Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bill for Texas microbrewers finally filed

On Monday, Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston filed the bill that Friends of Texas Microbreweries have hoped for — if passed into law, it would allow brewers that make less than 75,000 barrels per year to sell their product on the premises of their breweries. Winemakers are already allowed to do this; beermakers are not. This would be a wonderful thing for us beer drinkers, and would bring extra profits to hardworking people who really care about making quality beer.

Track the progress of the bill here.

Also, I will be covering the bill for The Austin Chronicle here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Brother Thelonious available in Texas now

They had me at the bottle — much like the way Old Rasputin sucked me in. And like Rasputin – made by the same brewery — the beer inside did not disappoint. North Coast Brewery's homage to both Belgian abbey ale and jazz hypergenius Thelonious Monk is now available here in Austin. I found some at Central Market after their "big beers" class last week. It tastes as good as any abbey I've had — nutty, with faint hints of cinnamon and chocolate. At some point, I'm going on a mission to try everything North Coast makes, because as I've blathered many times previously, if these guys have made a mediocre beer yet, I haven't had it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Big Beers at Central Market

Dumbass that I am, I went to the Big Beers tasting at Central Market and then in a haze managed to lose my tasting notes. However, Bobnoxious graciously offered to cover for me by posting his own account of the evening over at his blog, which is just as well, because I haven't had time and his rendition is far funnier than mine would have been anyway.

Great Ben Sargent cartoon

The Austin American-Statesman's fantastically talented political cartoonist combined two of my favorite themes today: British beer and Bush-bashing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring is in the air

I'm starting to see spring seasonal beers show up in the stores. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine was already a favorite of mine from last year (like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but with about twice as much alcohol), Sierra Nevada IPA is back, and I've already sung the praises this year of Saint Arnold Spring Bock.

Ones I haven't tried but would love reports on:

New Belgium Springboard (made with oats!)
Redhook Copper Hook
Anchor Bock

Any other seasonals out there I should know about?

(And if you just can't give up on the Christmas beers yet, I saw some Avery Old Jubilation at H-E-B just now.)

Upcoming St. Arnold beer events

Saint Arnold appeared to me in a dream — well, actually, he sent me an e-mail — and notified me of some Austin beer events involving Houston's Saint Arnold brewery. I'm not sure why they don't list specific locations, but I'm sure you can figure it out. Damn, I am so sorry I have to miss the one tonight, but I don't think my kid would forgive me if I didn't join her for dinner on her birthday. While you're drinking glorious IPA, think of how lucky you are to not be with me at Chuck E. Cheese's.:

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 6pm- There will be a special Elissa India Pale Ale, Cask Conditioned keg tapping, along with free Elissa pint glasses (while beer & supply lasts!), at that great little 'pints & plates' place near Barton Springs and Riverside.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, Waterloo Records, 5pm-Storyville- With guitarists David Grissom and David Holt, the Double Trouble rhythm section of Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, and the high energy vocals of Malford Milligan, a Storyville show, along with lots of free Saint Arnold beer, is legendary.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, Waterloo Records, 5pm-Asylum Street Spankers-Exploring childhood from both kid and adult perspectives, the Spankers sing of the joys and anxieties of growing up-with some fresh, tasty Saint Arnold.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, Waterloo Records, 5pm-Grizzly Bear-Magical, haunting melodies are Grizzly Bear's Mainstay. A band that wont jilt you: they always craft their songs from start to finish-and meticulous instrumentation and arrangements, as well as drinking a bunch of Saint Arnold beer, are their specialty.

THURSDAY, MARCH 1-several locations-the release of Divine Reserve #4. A Wee Heavy, This one will be a a good, strong, sweetish Scotch Ale. There will be places all over town(far north, far south) that will have it, albeit, a limited amount. But the good news is, that Austin is getting a little more than in the past. Please! No hoarding!

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, Whole Foods-6th/Lamar, 4-6pm-Chili Cookoff featuring Texas beers. Tofu Chili-vs-Chili w/ beans-whatever you like, it all goes down good with cold Saint Arnold beers!

MONDAY, MARCH 5, Texas Beer Tasting! 8pm-$30-Come out to meet your local brewery folks, and sample the freshest beer in town(guaranteed)! Hint-4th St near Guadalupe.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's Heisler Time

So I've been watching My Name Is Earl ever since the first episode, and it's unquestionably my favorite show on television right now. But one thing about the show has been driving me crazy — I keep seeing them drink this beer with a red label. And I never could quite make out what it was. It looked a lot like the label for Shiner Dunkelweisen, and it wouldn't have surprised me one bit if that's what it had been, because show producers love to put personal favorite products into their shows – Texans probably remember the time Shiner Bock showed up at the tail end of an X-Files episode, and of course if you watch the movie Boys Don't Cry, you'd think redneck trailer trash in Nebraska just love drinking Celis Pale Bock.

But in a recent episode, the camera finally closed in on the label: It's called Heisler. And I decided that I absolutely must have some. But I just can't find it anywhere. Not at Grape Vine Market, not at Central Market, not at Spec's. So I issue you a challenge – if you can find me just one measly six-pack of Heisler, I'll give you an entire case of Alamo Beer, which you folks outside of Texas probably can't get. (And I'm talking the original brew made in Arlen, not that stuff that Real Ale makes trying to capitalize on Alamo's reputation.) I might even throw in a bottle of Elsinore, even though it was really hard for me to get it shipped out of Canada.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Beer made from milk?

