Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Quick Hits

Just a two very quick notes for today.
- A week late for Houston due to Hurricane Ike, but Saint Arnold's latest Divine Reserve has been released! The wiezenbock is out in bottle at local liquor stores and grocery stores and already out in draft in a couple of places. My local Spec's had 8 cases sell out in 30 minutes. Not to worry I picked up 2 six packs today and was able to try a pint of this incredible beer on draft at the downtonw Gingerman's. I gotta say its an amazing beer, tasting notes to come.

- Secondly, a reminder that the next Session is this Friday. Theme is Beer memories.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Two new beers from another brewery new to Texas

It seems every week we are getting either a brewery new to the Texas scene, or a brewery that has had some products in the state, expanding their repertoire. There's been Oskar Blues, Boulevard, Green Flash, expanded selection of Stone's, Brooklyn Brewery, and on my most recent visit to Central Market, Pike's Brewery. Pike's is based out of Seattle and was started in 1989. It was founded by Charles Finkel (as an aside he also founded Bon Vin a boutique wine distributor) in the famous Pike's Place Market. They've been making great unique beers ever since. They had a pretty good selection of them at CM all in bombers so I picked two that I thought I might like.
Kilt Lifter Scotch Style Ruby Ale: This one is extremely interesting. It's made with peated malt that gives it a smoky flavor. The beer weighs in at 6.5% and 27 IBU's and pours a cloudy brown with a thin head. The nose is smoky, malty, raisin-y, figs, and a bit of chocolate. The mouth is reach and creamy, notes of raisins, honey, and yeast with an underlying smokey maltyness. Not like a rauchbier but more like a scotch which I guess is the point. A really great smooth, yet complex beer. This one gets a B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.
IPA: Ahh yes, you know I had to get a hoppy beer! This one is 6.5% and 60 IBU's. It pours a cloudy hazy orange with a minimal head, but plenty of lacing. The nose has great floral notes, orange, grapefruit, honeysuckle and pale malts. The mouth is really amazing, saturating in its resinyness. There are notes of orange marmalade, grapefruit, and a pinyness. Very very nice a great IPA in my opinion. Nothing earth shatteringly new here, just incredibly solid and tasty. This one gets an A- from me. The folks at BA like it as well.

Well I gotta say even with just two beers, I'm pretty impressed by Pike and I can't wait to try some more of their offerings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stone Brew's

As I mentioned before, while I was in San Diego I had the chance to stop by the Stone Brewery for a tour, tasting and dinner at their awesome restaurant. While there I of course picked up a couple of their beers and drank them during the remainder of my week in So Cal. I tried to pick up the Stones that aren't available here in Texas so no Arrogant Bastard (oaked or otherwise), no smoked porter, no Ruination. So what else is there? Glad you asked.
Belgian Style Tripel/Collaboration: This is made by Stone Brewing along with Alesmith (another California Brewery) and Mikkeller (a brewery from Denmark). These type of beers always interest me in that they show how different brewers can come together and create something that represents each of their personalities. This one is a tripel style ale weighing at 8.7%. It pours a clear orange color with a quarter inch white head. Hops and white fruit on the nose along with honey and citrus (orange and lemon). The mouth is bitter, much more so than I expected. There are sweet notes of honey and white fruit as I would expect from a good tripel but the flavor is incredibly subtle. The nose on this was really aromatic and I expected that to translate into a stronger flavor profile. While the flavors were there, they weren't there in the strength I would have preferred, they felt muted. This one gets a B- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.
Cali-Belgique IPA: This is Stone's version of an IPA made with a Belgian yeast. Its a standard Stone IPA where the yeast flavor will hopefully take a stronger presence than normal. It has 77 IBU's and weighs in at 6.9% abv so its no light weight. Pours a bright orange clear color with a thick frothy white head. The nose is hoppy with tropical fruit notes. The mouth is effervescent, bubbly, hoppy with notes of white fruits and some fruity sourness from the yeast. A very interesting beer. You can definitely taste the difference the yeast makes which is the point of the beer I guess. There's a certain funkiness to the beer that adds complexity to an otherwise standard IPA. This one gets a B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Now that's not quite the last Stone beer I bought from the brewery just the ones I had while in California. The other one I grabbed was Stone's 08.08.08 Vertical Epic release. This a beer that's released every year by Stone, starting at 01.01.01 and will continue through 12.12.12. Each is a different style of beer (this one is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale) and each made to age so that when the last one comes you can have all 12 and do a vertical tasting. Not sure I'll be able to hold on to this one for that long, but I'm going to let it sit for a while at least.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lost Abbey Lost and Found

