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.