Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dammit, I just gave money to Budweiser

So I was craving some pumpkin beer – yes, this time of year, I actually start wanting some, and I don't care if you think I'm a freak – and I decided to be brave and try something other than Buffalo Bill's. So after considering the five (!) different varieties available at HEB – man, everybody is getting in on this fad – I settled on something called Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale. Only after I got home did I discover, much to my disgust, the words "Anheuser-Busch, Inc." on the bottle.

Now, despite the impression I give off, I'm not completely anti-corporate. If big companies put out a product I like or need at a price that's reasonable, then fine, I'll buy it. (Frankly, I've always thought Starbucks-bashers were a little irrational. Starbucks makes good coffee.) But the point is, there are plenty of small brewers who are making pumpkin beer as good or better as anything A-B is going to put out, and in that case, I'd just as soon give the little guy my money. Anheuser-Busch isn't as desperate for me to buy that six-back as the dedicated small breweres are. (Which is why I'll still go to Quack's or Little City instead of Starbucks
if the option is available.) So now I'm really wishing I had paid more attention. I probably could have just taken it back for a refund. But I decided to suck up my snobbishness and give it a try.

And of course, it was quite mediocre. Oh well, lesson learned.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What is your favorite beer?

I know people are looking at my blog, but not many people post responses. I want to get some discussion going. So I'm going to ask a real simple question: What's your favorite beer? Now, I realize that for a beer snob, that's a complex question; so, you can break it down to as many different styles as you like.

I'll get us started. My faves, which are always subject to change at any minute:

IPA: Dogfish Head 60 Minute
stout: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Belgian-style: New Belgium's Trippel
regular pale ale: Sierra Nevada or Boulevard
Black lager: 1554
Pilsner: I'm going to cheat and say Shiner Kolsch. Yes, I know a kolsch is technically not a pilsner, but it's close enough for me.
light beer: Skinny Dip, without question, because it doesn't taste like light beer.
Christmas beer: Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale. (Actually, this might be my favorite beer overall.)
Fruit beer: Aprihop
Oktoberfest beer: Shiner 96 – too bad this wonderful Marzen was a limited edition and is now gone forever. (Please bring it back, Shiner!)

I might add more later, but I have to get to work. Feel free to offer up your own suggestions and/or ridicule mine.

Beer drinkers of the world unite

I love Sitemeter (, which I mentioned a few posts ago, because it lets me know where my readers are. I'm not entirely sure how they all found me, or why they looked at my site or what they thought of it, but I've had not only readers from across America but the world as well. My foreign readers so far: several from Canada, and one each from Mexico City, a suburb of London, France, Germany, Denmark, the Phillipines, and most surprisingly, Beijing!

Welcome in whatever language you speak.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mighty Fine Beer From Mags' Denver Trip

M'Lady went up to Denver to visit our friends the Wesleys recently, and I'm long overdue in thanking her for the good beer she brought back for me. She returned bearing several pint-plus bottles from Rock Bottom Brewery, which is apparently some sort of chain, but beer like this could give chains a good name. Among their beers that she brought back: The Copper Ale (which I don't see listed here) didn't move me, but the Molly's Titanic Brown Ale was quite impressive, especially since brown ales are usually well down on my list of favorite styles (i.e., I've never been as knocked out by Newcastle as most people). It had a nice sweetness to it, not something I usually think of in Brit-style ales. She also brought back their 16th St. Wheat, which I'm unqualified to comment on since I'm just not a wheat guy – I'll leave that to her. But by far the best was the Falcon Pale Ale – excellent. I'd put it right in there with Sierra Nevada or Boulevard for hitting that just-perfect balance of hoppiness versus still being accessible enough that anyone can drink it (as opposed to the stronger IPAs that only us hop-heads can tolerate). (EDIT: Actually, I just drank another bottle and it's pretty damn hoppy. Maybe I should retract that previous statement.)

Apparently, each location has its own unique brews. Perhaps Mr. Canfield and Mr. Morris could scout out the one in Portland?

I won't go so far as to clamor for one of these in Austin – we already have North by Northwest, so we're set for slightly upscale brewpub/restaurants – but I'll definitely try to visit if I'm in one of their cities.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Black is the new black

Everybody is jumping on this new "black lager" bandwagon now. I just spotted this over at HEB. Haven't tried it yet, but hope to as soon as my next paycheck comes. I've used up my beer allowance, especially after buying that pricey Dogfish Head pumpkin beer.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another Pumpkin beer

You just knew Dogfish Head would have to get into the act. And you just knew I'd have to try it. I swear, if the brewmaster of Dogfish Head decided to pee in a bottle and put a label on it, I'd have to at least give it a taste.