This is the last Lost Abbey beer that I had while I was in California (fear not, I brought a couple back home). I got to say I've been impressed by Lost Abbey's solid offering's. So far neither of the previous two weren't anything spectacular, but they were quite good. That was about to change.
The Beer: This is Lost Abbey's version of a Belgian Style Dubbel. Its made with added dextrose and raisin puree. It weighs in at 7.5% abv. The beer pours a dark cloudy brown with a quarter inch cafe colored head. Raisins, figs, candied sugar. A thick mouthfeel with figgy notes and raisins, brown sugar, molases and plums. This is an awesome beer, rich, toasty, complex. Great malt flavors balanced with dark fruits. Great great beer, gets an A+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA think.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back Home

A week after Ike hit, I'm finally home to survey the damage. It actually not all that bad, a little damage to the roof, subsequently a little water damage inside, and I've lost 80% or so of my fence. All in all I'll count my self lucky compared to many. My biggest hit? The loss of power and my fear that I lost some of the beers I've been aging (a few Bigfoot and Foghorn barley wines and a few Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve). I haven't opened any yet, scared I guess. I have a few more beers from my trip to San Diego to post about but before I get to those a couple of beer related topics:
- Southern Star Brewery had a little bit of damage to their facilities. Loss of power which could mean loss of some of those items in their cool box. Check out their blog for more details.
- Sounds like Saint Arnold's was much luckier and survived Ike unscathed with no stoppage of their tours.
- Lastly the announcement for the next Session, the 20th, can you believe it? The hosts this month is the Bathtub brewery, the theme is Beer memories. The website asks "Is there a beer that reminds you of a specific memory?" if so write about it. Due date is Friday October 3. Should be fun.

Well thats it for me today. I've got some clean up to do, but I'll be back tomorrow with some more beer related posts. Take care and if anyone in Houston is reading I hope everything finds you safe, but if you all need anything drop me an email.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lost Abbey Witch's Wit

This brew is another one from Lost Abbey that I picked up during my recent visit to the brewery. The Witch's Wit is their version of a Belgian Wit Beer but done in the unique Lost Abbey way.
The Beer: This one weighs in at a light 4.8% and pours a very pale straw color. Very strong nose full of honey, white grapes, cardomon, oranges and other citrus flavors. The mouth is effervescent with honey, citrus and grape along with some lemony notes. This is a great refreshing beer. It shows that you don't have to go to extreme limits of alcohol levels to create an incredibly tasty beer. This one gets an A- from me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lost Abbey Devotion Ale

I had the opportunity to pick up this beer during my recent trip to the brewery (along with a few other, but we'll get to that later). Lost Abbey specializes in unique Belgian style ales. Many aged in oak, many with different ingredients, and some infected with bacteria. Sounds like my kind of place! The Devotion Ale is Lost Abbey's version of a Belgian Blonde ale.
The Beer: This one weighs in at 6.75% with the only adjunct being dextrose. The beer pours a very hazy orange color with a thin head that dissipates to a film along the top of the beer. The nose is of hops, honey, and orage. The mouth is effervescent, with more hops and orange, apricots and honey. Lots of white fruit. A great summer beer with some good hop bitterness. This one gets a strong B+ from me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evacuating to San Diego

