Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ale to the Chief

You know, I probably should've drank this one while at the Inauguration, but I didn't want to get shot...

Beer Log: May 5, 2009

Avery Ale to the Chief
Raisin, malt, brown sugar, fruit nose, all very strong. Would you expect anything less from Avery. Big head on an orange beer. Smells just awesome. The taste is a great sweet malt with balanced hops. BALANCE PEOPLE! I would say this is like Sam Adams Boston Ale on the Juice, or a decently strong American Pale Ale. You don't get the caramel until halfway back on the tongue. 15 seconds on the hoppy aftertaste. High to moderate carbonation. Reminds me of some west coast Pale Ales now as it warms. The hops and malt seem chewy (if that makes any sense). The hops are pretty citrsy and slight musty, nothing wrong with that. 4 Star. The head lasts to the ends (hee hee). Avery, why did I ever doubt you?

British Random Beering, Just call me the Black Knight

I don't know what happened, but I had a whole British beer post set up. I post the damn thing, and it comes up empty. Let me try an abbreviated version, b/c I don't feel like retyping all of that.

Drafthouse ESB
From Alamo drafthouse. Malty nose, tastes a bit hop heavy. 3 Star.

Snake Dog IPA
Flying Dog brewery getting 'er done. Balanced heavy malt and hops. Low carbonation. Loving it.

Later on at the Flying Saucer

Monty Python Holy Grail Ale
Name is better than the beer, coming out of Black Sheep. Complex nose (all different versions of malt) but a touch sour and a little velvety on the mouthfeel. Low 3 Stars

Samuel Smith IPA
Smells like bubblegum. Rather hop-forward IPA with some sweet malt in the background. I was eating some kind of smokey cheese and it gets more malty. Looks like the Brits are trying to get all American-like with the hops. 3 Stars.

Lagunitas Pale Ale
Grassy/malty nose. Clear straw color. Taste is hop heavy once again, like the Smith. The malt is just plain missing. Low-med body. 3 Star.

Word of the Day

Merriam-Webster's word of the day is oeniphile, a lover or connoisseur of wines. So what is a lover of beers called?

I did some googling around (yeah, i just can't get with "binging" around) and found others who wondered the same thing. Over at Real Beer, they talked about Gregg Smith's preferred term, cervisaphile. There's also beer enthusiast, beer snob and libationist. They got lots of comments and you can read the poll results and commentary.

So what do you guys think? I love the idea of having a one-word description, but apparently it didn't catch on. What do you guys call yourselves?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cooking with Beer

While the Beer Brotha is away, I thought I'd share some recipes with the readers of the blog. I often cook with beer, especially since the keggerator is still (somehow) in my dining room. We thought it might be fun to share some of the recipes that I've found, tweaked and created. I don't usually measure when I cook so it might take a while before you get an Isos original, but I have a few from my cookbooks and online. BTW, I have gathered about 100 recipes in a Tastebook that I have on the way to the house. Tastebook is a neat little site that lets you make your own cookbook, so I made one with nothing but foods made with beer!

The recipes below are from Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. It's used in a brisket recipe (will share in the next post), but when I made it for Beer Brotha, we used a T-bone steak instead of brisket; the rub works well on any beef, I think.

Chocolate Ancho Rub

In a medium size bowl, add all the ingredients and mix with a whisk, until you have a uniform mixture. Add to a quart size jar and seal, until ready to use.

1 CupCocoa Powder, like Valhrona
½ Cup Ancho Chili, ground
½ Cup Sugar, organic
½Cup Kosher Salt
¼Cup Black Pepper, freshly ground
¼Cup Cumin, ground

Yields: 3 Cups

Stout BBQ Sauce

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Each Yellow Onion, peeled and minced
1 TSP Kosher Salt
2 TBSP Chocolate Ancho Rub
¼ Cup Molasses, Black Strap if available
1 Each Stout Beer*, 12 oz. of your choice
¼ Cup Malt or Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Can Tomato Sauce, preferable organic
1 Shot Espresso

In a medium sized pan add olive oil, minced onion and salt (1). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are caramelized (2). Add the Chocolate Ancho Rub (3) and stir for about 30 seconds, to toast the spices. Add the molasses and stir another 15 seconds (4) to combine, deglazing with the stout beer (5); stir well, helping lift off any of the fond on the bottom of the pan. Add malt or cider vinegar and tomato sauce, keeping the heat to medium, stirring while cooking for about 25 minutes.

