Thursday, October 25, 2007

Budweiser to buy Budweiser?!?

Budejovicky Budvar, the state-owned Czech brewery that produces the beer that Europe knows as Budweiser, could go into private ownership soon – which raises the possibility that it could be bought out by Anheuser-Busch, which of course produces that inferior swill that America knows as Budweiser. (If you're confused, they've been locked in a trademark dispute with one another for years.) Read about it here.

Meanwhile, the Czech prime minister dismisses such a possibility.

And if that weren't all weird enough, despite their battle over the name, in January A-B signed a contract to become the distributor of Budvar in the United States.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Josquin, where are you?

One of my fellow beer bloggers seems to have disappeared. When I click on the link to Drinking Beer in Texas, I get "page not found." Josquin, are you out there? Do any of you Dallas-area drinkers know if he's deleted his blog?

Beer Liquor?

I have a friend who recently moved to Paris and did some vacationing in Prague, and he sent me an intriguing e-mail:

no really, lee, czech repubby is where it's at on the beer front. it's cheap and different everywhere you go. breweries that supply only the hillsides around it. i went to the eggenberg brewery in cesky krumlov. wow. they're making ''beer liquor'' over there. unreal.

That, of course, made me ask: What in hell is "beer liquor"? His reply:

i have no idea. but it tasted like grain alcohol with a musty, yeasty aftertaste. and it fucked me up fast. i'm assuming it was the local moonshine.

Any of you readers out there ever heard of this? I know some of you are fans of the Czech Republic.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Austin Homebrew Supply Oktoberfest

Damn, I hate to miss a good party right here in my own neighborhood, but I have to work this afternoon. (Remember what Oscar Wilde said: "Work is the curse of the drinking class.") If I didn't, then I'd surely go down the street to Austin Homebrew Supply for their Oktoberfest party TODAY. Noon-5pm. Click on the link for details. Those of you who were smart enough to get your work done during the week should head on down there.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Great American Beer Festival

Congratulations to the Texas medalists at this year's Great American Beer Festival:

Fredericksburg Brewing Co.Pioneer PorterTXGold Brown Porter
Fredericksburg Brewing Co.Enchanted Rock Red AleTXBronze Irish Style Red Ale
Saint Arnold Brewing Co.Saint Arnold Fancy LawnmowerTXGold German Style Kölsch/Köln Style Kölsch

Thanks to Jeffery out in Fredericksburg for tipping me off to this.

Free Beer for Life!

But here's the catch: you have to help a New Zealand brewery nab a thief who stole a laptop from their company.

Just How Stupid Am I?

Okay, I'm going try this NaBloPoMo thing. I shouldn't, and I'll probably fail, but I'll try. That's short for National Blog Posting Month, and it's simple: the challenge is to post every day in November. As if I don't have enough to do between my family and work. And not that I really need a daily writing exercise, seeing as how I'm a professional writer. But what the heck.

Here's how I'm going to spice it up a bit: Every day of November, I'm going to sample a beer I've never tried before and write about it, which hopefully will be made a little cheaper by the fact that Grape Vine Market and Spec's have a lot of single bottles for sale.

Man I'm a dumbass. I'll never pull this off.

(UPDATE: Okay, I've reconsidered. I will not review a beer every day, but I will make a post of some sort. And I will definitely try some new beers. And I'm cheating — I'm stockpiling blogging ideas and will wait until November to write them up.)

Organic Beers

Well shoot, I wish someone had told me that Oct. 15 was Blog Action Day, devoted to environmental issues. I'd have done something special. Well, I suppose it's not too late. In honor of doing the right thing for our planet, I encourage you to drink organic beers and ride your bicycle instead of driving your car.

The Tour de Fat, coming to Austin tomorrow (sadly, I won't be able to attend), is a New Belgium Event devoted to beer and bikes. And I did my part on vacation this summer when my good friends Bill and Todd took me on a pedaling tour of Portland brewpubs.

