Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Can you get tired of a great beer?

Well, I'm about to find out. Fresh Plus has had two cases of Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome just sitting there, unbought, unconsumed, and collecting dust for more than a year. That's just wrong, people. Perhaps the buyer just ordered too much, but this is (with the possible exception of Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale) my very favorite winter beer. It was just killing me. I finally decided to take action — I told Fresh Plus that if they would cut me a deal, I would take the two cases off their hands. They gave me 10% off (which they admitted was their standard by-the-case discount; in retrospect, I should have bargained harder), so I got $110 worth of beer for about $99. Mrs. Beer Lover wasn't real happy about the transaction, but then I reminded her of her $100 visits to the hair salon, so a truce was declared. And besides, I'm gonna drink every drop of it. Only problem is, I likely won't drink it all real soon (the weather is already starting to get warm, and I'll be ready to move on to lighter beers) so by the time I finish it, it will be over two years old. Hopefully it will retain its flavor in the bottle, and hopefully I won't burn myself out on it. I can't imagine ever getting to a point where I don't like this stuff, but I do like variety in my drinking experiences.

So if you're a fan of this beer or curious, head on over to my house — I've got one with your name on it.

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout

Drinking at work again. (It's okay, I'm just waiting for page PDFs to come back, so I can do a quick scan and then sign my initials to them. A trained monkey could cover for me after 5:30 on most Wednesdays.) And I'm very much enjoying yet another Samuel Smith's stout – this time, their Imperial Stout. (See "In a stout place" for a review of their Oatmeal Stout.) And we have yet another winner. Gawd this is satisfying. So robust! This is a manly brew. The bottle says "Contractors to Her Majesty's forces," and this is certainly a beer worthy of the soldiers that conquered half the globe. Chewy. Heavy. Just perfect for winter drinking (yes, it's spring now, but for some reason my office is always slightly colder than places where they breed reindeer) – this jet-black brew has an edgy, coffee-ish tone, and in a way serves the same function: It sinks to the bottom of your belly and slowly starts warming you up from the inside, fending off the brutal elements (in this case, an overactive air conditioner).

Mmmm. I'm in a happy place. This would only be better if I were drinking it in a London pub. Well, I am eating this with stuffed cabbage and mashed potatoes. That sounds like something they would eat in England, doesn't it?

A whole movie about beer? Woo-hoo!

Here's a don't-miss for the microbrew lover: American Beer, a documentary about and ode to our nation's passionate independent brewers, which will be showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown May 15 (7pm) and May 16 (9:45pm). And of course, the Alamo – the greatest movie theatre in America – will be serving samples of each of the brews served in the movie. I repeat: Woo-hoo! Go here to buy tickets and read a description of the movie and a list of the featured beers.

A chance for the Texas Lege to do something smart

Apparently that dumb idea by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to go hunting for and arrest drunks in bars (see two posts down) isn't going over so well. Hopefully the Texas Legislature will slap this stupid idea down and put the TABC on a leash. Now I'm completely against drunk driving, but many of the TABC arrests were made inside hotel bars! What did they think the drunks were going to do, run over somebody on their way to the hotel elevator back to their room? It's been obvious for years that the point of the TABC is not to regulate drinking, but to end it. That's why a friend of mine says TABC stands for "Texas Association of Baptist Churches." That joke always just pisses me off every time I try to buy beer on Sunday morning and am reminded that … oh yeah, I can't, because of our stupid blue laws.

My buddy Dave Thomas has also blogged about this madness here and here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Raise a glass to Buck ...

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. passed away yesterday – better known as Buck Owens. Yes, the guy from "Hee Haw." But if that's all you know about him, you really need to go out and buy a couple of his albums. Before he was the star of that bit of cornball television, he was a mind-blowing musician, a huge influence on everyone from the Beatles to Dwight Yoakam. I am in mourning ...

Friday, March 24, 2006


Headline from News 8 Austin's website today: "TABC Looking for Drunks in Bars"

You know, that's a strategy so simple that it just might work.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More drinking with liberals - TONIGHT

From the really cool political blog Burnt Orange Report:

Join us at the event that everyone's talking about:

Keep Austin Blue Social Hour
(3rd Wednesday of the Month)
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 due to SXSW
featuring bloggers


TIME: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
PLACE: Mother Egan’s Irish Pub – 715 W. 6th

Join like-minded individuals, with a shared passion for keeping Austin progressive, for stimulating conversation, well-known speakers, and genuine Austin fun.

