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Texas Beer Dispatch

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As previously mentioned, I spent the last week watching horror, SF, action and just plain weird movies, not to mention hobbits beating the crap out of each other (see my other blog for thoughts on the movies and other events of Fantastic Fest). Of course, nearly all of this was accompanied by beer. I must say, the Alamo Drafthouse is one awesome venue for a number of reasons, but right now, I'll just say that it represents a melding of two passions: beer and movies. They've got some common offerings, but most of their beer menu is local craft stuff, and I spent most of the week sampling beers I've never heard of and can't really get up here in PA. As I mentioned in an update to my previous post, I was tracking my beers via Untappd all week, but then, I was also watching movies and talking a lot, so take the below thoughts with a grain of salt. Alright, here goes (in roughly the order in which they were drank):

  • Live Oak Oaktoberfest - So not only local beers, but local seasonals - and this is a pretty damn good one. I wouldn't say it's a spectacular beer, but it was exactly what I was looking for out of an Octoberfest beer, and one of the better examples I've ever head of that style. B+
  • Shiner Bock - You can't got to Texas and not have at least one of these, right? And Shiner happened to be a sponsor of the festival, so these were available in abundance, sometimes even being handed out for free. I've talked about this beer before, though that was on another trip so I didn't actually rate it. It's certainly nothing special, but it's a solid beer and it's hard to argue with free pints, right? B
  • New Belgium Hoptober - Ok, so this isn't a local Texas beer, but New Belgium doesn't really distribute here (though they have started in Maryland) so I always try some of their stuff whenever I can. I would have described this as a very good IPA, but BA calls it an "American Blonde Ale"? Strange because, as the name suggests, it's massively hoppy. A really nice piney hop aroma. Well matched sweetness and hop bitterness in the taste. Overall, a really good brew, one of my favorites of the week. B+
  • Lagunitas Mystery Red Ale - So on Friday, my local Austin friends took me out and I ended up getting some sort of Lagunitas seasonal beer which I can't recall, but it was a red ale of some sort, very hoppy and tasty. I actually enjoyed this one immensely, so I wish I remembered what it was called. I think it may have been the Lucky 13, but who knows. B+
  • Independence Brewluminati Braggot - Well, braggot has gone from a style I'd never heard of to a style I've had two examples of in the past few weeks or so (the other being Weyerbacher's Sixteen). Go figure. I don't know that this one was as good as Weyerbacher's offering, but it was still a nice change of pace and worthy beer. It was lighter in color, so honey flavors dominated the taste more, but I still really enjoyed it. B
  • Real Ale Fireman's #4 - Another blonde ale and apparently another of Austin's typical session beers, as it was available all over. It's not a mind-blowing beer or anything, but pretty good for a simple blonde ale. It's got some subtle bready caramel notes, but is otherwise pretty straightforward. I only had one, but it's certainly a worthy session beer and I'd try it again. B-
  • North by Northwest Black Jack (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - Local friends took me out to dinner at this most excellent brewpub, where I had their bourbon barrel aged black ale (BA calls it a Belgian dark ale, but I don't think that's right). It's quite fantastic. I didn't detect a ton in the nose, but damn, that taste is fantastic (and once I had some headroom in the glass to swirl the beer around, the nose came out more). Rich flavors of caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, a light oakiness, and maybe even some chocolate. Just a hint of toasted malts, but nothing like a stout. Very well balanced - no flavor dominates, making for a very complex brew. Appropriately carbonated, but a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Not too heavy and not too boozy, but it's certainly not a lightweight either. Probably my favorite beer of the week. A-
  • Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA - This is the sort of beer that makes me feel like IPAs are kinda... samey. It's hoppy in the nose and the taste, and it's bitter, but it's kinda one-note. Not much going on here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but there wasn't really anything special about it. C+
  • (512) IPA - Now this IPA, on the other hand, was maybe the best I'd had all week. Great citrus/pine nose, well balanced sweet/bitter combo in the taste (with some of that citrus/pine shining through). Nice and complex, a very well made beer. And damn, I didn't try any other (512) beers. Given this one, I probably should have sought them out! B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another non-TX beer that isn't super common in PA, so I gave this one a shot too. It's very good, roasty, coffee and chocolate flavors and that milk stout chalkiness (probably the wrong way to describe it, but it seems common to the milk stouts I've had recently). Well done, but nothing super special either. B
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard - So this one's really not local, nor is it something hard to come by, but I'd had a bunch of drinks that night, and was settling in for the Fantastic Feud, so I gots me a comfort beer. If you're reading this blog and need me to describe Arrogant Bastard... I'm sorry. Actually, I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's of course very good. B+
  • Independence Bootlegger Brown - I have to admit that I'm no expert on brown ales, but this one didn't really do the trick for me. It was fine for what it was - a dark, roasty, almost stout-like ale, but there wasn't really much complexity to it. I had no problems putting one down, but it doesn't really stick out for me at all either. B-
  • Live Oak Hefeweizen - I enjoy a good Hefe as much as the next guy, but they do tend to get pretty boring... but not this one! Wow, what a fantastic (pun intended) brew. If I had this earlier in the week, I'd have certainly had more of them. Really wonderful aroma of bananas and clove. Typical wheat and yeasty flavors mixed with a surprising fruitiness. Well balanced, complex, and a joy to drink. A-
  • Avery White Rascal - Another non-TX beer, but since I was rockin the wheat beers, I gave this one a shot. It's... not as good as the Live Oak, but it is pretty tasty all the same. Perhaps if I didn't have these two wheat beers back to back, I would have rated this higher. B
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 - Yeah, I've had this before and of course it's very good. I don't really have much to say about it - hoppy and bitter! - but if you like a good IPA, it hits the spot. B+
Well, there you have it, a successful outing and quite a variety of new beers I'd never heard of before. If you're ever in Austin, I recommend anything by Live Oak, as they seemed to have put together the best lineup (yeah, I only had 2 of their beers, but BA seems to rate the others pretty highly too). Before I left, I did stop off at a grocery store and picked up a big beer to bring home: Jester King's Wytchmaker Rye IPA in a fancy 750 ml bottle. Look for a review... uh, in the next month or so! Overall, I'm pretty jealous of Austinites. Not only do they have the best movie theater I've ever been too, but they can drink beer there too. We really need to get us some Alamo Drafthouse style places up here.