I don't see organic beers as often as I'd like, but here's a quick round-up of what I could find (If you know of others, please list them in the comments section):

Wild Hop Lager
Stone Mill Pale Ale
Henry Weinhard's Organic Amber
Samuel Smith's Organic Lager and Organic Ale
Wychwood Circle Master (I think Circle Master is called Scarecrow here in the U.S.)
New Belgium Mothership Wit (Additionally, New Belgium has a strong commitment to sustainability in producing their brews, including a heavy reliance on wind energy.

One more tip: drink locally brewed beer whenever possible, because if the beer is produced close to you, less energy is used to transport it to you. Now of course, I'll admit that taste is a bigger motivator in my beer choices than locale — and how can I be a proper beer snob if I don't buy plenty of imports? — but fortunately, Texas brewers are producing some great stuff these days (see my list in the right-hand column) and I drink their products as much as I can.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fresh Hop Beer in Austin!

So if you read all of our Portland correspondent's series on fresh-hop beers, your curiosity is probably piqued and your mouth is watering to try one of these brews (unless you live in the Pacific Northwest). Well, good news, Austinites! I just bought a fresh-hop beer right here in the capital of Tejas. While hitting Spec's for some Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, I spotted Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale, which they claim is the original fresh-hop beer. They sell it in 22 oz. bottles, I got one, and I'm dying to try it. Unfortunately, I might not get to it tonight – my @#%! allergies have flared up, and I have a sore throat and dulled taste buds. I wouldn't want to waste a possibly great beer in such a situation, so I may have to torture myself and wait a few days. Hopefully the Claritin will kick in soon and have me feeling better before bedtime, though.

UPDATE: Okay, it's a day later, and I'm giving it a try. The initial flavor is good but not outstanding, but then the aftertaste is really interesting. I think it's that "grassy" note that Portland Bill mentions. I probably just need the beer to warm up a bit so the flavors come out. It's a very clean taste. I think I expected a stronger hop taste, like an IPA. But the idea is fresh hops, not strong hops, right? Mmm. Yes, the aftertaste is definitely the best part. I like the way the flavor lingers in my mouth long after I've swallowed. And it kind of gets up in my nose, too, the way a good scotch does. I can tell I'll still be savoring the flavor long after the bottle is drained.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Black Star Event Cancelled

Message from Black Star Co-op:

Dear Black Star Co-op Community,

Due to an unforeseen complication, we are unable to have our October Beer Social this Saturday at Kenny Dorham's Backyard.

It has been quite a while since the last beer social in August, and we hope to return with another great event next Saturday, October 27th. We are working hard to secure a new location, and will let you know as soon as a decision has been made.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your continued support.

In Co-operation,

Black Star Co-op

Timely Humor

From The Onion:

U.S.-Turkey Relations Cool

Turkey recalled its ambassador to the U.S. and warned there would be dire consequences if Congress passes a resolution classifying the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. What do you think?

Young Woman

Jane Young,
Systems Analyst
"This is reminiscent of when Germany withdrew their ambassador until America officially recognized Oktoberfest."

10,000 Hits!

I'm excited because, at 8:43 this morning, I got my 10,000th visitor since I added Sitemeter to I Love Beer back on September 6, 2006. I never expected it would happen this fast, because a year ago I was lucky to get 20 visitors a day. But traffic here has exploded in the past few months, and I now average 70 per day. It's also pretty cool because I'm rapidly gaining on my wife, who added her Sitemeter three days after me but quickly got way ahead of me and reached 10,000 last month. In her favor, though, her hits mostly derive from actual fans/readers, whereas the bulk of mine come from Google searches. (But to those of you who are regular readers — glad you're enjoying it!)

I'm not quite certain what has driven my hits up, but the growth has been crazy. Perhaps as other bloggers have gradually linked up to me, it's having a cumulative effect. Until May, I consistently averaged around 500 visitors per month, but then it went steadily went up: June 742, July 948, August 1,196, September 1,423. Now we're barely past mid-October, and I already have 1,080. What a snowball!

A theory: I bet after October, when people are no longer doing searches on the phrase "Oktoberfest," the hits will dip back down.

It's been fun so far!