* 6:30 to 7:15 - Social Hour
* 7:15 to 8:00 - Speakers

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Because "drinking conservatively" is boring

I really must go check these guys out:

Heck, you guys that drink with me know that the drunker I get, the more I start mouthing off about politics. Here's some people who actually wouldn't mind.

They meet every Tuesday at the Dog & Duck at 6:30 to "promote democracy one pint at a time." They also have a web forum here:

In the unlikely event I already have out-of-town readers, note that there are chapters around the nation. Or you could start your own!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Everyone's a critic

No Southby for me last night

A case of pinkeye contracted from my toddler, allergens, and lingering hangover from my Wednesday night travails conspired to keep me home. Heck, I didn't even have the energy to watch March Madness. I was asleep by 10. Missed the Aggies' big victory, darn it.

However, it did give me the opportunity to reappraise the Sierra Nevada IPA. Having one over dinner, I realized there is more of a hop presence than I was previously giving it credit for, and I really developed a new appreciation for it. Rather than being the big butcher knife that Dogfish Head is, it cuts more like an Exacto knife. Clean and precise, instead of mind-blowing. Okay, maybe there IS a time for subtlety in hops.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Now here's a good idea ...

Just got a press release from the city of Austin saying that they'll be holding a blood drive on St. Patrick's Day at City Hall. Now that's real smart – take a pint of blood from people right before they head out for St. Patty's parties. Yeesh. Designate a driver, folks. Or take the bus.

South by South Beer

Whew. Survived Wednesday night. Or at least I didn't puke. So that's a victory.

Every year I think I'm not going out to SXSW, and then at the last minute I remember how much fun it can be and I go nuts.

I started out by tagging along with Bobnoxious, Lance, and the gang, and Bob made a hell of a tour guide. We started off at Mother Egan's. Listened to the old lead singer from Wall of Voodoo. Didn't do that much for me, although he cracked me up when he started playing "Mexican Radio" and said "Okay you old guys, sing along – it might be your last chance." Couple of Guinness stouts, which was one more than I needed. Am I the only person who thinks Guinness is highly overrated? I can think of about five stouts off the top of my head that I like better. I like a big, bold taste in a stout, and Guinness always tastes … thin. Actually, that's only on draft – I like the bottle version better, which is the reverse of normal for me. That said, I think the taste is starting to grow on me, but it will never be my favorite.

Then we went across town to a new place called Red 7 (just off of Seventh & Red River) and saw a Swedish glam band named The Ark, and they were hilarious. Bob totally wins the prize for picking these guys out. Think Hedwig and the Angry Inch crossed with Spinal Tap. They rocked. Beer selection was crap - Shiner Bock was the best I could do, and paid too much for it. Should have gone for Pabst Blue Ribbon like the rest of the guys. As long as I'm slumming it, no point in forking over a bunch of dough.

Then it was off to a classic Austin beer bar, Lovejoy's, but I was disappointed in their house IPA, "Energizer." I'm not one for subtlety when it comes to hops. I like an IPA to smack me in face and make me its bitch. Energizer's hops just weren't that powerful. (Kind of like Sierra Nevada's new IPA; it tastes well enough, but I really can't tell the difference between it and their regular pale ale.) I should have gone for the Dogfish Head 60 Minute, which I think is my new favorite beer. No music at Lovejoy's.

Then down the street to Caribbean Lights to hear the New Mastersounds, who were smoking – all instrumental, heavy on the Hammond organ, Booker T. & the MGs if they had been post-funk and all British. Crappy beer selection again. Went for some Jack Daniel's, instead. The gang left me at this point; I stayed and caught Kathy McCarty. Really great to hear her again. She is ultra-cool; I was a huge Glass Eye fan, and she also interprets Daniel Johnston's songs brilliantly.

On my bike, and back to the other side of downtown again. Got there just in time to hear Kris Kristofferson and Jessi Colter, which brought back great memories of listening to my parents' records as a kid. Then my can't miss show: Roky Erickson, the infamous leader of the original psychedelic band, the 13th Floor Elevators. His four-song set was brilliant. It is so good to see him healthy again, after losing decades of his life to mental illness. I expected the worst, but he delivered the best. When he started singing, and I realized just how much he has it together, I got goosebumps. And when he launched into "You're Gonna Miss Me" I totally lost it and started thrashing my head around like I was a college kid. Crappy beer selection again. Shiner Bock.