Weyerbacher Sixteen

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Every year, Weyberbacher brews an anniversary batch, often choosing a relatively obscure style. Past styles include a Wheatwine, a Smoked Imperial Stout, and a beer that utilizes a Calagione level of obscure spices. This year's installment describes itself as a Dark Braggot Ale. Right, so what the hell is that? Apparently Braggot is a Welsh variety of mead, one which is brewed with a mixture of honey and malts along with hops. Well, don't mind if I do:

Weyerbacher Sixteen

Weyerbacher Sixteen - Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown with a finger of light colored head. The nose is filled with the sweetness of fruity malts and honey. The taste has a very sweet pop in the middle and a really clean finish. Lots of fruity notes detected. No real aftertaste either, which is interesting. Well carbonated and medium bodied, you get a bit of alcohol burn, but it doesn't overwhelm, instead giving the beer some additional character. Overall it's a complex, unique and welcome change of pace for me. If I were a bigger fan of honey, I'd probably love this beer even more. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/3/11.

Given the dark color and high alcohol, I'd be interested in seeing how this stands up over time. It's probably all gone by now, but if I see more, I'll probably pick some up. Weyerbacher continues to be one of the more interesting local breweries. I don't know that I've had anything revelatory from them, but they're always interesting. That brand redesign they mentioned a few months ago needs to come soon. I mean, their logo is the woefully overused comic sans* text (with an underline). Comic Sans! Word on the street is that Greg at the Pour Curator interviewed them about the redesign a while back, but he has not posted it just yet. Will be curious to read it though.

* Incidentally, Russian River uses comic sans as well, though not in their branding. They should probably stop that too, though it's not as distracting there.