The sauce should be thick, dark brown, but not burnt. Add the shot of espresso and transfer the sauce to the pitcher of a blender and puree for about 1 minute or until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a pint size jar (6) and use with the Smoked Beef Brisket with Chocolate Ancho Rub (7).

* For beer: Stouts vary widely from beer to beer. For example, an Oatmeal Stout gives a nice creaminess, where the Dry Stout has a lighter body. A Milk Stout with its un-fermentable lactose will leave a residual feel in your mouth. Cooking with these beers will yield different results. I would recommend Anderson Valley’s Oatmeal Stout, Bison’s Chocolate Stout, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, or Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout. Guinness could work too, if you don’t have a homebrewed Stout one on hand.

Yields: 4 Cups

Source: www.homebrewchef.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Brick House Tavern + Tap

Run, don't walk. Do not pass Go, Go Directly to Brick House Tavern + Tap.

About 40-50 different beers in some form or fashion (tap, bottle). You can order beer in beer bongs or minikegs. Fantastic food (I had the chili and BBQ wings). Great flat screen TVs. Full reclining leather chairs (with cup/tray holders) smack dab in front of the TVs.

And I swear the most beautiful waitresses of any restaurant, bar and maybe strip club in the city. And they're rather aggressive at that. Be careful: don't even look 'em in the eye for too long or you'll fall in love. I felt like I was back in the 6th grade talking to the first girl in the class that hit puberty.

I passed the Professional Engineers exam, and a good friend of mine did the same. We decided that instead of driving around town acting a fool we'll just grab some drinks at the new bar on the northwest side of Houston. There was NO parking whatsoever. Folks were parked in the grass, on the side streets, in the middle of the lot, in the median. I swear they would have parked on the freeway if you let 'em. It's a damn Tuesday at 6PM. I almost have to step back, in fact I think I did step back as the smoking honey-brown skinned sistah opened the door for me and smiled at me like I was steak.

My friend shows up soon after and what was supposed to be a quick couple of brews turned into 3 hours of beering. I tried out the Ugly Pug beer by Rahr and Sons, and grabbed about 3 Longhammers after that. Dammit man, Widmer knows they can brew some session beer. The manager came by at we just had to shake his hand at some point for putting together such an establishment. I just love the whole Man Cave atmosphere to it all. Think of "The Man Show" from the old Comedy Central days without all the gay jokes. Houston's upper northwest has just made a big come up (no pun intended).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Video Re-enactment of Me, 12 months in the future

So basically here's how it breaks down. I want another child, but the wife is not up for it. We are finally getting some breathing room with our first child as that she can now speak the king's english enough to where we know what she wants. She's a pretty bright girl at 20 months, she even tries to change her own diaper. Can feed herself, puts herself to sleep, the whole bit. The wife's not up for starting over again.

So the wife put down the gauntlet. If she has to be pregnant for 9 months and say 3 months of nursing, she can't have any alcohol. Therefore, I cannot have any alcohol either. Last time she was with child, I was a STAPLE at the margarita bars in Houston, now I have to do the whole shared sacrifice thing. I've done a month going dry twice for marathons, and of course had to do when I'm offshore for my job. But 12 MONTHS! So assuming we decide to have one more baby, I have found a great video re-enactment of my reaction after 12 months of going dry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Otter Creek Dubbel

A little more of that World Tour beer from Otter Creek. Last one wasn't bad.

Otter Creek Dubbel Ale
Smells like brown sugar, some cherry, a little banana, cinnamon, and some esteryness. Taste is surprisingly sour. Pretty dry, with a somewhat thin mouthfeel. Color is a deep brown with a quickly depleting tan head. The more I drink it, the more I get a little more sweetness, but it is completely overpowered by the sourness. The wife with her sweet tooth doesn't get much of a sourness at all. A quick check on beeradvocate broke it down well, some on my side, some on her side. I don't see where these chumps are getting all this molasses and raisins and whatnot. Some call it tart, while others call it sour. But whatever it is, I like a sweeter dubbel. Low 3 Stars/High 2 Star for me.

