Friday, December 31, 2010

Ramblings for 2010 End of Year Wrap-Up

As I sit here watching Dynamite! 2010 on HDNet DVR, I can't help but think this has been a most amazing year. Starting with the Houston beer scene, we saw the emergence of several new breweries, which had some honorable mentions for the best beer of the year (Ranger Creek Oatmeal Pale Ale and the Wytchmaker IPA by Jester King). Not to mention the killer Houston Beer Week by my babymamma Cathy Clark and beering for the first time at Petrol Station, River Oaks, and being 3 beers away from my 200th beer at the Flying Saucer. For a great wrap up of the beer events in Houston, please see my good friend and fellow MMA enthusiast barleyvine for a wrap-up. However, as I sip on my second Lagunitas Imperial Red, I cannot help but think of all the great places I was fortunate to visit this year.

I almost think that I should start with just after Christmas, which was a trip to Long Island, New York for some dear friends of ours. Two friends of ours got married in the LI and the wife and I had a great chance to try a number of New York beers like Captain Lawrence and Brooklyn. This year took to me to places like Indianapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta, and of course San Francisco. Sometimes you have to wonder about the beer travelers.

Sometimes I wonder, what if I actually find what I'm looking for? What if the Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA I smuggled from San Francisco's Bevmo in November be the best beer I've ever had. Or is is my 2010 beer of the year, the Real Ale Oktoberfest. What will I do if it turns out the best gastropub in the world is a soul food lunch place in Montgomery, Alabama we went to during Thanksgiving. (Nothing like Mac-n-cheese and fried chicken with Kasteel Tripel).

We made it to a number of different places this year without ever leaving the country. I still have to write up all the beers and city/restaurant reviews of these locales, but DAMMIT what a country for beer. San Fran, New Orleans, Lafayette, Mobile, Austin, Indy, and of course the newer spots in Katy and Cypress. This year I met small set of homebrewers that brew beer for Texans games and are in the same lot as me. I ran into hippies at Magnolia in Haight Asbury, threw fireworks for the Saints in Covington and of course later made it to the Abita Brewpub in Abita Springs. My only regrets is that I could not find the time to get back to my hometown of Charlotte or my wife's old stomping ground in Boston.

I didn't get anything international this year, but next year I'm looking forward to a trip to South America, maybe for another Marathon run, and I am dying for another trip to Europe, perhaps something in Denmark or Belgium. The wife and I are looking forward to a trip to Boston, and several more trips to New Orleans, Austin, and maybe a week longer to Canada. Holla back baby

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'll take another round of extra creamy

Beer Log: Right now

State: Sitting outside at the Saucer, just ran 9 miles at Memorial Park. Lovely December day in Houston. 73 deg F, mostly cloudy. Awesome.

Not to be confused with Thunderhead or Thunderbird beer. This nitro stout has a very long last head on top of a deep brown colored beer. Nose has a nice subtle roast/choco thing going on, maybe a touch of butter. Oh yeah man, I've got beer-stache. Mad creamy head is followed by a very smooth velvety beer. Nice and neat chocolate due to the malts and very thick body due to the oatmeal. I always have a very great impression of the first beer of the day and especially after a long run. It's funny, for the first time at Memo Park I used their fitness center locker room and shower facilities rather than dragging ass back home still sweaty. The place looks pretty old compared to something like an LA Fitness, but damned if this is not the ballz. You would think that when the Allen brothers discovered Houston, the first thing they built was the Memorial Park Fitness Center. I can do my long run, shower up, change clothes, and in a few minutes I'm in the Heights or downtown. Hell yeah baby. Back to the beer as it warms up, I just get even more of that great roast and chocolate. At 5% abv, this is a nice beer to have. High 3 stars.

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

Don't remember if I ever formally reviewed this one. Ruby/brown color with a nice thin white head. Not much of a scent. Beer tastes like a vanilla/chocolate candy. One of those cheaper ones you get on halloween that your parents claim is the good shyt. As my palate gets used to the vanilla, I get something kinda thin and a little bit watery in the middle of the palate. I would say that I should have gotten this one first, as the fuller Oatmeal Stout just ran roughshod over the tongue here. Oh well. May as well just enjoy this puppy.

