Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a

Merry Christmas!

All Good Beer

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: Kerstbier

Its December 21st, the first day of Winter and its 82°F outside. This is not helping to improve my Christmas mood. So, I cranked up the AC and grabbed a bottle from the fridge with a label featuring two Santa Clauses drinking beer while dancing in the snow. If that can't help me forget about the record heat and get me into the Christmas spirit, then nothing can.

Kerstbier is a Holiday Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed on a very small scale by Klein Duimpje Huisbrouwerij (Tom Thumb Homebrewery) in Hillegom, Netherlands. Although I just got this bottle, its from 2008 so its already got a couple of years of age on it. Aromas of caramel, plums and a hint of chocolate with alcohol becoming noticeable as it warmed. The flavour starts with a brown sugar sweetness followed by hints of ginger, nutmeg and other holiday spices. The finish is fairly dry with a lingering mild bitterness. The alcohol is also noticeable in the finish, particularly as the beer warms which is a surprise since the ABV is quite a bit lower then other holiday beers. This is the first time I've had this beer and its interesting and enjoyable, but not one my favourites.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Petrol Station Christmas Party

The Petrol Station will be hosting their Christmas Party on Thursday, December 23rd starting at 5pm.  And as usual, they'll be serving some pretty impressive beers throughout the evening:

Dogfish Head - Bitches Brew
Dogfish Head - Chateu Jiahu
Dogfish Head - Palo Santo
Stone - 10-10-10
Stone - Lucky Bastard
Avery - Czar
Avery - DuganA
Avery - Rumkin
Jester King - Black Metal
Saint Arnold - Weedwacker (cask)
Saint Arnold - Winter Stout (cask)
Lefthand - Imperial Stout (cask)
Victory - Yakima Glory (cask)
And more...

Watch their Facebook page for announcements of other beers being added to the lineup.

Beers of the Holidays: Delirium Noël

Delirium Noël is a Belgian Strong Ale brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium.  Its a wonderful beer to drink when curled up in front of the Christmas tree near a roaring fire while watching it snow outside. I had the Christmas tree, but the roaring fire was displayed on my TV and there wasn't a snowflake in sight last night. Fortunately, it didn't affect my complete enjoyment of this beer. 
Drink this too fast and you'll
being seeing pink elephants.

I have several vintages of this one and opened a bottle from 2008. Since it comes with a 10% ABV, I've found aging it a year or so helps soften the bite from the alcohol, but the affects of it can definitely still be felt. This is a beer to slowly sip and savour. Aromas of sweet malts, caramel and dark fruits. Flavour is smooth and rich with bready toasted malts, caramel sweetness and brandied fruits. There's a spiciness often noticeable in the flavour of younger bottles, but its much more subdued in this one that's been aged for two years. It finishes with a soft warming sensation that spreads out across your body.  I highly recommend including this during your holiday celebrations.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: Our Special Ale

For the past 36 years, Anchor Brewing has released a Christmas Ale that has become the quintessential holiday beer (for me, at least).  Technically, the beer is labeled as Our Special Ale which was originally done to allow the brewery to release other seasonals under the same label, but they never actually have.  And each year the recipe of the beer, as well as the tree on the label, is different and unique.  However, there's one thing that has been consisted which is that it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without enjoying a few of Our Special Ale.  I even shared a magnum of it with my brother-in-law on Christmas day last year. 
36 Years of Labels

Although the recipe does change each year, its another great beer to age and compare with other vintages.  Today I opened a bottle from 2006 alongside a bottle from 2010.  Surprisingly enough, the 2006 actually has a pretty strong smell of alcohol.  There are also aromas of burnt coffee and roasted malts.  The flavour is slightly sweet to start, but quickly turns to the bitter burnt coffee that was noticeable in the aroma.  Finish is tart and slightly acidic with a fairly thin mouthfeel.  The twist-off caps on the bottles probably didn't help the aging process, but I have had good luck with other past vintages.

The new 2010 release, however, is excellent as all fresh versions of it typically are.  I got aromas of candied ginger and other spices as well as some pine and black liquorice later on after it had warmed up.  Flavours of sweet dark malts and more ginger that lingers in the very dry finish.  Again, after it had warmed, picked up a little peppery spiciness as well as more black liquorice at the tail end of the finish.  Soft creamy mouthfeel, particularly after drinking the 2006 release.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: Frambozen

Frambozen, derived from the Flemish word for raspberry, is a raspberry infused brown ale from New Belgium Brewing.  Berries from the Pacific Northwest are picked, turned into pure juice and trucked in oxygen free tanker trunks to the brewery in Colorado.  Because of the amount of juice used in the brewing process, the volume of Frambozen brewed each year will vary based on the berry crop that year.  Texas was lucky to get any a few years ago when a poor crop of berries resulted in much lower volume of juice produced then normal.