Hold the phone. It is a good 30 minutes later and that sourness has turned to what I would call tart. I'm getting a better mouthfeel (thermodynamically impossible unless this beer is made with peanut flour). It has a better sweetness fighting with all its might to get a piece of the action. Still pretty dry but there's nothing wrong with that. Gimme a solid low 3 star. I'm still not feeling the tartness, but I could actually see myself enjoying this beer with some sort of dry mahi mahi or something. Who knows.

Some like it Wet...

Beer Log: An Hour ago
State: Watching "The Dark Knight" on HBO for the 5th time this month

I finally decided to pick up a bottle of Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, the 2009 version. This is a beer where they use only wet hops: basically hops they just picked off the vine and slapped it in the beer without drying or any other processing. A very rare process most don't have the resources or the ambition to make happen. It's kinda like smoking cannabis right off the plant without so much as grin... um bad example. It's like snorting the coca leaf right off th... um bad example. It's like sleeping with a girl the day...um bad example. Let's move along.

SN Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale
Ah the hops from New Zealand and flown in still wet. Caramel malt with grassy bitter hops on the nose. It has that classic Sierra Nevada dark copper color with a poofy kinda tan head. I wouldn't be surprised if their lemonade is dark copper. Damn, a big hop flavor at first, second, and last on the palette. A lingering sweet caramel that sticks around throughout it's journey over the palette. The hops are really grassy and citrusy. Wow on the high hoppy aftertaste. that takes its sweet time dissipating. I could really use some spicy hot fajitas to go with this one. Fantastic. Another 4 Star beer for SN.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shiner, Otter Creek, Belhaven: Who you kicking out of the hot tub

Beer Log: April 28, 2009
State: Hell if I remember...

As much as we downed it back when I first got into Shiner Beer after moving to Houston, I figured the 100 Year anniversary and the anniversary pack would be a great time to formally review some old favorites.

Shiner Hefeweizen
Oh man, this one is everywhere. It's at the Hooters, the mega beer stores in Maryland. It used to be one of their biggest sellers until the Black Lager took the Texas beer world by storm. Wheat and light ester/vegetal nose. Strong white poofy head with lightly clouded straw color. The taste comes in two phases, first you get thee nice banana and light bread, followed by some wateriness and metal. Leaves my tongue feeling very tingly (nullus). The aftertaste itself is pretty metallic as well. I considered giving it a low 3 Star for nostalgia, but metal is bad for you in this case. 2 Star.

It's a shame, as this bottle should have been pretty fresh with it has a nice 100 Year anniversary label on it and whatnot.

Later on that day while eating a Pale Ale turkey burger, pale ale baked beans, and some three cheese mac and cheese (with brie no less).

Otter Creek World Tour Sphinx
Ah some beer inspired by the Motherland. I purposefully did not read up on it as I was curious what this elixir would taste like. We picked this up while in Maryland. Smells of honey, grapes, and sugary sweetness. The taste is an awesome grain and honey (though not a mead) with a superquick finish and a delicate body. It's got a light gold color with a fleeting white head. It took me a while, but I was reminded of some of the various types of tea that are always at various conferences and conventions. Then it hit me, chamomile. As it warmed up it more chamomile like, and less beery. It was light and refreshing and I really appreciate what Otter Creek was doing. 3 Stars.

Apparently Otter Creek has put together a long series of beer based on different and historic styles, calling it a "World Tour".

Our 12th "stop" on the World Tour: "Sphinx" is an Egyptian-inspired multigrain ale brewed with Vermont honey and chamomile. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to brew beer, and they also were the first to grow many of the grains we use today. We brewed this golden ale with spelt, millet, rye, oats, barley, and wheat; for a well-deserved tribute to the ancient inventors of beer.

The Otter has been traveling the world in search of unique, interesting and unusual brewing styles. Whenever he finds something new and exciting, he teams up with our Brewmaster Steve Parkes and our capable team of brewers to produce Otter Creek's interpretation of the world's best beers. These unique brews are available in 22 ounce bottles and on draft.

The next day:

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA
An English version of our American IPA. Nice. Getting a great caramel light citrus hop, it certainly smells balanced. Clear with a light gold color. Massive poofy strong white head. This tastes like a nice basic IPA with a thin body. Strong hops for a regular beer. I would say it's on the low end of an American IPA in its strength, more like an American Pale Ale. In fact, it reminds me of a thinner Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. High 3 Star.

