Monday, September 28, 2009

GABF 2009

I'm back in Houston from my whirlwind trip to Denver to attend the Great American Beer Festival. It was an incredible few days capped by my attendance at the Saturday Session of the GABF where I got to see some Texas winners (more on that later). It wasn't all GABF attendance though.
On Thursday lunch was at the famous Wynkoop, the first Denver brew pub where I paired good solid food with a very smooth and delicious ESB on cask. This ale was an incredibly drinkable session beer that was absolutely spot on as an English ale and was made even better on cask. After Lunch I headed over to the Great Divide Brewery for their Open House. It seemed like every brewery in Texas was there. Ran into folks from (512), Indpendence and Saint Arnold's. Even met Phillip Kaufamn maker of the latest Divine Reserve. While there I was able to try GD's Esspresso Oak Aged Yeti. All I can say is simpley amazing. I wish that Texas had gotten this beer in addition to the Chocoalte Oak Aged Yeti. The beer had it all, notes of vanilla, oak, bourbon, smooth silky espresso, some burnt malt notes and yet it was smooth, very smooth.
Friday saw me head out of Denver up to Boulder where my wife and I had lunch at Boulder Brewing. Again I tried their English Pale ale Cold Hop on Cask. Again it was a great interpretation of a British cask ale. A wonderfully tasty session beer. I also went by Twisted Pine's brewery and had a sampler of their beers. The standouts was their Espresso Stout and their Bourbon Barrel Red Ale. Initially the Red was too bourbon-y but as it warmed it got much better. Its a sipping beer to be sure but still a delicious ale.
Saturday of course was the day for me. The Saturday Session. Got there at 11:30, the doors opened at 12:30 and the line was already long. The hour went by fast and as the doors opened we were greeted by the sounds of Bag pipes playing. We grabbed our sampler glass and headed inside. I tried as many beers as I could from all over the country. Yes even some from Texas. I had the tasty Pecan Porter from (512) (oh when will it be in Houston?) to Freetail's La Muerta. Of course I had the beer's I've been dying to try, Russian River's Pliny the Elder, Lost Abbey's Cuvve de Tomme, Troeg's Nugget Nectar to just name a few. I tried to hit as many as I could and still keep my sanity (others will be the judge of whether or not I succeeded). When ever I come to GABF I like to look at the trends, what seems to be the big style of beer. Yes there are tons and tons of IPA's and DIPA's. but whats the up and coming? I can say this for sure, Oak aged beers are not going anywhere as I saw more of those this year than ever it seems. What else? The use of Brett in beers seems to be sticking around and I can't say I'm sad about that. Also and maybe it was jut me, but there were more Rye ales and lager's than ever before. It's these things that get me excited about GABF. Seeing how American brewer's are branching out, not everything is just hops hops and more hops (oh yes thankfully they are still around and as amazing as ever) but brewers are continuously branching out trying new things and in some cases things from decades past and putting modern spins on them. The other thing I love about GABF is meeting folks and we got to meet a ton of people many from Texas. Us Texans are passionate about good beer and I can't tell you how many home brewer's I met. My plans are to get in touch with some of them and watch them do what they do so well.

In finishing as promised a little more on the Texas Winners. Texas ended up with 2 golds and 2 silvers (these from the same brewery):

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Saint Arnold Summer Pils TX Gold Munich Style Helles
The Covey Restaurant & Brewery Weizenbock TX Silver German-Style Wheat Ale
The Covey Restaurant & Brewery "100" TX Silver Belgian Style Strong Specialty Ale
Uncle Billy's Brew & Que Hell In Keller TX Gold Kellerbier/Zwickelbier

Congrats to Saint Arnold's, Uncle Billy's and The Covey. Keep making great beer.
Here is the complete list of winners.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moylan's Hopsickle