This is another of my favourite beers from the holiday season.  I usually pick up a couple of sixpack each year and stash a few bottles in my cellar.  Yesterday I opened a bottle from 2005 which had aged quite well.  The raspberry flavour was still very prominent.  It seemed to be a little sweeter and stickier and the finish wasn't as dry, but still had the lingering tartness.  Its a great after dinner beer and I've paired the fresh version in the past with desserts as well as sharp cheeses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: Nutcracker Ale

I found a few of Boulevard Brewing's Nutcracker Ale from last year in the back of the beer fridge in the garage.  I didn't buy any this year (I'm not even sure if I've seen any on the shelf at Spec's), so this is based on a bottle of 2009 that's been sitting in the fridge for twelve months.  Sweet malts and candied fruit in the aroma.  The taste is all malts with a little hint of spices in the sweet finish.  If there was any hop bitterness to it originally, then its definitely dropped out.  Mouthfeel is still pretty creamy and it got a little better as it warmed up.  I may pick up a bottle or two from this year just to see how its aged.  I'm not typically a fan of Boulevard's regular lineup of beers, but I've definitely enjoyed their Smokestack Series of beers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Camp Beer V - Photo Recap

Camp Beer V - Holy Beer Night took place yesterday afternoon and it was a fantastic time of sampling holiday and non-holiday related beers.  Cathy did another great job of organizing and running the event and Kevin once again provided running commentary about the beers we were tasting. I, however, did not do a good job this time as I didn't take any notes during the event (give me a break, it was a holiday beer tasting and I was not in a note taking mood).  Instead, I offer you the following photos of some of my favourites (in no particular order):

Hoppin Frog
Christmas Ale (2009)

Three Floyds
Arctic Panzer Wolf

Lost Abbey
Ten Commandments (2008)

Saint Arnold
Divine Reserve #2

Port Brewing
Santa's Little Helper (2009)

Lost Abbey

There was a total of five beers from Lost Abbey that we sampled, the most Lost Abbey beers I've seen in one place since the GABF convention floor.  Cathy also broke out the Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #2 which was another of the beers that I donated to her earlier this year to use for a Camp Beer.

Cathy Clark and Kevin Floyd

Camp Beer Enthusiasts

The next Camp Beer event will take place on March 6th and will be featuring seven of the nine beers of the Single Hop series from Mikkeller.  Tickets will go on sale at the beginning of February.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: 2° Below

2° Below from New Belgium Brewing is one of my favourite holiday seasonals. Its not the traditional winter release that's overly strong and filled with exotic spices, its just a really good and easy drinking beer. Although the 6.6% ABV makes it way to high to be considered a session beer, that hasn't stopped me from treating it like one every winter. Aromas of sweet bready malts with floral and citrus hops. Toasted, sweet biscuity malt flavours with caramel and roasted nuts. However, there is also a strong enough hop presence to balance out all that sweetness with fruity citrus hop flavours to start giving way to a resinous dry finish.

When it was first released years ago, there was a very humorous posting and exchange in one of the forums on the Beer Advocate website where someone was madly searching for information regarding the new "Tupelo" beer from New Belgium. Nobody knew the beer they were talking about, leading to all sorts of wild speculation until someone finally figured out that Tupelo = 2 Below. Apparently that person had misheard the bartender say the name of the beer the night before. A few friends and I still refer to it by this alternate name in honour of that post.

Beerknurd Holiday Party

I'm a card carrying Beerknurd, but I haven't made it out to the Flying Saucer in quite some time.  My quest for my own saucer on the wall has stalled out somewhere around 40 beers.  However, here's an incentive to make it back down there and add another three beers to my list.  The Flying Saucer is holding their annual Beerknurd Holiday Party on Monday, December 20th starting at 7pm.  Special holiday beers will be tapped including several cask conditioned Christmas ales.  Wear your ugliest Christmas sweater and win some great prices.  If you don't know which of your sweaters is the ugliest, just ask your wife, they seem to be good at pointing that kind of stuff out.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: Jubelale

Labeled as A Festive Winter AleJubelale is the annual holiday release from Deschutes Brewery.  It was actually the first beer that they ever released in bottles and a different local Oregon artist has been selected each year for the past 16 years to create the label and package art.
Poster of all past labels.