Old Viscosity

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So apparently, back in the day, there was a place called Pizza Port. They served, naturally enough, pizza. Later, they added a small brewery on the premises and became a brewpub. In 2006, they bought a brewery formerly owned by Stone, and started up Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey as independent brewing ventures. The big name brewer at all these locations is a guy named Tomme Arthur, and he seems to be wracking up the kudos ever since. Seriously, they make comics out of him and everything. I'm not all that familiar with his beers, so I've been angling to get my hands on some of late, including this one:

Port Brewing Old Viscosity

Port Brewing Old Viscosity - While certainly not the first beer to use old engine oil as a metaphor, I do have to wonder how appetizing that association really is. Well whatever, I still say if you're going to make that distinction, you should just go whole-hog and package your beer in an old-timey oil can, complete with that funky spout that you have to jam into the can in order to open it. Uh, yeah, so onto this beer: Pours a very dark brown/black color with a finger of light tan head. The aroma has a lot of roastiness, but also some of those oak notes and even some booziness. The taste is sweet, roasty, and very boozy. You get a lot of heat from the alcohol and there's also a nice dry dark chocolate bitterness that emerges in the finish. The oak aging has clearly imparted some character here, but it's more about texture and body than flavor. It's not as full bodied or rich as I'd expect though, perhaps because of that strong alcohol presence, but it's very bold and aggressive stuff. It's certainly good and very complex, but something about this just isn't gelling for me. I like it and had no problem polishing off a bottle, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to try again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/2/11.

I'm still looking forward to trying their Mongo IPA, which has a great reputation, and of course, the entire Lost Abbey line holds interest for me. Nothing in the cellar as of yet. I'm sure you're worried about that, and I thank you for your concern, but I assure you I'll get there. Really. Scout's honor (A cub scout still counts as a scout, right?)

Septembeer Club

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Today was beer club! The event seems to have waned a bit in recent months, but we've always got a core group of about 4-5 folks who always come and always bring new beers. I'm pretty excited for the next beer club meetup in about two weeks, which will be at The Whip, an English style pub that we went to a while back. Anyway, tonight's offerings included:

Septembeer Club

No real theme this month, though one member had just gotten back from a cruise and thus had smuggled some Caribbean beer. Otherwise, it was kinda stoutish this month. Here's what we had (listed in order of left to right from the picture above):

  • Cayman Islands Caybrew - This is apparently the premium beer of the Cayman Islands. And it is quite bad! Well, no, it's not the worst beer ever, but it's got a very typical American Macro aroma and flavor going on, very Millerish (think High Life or MGD), and it's packaged in a green bottle! Would probably be decent after sitting in the sun all day, but it didn't really do anything for us tonight. D+
  • Belize Belikin - Another Caribbean lager in the style of a Macro, this one even less flavorful and nondescript. It's pretty horrible. D-
  • North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout - My contribution for the night, and probably the best beer I had all night. Nice and sweet, with a surprising hop aroma and flavor. Perhaps because of that, it's got a nice, almost fruity character to go along with the typical sweet and roasty flavors. At 9%, it's got a bit of a booziness to it, but very well matched. I quite enjoyed it. I've had a couple of these before, and I believe I have another one in the fridge, so perhaps I'll do a dedicated review at some point. For now, let's give it a B+, though it might eek its way into A- territory, depending on my mood.
  • Mackeson Triple XXX Stout - Apparently once a classic British Milk Stout, this beer has since been acquired by Inbev (scourge of the beer world) and discontinued, though for a time it was contract brewed in the US (but even that brewery is now defunct). There is apparently a 3% version (non XXX?) brewed by Wells & Young in England, but this one was a 4.9% Milk Stout brewed in Trinidad & Tobago (no idea if this is the same recipe as the discontinued beer, or if it's still owned by Inbev). Whatever the case, it's actually a pretty solid Milk Stout. It reminded me a lot of the Lancaster Milk Stout I reviewed recently. Not especially my style, perhaps a little too roasty or coffee-like, but definitely well made. B
  • My Homebrewed Stout - My other contribution. It's definitely come out a bit more on the roasty side than I planned, but then, it's also got a nice caramel characteristic as well. It seemed to go over very well with the Beer Club crowd. Some even preferred it to Old Rasputin! Personally, it's not exactly what I was going for, but I do really enjoy it. I should probably catch up on all my homebrews in terms of reviews at some point, but for now, I'll give it a solid B (it's also still a bit on the young side, so it may even get better).
  • DuClaw Naked Fish - The bottle sez it's a Chocolate Raspberry Stout and boy does that aroma sell it. It smells very much like that raspberry syrup that you get on fancy dessert plates, with some chocolate and very faint roasty aromas also around. In terms of taste, it's more dark chocolate than raspberry, again with just a hint of roastiness. I did enjoy this, but it also seemed a bit on the light side (which makes a bit of sense for a 4.6% beer). I'd rather have it hit with more sweetness and a richer, deeper body. Still, this is pretty well done. I'd try it again. B
  • Allentown Brew Works Funky Monkey - Beer club member from Allentown brought this local brewpub growler of a beer I can't seem to find any listing for. It's a saison-style beer, and from the aroma and taste, I'd say it's got a very light dose of Brettanomyces as well (and given the title "Funky" Monkey and that the Brew Works makes other saisons Monkey Wrench and Space Monkey, that sorta makes sense). It's actually quite good, nice and sweet with just a bit of that distinctive Brett twang. Not sour at all, but definitely funky. B
  • Dana's Homebrewed Imperial Wheat - The bottle was a bit of a gusher, but once we got it settled down, it was pretty darn good, though the Imperial Wheat style can be a bit weird. The typical wheat flavors are there, but in a muted fashion. Very sweet and extremely boozy - so much so that it sorta overwhelms the typical wheatines. Not sure if that's typical of the style or what, but I did enjoy drinking this, even if it was a bit on the strong side. B
And that about covers the beer. As usual, take the ratings with a grain of salt, as conditions were not ideal for uber-beer-nerdery (but they were ideal for fun, so there). I do kinda fudge the club name a bit, as it's more of a "beverage club" or even just a "supper club", meaning that not everyone who comes drinks beer. In the past, we've had Sake, root beer, and almost always wine. This month was no exception - we had a bottle of Coppola Merlot, which to my palate tasted quite sweet, with a nice dry finish. But then, I just finished sampling a bunch of roasty stouts. All in all, another successful outing. Look for the Whip recap in about two weeks! And it would probably make sense to do a fall seasonal theme next month too. Exciting!

