Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Take off, eh!

On my way up to my homeland to drink beer and celebrate Canada Day. It'll be the first time that I'm actually in Canada for Canada Day in years. Its doubtful I'll post anything until I return, but I may update my twitter feed with beer related activities and photos. Cheers, eh!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tickets on Sale for Denver Rare Beer Tasting II

If you're planning on going to the Great American Beer Festival this year, I would definitely consider adding the Denver Rare Beer Tasting II to your plans. The event takes place on Friday, Sept. 17th from 1pm ~ 4pm at the Wynkoop Brewery and is a fundraiser for the Pints for Prostates campaign.

Tickets, on sale now, are $80 each (a bit of an increase from last year's $55) and includes tastings of more than 20 hard to find beers, a commemorative tasting glass and hors d’oeuvres. I attended the first Denver Rare Beer Tasting and it was a fantastic event. Its a great opportunity to try some rare beers, meet the brewers and help out a worthy cause. I've already got my ticket for this year and look forward to the event.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Brewmasters International Brew Festival in Galveston

I heard about this from someone at Camp Beer this weekend and just found their Facebook page and website. It appears to have just been officially announced on Saturday. Full details about all the various events including pricing is included in the their press release, but here's the summary:

This Labor Day weekend Sep. 3-5 Moody Gardens will host the first annual Brewmasters International Beer Festival – an event that promises to become one of the best and largest beer festivals in the nation. The four-day celebration will showcase over 300 international, domestic and local Texas brews with three signature events - the BrewTopia Beer Garden, the Brew Ha-Ha Grand Tasting and BrewLicious in the Ballroom – plus a homebrewers competition, charity golf tournament, live music, beer and food pairing seminars featuring renowned chefs, and educational events and expert speakers.

Beer Events Breakout:

BrewTopia Beer Garden - Free Entry
BrewTopia will feature great live music, food and of course beer! Vendors from all over Texas and beyond will help transform the outdoor Oleander Bowl into a genuine old-country beer garden.
Fri. Sept. 3: 3:00pm - 8:00pm
Sat. Sept. 4: 12pm - 6:00pm
Sun. Sept. 5: 12pm - 8:00pm
Mon. Sept 6: 12pm - 4:00pm
Moody Gardens Oleander Bowl
Canned good and spare change donations encouraged to benefit the Galveston Food Bank.

Brew Ha-Ha Grand Tasting - $35 & $65/VIP
Featuring over 300 international, domestic and local Texas brews, the Brew Ha-Ha Grand Tasting is your chance to sample some of the best beer in the world.
Saturday, September 4
3:30pm -6:30pm
Moody Gardens Expo Arena

BrewLicious in the Ballroom - $75 & $90/VIP
Featuring live demonstrations from more than 15 renowned chefs, BrewLicious in the Ballroom will showcase unique food and beer pairings - and you’ll get to sample each one!
Sunday, September 5
3:00pm – 6:30pm
Frances Anne Moody Ballroom - Moody Gardens Hotel

Shearn’s Restaurant Four Course Beer Pairing Dinner - $95 per person + tax/tip
Friday & Saturday, September 3 & 4
By Reservation
Shearn’s Restaurant - Moody Gardens Hotel

Wow, they've definitely got a lot events planned that weekend. There's also a homebrew competition, concert and golf tournament. However, Galveston isn't the most convenient location for it. Its close enough to home that a hotel room doesn't seem worth it but the alternative is a couple of hours worth of driving back and forth. The Moody Gardens Hotel is apparently offering a Brewers Package that includes hotel nights and tickets for the events which may be a good deal if you're planning on going.

Recap of Camp Beer III

The third edition of Camp Beer took place yesterday with twenty-one different and predominantly hoppy beers sampled and discussed. The size of the event had been increased to 60 attendees, necessitating a change in venue from Cathy's living room to an actual event hall. Conveniently enough, it included a pulpit from which Kevin preached the good word about craft beer.

As with the previous event, I started out taking notes as we sampled the beers, but I gave up about half way through. However, there was definitely some very notable beers:

Although best recognized for their Dark Lord Imperial Stout, Three Floyds Brewing is also known for producing beers with strong hoppy flavours and aromas, but without being overly bitter or harsh. Their Pride & Joy was the inspiration for my own American Mild. Three beers of theirs were served: Gumball Head, a highly hopped American Wheat beer, Dreadnaught, a well balanced Imperial IPA and Alpha King, a very dry and bitter Pale Ale.

