Friday, April 30, 2010

Texas Beer Dinner at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is hosting a Texas Beer Dinner on May 20th & 21st, at 7:00pm. The dinner will feature five courses paired with a variety of beers from Texas breweries. The cost is $65 per person (plus tax and tip) and reservations are required.

Pappas Bros. hosted their first beer dinner last fall which featured of variety of beer styles from different breweries.

Tour and Tasting Day at Independence Brewing

This Saturday is the monthly Tour and Tasting Day out at Independence Brewing in Austin, TX. I'm actually heading up to Austin for it this weekend, so I'll be there wandering around and helping to pour beer.

Independence just recently expanded into the Houston market and began self-distributing around the area last week. Sixpacks are now available at various HEB's on the North side of Houston and kegs have also been delivered to the Petrol Station, Flying Saucer and the Ginger Man. Look for their beers to begin appearing on tap at those locations soon (if not on already). The Flying Saucer is also scheduled to be the first to get the new Mandarin Saison seasonal on tap. The Spec's downtown location also has the full range of Independence beers in bottle.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Red Green's Beer Holder

This video has been making the rounds on the Internets lately and its been emailed to me from a few different people. Being from Canada, I grew up watching Red Green and that includes when he was just one of the many characters performed by Steve Smith on the Smith & Smith comedy sketch show that he did with his wife. They both did a variety of different characters, but Red Green was always the most popular.

As funny as it is, it's not actually that bad of an idea (assuming you actually use a brand new one). You could even put some ice in it to keep the beer cold. Remember, if women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smoked Porter wins Southern Star Pro-Am Competition

Southern Star Brewing of Conroe, TX announced that the winning entry of their 2nd annual Pro-Am competition was a Smoked Porter. The winning beer will be brewed at Southern Star and added to their Pro-Am line of beers. It will also go on to be entered into the Pro-am competition at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. The winning entry last year was Saison style ale.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tickets on Sale for the Great Austin Beer Festival

Tickets are now on sale for the Great Austin Beer Festival. If you're wondering what exactly it is, then you're not alone. They have a website and a FaceBook page, but further details are scarce. We do know that it's scheduled for June 26th and will apparently take place at the Austin Music Hall, but that's about all the information that has been released. Considering tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door, I think most beer drinkers are going to want to at least know what breweries have committed to attending before putting down any cash. The description on the Austin Music Hall ticket information hints at a little more:

The Great Austin Beer Festival is our opportunity to celebrate everything we love about beer. With so many great breweries in Austin and beyond, you will get your chance to sample some the finest local beers and explore beers from our best breweries from all over the world. The event offers multiple opportunities to learn everything you want to know about beer. Join us in downtown at the Austin Music Hall on June 26th. Admission is $30 online and $40 day of event. It includes unlimited 4oz samples. Food will be sold separately.

I'm curious what "our best breweries" means. I've seen other "beer festivals" around the state that have turned out to be nothing more then a showcase of the brands from a particular distributor. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'd like to know that before hand. I've seen multiple attempts to organize a beer festival in Austin fail over the years. This one has already got a little further by selling tickets. There hasn't been a true craft beer festival in Austin since the very last Texas Craft Beer Festival in 2005. I look forward to learning more about the Great Austin Beer Festival and hopefully it turns out to be everything that everyone is hoping it will be.

*** UPDATE - 04/26/2010 ***

I sent an email message to the organizers requesting additional information about what breweries are attending and their response included the following:

"I know of at least 4-5 larger craft breweries that are expecting to attend. We expect to have a broad range of local and regional offerings, along with most of the major craft breweries that are distributed in Austin."

The email also went on to say that the TABC has been giving them a really tough time lately which has also taken away from time they could have been spending on rounding up more breweries to attend. However, they are continuing to contact breweries about the event and working on trying to bring in beers that are not usually available in Texas. They hope to have a list of breweries that are attending sometime next week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Joys Of Kegging

I've finally left the hassle of bottling behind and kegged my homebrew for the first time. I started small and purchased a basic homebrew kegging kit from Austin Homebrew Supply which included a recondition Cornelius keg (used Pepsi soda canister), 5lb CO2 tank, regulator and all the connectors and hoses along with a picnic tap. The CO2 tank is shipped empty by law, but I found the nearby Beverage Barn (drive-thru liquor store) fills CO2 tanks for a reasonable price. Eventually I'll get a small refrigerator and convert it into a kegerator with a dual tap tower on top, but for now the keg and CO2 tank fit nicely in the spare fridge in the garage. The beer I kegged was my recently brewed session beer that I like to call an American Mild (v2.0). I'm not sure yet if I like the modifications I made to the original recipe, but being able to pour a pint of fresh homebrew from a keg at home is truly magical.