Ever since I found out that this beer was coming to Houston I have been excited. I mean its a legendary hop bomb and you all know my love of all things hops. Well it finally arrived on the shelves of my local Spec's and I thought to myself this would be good beer to have before heading off to GABF.
The Beer: No IBU's stated but it does weigh in at 9.2%. It pours a cloudy orange color capped by a dense head of white foam. The hop aroma pours forth as soon as I opened the bottle. Grapefruit, citrus peel, hops, hops and more hops. Is that pale malts I smell? Not sure but there is definitely hops. The mouth you ask? Its chewy, sticky, bitter, resiny. Its reminiscent of chewing on grapefruit peel, pine cones, and marmalade. No real malt presence, but notes of white pepper peak through the thick haze of hops. Did I mention the hops? They are there and they are there in force. But for some reason it works. It doesn't come off as a huge over the top off balanced mess like so many over the top (and this surely is) beers can. Its enjoyable, dare I say drinkable? Oh OK, maybe you won't have more than one in night, but you can surely have that one and love it. It gets an A from me. Here's how the folks at BA rate it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heading to Denver

Its that time of the year again folks. Time for one of the greatest weeks of the year if you are a lover of craft beer. Its Great American Beer Festival and I'll be making my third trip to Denver for the festivities tomorrow. This year promises to be bigger and better than ever. The GABF has come along way since the first festival in 1982 held in a tiny Boulder, CO hotel room. Back then there were 20 breweries serving 35 beers. This year?
3,362 total beers being entered into the competition
2,100 total beers being served in the Festival hall.
495 different breweries
73 beers beers entered into the Pro0Am competition (two from TX, DR8 and SS Saison)
51 Breweries attending for the first time.
For a complete listing of all breweries attending check out this link.
There are 13 breweries attending from Texas and they are sure to bring home some medals from the competition.
I'll be arriving in Denver tomorrow afternoon and will be attending in various events around town. I'll also be attending the Saturday Afternoon session of GABF where they make the announcements of the winners which I'll put on twitter as quickly as I can. Speaking of Twitter I'll be doing that as much as I possibly can from Denver and then posting my full thoughts on the experience when I get back in town Sunday or Monday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick Hits: Texas Beer Happenings

There's a lot going on in the Houston Area for beer lovers. A whole lot of news has come out in the past week that I thought today a Friday would be a good time to put in one place.
- First of course we had the awesome announcement of Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 9.
- Keeping with Saint Arnold's of course is their announcement of their
Octoberfest Party on
October 3rd. Here are the details:
Admission: $42 per person, includes German dinner & special mug
Band: Sideshow Tramps
For reservations, call or email Ann (713-686-9494 or As always, she will need credit card, cash or check to make the reservation.
- Continuing with the Octoberfest theme, our northern neighbors Southern Start have announced the date for their celebration as October 24th. Here are some additional details:
There will be a limit of 225 tickets sold which will include food, band, beverages and a nice ceramic stein. The details are still being hashed out, but we will let you know when the tickets will be available for sale.
- To the east in Beumont the Art Museum of Southeast Texas is hosting an Art of Beer event on October 1st:
Beer-lovers and those new to the brew will find over 80 of the finest specialty and seasonal brews from around the world paired with complementary food dishes, cheeses, beer floats, entertainment and much more.

- Lastly in news reported by the Chronicle's Ronnie
Crocker Blanco Texas's Real Ale is going to start bottling their Coffee Porter with a release date of 9 October. I wanted a bit more information about any future bottlings of Real Ale brew and after an email exchange found out that this is just the start. The plan is to release a special six pack every 3 months or so starting with the Coffee porter then moving to Phoenixx, Devil’s Backbone, and our new Oktoberfest lager next fall. Can't tell you how happy I am to see Real Ale bottling more of their wares. Its been my biggest complaint about them and now that's resolved.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Green Flash Barleywine 2009

