Sunday, September 30, 2007

Uncle Billy's reviewed in the 'Chronicle'

Worth reading: My newspaper, The Austin Chronicle, just did a review of Uncle Billy's Brew and Que. No, I didn't write it. In fact, the author came to the opposition conclusion that I did: she thinks the BBQ takes a back seat to beer, whereas I felt the food was a slight step ahead of the suds.

Guest Blogging From Portland

No, this is not part 2 of my Portland recap, but this e-mail I got from a friend in Portland was just so well-written that I had to post it:

Well, it's starting to rain again, so I guess we'll see less sun for the next, oh, NINE months.

But this time of year has its reward: fresh hop beers. I hadn't heard of such a thing when we first got here, but now I await it eagerly every fall. The idea is, the brewer goes out to some farmer's place and gets some hops right after they're harvested, and throws them into the beer the very same day. It's a distinctively different taste, you get the nice bitter hop flavor, but also something herbal or vegetable-y on top of that.

I got caught off guard this year, Roots was the first place I saw it, Tuesday night when Dave and I headed over there for some darts. Their "Hop-o-pottamus" (what a name) was very much in character, it was one of their hearty, strong ales, it might remind you of Roots Red. Good stuff.

The next day Bridgeport was scheduled to release their "Hop Harvest," so I took a chance and walked over there for lunch. They weren't going to serve it until 4, but luckily I overheard one of the employees talking about it to someone, and when I pestered him about it he took me upstairs and gave me a small sample. From that sample, my impression was that it was very competently done, but maybe not quite as tasty as what they had last year. They took a chance this year, and made a stronger (7%) ale, almost an IPA. I'll give it another chance and see if it tastes better in a bigger glass. Lee, you might look around Austin for this, they're selling some in 22 oz. bottles for the first time.

Well, since I had two days in a row of fresh hop beers, I went to Laurelwood's NW location yesterday (Thursday) to see if they had their version yet, but was disappointed. Apparently they do have it on the eastside.

Today I headed over to the Rogue brewpub for lunch, and they had just tapped their "Hop Heaven". This was much more classic than Bridgeport's, and I'll probably try to soak up more of it while it lasts. Maybe you can even get bottles of this outside Oregon?

So, to paraphrase Meatloaf, 3 out of 4 ain't bad. Next week I'll pop into the New Old Lompoc to check theirs out (that's the same brewery as Hedge House), and Lucky Lab should have theirs pretty soon. I may even break down and go to Rock Bottom, since they have one on tap right now. Next month there is a mini-festival of fresh hop beers at the McMenamin's in Troutdale, I'll see if I can scare up a posse for that. Deschutes (Bend, OR) makes one called "Hop Trip" every year, with any luck I'll find that on tap somewhere.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Texas Beer Poll

Josquin over at Drinking Beer in Texas currently has a poll asking: "Which Texas brewing establishment makes your favorite Texas beer? (Select more than one if you like.)"

I voted for the Draught House, Live Oak (love me some Big Bark), North by Northwest (love filling up that growler, and those monthly cask-conditioned ales), Saint Arnold (definitely the most adventurous and interesting brewery in Texas right now), and Spoetzl (yeah, Bock has gotten lame, but I finally decided they deserved credit for Shiner 98 and Kolsch).

Go exercise your right to vote!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beer Geeks

Beer Girl has posted a Guinness TV ad that's so hilarious I just had to link to it. Go check it out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Portland, part 1: Oregon Brewers Festival

Well, darnit, like I always do, I've wasted too much time after a great event to blog about it. Jeez, it's been almost two months. Now I've probably forgotten a lot of the great stuff. Ah well, I'll drink this bottle of Pranqster and try to reassemble my memories of a really wonderful vacation.

Man, there is so much to like about Portland. If I've ever been tempted to leave Austin, this might be the city that does it. From the political angle, they are doing so much that I want Austin to embrace – encouraging smart, mixed-use development downtown instead of building more highways out to sprawling suburbs, building a first-rate mass transit system, and making the city as friendly as possible toward bicycling. Climate-wise, it was such a refreshing break from Texas – the hottest it ever got was 84. And get this: There are
no bugs. Seriously. Bill and Carla would leave their windows open all day and night, with no screens. If you tried to do that in Austin, you'd be completely drained of blood by sunrise. (For more on the nondrinking aspect of our trip, consult M'Lady's blog.)

And then, of course, there was the beer. My god, was there beer. Was it my imagination, or was there really a brewpub on every single block?

The trip started off not at a brewpub, but at the 20th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival. You're not going to believe this, but as much as I love the brew, this was my very first beer festival. Man, walking in for the first time was overwhelming –
there was just so much from which to choose. I was paralyzed with indecision. I only had about two hours, enough tokens for about 20 samples, and 72 possibilities. Eventually, however, I settled into a groove.

Very quickly, I started trending in an IPA-ish direction. I discovered during the trip that Portlanders love their IPAs. Maybe it's because the hops are so fresh up there, but it seemed like every place I went had one. So the standards were pretty high, and not just any old IPA would do. Case in point was Hopworks Urban's (Portland) Organic IPA, which was merely average. And Ram Restaurant and Brewery (Salem, Ore.) had a double IPA — normally a sure winner with me — that let me down. Some fruit notes, but not a lot going on flavor-wise.