A deep mahogany colour with a thick creamy head giving off sweet aromas of caramel, raisins and roasted malts. Sweet toasted malts flavours with hints of caramel, vanilla and dark fruits. There's also an underlying bitterness that runs through from start to finish that helps balance the sweetness. The flavours get even more complex as the beer warms. It all finishes up with a creamy smooth mouthfeel making this a very drinkable Winter Warmer.

Deschutes also produces another version of this beer every year called "Super Jubel". Although usually only available on draft, it was released in bottles earlier this year as Jubel 2010. The only other time this beer has been available in bottles was in 2000, giving it the nicname "Once-A-Decade Ale". Super Jubel is essentially a stronger and more concentrated version of the regular Jubelale with an interesting story on how it came into existence:

“Super Jubel” was discovered by accident two decades ago when a clumsy burglar didn’t realize the weight of his stolen keg of Jubelale. He dropped it outside to freeze in the season’s sub-zero temperatures - only to be discovered the next morning by Gary Fish, Deschutes Brewery's owner. More than half the liquid in the keg had frozen and the remaining beer was a very cold, highly concentrated “Jubelale on steroids.”  It was so good that the brewers set about recreating it (minus the freezing part) coming up with an annual “Super Jubel” that is aged in Oregon oak pinot barrels.

I wonder if that clumsy burglar ever knew what his botched robbery created. A limited number of bottles of the Jubel 2010 did make it's way down to Texas and I have a few of them resting in my beer cellar. It would be fun to do a side-by-side tasting with the regular Jubelale and see how much it really differs. I'll try and get around to that sometime this season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Glass Nights at The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man has released their list of Glass Nights for the month of December:

1st - Mix & Match
8th - N'ice Chouffe
15th - Ommegang
22nd - Special Edition Franziskaner Santa Glass
29th - Sierra Nevada Celebration

The glasses are available starting at 5:30pm and only one glass per person with purchase of the beer of the day. As always, the glasses are subject to change and only available while supplies last.

The Ginger Man will also be hosting their annual Christmas Beer Tasting on Saturday, December 18th at 5pm.  A "plethora of winter beers including vintage Christmas ales and barley wines" will be featured along with "an abundance of food pairings".  Sounds pretty good for a cost of $35 per person.  Robert Watts from Merchant du Vin and Ash Rowell from Duff Distributing will also be hand to talk about their beers.  Pre-registering is strongly advised.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Altared Amber Released on Wednesday

Altared Amber, the second beer in Saint Arnold's "Moveable Yeast" series, is set to be released on Wednesday, December 1st. The Moveable Yeast series involves fermenting some of their existing beers with an alternate style of yeast. Weedwacker was the first in the series which was the result of using a Bavarian Hefeweizen yeast to ferment their Lawnmower beer recipe.  The Altared Amber is their regular Amber Ale that has been fermented with a Belgian Trappist yeast.  It should be available starting tomorrow at the same places that served the Weedwacker.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to Purchase Beer in Pennsylvania

Thanks to my non beer related day job, I found myself 30 minutes South of Pittsburgh, PA last week in a small town called Canonsburg.  As I usually do when travelling, I ventured out to look for places to buy craft beer that I can't get back in Texas, but this time I got some first-hand experience with the peculiar beer laws in Pennsylvania.  Basically, there are limitations on your purchase depending on the type of beer store you're in.  Shop at a beer store that's a beer distributor (which looks like a regular beer store) and you're only able to purchase beer by the case.  No sixpacks and no mix and match. You have to buy a case of 24 of whatever you're interested in. That might be okay if you're stocking up for the holidays or for the big game on Sunday, but not convenient when looking for individual craft beers to bring home.  Fortunately, after driving past several more beer distributors, I stumbled across a bottle shop where you can purchase sixpacks and single bottles of different beers.  However, the limitation here is that the total volume purchased has to be less then 192 ounces which equals sixteen 12oz bottles.  You can make multiple trips in and out of the store with 16 bottles each time, but each transaction is limited to 192 ounces.  You definitely need to plan your beer purchases in that state.