Well, not exactly, but with a family vacation already planned we got out of Houston early well ahead of hurricane Ike and headed to San Diego, well out of Ike's path. Over the past days we've learned that our neighborhood is a mess, our house is not. With the exception of some lost shingles and a blown down fence our house made it through relatively unscathed. The other good news is that having a couple of extra days in San Diego allowed us to visit some breweries which we didn't have in our original plans. What better way to take your mind off of a Hurricane than trying out some tasty craft brews. So where'd we go? So glad you asked.
Friday morning we headed out of SD and up the coast to Salana Beach to hit up Pizza Port for lunch. For those that don't know Pizza Port at Solana Beach is a craft brewer pub that serves good beer and tasty food. The head brewer used to be Tomme Arthur who now runs Port Brewing along with the great Lost Abbey Brewing Co. There three Pizza Ports each with a different head brewer free to brew the beers they want. Besides serving their own beers Pizza Port also serves guest taps featuring some of the best beers from the SD area. At the restaurant my wife and I shared a rather tasy pizza with shrimp and clams along with a couple of beers. I started out with the Big Wednesday Belgium, a Blonde IPA that was quite taste. My wife had the Hefe which was oustanding. I washed down the rest of my pizza with the amazing Russian River Pliny the Elder, an oustanding IPA. Absolutely wonderful.
Being filled with food we headed to the beach where we walked around for a while before walking through the Solana Beach shops. Afterwards and feeling thirsty we headed further north to the Lost Abbey brewery. I've heard so much about this place and it's one so many awards that I couldn't pass up an opportunity to check it out. Needless to say this place deserves all of its accolades. We tasted many beers (and I bought quite a few so detailed notes will come later) and chatted up the folks about the place. All in all a good time.
By this time it had gotten late in the afternoon and we learned from the folks at Lost Abbey that Stone Brewery wasn't too far away. My wife looked at me with a smile and asked if I wanted to go. I said HECK YES!!! and off we were. When we got there we were amazed, I didn't realize how big the brewery would be and that it was not only a brewery but a restaurant and a bier garten. As soon as we arrived we found out they were doing a tour in 30 minutes so we headed to the bar where I got a taste of Ruination on cask. Not having my notes, all I can say is WOW, so good. The tour was really good and our guide was petty knowledgable. Its amazing to see how big Stone is, only now is Houston getting many Stone beers so I've always thought of them as a smaller craft brewery so this experience was pretty eye opening. After the tour we were hungry again so we headed to the restaurant. This isn't just pub food, this is up scale American Cuisine. Very well made food. For an appetizer we had home made kimchi, for dinner I had Duck tacos that were absolutely amazing along with a craft beer from California brewery (yes they serve more than just Stone). This capped off a an outstanding day of craft beer drinking in So Cal. Even though worried about my house, I was able to enjoy myself and am really glad that I got to come out here a little early. Now that I know my house is ok, and I have another week in So Cal I plan on enjoying the beers I bought from Stone and Lost Abbey. For everyone else in the Houston area that checks out this blog I hope that you all are as lucky as I was and things find you safe and your house ok.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Another one from the San Diego Brewery. I've become a big fan of their beers as I've had the opportunity to taste those that are in the Houston Market. This IPA is no different, although at 95 IBU's it seems almost like a DIPA (Compare to Avery's DIPA that had 102 IBU's). However high the bitterness the alcohol remains somewhat low at 7% (compared to 10.2% for the Maharaja).
Enough with the stats on to the beer.
The Beer: Pours a hazy cloudy orange with a thin taupe colored head that leaves plenty of lacing in its wake. The nose is as expected plenty of hops, notes of pine needles and grapefruit. The mouthfeel is thick with hops everywhere, coating the tongue saturating my tasted buds. Its resin-y grapefruit, apricots with little to no malt balance. This is an out and out hop bomb. A good beer, and I love a Hop Bomb, but I also appreciate the malt balance that can make this style great. This one misses the mark on that, but is otherwise a very solid beer and gets a B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Session # 19 Roundup

Just a few days after posting my entry to the latest Session, this time on German Beer, the folks over at lootcorp have started posting the roundup. They should finish it up today so check back often to see all the entries.
The Session #20 announcement is sure to come soon.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Start the Hype

That's the title of a post on the Beer Advocate website. Hype for what you may ask?
Why Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 7. The most talked about beers that are locally produced. Saint Arnold's announced today that DR7 a WeizenBock will be released on September 23. Get'em while you can, because they go fast and when their gone, their gone. I can't wait, just a couple more weeks!

