This is what I'm drinking A LOT of right now. Yes, it's in cans. Unusual among craft brewers, but don't let it scare you off. It's from the Oskar Blues Cajun Grill & Brewery in Lyons, Colorado. More breweries should pick up on this — there are plenty of places, like camping or festivals, where glass just isn't allowable, and Oskar Blues ensures you don't have to lower your standards just to take some beer along.
First, the wife brought home their Old Chub Scottish Ale, a very hearty dark brew with body out the wazoo. If you like your beer with some meat on its bones, this did the trick.
Now we've moved into summer, though, and their Dale's Pale Ale is more suitable. It's loaded with hops, just a bit shy of being an IPA. Lots of backbone to it. I've really gotten hooked on this one; sixers of it in my fridge aren't lasting very long right now.
And finally, they also have Gordon, a strong ale. I've only had a sip — I was hoping Bobnoxious would give me a whole can last week when we were watching the theatrical version of Beauty & the Beast at the Zilker Hillside Theatre (don't laugh; you do things like that when you have children, especially four-year-old girls), but Bob was guarding his pretty fiercely and didn't seem emotionally prepared to give too much away. I don't blame him — it was a mighty hearty barleywine-ish thing. (Just kidding, Bob — you've always been generous with your brew.)
The web site also shows something named Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, but I haven't seen that down here in Texas yet.
But what about that aluminum taste, you ask? Won't it ruin quality beer? It certainly didn't bother me any. Sure, you can taste it on your lips, but it didn't appear to have infiltrated the beer itself. Says their website:
"[W]e discovered that the belief that cans impart flavor to beer is a myth. The modern-day aluminum can and its lid are lined with a water-based coating, so the beer and the can never touch. Cans, we discovered, are actually good for beer. Cans keep beer especially fresh by fully protecting it from light and oxygen. Our cans also hold extremely low amounts of dissolved oxygen, so our beer stays especially fresh for longer. Cans are also easier to recycle and less fuel-consuming to ship."
Another Austin blogger is reporting that offerings from the new (512) Brewing are now available in local bars. I look forward to trying them soon. Perhaps even this Saturday, for those of you who know what I'm talking about.
One of my very favorite breweries, which I've raved about here often, is Kansas City's Boulevard. I'd heard they started distributing in Texas, but only up in the DFW area. Now, a buyer with Spec's informs me: "Boulevard has just become available in Austin and should be in the stores later this week or early next week."
Kick butt! Of course, I'm guessing they won't be sending their seasonals and specialties down here, so I'm sure I'll still be dependent on my twice-annual trips to see the in-laws for that stuff. Or trips by the mother-in-law down here to Texas.
Fun bit of trivia: Since InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch, Boulevard is now the largest Missouri-owned brewery.
Waitaminnit … Lone Star and Pearl aren't truly Texas beers anymore (they're both owned by Pabst now), but Pete's Wicked is? I just discovered that Pete's is owned by Gambrinus, the same San Antonio-based company that owns Spoetzl (Shiner).
I'm just all confused now. Jeez, what's next … some Belgian company buying Anheuser-Busch?
Our first stop during the latest Portland bicycling brewpub tour (see my most recent post below, or go here) was this new place called Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB). Now, from my parent perspective, any restaurant that wants my business needs to have a kids' menu, but … a "Lil' Brewers' Menu"?!? Dude. Seriously. (Click on the top image.)
I thought that was hilarious enough, but click now on the second image and check out the word search puzzle. I keep hearing Mr. Rogers' voice saying, "Can you say mash tun, boys and girls?"
Oh my GOD I just had one of the greatest vacations of my life.
First off, I went to Eugene, Oregon — aka "Track Town USA" — for the United States Olympic Track & Field Trials. As those of you know me well are all too aware, I am a rabid fan of track & field (or "athletics," as it's known in the rest of the world). That might seem strange to you, as there aren't too many of us track geeks, but my love of the sport was burned into my soul back in high school, when I finally discovered that long-distance running was the one sport at which my then-skinny ass did not suck. After years of being that kid who always got picked last when choosing teams, I suddenly became an athlete, and to this day, 22 years later, I am still the Rockdale High School record holder in the one- and two-mile runs. (Yes, I know, you're very impressed.) I went on to a brief and undistinguished career with the University of Texas Longhorns, where I set the school record in the 9,600 meter run (that's a joke, which Bret – my former teammate who accompanied on this trip — will be happy to tell you about).
So I'm still a huge fan, and if I had done nothing but watch eight days of the nation's best track & field athletes compete to make the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics, I would have been blissed out. But it was so much more than that, thanks in no small part to my loving and scheming wife. (More on her later.) To start with — and here's the part you care about — this was in Oregon. And Oregon is synonymous with beer. Good beer. And the track meet was no exception. Yes sir, the organizers at the University of Oregon knew there would be hell to pay if they pulled a German World Cup and limited the crowd to McDonald's and Budweiser. They supplied some decent food, good coffee, and a beer selection that included Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen and Drop-Top Amber. Track and a generously hoppy brew? Sweet.
(Okay, I know you don't care so much about the track, but I have to rave about it at least briefly. Skip to the next paragraph if you just don't care.) I got to see three American reccords — in the men's 100 meters, the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase, and women's pole vault! Plus two national high school records! And most exciting, I got to see Tyson Gay (that's him signing autographs in the photo) run the fastest time ever recorded by a human being in the 100 meters — 9.68 seconds, wow — but it didn't count as a world record because there was too much of a tailwind. Still, record or not, it gave me goosebumps. And really making me happy, six former Longhorns made the team. And it all happened at Hayward Field, one of the most revered track stadiums in America.