Lost Abbey / Port Brewing continues to produce some amazing beers. The Lost Abby Devotion is a Belgian Pale Ale with lots of citrus and fruit flavours. Smooth and well balanced with a lingering floral hop bitterness. Typical of a West coast IPA, the Port Brewing Hop 15 has strong citrus and grapefruit flavours but a little better balanced then most.

As I get the chance to try more and more of their beer, Southern Tier is fast becoming one of my favourite breweries. Their Un-Earthly Imperial IPA is a very well balanced blend of citrus hops and caramel malts and the 10% ABV is hardly noticeable. Their Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout is out of this world.

Bootlegger's Brewery from Fullerton, California is not a brewery that I was familiar with until yesterday. We sampled their Black Phoenix, an ale brewed with coffee and chipotle peppers. With aromas of strong coffee and chocolate, the coffee definitely overwhelms the flavour. And just when you start to wonder where the chipotle peppers are supposed to be in it, you feel a slight tingle and burn from them on the back of your tongue and throat. Definitely an interesting beer, although I'm not sure if I could drink a lot of it

The surprise ending beer of the day was the Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve #3 which was actually supplied for the event by me from my own personal beer cellar. I decided that some of the beers that I have been aging should really be consumed sooner then later and since I had a large enough quantity of it, I donated it to Cathy to use for a Camp Beer event. I also gave her a couple of other beers that may show up at future events. The DR #3 was bottled in Sept 2006 and is a Double IPA with an alcohol level of 9.5% ABV. Most of the hoppy aromas and flavours had faded as I expected. It now had a sweet and toasty caramel malt flavour with some fruity characteristics and a very smooth finish. The high alcohol was still noticeable, but no longer harsh. It actually reminded more of a barleywine style.

The next Camp Beer event is scheduled for September and will concentrate on Stouts. It's already being referred to as Stoutapolooza and will feature vertical tastings of Dark Lord and The Abyss. Tickets will undoubtedly go very fast.

Tickets on Sale for 2010 Great American Beer Festival

As of noon MDT today, tickets are on sale for the 2010 Great American Beer Festival.

Don't forget to check the special discount rates at area hotels before making your reservations.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Great Austin Beer Festival This Saturday

The inaugural Great Austin Beer Festival takes place this Saturday, June 26th from 4pm ~ 8pm at the Austin Musical Hall. Tickets are still available online and at Waterloo in Austin for $30 (plus fees) but will raise to $40 at midnight tonight. About 40 breweries will be participating, including all the local Texas micro breweries, but due to existing TABC regulations, local brewpubs are not allowed. A list of the beers being served has not been made available.

I won't be at the beer festival this weekend, I've decided to stay in Houston and attend the events for the first ever Firkin Festival and enjoy some of the great cask beer that will be poured. I also have a ticket for Camp Beer III which takes place on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 GABF Tickets On Sale Today for AHA Members

Starting at noon MDT today, current members of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) are able to purchase tickets to any session of the 2010 Great American Beer Festival before they go on sale to the general public. Members should have received an email message with instructions and a link to purchase tickets. The remainder of the tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday, June 28th.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crispin Ciders Review - Part 2

I was finally able to get to the two ciders in the Artisanal Series from Crispin Cider - the Honey Crisp and The Saint.

The Artisanal Reserves use racked unfiltered apple wine, fermented from fresh pressed apple juice, never from concentrate, and smoothed with novel organic natural sugars, such as honey or maple syrup. The unfiltered nature of the apple wine leaves a rich apple sediment in the bottom of every bottle, a true treat in a hurried world, every bottle should have a "Bottoms-Up!" tilt and swirl before opening to ensure even dispersion of the sediment and a fair sharing of the complex flavors.
Relaxing on a patio overlooking rolling green hills during a weekend getaway to the Texas Hill Country seemed liked the perfect atmosphere to finally try the Honey Crisp cider. It's pretty light in colour but a little cloudy since I swirled the liquid when I poured it into the glass as suggested. Aromas and flavours of fermented apples with a floral sweetness from the added honey. Additional flavours of pear and a bit of breadiness came out as it warmed. The carbonation is low, but it still left a slight tingling across my tongue. Finish was smooth and creamy with a drawn out lingering sweetness. Easy to drink on its own, even at 6.5% ABV, but it would probably pair well with a light meal.

