Monday, August 31, 2009

The Taps House of Beer

One of the newest beer bars to open in Houston is the Taps House of Beer.  Located on the very trendy Washington Avenue, its pretty easy to spot as the doorway is a large wooden beer cask on the front of a single store brick building.  The entire bar is just one large room with outdoor patios in the front and back of the building.  A long wooden bar runs the entire length of the right side with tables and chairs filling the rest of the space as well as a few comfortable leather recliners in the corners.  Flat screen TV's ring the outside walls, making it easy to catch whatever game you're into.

The 96 taps along the wall behind the bar does look impressive, but there wasn't anything particularly special or hard to find among them.  They had the main flagship beers of the various breweries that distribute to Houston but not really any of their seasonal or speciality offerings.  However, I would probably expect that to change as the fall and holiday beer seasons arrive and another round of new seasonals start arriving.  While I was there, all beer was served in frozen pint glasses by default (not exactly what you're looking for in a beer bar), but you can ask for non-chilled.  There isn't much for food other then some bar snacks such as hotdogs and pizza, but they were advertising a steak and baked potato special on Thursdays.

I was there on a Saturday afternoon and it was pretty much empty except for the bar manager and one other customer.  However, it sounded like it can get pretty busy at night which lead me to one of the major problems of the area... parking.  There is none.  Be very careful about where you park on the side streets and pay close attention to the no parking signs.  Parking tickets and even towed vehicles are not uncommon as the area and its resident's are still getting used to its new found popularity.

I'm always glad to see a new beer bar opening in Houston, particularly one that opens with that many taps.  However, whether they want it to be a beer bar or just another sports bar with a lot of taps will soon show based how well they look after the beer and the lines and the effort they put into educating their staff about the beer.  Its a nice change of pace from my usual haunts, but there's nothing in particular to draw me out there at the moment, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye on it.  The large patio area looks like it could be nice to hang out on in during the cooler (and hopefully soon) times of the year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sam Adams Connoisseur Tasting at Ginger Man Pub

The Ginger Man is hosting a Sam Adams Connoisseur Tasting on Monday, Aug 31st at 7:30pm.  Matt Ludlow with Sam Adams will be there and leading you through a tasting of the beers in the Sam Adams Imperial Series (Imperial Stout, Imperial White & Double Bock).  Price is $11.25 per person and reservations are recommended.

I tried the Imperial Stout and Imperial White earlier this year and was a little disappointed by both.  However, if you're a fan of Sam Adams and those beers in particular, it would probably be a fun enough evening.

Belgian Beer Tasting at Block 7 Wine Company

The Block 7 Wine Company is not just a traditional wine bar, its a tasting bar with a full service restaurant and retail store.  And they don't just have wine... they have beer as well!  This Saturday from noon to 3pm, they are having their first beer tasting in the retail store:

Are you a wine lover that thinks beer is prosaic? How about a beer drinker that’s stuck on I.P.A.’s, Amber’s and Lager’s? Well… here’s some beer that will surprise you. Crisp, rich, and as complex as most great wines. In fact, we feel these are perfect crossovers from white wine to beer. Some are made to age; others are made to drink upon release. Some are spiced; some are fermented with additional fruit.

They will be offering Saison Dupont, Biere de Miel, Cuvee Rene and Deus Brut des Flandres for tasting.  All beers are available to purchase by the bottle or the case.

I assume they're wanting to offer beer that is not what the average wine drinker will think of when (or if) they think about beer.  If they want to stay away from the typical IPA's, Ambers and lagers, then I'd also suggest beers such as Allagash's Victoria Ale (brewed with Chardonnay grapes) or the barrel-aged Odyssey (aged in American oak).  There's also New Belgium's La Folie and Ommegang's Abbey Ale.  Barley wines are another style that may appeal to wine drinkers (hey, it's got wine right in the name) as it pairs well with strong cheeses and rich desserts.

I think its great to see places starting to offer better beer and give it the recognition that it deserves.  Its a step towards getting more restaurants to realize that beer does pair just as well with food as wine (arguably better and typically at a much lower price).  The Brewer's Association has a great beer and food pairing chart available on the website if you need some help or suggestions for pairings.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beer Tourism On The Rise

I love to see stories about craft brewing in the mainstream media.  CNN has an article today about the rise of beer tourism in the U.S.  The number of craft breweries in the U.S. is now at a 100 year high with over 1,500, making it pretty easy to find a brewery or brewpub almost anywhere you go.  And not only is there a large number of breweries, there's such a great variety in the styles of beer they produce.  Most craft breweries are pretty small and their beers are often only available in the surrounding region.  And in the case of brewpubs, usually only available at their location.  So getting out and visiting these places is often they only way that you'll get the chance to even try their beers.  We're heading to Seattle and Portland next week and I already have a list of great beer places to try and visit and beers to look for. 