The party of course, continued away from Hayward Field. Eugene may be a tiny college town, but it has its share of good breweries and bars. The ones I enjoyed the most (and recommend): McMenamin's East 19th Street Cafe, part of that cool chain of Oregon brewpubs. Decent food, quality brews. Just two blocks south of the stadium.
Villard Street Pub, three blocks east of the stadium, and the party place for the trials. Pretty much every athlete (except the ultra-religious ones, I suppose) showed his or her face there once their event was done. I swear, you've never seen a bar with so many incredibly fit patrons. Villard Street was hosting a microbrew and wine festival simultaneous to the trials, and the highlight for us was that it featured several beers by … Eugene City Brewery, a Rogue-owned bar that makes — oh this made me happy — Track Town Ales. Seriously. Dig the logo with the track spike. The lineup includes 100 Meter Ale, 200 Meter Ale (this was an IPA that became the favorite of me and my track geek friends), and Triple Jump Ale.
And the kicker was Track Town Pizza, featuring decent pizza (click on the link and get a laugh out of the menu), a fine beer selection (shouldn't every college student be able to have an IPA with his pizza?), and a wall adorned with historic pictures of famous track & field stars. It was like my personal room in heaven. (See photo of me and the other track geeks at TTP below.)
So that would have been enough to bliss me out. But it gets better.
There were two rest days in the middle of all this, so Bret and I headed up I-5 to Portland to spend them with our buddy Bill and his family. I've raved before about what an unbelievably insane beer scene Portland has. In fact, I did a three-partseries on it, the highlight of which was Bill leading me, Todd, and a neighbor on a bicycling tour of Portland's brew pubs. (See part two of that series.) Just getting to see the Bill Family would have been enough of a bliss-out.
But wait, it gets even better – Mags (that's the aforementioned wife), wanting to make this a big 40th birthday event, flew up from her family visit to Kansas City, accompanied by our friends the Jaurigue family. Okay, so that would have been enough bliss.
But wait — does this sound like one of those old Ginsu knife commercials? — it got even better. No less than Todd himself, my best friend since high school and former Portlander, secretly flew in from Cleveland and surprised me!!! That was arranged by the wife. Honey, that was one hell of a present. I love you. So of course, having Bill, Bret, Mags, Todd and me together led to the inevitable combo beer tasting/poker game. Then, the next day, we (minus the wife, who had to get back to KC, but with the addition of Erik, another Portland friend/track geek I know) did a reprisal of the bicycling brewpub tour, and it was just as wonderful as the original. Thankfully, since this post is already way too long, I can just send you over to Bill's recounting of it.
I spent way too much money, but since my 40th is coming up in August, I did so with the wife's blessing (and help, thanks again), and had more fun that I thought possible. I'm pretty sure I've never had that much fun for 10 consecutive days. And believe me, I haven't even scratched the surface of everything I could say about the trip. I could prattle on about it forever.
Buy me a beer the next time you see me and I probably will.
I just can't bring myself to get worked up over the sale of Anheuser-Busch to InBev. Everyone else seems so freaked out, like America is losing a piece of its soul or something. Baloney. And this article in Salon.com just confirms it's baloney.
I have so much to tell you guys. I just got back from a magnificent trip to Oregon, which of course included massive quantities of quality beer. But I'm still recovering. So in the meantime, I'm stepping aside for this guest blog from Ana Wolken ofAustin Sound Check, who briefly recounts the fun from the Real Ale 12th anniversary party out in Blanco and follows with tons of pictures. Thanks Ana!
By Ana Wolken
By the time we arrived in Blanco for the Real Ale Anniversary Party, the brewery was already starting to fill up. Much to my surprise and happiness, four free beers allowed for each person, plus a free BBQ plate. However, the line for beer was non-existent and the day went well.
I started off by sampling the Rio Blanco Pale Ale, which was drinkable, but way too hoppy for my tastes. The Real Ale website boasts the Rio Blanco's well-balanced hops, but I felt it was just too bitter to be truly delicious. Next up was the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, which was better, but still a touch hoppy for my palate. After those two adventures into hops-land, I went back to my tried and true Real Ale standby, Firemans #4 Blonde Ale. Smooth, with a taste of citrus, Firemans is perfect light, summertime ale.
Real Ale was also offering Lost Gold IPA, Brewhouse Brown Ale and the occasional keg of Devil's Backbone, but I didn't stray in those directions. I'm not a dark beer kind of girl, and I've heard horror stories involving the high alcohol content of Devil's Backbone. They did not have Alamo Gold available to sample, in fact, it's not even listed on the website. Our tour guide, Distracto, noted that Alamo Gold is only available in San Antonio. (Note to self.)
Below are a multitude of pictures from the festivities, including pictures from inside the brewery. Thanks to tour guide and brewery owner, Distracto, who was very informative and friendly. All photos are copyright John Weatherly.
In case you missed it in the paper version, my round-up of Texas beers appeared in The Austin Chronicle last week. Comments/critiques welcomed either here or on the Chronicle website. (photo by John Anderson for The Austin Chronicle. Do not reprint without his permission.)