Stash and Convict Hill Now Available in 4-packs

The Stash IPA and Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout from Independence Brewing are starting to appear in four-packs at stores around the Austin (and soon Houston) area.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Independence Brewing Begins Distributing in Houston

Independence Brewing from Austin, TX has begun to self-distribute in the Houston area. Spec's has been carrying the beers in Houston for a while, but only at the downtown location. The beers will now be available over a wider area, starting with HEB locations in the Northwest area of Houston as well as The Woodlands. The first deliveries are being made and sixpacks should start appearing on the shelves over the next week or so. It should also start showing up in bottles and on draft at beer bars around town. If you don't see it on the shelf at your local store or at your favourite watering hole, then talk to a manger and demand your Independence!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Return To Two Rows

I moved to Houston in the mid 90's which happened to also be the golden age of brewpubs here (click here for a great history of Houston's brewpubs scene). Unfortunately, their popularity was short lived and one by one they all closed for one reason or another... except for Two Rows.

I was a frequent customer of Two Rows and even have one of the mugs hanging above the bar. However, the quality and consistency of the beer started to slide and it finally came to the point that I just stopped going entirely. The food was always good and I loved the pizzas cooked in their wood-burning oven, but it wasn't enough to make up for the beer. Every once and a while I would get sentimental about the place and stop by, but then usually left disappointed. However, a recent post on the Houston Chronicle's Beer, TX blog indicated that a new experienced brewer was hired and things may be looking up for Houston's only brewpub (read Ronnie Crocker's post for more info about the brewer's past brewing experience).

After reading the good news, I had to go check things out for myself and decided a Saturday lunch was in order. The first beer I tried was the new IPA, served in my own mug (I know, I should have got one in a clear pint glass so you could see the beer, but I was excited to actually be using my old mug again). It had a nice hoppy floral and citrus aroma with a thick head that left a lot of lacing down the inside of the mug. Light malt flavours to start which were quickly overtaken by bitter citrus and pine. Finish is dry with a lingering bitter grapefruit aftertaste. A pretty solid IPA.

The Dark Star Lager was the only other beer from the new brewer that was available. Once again, it was served in my mug so I couldn't really tell the colour but it looked dark and had a dark tan head. Smells of toasted grains and earthy aromas. Flavours of strong roasted malts with just a hint of coffee and cocoa. It was maybe a little sweet for my preferences, but another pretty solid release.

In case you're wondering, I had the California Club with the homemade Macaroni and cheese for lunch. I would highly recommend both. The club included their own honey pepper bacon and the macaroni was creamy and rich.

I don't want to get too excited just yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to trying more releases by the new brewer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Remote Controlled Beer Cooler

I received this as a Christmas gift from my sister and although I laughed at it when I unwrapped it, it's definitely useful and a lot of fun. Why get up from your chair or out of the pool and walk across that hot patio to a cooler or the fridge indoors to get a new beer? Simply grab the remote control and have the RC Cooler roll on out to you, deliver a frosty beverage and then return back to its parking spot in the shade. Brilliant!

The sides are soft and it collapses down when not in use for easy storage and transport. The cooler requires six C batteries and the remote needs a 9V battery (batteries not included). It also comes with a strap that attaches to the sides which can be used to carry it when empty or full. The lid on top is kept closed by a zipper which can be a little difficult to open, but allows full access to the interior. It can fit about 10 bottles loosely with a few handfuls of ice tossed in and probably twice that if storing cans. I put it through its paces around our patio and it had no problems driving around, even filled with ice and beer. It was outside all afternoon and there was still ice left in it when I finally emptied late that evening. The real test will be in the 90+ degree heat this summer, but I think it will do just fine. Here's a short video of it's initial test run:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brasserie Beck in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. seems to have a pretty good Belgian beer culture going on. I stumbled across Brasserie Beck while researching beer bars to visit during our trip and after seeing their awesome looking food menu and huge Belgian beer list, I knew we had to have dinner there. Since my birthday occurred during our trip, this was also going to be my birthday celebration dinner.

