Sunday, April 27, 2008

Okay, I'm way late on this …

… but perhaps you'll find it useful. I was cleaning my office and came across my tasting notes for the Bob Knoxious Christmas Beer Tasting & Mirth Fest, lost and forgotten since December. We tried about 30 different beers, rating them from 1 (Bah Humbug) to 5 (Damn! That's some holiday cheer!). I'm not going to even think about recapping the entire evening four months down the line. However, perhaps you might check this post eight months from now as you seek guidance in buying holiday beers. These are the only ones that I rated a 5:
  • Full Sail Wassail Ale
  • North by Northwest Holiday Barleywine
  • Criminally Bad Elf
I gave these a 4:
  • Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
  • Very Bad Elf
  • Lump of Coal
  • Ed's home brew (sorry, you can't buy this commercially, but you might could ask Ed for some)
  • Scaldis Noel
  • Real Ale Sysiphus (Not really a holiday beer. In fact, you can buy the 2008 version right now.)
Um … Merry Christmas everybody!

(P.S. Oh cool. As I'm typing this, the episode of The Simpsons just came on where Homer sneaks out of work to take the Duff Brewery tour.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

American Craft Beer Fest

Oh damn I wish I could go to this. I loves me some craft beer, and I loves me some Boston. Unfortunately, I'm already using up all my vacation time and money on other trips this year.

Here's what the guys at
Beer Advocate magazine sent me:

Save the date: June 20 & 21 for the American Craft Beer Fest at Boston's Seaport World Trade Center, featuring: 75 American brewers, 300 craft beers, and guest speakers at one of the East Coast's largest and most diverse celebrations of beer! Advance tickets are on-sale now: $40 per session; includes all beer tastings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This ought to boost my hits

Okay guys (and my lesbian friends): There are two things in this picture that ought to get you really excited. 'Fess up: which one turns you on more?

(And in case you're wondering, no, that is not my wife in the picture. I just stumbled across this on the Internet. And no, I do not remember what phrases I was Googling to pull up such a pic.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Texas Winners at the World Beer Cup

The Brewers Association just announced the medalists at their World Beer Cup. Lone Star State winners included:

Category: Vienna-Style Lager (25 Entries)
The Covey Restaurant & Brewery (Fort Worth), Vienna Lager

Category: Strong Scotch Ale (43 Entries)
Gold: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. (Houston), Divine Reserve No. 4

Category: American-Style Wheat Beer (14 Entries)
Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner), Shiner Dunkelweizen

Category: International Pale Ale (20 Entries)
Silver: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. (Houston), Elissa IPA

Category: German-Style Heller Bock/Maibock (31 Entries)
Bronze: Rahr & Sons Brewing LP (Fort Worth), Bucking Bock

Full list of 2008 winners here.

Commentary: Of the ones I've had, I can say they are deserving winners. I haven't tried either one of those Fort Worth beers, though. Sounds like I need to make a trip to Cowtown! Actually, Rahr gets distributed here in Austin, so maybe I can track down that bock.

Beats digging ditches

A bad combination of too much to do mixed with attention deficit disorder conspired to keep me from getting a couple of articles done during the workweek, so now I'm spending the weekend trying to finish up. I hate working on the weekends. Weekends are for my family and goofing off. And to make it worse, the weather Saturday was absolutely gorgeous. So I decided, dammit, if I do have to work, I'm at least not going to suffer. I work from my house, so I got out of my home office and set up shop on the back porch, instead, and switched from the usual caffeine to another beverage. Behold, the way work ought to be:

(Um, in case my boss is reading this: I said this the way work ought to be. I promise, I usually save the beer for after 5 o'clock.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Texas Showdown closing!

It's a sad day in Austin. Texas Showdown Saloon, which I praised on this blog only a few weeks ago, is closing. I don't know what the property owners will be putting in its place, but I can guess. I've said it before, but I'll repeat: I really am a supporter of vertical mixed use development in this town. I realize that growth in Austin has become inevitable, and that keeping our city compact, walkable, and oriented toward mass transit is better than sprawl. But part of the VMU deal is that really cool shops and stuff are supposed to be on the ground floor of all these high-rises. So why can't that "cool stuff" be my favorite bars? I've lost Waterloo Brewery, now Showdown, and the Ginger Man will be gone in about a year. At least I can put one ugly rumor to rest: A manager at the Dog & Duck tells me that they just signed a lease and "we should be good for at least a year." At least. But I certainly won't be shocked to find out it's next up on the chopping block. Below is what I published in The Austin Chronicle today. (Note: the info about Happy Minutes pricing might be wrong; I just grabbed it off their website, and who knows when that was last updated):