Then I went back almost to where I started, Opal Divine's Freehouse, across the street from Mother Egan's. Dogfish Head! They had Dogfish Head on tap out in the music tent (not inside, though, oddly enough) and I was loving life. See my above comments about being slapped around by hops. It's like sex in a bottle. This showcase featured Latin rock bands, and I was knocked out by the ones I caught: Maneja Beto (Austin), Botellita de Jerez (Mexico City), and Genitallica (Monterrey, Mex.), the latter of which Bob warned me is "the loudest band I've ever heard at SXSW." Actually, they kicked butt. Imagine Rage Against the Machine in Spanish.

Dogfish Head was the perfect way to end the evening. I went home very happy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mother Egan's at SXSW

I'm about to join Bob and Lance at Mother Egan's Irish Pub for some early SXSW festivities. Hmm, let's see – an Irish pub, right after getting off work, with a lot of my favorite English and Irish beers and some SXSW adrenaline in me? Bad combination. Got to remember to pay attention to how fast I'm drinking and have a glass of water between each. Otherwise I ain't gonna make it to the rest of my planned festivities for the evening. Give me strength, lord, give me strength. (I promise I won't throw up, honey.)

Texpatriate Karla sent me some beer links

This woman visits London a lot, so she knows good beer:
I'm brother Galore.

I'll always remember the hospitality room here. One of the greatest 2 hours of my life...what i can remember.
Norwegian beer blogger.

London pubs.
Exhaustive listing of Norwegian beers.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

In a stout place

I enjoyed that St. Peter's so much I decided I needed another stout at home. I debated trying something new, but finally decided to play it safe – if Samuel Smith's has made a beer I don't like, I haven't tasted it yet. Their Oatmeal Stout has a big, round flavor. Just burnt enough to feel really satisfying, without going overboard on the bitterness. I didn't even bother chilling it – just took it straight off the HEB shelf and took it straight home and poured at room temperature. And you know what, I think I prefer it that way. You get a lot more of the complexity of the flavor when the cold isn't deadening your tastebuds. If I had to name my favorite British brewery, it would be a tough call between Samuel Smith's and Young's.

Speaking of heaven …

Of course, Karla doesn't have to pay for beer; she can just get it out of the tap in Oslo.

What I'm drinking right now

At work, no less. Let's just say the Chronicle is a bit lax on such matters. The worst part of my day is over.

Oh yeah, the beer: St. Peter's Cream Stout. When I get to the pearly gates, I certainly hope he has one of these waiting for me. Then I'll know I'm in heaven.

I'm a sucker for an interesting bottle or label. (It's usually whiskey or tequila that gets me with this trick.) St. Peter's has put out at least three beers in a flask-shaped bottle that quickly caught my eye among the zillion beers they have at Central Market. The label says it's "a faithful copy of one made c.1770 for Thomas Gerrard of Gibbstown, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia." I tried the porter this past weekend, and went for Cream Stout today. Really smooth; like the porter, no head to speak of, but I've always thought head was overrated. (Wait – did I really just say that?) Which is not to say it tastes flat. A slight briney taste to it, a classic English stout. Good god this is making me wish I were in a London pub.

A pricey beer; not something I'll be buying by the case – $3.50 a pint. (Which, Karla, probably means it would run you $20 up there at the North Pole.) But well worth the money if you're looking to indulge.

Okay, there you have it – my first attempt at beer criticism. How'd I do? Let's just hope it gets better from here. But hopefully I just turned you on to a good beer.

Welcome to my bar

Dammit, everybody seems to have a blog, so I might as well too. But I've waited a long time. What to blog about? My kids? My wife tells better stories about the kids; wait for her blog. My work? I write for newspaper, my work is an archaic blog. My favorite sport? Yeah, because people's eyes don't already glaze over when I talk about track & field in person. What can I blog about that damn near 100% of everybody will talk to me about? Beer!

Okay, we'll see how well I do at this. I suspect this will go the way of all those books stacked up beside my bed that haven't been read. But I know I have plenty of friends who will contribute.