This story about beer being made from milk was sent to me by more than one reader. I'm thinking that the recipe doesn't conform to the Reinheitsgebot.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My wife loves me

I know this because, among many other wonderful ways she shows it, she got me this class (see below) at the North Austin location of Central Market. Bobnoxious is going to join me. I think they still have tickets available — call 458-3068 to buy one for yourself. Afterward, if we're not too hammered, we will probably walk (stumble?) over to the nearby Draught House for extra innings, possibly with Nosregref.

Text from CM's ad: "With Valentine's Day out of the way, you've already shown your softer side. Now it's time to bare your chest and take in some gargantuan flavors! We've found the biggest, fullest beers of the season and paired them with bold party fare to shock your palate into submission. Join the 'beer guy' for this special malt-and-hops tour de force. $50"

EDIT: Well hell, I guess it would be helpful if I said when it was: Friday, Feb. 16, 6:30-9pm.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Awesome sale alert

Austin now has a Spec's Liquor at 5775 Airport, which I've been stopping at quite a bit since it's on my way home from work. Their beer selection isn't quite as awesome as Grape Vine Market — basically, Grape Vine has pretty much everything you can possibly get in Texas, and Spec's has almost everything – but they do have this nice deal where paying in cash gets you a five percent discount.

And right now, they have a fantastic sale – if you pay cash, you can get any Paulaner or Hacker-Pschorr six-pack for $6.99. That's about two dollars off! I got some nice Salvator Double Bock to chase away last night's cool weather. Mmmm … malty.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Report on the new Opal Divine's

From our Lake Travis correspondent, although he's reporting from far North Austin. Maybe since it is oddly called the "Marina" location, he thought he was near his house:

OK, so I went with Lance and the Visa crew to the new Opal Divine's today. I ended up talking to the owner for a little bit, the guy that used to be a bartender at Dog and Duck. Anyways, this is what he had to say.

1. Their GM is John, the old GM from the downtown location, and our old Showdown bartender.

2. This incarnation of Opal's is going to be probably the only one that does more sales in food than in liquor. They plan to have any other openings be more like casual restaurants rather than a bar.

3. There's free wireless access for those of us with laptops wanting to ditch work early and drink beer.

4. They aren't using all the taps available yet, so he said if we wanted to see them bring in any specific beer he would check into it. They have most of the decent standbys like Sierra Nevada and Guinness already, plus 4 Live Oaks, and all the Independence beers. Probably don't need much else.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Good Texas beer

I've tasted some excellent brews from Austin and Houston lately – two of which should be readily available to Texans, but a third which may not.

I must confess, I have previously been a bit ambivalent toward the beers of Houston's Saint Arnold Brewery. Their flagship beer, the Amber, has always underwhelmed me. However, two of their seasonal beers have forced me to reappraise their product.

If you head to the store soon, you may be in time to still buy some of their Winter Stout, a hearty stout with a bit of a bite to it that really impressed my drinking crew at the Gingerman. A slight hint of coffee and a roasted quality that reminds me of my very favorite, North Coast's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, but minus that beer's mind-blowing alcohol volume. I enjoyed a six pack or two of this during what passes for cold weather here in Central Texas.

I was even more pleased by their Spring Bock. If your opinion of the bock style has formed around the more famous Shiner Bock, you've been deceived – Shiner, while a decent-enough beer, is not a true bock. The real thing is more malty and distinctively German, and Saint Arnold hits it right on the mark – a perfectly balanced level of malt, quite a bit smoother on the tongue than the doppelbocks ("double bock") that you might have sampled this winter. And that makes it perfect for a transition from the cold months to the warmer weather, when you'll be craving a lighter drink. (Now I'm certain my taste opinions are completely objective, but I suspect I may have been swayed by the Bock's packaging, with pictures of our beautiful Texas bluebonnets.)

Unfortunately, whether you get to taste the third beer is up to the whims of brewmaster Ty Phelps at Austin's North by Northwest brewpub. On the last Wednesday of every month, NXNW brings out a keg of specially crafted cask-conditioned brew ("cask-conditioned" means that, rather than having carbon dioxide injected, it undergoes a second fermentation and carbonates naturally in the cask). This time, it was a special rendering of their Pyjingo Pale Ale — already a pretty good beer in their normal lineup, but this special batch was loaded with even more hops. Now, in this era of the microbrew revival, good beer is pretty easy to find, especially in a beer town like Austin. I'm pretty hard to impress nowadays. So let me tell you, it is only the most
special beer that, on the first sip, makes my eyes pop wide open, my head spin with delight, and cause me to utter, "WOW." This beer did just that. Sadly, the cask tastings only produce 11 gallons of beer — once it ran out, we were forced to switch to the regular Pyjingo. I hate to knock the regular, but after the special batch, it was a little like shifting from filet mignon to hamburger.

The next NXNW cask-tapping – which, alas, I will be forced to miss – will be February 28 at 7pm and will feature an Irish stout. (Don't be late, and I recommend you carpool — NXNW is very popular, its parking is limited, and the 11 gallons disappears very quickly.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins 1944-2007

"I’ll remember, I’ll remember … sunsets, rivers, hills, plains, the Gulf, woods, a thousand beers in a thousand joints, and sunshine and laughter. And people. Mostly I’ll remember people."