Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And this just in from our Far North Austin bureau …

This post by Bobnoxious isn't completely about beer … but it mostly is. Includes exciting news about a new brewpub.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Giving up on the aging thing

So I was really excited to try aging some strong beer as I was considering a few weeks ago, but I decided I should give up on it. I stepped into my closet yesterday, where I was storing some Abt 12, and it (the closet) was warm. And humid. Not the atmosphere for aging. If I'm gonna do this, I should probably keep the closet no higher than 75 degrees, and I decided I'm just not willing to do it. Not with the kind of heat we have in Texas. Conservation-minded (and penny-pinching) guy that I am, I alway program my thermostat during our killer summers to go up into the 80s during the afternoon while we are at work/school, and even after we come home I never set them any lower than 76 (78 if I can stand it). And even then, my electricity bills are insanely high. And there is no way I'm keeping the AC down to 75 while we're on vacation. I'll set it just low enough to keep the cats from asphyxiating. (And if I find any more cat pee around my house, I may not evven be that charitable.) I'll leave it in the closet for while yet and see how cool the closet can stay. Perhaps it's well-insulated enough that it won't be too bad, but I suspect I'll throw in the towel and uncork this bottle by June.

Beer a cure for allergies?

Sadly, no. Some Japanese researchers found that hops are good at combating hay fever, but only if the hops are administered via a sports drink, which just sounds nasty to me. But the effect doesn't work if you get hops the way God intended.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another Black Star Co-op Beer Social

Black Star Co-op Brewpub (which still exists more as an idea, without a real physical location) is having another beer social on Saturday. Here are the details:

Beer Social - Jan 20th

Yes, that's right we will be going ahead with our January beer social this Saturday, Jan 20th. We're still scheduled to be in the backyard of MonkeyWrench books, but the forecast is showing a high of just 40F and a 70% chance of precipitation. If the conditions are bad we will either move inside the bookstore, or to the nearby house of one of our members. If we can stay in the backyard, we will try and get some space heaters or build a fire. In either case, we will still be drinking beer and socializing, and you should get in on the action! Here are the details:

What: Black Star Co-op January Beer Social
Where: MonkeyWrench Books, 110 E North Loop
When: Saturday, January 20th, 7:00 - 10:00 PM
Cost: Free as always, donations appreciated!
What to bring: Yourself, your friends, and curiosity about Black Star Co-op. Home brewers are also invited to share their creations.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Icy Weather - BE PREPARED!

Icy weather has just blown into Austin, and it's expected to get even worse tomorrow. Weather like this can be very dangerous, folks — don't get caught unprepared, and make sure you're stocked up on emergency provisions. In weather like this, it's best to have plenty of high-alcohol holiday beers and "winter warmers" – such as the one pictured here – and maybe even a little whiskey in case of a severe emergency. Stock up NOW, while the roads are still somewhat drivable. The liquor stores might not even be open tomorrow!

We just got a press release here at the Chronicle from Austin EMS saying that in conditions like this, it's best to "refrain from alcohol." FUCK THAT. These people (hi Ken!) clearly do not understand what it's like to be cooped up in the house with the kids all day (probably because they're out running around on such days saving the butts of morons who don't listen to their more sensible advice to not drive around in this crap). The rest of us, however, need something to fortify our souls in such situations.

**EDIT: Regarding the pictured beer, Clark T sez: "Ahhh! I received a bottle of Santa's Butt for Christmas. I was skeptical at first, not because of the name but because so many microbreweries produce sort of ashy flavored beers the best aspect of which is their freshness. Let me say that 'Santa's Butt' is fine, fine, fine indeed. I savored every drop!"

**2nd EDIT: I had to go to HEB before coming home, not planning on getting any more beer, but Samuel Adams Double Bock (a favorite that I bet I haven't had in 10 years) was on sale for $6.49, about a $1.50 less than what it cost at Central Market. So I'm well stocked: I have that, St. Arnold's Winter Stout, and Avery Old Jubilation to keep me toasty.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Three-day bender

I definitely had my fill of good beer a couple of weeks ago. In fact, a wee bit too much.

My good friend Bill C returned to Austin for a quick visit from Portland, a place where they know good beer. I had a $25 gift certificate from Grape Vine Market burning a hole in my wallet, and was determined to spend it on good Belgian beers, and knew Bill would be the perfect person with whom to share them.

Grape Vine's Belgian section inspires such lustful feelings every time I go there that I almost feel dirty. It's kind of like wandering into the porn section of the video store.

Their staff was most helpful – I just went in and told them I had $25 at my disposal and wanted something a little less obvious than Chimay, and we were done in about 60 seconds. First I was led to Grotten Brown, part of their "Pierre Celis Signature Collection." (For those not in the know, Pierre Celis is a reknowned brewer famed for reviving the Hoegaarden label in the 1960s and later moved here to Austin where he started the Celis label. He now is brewing for the Real Ale, based just outside of Austin.) Then I was led to Urthel Hibernus Quentum Tripel, and finally to St. Bernardus Abt 12. I've had the latter before and was tempted to ask for something else, but my Grape Vine helper made me a proposition: This was a special 60th anniversary edition of the Abt 12 with some different malts than usual, and he pitched the idea that I should let it age. What the hell, I'll try it, I decided. We'll see how that goes (see my previous post about it), but if all goes well I'll be pulling out of my closet around 2011.

