Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yummy Christmas Presents

More on the aforementioned Kansas City trip to see the family: We hooked up with our Philadelphia friends the Jarigues (Erin is a friend since childhood of M'Lady), and they presented me with a great treat of six Philly-area beers.

I tried the first before we ever left KC (yeah, I'm the type to shake my present under the tree to try to figure out what it is), and was rewarded for my impatience. Tröegs Brewing's Troegenator Doublebock (or "Dopplebock" for you German purists) is an outstanding rendition of this heavy-as-lead winter seasonal. As their website notes, this style was created by monks who needed nutrition during periods of fasting, and this stuff is like liquid bread. (Not Wonder Bread, either – more like heavy duty wheat with a thick, chewy crust.) It's not for the faint of tastebud, and you better have a deep love of malt. Fortunately, I do. It easily stacks up against my longtime favorite in this style, Spaten Optimator (which, for some reason, I must always pronounce with my best Ahnuld Schwarzenegger accent).

Thanks, guys! It's always awesome to try some beer that I can't get here in Texas, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the sixer. (They also included a Golden Monkey from Victory, which is distributed here, but hey, I'll take it anyway. For the record, I'll gladly accept free Victory beer any time.)

Since Erin is in a family way, it was up to me and Ben to then sample the limited-edition Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad that my mother-in-law gave me. I can't say I was as blown away as some of my KC beer blogger friends – I wasn't quite sure what to make of the cherry flavor, and maybe I just needed a cleaner palate after putting away some Boulevard Nutcracker. I think Ben felt the same way. Nonetheless, I liked it, and continue to applaud Boulevard's adventurousness with the Smokestack Series. The MIL got me two bottles, so maybe my appraisal will come up on the next try. (UPDATE: Yes, I thought this was excellent on the second go-around. I think letting it warm for several minutes is a good tactic with this beer.)

What did rock my world was the Double Wide IPA (another Smokestack) that I accidentally left in the MIL's fridge last winter. A year's worth of aging didn't hurt this beer one bit. Maybe the DWIPA raised my expectation too high for the BBQ (Get it? Bourbon Barrel Quad? Kansas City BBQ? Those guys are clever.) Now, if only Boulevard will put on the market that imperial stout that they tested on me and some other beer bloggers earlier this year. It was great.

Up next: Boulevard's other limited-edition brew, the Brett Saison, which the KC crowd has been raving about and I'm anxious to sample. As far as I know, it's not been for sale in Texas, making my biannual KC trips all the more valuable. Um, well, that and visiting my in-laws. ;-)

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Bobnoxious Xmas Beer Tasting Report, Part 1

As always, I'm not sure what I did with my tasting notes from the 2008 Bobnoxious Christmas Beer Tasting, but I do remember drinking lots of yummy stuff. And, again as always, I'll have to fall back on Bob himself and let you read his tasting notes. And perhaps at some point, there will actually be a Part 2 to this post. I think my notes got buried in my suitcase, which I have yet to unpack.

Until that time, I'll just add one thing to Bob's comments: My favorite beer of the whole shindig was our friend Ed's chocolate raspberry stout (with a nitro pour!). Yes, I even thought it was better than any of the commercial brews we tried, and no, I don't say that out of charity to a friend — it really was that good. It's no wonder he won the "flavored beers" category in this year's Austin Zealots Inquisition contest with it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Great Kansas City Beer Blogger Summit II

Well, I guess if three of us getting together can be called a summit, then so be it. Quality trumped the lack of quantity, however, and we had a great time.

Unfortunately, trying to round up six people at holiday time is like herding cats. Absent: Muddy Mo came up sick today; Bull had family obligations to deal with; I'm still not convinced that Wes actually exists; and, despite my pursuit of a meeting with her for a year and a half now, Beergirl and I are apparently cursed to never have a beer together. She ended up having a funeral to deal with today, and what the hell are you gonna do about that? (Sara, please tell your hubby I am so sorry.) Man, we have rotten luck getting together. Oh well, maybe next summer.

Present: me, Bad Ben, and the newcomer to our group, Oregon Amy. Plus Ben's wife Vickie (sp?) and Amy's husband John, who homebrews. We settled in to a fun evening of talking about beer (natch), brewing (mostly between John and Ben, as I still haven't taking the brewing plunge) and running (Ben, when he's not brewing or drinking, is an ultramarathoner).

Additionally, we were joined by Mags (my designated driver, among other things), the beer-loving Jarigues, and Mags' and Erin's high school friend Wanda.

Our meeting place again was 75th Street Brewery, which I can't recommend highly enough. What a great little place. Located in southern KC, they have tasty food (although I must mock them for their menu item of "Tex-Mex Fondue" — what we Texans would call "queso"), and even tastier beer.