You Mean I Never Reviewed Ruination?

I know something must be wrong, because I'm looking through my old posts and I cannot find anything on Stone Ruination. I know I had it at the Saucer sometime in the past, but I can't remember writing anything down. Well, I did write a review a couple months ago, but I could have sworn I did one earlier.

Stone Ruination IPA
Clear orange color with a flowery citrus hop aroma with a thick white head. The taste has a strong strong bitterness with just barely enough malt to balance the way it should be. This is a true hop bomb. And it was fantastic with the buffalo wings. 5 Stars all day long as I notice the touch of sourness a la Belgium with caps it off nicely. I judge this is stronger than Avery Maharajah. This is what we mean when we say a hop bomb. They amped up the malt just enough to balance rather than just dumping in buckets of hops like a fiend. Like MusicmanSD said on Beeradvocate: "Stone Just Destroys All"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Santa Fe and Oskar Blues

Beer Log: Right Now
State: A little drained dealing with the baby all day. Ready to eat some steak.

Santa Fe State Pen Porter
Pours very smooth with a big poofy head. Nose is smokey, with some sweetness like cherries. Deep brown and cloudy if I can tell. Tan head. Tastes like the color black. Roasty and smokey flavor with a moderate bitterness (probably like bitter chocolate). Another couple slugs reveals a thick maltiness, kinda fruity. I'm enjoying it more and more as I drink it and it warms up a tad. Getting more malt and more cherry flavor. We had it at 42 deg F in the kegerator and I imagine it's at 55 deg F now. It goes splendidly with the wife's porter steak. High 3 stars. One time for Santa Fe coming strong.

I'm back on the weight watchers now that I've manage to gain about 8 lbs from my low a few months ago. Though I think this last measurement was too high because I didn't work out all week and we just ate out the whole time, but the scale doesn't lie. So I took it easy on the food today, went to town on some crystal light, and now have enough points for two more beers. Problem is, the wife is going to stay out all night (probably with her boyfriend), so I can't let 'er rip on the imperial beers anyway, baby and all.

...and much later on

Mama's Little Yella Pils
A can of this Oskar Blues beer should work out well to round out the night. Very clear straw with a decent head. Looks pretty fizzy though. Has a basic "beer" smell, just a little stronger. In other words, kinda funky bitter, kinda sweet, kinda veggie: basically what the swill drinkers would call "beer smell". On the flavor, I get a stronger than expected malt, with some toastiness, followed by a nice dose of bitter hops, maybe German Noble hops. (Damn, Lynette's pregnant... watching Desperate Housewives finale on DVR). Carbo is not too strong, but there is some level of ickiness bitterness in the aftertaste. Basically take your basic pilsner and dial everything a few notches. But not quite in a good way like an Imperial Pilsner. I do like that toastiness in there, it's almost a little nutty. And the body is not too thin. (Come on Susan get the hell outta there! That Tin Man is a bad MFer). I'll give this beer a solid 3 Star as the aftertaste eases up the more you drink it. Even in my tall pilsner glass. I can't see myself getting another sixer of this one but it does remind me of this little number. Dammit Latifah, did you have to get that reduction? We loved you the way you were.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Alka-Seltzer Beer

I'm skipping around in my notepad, but as this beer is still pretty new to the national market and they have all kinds of nifty commercials, I say let me get this review typed up.

Beer Log: 5-23-09
State: Hanging out at a friends house, awaiting the UFC

Most of my friends and acquaintances know that the wife and I are beerfolk. I didn't realize I brought it up that much. Besides occasionally freaking someone out, one of the perks is that my friends always try to have some "different" beer at their houses when they know I'm coming to hang out. And recently, one of my friends and co-worker had a couple random beers at their house, and one of them: MGD 64.

Oh yes. A super light beer. Even after I got my palette working and began a love for anything with the word Imperial in front of it, I still find that can appreciate a light beer. My two favorites are Amstel Light and Michelob Ultra. Both are still 2 Star beers, but if I have to choose or I'm low on Weight watcher points, why not? I used to be a HUGE fan of Miller Lite. And I considered Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) the best beer on the planet while I was in Grad school: to the point where I would only get MGD when I wanted to treat myself (sad... I know). I never touch MGD now (unless I'm forced to), but it holds a special place in my heart. Kinda like the girl you lost your virginity with. Yeah she may not have looked all that hot when you think back on it all, but hey....um, moving on.

