Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Pint Glass Nights at The Ginger Man

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

** Updated **
April 7th - Kameliet & Kwak
April 14th - Mix & Match Sam Adams 25th Anniversary
April 21st - Sierra Nevada
April 28th - Sam Adams Mix & Match

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.

Don't forget, today is also the last bonus pint glass night for March which is featuring Santa Fe Brewing.

The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend, so dust off the lederhosen and head on over to the Ginger Man on Saturday for their "Halfway to Oktoberfest Party". They will be featuring vintage Oktoberfest beers, free pint glasses and Bratwurst along with live music from 3pm ~ 6pm. Prosit!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Camp Beer II Recap

It was my first Camp Beer, but definitely not my last. Thanks to Cathy (photo below) for doing a great job of organizing and hosting the event. Kevin (photo below) did a fantastic job of walking us through the beers and explaining the different styles (even when everyone started to get loud towards the end after drinking many beers).

We started off with a series of sour and fruit beers before moving on to pales, IPAs and then finally wrapped things up with several strong stouts. I started taking notes when the sampling began, but eventually gave up and just enjoyed the event. The BarleyVine has a great summary of all the beers that we sampled if you want to read a more in-depth review of them. However, here's a few comments about some of the more notable beers:

The beers from Southern Tier were definitely some of the best beers of the event. Their Pumking was excellent and probably one of the very few pumpkin beers that I've actually enjoyed. It immediately made me think of Thanksgiving and autumn. The crème brûlée Imperial Milk Stout was basically liquid cake. Perhaps a little on the sweet side, but an aroma to die for.

The Genmai Ale from Japanese brewery Ise Kadoya was a completely unknown beer for me and will remain that way. It was probably the least liked beer of the event, with most agreeing that it had the aroma of wet cardboard and a few going so far as to say it smelled like a urinal. Not something you typically want in a beer. It certainly sounded interesting though as its brewed with roasted brown rice.

The World Wide Stout, which is one the strongest fermented beers in the world, was exactly that... very strong. Perhaps after aging a few more years it will help to mellow out, but the alcohol was too overpowering.

The Sexual Chocolate was a little disappointing. I've heard a lot things about this beer, but it wasn't nearly chocolaty enough for having such a name. It also had an acidic and almost sour finish to it that kinda ruined the flavour for me.

Darkness from Surly Brewing was the last beer we tasted and one of my favourites of the event. Strong, yet very smooth with an aroma and flavour of malted milk balls (Whoppers).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Camp Beer II

Camp Beer is a fun and unique opportunity to learn about craft beer and the brewing industry. The price of attendance is actually for a lecture from Kevin Floyd, the beer master at the Anvil Bar & Refuge, but it does include free samples of beer. It just so happens that it's 20+ highly rated beers, most of which are not available for purchase in Texas.

Camp Beer is a fund raising event put on by Live It Big, a non-profit organization that assists small and start-up charities to grow by raising money for them and providing administrative assistance. The first Camp Beer event was held back in December 2009 and the second one takes place this Sunday afternoon. But if you don't already have a ticket, its way too late to try and get one now. All 30 tickets for the event, priced at $50 each, sold out in less then a day. Although Kevin Floyd may give a great talk about craft beer, I think it may have had something to do with the lineup of beers that will be available to sample:

You're certainly not going to find a list of beers like that anywhere around here. I was unable to attend the first Camp Beer, but I have my ticket for this one. After reviewing the list, I see that there's only a couple of beers that I've tried before, so I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Real Ale Glass Night at Ginger Man

The Glass Night at the Ginger Man is featuring Real Ale Brewing tonight and their Phoenixx Double ESB will be available on cask. Real Ale glasses will be available starting at 5:30pm and only one glass per person with purchase of the beer of the day (while supplies last).