For help with adding some beer destinations during your next vacation, check out The Beer Mapping Project website.  They have free online maps with the location of breweries, brewpubs and beer stores for most major U.S. destinations.  They also have a slick mobile interface to access the website from your smartphone while you're on the go.  I've used their site numerous times to find a nearby beer bar when travelling.

Anniversary Celebration

In celebration of All Good Beer's one year anniversary, I decided to enjoy the bottle of Stone's 13th Anniversary Ale (it had anniversary in the name and it was already in the fridge).  It's from Stone Brewing, so you can pretty much expect it to be strong in flavour and alcohol and this one was no exception.  Deep ruby colour with a fresh pine aroma.  Initial flavour was smooth with a creamy, full mouthfeel.  However, that smoothness was quickly replaced by a strong dry and bitter finish with a slow warming affect thanks to the 9.5% ABV.  Its interesting to note that it specifically states "Do not cellar.  Enjoy in 2009" on the side of the bottle.  I guess its not expected to age well, so it's a good thing I had an excuse to drink it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One year of All Good Beer

The one year anniversary of this blog slipped past me a few days ago without so much as a beer in celebration.  My how time flies when you're drinking beer and posting about it.  This blog was born as a simple way for me to record my experiences as I continued to homebrew, cook with beer, attend festive beer events and try new beers.  However, its since expanded to include more general beer related information such as upcoming events and new releases.  And, next month, I'm going to attempt to blog my way through our adventures at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.  So, here's to many more years of All Good Beer.  Cheers!

Fresh Hop Pale Ale from Great Divide

I've been trying the various fresh/wet hop beers that have appeared on the market this year in anticipation of trying to brew one myself using my own home grown hops. Unfortunately, those dreams are withering away like the hop plants in my backyard. Thanks to the hottest summer on record and ongoing drought conditions, it doesn't look like I'm going to harvest enough hops to even bother trying to brew one. Oh well, its never too early to start planning for next year.

The latest fresh hop beer I tried is the apply named Fresh Hop Pale Ale from Great Divide Brewing in Denver, Coloardo. Its brewed with fresh hops flown in direct from the harvest in the Pacific Northwest. Big, beautiful hop aroma. Very well balanced. The expected grassy and citrusy flavours are not overbearing and finishes with only a mild dry bitterness. Would make a nice session beer if it wasn't 6.1% ABV.

Monday, August 24, 2009

GABF Saturday Session Sold Out

The Members-Only session on Saturday afternoon is now SOLD OUT and apparently in record time. Tickets for the Member-Only session are only available to members of the Brewers Association or the American Homebrewers Association. The winners of the beer judging competition are announced during this session and after the results are announced, there's typically a mad dash to the various booths of the winners to sample the winning beers. Tickets for the Friday session are selling fast and are expected to be sold out today. However, the Thursday nights session is only 65% sold and its probably the better session to go to if you have specific beers or breweries to try as some of the more rare beers can sometimes disappear after only the first or second session.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Texas Beer Dinner Tonight at Cullens

Just a reminder about the Texas Beer Dinner at Cullens Upscale American Grille tonight. The full menu for the evening is available by clicking on the image to the left. $75 per guest (+ tax and tip). Reservations are required and they do still have seating available. Also, since it's a Texas themed evening, feel free to wear jeans and cowboy boots. I'll be there with Amy and Rob Cartwright, founders of Independence Brewing in Austin.

** UPDATE **
A few photos of the different courses served during the evening. The food was really good, the only issue we had was with the amount... there was just too much! With 5 courses plus appetizers, we were all pretty full after the 4th course was finished. Our favourite was definitely the chicken fried quail which paired perfectly with our Pale Ale.

Top left is the Mini Frito Pie followed by the Chicken Fried Quail. On the second line is the House Made Kielbasa followed by the dessert which was the Brew House Brownie. The full menu along with the beer pairings is available by clicking on the image above.

Meeting Mr. Guinness

He arrived in an enormous black Hummer limo which looked a tad out of place in the Bull & Bear parking lot. The idea to do a tour and signing was obviously very last minute as they didn't have any copies of his new book to purchase and the staff at the pub only found out he was coming that morning. Although he arrived 40 minutes late, he still spent some time talking with various customers (a lot of whom are Irish) and then autographed various Guinness paraphernalia that people had brought in. I managed to talk with him briefly and get a Guinness 250 poster signed and invited him to drop by the brewery if he ever found himself in Austin. They had a few autographed copies of his book to give away so Tommy (owner of the Bull & Bear) had a free drawing to distribute them. Unfortunately, I did not win, but at least I got a few free pints of Guinness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rory Guinness signing copies of his book at pubs in Houston

Rory Guinness, an 8th-generation descendant of Aurthur Guinness, the founder of the brewery, will be in Houston on Thursday, August 20th and signing copies of his book on the history of the Guinness brewery at the following times and locations:

The Bull & Bear Tavern and Eatery - 2 p.m.
McMonigel's Mucky Duck - 3:30 p.m.
The Stags Head Pub - 4:30 p.m.
Kenneally's Irish Pub - 5:30 p.m.
Brian O'Neill's Irish Pub and Restaurant - 6:15 p.m.

