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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

BJ's Releases Pumpkin Ale

BJ's Restaurant Brewhouse, who's beers are contract brewed by Saint Arnold Brewing, has released its Pumpkin Ale.  Brewed with "an abundance of spices", they suggest pairing it with their Sweet Pig Pizza, Picookie or Vanilla Bean Cookie.  Its available now at all BJ's locations for a limited time only. 

Other then the homebrewed pumpkin beers that I helped judge at the Pentrol Station on Thursday, I think this is the only pumpkin beer brewed in the state, so its certainly worth checking out.

Pumpkin Beer Throwdown Winners

The Petrol Station hosted a Pumpkin Beer Throwdown homewbrew competition on Thursday night as part of Houston Beer Week.  One of the scheduled judges was unable to make it, so I was asked to join the esteemed panel of judges.  Each of us sampled all 16 entries and then chose our top three beers in order.  Ben Fullelove, Petrol Station owner, then tallied the votes and announced the winners:

1st Place: Mike Hon
2nd Place: Brian Coltrin
3rd Place: Mason LeGrue

Congratulations to all the winners.  It was fun to judge the beers and a great opportunity to try some really good homebrewed beers.  Pumpkin beers don't have a specific style guideline and pumpkin itself doesn't have a whole lot of flavour on its own.  Most of the flavours that you taste in a pumpkin pie, for example, comes from the spices that are added and it can be difficult to get the correct balance of those flavours in a beer.  Some of the beers had a little too much of one or another spice and some had very little or no pumpkin flavours at all.  There were a couple of beers that stood out as well made beers, but unfortunately, they didn't have enough (or any) pumpkin flavours for them to win a pumpkin beer contest.  Thanks to Ben for organizing the first Pumpkin Beer Throwdown and asking me to be a judge, hopefully he'll have more homebrew competitions in the future.

Jennifer (@txgirlspintout) &
 Rob (@IndyBrewing Brewmaster)
Ben tallying the results

Ronnie Crocker (Beer,TX -Hou Chronicle)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Beer Dinner at Catalan with Anvil's Kevin Floyd

Kevin Floyd from Anvil
When deciding on the beer dinners to attending during Houston Beer Week, it was the one that combined Catalan's amazing food with Kevin Floyd's excellent beer knowledge that had me the most intrigued. The Executive Chef at Catalan Food and Wine, Chris Shepherd, had just won My Table's Chef of the Year Award and Kevin Floyd is the Beer Guru and part owner of the multiple award winning Anvil Bar & Refuge. It was even enough to convince my wife to come along with me.

Chef Chris Shepherd (behind my wife)
 We were met in the private dining room at Catalan with bologna sausage hor d'oeuvres and Keystone Light poured into champagne flutes.  Interesting start.  But this was Catalan's homemade bologna sausage and the Keystone Light was selected as an example of the beer style that most Americans are familiar with when they think about beer.  It was also the first beer that Kevin Floyd ever legally purchased and consumed in his younger days.  Considering how young he still is, he's come a long way in his beer knowledge and preferences in a pretty short time.

Kevin indicated at the start of evening that he had managed to get a couple of beers that are currently unavailable in this country (but will be soon) to serve during the dinner.  The first unknown beer was the Saison de Dottignies from Brouwerij De Ranke located in Wevelgem, Belgium.  Aroma and flavours of grass, lemon and pepper with a slightly dry earthy finish with a lingering bitterness.  The beer was paired, naturally, with large meaty mussels served in a creamy broth.  We all wanted some bread to soak up the delicious broth with, but that would clearly have been a bad decision based on how much food was yet to come.

The second course was fish and chips served with Left Hand Polestar Pilsner.  The Chef informed us that the fish was Gulf Hake which is apparently not normally served in restaurants. It was lightly battered and fried and served with malt vinegar chips and smoked steelhead trout roe.  The fish was light and flakey and the roe added little bursts of smoke flavour to each bite.  The Polestar Pilsner is a good example of a German Pilsner with an earthy and floral hop aroma, sweet grainy malt flavour and dry clean finish.