As part of their Taste of Texas celebration this month, there is a bonus Real Ale glass night tomorrow which will be featuring the French Oaked Sisyphus on cask. The glasses will be available as soon as the doors open.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saint Arnold Ale Dinner at the Flying Dutchman

The next Saint Arnold Ale Dinner will be on Thursday, April 1st at the Flying Dutchman Restaurant and Oyster Bar on the Kemah Boardwalk. Tickets are $45 a person (plus tax and tip) and includes six courses paired with various Saint Arnold beers. Contact the Flying Dutchman for reservations.

I've never eaten at the Flying Dutchman, but it's certainly a much better price then the $75 Ale Dinner at the Strip House on Thursday (which is actually sold out).

For those who live in the Clear Lake area and are interested in beer dinners, there's also a Stone Brewing Beer Dinner at the BJ's location in Clear Lake on April 20th (and various other BJ's locations in April). The beers served at BJ's locations are actually contract brewed at Saint Arnold.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My American Mild v2.0

It was Last year around this time that I brewed a session beer that was loosely based on Pride & Joy from Three Floyds Brewing which they call their interpretation of an American Mild. Similar in style to a British mild, it has a relatively low alcohol level but with a more assertive hop profile. I was very happy with how my version of an American Mild turned out, but I did tweak the recipe slightly before I brewed it again last Sunday. I wanted it a little darker and with a bit more hop flavour but with a slightly less bitter finish. As part of those changes, I decided to use Ahtanum and Horizon for flavour and aroma this time. I've used Ahtanum in other beers and I've found it to have a nice clean finish. I hit my original gravity perfectly and I'm happy with how the brew session went. The airlock on the primary fermenter was happily bubbling away this morning, so hopefully that means I'll be sipping on my American Mild v2.0 in a few weeks.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stone Brewing Tasting & Dinner at BJ's Restaurants

The next Beer Appreciation Dinner at BJ's Restaurants is featuring beers from Stone Brewing. The cost is $30 per person and the dinner includes six courses. The Texas locations and dates are:

April 7th - Arlington
April 12th - Lewisville
April 13th - Plano
April 19th - San Antonio, Pearland
April 20th - Addison, Clear Lake, Willowbrook, Austin

Click on the image to the right to see the full menu with beer pairings for each course. A list of all locations hosting a Stone Brewing dinner is available on their website.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Website for Craft Beer Fans -

A new website dedicated to craft beer aims to make it easier for beer drinkers to find their favourite beers: was created to make it extremely easy for beer fans to find where individual beer brands are available from their favorite breweries. We work with distributors and our client breweries to put their distribution data online while also allowing any fan or retailer to post beer lists for others to interact with on a Google map or filterable list.

Each brewery has been setup with its own Fan Page on the website which not only shows the beers they produce, but also pulls in their social media information such as recent twitter updates, YouTube videos and photos from Flickr. After creating an account on the website, you can become a Fan of a brewery and then indicate which of theirs beers you've tried and rate them. You can also then add locations where a particular beer is being served and if a brewery or one of their beers is not currently available in your area, you can sign up for Email Alerts and be notified when it is. If a brewery chooses to work with the website, it will receive information entered by the fans, including the email alert requests which could potentially be a good indicator of demand for a product in a particular area.

I've used other sites over the years that have similar functionality and the main issue has always been that they rely on user interaction to keep the information up-to-date. That can work for a while, but the novelty eventually wears off and users stop updating information as frequently or entirely. Hopefully can avoid that by offering to work with the breweries and distributors directly to ensure the information regarding their products, including availability data, is accurate and up-to-date. Breweries located in Texas are not allowed to provide a list of locations that sell their beer and this site could be a great way for them to provide that information to their customers. The website hasn't been operating for very long so it has limited information available but that should increase as more breweries and beer fans sign up.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Party with the Penguin Recap