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils

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This is one of Sly Fox's flagship brews, and one of the more popular local pilsners... but can it hold up to Victory's Prima Pils? I have to admit that the pilsener style isn't one of my favorites, though they sometimes do hit the spot.

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils - Pours a clear golden yellow color with tons of loose, large-bubbled head. It's got that distinct earthy, floral hop aroma (Saaz hops?) that I associate with pilseners, which follows through to the taste. The taste is pretty straightforward stuff, pale malts with the light hoppy bitterness that characterizes the pilsener style. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but very light and easy to drink. Overall, maybe better than your average pilsener, but again, this isn't really my favorite style and it certainly hasn't unseated Prima Pils. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass on 9/2/11.

Sly Fox is still one of the more interesting local brewpubs, and I look forward to trying more of their beer. I've even got a couple cans of their IPA ready to go...

So we all know of the stories about India Pale Ales - brewers added extra hops to beer so that it could survive the long and arduous trek from England to India. The cape of good hope is located in South Africa and represented a milestone in the trip to India (basically, it's when you begin to travel more eastward than southward).

The confusing thing about this beer, though, is that Yards claims that the IPA stands for Imperial Pale Ale (no India to be found). Weird. Of course, it is typically classified as an Imperial IPA, so there is that. Yards also says that this beer "is an unfiltered, uniquely aged Imperial Pale Ale." Aged? I suppose if you're trying to replicated the historical style, that might be accurate, but it also generally means a less fresh beer, and most hoppy beers in particular do not age all that well. In searching around, it appears that this aging has to do with the longer-than-normal dry hopping period after initial fermentation (upwards of a few months), which should give this a very nice aroma, though perhaps the bitterness will be somewhat toned down by that point.