The Session # 19: Deutches Bier

Its hard to believe but yes its the first Friday of the month, and that means its Session Time. The theme this month is German Beer, but not just the beer, the culture as well should be discussed for this theme. The host are the folks over at lootcorp 3.0.
For this session I'm going to do something a little different, and something I've never done before. First things first the beer culture. I don't think that any country has the beer culture that Germany has, its very unique from those in Belgium or England, or even here in the US. To me its a family thing that makes it special.
Anyone that has read this blog for any length of time knows that I spent a few months living in Cologne Germany last year and got to experience this first hand. Living in Cologne I got to see the two faces of German Beer Culture. The first is that they love their beer, the second part of that is that they love THEIR beer, and sometimes this comes at the cost of experiencing other styles. I'll give you an example. Every bar/restaurant in Cologne served a specific Kolsch, usually from only one company, and maybe, maybe a pilsner. No other styles were really represented beyond the occasional Weizen offering. Having said that, they really loved their Kolsch, and could sit around a table drinking it for hours and extolling its virtues. Some of my favorite memories of my time there was of sitting in a Kolsch pub, drinking Kolsch, talking with my friends and the Kolsch waiter who would come by periodically to slam a new 0.2L glass on the table scratching out another mark on my coaster until finally having had a enough I placed my coaster atop my glass stumbling around the corner to my apartment. These were great times, times where I felt that we not only appreciated the fine beer but the better company. To make my point about German Beer culture being a family thing, let's look at another example. Taking really any Sunday you can see why they hold especially fond memories for me. These were the days when every thing was closed except for the pub's and restaurants. It was on these cold Sunday afternoon's that me and some friends would head to the pub for some Kolsch and maybe some goulash to warm ourselves up. We'd see lots of families here eating lunch dinner, or maybe just a snack of bread and cheese, sitting their all day with kolsch's in one hand and talking and just being together.
Seeing this family enjoyment is when I realized what may be biggest issue with American Beer culture. We see the pub independent from a family experience and I don't think that's the right way to look at things. Pub's can be a great place to relax the Sunday away with good food and a good atmosphere. I'll tell you one thing I'd much rather be doing that on Sunday then succumbing to our more commercialistic nature and shopping til I dropped.

Now for the thing I've never done before. I'm not going to post on a new beer. I'll point you all to the list of Kolsch's I've had and highlight one that I think is the best Kolsch in the states. The following is my entry from Saint Arnold's Lawnmower:
he Beer: The beer is Kolsch Style, so that obviously got me excited as I feel a bit of an expert on the style since my recent trip to the land of all things Kolsch. Having gone to a few of the wonderful Saturday tours at Saint Arnolds I have quite a few of their tasting glasses which are basically Kolsch style glasses, so that's what I poured this beer into. This version weighs in at 4.9% slightly higher than the typical Kolsch which is usually closer to the 4.5 mark. The beer poured a pale golden straw color capped by a typical thick white head. Plenty of tiny champagne bubbles rising to the top. So far so good with Kolsch Comparisons. Sweet malt and floral hops on the nsoe. The mouth was full and bubbly, more sweet malts being the predominant flavor with a nice crips hop bite from the Hallertauer variety used. If I could compare it to anything I had in Cologne it would be Pfaffen. A bit sweeter than the typical Kolsch but still a very fine example. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

I still say that this one is by far the best Kolsch I've had in the States.
Head on over to lootcorp and see what other folks are writing about.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Brew News Around Texas

A few short notes on what's going on with Texas Brewery's.
- First and foremost Rahr and Son's of Ft. Worth is releasing their Octoberfest brew this Friday at an arts event at the brewery. They's also be selling 1 Liter and Half Liter Steins to enjoy the brew in.