Thankfully, he did a little better than that. Instead, much like the Buffalo Bill guys (see a few posts below), they've made Punkin Ale, "a full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg." I was honestly a little bit wary – I mean really, how many pumpkin beers do we need? – but you know, I actually like this quite a bit better than the Buffalo Bill stuff. The flavor is more subtle – I'm not sure I'd guess it had pumpkin if you didn't tell me – and it's quite sweet. In both respects, it is very much like Dogfish Head's Aprihop ale. Whereas Buffalo Bill is fun for the novelty but doesn't hold up to more than just one or samplings a year, this is a beer I could drink just about any time and consider it a real treat. Even if you've tried pumpkin beer and thought you didn't like it, you may want to give this one a shot.

People are looking for Shiner 97

Being a stats geek, I couldn't resist putting a visit counter/traffic monitor on my blog. Sitemeter provides fascinating stats on who is visiting and how they're finding me. It's especially neat when I get foreign hits — I've gotten several visits from Canada, and one each from France, Mexico City, and the Phillipines.

Lately, Shiner 97 has really caused my activity to spike up. I guess I'm one of the few people to mention yet, and people are obviously hunting for it — of my last 20 visits, 13 were from people Googling "Shiner 97." And they're probably thirsty (pun intended) for that info because Shiner still has no information about it on their own website! Amazing. Somebody in marketing needs to get on the ball.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shiner 97 reviewed

I finally got a six pack of Shiner's 97th anniversary beer (see post below about how Spoetzl is releasing a new beer every year leading up to their 100th). I'm a bit disappointed to say that my anticipation exceeds the beer itself. That's not to say it's bad – it's actually a decent rendering of the black lager style. If you've never tried it – it's a pretty rare style – it is jet black, but doesn't have the heaviness of a stout or porter. Shiner has taken a nice shot at it, but it doesn't quite stack up to New Belgium's 1554, my first experience with black. It's missing a little something – there's a thinness to the taste, whereas 1554 has a warmth, a roundness to it that 97 lacks. The roasty taste is slightly stronger in the 1554 … or, for that matter Xingu or North by Northwest's Okanogan, other great examples. It's a creditable enough attempt – I'd give it a B – but I don't think I'll be developing the addiction that had last year to 96, the wonderful Marzen-style Oktoberfest beer from last fall.

I would include links and art, but amazingly, Shiner has yet to make any mention of 97 on their website. I could just include a pic of a 96 bottle, because the 97 bottle is identical.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

FREE Belgian beer at Grape Vine!

I'll give you one guess what I'll be doing on Saturday afternoon. In case you aren't aware, Grape Vine Market is at 7938 Great Northern Blvd in Austin:

Beerman's Picks of the Week

Dendermonde Grape Vine Market's Beerman is possessed by the Devil!

... a devil named Belgium!

Beerman just can't get enough Belgian Beer. For such a small country (~11,690 sq miles of land), Belgium produces an astonishing number of truly outstanding beers, and it's Beerman's goal to carry every Belgian brew he can get his hands on.

This week, Belgian brewery de Block, which literally translates to "the Devil", is fanning the flames of Beerman's desire with two new brews:
  • Dendermonde
    $8.79 tri-pack 11.2 oz bottles

  • Special 6
    $7.99 tri-pack 11.2 oz bottles

Be sure to stop by the Beer department this SATURDAY, 12 N - 6 PM, where we'll be offering FREE samples of both Dendermonde and Special 6. Don't miss this opportunity to dance with Devil.

Are you ready for Oktoberfest?! Beerman is!

He's got several limited release Oktoberfest beers in stock, including Beerman's own personal favorite, Ayinger Oktoberfest.

Speaking of limited releases, don't forget the Shiner 97!

Beerman is so excited about this beer, he bought enough to build a couch out of the cases. Check it out!

Beerman's Beer Couch

This marvel of modern architecture is functional and is even set up facing the TV. It's the best seat in the house! Just don't lean back. She may not be very practical, but ain't she purdy?!

Excellent beer-soaked commentary

I've never been to the Horseshoe Lounge before, despite hearing great things about it. Sadly, I just don't make to South Austin much these days. Heck, I don't make it out to bars much these days. But this commentary by Aggie Dave makes me want to check it out. Sounds like my late, lamented Henry's Bar & Grill.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My wife has gone over to the dark side ...

Well okay, Pearl Light isn't really evil, but jeez, wouldn't tap water do just as well?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Yo, Shiner – WTF?

This ad was sent to me by a former San Antonian now living in Columbus, Ohio. What does Shiner mean by "we" owe Texas a few "shiners" (i.e., black eyes)? C'mon guys, I understand regional marketing and all, but are you a Texas beer or an Ohio beer? Time to take a stand, guys – no playing both sides of the fence. The sender felt a bit betrayed, and tend to agree. Hey – you're either with us, or you're against us.