(UPDATE: And it continues: Yesterday [Oct. 18], I had 103 hits. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've topped 100 in a single day.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fresh Hops, Final Installment

Our "fresh hops" correspondent in Portland sends his final report, putting my own blogging to shame. Excellent job! Read on:

Well, it looked like my mission had finally petered out. Monday was rather lame, I tried different presentations of beers I had already had. The Full Sail Lupulin on CO2 instead of cask; finally a reasonable quantity of Bridgeport Hop Harvest, from a bottle. Full Sail: excellent, though not as much so as the cask variety; Bridgeport: a fine beer, but doesn't quench my thirst for that grassy fresh-hop flavor.

Tuesday, fighting the smoke at the Horsebrass, got to taste Ninkasi's Ceridwen Harvest Lager. Now, Ninkasi beers are usually musclebound bruisers that make you beg for more punishment. A light lager is a little out of character for them. The waitress tried to steer me away from it, she said, "It's like the best Budweiser you ever had". Simile is a great way to describe things, and I think she nailed it. Very well done, but why the hell would you waste your freshly harvested hops on a light lager?

Wednesday, I can't even claim to be on track any more. The best I could do was a few cask Lupulins at Higgins before the George Jones concert. [Ed. note: GEORGE JONES?!? Kick ass!]

Thursday, it looks like Monday all over again. The Full Sail Pilsener Room, trying beers on tap that I already had in bottles: Deschutes Hop Trip and Hales O'Brien's Harvest Ale (the menu calls it a Fresh Hop ESB). I was prepared to gloss over Monday's lapse, and pretend like Wednesday never happened, but this looks like the final nail in the coffin. Fortunately, the bartender asked me which one was better, and when I pointed at the Lupulin cask handle, he told me that the Lupulin cask had been replaced with a Harvest beer from Hopworks.

Hark, are those angels singing to me? The quest is alive for one more day! Hopworks is a Southeast brewpub that hasn't even opened yet; a few places have their IPA, but I couldn't believe it when he pumped out a reddish-orange pint of their fresh hop beer. This is an awesome beer — I'd say it bridges the gap between the sweeter, lighter beers I crave each year, and the people who try to make a strong, bitter harvest ale. It's got the flavor, it's got the color, plus a little bit of extra bitterness.

Then, as the icing on the cake, he gave me a tiny taste of Bridgeport's "firkin-style" Harvest Ale. The night before, the Bridgeport people had been in and served it out of a barrel just by sticking a nozzle in and letting gravity do the work, no pumping or pressure. The bartender saved a pint overnight, so it was pretty flat, but it was awesome. I don't know if the firkins are from a different batch than the rest of Bridgeport's Hop Harvest, but this was sweeter and with more fresh flavor than what I tried on tap or from a bottle.

Friday I was able to try Killer Green from a new Hood River brewery, Double Mountain. This was an awesome beer in the same vein as the Hopworks from Thursday, with the fresh flavor but on the bitter side. Smooth and almost creamy.

Saturday I crossed the finish line for my marathon, by attending the Fresh Hop Tastival at McMenamin's Edgefield. Sadly, a number of the beers that were listed on Oregon Live were not at the festival: nothing from Ninkasi, Amnesia, Standing Stone, Mia and Pia's, Raccoon Lodge, or Calapooia; none of the alternate beers from Deschutes or Lucky Lab. What the hell, that's a lot of gaps! Still, I got to try 6 or 7 beers that I hadn't had yet. Golden Valley's beer was in the acceptable range. Pelican's Elemental Ale was really good, but the fresh hop flavor got submerged by all the other flavor and nutrition — the beer was thick and a completely opaque light-gold color. The only one I hadn't tried that lit a fire under me was from Mt. Hood Brewing, they had the style down.

Final verdict: My three favorites this year are Full Sail's Lupulin Ale, Deschutes Hop Trip, and whatever Hopworks calls theirs. Runners up are Double Mountain, Rogue Hop Heaven, and Mt. Hood. Excellent beers that I fault a little for lacking or hiding the green hop taste: New Old Lompoc's Harvest Man, Hale's O'Brien's Harvest Ale, Bridgeport's Hop Harvest, Pelican's Elemental Ale.