Much better was the double IPA from Standing Stone (Ashland, Ore., and not to be confused with California's Stone Brewery). This wonderful hop overload quickly convinced me that I wanted a full mug instead of a mere three-ounce sample (samples cost one token, full mugs cost four). I figured that was as good as it was going to get, but I was wrong. My friends kept telling that I absolutely had to try Russian River's (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Pliny the Elder, also a double IPA, so I finally grabbed some near the end. It was even better than Standing Stone. It tasted both sweet and bitter simultaneously (um, perhaps "bittersweet" is the word I'm looking for here, duh) and had an absolutely magnificent nose. Another full mug was called for, and things got a bit foggy at that point.

There were more than IPAs, of course. Bison Brewing (Berkeley, Calif.) offered up a tasty Organic Chocolate Stout. I'm normally a tad leery of chocolate stouts, because too often the chocolate is overdone, but I seem to recall this having a nice balance, with tasty coffee notes as well. Grand Teton's (Victor, Idaho) Bitch Creek ESB was a rich, full-bodied brew. Sprecher (Glendale, Wisc.) surprised me with a mai bock, or "blonde bock," a style I'm unfamiliar with. It didn't look particularly blonde, and it was not what I expect from a bock — definitely lighter, not with the typical malt punch. Tasty, though.

And of course my taste for Belgians was humored: Flying Fish (Cherry Hill, N.J.) entered a Bourbon Barrel Abbey Dubbel; I vaguely remember it now, but my notes say "weird, but good." Terminal Gravity (Enterprise, Ore.) had a trippel that disappointingly had no flavor (maybe that's why the program described it as "a taste that's hard to define.") Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub (Tigard, Ore.) had a nice Saison Golden, a style I've really warmed up to. That didn't compare, though, to those wicked good brewers at Stone Brewing (Escondido, Calif.), makers of several things I love including a great IPA and the wonderfully named Arrogant Bastard. This time, their entry was a saison named Stone 07/07/07 Vertical Epic. My notes say "OMFG." I seem to remember rushing back to our camp and
demanding that everyone try some. It's the best saison I've ever had.

You know what? This post has rambled on for too long, and my experience as a professional writer is that people quit reading after a certain point. So we'll call this "Part 1" — stay tuned for future installments soon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Our new merchandise line


Okay, I'm kidding. Sadly, this woman (and her panties) have absolutely nothing to do with this blog or me. (And probably wouldn't have even back when I was single.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Heavy-duty Beers I'm Really Liking Right Now

Some full-flavored (and full-alcohol) beers that you should go get right now, because they are limited-edition:

After an agonizing wait,
Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 5 is finally out. It was agonizing because I dearly, dearly loved No. 4. If you're not up to speed on the Divine Reserve series from this Houston brewery, every so often Saint Arnold brews up something special, and not for the weak-kneed. In 2005 they made a barleywine, early 2006 the came out with an abbey quadruppel, late 2006 a double IPA, and last year (and this is when I first discovered Divine Reserve), they made a glorious wee heavy. Number 5 is an imperial stout. It's not the best imperial stout I've ever had – I'll give that title to North Coast's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout – and it's not quite as magnificent as the No. 4, but it's still damn fine. A nice roasted quality with strong notes of chocolate and coffee. It's almost chewy, and at 10% alcohol, one will do you for the evening. If you go out looking for it, I'll give you a little hint: I don't know what the policy is at other stores, but at Grapevine Market it's not just sitting on the shelves — you'll need to go up to the service counter and ask for it by name. And give the secret password and the double-secret handshake. (Just kidding on that last one.)

As heavy as the Divine Reserve is, it almost seems light compared to the 2007 version of
North Coast's Old Stock Ale. They call the style "old ale," whatever that means. Whatever it is, me likey. A lot. I wish I could afford to round out every single night for the rest of my life with one of these. If my memory serves, it tastes a lot like that No. 4 wee heavy. The best way I can think to describe it "rich." And I don't just mean the price (something like $14 for a four-pack). This beer is filling, satisfying, and at 11.7%, very mellowing. And speaking of mellowing, they recommend you set aside some to age. I plan to. In fact, I'm going age both the Old Stock and the Divine Reserve in my closet and try them again a year from now.

Give me a pint or give me death

I'm normally a big advocate of converting to the metric system, but this article sent to me by Todd P reminds me that sometimes, tradition must hold out against "progress." Let's hear it for Britain for defending the noble pint!

The Sun (England)


September 12, 2007 Wednesday


UK beats EU in war over pint

BRITAIN won its battle with Brussels over imperial measures yesterday.

The U-turn by EU chiefs -first revealed by The Sun -means shops can sell in pounds and ounces. Pints and miles also stay to protect UK "traditions and culture".

EU Industry Commissioner Gunther Verheugen said yesterday: "The idea that you could not go for a pint in a pub in Britain is not acceptable."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Free Belgian beer!

Okay, don't get too excited — it's conditional.

In case I haven't mentioned it, oh, in the last five minutes, my favorite sport is
track and field, and a week from today is the very coolest track meet of them all: the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, Belgium. Why is this one the best? Because of this (from their website):

Free beer for each new world record
Jupiler Blue offers every single spectator of the crowd of 47,000 a free Jupiler Blue should a world record be broken at the Memorial Van Damme on 14 September 2007. As soon as a world record has been broken the audience can collect their free Jupiler Blue at the bars.

Okay, maybe that's not as great as it sounds. The readers of ratebeer.com didn't speak too highly of Jupiler Blue. But ah, what the hell — free beer is free beer. Unless it's Coors. Even I won't drink free Coors.