Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Divine World

The ninth release of the Divine Reserve series from Saint Arnold Brewing is being released tomorrow, sparking off a modern-day real-life version of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Although, Twitter has revolutionized the search for DR as people dash from one location to another, checking Twitter from their phones as sightings are instantly posted and updated. By the way, Saint Arnold requests that you please use hashtag #DR9 when tweeting about Divine Reserve sightings to enable tweeters to find relevant posts easier. There's typically also one or two people who will gloat with a photo post of a whole case that they managed to secure of the beer that is so heavily coveted, yet untasted by anyone. Here's what Saint Arnold has say about the beer:

This release weighs in at 11% ABV. This beer is black with some ruby highlights. The nose is full of pumpkin pie spices and some alcohol. There are notes of nutmeg, caraway and vanilla. The taste starts with chocolate malt with a hint of spice and rolls into a warm spicy alcohol taste which has the effect of creating the balance that usually comes from the hop bitter. There is some hop bitter on the finish, but not much. Overall, this beer finishes relatively dry for such a big beer. As it warms, the spices move forward in the taste and the chocolate moves to the finish. The pumpkin provides a pleasant undertone and a round mouthfeel.

Dogma at the Flying Saucer

The Flying Saucer in Houston will be tapping BrewDog's Dogma on Thursday starting 7:00pm. James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog will also be on hand to talk about the beer.

It would probably be a good opportunity to talk to him about Tactical Nuclear Penguin, the biggest beer ever made by a human or a penguin. Following on the heals of Tokyo, a 12-percent imperial stout, BrewDog Brewing continues to brew up controversy as well as strong beer as it takes the title of World's Strongest Beer from Sam Adams and their Utopias.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Beer Tasting at Block 7 Wine Company

Block 7 Wine Company is hosting a Holiday/Winter Seasonal Beer tasting on Saturday, December 5th from 2pm ~ 5pm. Cover is $5 and includes the following holiday beers:

St. Bernardus Christmas
Delirium Noel
Chapeau X'mas Gueuze
St. Feuillien Cuvée De Noël
Anchor Christmas Ale (Our Special Ale)
Great Divide Hibernation
St. Arnold Christmas Ale

Houston Yard House Review

My wife and tried out the new Yard House in Houston last night. Its located in the middle of the brand new City Centre development at I10 and Beltway 8 on the West side of Houston (and more importantly, very close to our house). The whole development is very modern and contemporary and there are a few other upscale eateries already open such as RA Sushi, Eddie V's and Straits.

I've been to a few other Yard House locations around the country and they all generally have the same look and feel. This location seems a little smaller then other locations, but they do have a very large patio area on two sides that looks out over a large open courtyard. A large racetrack shaped bar is in the center of the restaurant with ~100 beer taps wrapping around the inside wall. The kegs attached to all those taps are contained in a glass-walled cooler along the end of the restaurant with pipes running overhead from the cooler to the bar. Loud classic rock music was playing while about 20 flatscreen TV's were tuned to various channels.

We arrived around 5:30 and were seated immediately in a booth along the glass windows of the keg cooler. The menu is large with a good assortment of unique variations of familiar items as well as the usual favourites. We started with spinach cheese dip served with crispy flat bread. For dinner, we shared the Spicy House Salad and the Spicy Thai Chicken Pizza. The salad was very fresh and crisp with a light but spicy dressing. The pizza was done perfectly with a thin crispy crust and the macadamia nuts added an extra little crunch to it. Overall, we were both very happy with the food. The service was also excellent and we were never left looking for someone to refill our water glasses or order another beer.

However, the beer menu was what I was most interested in. I counted 87 draft beers on the menu, including all the macro lagers. There is a good assortment of ales and lagers with a larger selection of Belgian beers then I expected, but there's nothing too out of the ordinary. I didn't have a hard time finding something I wanted to drink, but don't expect to find any rare or extreme beers either (go to the Petrol Station if you're wanting those). It would be nice to have more local beers available though. Two Real Ale (Fireman's #4, Coffee Porter), a Saint Arnold (Lawnmower) and a Shiner (Bock) was all I saw. I had a Green Flash West Coast IPA to start, followed by a Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale and ended on a Rogue Dead Guy Ale. All were fresh tasting and served in a standard pint glass. Most beers are also available in a half yard beer glass.