I feel very lame to be blogging on someone else's blog, but thanks for the soapbox, Lee. Maybe this will motivate me to take the slightly less lame action of starting my own blog. [Lee says: You're welcome to do a guest spot here any time!]

Monday, October 15, 2007


Excellent fall food and beer pairing: Oktoberfest beer (Samuel Adams, in this case) and Amy's pumpkin ice cream. I'm in heaven right now.

Lest you think I'm a complete freak for enjoying beer and ice cream together, I'm not the only one: two of Amy's more famous flavors of ice cream are Shiner Bock and Guinness. I used to live on 34th Street near both an Amy's location and the dearly missed Austin Outhouse, one of the great dive bars of all time. I would always go to Amy's first, and then take my ice cream over to the Outhouse and get a Shiner Bock. Everyone always laughed at me, but then one day I walked into Amy's, and there it was up on the menu board: Shiner Bock ice cream. I could kill two birds with one stone! I took it over to the Outhouse, and everyone said "No way!" Of course, I didn't really kill two birds — I got myself a real Shiner, as well.

Keep Austin weird, people.

Wurstfest Is Almost Here!

My favorite little Texas/German beer-n-sausage celebration, Wurstfest, is right around the corner, and you're darn tootin' I'll be there. Since I doubt much about it has changed since last year, I'll just save myself some typing and refer you to what I wrote last year. Well okay, one thing has changed, the dates: Nov. 2-11.

"Best of Austin" Awards

My newspaper, The Austin Chronicle, just published the 2007 results of its annual "Best of Austin" poll. Here are some of the beer-related winners:

Readers' Picks:
Best Bar Ambience:
The Belmont

Best Bar Staff: Little Woodrow's
Best Beer on Tap: The Ginger Man
Best Beer/Wine Prices: Spec's Liquor

Best Beer/Wine Selection: Grape Vine Market
Best Dive Bar: Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon
Best Place to Drink Alone: Mean-Eyed Cat

Critics' Picks:
Best Happy-Hour Prices: Deep Eddy Cabaret
Most Comfortable Comfort Food & Chatty Bartenders: Zax Pints & Plates

Read the full write-ups of each winner here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

One reason why NXNW's Oktoberfest party is awesome

Because the waitresses wear this outfit. Oh yeah, the beer kicks butt, too.

[EDIT: I'm not the only one who enjoyed the costumes, as is apparent from this posting on craigslist:

I just wanted to give a shout out to the super freaking hot NXNW Octoberfest ladies working at Octoberfest last Saturday. The beer tent wasn't the only one pitched that day. Thank you for making it THAT much better. We'd also like to give a shout out to our friends the wind and your very cute panties. It was certainly a day to remember.]

A loss for my neighborhood: Brentwood Tavern closing

The greatest idea anyone ever came up with was mixing kids' playscapes with beer and food for grownups. The second greatest idea was putting two such places in my part of town. Sadly, one of them — Brentwood Tavern, the closer one to which I was able to walk, dammit — is closing down. The following message appeared on our neighborhood newsgroup yesterday:

Dear Friends:

Brentwood Tavern will be closing its doors permanently on Thursday, October 25th. The Farmer's Market is under new ownership, and we were unable to secure a new lease from the owner. Thanks to everyone for their support over the past years.

Please join us at the restaurant on the 25th for our customer appreciation party. We'll have live music, great drink specials and all of the staff will be here to say farewell.

Please feel free to direct any questions, comments, or job offers for our crew to Kathleen at

Thanks for the good times,
Kathleen Macek

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I just paid the price of being a beer snob tonight. I went to a sports bar near our house to watch M'Lady's Mizzou Tigers lose to that genetically inferior school to the north of here, the Oklahoma @#$%! Sooners, which would have hurt bad enough, but to rub it in, we were charged an ungodly amount of money for our beer. The best beer in the house was clearly the Redhook Long Hammer IPA, and we blindly ordered up three pitchers — without realizing that the bar in question was charging EIGHTEEN DOLLARS PER PITCHER. AAAUUGHH!!! I bet Bud Light drinkers never have that problem. Cripes. It was good beer, but not $54 good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Portland Recap, Chapter 2

Okay, by god, time for me to finally make some progress on recounting my magnificent Portland vacation back in July-August. (Part 1 was here.)

