Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Three-day bender

I definitely had my fill of good beer a couple of weeks ago. In fact, a wee bit too much.

My good friend Bill C returned to Austin for a quick visit from Portland, a place where they know good beer. I had a $25 gift certificate from Grape Vine Market burning a hole in my wallet, and was determined to spend it on good Belgian beers, and knew Bill would be the perfect person with whom to share them.

Grape Vine's Belgian section inspires such lustful feelings every time I go there that I almost feel dirty. It's kind of like wandering into the porn section of the video store.

Their staff was most helpful – I just went in and told them I had $25 at my disposal and wanted something a little less obvious than Chimay, and we were done in about 60 seconds. First I was led to Grotten Brown, part of their "Pierre Celis Signature Collection." (For those not in the know, Pierre Celis is a reknowned brewer famed for reviving the Hoegaarden label in the 1960s and later moved here to Austin where he started the Celis label. He now is brewing for the Real Ale, based just outside of Austin.) Then I was led to Urthel Hibernus Quentum Tripel, and finally to St. Bernardus Abt 12. I've had the latter before and was tempted to ask for something else, but my Grape Vine helper made me a proposition: This was a special 60th anniversary edition of the Abt 12 with some different malts than usual, and he pitched the idea that I should let it age. What the hell, I'll try it, I decided. We'll see how that goes (see my previous post about it), but if all goes well I'll be pulling out of my closet around 2011.

I also decided to satisfy some curious itches I've had for a while and grabbed a bottle of Traquair Jacobite Ale (the fact that I'd never heard of the Scottish ale and it was $5 for a mere 12 oz bottle caught my eye) and St. Sebastiaan Golden (I just dug the jug-style bottle).

Highlight of the night was unquestionably the Grotten. Nice, round taste and exactly what I look for in a Belgian brown ale. The Traquair tasted pretty good, but probably could have benefited from aging. Indeed, the bottle said "good until 2014." The St. Sebastiaan was unremarkable. I haven't tried the Urthel yet; I might remedy that before I go to bed tonight. (EDIT: Just tried it. Day-yum. Mighty good. A very floral nose, but it didn't prepare me for just how great the first sip would be. There's some kind of spice here that I can't quite put my finger on, but its overriding quality is a honeyish sweetness. My Grape Vine guide made a good call on this one.)

The next night, Bill wanted to meet up with more friends at the Draught House, one of Austin's finest brewpubs. They had a Belgian-style ale of their own that they had brewed up, and it was magnificent. I had two, spaced out with a Sierra Nevada Celebration (gotta love a bar where you can get Celebration on tap!). I had to really pace myself drinking their beer; it was a whole lotta yum, and I've gotten in BIG trouble enjoying their beer before (many of you know about the famous projectile vomiting incident; not my proudest moment).

Unfortunately, I did a bit of a repeat of that famous night the next evening after taking in the Alamo Drafthouse's magnificent presentation of Beerfest, an absolutely idiotic movie about my favorite activity. The plot was moronic, the humor juvenile, the breasts gratuitious … and you absolutely should see it, especially if you have a theater that will duplicate the Alamo's menu of German beers and sausage (see previous post) while viewing it. I even enjoyed the hefeweissen they served, normally my least favorite style.

***NOTE: If you have Time Warner Digital Cable, Beerfest is currently featured in their "Movies On Demand." Even if you can't copy the Alamo, get an enormous quantity of beer and watch it. And no, despite the way the Alamo presented it, it is not a beer snob movie – it's a movie for anyone who enjoys any kind of beer.****

Now really, after a couple of strong brews at the Ginger Man (Real Ale's Coffee Porter and St. Arnold's Winter Stout, both excellent) and then three at the Alamo (topped off by a 7.2% Spaten Optimator), good sense would have had me stop there. But me and the guys were so giddily stupid after Beerfest that good sense was in short supply. So we went back to the Gingerman and I followed that up with a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (rivaling Celebration as my favorite beer, period) and then … the beer of doom. A friend of a friend convinced me I should try a new barleywine from Live Oak called Tree Hugger. They would only serve half-pints of it, which should have been my first warning; but even that didn't adequately prepare me for the fact that it was 13.7%. Yeesh.

Now at this point let me express my tremendous admiration for the fine folks at Capital Metro. These valiant people will drive your drunk butt home for a mere 50 cents, as long as you don't puke in their bus. And I didn't. I saved that for my house. That barleywine should be called Toilet Hugger. Again, not my proudest moment. I highly recommend it, but perhaps as the
(only beer of the night, or at least one of only a pair.

All told, it was a fun week, and god bless my wife for letting me hit the town with the boys three nights in a row. But next time, I'll try to pace myself a little better. And remember, don't drink and drive when there are nice bus drivers who will do it for you.

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