The weather is turning ever so slightly cool here in Houston and that means fall. It means some of my favorite seasonal beers. Octoberfest style marzen's, Pumpkin beers, then as the weather turns even cooler I'll get to winter warmers and barley wines. There are some breweries especially US craft's that release their Barley wines during the summer, these are normally not as malty as English style ones, but hoppier almost like an Imperial IPA. It is with these thoughts that I reached out for this release from San Diego brewery Green Flash. You may remember that I was able to get the 2008 vintage last year and thought it rather delicious so you can imagine my happiness when I saw this years available.
The Beer: This year's vintage weighs in at 10.9% a little more than last years and pours a shady chestnut brown with a quarter inch head of off white almost taupe colored head of foam. The nose is potent, I could smell it well before lifting the glass to my nose. It smelled of toffee and treacle, bread pudding, hops and grapefruit, citrus, figs. Just like last year's I could bury my nose in this all night and never be disappointed. Yet I had to stop if for no other reason than to taste. The taste now that was joy. The mouthfeel is chewy, creamy, tongue coating hops and flavor. Yes hops are at the forefront for this is an American Barleywine after all. Notes of citrus peel, toffee, treacle, breadpudding caramel, sweet malts, fruity estery yeasts. A bitter finish is complimented by an ever so slight not unpleasant alcohol burn. The hops are resiny along the tongue and linger well beyond the finish. It was a great beer tonight with sharp cheddar cheese, and my bets are that this one ages magnificently. This gets a B+ from me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Next Divine Reserve

Wow, fresh off an unbelievable success with the release of Divine Reserve 8, Saint Arnold's has just announced that Divine Reserve 9 will be released in late November or Early December. From their latest Newsletter:
We are brewing Divine Reserve No. 9 next week for release in November or December. It will be unlike any other Saint Arnold beer we've ever made!
So what didn't get announced is the style, but we did get a clue as to where they are going, or rather not going.
First we know its going to be something new, so let's take a look at the DR's thus far:
Barleywine (2x)
Scotch Ale (2x)
Russian Imperial Stout
Double India Pale Ale

So we know its not going to be any of the above. We also know that Saint Arnold's has Bourbon Barrels as they will periodically have a Bourbon Barrel Stout released to select accounts around town, so it won't be something like that. So what could it be? Its 'going to be different' that's for sure. Will they go the route that many craft brewers are going and create a sour ale, or something infected with Brett? Maybe, although many of those age for a bit whether in wood or something else, so that might be out since we really only have 2 months before release. Although they have done a Quad, could they do another Belgian ale? Yes I believe they could. They also could use those Barrels for something else than a stout. Another option since they are releasing it around the Holiday season is some sort of winter warmer (thinking a higher gravity Anchor's Our Special Ale). Really there are many ways they could go. Anyone else have any thoughts? Or wishes?

UPDATE: As reported by Ronnie Crocker of the Houston Chronicle, the next Divine Reserve DR9 will be an Imperial Pumpkin Stout weighing in at 10% ABV.

This sounds pretty exciting if they can pull it off. My only concern would be the bitterness of the Imp Stout overpowering the pumpkin. My bet is on Saint Arnold to make a delicious beer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More New Beers coming to Houston

Man, this may end up being a weekly blog post the way new beers are rolling into town. Went by my local Spec's and talked to the beer guy and there is a lot of new arrivals and beers about to be on the shelves.
- Already arrived: Part of New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series. These beers are what definetely more Belgian style that most of New Belgium brews. The beers we have are: The La Folie Wood aged Sour Brown Ale (my review), Biere De Mars a Brett beer, and Le Fleur Misseur another Brett ale.
- Also seen was Magic Hat's Fall seasonal.

The big news though is what is coming soon:
- Moylan's (I've written about them before) Hopsickle Triple IPA will be in the area both in bottle form and on draft. Flying Saucer will have some and will be tapping it sometime soon. Also coming in bottle form is Moylan's Moylander their Double IPA that I had at Flying Saucer's ninth anniversary.
- Also Brooklyn Brewery will have two seasonal's on our shelves. Their Octoberfest a traditional Marzen style of beer and their Post Road Pumpkin ale, an ale brewed with real pumpkins.