The Christmas ale was nice, albeit not what I expected. I was thinking malty and heavy, but instead got spicy. Their IPA was quite fine — the hops were restrained, just the right balanced note, a refreshing change from how over-the-top some IPAs can be. The stout was a silky-smooth nitro number which the wife particularly approved of. They had something called a "wheat wine," a variation on barleywine, which was a bit sour for my taste, as was their bourbon barrel brown — not bad, but more than I could handle for a whole glass.

I capped off the evening by distributing bottles of Saint Arnold Christmas Ale and Real Ale Fireman's Four, which I hope my Texas beer-deprived KC friends will enjoy.

Okay guys, I've given up hope that we can actually get all of us together at once, but maybe I can see more than half of you next summer? I'm already planning a trip for mid-June.

In the picture, l-r: John, Oregon Amy, me, Bad Ben, Vickie.

(Okay, I'm ready for some of you guys to come visit me in Austin now!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Things I Learned Today

1. McCoy's, in the Westport district of Kansas City, brews some great beer. Their imperial stout was great.

2. The Foundry, McCoy's adjacent beer bar, has really magnificent beer selection. Delirium Noel on tap!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Video Tour of Austin's Breweries

I haven't had time to look at all of this, but what I've seen so far looks pretty cool. Well done, Chris!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If You're Missing Shiner Dunkelweizen ...

... and you live in Austin, and that new peachy concoction just isn't appealing to you, may I suggest the dunkelweizen at North by Northwest? Really, it's even better than the Shiner product. I went there for lunch this afternoon with the parental units, and filled up my growler with it.

It has this brown-gold muddy look to it, but don't let that put you off if you're more accustomed to filtered beers. The wheat flavor is rich and bold, and just screams Germany to me. It has a strong banana note to it, both on the nose and the tongue. This is one of their better offerings, and that's really saying something for North by Northwest, which is pretty consistently great.

This dunkel has replaced the hefe on their menu, I'm assuming just for the winter, so get it while you can.

Another get-while-you can: Their fabulous holiday barleywine is also on tap, although I can testify it isn't quite as fabulous as the cask-conditioned version I had back in November. Sorry if you missed it. (Don't forget: cask-conditioned night is the last Monday of every month.) Also, their bourbon-barrel aged Blackjack Ale is also now on tap. It's been over a year since I've had that, so I'll have to refresh my memory on it soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Celis Grand Cru sighting

I know some of the old Celis lineup has been reappearing in Austin stores in recent years since it was revived by Michigan Brewing Co., but unless I'm mistaken, Celis Grand Cru hasn't been one of those. But I was in Grape Vine Market yesterday and spotted some on the shelves.

I probably should have grabbed some. I wasn't a fan of Grand Cru back in the day when Celis was an Austin brewery (early 1990s), but that was before I'd learned to drink strong ales. Maybe I'd like it now.

Am I right about this? This is a new development, yes?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Poll: What Winter Beer should I get?

Winter blew in last night. Or at least what passes for winter in Texas. Temps almost at freezing, a light dusting of snow and ice. It'll get up to about 50. So later today, I'm heading over to Grape Vine Market or Spec's and looking for something to warm my soul.

Help me decide: What should I get? I've had lots of Shiner Holiday Cheer, and still have a few left in my fridge, so let's leave that out.

Leave your votes in the comments section.

(EDIT: Oops, it occurs to me that I still have plenty of Boulevard Nutcracker out in my fridge also, so suppose I don't really need to go beer-shopping. But on the other hand, I need to deposit a check and my bank is only a few doors down from Grape Vine …)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Xmas Gift Suggestion: "Shine On," the history of Shiner Beer

Coffee table books always make a nice Christmas gift. But maybe this one should be called a beer table book. Or maybe a bar book.

Shine On by Mike Renfro is the officially approved history of Spoetzl Brewery, makers of Texas' legendary Shiner beer, brewed for almost 100 years now in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,070). I've just cracked open my copy, so you'll have to wait for a full-on review (to be published either here or in The Austin Chronicle — the Chron already had a mini-review back in October), but I'd say go ahead and buy it for the beer-lover in your life — as with many coffee table books, the photos and illustrations alone are worth the price. Just based on the first chapter, it looks like the writing is pretty good, too.