So back when Bill and I lived together here in Austin, it was he who got me into bicycling. Having grown up in a small town, where a car is a matter survival, I couldn't imagine actually getting around a big city on human power. Sure, I was a good environmentalist, but to me, alternative transportation meant taking the bus. And I'm still a mass-transit believer, but he showed me that, with a little practice, you can get around a city just fine on a bike.

And that's especially true in Portland. God bless Austin, it's trying to be bike-friendly, but it's still a good decade behind Portland. Getting around that city is so easy that, by god, you can even do it when you've been drinking beer — as Bill was determined to prove. (My joke about Portland: You can't swing a dead cat in that town without knocking someone off their bicycle, and you can't swing a dead bicyclist without knocking a microbrew out of someone's hand.) He hopped on his bike, he loaned one out to me, and Todd and Bill's next-door neighbor hopped on theirs, and we set off on the Bicycling Tour of Portland's Brewpubs (not an official event — I just like the way it looks in all caps).

We headed off a surprisingly easy two miles east to the McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant that sits on the lovely Willamette River, just a little ways down from the park where we had enjoyed the Oregon Brewers Festival the day before. No, M&S is not a brewpub, but apparently they've worked out some kind of a deal with Full Sail, and so we settled into a tasty plate of calamari and I think I had a cask-conditioned IPA in front of me. A rare treat in Austin, cask-conditioned ales are
de rigeur in Portland – I think every place I went had one. Now that's some full-scale urban beer snobbery – when cask-conditioned ales are expected. Wow.

Then we headed three miles north – again, amazingly easy, despite cutting right through the heart of Portland. The city's bicycling lanes are so well-defined and uninterrupted that at no point, despite traffic all around us, did I ever feel unsafe. Man, I love this town. Our new destination was the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus, where we sat down and enjoyed the pleasantly sunny weather (I swear it never got above 84, while it was sweltering back home in Austin) outside on their sidewalk tables. I think I tried their summer seasonal (damn me for not writing this down two months ago!). Yes, the obvious urge was to have the Broken Halo IPA, one of my favorites, but why taste something that I can get back in Austin? Unfortunately, I seem to remember my adventurousness letting me down a bit; I wasn't super-impressed. We also tried some sort of cherry beer, maybe a lambic, but we all agreed its sourness was a bit much.

Off again, up an ungodly steep hill (okay, Bill was a great tour guide, but not perfect). We worked our way over to Laurelwood Pizza Company. They had a mighty tasty sampler tray as well as fine artichoke dip. And they had a play area for the kids — always a brilliant idea to combine amenities for the kids with beer. This type of forethought is what makes me a loyal customer of Brentwood Tavern and Phil's Ice House/Amy Ice Cream here in Austin. I seem to remember liking everything Laurelwood had on tap.

From there, we headed up some more stiff hills so that we could take up a game of darts at the Horse Brass, a beautifully authentic British-style pub – think the Draught House, only about four times bigger. I got my butt kicked at darts, but I consoled myself with something hoppy. In fact, I think the really hoppy brew was actually Bill's, but I liked it better than what I ordered, so I mooched off his.

Sadly, that ended our pedaling tour. (But boy, wouldn't the folks at New Belgium have been proud of me!) My wife has been suffering from some kind of malady that causes dizziness, and a phone call from her cut short our travels, despite the fact that Bill had mapped out two other stops for us. (Thankfully, I still had another day to squeeze in more bars.)

I have to say, other than the obligatory (day I got married, day my older daughter was born, day my younger daughter was born), this rated as one of the five greatest days of my life. A wonderful bike ride, great beer, and even better friends — how could it get any better than that? Thanks for organizing, Bill!