I'm one of those guys that thinks hot pepper beers are pretty much bad ideas, but here goes. Dark brown color and tan lasting head. Nose has choco and something like a hot pepper going on in there. Beer has a smokiness and harsh roastiness to it that basically overpowers the chipotle. Give this beer about 20 seconds after you down in and you'll get some of that pepper heat in the back. In all reality I think the Mikkeller boys tried to do too much here. Super hardcore smoke which has that light band-aid thing going on, and the roast, and the pepper burn. As you drink it, that chocolate and coffee are rather pleasent, it's just everything else is throwing it off for me. And now I'm getting that pepper heat in like the middle of my throat. Dude. And I'm one of those guys that puts cayenne on the hot taco McCormicks mix for even more kick. For this cacophony of foolishness that Mikeller has stricken us with, I'm going to have to skip the star rating and give this the Cowboy Curtis face. And to think Mikeller is typically the bomb. Oh well. If they just itznayed the pepper and black patent, we would be in there. And for 9 bucks too. Come on son.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

IPAing at the Saucer

Good to be back at the Sauce for some good ol' IPAs.

Nelson Sauvin Single Hop Mikkeller IPA (say that three times fast)
Nose has an excellent caramel malt on top of a creamy reddish white head (no homo). They actually have this puppy on draft at the Sauce. Kinda hazy beer that has an nice grassy hop to it. The taste is interesting in that I get lots of grassy and bitterness on the hops. Decent malt but it doesn't quite hang on long enough to make it balanced, which is probably intentional to focus one's attention to the hops. Usually not a problem for me but the aftertaste is a little icky. Kinda turns into a bitter grapefruit aftertaste. If this is indeed the New Zealand hop that is in the Sierra Nevada Southern Hemi, then I think it's actually a little better wet. It just doesn't have the depth of hops I like with my beers, and that probably comes with multiple hops. Body is moderately full with low carbonation. The beer is rather drinkable. The beeradvocates fricken love this thing, but that lack of depth and aftertaste take it from a 4 to a three star beer.

Lagunitas IPA
A copper color beer that's pretty clear. Thin lacy white head that did not quite last that long. Taste is a strong hop and almost a little watery in the middle of the palate. I guess I'm so used to Hop Stoopid and Brown Sugga that this beer is rather sessiony. Nice hops all around with more depth than the Mik, though I can tell I should have had this one first. Damn shame. It gets a lot better the further I get away from that Mikkeller. High 3 Stars.

A Dogfish Squall IPA I've already had and I'm ready to rock and roll. Turns out this one has a pinch of roast and something akin to peaches or sweet cherries compared to the beers I've had already today. Nice.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Beer and Beerbrotha Sports Review: Frank Bush, Get the Hell Out

So I'm sitting here watching Grey's Anatomy on DVR and I'm still fired up about how the Texans have been performing all season. Mostly we can't get started until the second half of the season, which really sucks. I have sat in the same seat at the stadium or listened to the game on the radio at home while watching the kid, and we keep f'n losing at the end of the game. SURELY we could have beaten that sorry chump Tim Tebow, and sure enough we got nuthin again. Just another loss, and another sorry quarterback like Tebow, Collins, Sanchez, and Garrett look like the second coming of Joe Montana on the Texans. A damn shame. I picked a hell of a day to take a break from beering.

I think I heard it best from Chris Rock when he said TRUE integration is when you see the mediocre black people being hired and given chances in high places. As a black QB or coach, you had to WALK on water to even get an honest shot at the big jobs, and this was in the 90s. General Manager was a pipe dream. We got one Tony Dungy while Marty Chokenheimer was given chance after chance. We managed to get a few excellent coaches in there, but fast forward just 15 years.

OH MY HOW WE HAVE OVERCOME! I don't care if the next guys are black, white, or purple, I need Frank Bush to TURN HIS KEYCARD in by Monday morning. Based on how they play against J'ville, it's probably safe to say that Kubiak needs to walk as well, but I'll give him another week. Rick Smith hasn't put together an even halfway decent defensive players. But the team's defense really comes down to the defensive coordinator: Frank Bush. They say he's a nice guy and I truly hate to see brothas get canned. But this just can't continue. If we can get the DC at Cleveland as a head coach, I'd bring him in now.

Frank Bush's Texans defense has TIED the record for the most 24 point games given up in a season with 14 games. And we still have one more game to go. We have given up the most yards per game of all time. I say we go for the record. Let J'ville run up the score as well. Frank Bush needs to take his butt on the first thing smoking out of town, and Kubiak can go one more week later.

We need to get one of those fat bastard defensive coordinators with his gut sticking out. A guy that looks like he smells like bratwurst, cheddar, and Yuengling. Romeo Cernell, Rob Ryan, even Wade Phillips would be better. You know I could even see someone like John Fox from Carolina after they fire him as our DC. Frank Bush has to be the worst coordinator we've ever had. So on the positive, if you throw in Singletary and Vince Young, integration in the NFL is COMPLETE. But on the negative, the Texans still have a horrible defense.