A new record

Not that anyone really cares about this except me and my ego, but October was the busiest month ever for I Love Beer. The blog received 5,022 visits that month (barely topping the 5,012 of January) and 7,279 individual page views, just four more than January.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Peek Inside (512) Brewery

Last month, right before Turkey Day, (512) Brewing gave Austinites something to be thankful for: free samples of their new Pecan Porter, and an open-house look at their South Austin brewery. As near as I could tell, the verdict was unanimous: This is a mighty fine, hearty dark beer to keep you warm during the holidays. As with all (512) beers, it's only available in kegs at the moment, so head down to your finer bars and grab a pint.

I can't say my palate is quite sharp enough to detect the pecan flavor, but that's fine — better to go subtle with flavor than heavy. What I did detect was the bold richness that I seek in a porter. I also tried (512)'s wonderful IPA, and stop the presses: I actually found another wheat beer that I like! (512)'s Wit is modeled after the legendary Celis White (which, frankly I was never nuts about), but uses grapefruit peel instead of orange. Maybe that's the difference, because I enjoyed every drop of it.

Some shots of the event, including the glitterati of the Austin brewing scene who attended (two weeks after the event, I guarantee I'm getting some names wrong here; please send corrections and accept my apologies):

On the left, a really nice guy from the Zealots whose name escapes me (dammit I'm an idiot when it comes to names); on the right, Uncle Billy's Brew and Que brewmaster Brian Peters.

Four different beers, but they only give us three sampler tickets? That's just cruel.

Where the magic happens.

Real Ale brewmaster Tim Schwartz and Black Star Co-op's Snax

Bags of malt and a barley mill, a first step to yummy deliciousness

Live Oak's Chip McElroy and his junior apprentice brewmasters

The line got real long, real quick.

Ed inspects the equipment.

Snax, (512) owner/brewer Kevin Brand, and Ed discuss the art.

I dig the classy logo.

Kevin gives a tutorial on how his brews are produced, while enjoying his Pecan Porter.

Kevin holds court like a proud papa holding his new baby. Well done, Kevin! Damn, I need to get to a bar soon for a second tasting.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Meet Your Local Brewers

Thanks to Texas Beer for tipping me off to this. From Edible Austin's website:

Date: Friday, December 12, 2008 At 03 PM
Duration: 4 Hours
Meet Your Local Brewers Happy Hour @ the Whip In Parlour Cafe & Market. Enjoy the fabulous tastes from our local breweries and meet their makers: Live Oak Brewing Company, (512)Brewing Company, Independence Brewing Co., Uncle Billy's Brew, Real Ale Brewing Company, Saint Arnold Brewing Company and Shiner Beers. Special 10% discount offered on taste selections. Also enjoy the Indian subcontinental offerings from the Whip In menu, featuring Loncito's Ranch grass-fed lamb and local produce for vegetarian and vegan varite. 3–7 pm.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Shiner Holiday Cheer

I was certain I would hate this beer.

I still had some residual annoyance toward Spoetzl Brewing for canceling one of my very favorite summer beers, Shiner Kolsch, when I received word that they were also killing off a winter beer I liked, Shiner Dunkelweizen. Their replacement as their winter seasonal, they announced, would be a new dunkelweizen flavored with peaches and pecans named Holiday Cheer.

Great, I thought, just what the world needs — another crappy fruit beer.

But you know what? I'm man enough to admit when I was wrong. I've tried it. And tried it again. And again. This stuff is great.

At least, that's what I think. You may completely disagree. Thus far, I have yet to find anyone who is apathetic toward this beer. People either react like me with a "wow," or they do like my wife and make a yuck face.

On the one hand, I feel like I should have known I would like this. Peaches are my very favorite fruit, especially Texas Hill Country peaches. (Of course, I love raspberries and blueberries too, but that doesn't mean many a good beer hasn't been ruined by them.) And I love Texas pecans, although the peach flavor here completely overwhelms any taste of the pecan.

On the other hand, I ought to hate this. On those rare occasions that I do like a fruit beer, it's when the flavor is subtle. Holiday Cheer's peach is not restrained — it smacks your tastebuds pretty hard. You won't have to search your palate too hard to find it.

Eh, I'm not going to overthink it. The bottom line is, I find this peachy flavor addictive, and it keeps showing up in my beer fridge. I'm not sure it's a taste that immediately says "Christmas" (or whatever winter holiday you prefer) but it's definitely says Texas, and I'm good with that.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cask-conditioned Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale tonight

Ooh, darn it I'd love to go to this, but I think I've used up my night-out credits for the week. Y'all should go in my stead and tell me how delicious it was. And get yourself a pint glass. Message from Saint Arnold:

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, Zax Pints and Plates, 6pm-A very special tapping of Saint Arnold Cask-Conditioned Christmas Ale! There's a pint glass to be had (while supply lasts), as well as some fine food from Mike and Jeff.