Tuesday, May 23, 2006

American Beer at the Alamo

Okay, it's been more than week. Time for me to stop procrastinating: The screening of the documentary American Beer at the Alamo Drafthouse, with a flight of 15 beers shown in the movie, was quite enjoyable. At least for me. If you're not a raving beer geek (and if you're not, then you're probably not reading this blog), this movie probably won't do much for you. It's simply an indulgence – a love letter from a bunch of beer lovers to the brewers who make them so happy. The gist is simple – a group of drunks pile into a car (before they get drunk, of course) and head across the country to pay homage to American microbrewers. They hit 38 breweries in 40 days. And these guys are not pinky-extended pretentious dorks trying to act like gourmands – they're cool guys who like to hit a bar and pound back a few. We not only see them visiting breweries, we see them sampling the product, often with the brewers, and then praying to the porcelain god later. Hey, it's happened to the best of us.

Even if you are a beer geek, do not see this film without brew near at hand. That's why the Alamo kicks so much ass. They had 15 four-ounce samplings awaiting us: Allagash Dubbell Reserve, Victory 10 Year Alt, Victory Prima Pils, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Shipyard Export Ale, Anchor Steam, North Coast Blue Star Wheat, Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale, Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Full Sail Pale Ale, Pyramid Hefeweisen, Pyramid Curve Ball, New Belgium Abbey, Abita Amber, and Abita Turbo Dog. All were quite nice. I even enjoyed the wheat beers, to which I'm normally averse; maybe I'll have to sample full bottles of them in the near future. Perhaps they could change my mind on wheats. As for the rest: I particularly enjoyed the Allagash and 60 Minute, natch, because I was already familiar. And I was glad to try the Abbey; I had already tried New Belgium's Trippel as part of my new Belgian beer kick, and loved it, so I was really curious to samble the Abbey (a dubbell). It was awesome, and I've been drinking it all week since then. I also seem to remember (it's a bit fuzzy now) liking the 10 Year Alt. I'll have to rely on the Alamo's notes to help me reconstruct the experience: "A dark ale initially assertive with spicy hops, it concludes with rich, roasted malts and burnished hop character." And I seem to remember the Curve Ball impressing me: "A clean, crisp slightly herbal taste and a lighter body." And Shakespeare Stout is nice and chocolatey; those guys at Rogue don't go halfway on any of their stuff.

Only one complaint in the whole experience: the Alamo staff clearly served two of the beers out of order, serving the Anchor Steam when the program said they were serving the Allagash, and vice-versa. A minor problem, at worst; hopefully everyone figured out the error.

So why is my memory so fuzzy on the evening? Well, it's not what you're thinking. It's just that my subsequent trip to the Ginger Man that evening with Mr. Valek and his buddy Bob yielded even greater taste pleasures than the movie sampler. Continuing my Belgian kick, I started with what I think was De Koninck. It was well enough, but I wasn't blown away. That changed with North Coast Pranqster. North Coast is another of those breweries that just can't seem to do anything wrong (they make Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, my favorite stout), and this was so, so right. I was quite certain the evening had reached its apex. I was wrong. I then had a sample of Unibroue Trois Pistoles.

You remember a few posts back, talking about Chimay, when I said that any beer that costs $10 a bottle better give me an orgasm? Well, I think that's what happened here. And I don't think it was $10 a bottle. Oh My God Trois Pistoles is amazing. This stuff was almost beyond beer. As I write this, I'm thoroughly enjoying a really nice bottle of New Belgium Abbey, just beside myself with happiness, but this stuff ain't 1/100th as good as that Trois Pistole was.

I left quite inebriated and happy. God bless Capital Metro for getting me home.


An old high school classmate that I haven't seen in about 20 years came over this weekend carrying a sixer of Peroni Nastro Azzuro, an Italian beer. Obviously someone who has expanded his taste in beer since our days of terrorizing Rockdale, Texas (pop. 5,600), but as for the Peroni in particular, I can't say I was impressed. Just tastes like a drab pilsner to me. However, he was expressing interest in the New Belgium Abbey Ale that I was drinking, so clearly he's someone I want to drink with in the future. Always good to meet (or in this case, re-meet) someone with adventurous tastes in beer.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sam Adams Brewery on TV

I just saw that some show on the Travel Channel will be touring the Sam Adams Brewery tomorrow night (Tuesday, May 23) at 8pm (central time). That ought to make a nice follow-up to American Beer, which I'm sorry I haven't reviewed yet.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Rolling Rock sells out to Bud

Not that I've ever been a huge fan of Rolling Rock, but it's always sad to see an indie get absorbed. Wonder if they'll screw up RR the way Gambrinus did with Shiner, or Miller did with Celis?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A co-op brew pub?