It was a Sunday evening, so the restaurant was relatively quiet, but we still had to wait briefly at the bar for a table on the patio outside. This gave me a few minutes to review the binder of Belgian beers that I was handed, but we were seated before I had chance to order anything. Our waitress was very friendly and attentive and had no hesitation describing or recommending food items or beer.

I started with an Antigoon, the house beer brewed specifically for Brasserie Beck by Belgium's Brouwerij de Musketiers. The beer is named after a mythical giant who terrorized Antwerp until his hands were cut off by a Roman solider and that gruesome image is depicted on the tap handle label. It's a Belgian Double Blonde with aromas of lemons, apples and Belgian yeast. The flavour expands on the aroma with the addition of peppery spices and a little sweetness. Finish is smooth and dry. With an ABV around 6.5%, it would make a good slow and lingering session beer. It was apparently just released in 750ml bottles this spring and is available at various beers stores around D.C.

My wife enjoys the occasional bottle of Lindemans Peche Lambic at home, so we ordered her the St. Louis Premium Peche. Despite what the name may imply, it's from Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in Belgian and not brewed in Missouri. It was a little too sweet for me, but my wife liked it. It didn't have any of the sour and tartness that are typical in Lambics to help balance the sweetness.

Thor Cheston, the Beer Director and General Manager, stopped by our table when he noticed my empty glass of Antigoon to check on how we were doing. We talked about some of the beers on the menu and I decided to try the Caper Fumatis from Picobrouwerij Alvinne. Its a Smoked Belgian Bock with aromas of caramel, roasted malts and very mild smoke. The flavour is similar with the addition of sweet dark berries and a slight bitter finish. The smoke is strong enough to make its presence known in the aroma and flavour, but does not overpower.

For dinner, I ordered the steamed mussels in the traditional white wine broth. The mussels naturally came with frites but was accompanied by a trio of mayo dips (garlic, curry and tomato) instead of just the usual plain mayo. The frites were light and crispy and the curry mayo was our favourite. The mussels were plump and meaty and I eagerly soaked up the rich flavourful broth with crusty french bread (I read online that the mussels are served in a flat pan and not the more traditional pot so that its easier to soak up the broth). And to accompany my wonderful meal, Thor was on hand to suggest a bottle of Straffe Hendrik, a Belgian Tripel. The sweet flavours of citrus, pear and banana are balanced by a spicy dry finish. The ABV of 9% was completely hidden which is probably why I had two of them.

My wife ordered the Choucroute en Croute which was a house-made white sausage, a boiled egg, pickled cabbage and sliced pork all wrapped up in a lightly browned puff pastry shell. Fantastic! We actually took half of it back to the hotel and put it in the mini-bar fridge and ate it as a snack the next night.

At some point during the evening, my wife had surreptitiously mentioned to Thor that it was my birthday. We ordered the Pear Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream for dessert and it arrived at our table with a burning candle and Happy Birthday scripted in chocolate. Naturally, I needed yet another beer to accompany dessert (actually, I really didn't) and went with La Chose from Le Trou du Diable, the Quebec brewery that I had tried a few nights before at the Churchkey. Described as a cross between a Scotch Ale and an India Pale Ale, it had sweet flavours of caramel, pineapple and other fruits with a bitter hoppy finish. It was an interesting combination and the second beer from this brewery that I've been impressed with.

It was a wonderful evening at Brasserie Beck and I hope we can return again soon. I'd particularly like to thank the General Manager, Thor Cheston, for taking the time to discuss the beers and make recommendations and generally ensure that we had a great birthday celebration.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Trio of New Beers Over The Weekend

We took advantage of the beautiful weather during the weekend and spent a great deal of time outdoors. And if you're going to be outside, then you might as well be drinking a beer which gave me a chance to open three different beers I hadn't tried before. Two were relatively new purchases but one was found in the far reaches of my cellar.

Wilco Tango Foxtrot - Lagunitus Brewing Co.