Another Black Star Co-op Event


Message from your friendly neighborhood cooperative would-be pub and brewery:

Dear Members & Friends of Black Star Co-op,

After taking a break last month, our monthly Beer Social will return on Saturday, October 20th. We'll be back at Kenny Dorham's Backyard from 7-10PM with our usual blend of good times, good beer, and co-operation, and we hope you'll be able to join us. Tell your friends with a copy of our flier:

But that's not all for October 20th! On that same day there are two other beer-related events in Austin that we can't afford to miss.

First, we will be again partnering with Austin Homebrew Supply for their annual Oktoberfest party from 12-6pm. They'll have beer from local breweries and brewpubs, food, live music, and specials on homebrewing equipment. We had a blast helping with this event last year and are looking forward to it once again!

And last but not least, New Belgium's Tour de Fat will also be coming through Austin that afternoon. The Tour de Fat is an event featuring bicycles and beer, two things we wholeheartedly endorse, and benefits local bicycling organizations. You can find more information on the Tour de Fat website:

It'll be a busy day, and we look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events. Thanks again for your support.


Black Star Co-op

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

WOW: Miller and Coors to Merge!

As an upstanding beer snob, I don't normally concern myself with what either of these two crap brewers are up to, but I admit even I'm impressed by the notion of these two companies combining. It's quite a business story, even if it won't affect my taste buds in the least. They say the move is to help them better compete with Anheuser-Busch.

Fresh Hops, Chapter 3

More from our "Fresh Hops" correspondent in Portland:

My fresh hop streak is continuing, a new one each day, though I did have to resort to bottled beer a couple of times. That's OK, one of the bottles was a big winner, my second-favorite harvest beer this year.

Wednesday I boldly ventured into the chain brewpub,
Rock Bottom. The Hop Harvest beer there was drinkable, within the range of what I'm looking for. I almost had to report that their Hop Harvest was way off the mark, just a normal IPA, because when I asked for the fresh-hopbeer, I was served just a normal IPA. I guess there aren't enough beer geeks to fill all the wait-staff positions at big corporate operations.

Thursday I finally broke down and had to experiment with a bottle from
Hale's Brewing in Seattle, their O'Brien's Harvest Ale. Hale's usually has great stuff, and this was no exception. Lots of flavor — what do I taste there, charbroiled steak? No, I guess it's just a pretty dark, caramely malt, maybe some yeast flavor, and there just on top is the flowery fresh-hop. Very tasty, and I'll have it again, but this time of year I like the green hops to be the star of the show, not a supporting actor.

Friday I grabbed a
Geschwills Golden Ale at the Widmer Gasthaus. Uh oh, "golden ale," isn't that secret code for "if you don't like beer, you'll be able to choke this one down"? This was pretty bland, I didn't really get much of the fresh hop aroma. I was hoping for better.

Saturday was
Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale. It's in 6-packs, but I tried it on tap. A little bit of hop bitterness, but none of the exciting greenness I wanted. Put it in the same category as Widmer.

Hmmm … sounds like things are tapering off, have I already been through all the good ones? Luckily, Sunday's experiment restored my faith in the fresh-hop spirits. A bottle again, but a good one, 22 ounces of
Deschutes' Hop Trip. Of everything so far, this is second only to Full Sail in my opinion for nailing the style. Honey sweet, fresh flowery hops, Hop Trip was what I was looking for.

I'm going to try desperately to keep the streak going for 5 more days, then Saturday there is a "Fresh Hop Tastival" that will be the icing on the cake.

Monday, October 08, 2007

NXNW Oktoberfest This Weekend

The hits on my website have been through the roof lately, more than double what they were this time last year. A big part of that is people searching for the phrase "Oktoberfest in Austin," and they're hitting on my info from last year. Well, here's your first taste for this year: North by Northwest's Oktoberfest is coming up this weekend. Click here for info.

(Thanks to Lance for the heads-up.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Speaking of traveling …

Dammit, dammit, dammit I wish I could go to this. I have in-laws in Boston, but there ain't no way Margaret and I could get ourselves organized to go in time:

(From Beer Advocate magazine)
Just a heads-up ... our Belgian Beer Fest is right around the corner! Don't miss this unique opportunity to explore a massive selection of hand-picked Belgian beers for your tasting enjoyment!