I arrived early at the Petrol Station for the BrewDog tasting and ordered one of their awesome burgers while it was still calm and quiet. Within a couple of hours, the place was packed inside and out and the kitchen was eventually overwhelmed and stopped taking food orders. It also turned into a complete mob scene around the table outside when they began handing out the free samples of Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck. Thanks to Ted from the beer blog Barley Vine for sharing his sample of Sink the Bismark with me. I would have missed out on getting to try that one if it wasn't for him and that would have been a shame as I ended up liking it better then Tactical Nuclear Penguin. It was basically an extremely strong IPA, with citrus and pine hop flavours still managing to come through the 41% ABV. It would be great to see how this beer changes over time. Earlier in the evening they also handed out free samples of 5 A.M. Saint and Tokyo and the Hardcore was available on tap and the Paradox on cask. Black & Blue from Dogfish Head was also put on tap later in the evening and a cheer went up from the crowd as the name was written on the wall above the tap handle

In addition to getting to try six different beers from BrewDog, I got to meet a bunch of fellow bloggers and beer enthusiasts who I hadn't met before which made it even more fun. Cheers to everyone that I met and hope to have a beer with you again.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Wear somthing green, don't drink it. If you want to partake in St. Patrick's Day festivities, just stick with Irish brewed beers such as Guinness, Murphy's, Beamish, etc. Slàinte!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Circle Brewing Finds A Home

Circle Brewing Co. has announced that they have finally settled on a location. The home of the new brewery is at 2340 W Braker Ln, Suite B in North Central Austin, providing easy access to Mopac and I-35. The lease on their new 8,100 sqft space starts on April 1st and they're looking forward to moving in and having a space to put all that new brewing equipment that they already have on order. A few pictures of the place is available on their blog.

Boulevard Collaboration No. 1

I've never understood the idea behind an Imperial Pilsner. Pilsners, in my mind anyway, are supposed to be light, crisp and refreshing. When a beer has "Imperial" in the name, it pretty much implies it will be none of those things. However, Collaboration No. 1 from Boulevard and Orval manages to maintain all those aspects.

Although Collaboration No. 1 is bottled as part of the Smokestack series from Boulevard, it was brewed in collaboration with Jean-Marie Rock of the Trappist brewery Orval and is inspired by a Pilsner that he brewed over 30 years ago near the beginning of his career.

Golden yellow in the glass with a thick frothy head fed by some pretty active carbonation. The first glass of it was clear,but the second was a little cloudy from the yeast at the bottom of the bottle. Grassy, lemony and bready aromas. Begins with flavours of sweet malts, apples and pears which is then followed by a more bready malt flavour. The finish is crisp and dry with a lingering spiciness. Very smooth and refreshing and the 8% ABV is hardly noticeable, if at all. This was a very drinkable beer and the best Imperial Pilsner that I've had. I'd like to pick up another bottle or two and enjoy one with a meal next time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taste of Texas at the Ginger Man Recap

It was an absolutely gorgeous day at the Ginger Man on Sunday, a perfect day for drinking beer on an outdoor patio. I took part in their Taste Of Texas beer tasting which was presided over by General Manager, Joe Jackson. Although it was geared more towards non beer geeks, it was still fun.

One particularly interesting aspect of the tasting was that the samples of the locally brewed Kolsh and Pilsner styles were also accompanied by samples from European breweries well know for those particular styles. It helped to provide a reference point for those who may not be familiar with the styles and their characteristics. It also helped to show that both the Franconia and Shiner versions are very good and true to style. Representatives from Real Ale and Saint Arnold were also on hand and spoke briefly about their beers that were offered during the tasting. Joe (seen in photo below) also did a good job of explaining the different styles and provided historical information.

Here is the list of beers that we enjoyed:

Franconia Kolsh (w/ Sünner Kölsch)
Shiner 101 (w/ Pilsner Urquell)

St. Arnold Spring Bock
Real Ale Phonixx Double ESB
St. Arnold Elissa Cask IPA
Southern Star Burried Hatchet Stout
Real Ale Sisyphus (2008 & 2009)

Don't forget about the upcoming pints nights this week, March 17th is Pyramid glasses and the 18th is Franconia.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Smooth Racer 5 and Harsh Arrogant Bastard

Both of these beers where part of a larger assortment of beers that I received as gifts this last Christmas and its been quite a while since I've had either of them.