This will be his only U.S. book signing as his real reason for being in town is because his mother is undergoing treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. If at all possible, I'm going to try and make it to the signing at the Bull & Bear.

Thanks to Beer, TX for the list of times and locations and to my wife for forwarding an email message from the Mucky Duck that announced the event.

Number of breweries reaches 100 year high

The number of breweries in this country has reached a level not seen for over 100 years. According to the latest numbers released by the Brewers Association, there is now a total of 1,525 operating breweries in the U.S. And, despite an overall global recession, the craft brewing industry grew 5% by volume and 9% by dollars during the first half of this year. That growth appears to be coming at the expense of imports and other non-craft domestics which are both down over the same period. It looks like craft beer drinkers are continuing to spend money on good beer while the macro-lager drinkers are cutting back. Or perhaps if limited on the amount of money to spend on beer, consumers are choosing quality over quantity? Whatever the case may be, the craft beer industry is continuing to enjoy solid growth year after year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

9th Anniverary Party at Houston Flying Saucer

In honour of its 9th anniversary, the Flying Saucer in Houston will be tapping a different beer each hour this Sunday starting at noon. The currently scheduled beer lineup is:

12pm - Barbar Belgian Honey Ale
1pm - Real Ale Lost Gold Firkin
2pm - Harpoon Big Bohemian Pilsner
3pm - Allagash Curieux
4pm - Stone Smoked Porter Firkin
6pm- Dogfish Burton Baton
7pm - Monk's Cafe
8pm - Moylander Double IPA
9pm - Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

More information about the "Revolution #9" bash is available at the Saucer's website.

I'm still s-l-o-w-l-y working my way through the required number of beers for my U.F.O. Club and it's probably going to be quite a while before I'm finally immortalized in the Ring of Honor. I may try and drop by on Sunday so I can add another three beers to my list.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rare Beer Tasting to benefit Pints for Prostates

All About Beer Magazine in cooperation with Beer Advocate is hosting a rare beer tasting to benefit Pints for Prostates at the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver on Friday, September 25th during the annual Great American Beer Festival. Tickets are $55 in advance ($65 at the door) and the tasting is from 1 ~ 4 pm (so it ends before the start of the evening session of the festival) and includes unlimited beer samples, hors d’oeuvres and a commemorative glass. More information and a link to purchase tickets can be found at the event website. A list of some of the rare beers being poured can be found at Rick Lyke's blog (I'm already starting to drool).

If you're going to the GABF this year, you're going to need something to fill your Friday afternoon anyway and its a great opportunity to try some rare beers, meet the brewers and help out a worthy cause. I've already got my ticket and looking forward to the event.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Photos From Independence Tour Day

A few photos from the August tour day at Independence Brewing. Fortunately, there was a light cloud cover most of the day which kept the temperature at just hot and not scorching.

The guys from Boomerang's Pies were out at the brewery selling their delicious meat pies again. They have a special steak and cheese pie that's made with our Bootlegger Brown Ale that is absolutely fantastic! I highly recommend you stop by their store in Austin and pick some up or try one the next time they're at one of our tour days. But make sure you get one early though as they often sell out, particularly the Bootlegger Steak Pie.

The next tour day will be Saturday, September 5th. If you want to be kept up to date with happenings and special events at the brewery, become a member of the Mobile Brew Crew and you will receive updates direct to your cell phone. Current members received a special message before the tour day that rewarded them with an extra beer sample ticket when they showed that message at the entrance to the tour.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

List of Breweries at the 2009 GABF is now available

The list of breweries attending the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is now available on the GABF website. Here's the list of the breweries representing Texas this year which is probably the largest number there's ever been:

(512) Brewing Company
Covey Restaurant & Brewery
Fredericksburg Brewing Co. *
Freetail Brewing Co.
Humperdink's Restaurant & Brewery
Independence Brewing Co.
Live Oak Brewing Co.
North by Northwest Restaurant & Brewery
Rahr & Sons Brewing
Real Ale Brewing Company
Saint Arnold Brewing Company *
Southern Star Brewing
Spoetzl Brewery
Uncle Billy's Brew & Que *

* Medal winners in last years competition.

The festival map should be available later this summer. The map is particularly useful for planing out your tasting strategy. Its pretty overwhelming to walk into the convention center and see rows and rows of breweries and beers that you've never tried or even heard of. If you're attending the festival this year, I suggest reviewing the list of breweries and marking the location of the ones you really want to try on the map before the festival begins. Then prioritize the ones you really want to try and visit them first. A lot of the popular beers can often be unavailable past the first or second tasting session.

The popular Saturday afternoon session is already 80% sold. All sessions have sold out for the past few years, so purchase your tickets soon if you haven't already.