MGD 64
Came in a clear bottle and the beer was brilliantly clear and straw colored. Kinda wish they at least put it in a dark bottle. It has a corn kind of nose going on. On flavor, the beer has a touch of bread and hops followed by a horrible icky aftertaste. The AT is a little sticky on my tongue (nullus). It's not as watery as I thought: of course that was my first sip. The second sip was pretty bad. Kinda medicine-like. I had to choke this thing down. Take your favorite light beer and cut it with water. With its carbonation and mouthfeel, this stuff is just like Alka-Seltzer... with the ice melted in it. How do you even DO that with a beer. At least make it straight up alka-seltzer, but watered down A-S. Come on.

Damn shame for MGD 64. Maybe beer was meant to have a little something in it. Do we have to strip out every little thing. As I sit here a month later eating a Boca Burger and drinking some Crystal Light, I'm going on record that some things were meant to have some calories, and if you cannot handle it, just order a water with a lime in it. Oh it's real.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

IPA to the Rescue

Who doesn't like peaches or peach in beer. If you combine your peach beer with apricot beers, you're really kicking arse. About the only brewery that truly screwed the pooch with peaches this year is ironically Dogfish Head, probably one of the best craft breweries on the planet. But we are ready to rock and roll with another peach beer and from the Dawgs no less.

Beer Log: Today
State: Glad we got the AC fixed, still a little loopy after running at 10K in 95 deg weather earlier today.

Dogfish Head Festina Peche
The wife picked up this one in Maryland during the Wife Out of Town Weekend Extravaganza. I wouldn't have let her back in the house but she brought home about a case worth of craft beer. This one has a veggie and sweet nose on it. The color is slightly cloudy with a straw color and a thin white head. The wife said this one was a Berliner Weissen, so I wasn't fired up. The taste is rather sour and puckering, just opened my eyes. A nice slight breadiness on the aftertaste. I don't taste no peche though. It actually reminds of those Pinot Grigios we had in the Hill country, just on steroids. Kinda has a "feet" thing going on. No rating here as I just have not gotten into sour beers. I think I may be hitting the Saucer again, so I may have to do a flight of sour beers or something.

But luckily we always have some IPA in the house in the event of a bad tasting (to me) beer. The only one in the whole damn house we have that is chilled is from Boulevard. All these IPAs I bring into the house and the woman has my kegerator stocked with chocolate beers and whatnot.

Boulevard Single Wide IPA
Orange color with some chill haze. Seriously strong white head. Nose is pleasantly fruity and flowery (nullus). And a touch of lace as well. Now that's a citrusy balanced IPA right there baby. Great moderate to high carbonation and light body. Great malt that goes with strong hops. I don't need a beer where the dudes just threw in buckets of hops without any regard to balance. Maybe it's b/c of all the hop forward beers I've been having recently, or it's hot as all get out these days. But this nice. Easily the best Boully beer I've had so far. Amazing how I can't stand their Pale Ale. 4 stars for what I'll call a great basic IPA.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shiner Smokehouse

Shiner has a new beer out, and we picked up a bottle in Fredericksburg. Apparently you can buy beer by the bottle out there. In Houston, you are married to a six pack. But it looks like Shiner is getting into the smoked beer. Not bad for a brewery that many are saying is not even a craft brewery. Shiner is staying true to Texas with it's Texas themed beers. We already had Holiday Cheer with the Texas pecans and peaches and now they are getting into mesquite smoke. If Shiner had commercials, you could also hear the guy in a cowboy hat on a ranch somewhere talking about that Mesquite smokey flavor in a Helles Lager.

State: Chilling, eating some fried rice
Beer Log: Right now

Shiner Smokehouse
Smells kinda smokey and a little malty. Pretty smooth and crisp. A touch of smoke and not much of an aftertaste. Clear fried rice looking color. Has a little dryness as well. I don't think I've had enough Mesquite flavored anything, but I can't tell. I do get a little spice as it warms. Low 3 Star.