EDIT: I also publicized this anti-Texas faux pas in The Austin Chronicle (scroll about one-third of the way down the page), and a few hours after publication, we received this statement from Gambrinus:

The Gambrinus Company, owner of the Spoetzl Brewery – Texas’ oldest independent brewery, and the Shiner Family of Beers, in no way sanctioned, approved or authorized recent advertising in The Other Paper in Columbus, Ohio.

Born in Shiner, raised in Austin, Shiner Beers, throughout its nearly century-long brewing history, has always embodied and been committed to the people and pride that is Texas. Preserving and protecting that strong Texas heritage is a priority for the Gambrinus Company and for the 53 dedicated employees at the Spoetzl Brewery deep in the heart of Texas.

(As it turns out, the ad was placed by Hill Distributing Co., Shiner's distributor in that area.)

Word of the Day: Small Beer

Thanks to Shirl for this:

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

You know Autumn is near when …

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale starts showing up in stores. Yes, it's back, folks. Some of us look at it as nature's beautiful gift to eclectic beer lovers, others view it as a waste of hops, barley, and water, and still others are just nonplussed. I lean toward the first view, although I'll admit that one or two per year usually satisfies my craving, and I give the rest of the six pack to friends.

Shiner 97 is here! It's finally here!

This week's Grape Vine Market newsletter reports that Shiner 97 has arrived! That's exciting news for me, because last year's 96 quickly became a favorite of mine.

In case you don't remember, or live under a rock (or outside of Texas — same thing), Shiner is releasing a limited-supply new beer each year leading up to their 100th anniversary. Last year's brew was named 96 — for their 96th year in business — this year's brew is named 97, and so on. The 96 was an outstanding Oktoberfest beer that marked my first introduction to the Märzen style. I loved it and drank it constantly last fall for as long as it lasted. In fact, I liked it better than Shiner Bock, their flagship beer; I even wrote them a letter and begged them to make it a permanent part of their lineup. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who felt this way.

The Grape Vine newsletter reports that 97 is a "Bohemian Black Lager." If that means that it's a black beer in the mode of New Belgium's 1554 or the Brazilian Xingu brand, then I'm very excited, because I've really grown to love that style. North by Northwest brewpub makes a mighty fine black as well. Sez Grape Vine's Beerman:

"In spite of its dark richness, the Shiner 97 is one that even people who usually don't like dark beers will enjoy. It's actually very light on the tongue, and its crispness and low alcohol content make it an easy drinking beer. It's definitely worth a try, and once it's gone, it's gone."

The Shiner website has no mention of 97 yet, but it does say that, appropriately enough, the Old 97's will be playing their big Bocktoberfest bash on Oct. 14.

EDIT: Now when I say "it's here," I'm trusting the Grape Vine newsletter, which advertises it and actually gives a price. However, I just went across the street to the Hancock HEB and saw no sign of it.

However, I did see that that HEB has all Shiner products on sale for $4.99 a sixer — that's $1.50 off). Pretty good price, unless you think that's what Shiner Bock ought to cost all the time. (Now, I know HEB would never be so crass as to label it a "Back to School" sale, but the college kids are back and that store is the number one grocery outlet for students living on or near campus …)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

No, it's not brewed in Austin

Because if it was, it would be named "Lamar Blvd." instead of "Lamar St." But it's a most enjoyable hoppy little pale ale that Jud brought over today while we watched the Longhorns massacre North Texas. The beer was far more interesting than the game. It's brewed by Goose Island Beer in Chicago. John Bruzan, maybe you're familiar with it? Jud picked it up at Whole Foods here in Austin. Or as we like to call it, Whole Paycheck. And — fittingly for the place of purchase — it's organic! As regular readers know, I'm a strong advocate of protecting the environment while inebriated.

Friday, September 01, 2006

My buddies are blogging about beer, too

Far be it from me to be the only person talking about beer. I want to offer a diversity of drunken opinions:

Bobnoxious found a great thing to do with your Milwaukee's Beast empties.

And on the other end of the drinking spectrum, Karla contemplates the divine magnificence of London pubs.

And of course, Shirl's blog indexes his posts by keyword, one of which is beer, although I see he hasn't made any beer postings since April. C'mon, Bill, get to drinking!

P.S. Not exactly regarding cheap beer (see Bob's blog), but cheaper beer: H.E.B. at Hancock Center, which has a magnificent selection, has a bunch of stuff on sale now, including everything by New Belgium at $6.99 per sixer (about a dollar off). I think I'm gonna go grab a mixed case of Trippel, Fat Tire, Blue Paddle, and 1554. Or maybe Abbey. Or maybe Skinny Dip. Damn, they make too many good beers to fit into a case.