I also decided to satisfy some curious itches I've had for a while and grabbed a bottle of Traquair Jacobite Ale (the fact that I'd never heard of the Scottish ale and it was $5 for a mere 12 oz bottle caught my eye) and St. Sebastiaan Golden (I just dug the jug-style bottle).

Highlight of the night was unquestionably the Grotten. Nice, round taste and exactly what I look for in a Belgian brown ale. The Traquair tasted pretty good, but probably could have benefited from aging. Indeed, the bottle said "good until 2014." The St. Sebastiaan was unremarkable. I haven't tried the Urthel yet; I might remedy that before I go to bed tonight. (EDIT: Just tried it. Day-yum. Mighty good. A very floral nose, but it didn't prepare me for just how great the first sip would be. There's some kind of spice here that I can't quite put my finger on, but its overriding quality is a honeyish sweetness. My Grape Vine guide made a good call on this one.)

The next night, Bill wanted to meet up with more friends at the Draught House, one of Austin's finest brewpubs. They had a Belgian-style ale of their own that they had brewed up, and it was magnificent. I had two, spaced out with a Sierra Nevada Celebration (gotta love a bar where you can get Celebration on tap!). I had to really pace myself drinking their beer; it was a whole lotta yum, and I've gotten in BIG trouble enjoying their beer before (many of you know about the famous projectile vomiting incident; not my proudest moment).

Unfortunately, I did a bit of a repeat of that famous night the next evening after taking in the Alamo Drafthouse's magnificent presentation of Beerfest, an absolutely idiotic movie about my favorite activity. The plot was moronic, the humor juvenile, the breasts gratuitious … and you absolutely should see it, especially if you have a theater that will duplicate the Alamo's menu of German beers and sausage (see previous post) while viewing it. I even enjoyed the hefeweissen they served, normally my least favorite style.

***NOTE: If you have Time Warner Digital Cable, Beerfest is currently featured in their "Movies On Demand." Even if you can't copy the Alamo, get an enormous quantity of beer and watch it. And no, despite the way the Alamo presented it, it is not a beer snob movie – it's a movie for anyone who enjoys any kind of beer.****

Now really, after a couple of strong brews at the Ginger Man (Real Ale's Coffee Porter and St. Arnold's Winter Stout, both excellent) and then three at the Alamo (topped off by a 7.2% Spaten Optimator), good sense would have had me stop there. But me and the guys were so giddily stupid after Beerfest that good sense was in short supply. So we went back to the Gingerman and I followed that up with a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (rivaling Celebration as my favorite beer, period) and then … the beer of doom. A friend of a friend convinced me I should try a new barleywine from Live Oak called Tree Hugger. They would only serve half-pints of it, which should have been my first warning; but even that didn't adequately prepare me for the fact that it was 13.7%. Yeesh.

Now at this point let me express my tremendous admiration for the fine folks at Capital Metro. These valiant people will drive your drunk butt home for a mere 50 cents, as long as you don't puke in their bus. And I didn't. I saved that for my house. That barleywine should be called Toilet Hugger. Again, not my proudest moment. I highly recommend it, but perhaps as the
(only beer of the night, or at least one of only a pair.

All told, it was a fun week, and god bless my wife for letting me hit the town with the boys three nights in a row. But next time, I'll try to pace myself a little better. And remember, don't drink and drive when there are nice bus drivers who will do it for you.

Friday, January 05, 2007

This is my friend Karla.

She loves beer too. She's an American living in Norway. Beer is very expensive in Norway. A beer this size would probably cost you around $500. (Or 3,182.31 Norwegian kroner.)

Fortunately, she wasn't drinking in Norway when that pic was taken; she and her husband were engaging in beer adventures while vacationing in Tallin, Estonia.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My favorite beer quotes

The Opinionated Beer Page has a great list of beer quotes. These are my favorites:

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline — it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." — Frank Zappa

"People who drink light 'beer' don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee alot." — Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." — Benjamin Franklin

"The easiest way to spot a wanker in a pub is to look around and find who's drinking a Corona with a slice of lemon in the neck." — Warwick Franks

"Why is American beer served cold? So you can tell it from urine." — David Moulton

"I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer." — Homer Simpson

My coverage of FOTM

Over on The Austin Chronicle's news blog, I've posted my first coverage of Friends of Texas Microbreweries' attempts to pass a bill at the Texas Legislature allowing microbrewers to sell beer on the premises of their breweries, just like Texas wineries are allowed to do. Admittedly, it's not much more than a re-written press release that I cobbled together quickly due to limited time available, but I'll track the progress of the bill (if it ever finally gets filed) throughout the legislative session. You can follow my coverage (and all of our Lege reporting) at this link. (Or you can look at my personal archives: my blog posts or my in-print archive.)