I was a little concerned that it would smell and taste like bacon. Not bad at all, but I'd rather have the bock out of the bottle or even the 100. Seems like Shiner is content to take it easy on the flavor. As much as it upsets many craft beer folk, it's going to 1) get some units sold, and 2) fit in well with these 100 deg F days we've been having out here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Texas Hill Country: Part 1

Just finished roaming through the Hill Country. With all the wineries, it's very easy to forget to eat any food and just keep sampling wine and enjoying the view. If you weigh 206 lbs, it's no big deal to spend all day drinking wine and whatnot. If you weight are a much smaller woman like my wife, you're going to eventually clock out and pass out in the hotel at 6PM, as she is right now. Poor woman.

I'm ready to rock and roll, but she's done, maybe for the night. Way to much wine. And it's probably more those damn Diet Coke's that she drinks. I keep telling her that that stuff is junk (even the diet version) and you should drink water. But whatever. I'm wide awake and ready to keep beering, and she's out like a light. Anyway, we had a great time drinking beer and wine in the Hill Country. I'll probably save the bulk of the information about this trip for The Session later on next month.

Anyway, we're here in Austin during the Biker weekend and ready to party hard, at least I am. Should be some good beering as usual. Already hit Uncle Billy's Brew and Que for a couple of their new beers. Also plan on hitting Lovejoys, and watching the UFC somewhere tonight. Will let all know how it goes. Holla.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Craft Beer Tax on the way...

Unless they put Sarah Palin back up there, I don't think I can support this garbage anymore.

Apparently the powers that be in Congress have decided that the best way to pay for healthcare is to raise taxes on beer. The higher the alcohol in beer, the higher the taxes. AMAZING how that works. This law will pretty much put the kibosh on heavier beers, which is majority craft beer. I don't think Avery HAS a brew under 8% ABV. Same for Dogfish. This new law will have minimal affect on Miller and Bud, but not much as their beers are uber-weak to begin with.... Just how can your government put the squeeze on small businesses for health care. Because that's exactly what this is.

"The Senate Finance Committee in Washington, DC is currently considering a proposal to increase and equalize the excise tax for alcohol beverages as part of healthcare reform deliberations. This proposal would triple the excise tax for 4.5% ABV beer and impose even higher excise tax rates for higher ABV beers.

If such a proposal becomes reality, there is no question that many small brewery businesses will suffer, some will close and consumers will face higher prices and diminished choice in the marketplace."

From what I'm seeing, microbrewing is pretty much a labor of love. I'm not rich by any means, but I probably make more in salary than 95% of the brewmasters of microbreweries. It's all about passion and doing what you care about. Yeah some folks get big like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams, but most microbreweries will never get bigger than a couple dozen local bars and a couple slots on the shelf in the larger beer stores; and they'll operate like that for DECADES. These entreprenuers are running on nothing but excess beer and raw ambition.

But now they are going to targeted, yes targeted as the business entity that should pay for healthcare. People, we are punishing ambition. We are punishing drive. We are punishing what made this country great in the first place. Is that what we're all about here Obama, Pelosi? Today it's craft brewers. Not many people are gonna care b/c craft beer is a good 4% of the whole beer market. Probably 0.001% when you factor in total alcohol market. But if you have specialty business. A niche. Something not directly in the public's eye. Take a good look at microbreweries in the next few years. Once they squeezed us dry and we're back to drinking ambers and wheat beers, I'm sure the feds will find another way to get our money.

If you have a minute, please write your state senator and let them know that this is not they way we should be operating.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Texas Hill Country: Wine Reviews?

Yup. I'm expanding out, but only for the area. I am a huge homer and adore the local brewers in Texas with much love to Louisiana. But the wife and I will be spending our anniversary in the Texas Hill Country.

The original intent was to hit New Braunfels, Blanco, and Fredericksburg. For those not aware, there is a huge German influence in the Hill Country of Texas and all three of these towns used to boast of a microbrewery or a brewpub. Kind of a German Texas Beer tour.