I had forgotten how much I liked Racer 5 from Bear Republic Brewing. Dark copper colour with a creamy head that it retains until the bottom of the glass. It smells awesome with strong aromas of citrus and pine. A sweet tropical fruit flavour to start, it finishes dry with a lingering taste of grapefruit bitterness. Very smooth mouthfeel for 7% ABV and 75 IBU. A very drinkable and refreshing IPA.

And then came the Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewing. I can't remember the last time I actually had one and now I think I know why. A dark amber colour with a thin head that dissipated quickly. Aromas of sweet caramel and citrus. Sweet malt flavours dominate the start with a strong and very bitter finish. Sticky with a lingering harsh aftertaste of hops and alcohol, more then I remember it having. And the warmer it got, the harsher it got. There is definitely nothing subtle about this beer. It's not that I dislike it entirely, but it might be a while before I feel "worthy" again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

(512) Brewing Spring Open House

(512) Brewing in Austin is hosting a Spring Open House on Saturday, March 20th from 2pm ~ 5pm. In addition to their regular beers, they will also have the (512) Alt spring seasonal available for tasting.

Entrance is free and includes 3 tastings, but if you buy a pint glass for $5 you can get that filled instead.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Brewers Association 2009 Production Statistics

The Brewers Association has released it's production statistics for 2009 and it shows that the craft beer industry experienced a growth of 7.2% by volume and 10.3% by dollars. The total number of operating craft breweries also increased to 1,542. Overall, US beer sales were down 2.2% and import beer sales were down a whopping 9.8%, which indicates that beer drinkers are choosing to support local craft breweries when selecting what beer to drink. Since Texas is about to have at least 5 new breweries opening this year, hopefully that show of support for locally brewed craft beer will continue. More numbers and fancy charts are available on the Brewers Association website.

A Dogfish and Allagash Food Pairing

In celebration of my mother-in-laws birthday, my wife arranged for an internationally trained personal chef to come up to their house on Lake Conroe and prepare a special 4 course meal. I immediately thought it would be a perfect opportunity to practice my beer pairing skills and a great excuse to dig around in my beer cellar for two or three beers to pair with the courses.

The meal started with a Belgium lettuce salad with oranges, prosciutto and a thyme dressing which was followed by an asparagus lemon grass soup. I've never paired a beer with a salad before, so this one took a little work, but I eventually settled on a bottle of Red & White from Dogfish Head. It's a Belgian-style Wit with coriander and orange peel and fermented with Pinot Noir juice. A small part of the batch was also aged in oak barrels before being blended back in and bottled. The beer was light enough to not overpower the delicate nature of the salad but the coriander and citrus complimented the spiciness of the Belgian lettuce and thyme dressing. The slight sweetness also helped cut the mildly hot flavours of green curry in the asparagus soup.

The main entree was beef tenderloin topped with Boursin cheese and served with wasabi mashed potatoes and French green bean. To accompany it, I chose a 2006 bottle of Allagash Curieux which is a Belgian Tripel aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels. Slightly sweet to start with hints of vanilla, the bourbon flavour was milder then I expected. I had been a little worried that the bourbon would be too overpowering, but I think a few years in the bottle helped mellow it out. A light oak flavour throughout with a bit of spiciness in the dry finish. Very smooth with light carbonation, it mixed well with the various flavours of the dish.

Dessert was Zabaione with fresh berries, but unfortunately, I forgot to pack the beers that I had selected to go with it. I had planned to grab a couple of bottles of New Belgium's Frambozen from the fridge before we left, but completely forgot about them. D'oh!! I think the raspberry and brown ale flavours of the Frambozen would have mixed well with the light fluffy custard and fresh strawberries.

Although I was disappointed about the forgotten dessert beer, I was very happy with how well the pairing with other two beers turned out. Both beers were very drinkable on their own, but it was great to experience how well good beers can accompany great food.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Session #37 - When to Drink the Good Stuff?

The topic for this month's The Session is titled The Display Shelf: When to Drink the Good Stuff and is hosted over at The Ferm.