Let me do some of my reviews from Christmas day.

Ommegang Tripel Perfection
Golden amber haze with white head. Nose is light banana, sour lemon, and herbal. Taste is much the same. Very smith with killer drinkability. Light-mod pepper and nice smooth spice. So simple yet so complex. This is beer's answer to a fine wine. I'm talking a Bordeaux level wine here. Ommegang is just knocking it out of the park time and again with these awesome beers. It's such a simple beer, but just... perect. 5 stars

Deschutes Jubilale
Dark amber with a fantastic head. Nose is a soda hop with taxes of brown sugar. Decent bread and light malt. Beer has a time of spirness to it. Kinda boring. Reminds me of the twilight pale ale with those prevalent american hops. Low 3 stars.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beering in Houston: Jesterking, Barcadia, Reef. Who you kicking out of the hot tub

So the wife wants to show me a good time as I happen to have had a particularly rough year at the job. I think I did pretty well performance wise, just a whole lot of work right up to the bell.

So she planned out this night of our hitting some great bars and restaurants.

Stop 1: Petrol Station
The owners wife couldn't help but remark on how great we both looked as we stepped into the bar Saturday afternoon. That's the kind of place this is. I've been making it a point that if all things were equal, I would order or buy the Texas craft beer instead of rank purchasing of the out-of-town stuff. But the beauty is that there was a beer on tap that I had had, but never reviewed.

Beer Log: December 18, 2010
State: Chilling, eating some hummus

Jester king Wytchmaker IPA
Ah I remember Jester King when they were still soliciting investors not too long ago. Now they've got a some great beer here in Houston though they are based in Austin, and they are going ballz out on the creative beer side as you can see the number of barrels sitting at the ranch/brewery for some aging programs. I'm sure they need to pay some bills now, hence the beer we are seeing at our beer bars in town.

Had this one on draft into a shaker glass. Little chill haze and burnt orange appearance (I'm sure those Longhorn boys will love that). Rather citrus hop nose. Big extra ipa hops, very orange citra and grassy. Loving the light caramel barely holding on for balance. Has a med body with something that's a bit chewy, which goes well for me in that I'm just all over this style of beer right now. 4 stars for the Kings.

After that we dragged ass down to the Tasting Room in the Upper Kirby area for some Pinot. Seems like the wine at the Tasting Room is just really fresh. I actually kind of dig that in that all the flavors have not melded together yet. Actually adds a little something for me.

Onward to Downing Street pub for some PRE-dinner cigars and Chimay Blue. I should have gotten the White. But any place with Chimay on tap is cool with me.

Finally onward to dinner at Reef. The beer twitter folks were saying they had some Saint Arnolds, but they must have run out or something, as I opted for the sparkling white wine to go with my Mussels made with Shiner Bock. This is my first time at Reef and man those boys just have killer seafood. The mussels were perfect, as well as the Salmon. I even ordered the fries to see how they would do it, and I think I got the Alton Brown method of french fries. Loving life. The ambiance at first blush feels like some of my rugby games, with lots of commotion, conversation, waiters everywhere. But once we sat down the rugby gave way to something like a ballet. Great service, everybody rolling nicely.

After stuffing our faces with mussels and Italian rice, I was feeling a little sluggish. And then she took me to Barcadia.

This spot just opened about a week ago, and I had totally ignored it as the advertisements n the Houston press looked like a burlesque house. And unless the house of burlesque has incredibly loud Lil' Jon and Ying Yang Twins music, owned by a Nigerian guy, and has a semi-legal champagne room, I'm not interested. However, this spot was rather a beer bar with great music, and a wall lined with 80s and early 90s era arcade games. And what's more, on that night most of the games were free. OMG. I felt like a pre-teen again. I was playing Star Wars, Ms. Pac-Man, Street Fighter II, the first Mortal Kombat, and Dig F'n Dug. Couple that was Dogfish Head 90 Minute on draft, a few other good brews, and the place is CONNECTED TO REEF. One time for the Montrose Area coming through once again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finally Sink the Penguin Beering: Culinary School?

So I'm sitting here just putting the kiddo to bed while the wife is sleeping off all the Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismark beer, and I get tweeted by one of my brothas in beer that my blog made the 50 best beer blogs on Guide to Culinary School. As much as I am a foodie (big fan of Fine Mexican Dining and Mediterranean kabobs), I'm not much of a cooking kind of guy. Maybe one day after the wife leaves me for one of those muscle framed brothas that play in the NFL I'll put some effort into cooking. Anyway, big thanks to GCS for the shout out on their website. I'm probably going to cry.