But it turns out the brewery in New Braunfels ain't brewing at all, and the Real Ale Brewery in Blanco is not having tours. So we will stop and have lunch in New Braunfels at one of the German restaurants (and probably drink Shiner), and take a circuitious route to Fredericksburg. Some friends who live in the area have hipped me to the various vineyards that are in the Hill Country. I've never paid much attention to wine reviews but will give it a go. If nothing else, it's all about Texas pride. I imagine we'll be taking home lots of wine bottles. You see, SOMEBODY can sell alcoholic beverages out of the back door, just not the beer folks. Don't get me started again.

This should be a fun trip as we'll be staying at something called a "Bed and Brew" as opposed to a Bed and Breakfast. Since we'll be skipping a couple towns, we're going to wrap the trip up in Austin. I missed a couple spots last time we were there due to a biker rally with lots of Confederate flags. We bit the bullet and stayed downtown so we could party it up. I'm looking forward to hitting Lovejoys, the wifey won't tolerate our missing Uncle Bill's Brew and Que, and maybe I'll score a little Circle Beer....hmmm.

Look forward to it. Will let you know how it goes. Also, it's looking like I'll be beering on the solo in Toronto in July. My mother in Buffalo wants to spend time with the baby, so I'll leave the child with her while I smuggle beer across the Canadian border. Holla.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Session: Think Globally


I'm finally doing The Session. Hopefully I don't offend anyone, but this month's topic is about the brewery that is the furthest away from where you live. Of all the travels we have done since diving into the beer world, brewery tours have been the lowest on my list of places to visit. Brewpubs top the list, followed by Breweries with tasting rooms, then beer bars, then beer stores, then breweries without tasting rooms. With the limited time I normally have on these trips, I'm thinking "do I want to spend a couple hours on a tour where I imagine the brewer heats it up, cools it down at some point, and throws some yeast on it?" But I know there is some value in meeting the brewer, seeing how people accomplish what they accomplish, overcoming the technical challenges, etc. I'm sure it's like being the kitchen with Emeril for some folks.

So I without having an active brewery that is all that far away, I blog about the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. I visited this place about 3 years ago as we were backpacking in Europe and we decided to hit Amsterdam for the Ultimate Bachelor party. I was already married, but a friend of mine had a week before messing up his life. Poor bastard.

Amsterdam is a cacophony of statuesque blond women, grandiose castles, marijuana, hostels, legal whoring, and some pretty decent beer. If it wasn't so cold, it'd be a Black Man's Heaven. The whole time I was there, I managed to slug down a lot of Amstel Light and Heineken. We enjoyed the brewery thoroughly, even though I didn't know what the hell I was looking at. Turns out they don't brew there anymore; they ain't brewing much in that building but a bunch of free love and mass marketing. The brewery has been converted to a few killer bars and tasting rooms and they still have much of the equipment still there for you to mess around with.

The brewery had lots of beer education signage and videos to occupy your mind. They do a great job of introducing folks to the brewing process. If I wasn't half drunk I probably would have remembered what I was looking at equipment-wise. Some mash tuns, lauter tuns, I'm sure there was a fermenter or two. I don't recall a formal tour guide, but they had all kinds of mini games, kegs, bottling, etc. Something like a grown man's version of Disney World mixed with MTV and Maxim Magazine.

After we made it through the brewery, we found our way to the World Bar with all kinds of random tokens. Each token counts for one beer, and they seemed to pile it on for you. I just recall that the beer was fantastic. Even back then, the Heine's in the United States always seemed harsh and a little skunky to me, just completely over-rated. I now know that it is the green bottle and the transportation. But drinking this stuff in Amsterdam is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better. Great crispness and refreshing. Since this tour, I've rarely ever had a regular bottled Heineken unless it was on tap or in one of their famous mini-kegs.