This is a relatively new release to the Texas market from Lagunitas Brewing. A dark amber colour with a thin white head. Aroma was light, but you can pick up some sweet malts and perhaps a bit of pine. Sweet malts in the flavour as well with dark fruits and caramel. Hops come through a lot more in the flavour then in the aroma. Lingering pine bitterness in the dry finish. Drinkable, but nothing particularly exciting. The website indicates its an Imperial Brown Ale and that it's "Rich, smooth, dangerous & chocolatey". I really didn't get anything to indicate its a Brown Ale or anything chocolatey about it.

Flemish Primitive Wild Ale - De Proef

This one has been in the cellar for a while, although I'm not exactly sure for how long. I think it's at least a couple of years old, but I didn't note the date when I purchased it as I usually do. Light orange in colour with minimal or no head. Farmhouse funk, grass and citrus dominate the relatively strong aroma. Starts with a mellow tartness with flavours of banana and apple. Lots of peppery spices come out as the flavour develops. Finishes very dry and with a sour green apple tartness. That sour farmhouse funkiness increases, in both the aroma and flavour, as the beer warms. Probably would have been great to enjoy with some strong cheeses.

Faro Lambic - Brouwerij Lindemans

A Faro is low-alcohol beer that's usually made from a blend of different aged Lambics and sweetened with candy sugar. Aroma is similar to other Lambic styles and smells of sweet fruits and funky yeast. Flavours of sweet tropical fruits and candy sugar with just a slight hint of tartness at the end. Reminds me of fruit cider. A little too sweet for me, I prefer a stronger tart and sour finish to help balance out the sweetness. Probably good served with a dessert though.

Sam Adam’s 25th Anniversary Pint Night at Ginger Man

The pint night this Wednesday, April 14th at the Ginger Man will be in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Sam Adams. The Summer Ale and Noble Pils will be on tap and the special edition 25th Anniversary glassware will be available. Matt Ludlow from the Boston Beer Company will also be on hand to talk about the Summer Ale.

The April Pint Glass Nights posting has been updated to reflect the change for the Sam Adams celebration.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chuchkey in Washington, D.C.

I had read great things about the Churchkey and it was conveniently located just a few blocks from the hotel. It does serves bar food and other small dishes, but if you want a more formal restaurant with the same beer available, the Birch & Barley is located on the ground floor. We chose to go upstairs to the Churchkey as we were looking for more of a relaxed evening.

Its a long narrow space with the bar along one side and booths along the other. There's also an area in the very back with more intimate and casual seating around low tables. Shelves on the wall above the booths stretched to the high ceilings and contained bottles of rare and highly rated beers (photo to the right). The food menu was small but contained some great sounding items. We settled on a Caesar Salad and the Mac & Cheese Sticks (which were highly rated and suggested on various online review sites). Basically, it's Mac & Cheese formed into long cubes which are covered in garlic bread crumbs and deep fried (see photo to the left). What's not to love about that?!? I also eyed the flatbread BLT Pizza when I saw one being carried past us, but decided we weren't hungry enough.

But its the beer selection that originally drew me to this place as they had a very large and varied draft and bottle selection (draft menu). All the draft beers are available as a 4oz sample or a full glass. Depending on the beer, the samples ranged in price from $2 to $6.5 and the glasses ranged from $5 to $13. I kept to just drinking samples of draft beers so that I could get the chance to try more beers. The samples may not have been a good economical choice and I would have loved to have had a full glass or bottle of lots of the beers, but there was just too many different one that I wanted to try.

As I glanced down the draft beer menu, my eyes were were immediately drawn to the list of Single-Hop IPA's from Mikkeller (poor cell phone camera photo to the right). These are IPA's that were brewed by Mikkeller at De Proef Brouwerij using a single type of hop. Since I have a Nugget hop plant growing in the back yard (see my other blog Hops In Pots) I had to order the Single-Hop: Nugget. I also ordered the Single-Hop: Warrior as its one that I was thinking about using in my next beer. The Nugget was not nearly as bitter as I had figured it would be as its a hop with a fairly high level of alpha acids. Although, they may have used it more for aroma and flavouring then bittering. The Warrior was more in line with what I was expecting, fairly bitter with a strong citrus flavour.