The Saint was the one I was looking forward to trying the most as it's fermented using a Belgian Trappist yeast. Trappist yeasts tend to give fruity flavours with a dry finish, so it certainly seems perfect to use for their style of cider. It was cloudy in the glass due to swirling up the yeast and slightly darker then the Honey Crisp. Aroma was floral and slightly spicy. Big juicy apple flavour to start with a sticky sweetness coming from added maple syrup. However, that sweetness soon gave way to a tart and slightly spicy finish with a lingering dry mouthfeel. Very lightly carbonated, but enough so that its not completely still in the glass. Once again, a 6.9% ABV is very well hidden. I wouldn't choose this one to quench my thirst on a hot afternoon (go with the Crispin Original for that), but keep this one to savour later on in the day either before or with dinner.

I certainly enjoyed both of these ciders and thank Crispin Cider for giving me the opportunity to try them. Unfortunately, they're just a tease as they're not yet available in my area, but hopefully that will change soon.

There are still have two more ciders that I received from Crispin to review, but these are from Fox Barrel, a California cider company that Crispin just purchased back in January of this year. Reviews of the Pear and Black Currant will finish off the three part series.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Houston's First Firkin Fest

As reported by Ronnie over at Beer, TX, the Anvil, Flying Saucer and Petrol Station are jointly hosting a three day Firkin Fest. The bars will take turns hosting the event and tapping a selection of cask ales at their location:

June 24th @ 5pm - Anvil
Real Ale - 2008 Barrel-aged Sisyphus Barley Wine
Great Divide - Espresso Oak-aged Yeti

Surprise Cask

June 25th @ 5pm - Flying Saucer
Avery - Maharaja
Left Hand - Twin Sisters
Southern Star - TBD
Surprise Cask

June 26th @ 6pm 5pm - Petrol Station
Moylan's - Dry Hop Hopsickle
Stone - Sublimely Self Righteous Dry Hop
Stone - Double Dry Hopped Ruination
Rogue - Saint Rogue Red Ale
Independence - Stash IPA

Its been great to watch the craft beer scene in Houston expand over the past few years. There was a time when it was difficult to even find good craft beer here and now we've got our first cask beer (mini) festival. New beer bars are popping up around town and more restaurants are not only starting to serve craft beer, but actually understand and emphasize it. Its actually starting to be a pretty good beer town.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Saint Arnold's Amber on Cask Today

Today is Saint Arnold Brewing's 16th anniversary and they are celebrating by putting out a special release of their Amber Ale in cask. The Amber Ale was the first beer that Saint Arnold started releasing in casks, but switched to the Elissa IPA in 2004. The special release will be at the following locations in Houston:

  • Anvil
  • Ginger Man
  • Stag's Head Pub
  • Mucky Duck
  • Under The Volcano
  • Petrol Station
  • The Flying Saucer
  • Washington Ave. Drinkery
  • Boondoggles

  • Location serving the Amber on cask in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas are available on their Facebook page.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder, CO

    The first ever international Beer Bloggers & Social Media conference was announced last week:

    The 2010 International Beer Bloggers & Online Media Conference will take place November 5-7, 2010 in Boulder, Colorado.

    The conference will include excellent dinners, delicious beer tastings, interesting speakers, and outstanding academic sessions designed to help beer bloggers improve their trade.

    The conference is limited to 150 attendees and apparently a dozen or so have already signed up. The cost is $95 for unaffiliated beer blogs and $195 for those affiliated with a brewery, retail store, or other business or organization. It looks like it would be a fun time and great opportunity to meetup with other beer bloggers. More information about the conference is available at their website.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    The Session #40 - Session Beers

    The topic for this month's The Session is titled Session Beer and is hosted over at Top Fermented.

    For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a Session Beer is a well balanced, easy-drinking beer with a clean finish and a moderate to low alcohol level. To put it another way, its a beer that you can enjoy several of during one drinking session without overwhelming the senses or becoming intoxicated. The Austin Amber and Freestyle from Independence Brewing and the Summer Pils from Saint Arnold Brewing are all different styles, but excellent examples of session beers.