Overall, its pretty much what I expected. Its an upscale eatery that has a large assortment of draft beer. The prices are a little high, but they do have a good happy hour with half-priced appetizers and pizzas. Beer geeks would probably be disappointed by the beer selection, but that's not really the market they're after. Our side of town has gone without a good restaurant that also has a good selection of beer for a very long time and I have a feeling this place will become our new default location for dining out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beer and Loafing in Scottsdale

We took a much deserved vacation at a resort in Scottsdale last weekend for some rest and relaxation before all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This was the first vacation where we made no plans for tours, side-trips or sight-seeing. We did absolutely nothing and it was everything we thought it could be. Although, we did go in to town one morning and stopped off at a Trader Joe's and A.J.'s Fine Foods on the way back where I was able to find a few beers to enjoy at the resort and a couple to bring back.

Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale - I've never tried any of their beers before, but I do know the Vintage Ale is brewed by Unibroue. Dark brown in colour with a big foamy head. A lot of dark fruit flavours with a ginger spiciness and a dry finish. A good beer and pretty much what I would expect from Unibroue.

Inversion IPA - A very drinkable IPA from Deschutes that I enjoyed while sitting outside on our patio overlooking the ponds and pools. Citrus and pine hop flavours are well balanced by the slightly sweet malts with a smooth dry finish.

Rejewvenator - Indicated on the label as being Half Doppelbock and Half Belgian Dubblel. Flavours of dark sweet fruit with the dates being quite obvious. An interesting combination of styles.

Vertical Epic 09.09.09 - I bought two of these, one to drink there and one to take home where it can rest comfortably with my other VE beers. Deep, dark brown in colour with a huge soft head that took a while to settle down. Fairly strong roasted malt and chocolate flavours with hints of vanilla and molasses. Quite a change from the past couple in the VE series.

Bourbon County Stout - An imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels from Goose Island. I purchased this one to take back home and add to the ever-growing beer cellar. I'm not always a fan of bourbon aged stouts, but I'd heard great things about this one. However, since a lot of bourbon barrel-aged beers can be way to strong and overpowering, I'd like this one to rest and mellow a little before opening it. And at 13% ABV, it can certainly take some ageing.

I highly recommend The Phoenician Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, AZ. Its absolutely beautiful, relaxing and luxurious. They even have a few of the Four Peaks beers on tap at various onsite bars and a pretty decent bottle selection in the lounge off the lobby, including some 2008 Anchor Christmas Ale.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ommegang Bière De Mars

After our fantastic lunch at Broken Spoke Cafe on Saturday, I was in a Belgian mood when I got home. I had just recently picked up a bottle of Brewery Ommegang's Bière De Mars at my local Spec's and this seemed like the perfect time to try it. Its a Belgian-style amber that's fermented a second time with wild yeast. I let it warm a little on the counter while I dug through my boxes of beer glasses. We just finished remodelling and most of my beer glasses are still packed away, but I knew I had an Ommegang glass somewhere. I had been warned that it contained some pretty heavy sediment in the bottle and I was careful with the pour, but still got a nice foamy head. Aroma was sweet and fruity with a little bit of funkiness to it. Flavours of sweet malt and citrus fruits which give way to a tart and slightly tangy finish. A very easy-drinking and enjoyable beer, but at $12.95 a bottle, I probably won't be getting a second one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Breckenridge Tapping at Houston Saucer Tonight

Todd Usry from Breckenridge Brewing will be at the Flying Saucer in Houston tonight. They'll be tapping Breckenridge's new Lucky U IPA and Christmas Ale and the Oatmeal Stout will be on nitrous. Beer starts pouring at 7pm.

Jester King Meets Financing Goal

In a recent update on their blog, Jester King has announced that they met their financing goal of $5000,000 and have just secured four acres of ranch land in Southwest Austin for the brewery. An existing 6,000 square foot warehouse building has also been purchased which is being dismantled and moved to the new brewery site. Further information is available on the website and in their press release.

Lunch At The Broken Spoke Cafe

We finally made it to the Broke Spoken Cafe this weekend. I've been wanting to go ever since it was announced that Catherine Duwez would start serving up her mussels there after Cafe Montrose closed. We had originally planned for dinner, but found ourselves in the area at lunch time after running various errands. Fortunately, I recently read on their website that their entire menu is available for lunch, including the mussels. Its certainly not hard to find on Washington Ave with the Belgian flag hanging on the outside. The inside is small but quaint and the bicycle theme is broken up with Belgian flags and beer signs and a small Manneken Pis fountain sculpture. It actually reminded me of various cafes I visited while in Belgium.