I can't tell you how excited I am that both the Pumpkin ale and the Moylans Hopsickle are coming. If anyone knows of other beers coming our way let me know.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 8

Yes the day is finally here, and after a long and arduous search I was able to secure myself some of this somewhat hard to find beer. What beer you ask? The latest Divine Reserve from Saint Arnold. This irregularly released ale has become cult like in its difficulty to get and the quickness in which it flies off the shelves. Reports of 100's of cases being gone in half an hour were not uncommon on Thursday the day of release.
But what kind of beer is this? From Saint Arnold's website:
This is a bold, malty, smoky Scotch Ale. It pours a deep amber brown. It was quite cloudy at the time of bottling, but will clarify as it ages. The nose is full of smoky toffee notes. The taste opens with sweet malt and spice, then the alcohol comes up with a light residual sweetness on the finish. A balanced smoky flavor is in this beer from start to finish, although it never is the dominant character. It was brewed with 2-Row, Biscuit, Dark Crystal, Amber, Peated, Caramunich and Wheat malt. It is hopped early with Hallertau Tradition and late with Hallertau Hersbrucker. We fermented DR8 with a traditional Scotch Ale yeast. It is unfiltered. Enjoy at 45°F or warmer. This beer was inspired by Phillip Kaufman’s winning entry in the 2009 Big Batch Brew Bash.
Now onto my thoughts.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 9.6% and pours a cloudy hazy caramel color with a thick tan colored dense head of foam. The nose is incredibly smokey, peaty, caramel, toffee, and rich malts. The mouthfeel is chewy, full bodied. Peat, smoke, really smokey, caramel, toffee, biscuity, syrupy. Sweet, strong a bit of alcohol at the finish. I can't get over how smokey and peaty this beer is, it really reminds me of scotch in some of its flavor. My only complaint is that its a bit sweet right now, but that should smooth out as it ages, and this one should age amazingly well. This gets aB+ from me. The folks at BA like it as well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Session Round up and Announcement

Yes I know I missed out on Summer beers. I was really disappointed in missing this months Session, but work schedule kept me from participating. The good news is the hosts over at Better beer blog have posted the round up.
As one month leaves us another comes, and with it brings the next installment of the monthly virtual beer tasting The Session. This month's host is the blog Girl Likes Beer, the theme is Go East. From the announcement:
I would like you to pick your favorite beer made east form your hometown but east enough that it is already in a different country. It can be from the closest country or from the furthest. Explain why do you like this beer. What is the coolest stereotype associated with the country the beer comes from (of course according to you)? And one more thing. If you do a video or picture of the beer (not obligatory of course) try to include the flag of the country.
This should be interesting. If you point due east of Houston, the next country is Morocco. So I'll have to a little further east I think to get a better beer. Let's see there's Libya, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, and India...not a lot of great choices, but I bet in the next month I can find something to drink from one of those countries. Due date is October 2nd.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New Beers In Houston

It's amazing to see the new beers that are coming in to Houston, almost every week something new and exciting makes its way to our stores. This is even more amazing when you consider the ridiculous efforts that brewers and distributors have to go through to get their beer's here. Well fresh news off of a post on, I've learned that this week brings some exciting news.
First gypsy brewery Mikkeller has arrived. Not all of their beers, but some good ones none the less:

Mikkeller Big Worse Barley Wine
Mikkeller It's Alive (their take on Orval)
Mikkeller Monk's Brew

Mikkeller is an interesting brewer in that they do not have a brewery. I mentioned gypsy up above and that's exactly what they are. They travel from brewery to brewery, around Europer and even the US, they visit and use other's facilities to make their beer. But make not mistake about it, the beers are incredibly unique and from all accounts incredibly delicious so I'm excited as heck to try them out.

Secondly, Ridgeway Brewing out of England (you may remember them from their humerous Christmas ales) has brought an expanded line up of their beers:
Ridgeway Bad King John (a black ale)
Ridgeway Export Stout
Ridgeway IPA

Not a bad week here in Houston. Now if I can only get back to day shifts so that I can have a chance to try these beers. Oh and don't forget Thursday is the release of Divine Reserve 8.