The bottle shop that I eventually found is called Guntown Beer which apparently has the largest beer selection in the area and all available as singles.  The owner was very helpful at pointing out the locally brewed craft beers that I probably hadn't heard of or tried.  I enjoyed about half of the singles that I purchased over the next couple of days and packed the rest in my suitcase.  Here's a few shots of the beer selection in Guntown Beer and the beer that I purchased:

Its good to see that there are still a few states out there that have even more bizarre liquor laws then Texas.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tickets for Camp Beer V on Sale Friday

The fifth edition of Camp Beer from Live it Big is taking place on December 12th and will be featuring holiday themed beers.  Tickets are $52 each and only 60 will be up for grabs starting at 8:00am on Friday, November 5th.  Ronnie Crocker at Beer, TX posted the scheduled lineup of beers that will be sampled at the event:

AleSmith Grand Cru
Avery Old Jubilation 2007
Goose Island Matilda
Goose Island Night Stalker
Great Lakes Holy Moses White
Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster
Hoppin Frog Frosty Frog Christmas Ale 2009
Lost Abbey Avant Garde
Lost Abbey Inferno
Lost Abbey Witch's Wit
Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2009
Port Anniversary Ale
Port Older Viscosity
Port Santa's Little Helper 2009
Real Ale Coffee Porter 2009
Saint Arnold Christmas Ale 2009
Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #9
Southern Tier Choklat 2008
Stone Sawyer's Triple
Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf

That's a pretty substantial and impressive list of beers to be sampling in one afternoon.  I highly recommend attending a Camp Beer if you haven't before.  Its a great opportunity to try rare and hard to find beers that are typically not available in Texas.  Also, the money raised from ticket sales go to the charities supported by Live It Big, so not only are you drinking great beer, but you're contributing to a worthy cause.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Six Month Pre-Party for the Texas Beer Festival

The organizers of the upcoming Texas Beer Festival are holding a six month pre-party at the Petrol Station on Friday, November 5th to raise awareness about the festival that's scheduled to take place on May 7th, 2011 in Humble.  I've been told its a camo party, so wear something that will help you blend in to the surroundings.  If you'll be standing next to Ben or Troy during the event, try to look more like a hippie (just kidding guys).  Special local craft beers will be on tap and the guys from No Label Brewing will be there giving away samples of some of their beers.  State Representative Jessica Farrar, who is one of the few Representatives in favour of changing some of the antiquated beer laws in Texas, may also stop by to talk about what you can do to help.  Come out and help celebrate the craft beer revolution in Texas!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Glass Nights and Rescue Rally at the Ginger Man

The Ginger Man has released their list of Glass Nights for the month of November:

3rd - Unibroue
10th - Duvel
17th - Samuel Smith
24th - Gulden Draak

The glasses are available starting at 5:30pm and only one glass per person with purchase of the beer of the day. As always, the glasses are subject to change and only available while supplies last.

The Ginger Man will also be hosting their annual Rescue Rally on Saturday, November 6th from 1pm ~ 5pm.  The event benefits local animal rescue groups and will include a silent auction, raffle and special beers on tap.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Divine Quest

The 10th release in the Divine Reserve series from Saint Arnold Brewing will be released tomorrow, sparking off what I've often referred to as a modern day real life It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  Twitter will be brought to its knees as sightings are tweeted and updated.  Beer department managers at stores around the city and across the state are bracing themselves for the onslaught of phone calls and customers running into the stores searching for this elusive release.

Divine Reserve 10 is an English Barleywine that was inspired by the winning entry submitted by Chris Landis from the 2010 Big Batch Brew Bash homebrew competition.  This beer comes with an ABV of 11% and a few people I've talked to from the brewery definitely recommend giving this one a lot of cellar time before drinking it.  Of course, that's assuming you actually manage to get some to put into your cellar.  Although they managed an increase in production of about 20% over the last DR release, they had planned on a 50% increase but encountering some issues in the brewhouse due to this one's high alcohol content.  Good luck to those venturing out on their Divine quest tomorrow.

*** Update - Bars that will be featuring Divine Reserve 10 ***
Brian O'Neils already tapped a keg of DR 10 at lunch time on Tuesday.
Anvil has announced they will have DR 10 on tap Tuesday starting at 5pm when they open.
Petrol Station will be serving DR 10 Tuesday night starting at 7pm.
Mucky Duck will tap DR 10 on Wednesday at 5pm.
Flying Saucer will be pouring DR 10 as their Tap Nite on Thursday starting at 6pm.

