers Association, Charlie Papazian. The other was created last year by the 3 year old bi-monthly consumer beer magazine, Beers of the World. Don't get me wrong, its not that I necessarily disagree with their list of winners, but one obviously has a little more credence then the other. Nonetheless, its always interesting to read through the list of "winners" of these types of awards and nod in agreement or recoil in horror that they could have actually awarded that beer. If anything, these awards serve to remind me about beers that I tried once and then never picked up again. And they can also torment me with beers that I've always wanted to try, but have still not had the chance. I'm sure its been years since I actually drank a Tripel Karmeliet. I don't even notice it on the shelf anymore, my eyes passing over it and hundreds of other beers that I've already tried as I search for any new ones that have been able to successfully run the TABC gauntlet. The Beer Enthusiast in me is constantly seeking out new beers while casually tossing perfectly good ones to the side on the chance that the next one could be even better. Unfortunately, not all of them are. So, perhaps its time for a more leisurely stroll through the beer aisle at my local Spec's to pick a few of those gems off the shelf and taste them again for the first time. Or, I can just see what new winter warmers and holiday beers are in early!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Holiday Cheer in a bottle

After of a couple of weeks of watching it ferment first in the primary fermentor and then in the secondary, my Holiday Cheer was ready to bottle this weekend. Its not as dark as I would have liked, but it did indeed ferment out to a respectable 9%. It now needs a good 4 ~ 6 weeks of aging in the bottle, but it should be quite drinkable before Christmas. I sampled it a few times during the process of bottling and the alcohol was definitely noticeable, but it should mellow out a little as it ages. Unfortunately, it will probably be drinking best after the holiday season is long gone. I always plan on brewing my Holiday Cheer earlier in the year to allow adequate aging before the festive season begins, but I never think of it in time and its usually so damn hot here until at least mid-September. Right now would probably be a good time to starting thinking about brewing a good spring time beer, but unfortunately, my beer cellar is already bursting at the seams. I guess that means I'll have to spend the winter months emptying it out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

Saturday, November 1st is Teach A Friend to Homebrew Day. Its an international event presented by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) to introduce people to the joys of homebrewing.

Each year on the first Saturday in November, homebrewers around the world are encouraged to invite non-brewing and brewing friends and family to celebrate Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day and brew a batch of beer together.

More information regarding the event and the AHA are available at the Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day event page.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why does the TABC hate beer?

Rob Walsh of the Houston Press wrote a great article this week titled "Texas Wants Beer". It details the ongoing problems and struggles that Texas micro-breweries continue to have with the various Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) rules and restrictions. A quote from a citizen appointee to the TABC review committee sums up the TABC quite well, "a corrupt system that no longer serves the public interest".

The additional side story from Walsh titled "Texas Wants Beer: Change This Law", describes the worst of the bad beer laws that local micro-breweries would love to have changed, the Texas law that prohibits breweries from selling beer directly to the public at the brewery. Texas wineries were able to successfully change the law a few years ago and now they are able to sell bottles of wine at the wineries, but the eight micro-breweries that now exist in the state do not have the resources or political clout that the wineries have, so the attempts to change that law have so far, failed. They also don't have the resources and more importantly, the influence that the beer distributors have as they're the main opposition to this law getting changed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holiday Cheer, Belgium Style!

Although I haven't been brewing at home nearly as often as I used to, I always find the time in the fall to brew my Holiday Cheer beer for the Christmas season. This year, I chose to brew a Belgium Strong Dark Ale, which should hopefully turn out similar to Stille Nacht from De Dolle Brouwers. I was able to do a vertical tasting of the previous three years of Stille Nacht while at the 't Brugs Beertje beer bar in Brugge, Belgium last fall. The aroma and flavour were both sweet and fruity with a bit of spiciness in the finish and a nice warming affect from the higher alcohol. Exactly what I hope my Holiday Cheer will be this year. If it ferments out completely, it should come in at around 9% abv.

I was a little disappointed in the Double Chocolate Stout that I brewed last year, but the Holiday Cheer brewed in '05 and '06 have aged very well. I enjoyed a bottle of each while brewing this year's.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Texas Winners at the GABF

472 breweries entered a combined total of 2,902 beers in the competition at this year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver. And of the 222 medals that were awarded in the 75 different categories, 3 went to breweries from Texas.

Fredericksburg Brewing Company won Gold for their Helles Keller and Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que won Silver for their Hell in Keller in the Kellerbier/Zwickelbier category. And in the Munich-Style Helles category, Saint Arnold took home a Silver for their Summer Pils.

The complete list of winners is available at the GABF Website.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Independence Brewing's 4th Anniversary

Independence Brewing officially began operations on Oct 4th, 2004 and the anniversary was able to be celebrated on the actual anniversary date for the first time. As with the previous parties, free beer was handed out and commemorative anniversary glasses, steins this year, were available for purchase. Although there were several other beer events occurring in Austin that day, about 400 people came out to help celebrate.

Independence also has a monthly Brewery Tour and Beer Tasting on the first Saturday of every month from 1pm ~ 3pm.

More photos from the event are available here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My beer is stronger then your beer, eh!

Tomorrow we're traveling up to my homeland of Canada for about 10 days for vacation. That should allow ample time to seek out new beer that I haven't tried as well as visit with friends and relatives. Thinking about drinking new Canadian beer also made me think of the age old myth that Canadian beer is typically stronger then American beer. The confusion comes from how alcohol was traditionally measured in the two countries. Canada listed the alcohol content of its beer by volume (ABV), while the U.S. listed it by weight (ABW). A beer that is 4.0% by volume is about 3.2% by weight, so if comparing just the numbers without understanding the difference, the American beer would appear to contain less alcohol. The fact of the matter is, they're both roughly the same. Although most American breweries now list alcohol by volume, the myth still does continue.

Monday, August 25, 2008

UFO's at the Flying Saucer

I joined the UFO club at the Flying Saucer in Dec of 2006. As of today, I have a grand total of 23 of the required 200 beers recorded. Sad, I know. My only excuse is that I live out on the West side of town and the Saucer is downtown which I typically don't get down to very often. However, since I had to make a client site visit downtown today, I'm meeting my buddy Cory after work and I'll be able to add 3 more (the max beers they'll add per day) to the list. Just 174 more to go. Wahoo.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

08.08.08 on 08/08/08

My wife's birthday is 08/08 and as a special celebration this year, we went to Aspen for the weekend. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a couple of Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08 in a beer store in Aspen (the Vertical Epic series are not available in Texas). The beer Gods were obviously smiling down upon me to put this beer in my path on 08/08/08! Its a Strong Golden Belgian style ale (one of my favourite styles of beer) highly hopped with Ahtanum, Amarillo and Simcoe (my favourite American hops). The symbolism of enjoying a Vertical Epic 08.08.08 on that actual day could only be appreciated by a true Beer Enthusiast such as myself.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Welcome to All Good Beer

I refrained from blogging this long because I basically viewed blogs as a tool used by people (some of them tools themselves) to push their ideologies and agendas on a global audience. That, and I figured it would be way too much work to keep a blog updated. However, I recently realized that it could be an easy and cool way to keep a record of my own experiences with drinking, brewing and enjoying good beer. So, its mainly for my own personal amusement, but other beer enthusiasts like myself may find the odd post interesting as well. Cheers.