It's also a very limited batch of beer, only around 100 or so barrels were produced, and the bottling was apparently very limited. They switch up the recipe every year, so it's unlikely that I'll ever see this exact beer again... but the general process seems to stay the same and Yards sez they'll be doing a bigger batch next year. They also say that the beer "is reminiscent of something you'd find solace in on a balmy, Indian evening far away from home. Beware of tigers..." Well ok then:

Yards Cape of Good Hope

Yards Cape of Good Hope IPA - Pours a slightly hazy golden amber color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves lots of lacing. Very nice, powerful hoppy aroma, citrus and pine along with some sweetness. Taste is sweet with a light bitterness emerging in the middle and following the taste through the finish (I'm guessing this muted bitterness is indicative of the extra aging). Mouthfeel is really nice, very smooth and dangerously easy to drink given the high alcohol. It's not a revelation, but it's a really good, well balanced take on the double IPA (and certainly much better than Yards's regular IPA). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/2/11.

When I started this blog, I wasn't really that big of a fan of Yards, but as I've tried more and more of their beers (at this point, I think I've had most of them), I think I'm definitely coming around. Their Ales of the Revolution series was fantastic, their ESB is especially good on cask, and I really enjoy their Philly Pale Ale. At this point, I think I should probably try their saison again, as I haven't had it in a few years. Perhaps another trip to their tasting room is in order as well - I'd love to get my hands on some Bourbon Barrel Aged Thomas Jefferson's Ale!

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

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Many people seem to recommend this beer to other folks who can't get Pliny the Elder in their area. This is a somewhat contentious claim, and most will admit that Hop Stoopid isn't quite the equal of the vaunted Pliny, but they do share a certain character (of course, there are always contrarians that will say this is better than Pliny*, but I digress). That being said, it's definitely much easier to find Hop Stoopid (and it's usually cheaper too).

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - The label prominently displays the tagline "102 I.B.U. 4 U" which means we're in for a pretty bitter beer. Luckily, Lagunitas knows what they're doing and they've balanced that bitterness with an appropriate amount of sweetness. Pours a dark orange color with a finger or so of head that leaves lacing as I drink. The smell is filled with grapefruit, pine and resin aromas. Actually, so is the taste. Sweet, filled with intense citrus and pine flavor. There's a nice, bracing bitterness appearing midway through the taste and continuing through the finish. It's got a medium body, but it's extremely drinkable for something packing this much flavor. Alcohol is hidden pretty well here too. Overally, a really fantastic double IPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/27/11.

Apparently I need to make myself more familiar with Lagunitas. For whatever reason, I've never been that attracted to their beers (perhaps it's their labels, which never seem to catch my eye), but they seem to be a big deal and some folks seem to really like them, so yeah, I'll try and pick up something else from them on my next trip to the bottle store (which may be a while, as I'm pretty well stocked right now). This is certainly a good first impression.

* Update! Jay from Beer Samizdat comments on twitter: "Better than Pliney, I say - no contest." I guess he's one of them contrarians I was talking about. See also: his original review of Pliny the Elder (which he calls "A very good overrated beer") and his original Hop Stoopid review.

Weyerbacher Heresy

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There are a number of ways to trick me into buying your beer, and apparently one of them is to barrel-age your beer. In a recent beer run, I think maybe half the beers I bought had some sort of barrel-aging treatment (it was an expensive trip). I guess I'm just a sucker for that sort of thing... but then again, it often works out pretty well for me.

Weyerbacher Heresy

Weyerbacher Heresy - The base for this beer is Weyerbacher's Old Heathen, a pretty middle of the road Imperial Stout, but one I enjoy. This beer is basically a bourbon barrel aged version, and it pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger or two of light brown head (no real lacing here). The smell is roasty, with a little bit of that vanilla and oak character. Perhaps some caramel and chocolate flavors in the nose as well... Taste is again, very roasty. Just a little in the way of chocolate and caramel along with the oak and vanilla flavors. You can taste the alcohol as well, but it's well incorporated here, not overpowering anything else. It's reasonably full bodied, but still pretty easy to drink. Overall, I was hoping for a bit more of that oak and bourbon character would show through, but it's still a pretty solid RIS and a slight improvement over the Old Heathen. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/27/11.

Weyerbacher is a local brewery (with one of the worst logos ever) that puts out a lot of interesting, experimental, and really big beers. Sometimes these work better than others, but I always find their stuff interesting. Up next for me is their sixteenth anniversary beer, which is a 10.5% Braggot (basically a mixture of mead and beer).

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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