I guess I should fire up a recent beer adventure. So tonight the wife and I have meetings that start at 6:30AM (gotta get that oil), so what better way to spend an evening repairing the ol' marriage than a trip to Pub Hub for some Avery Rumpkin and two of the strongest beers EVER brewed.

Beer Log: Just about 2 hours ago
State: kinda hungry, still pissed the Texans blew it AGAIN, eating a BBQ chicken pizza

After a long day at the office, the wife and I met at our favorite Katy area beer bar, also known as the ONLY Katy area beer bar. Unfortunately the first couple of weeks after they opened, the B4-U-Eat folks were clowning these guys. Seems to have subsided. First up I grab the Scrimshaw Pils which is sweeter than I remember it last, and then onward to the Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye. Turns out that they are tapping the Avery Rumpkin tonight, so why not. They were supposed to tap it at 8PM, but here it is 6:08 and the guys said they tapped it earlier b/c they just had to taste it. So they had no problem getting us a couple goblets.

Avery Rumpkin
As much as I talk about Avery, do I need to put the link. This puppy was in your standard red wine goblet and served probably a touch too cold. But DAMNED if this thing did not taste and smell just like the Old New Orleans Rum Cajun Spice , which I also love. Nice high concentration on cinnamon, molasses, caramel, and joy. Enough hops to balance it out. I know some of the beerfolk would not dig that the rum came on this strong, but I like it.

Brewdog Sink the Bismark. So me and the Brewdogs have not been getting along, like ever. I think they use entirely too much black patent and peat in their beers, which is a flavor I just can't get with. But when your local suburban beer bar says that for $18 a shot you to can have the strongest beer EVER brewed (cost like 70 British Pounds for a 12 ouncer), why not. 41% abv. Great Ceaser's ghost!!! Mondo moldy bread and alcohol nose. Amber color. Great super malt, massive hops, and big burning alcs. Good night. Tastes like beer, just stronger than anything I've had in my life. WOW. 5 stars for the eisbier.

I love a great strong beer that is further distilled by freezing it, draining off all the thicker alcholic brew, shooting the remaining ice in your veins, and bottling the beer. Just a great old school technique. Though I'm used to it only being with bocks. Brewdog did good this time.

Damned if Pub Hub did not also have the Tactical Nuclear Penguin as well.
Tactical: malty peat and band aid nose. Has a strong scotch thing going on. Lots of peat, bitter, and whatnot. That one is a lot rougher. Like hickory bbq sauce. 3 stars

So there you have it. My first 5 star beer for Brewdog, just in time for the running of the Beerbrotha beer of year. Should be a great holiday season for all. Alright, I'm going to work. No more travel the rest of year save maybe a quick trip to Louisiana. Otherwise, next up is a Vegas baby early next year. Holla.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Belgian IPA: Great Divide

Turns out everyone and their dog is coming out with a Belgian beer with a harsh American hops. I'm pretty sure that the thinking is that many craft beer fiends love IPA, and they love Belgian Strong beers. So why not put them together and make SUPER-beers. I know I rated the Houblon Chouffe IPA Tripel as a 5 Star and the Flying Dog Raging Bitch as a high 4 star. It can really mess with your head, but usually it works out for the better. Imagine my surprise that Great Divide has tried their hand at this style of brewing, and I found it only in Montgomery, AL at the Filet and Vine.

Great Divide: Belgica
This belgian IPA I'm pouring into my Stella Artois goblet. How about that one baby! Kinda hazy straw colored beer with a big highly active white head (no homo). Beer has that ester nose with some citrus hops. I also smell something like a sugar sweetness. The taste is not bad. Has that Chimay Blue feel to it, with much stronger hops. Unfortunately I get some metallic and water thing going on in the back of the palate. I don't know how long that stuff has been sitting at that store in Bama, but with the selection they had, I should hope they are moving some product. As I drink it and get a little used to that aftertaste, one beer name keeps popping in my head: Pilsner Urquell in a green bottle. As much as I love the original Pilsner, I don't have any in the house to compare. Maybe it's my imagination. Low 3 Stars for the Belgica.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's a Firestone Walker Night

After hanging out all over San Francisco, I picked up a party pack of Firestone Walker Beers. We were very fired up to find this beer at the BevMo over on Van Ness. I gave a couple bottles of DBA to @Davewantbeer, and the rest is for Dad.