Yet another bit of Austin's soul is disappearing in the name of progress. Texas Showdown Saloon, the venerable watering hole near UT campus – and home of beloved Happy Minutes, the daily 15-minute interlude when 10-ounce domestic beers cost only 40 cents – will close down, probably sometime in late April or May. "We've lost our lease; that's a fact," says Eddie Mack, general manager of the chain's Austin and San Marcos locations (Showdown also has bars in Arlington and Fort Worth). "They did not renew it. ... They're not willing to give us another lease. They've taken another offer on something; I'm not sure what." We're not sure what, either – Mack didn't want to give us contact information for the property's owners, saying, "I really don't know how that's relevant to anything." Through county property records, we learned that the site is owned by Julia J. Sawyer, who owns other Austin properties (including famed breakfast-taco joint Tamale House). We know that Sawyer has been in ill health in recent years and that her family has been managing her properties, but we were unsuccessful in contacting the family. "It's a sorrowful occasion," said Mack, manager since 1992. "I've put a lot of blood and guts into this place. It's been here since 1981. We have lots of faithful clientele that really hate to see us go, and I hate to see it go, but there's nothing I can do." Prior to the Showdown, the property previously housed the legendary punk venue Raul's. Mack says Texas Showdown will try to relocate elsewhere in Austin. – Lee Nichols

Monday, April 14, 2008


Not that long ago, I exclaimed my love for Sisyphus, the wonderful barleywine made by Real Ale. It's well worth the $3 or so per bottle, even if it's only 12 ounces. But this past Friday I was drinking with the Seeker and his lovely wife, and he told me that he had been the beneficiary of some extremely good fortune: He went to the store and bought a sixer of Real Ale's Brewhouse Brown, but when he got home, he realized one of the bottles was a Sisyphus!

"Dude," I said. "That's like opening your Willy Wonka chocolate bar and finding the golden ticket inside!"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chris Gaffney Has Cancer; Please Donate

[UPDATE: Chris Gaffney passed away on the morning of April 17. This really hurts. I used to be a music critic — in fact, I'm pretty sure I reviewed one of his albums back in the Nineties — but I drifted away from music for a few years. But when I heard the Hacienda Brothers, I instantly loved them and they helped me remember why I had once been so passionate about it. Now I realize that the two times I saw the Haciendas are all I'm going to get. That's hard to take. It takes me back to similar moments, like that awful instant I was informed of Stevie Ray Vaughan's death, or when I picked up the paper and read Albert Collins' obituary, and realized that those wonderful, glorious nights I reveled in their brilliance were gone forever. Yeah, I still have their albums, but anyone who lives here in the "Live Music Capital of the World" knows it just isn't the same.]

ORIGINAL POST: This is the first non-beer post I've ever made here. Actually, it sort of beer-related — I've certainly drunk plenty of beer while dancing to this guy's music.

Chris Gaffney is a very cool musician from Oakland, who has made both some wonderful solo albums and currently is in a killer outfit called the Hacienda Brothers, who play this really unique music that is a blend of 60s soul and honky-tonk country. They're quite popular in Austin: I've enjoyed them at the Continental Club, South by Southwest, and the Grand Emporium in Kansas City. You should really go out and buy his stuff now.

But before you do that, Chris could use your money in another way – he was recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and he needs cash for chemotherapy. Please, please, please go to and contribute to his medical expenses. You'll be doing your part to keep some great music playing in our world.

UPDATE: I completely overlooked this Austin event:

Austin benefit for Gaff at The Oaks
When: all day Sunday, May 25th.

All proceeds are going directly to Gaffney's expenses.

So far confirmed are Ponty Bone, Billy Bacon & Forbidden Pigs, Rosie Flores, Dave Insley & the Careless Smokers, Ted Roddy, & members of The Iguanas.

Any bands interested in supporting, please contact Steve@
The Oaks is located at 10206 FM 973 N. Austin, Texas 78653 (512) 278-8788

ANOTHER UPDATE: I meant to add this some time ago. It is written by a friend of mine who played on one of Gaffney's albums. This is reprinted by permission of The Rockdale Reporter.