There was about 4 tables occupied when we arrived and we were told to sit wherever we liked. The staff were friendly and our waitress was able to list the available Belgian beers. I started with a Stella Artois, which was served in the proper glass, while we reviewed the menus. My wife is not a big fan of mussels, so she ordered the veggie omelette off the bunch menu but I order La Complet Belge which includes La Moule Marinière (Mussels steamed with butter, celery, onion, and white wine), Frites (Belgian fries) and a Stella Artois for only $24. I moved on to a Blanche de Bruxelles as we waited for our order and reminisced about eating mussels and frites in Bruges.

Our food arrived quickly and the mussels were served in the traditional pot and the frites came with a side of mayo (homemade?). Our waitress suggested a Kwak when I indicated I'd like a darker Belgian beer and it also arrived in it's traditional glass with the wooden stand (cool!). The mussels were all large and meaty with a smooth texture. The broth was light but flavorful which I soaked up with the crusty french bread. I tried my best to finish them all, but I finally called it quits with about 3 or 4 mussels left in the pot. The bowl of frites was empty. I will also mention that my wife's omelette and homemade potatos was great. The caramelized onions gave it a wonderful sweet rich flavour.

After my original post about the Broken Spoke Cafe back in July, Roy de la Garza, the owner of the Broken Spoken Cafe, has added a couple of comments regarding the Belgian beer they offer. I asked if Roy was available after our lunch and was able to thank him for his comments and let him know how much we enjoyed the food. He said the place can get pretty packed on Friday and Saturday nights (glad we ended up coming for lunch) and also let us know that they have live music on Tuesdays. They also plan to buy another kegerator so they can offer even more Belgian beers. Our conversation was interrupted by our waitress asking him to get a couple of beers that were just ordered. That's when we found out our waitress is his daughter and since she's too young to get beer for customers, Dad would have to serve them. Its great to see his family is involved and we wish them great success. We'll definitely be back, I'd love to try the Carbonade à la Gantoise (Flemish beef stew) and the Crêpes for dessert, but it will be hard to not order those delicious mussels every time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Boar Meets Beer at Uncle Billy's

Uncle Billy's in Austin is hosting a Wild Game Brewer's Dinner on Sunday, November 15th. Five courses are paired with five different beers, including their award winning Hell in Keller. The full menu can viewed by clicking on the image to the left. Tickets are $45 and must be purchased in advance.

The menu sounds great and I've always enjoyed their food and beer. I was just at Uncle Billy's for lunch last weekend. The Bitchin' Camero and freshly brewed Axe Handle Pale Ale went great with my brisket and jalapeno sausage plate.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Black Star Announces Location

Black Star Co-op in Austin has finally announced the location of the brewpub. It will be in the new Midtown Commons right in front of the Crestview Station MetroRail stop. There will be a special unveiling event at the location this Saturday from 1pm ~ 4pm which will include tours of the space and a brief beer social.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Branch Water Tavern to offer Artisanal Beer

Scheduled to open this fall, the Branch Water is a new modern American tavern located on Shepherd, just a few blocks South of the popular Washington Avenue strip in Houston. The menu will be "seasonally inspired, featuring local organic meat and produce, locally-sourced fish and seafood, and an extensive cured meat and charcuterie program". Sounds great, but what has me particularly intrigued is they also indicate their "Beers will be artisanal" and that the "beverage program will first and foremost be driven to match the cuisine. Cocktails, beer and wine will also change with the seasons". It certainly reads well on a press release, so I look forward to checking it out when they open and seeing how much consideration has actually been given to the beer selection.