This is definitely a topic that I can identify with. When I last took an inventory, I have over 300 bottles of beer of varying sizes, styles and ages in my cellar. Limited releases, commemorative releases, anniversary editions, seasonals, one-offs, vertical years (some as many as 5 years), foreign and domestic. And that number doesn't include cases of my own homebrewed beer or the beer that I've purchased for relatively quick consumption (beer that I'm going to drink within a couple of weeks). My "collection" also quickly took over the old fridge that we moved into the garage when I received 24 bottles as Christmas gifts.

I had the best intentions when I first started saving beer. I wasn't hording a limited release in order to try and sell it for big dollars on E-Bay. I saved the big beers that I thought could benefit from a little age on them to mellow those young flavours. Beers that had a special meaning and I wanted to open on a special event. Beers that I hauled back from around the world. And as much as my wife complains about my collection, she helped to grow its size by bringing me beer when she traveled often for work. So if I'm going to drink one of these beer that I may never get a chance to drink again, shouldn't I wait for a more special occasion then a Monday while watching Big Bang Theory? I don't want to sit around and discuss every minor nuance of a beer, but I also think its more fun to share these beers with someone else who will appreciate it and talk about it. I can explain to our dog how the characteristics of a beer have changed and mellowed over time, but she doesn't seem to share my level of excitement.

About a year ago, on a rainy day in March, I profoundly declared on my blog that I would begin savouring instead of saving. I would continue to add beer to my cellar, but I would also begin actively savouring beer from my collection on some level of regularity. I did it for a while, picking different beers at random and posting about it. But, stuff like vacations, kitchen remodelling, parents visiting, etc got me a little off track. However, a friend came over a few weeks ago and it was fun to dig around in the cellar again and bring out a few things and share. That weekend also brought up an important issue when saving beer... knowing when a beer needs to be drank.

Some beers are able to age for longer then others. Beers with high alcohol levels (barley wines, old ales, imperial stouts, strong Belgian ales) can age a lot longer then beers with a low level. There are also some styles such as bottle fermented beers that are basically continuing to change and develop the longer they sit. Aging a beer can increase it's complexity as flavours can develop that were not present in the fresh version. Some flavors can become more prominent while other flavours can mellow and soften. But, at some point, ever beer hits a peak and needs to be consumed. The Saint Arnold Stout from 2005 we had a few weeks ago was definitely at its end of life, but the 2006 was still great. This brought up the important fact that I need to review the beers in my cellar more often and start deciding which ones need to be consumed next. Nothing would be worse then cellaring a special beer for years only to open it and find it undrinkable.

So, I'm still struggling with when to drink the good stuff, but I have started to make more of an effort to enjoy what I have been saving. In fact, I'll probably break out a few things this weekend for a special dinner we're having, it seems like a good enough reason.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Taste of Texas at the Ginger Man

In celebration of Texas Month, the Ginger Man is hosting Taste of Texas on Sunday, March 14th at 3pm. Beers from Saint Arnold, Southern Star, Franconia and Real Ale will be featured and Real Ale will also be providing a special '08 vintage of Sisyphus and a beer on cask. Food pairings will be served with the beer and a guest speaker from Real Ale is scheduled to talk about the beer. The cost is $35 and payment in advance is not required, but it would probably be a good idea to call and have your name put on the list to ensure a spot if you plan to attend.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ballpark Beer Fest in Bryan

On Saturday, March 6th from 3pm ~ 10pm is the Ballpark Beer Festival and Fajita Cookoff at the Brazos Valley Bank Ballpark in Bryan, TX. This is apparently the third annual, but I don't recall hearing about the first two. The full story is available at the Beer, TX blog, but here's the highlights:

Admission to the Ballpark is free with different price options for beer tastings:

$10 for 5 beer tastings
$15 for 10 beer tastings
Early Bird Special for $10 which includes 5 beer tastings and 3 fajitas but it can only be bought online.