*** Update 2 - 11-02-10 ***
Reports that the Spec's downtown, which already had people lined up at 6am, sold out of DR 10 in11 minutes.  Follow Twitter tag #DR10 for ongoing updates regarding availability and locations.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Achouffe Gnome Party at the Flying Saucer

On Wednesday, Oct 27th, the Flying Saucer will be featuring some of the beers from Brasserie d’ Achouffe.  Show up dressed like a Achouffe Brewery gnome and you could win a 2ft gnome and a $50 saucer gift card.

Independence Anniversary Party and 6 Words Twitter Contest

The 6th Anniversary Braggot in the anniversary mug
next to a few of Indy's other beers.
Independence Brewing celebrated their 6th anniversary on Saturday with a party at the brewery.  The full lineup of beers were available to sample as well as a cask of the Stash IPA that had been dry-hopped with Amarillo hops, a cask of the Convict Hill Stout and the '09 Jasperilla Old Ale.  The special anniversary beer that was produced this year was an orange braggot made with Good Flow wild flower honey. If you couldn't make it out to the party to try it, a few kegs of the braggot will appear around town this week.

And in case you hadn't already heard, the brewery currently has a Twitter based contest called 6 words that runs until Oct 30.  Follow @indybrewing on Twitter and tweet exactly 6 words that describe your love of beer and include the tag #indy6words. Entries must be received before 12 am October 30th. All entries will be judged by the brewery staff and the winner will be awarded a VIP private beer tasting for up to 10 people at the brewery.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Independence Brewing 6th Anniversary Party Oct 23rd

Independence Brewing of Austin, TX is celebrating six years of brewing quality handcrafted beers in South Austin with an anniversary party at the brewery on Saturday, October 23 from 4:00pm ~ 8:00pm. Admission is free, but bring some cash to buy one of the commemorative anniversary glasses that will be available for purchase. The special anniversary beer this year is an Orange Braggot brewed using local Good Flow Wildflower Honey and Texas Clementine orange zest.  The rest of the Indy Brewing lineup of beers will also be available for sampling as well as some rare aged and cask beer.  Come out and enjoy live music, games and great beer and help celebrate 6 years of Independence!
Rob adding the Good Flow Honey
while brewing the Anniversary Braggot.

The anniversary party is also a great way to kick off Austin Beer Week which runs from Oct 24th to Oct 30th.  Check the website for the full listing of beer events taking place around Austin throughout the week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Houston Beer Week ends with a Roar

The first ever Houston Beer Week ended on Sunday with a beer festival called Monsters of Beer. Nine Texas craft breweries were featured, allowing the approximately 600 attendees to sample beer from both established breweries and a couple of the new startups:

(512) - IPA, Pecan Porter
Independence - Stash IPA, Saison
Jester King - Commercial Suicide Mild
Live Oak - Pilz, HefeWeisen
No Label - Pale Horse Pale Ale, El Hefe Hefeweizen, Ridgeback Amber
Rahr and Sons - Ugly Pug Black Lager, Salamander Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Winter Warmer (Cask)
Real Ale - Oktoberfest, ESB, Lost Gold IPA
Saint Arnold - Amber, Elissa IPA
Southern Star - Buried Hatchet Stout, Bombshell Blond, Pine Belt Pale Ale

Ranger Creek was scheduled to attend, but was unable to due to a combination of technical difficulties at the brewery and TABC labeling laws.

The festival was held in the parking lot at 13 Celsius wine bar and the closed off street in front of it. It was a bright sunny day for most of the festival, making it quite warm at times unless you were able to find some of the limited shade available. Representatives from most of the breweries were on hand to answer questions and talk to people, but were unable to pour beer due to some odd TABC rules. The lines for beer were long at times, but the volunteers pouring kept things moving pretty quickly. Since everyone had tasting cards and were only allowed one sample of each beer, the long lines would appear and disappear from the booths as people got their samples and moved on to the next brewery.

Unfortunately, there was also long lines for the food which never seemed to get shorter. The Hubcap Grill burger truck was unable to make it to the event, leaving the Sylvia's No Borders truck and the Melange Creperie table the only two food vendors. Several times I overhead people wondering how difficult it would be to order a pizza for delivery.

Overall, I think the event went pretty smoothly and was a great success. I got to meet and talk with a lot of other beer folks, including a few who I've communicated with via twitter but never in person. It was a great opportunity to try beers from some of the new breweries and be able to compare and contrast them with other locally brewed beers. Although I heard a few complaints regarding the lack of special releases or one-offs brought by the breweries, I would suspect a larger selection next year if this is made an annual event. By this time next year, there should also be a few additional new breweries open and operating that would be able to attend. I'm already looking forward to next year's festival.