Beer Log: Right now
State: hungry, still a little stressed. Eating Pork chops and applesauce

Firestone Walker Solace
Lightly cloudy straw colored beer with white head in my Alamo Drafthouse shaker glass. Beer tastes of a great strong veggie and malt, and this one tastes rather sweet. Pretty smooth with a lagery taste yet ale feel to it. Don't really notice the 6% ABV. Very tasty that could go with a variety of foods. I wouldn't be surprised if some folks hated on this beer b/c it's kinda Cream Ale like. Great fruity and clove flavor reminiscent of some of those great Belgian beers you find out there. May be some wheat in there as well. Looking on their website I see they have seven different malts in this one. And it meshes just really well. I could drink an insane amount of this beer. 4 stars.

After all that goodness, actually taking it down a couple notches in alcohol with the

Firestone Walker Pale 31
You know this is a very interesting logo, with the lion on the left and the bear on the right. Looks like a kickass soccer jersey shield. Oh that smells great. Brilliantly clear, great hop and malt nose. Taste has a great musty bread thing going on. Has a soda/bitter type of hops flavor. Good crystal malt coming through early on. I like the subtle strength, the crispness, and whatnot. But we'll see. 3 Stars.

After setting up the Christmas tree and whatnot...

Firestone Walker Union Jack
This beer is what I heard about so much from the Brewing Network as their 2009 Beer of the Year if I recall. Excellent strong malt with balanced citra hops. Once again, perfectly clear with a poofy off-white head. Unreal flavor. strong malt and hops, though not too cloying. I can see this as the lighter end of a double IPA. Knocked it out the park with the caramel malt, maybe even a touch of roast. Moderate bitterness at the back of the tongue and the hops are not so strong that they punch you in the junk. I'm going to give this the big 5 stars. That one along with the Maui's Coconut Porter are just stealing the show from all the beer I smuggled from San Fran.
And speaking of Fire. I've never heard a sportstalk guy on as much fire as Chad Dukes after the Redskins lost 59-28 to the Eagles.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sun King Osiris

Picked this up in Indianapolis:

Beer Log: Right now
State: Just taking a break from fixing the car

Sun King Osiris

Shows up in a pint can (that's right cans). Lord knows it was expensive enough at $12 a 4-pack at the United Package Liquors. Drinking this out of the my BN Army glass. Amber color with a huge head. Very clear. Nose is an acidic grassy hops, probably cascade. Loving the light malt sticking out in there. Great hop forward balance, but not too strong. Very drinkable. Light caramel/bready malt and a great moderately citrus malt. Could stand up with the Ranger Creek OPA for my new favorite session pale ale. Low 4 stars.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Saint Arnold Altared Amber

Here at Pub Hub out here in Katy. Feeling good that I didn't have to drag so much ass to the inner loop for this beer. For those not in Houston, the Movable yeast series is a series of beer from Saint Arnold where they take their regular line-up of beers with the same malt and hops bill, but with different yeast. The first one I found OK, the Lawnmower with a German Hef yeast.

Beer log: Right now

Saint Arnold Amber
Nice toasty amber ale flavor. The aroma is a touch more metallic than I remember. High carbo out of the bottle, good and tingly. Light moderate hop aftertaste. Has a nice amber color to it, maybe some chill haze but that could be from just bottle storage and whatnot. I always like that English Muffin thing and whatnot.

Saint Arnold Altared Amber
Finally. Ooh that's a nice clear amber color (on draft) with a strong belgian clove and banana nose. Taste is rather belgiany. The American hops with the belgian ester yeast flavor kinda reminds me of those American-Belgo IPA I like so much, just toned down a little bit. Very tasty. Has a nice mixture with the harsh hops and whatnot that sits well on some sips and not so well on others. The body is a touch smoother and the carbo is a little less choppy, but of course that could be attributed to the difference b/t draft and bottle. I lose some of the English muffin and malt character that I get with the unaltered amber until the beer warms up. I would consider the regular Amber of this one if I had to choose which one they continued to keep in rotation.

I'll need to grab a bottle somewhere, but it seems like a stronger version of (dare I say it) Stella Artois. Getting a sampler of Stella right now...

Stella Artois
Crystal clear and simple. Oh no, not even close. Tastes like the Budweiser Movable Yeast series. I can see the belgo influence in Stella, but it won't work. Forget I mentioned it.

Overall impression: I still find it amazing that yeast has THAT much affect on a beer. If someone told me they put some clove in this beer, I would have believed it. 3 Stars for both the regular and altared ambers, though I prefer the regular amber. Keep 'em coming baby.