There is also a VIP pass for $35 which includes:
- 6 Fajitas
- 10 (4 oz.) Beer Tastings
- front of the line pass
- special gift
- exclusive Party Deck access
- early, private access to the event: 2 pm- 3 pm
There is a limited number of VIP passes available and they must be purchased online in advance.

There's a full list of beers that will be available on the event website. After checking over the list, this looks a lot like a few other "beer festivals" that have occurred around Texas that are basically just a showcase of the brands from a particular distributor. That's not necessarily a bad thing as its a pretty big selection of beers in one spot at one time, but I also didn't see anything particularly special or hard to find. However, if its a nice day and you like fajitas and beer (and who doesn't?), it could be a good time.

Beer Dinner at the Strip House

The Strip House in Houston is hosting an Ale Dinner featuring beers from Saint Arnold Brewing on Thursday, March 25th at 6:30pm. The dinner includes five courses and each is paired with a different Saint Arnold beer:

Poached Shrimp Cocktail w/ Smokey Cocktail Sauce
~ Saint Arnold Surprise Selection

Warm Bacon Salad w/ Baby Arugula, Marinated Tomatoes and Pretzel Chips
~ Saint Arnold Spring Bock

Beer Braised Kobe Short Ribs w/ Creamed Corn and Collard Greens
~ Saint Arnold Elissa IPA

Charred Sliced New York Strip w/Beer Batter Onion Rings
~ Saint Arnold Brown Ale

Classic Root Beer Float w/ Ginger Snaps
~ Saint Arnold Root Beer

Brock Wagner, Founder/Brewer of Saint Arnold, will be in attendance to speak about the beers.

The price is $75 per person (plus tax and tip) and reservations can be made by contacting Annette Kelly at 713-659-6000 or

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Celebrate Texas Independence Day

On this day in 1836, representatives of the Texas settlements met in the small town of Washington on the banks of the Brazos river to declare their independence from Mexico and sign the Texas Declaration of Independence.

A great way to celebrate today would be with a few beers from any of the local Texas breweries. I'm sure after all that declaring and signing, the delegates got together at the local saloon and quaffed a few tasty brews.

For those of you who have been out to Independence Brewing, you may have noticed this flag (created by Captain William Scott in 1835 and used by those Texans who favoured independence from Mexico) hanging in the brewery as it was the inspiration for the name and logo.

Celebrate Saint Patrick at Saint Arnold

Saint Arnold Brewing is hosting their annual Saint Patrick's Day party at the new brewery on March 17th from 6pm ~ 9pm. Admission includes a commemorative pint glass which you'll be able to fill with a special imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels.

Tickets are $20 each and payment in advance is required by contacting Ann at 713-686-9494 ext. 205 or

*** Update 03/03/10 @ 12:30pm ***
Tickets are now sold out according to a recent twitter update.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Pint Nights at The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man has released their list of Pint Nights for the month of March and it includes 4 bonus Texas nights:

March 3rd - Widmer
March 10th - Red Hook
March 17th - Pyramid
March 24th - Real Ale (with Phoenixx Double ESB on cask)
March 31st - Santa Fe

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 available are subject to change and only available while supplies last.

The Bonus Pint Nights are in celebration of Texas month and the glasses are available when the doors open until supplies are gone:

March 4th - Shiner
March 11th - Southern Star
March 18th - Franconia
March 25th - Real Ale (with Sisyphus on cask)

Beer Connoisseur Magazine Party Recap

It was a beautiful day for the Beer Connoisseur Magazine party that was held out at Independence Brewing in Austin. There was couple of hundred people in attendance with quite a few arriving on the free shuttle bus from the pre-party at the Ginger Man. Although several breweries decided at the last moment not to participate, Lovejoys and North By Northwest brought some of their beers so the crowd got to sample their tasty brews as well as those from Independence.

The folks from Beer Connoisseur were great to meet and talk to and they all seemed very happy with their first party outside of their hometown of Atlanta. I also got to meet up with Chris from Beer Town Austin and Aaron from Craft Austin who came out for the party.