I have recently made the controversial move of Heineken Dark to a four star beer, and as my new favorite all-the-time beer along with Sam Adams Boston Ale, supplanting Negra Modelo. DAMN Heineken nailed it with that dark lager. I had it one time in San Antonio but forgot about it until now. And I don't give a good damn what the guys on Beer Advocate have to say, this beer is killer for this time of year. You take this beer, pour it in an Avery Bottle, and it would go up to a B+. Some people are just hating because Heineken is so popular. This beer managed to tied me over as I was dying for some Bock. Since I can only find about 4 spring bocks in Houston, I had to move to Dark Lagers as a substitute. Nice caramel malt with a good crispness of a lager. Has plenty of taste when it's cold, but not overpowering. Do NOT pass this beer up at the local grocery store. Just give it a shot. The brown bottle alone helps out the Heine quite a bit, but they put this one together very nicely. Great session beer.
So in review, Drink Heineken Dark, and go to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. And whatever you do, don't meet your old Caribbean girlfriend who now lives in Amsterdam for lunch and let her order a lot of wine and making you more drunk and with thoughts of the night before in the Red Light district still in your head you end up about 3 seconds from sleeping with her which your wife would certainly find out because your friends can't keep their stupid mouths shut telling all the women at your job that you met with ol' girl alone and thus ruining your marriage all of 18 months after you said I DO. Good thing she at least knew where the brewery was, I wouldn't have been able to find it on the solo. Holla.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wife Out of Town Weekend Redux

Sunday I just took it easy and hung with a friend down in League City. I brought a shyteload of craft beer including some Divine Reserve and we just BS'ed around and played Street Fighter 4 and Call of Duty 18 or whatever the hell version they're on. Lots of food on the grill, but like guys we had no side dishes but some Texas Toast.

Man this was a fun arse weekend. And not everything even came to pass the way I wanted to. I managed to put about 600 miles on my car in a 3 day period, which may be more of a comment on how large this city is and how crappy I am at planning. But whatever. I didn't hit nearly the strip clubs I planned on, only one actually for like an hour. Okay 2. I was also able to reconnect with some old friends and maybe have a few new road dogs to hit the mean streets. The little woman was not holding me back, but its hard to just up and smoke cigars with the crew on a whim with a baby at the house.

Lord knows I miss that woman and the baby. I'm sitting here on a Monday night with a dough ball in my stomach (nullus), as I ate nothing but junk all day. I slammed down one Lagunitas Little Sumpin' beer and it's damn near knocking me out. Since I had to drive around and I wanted to maximize the weekend activities, I actually paced myself very well, imbibing a whole lot damn beer. Looking back on it, I probably would have been better served to slam 3 high gravity brews in a couple hours and just pass the f7ck out at someone's house every night.

I'm actually looking forward to going offshore for the mere fact that I will not drink alcohol and will manage to have some balanced meals. Normally I eat pretty well with the weight watchers and all, but I don't even think I had so much as a celery stick since the wife left. I managed to squeeze in a couple 7 mile runs, but I don't know if that going to do much.

And let's talk about Lagunitas a minute here. "Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale", "A Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale", "Brown Shugga", "Correction Ale", "Hop Stoopid", "The Chronic". These beer names... Either these guys have gone to jail, or they are those white guys that listen to hardcore gangsta rap music. You know those dudes. They're actually pretty cool guys, but when they slap on the underground gangsta rap that would make the Three-6 Mafia sound like Boy George, I can't help but feel a little embarrassed for the race. And you know they want to sing along with the song but it has the dreaded "N-word" as every third word, so they can't say it around you. (Too much paperwork)

Anyway, I don't care who your Daddy is, Lagunitas brews only Double IPAs and puts random ass names on it. "Yeah, this is our Pilsner". But if I was brewing beer professionally and I was comfortable with blowing the palettes of 97% of the drinking population, I'd probably do the same thing. As much as I'm enjoying session beers these days like dunkel/dark lagers and toasty ambers, I say why the hell not. Lord knows we have enough pale ales floating around. Do we honestly need another pilsner brewed to spec? I like Lagunitas... hit 'em and hit 'em hard.

As much as I love having the bed to myself and whatnot, I do miss the fam. I won't see them until I get back to offshore. And I've just found out I may have screwed up some documentation, so this won't an easy next week or so. Well, if you don't do sh8t, you won't have sh8t to screw up. The wife is a great running buddy, but it's even better because I can make sweet love to her without being gay. She knows some her beer, has jumped into the beer world with me, and never fails to pick up maybe a couple six packs and bombers in a week at Specs. Although she does seem to like the dude that stocks the shelves at Specs. Well if it gets me free beer and gives me a pass to get with "Diamond" down at "the club" on occassion, I say let her flirt around with the dude. We're a pretty libertine family. But I look forward to getting back with her as the day I come back home, we are packing to hit the German Texas Hill Country for our anniversary. Busy day tomorrow... Have a good night.