- Second from our local Houston Brewery Saint Arnold's is sponsoring a party at the Orange Show. from Saint Arnold's most recent newsletter:
The Orange Show, a Houston institution, is a labyrinthine space with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and many celebrations of oranges. And being able to do this exploration with a tasty beverage in your hand will only enhance the experience! There will be excellent refreshments (free!), music (free!), and a taco truck (cheap!) in case you get hungry.

The purpose of the event is a fundraiser for the Orange Show, an organization that in addition to maintaining the Orange Show Monument also supports a variety of folk art, including the Art Car Parade.

We want to show this organization a lot of support so please get your tickets now! Here are the full details:

Event: Orange Show Foamraiser
Date: Saturday, September 6
Time: 7 PM to 10 PM
Where: At the Orange Show
Address: 2402 Munger St.
Admission: $20 in advance, $25 at the door ($10 for kids 14 & under, available for purchase at the door) For tickets in advance: https://tix.cnptix.com/tix/SilverStream/Pages/pgIndex.html?siteID=1734
The Music:
Sideshow Tramps: http://www.myspace.com/sideshowtramps
The Grass Skirts: http://www.myspace.com/grassskirts
So go check out this Houston institution, go enjoy local music, local beer, and celebrate a local institution.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Avery Ale to the Chief

The Democratic National Convention ended last week and this week we're already in the middle of the Republican one, so yes dear friends we're neck deep in political season. As you all know the DNC was held in Denver, home (or near) many a craft brewery. Many of these folks made special beers for the event, but Avery Brewing went a step further and made one to celebrate the political season as a whole. They also made enough to bottle and distribute around the country. But unlike the Maharaja its not an Imperial IPA, but a Presidential IPA (PIPA?).
The Beer: This one weighs at 8.75%, much lower than their DIPA. It pours a cloudy amber with a thick white head and plenty of lacing. Hops, grapefruity and earthy, on the nose, with not as much malty smell as the Maharaja. The mouth is thick and creamy, with hops up front and spiciness and again not as much malty character. This is much more of a straightforward hop bomb. One of the more interesting characteristics was the spiciness of these beer, it was pretty intense white pepper notes among other things that I couldn't place. It added a different flavor profile than what I'm used to, it was rather pleasant though. There's also some citrusy bitterness, that along with the hoppy resin really saturates ones mouth. Even with all this intense character it went well with our dinner of hatch chili turkey burgers on ciabatta bread with fried potatoes. It was a good match with the PIPA really standing up to the spice and even helping reduce the intensity of the spice on the tongue. All in all this is a fine beer, while not as good in my opinion as the Maharaja, its pretty close. This one gets an A- from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Avery The Maharaja

After my recent binging on German style beers, I've gone back to something that is definitely American in nature, BIG and Powerful Imperial IPA's. This one in particular is part of Avery Brewing's Dictator series (of which the Kaiser is also a part of).
The Beer: This one weighs in at a powerful 102 IBU's and 10.2 % abv. It pours an orangish amber with a thick white head that sticks around, sliding down the glass leaving a thick resin of lacing. The nose is unsurprisingly massive hops. I could smell the grapefruit as soon as I started pouring the bottle into the glass. There's also some candied apricots and mild notes of malt. The mouth is more of the same. Lots of hops, grapefruit, and some piney qualities as well. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy a little bit resiny. What makes this beer great though is its malt. This is a incredibly well balanced DIPA. With nice malt backbone that keeps this beer from being overly astringent. My wife who dislikes most of the DIPA's that I love really enjoyed this one due to its maltiness. Avery has made a very drinkable DIPA. Well rounded with not a lot of alcohol burn, just enough for you to know its there. A great DIPA, this one gets a strong A from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.