When? Oct 26 & 27 Where? Boston, MA

Night of the Funk
Fri, Oct 26. Special event. 40+ beers. Lambics, Gueuzes, Brett beers, Sour/Wild ales, and other funk-a-licious offerings! Tasty snacks included. Guest speakers + more.

Sessions One & Two
Sat, Oct 27. 100+ Belgian beers; authentic to the inspired, speaker panels + more.

Tickets are on-sale now, but we expect this one to sell-out like past Belgian Beer Fests so don't wait!

Karla always makes me so jealous

Because she has more money to travel than I do. (Or at least, she's more willing to go into debt than I am.) She reports on her blog that she's about to depart for Prague, probably with a side trip to Pilsner Fest 2007 … in Plzeň! Man, talk about making a trip to the holy land!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Combining my passions, yet again

I love beer. I love bicycles. (And mass transit, and anything else that provides an alternative to our personal pollution machines). So I'm please to learn that New Belgium's "Tour de Fat" is coming to Austin Oct. 20. Check it out. (Thanks to Drinking Beer in Texas for alerting me to it.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Great American Beer Festival

No, I'm not going. But maybe someday. I just wanted to pass this info from the Brewers Association on to the rest of you:

From Pilsners to Porters and Wheat Beers to Stouts the 26th Great American Beer Festival Thrives On Success of U.S. Craft Brewers

Over 40,000 Expected in October at America’s Largest Beer Tasting and Competition

© 2007 Jason E. Kaplan

WHAT: On October 11-13, 2007, the 26th edition of the Great American Beer Festival returns to Denver. The granddaddy of all US beer fests, the 2007 GABF will serve over 1,800 beers (in one-ounce tasting portions) from 474 American breweries to the event’s 40,000 plus attendees.

WHEN: Thursday, October 11, 5:30 pm-10:00 pm
Friday, October 12, 5:30 pm-10:00 pm
Saturday, October 13, 12:30 pm-4:30 pm (Members only session)
Saturday, October 13, 5:30 pm-10:00 pm

WHERE: The Colorado Convention Center
700 14th Street, Denver, CO 80202

WHO: Presented by the Brewers Association. Based in Boulder, Colo., U.S.A., the Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade and education association for American craft brewers and the community of beer enthusiasts.

MORE: The 2007 Great American Beer Festival will have 1,884 beers available to sample and 2,832 beers will be judged over 3 days by more than 100 judges. In 2006, 3 of the 4 festival sessions sold out. New this year, the festival has gone green with the goal of recycling all possible packaging and festival programs.

Among this year's 75 outlined beer categories some new styles include: Pumpkin Beer, Other Low Strength Ale or Lager, Gluten Free Beer, American-Style Sour Ale, Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer, and American-style Imperial Stout. Attendees can sample beer by state, visit educational booth areas, attend food and beer seminars from an A-list of chefs and food experts, and listen to live interviews with the rock stars of the brewing industry.

The Great American Beer Festival has played a crucial role as a showcase and catalyst for the U.S. craft beer industry (which is now at an all time high). Scan data from Information Resources Inc. shows craft beer with a 17.8% increase in supermarket sales for 2006 -- more growth than any other alcohol beverage category in the supermarket sales channel. In the past three years, craft beer sales have grown by an astounding 31.5%.

For tickets, schedule information and a list of breweries entered go to:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More on "Fresh Hop" Beers

More guest blogging from my Portland pal (see earlier post):

Saturday evening the missus and I were downtown and happened into the bar at Higgins, and found that their cask beer was Full Sail's fresh hop ale — guessing it's the one they call Lupulin Ale.  Perfect.  This is the flavor I was looking for:  a little sweet, hoppy and flowery with a little extra green flavor.  A little flat and not-too-cold from the cask, just beautiful.  The best one I've had this year, and I'll have to hit it a few more times before I'm satisfied.