After watching American Beer at the Alamo Drafthouse on Monday (review to come later), I went over to the Ginger Man and met some cool guys who are trying to start a cooperative brewpub here in Austin. Check them out here. Of special note: They have a new members meeting Saturday. Click on "upcoming events" on their webpage for details.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Special alert from Grapevine Market:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute I.P.A. Given its reputation as the "Holy Grail for hop heads", this beer presents a subtle sweetness one may not expect. The high alcohol and hop content make this is a beer that's only going to improve with age (up to 10 years).

The methods used to produce this beer are extreme and labor intensive. The 120 is only released a few times a year and in very limited quantities.

At $9.79 per 12 oz bottle, it may be the most expensive beer we sell. It's also one of the most unique.

A must try!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New Belgium Trippel

Okay, now I know I'm just sounding like a babbling geek and probably like some sort of new convert to a religion, but I'm really into the Belgian now — today I just got some of New Belgium's Trippel. Oh my freakin' god this is fantastic (please quit rolling your eyes at me). It might be the best of the ones I've tried so far, and far cheaper than the stuff that comes in champagne bottles. I swear I could drink 10 of these right now. Which, I know from a certain experience at the Draught House a couple of years ago, would be a bad idea. But seriously, I think if I was never allowed to drink anything else again for the rest of my life but this, I'd be okay with it. Okay, now I'm thinking my next vacation needs to be to Brussels.

Celis White - nope

I said in earlier posts that, as part of my quest to learn to like Belgian beers, I'd give Celis White another shot, since I probably haven't had one in 12 or so years. Well, I bought a sixer from Grapevine Market, but nope ... I just don't like it. The problem isn't the Belgianness — as I've established over the past couple of weeks, I've learned to like Belgian styles. No, the problem is that Celis White is a wheat beer. And I'll probably have the same bunch of friends ride my ass for unilaterally stating that I do not like wheat beers (just like I did with Belgians), but it's just a fact: I don't like wheat beers. And this tasting of Celis confirmed it.

At least, I didn't like the ones I've tried so far. Actually, that's not exactly true — I remember having a dunkleweissen (dark wheat) that liked. Mainly because I think it was malted to the point that I couldn't really taste the wheat flavor — it just tasted like a dark ale to me. But these summertime wheats that you're supposed to squeeze lemon into — they just don't do it for me.

However, having established that it's the wheat — and not the Belgian — that I don't like, it makes me wish I could give Celis Grand Cru another shot. I didn't like it way back when, but then I again, I thought Shiner Bock was the greatest beer in the world back then. Apparently, Michigan Brewing Co. — the company that has revived Celis White after it was out of production for several years — has also revived Grand Cru, too, although, strangely, there is no info about it on their website.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Singing the no-money blues

Wow, I am broke. As in seriously no money. So don't expect any posts on some awesome new beer I've discovered for a while. This could really put a crimp in the blog. In the meantime, we may have to just entertain each other with fond memories of beer that we've had in the past. I just got some kind of beer trivia cards. Maybe I'll educate you every so often with some bit of beer factoid.

In the meantime, let's modify that old saying: "Beer will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no beer." Except I may not be having much of either in the near future. Except for next Monday, when I go see American Beer at the Alamo Drafthouse. That's already paid for, thankfully.

Dammit, I've gotta cut something out of my household budget. Like, my kids.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Summertime, and the drinkin's easy ...

Okay, that title was lame. I'm an editor, that's part of our job is to come up with corny headlines.

But the point is, summer is here. Time to put away the heavy malty stuff. There's some good stuff out this year for clear, crisp drinking experiences that will cool you off. Try these:

Sierra Nevada's Summerfest is ... well, it's made by Sierra Nevada. Do you need to know anything else? It's light and clean, but it also has flavor — what a concept! I think most of you out there know that good Pilsners really do exist, although I was slow to realize this truth after being deceived by the mainstream breweries. (Shut up, Bret.)

My next discovery, which I think is new this year, is New Belgium's Skinny Dip. It is that thing I didn't know existed: a great tasting light beer. 110 calories. Okay, that's more than Pearl Light, but ... well, I don't think that thought really needs completion. It's from those same cool folks in Colorado who bring you Fat Tire. Their portfolio of beers has been expanding really quickly, and they don't seem to have stumbled yet. This is probably the biggest winner of the bunch; it has this hint of Kaffir lime leaves in it, which gives this yummy citrusy flavor, but not so much that it overwhelms the beer (as opposed to, say, squeezing a lime into Corona to disguise the fact that the beer actually has no flavor).