So long, Gaff — not well-known, but well-loved

By Ken Esten Cooke
Reporter Publisher

 Are there honky tonks in heaven? If there are, Chris Gaffney will be booked to sing real soon.
 Chris, or “Gaff” as most of his friends called him, died last Thursday after a very aggressive form of liver cancer and complications from a fall during chemo treatments. It’s a shame he’s gone so soon, but anyone who ever got to see him isn’t likely to forget.
 He had one of those voices that sticks in your mind, not super-slick, but soulful, like a Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash. He sounded like a sand-papered Ray Price sometimes.
 He just never had those guys’ level of fame. But to hear him sing, especially a ballad, was to experience a bit of heartbreak.
 A quote in an article in the Orange County Register was dead-on: “In a lot of ways, he was the sort of guy who music critics dream of walking into a bar and finding their whole lives,” said Jim Washburn, a music critic who befriended Gaffney and saw him play scores of shows. “Someone who’s just there and is undiscovered and phenomenal.
 “It gets kind of grating when the decades pass and he’s still undiscovered, but that was also part of Chris’ charm,” Washburn said. “On any night, you could go into a bar in Orange County and see one of the best shows you’d ever seen in your life.”
 I was lucky to get to see quite a few of Gaff’s shows, though mostly years ago, before family and business obligations brought me back here. When I was in-between apartments after joining a new band, Gaff let me crash at his place for several weeks. And on nights when I wasn’t gigging, I’d tag along to his shows or follow him to the recording studio.
 The Arizona-born singer had an encyclopedic knowledge of music and soaked in all the nuances of famous voices. But he wasn’t a cheap impersonator. Gaff’s voice was honest and heartfelt.
 And he wasn’t a prima dona either. He worked manual labor jobs during the day and performed at night. And Gaff always had the attitude that he could go back to that and it wouldn’t damage his ego one bit.
 A band I was in had the chance to back up Gaffney on a short Southwest tour. Occasionally, he’d throw in an exaggerated Johnny Bush tremolo and look back at us with a wry smile.
 And he was funny. After one late night, I asked him the next day how his wife Julie reacted.
 “You know when you see a badger backed into its hole and think you’ll give it a kiss on its cute little furry nose?” he asked, with a subdued smile, drawing on a cig. “It was kind of like that.”
 But he also told me he was doing his dangdest to “make this one work.” He’d been to the altar twice before and slowed down on the touring at that time to try and make an honest go of this marriage.
 Gaff was also a huge sports fan and we’d talk about his favorite Oakland Raiders. We’d talk about boxing his Golden Glove days and he’d point himself out in the front rows of the televised “Fight Night at the Forum” in Los Angeles. Unlike most musicians, he always seemed just as excited to meet someone well-known from the sports world as from the music business.
 Fifty-seven is too early to be gone from this earth. But we’re not much in control of that.
 Now Gaff is in a better place now and he’ll add his smoky voice to the choir of angels.
 Rest in peace, brother. (See Gaffney sing 'What's Wrong with Right?' here.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New Beer Column at the 'Statesman'

Patrick Beach, long one of the Austin American-Statesman's best feature writers, debuted a beer column in today's issue. Give it a read – he writes up the Dogfish Head tasting and film festival held last week at Alamo Drafthouse (which I had to miss – **sob!**). If the Statesman will have the good sense to create a regular link to the column, I'll stick in my blogroll.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sam Adams beer recall

Samuel Adams has recalled some of its beers because of glass particles found in some of its bottles. Details here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hooray for Beer!

Clark just sent me this link noting that this is the 75th anniversary of the relegalization of beer in the United States.

Also, I just got this message from the good folks at St. Arnold's:

It was 75 years ago today,
FDR thought we'd gone astray.
The economy was at a nadir,
And nobody could enjoy a beer.
So he modified the Volstead Act,
Prohibition shall not remain intact,
"Beer must be allowed!"
The cheers in response were loud.
Away with the legacy of Carrie Nation,
Toasted people with their favorite libation.

On April 7, 1933, beer was again legalized. It was not until 8 months later that the entire Volstead Act was repealed allowing for the sale of wine and liquor.

So raise a Saint Arnold this evening and toast to the 75th anniversary of beer being legalized again!

MONDAY, APRIL 7, Ginger Man, 6pm- Saint Arnold Pint Night! Stop in to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, have a cold Saint Arnold Spring Bock, and get a free pint glass (while they last). BONUS: I will be giving away two(2) prime seats for Ray Romano' show tomorrow night at The Austin Music Hall at this promo-there will be a trivia question, so know your Saint Arnold history!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Drinking Beer at Texas A&M

My mom sent this joke to me months ago, but it got forgotten in my inbox. Some background for my out-of-state readers: An "Aggie" is someone who attends Texas A&M University, the rival of we University of Texas Longhorns. Aggie jokes are very popular among Texans. The Aggies are kind of the Polish of the Lone Star State.
A Texas Tech graduate, a University of Texas grad and a Texas Aggie were sitting in a bar in San Antonio. The view of the river was fantastic, the beer was ice cold and the food exceptional. "But," said the guy from Tech, "I still prefer the beer joints back in Lubbock . There's one place where the owner goes out of his way for the locals. When you buy 4 beers, he will buy the 5th."

The Longhorn said "Well, at my local bar in Austin , the owner will buy your 3rd drink after you've bought 2."

"Hell, that's nothin'," the Aggie responded. "Back in College Station there's this bar where the moment you set foot in the place they'll buy you a drink and keep them coming all night. Then when you've had enough to drink, they take you upstairs and see that you get laid. And it's all on the house."

The Red Raider and the Longhorn immediately doubted the Aggie's claims. "And this actually happened to you?" asked the Tech grad.

No, not myself personally," admitted the Aggie. "But it did happen to my sister."

Entire state going dry?

I have just received reports, both from my sources in the brewing industry and in politics, that a bill banning sales of alcohol in retail stores will be introduced in the Texas Legislature next year! Even worse, given that Republicans and a few conservative Democrats dominate the Lege, my lobbyist sources say it has good chance of passing! That's right – you would only be allowed to buy alcohol by the drink in so-called "private clubs," as is currently the case in dry counties. Imagine — no more grabbing a six-pack on the way home after work. Arrghh! I can't believe this!

Call your state rep and state senator today and
demand this outrage be stopped!