From there, I moved on to the Short Batch #6 from Smuttynose Brewing. The Short Batch Series are experimental beers brewed in small batches and released as draft only. Depending on how well an individual beer is liked, it may then be considered for release as part of the Big Beer Series. The #6 was a Tripel aged on oak chips with a 9% ABV. Aromas of Belgian yeast and light citrus with a hint of oak. Sweet malts, fruit and yeast in the flavour with the oak having a stronger presence then in the aroma. Very smooth and drinkable.

I recently purchased a bottle of Interlude, but as with most beers that I have from Allagash, I planned to age it awhile before drinking it. Since they had it on tap, I got the opportunity to actually try it. The flavour is a mixture of sweet fruits, spices and a bit of a farmhouse funk. It will be interesting to see how this one ages in the bottle and which flavours mellow and which ones become more pronounced.

L'Impératrice (Empress) is an Imperial Stout from Le Trou du Diable (The Devil's Hole), a micro brewery located in Shawinigan, Quebec. I've actually never heard of this brewery and was surprised to find it on tap in D.C. Flavours of roasted coffee and chocolate with a smooth finish. It certainly made me interested to try a few more of their beers if I ever got the chance.

I have a few bottles of Fritz & Ken's Ale which is the first of Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary series of beers, but its another one that I haven't actually tried yet. Flavours of roasted coffee and chocolate with a bitter hop finish. Another beer that will be interesting to see how it ages and changes in the bottle. I'll probably drink a bottle this spring and age the other bottles awhile.

By this time, my wife was giving me me the look and asking how many more beers I wanted to try. She's very understanding about my passion for beer, but I could tell it was probably time to call it a night. I would definitely be at the Churchkey often if I lived in the D.C. area.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sam Adams Category 23 Longshot Contest

Sam Adam's has put a bit of a twist on their Longshot American Homebrew Contest this year by wanting beers that fit into the BJCP Category 23. Category 23 is the catch-all category, any beers that don't fit the other categories can be entered into this one. Simply put, brew anything you want with whatever you want in it and it can't be judged as "out of style". Although, I guess it could be considered "out of style" if they think it actually fits too closely to one of the other categories. In other words, this is not the time to try and impress them with a perfect Baltic Porter. But ferment it with some wild mushrooms and age it in an old rain barrel and you may have something.

Judges will consider the aroma, appearance, flavor and mouthfeel of your beer. The overall uniqueness of the process, ingredients used, and creativity will also be considered. The overall rating of the beer depends heavily on the inherently subjective assessment of distinctiveness drinkability and creativity.

Should be interesting to see what they end up with. Will they choose something way out there in the spirit of this year's contest? It does still have to be drinkable by a pretty wide audience, they do have to sell this stuff.

Ginger Man's 25th Anniversary Party

Its still six weeks away, but consider this a save the date notice for the Ginger Man's 25th Anniversary party on Saturday, May 22nd. There will be live music, special edition beers and rollback prices. I'm sure more details will be forthcoming as we get closer to the party, but add it to your calender now so you don't make plans that weekend.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Returned From D.C. With Beer

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Washington, D.C. where we saw all the big monuments, walked over 40 miles, took around 500 photos and still managed to squeeze in time to drink some great beer. Coincidentally (or was it?) there was a large Whole Foods only two blocks from our hotel and it had a great beer selection. I could have just closed my eyes and blindly grabbed bottles off the shelf and I still would have came back with great stuff. However, I selected with my eyes opened and got the following:

Southern Tier - Choklat
Goose Island - Night Stalker
Goose Island - Demolition
Souther Tier - Cuvée Series 2
The Bruery - Saison de Lente
Weyerbacher - Double Simcoe IPA

I knew I couldn't take them all back, so I drank the Double Simcoe IPA that evening when I returned from the store. I definitely needed a beer after our first day of wandering around DC. Well balanced between sweet caramel malts and a piney hop bitterness.

The Saison de Lente is a spring seasonal from The Bruery and was the perfect beer to drink on Easter Sunday. Crisp and refreshing with a light citrus and coriander flavour. A little lighter then a typical saison, but perfect after another long day of sightseeing.

The remaining four beers I manged to cram into my suitcase and they all arrived safe and sound. I'll probably age the two beers from Goose Island for awhile, but drink the two from Southern Tier relatively soon.