Sunday I convinced the neighbors to join me at the Lucky Lab, where they have The Mutt on tap, named after the 4 different varieties of fresh hops. It was interesting, a little bit tart like a rye or even some wheat beers, but we found it disappointing. Not much flavor, so you had to concentrate really hard to pick up the fresh hop aroma. I notice they have a couple other varieties they will show at the festival, so I'm holding out hope that one of those will redeem the Lab.

Monday I pounced on the New Old Lompoc and was surprised to find that they were pouring two different fresh hop beers. The Star of India IPA was a winner — strong hops, but with that nice grassy flavor. The other one was a dark, strong (7.8%) beer called Harvest Man, which they described as an Alt. It was delicious, especially after it warmed up a little, but I felt like the fresh hops were wasted on such a big beer. There was just so much to it, that you wouldn't notice the herbal notes unless you already knew they were there. As Joe Walsh said, I can't complain but sometimes I still do.

Tuesday we went for lunch to the Laurelwood on the east side, and tried their fresh hop Extra Pale. Good stuff, but didn't have the green herbal flavor I was looking for. Might have been because it had a ton of hops in it; if you're a hop-head you won't be disappointed to drink one. It seemed similar to Bridgeport's offering -- high quality but lacking a little pizazz.

Speaking of Bridgeport, I really have to sit down with a pint of theirs, since my small sample didn't do it justice. But I was thwarted Friday evening when I tried to pick up a half-gallon of the Bridgeport fresh hop ale at the Bridgeport pub on Hawthorne. A gal who looked like she might be the pub manager said their "policy" is to only fill their own growlers (I had an unmarked mason jar). Stupid policy — here's a guy who wants to spend $10 and tip the bartender, and you don't even have to wash a glass or wipe a table. They lost more than $10 business on that one, because I'll skip a few lunches after that.

I'll see if I can keep my streak going a little longer -- that's 8 different fresh-hop beers in 7 days. If I run out of new ones to try, I can always drink up more Full Sail.

Beers I'm Really Digging Right Now

At this very moment, I'm having my ass kicked by something called Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. Magnificent. But I'll come back to that.

Back in 2005, Margaret's lifelong friend Erin got married to her very cool (and beer-loving) beau Ben in Healdsburg, California. That's up in the wine country, but it's also a good place to get beer – downtown in the quaint little village is a brewpub called Bear Republic, and we had a mighty fine time there the day before the wedding. I'm happy to report that they must be doing well, because their products have just started showing up here in Austin. And in an timely coincidence, as M'Lady headed up to Philadelphia to visit Erin and Ben and their new baby (check her blog for details soon) this weekend, I decided that my just reward for watching the kids alone for four days would be some tasty treats from Grape Vine Market — and there were the Bear Republic brews right up front, beckoning to me.

I think about six styles were available, and I grabbed three — the
Hop Rod Rye Specialty Ale, the Racer 5 India Pale Ale, and the Red Rocket Ale. All three were tasty, but it is the latter that still sticks in my head three days later. The bottle describes it as "a bastardized Scottish style red ale packed with distinctive flavors and an aggressive hop character …." To my tastes, it was like a strange IPA — all the hoppiness that makes me love that style, but with a richness that I expect from a darker beer. I heartily endorse it, and encourage you to try any of their products. Or better yet, go out to California and give them a visit. The wine country is magnificent for many, many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with alcohol.

As for this Sam Adams … man, this is not what I expected at all, but I'm loving it. Most of my beer-drinking buddies are serious hop-heads, so I implore them —
go get some of this right now. It's definitely not what I think of as a pilsner. The bottle says I should prepare for "an intense hop experience," and they weren't kidding. It's much more like an IPA gone nuts – in fact, I think the only thing I've had hoppier than this is Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA, which is the only beer I've ever had that was too bitter for me. This comes in just shy of that intensity, just the right level for me. And according to the brewer, it's not just any hops — he regards the Noble Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, from Bavaria, as "extraordinary." I'd have to agree. If you're not a hop-lover (and some of my friends aren't), don't even look at the bottle — you might go blind or something. Otherwise, dive in and revel in the glory of this special brew.