They do have a website, but doesn't seem to be operational yet. However, you can follow their progress on their Facebook page.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beer Apps for Android OS

I recently got the new HTC Hero phone that runs Google's Android OS. Its similar in looks and functionality as the iPhone, but the OS is open-source. As soon as I become familiar with the phone, I began searching the Internets for cool beer related apps to download onto it. Here are the ones that I've found:

BeerCloud Mobile App - BeerCloud is a revolutionary mobile app that helps you pair beer with food, track down your favorite beers in your neighborhood, and pull up a full description of any beer with a scan of its barcode. Released by, a website developed and run by a group of national beer wholesalers. The website actually has a great deal of beer information on it, but only about the various beers that the members of the website distribute. Since only one wholesaler per region is able to be a member, you won't find any information about a beer if they don't distribute it. However, being able to search for a beer by scanning the barcode on the label using your phone is pretty cool. $Free

Beer Hero - This geographically aware application will help you find great bottled craft-brewed beer and BewPubs. It also has a Beer/Meal pairing feature that will point to locally available beers. It didn't really find much beer in my area. It also seems to refer to all "beer bars" as "brewpubs" but didn't list the one and only brewpub that we do have in Houston. Developed by Lifestyle Software. $2.99

Beer Counter - Beer counter is an application that can keep track of your beer consumption. This application comes in handy in locations where the bill is paid for at the end and no individual tracking is done for a group of people having a couple of beers together. Not sure how useful this would be unless you're drinking with a bug of cheap friends. $Free

BJCP Droid - Application for easy viewing of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) beer/mead style guidelines. Developed by Transmutable Explorations. This is actually pretty handy to look up the characteristics of different styles. $Free

Beer Journal - Record and edit breweries. Take notes for each brew you try. Might be handy to record info about beer while you're out and about drinking. Lite version $Free; Full version $0.99

I also heard that the Beer Mapping Project website is working on an Android app that would be geographically aware. I'm looking forward to that one as I use their site quite often.

Let me know if you have any other Beer apps to recommend (or any great non-beer Android apps as well).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Circle Brewing Orders Brewing System

It looks like Austin is one step closer to having another microbrewery. According to their blog entry today, Ben and Jud have managed to raise enough capital to go ahead and place an order for a 30 BBL brewing system. Now they just need to find a place to put it.

Learn To Homebrew Day

In 2004, the American Homebrew Association established Teach A Friend To Homebrew Day as a fun way to introduce new people to the hobby of homebrewing. It occurs every year on the first Saturday in November and over 600 people were taught how to homebrew last year. The event was recently renamed to just Learn To Homebrew Day, but the idea is still the same. If you know how to homebrew, grab a friend who's interested in learning and brew up a batch of beer with them this Saturday.

Check out the all new American Homebrew Association website for more information about Learn To Homebrew Day and the benefits of becoming of member of the AHA.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Irish Dinner and Beer Tasting at BJ's

BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse is having an Irish Dinner and Beer Tasting featuring a tribute to the 250th anniversary of Guinness. Six courses are paired with Harp, Smithwick's, Guinness and several of BJ's in-house brews (beers served at Texas locations are contract brewed at Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston). The dinner event is actually occurring at various BJ's locations around the country during the months of October and November. The Texas locations and dates are:

November 3rd - Plano
November 4th - Addison
November 5th - Lewisville
November 10th - Houston (Willowbrook)
November 11th - Austin (Sunset Valley)
November 17th - Arlington
November 19th - Houston (Clear Lake)

Click on the image to the right to see the full menu with beer pairings for each course. The cost is $30 per person which is a reasonable amount compared to other beer dinners that have have occurred lately.

I've been to several different BJ's locations and I've always enjoyed their beer and and the food. However, their locations are typically out in the suburbs and are usually filled with young families and its not uncommon to have a long wait. A quick glance around the restaurant and you'll also notice that the majority of customers are not drinking beer (at least when I've been to them). They seem to be marketing themselves as a casual family restaurant that also happens to have house beers and not as a "brewpub restaurant". That's not necessarily a bad thing, I just wish Houston had a few actual, real brewpubs.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Upcoming Events at the Ginger Man

The Ginger Man in Houston has a couple of upcoming events this weekend:

On Saturday, November 7th is the 6th Annual Rescue Rally to help raise funds for local animal shelters and inform the public about the options for adopting rescued animals. There will be a silent auction, raffle, food, fun and of course, great beer! Come out and support a worthy cause while enjoying a few pints.

And, in case you haven't already got your fill of Oktoberfest and other fall seasonals, they're having an Oktoberfest & Autumn Seasonals Beer Tasting on Sunday starting at 3pm. Tickets are $35 which includes food that compliments the beer being served.