Southern Star Saison

I was fortunate this past weekend between periods of working odd shifts at work to make it up to the Flying Saucer and sample Southern Star's newest beer. You may remember that this particular beer was brewed from a winning recipe by the winner of Southern Star's first ever home brew contest. And just like Saint Arnold's next Divine Reserve will be entered into the Great American Beer Festival's Pro Am competition. This is an interesting sounding Saison, brewed with 6 different malts, 3 different hops, blended yeast, grains of paradise, orange peel, coriander and ginger were all used to make this unique beer.
The Beer: This one pours an orangish color with a good sized white head. The nose is fruity, yeasty, a bit of ginger, white pepper, and floral notes. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with good level of carbonation, notes of orange peel and coriander really show up on the flavor. There is a nice white pepperyness to it as well, smooth, somewhat creamy, but over all a lighter body than expected. The beer has an unusual finish. My initial thoughts were that it had a rather sweet finish, and I think it does, however it conflicts with a lingering dry finish. Even though there is a sweetness to it, it contrasts with a clean crispness as well which keeps the beer from being cloyingly sweet which could have detracted from the over all flavor. Another good solid beer from Southern Star, I only wish they could have canned it. This one gets a strong B from me. Folks at BA like it as well.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Moylan's is HERE!

I've been familiar with Moylan's for a few years ever since my first trip to Great American Beer Festival and I've been pretty impressed by their line up. Alas those trips to Denver were the only times I got to taste any of their beer. Well that time has changed, and Moylan's has finally arrived in our fair state. First it was their delicious double IPA on draft at Flying Saucer's 9th anniversary, now its two of their beers in bottles.
Moylan's Tipperary Pale Ale: This pale ale weighs in at a mild 5.0% and is a pretty strong example of a classic English Pale Ale. It pours an amber color with a thick dense off white head. The nose is of hops, caramel, toffee, and a comforting earthiness. The mouth is chewy and medium bodied. Notes of caramel and toffee. Fuller bodied than expected. Not overly hoppy incredibly well balanced. Good hop bitterness, earthy, floral. A great session beer which is nice since it comes in a big 750 ml bottle. While not evident throughout a slight grapefruit peel hoppiness lasts throughout the finish lingering making you want more. Very good beer that gets a B+ from me. The folks at BA seem to like it as well.
Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale: This will be a good one to try since it's the same style of the soon to be arriving Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve. This pours a dark amber with streaks of bright red and a thick frothy crema colored head. The head dissipates quickly leaving behind plenty of lacing. The nose is malty, bready, figgy, with notes of caramel and fruity yeast. The mouthfeel is full with very little carbonation, even dense, notes of fruity, figs, plum pudding, bready, caramel, and a spiciness. These flavors are all there and they are good, but they aren't strong. The flavors remind me of the head, big and full up front but quickly dissipating. As it warms there is a peatiness that reminds me of a Highland malt Scotch. Its a good beer, not a great one and gets a solid B from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.

All in all pretty excited that Moylan's is here, can't wait for more of their line up to show up especially Hopsickle (A triple IPA!).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Genius of Saint Arnold

If you've been reading my blog then you know that September 10th is THE DAY!!!! Yes its the day that Saint Arnold's is releasing their latest Divine Reserve, #8 a Strong Scotch Ale. Well it seems that I'm not the only one excited, Saint Arnold's was even able to get the late great Billy May's to do a TV spot selling their delicious new beer.
Check it out!

Elysian Dragonstooth Stout

I mentioned a while back that a friend of mine went to Seattle and brought me back some beer, well this stout was one of those beers. Elysian Brewing unsurprisingly is based out of Seattle, and beyond making good beer, their also a brewpub (actually 3 located in areas throughout Seattle). I had heard of this brewery, but didn't know too much about their beers, but from looking at their website, they look like they have a pretty solid line up of regulars and seasonals. Almost all of their beers are packaged in 750 ml. I was excited about popping open this beer, not only to drink it, but I needed a good dark beer to cook with. I actually had this brew a week or so ago using it in my Lamb and mushroom stew, and pairing it with the meal as well.
The Beer: Dragonstooth Stout weighs in at 7.4% and pours a pitch black with a thick dense head of caramel colored foam. The nose is chocolate, roasted malts, toffee, molasses, and a bit of burnt coffee beans. The mouth is creamy and thick, a bitter mouthfeel. There is some acidity, a hint of lemon. The overwhelming tastes though is of coffee, dusted coco nibs, toffee, a touch of earthy soil, burnt malts. A very nice stout that made a wonderful stew and was amazing to drink with it as well. It really helped create a rich hearty dish. This one gets a B+ from me. Here's what the folks at BA had to say.