The second of Kevin's surprise special beers was brought out for the third course, an Imperial Dunkelwit from the Nøgne Ø  brewery in Norway.  I've never had an Imperial Dunkelwit (a strong dark Belgian wit) before and was definitely my favourite beer of the evening.  Aromas of brown sugar, coriander and orange peel.  Sweet malt flavour with a blend of coriander, citrus and roasted nuts.  It paired very well with the shredded suckling port tacos served with picked red onions and the chef's homemade hot sauce.  The hot sauce had a lingering heat which the Dunkelwit did a good job of quenching.

Goat on a bed of plantains and pork belly
 Baby goat spiced with cloves, all spice and other things (can't read my notes) served on a bed of smashed plantains was the fourth course paired with Wild Devil from Victory Brewing. Wild Devil is the the Hop Devil IPA that's been fermented using 100% Brettanomyces yeast.  The result is an already bold IPA with a spicy and mildly sour flavour.  This would be a tough beer to try and pair with food, but it went well with all the strong spices in the dish and the goat itself.

We were all starting to get pretty full by this point and wasn't sure how much of the small burger with homemade beans that I'd be able to eat when the fifth course arrived.  But oh, what a burger!  After one bite I new I wouldn't be able to leave any behind. Stuffed with cheese and served on a pretzel bun, the flavour was incredible without any condiments on it at all.  To wash it down with, Kevin selected Hop Stoopid from Lagunitas Brewing.  At 102 IBU's, its not nearly as hoppy as you would expect as it has a pretty strong sweetness to the flavour that helps to balance out all that bitterness.

And whether you had room for it or not, there was no way to resist the final course of a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top.  Creamy, gooey and chocolately, it was served along side Stone Brewing's Imperial Russian Stout from 2009 that Kevin has been saving in the cooler at Anvil for just such an occasion.  As suggested by the chef, I dropped some of the ice cream in my glass of beer and let it melt into a creamy dessert all on its own.

I'd like to thank Chef Shepherd for preparing six fantastic courses and Kevin Floyd for finding beer that paired great with all them.  I'm still so full today that I've skipped both breakfast and lunch.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foam on the Range at West Oaks Mall

The producers of the recent Brewmasters International Beer Festival have yet another beer festival coming up. Foam on the Range will take place outside behind the Alamo Draft House at the West Oaks Mall on Highway 6 and Westheimer on Friday, October 22nd from 5:00pm to 8pm. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and there's also a $35 VIP access option.  For that price, each guest can select 24 samples from over 100 craft beers. Additional beer sampling cards good for 12 more samples will be available for $5 each.

This is another beer festival where you won't find anything you can't normally buy at Spec's or find at various beer bars around town.  However, for those people who are just getting into craft beer, its a great opportunity to try a variety of different beers in one spot for a reasonable price.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Houston Beer Week Begins Sunday

I posted about it when it was first announced, but now that Houston Beer Week is almost upon us, it needs to be mentioned again.  Starting with a kickoff party on Sunday, Oct 10th and running through to Sunday Oct 17th, the week is filled with various beer events, dinners and tastings at bars and restaurants around town.  Some are free to attend while others, like the beer dinners, require reservations.  Check the Houston Beer Week website for detailed information about the daily events.  Some the events that caught my eye that I'll be attending are:

Sun - Kickoff Party (Usual Pub)
Tues - Independence Tasting (Rockwell Tavern)
Wed - Catalan & Anvil Beer Dinner (Catalan)
Thurs - Pumpkin Throwdown (Petrol Station)
Fri - Gravity Cask 2010 (Anvil)
Sat - Fall Beer Festival (Brenner's) or Duvel-Moortgat Tasting (Ginger Man)

The week concludes with Monsters of Beer, an outdoor beer festival featuring Texas breweries and brewpubs. It takes place Sunday afternoon from noon to 5pm on the street adjacent to 13 Celsisus. Tickets are $20 online ($30 at the gate) which includes a 5oz tasting glass to try all the beers from the participating breweries. There will be music, food from Hubcap Burgers and Melange Creperie and a silent auction with rare beers, beer tours and other odd beer paraphernalia.

Check the websites and follow the @houstonbeerweek and @monstersofbeer twitter feeds for more information as it is released.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October Glass Nights at the Ginger Man

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

6th - Deschutes Brewing
13th - Victory Brewing
20th - Shiner
27th - Victory Brewing (Hop Devil / Storm King Blend)

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, the Ginger Man is also have an Oktoberfest celebration this Saturday from Noon to 2am.