Almost as good is Shiner's Kolsch. It's not a Pilsner — Kolsch is a German style that the website says was created as an alternative to Pilsner. It's also a real pick-me-up when you're dripping with sweat. Highly recommended when you've fired up the grill, or just finished mowing. (Or both, as was the case with me today.) Dammit, I was about to go to bed, but thinking about it is making me want another one. And speaking of rapidly expanding portfolios, has anybody noticed how Shiner has just taken off? And how all their new experiments just put Shiner Bock to shame?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Allagash Tripel

Now this is that Belgian beer taste that I've always thought I didn't like – Allagash Tripel. All those spices. What is it? Coriander? Anyhoo, maybe I'm just so determined to acquire a taste for it that I'm deceiving myself, but I think I'm learning to dig it. I really am enjoying it, but I think I'm still in the process of acquiring, if that makes any sense. I think like the Dubbel better, but ask me again after I tried this one or two more times, and I might have completely changed my mind. Oh yeah – I tried that Rochefort that Grapevine Market was advertising. It was yummy, but like the Chimay, I'm not sure it's worth the money: $6 for an 11.2oz bottle. I tried the Rochefort 8. I'm tempted to try the 10, but it's a lot of money for one bottle. If you want to try it, Grapevine has about five bottles left.

Next up on my attempts to explore Belgian horizons: Celis White. Which will really be a challenge for me, because it's not only Belgian, but also a wheat beer, and I've never had a wheat beer I like. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Here we go – Belgian beers

After being ridiculed, abused, scorned, and verbally spat upon for admitting that I don't really have a taste for Belgian beers, I decided to acquire one. I just can't handle being an outcast. At least, not among fellow beer snobs. So I've been trying some. And you know, I think I might be on my way to conversion.

I started in the obvious place: Chimay. Specifically, the Premiere (aka "Red Label.") And I liked it just fine – a very bold, quality ale, a sharp but not overpowering touch of bitterness. Although I was worried that I may have liked it because it didn't really have those strong spices that I associate with Belgian beer that have always put me off. My only real quibble is the price – while this is certainly a tasty brew, it ain't $9 worth of tasty, even if it does come in a 750ml bottle. Convert that to a 12oz beer, and you're still talking $4.26 a bottle. Sorry, for that kind of money, I'd better orgasm.

Today I decided to follow the advice of Lance and Bill C. and go for Allagash. Which I suppose is still cheating a bit – it's actually brewed in Portland, Maine, so it's technically a Belgian-
style ale. Cheating or not, I'm digging this. It does have the Belgian taste I expected, but not so much that it makes me recoil, as some others have. Wow, I think I may have converted in the space of a mere 6oz or so. This is good. And at $7 a bottle, it's a little more reasonably priced, although this will still be a special-occasion beer for me. Kind of like the $50 scotch.

Super malty – which is not a problem for me, I can be a malt-head or a hop-head. And perhaps a slight hint of chocolate. And yes, quite strong, although not as strong as I could have gone. I opted for the Dubbel, which clocks in at 7% alcohol. I had the choice of the Tripel (9%), but I have to bicycle home at some point tonight. And I can already tell it's going to be hard enough after this.

Okay, I'm having the same experience I had when I tried to learn to like bourbon. The first time I sipped Jack Daniel's (yes, technically not a bourbon, please spare me), I was put off by the sweetness after having developed my whiskey palate on scotch. But something about the flavor stayed in my brain and kept calling me back. Now I love it. I can tell the same is about to happen here. By the end of this bottle, I'll probably be wondering how I ever didn't like this stuff. Then again, maybe I've just hit on a particular Belgian that fits my tastebuds, and will have a hard time finding others I like. It's kind of like being an explorer.

Thanks for turning me on to Allagash, Bill and Lance!

The official T-shirt of this blog

Thankfully, The Onion has already created it, thus saving me the production costs. This pretty much says it all: http://subscribe.theonion.com/product_info.php?cPath=5_14&products_id=111

(Thanks to my coworker Mark Fagan for wearing it to work today and thus bringing it to my attention.)

Beer and javelins – perhaps not a good combination

Actually, this is pretty cool, mixing my favorite sport with my favorite pastime; one of the best javelin throwers in history is retiring this season and says that, at the last meet he'll have in his hometown, he's buying everyone in the crowd a beer. Given that his hometown is in the Czech Republic, I'm guessing that'll be some good pilsner.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

St. Peter's English Ale

The very first beer I raved about on this blog was St. Peter's Cream Stout. Now that's we're moving toward summer, I decided to move on to their English Ale – which probably isn't really a summer beer, but is a little lighter than stout to be sure. These guys at St. Peter's are truly talented, and I'm a sucker for the throwback flask-shaped bottle. This baby is mighty malty, probably too much so for hot weather drinking, but as I've noted before, the temperature in my office rarely gets above 40 degrees. And best of all, it's organically grown – you can be a drunk and a good environmentalist at the same time! I can't find the beer on their website, but I think it's the same thing as this. I'd say if you see any of their beers, grab them.

As for summertime beers, I'll be blogging on them soon. I've found some good ones lately.