    Unfortunately, session beers are often overlooked or simply ignored. There's actually a lot of session beers being produced, they just don't get talked about or blogged about as much since they're not as sexy or exciting as ones that have double-digit ABV's, unique ingredients and odd fermentation processes. Beer bars, which are commonly rated and judged based on the number of extreme or rare beers they have on tap, will often choose the more unique offerings from a brewery over any session beers that they may produce.

    I'll admit that I'm usually drawn to the new and unique beers when I browse the local beer store or check the wall of taps at a favourite bar, but they're often beers that you can't (or don't want to) drink more then one of at a time. However, sometimes its nice to just relax and enjoy a few mellow beers without having to consider the alcohol content or whether its going to ruin your taste buds for the next beer. It's one of the reasons that I brewed my own session beer. I hope craft breweries continue to expand the session beer market, but its beers like Brewdog's Sink the Bismark and their ongoing battle with Schorschbrau for the title of strongest beer in the world that will continue to grab beer headlines.

    Crispin Ciders Review - Part 1

    A few weeks ago, I received an email message from Crispin Cider asking if I would be interested in reviewing their various ciders. Although this is obviously a blog about beer, hard ciders are often sold and enjoyed along side craft beer. I'm also no stranger to good ciders as my parents live in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and are surrounded by orchards and estate wineries which produce some fantastic hard ciders. Coincidentally, I had also just started researching cider making in preparation for my first attempt to make my own this fall from the pears we get from the pear tree in our backyard. Needless to say, I replied that I was definitely interested and about a week later, a box arrived with a bottle of each of their ciders.

    For a little background information, Crispin Cider was launched in the fall of 2008 and is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN. The ciders they produce are all natural with no added sugars, colorants or preservatives. They have just recently entered the Texas market, mostly around Dallas, but plan to expand further into the state.

    I decided that the Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time to try some of these ciders and I started with their Classic Blue Line. From their website:

    Crispin Super Premium Hard Apple Cider, designed to be enjoyed over ice. Inspired by the classical, refined flavor styles of continental European cider making, Crispin "Blue Line" ciders are clean on the palate, with a crisp, not sweet, taste profile. They are deliciously untraditional with a strong "apple bomb" bouquet, fresh appley mouth-feel and pure & clean lingering aftertaste. Our ciders are not styled as traditional "sweet beers", they are not old-fashioned sweeter alternatives to beer, but sophisticated and crisp not sweet, dry and not "sticky" on the palate.

    Definitely driving home the idea that their ciders are not sweet.

    I started with the Crispin Light, America's first light cider. It was almost completely clear in the glass with an extremely light (almost non-existent) flavour. It tasted like a sparkling water that had slices of green apple soaking in it. If I really tried to taste it and perhaps let it warm in my mouth a little, I could get a bit of dry and slightly sour green apple flavour to the finish. Unfortunately, all aspects of this one were just far too light for my tastes. If I had another one, I'd try it without ice. Since the flavour is already so light, pouring it over ice just diminishes it even further.

    Next up was the the Crispin Original. The colour was a dark gold with flavours and aromas of fresh, ripe apples. This one was more like the hard apple ciders that I like and enjoy. The finish was very crisp and dry with just enough sweetness to ensure it wasn't bitter. Very refreshing and my favourite of the three.

    Lastly, we have the Crispin Brut. The flavour wasn't as strong as in the Crispin Original but was a little more smooth and subtle. The finish was very dry and lingering. This one also has the highest level of alcohol of the three which was slightly noticeable. Reminded me of drinking a dry white wine. I think it would be great served with food and would enhance the flavour even more then drinking it on its own. I probably wouldn't drink this one over ice either, just chilled in the fridge.

    Next up for review will be the Honey Crisp and The Saint from their Artisanal Series. I'm definitely looking forward to these ones, particularly The Saint as its fermented using a Trappist beer yeast.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    June Pint Glass Nights at the Ginger Man

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

    June 2nd - Blanche de Bruxelles
    June 9th - Belhaven
    June 16th - Widmer
    June 23rd - DeKonick
    June 30th - Malheur

    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.