Welcome to the South Texas Beer Blog. Please enjoy responsibly!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Vermonster!

Well, here I am again traveling for work up in the northeast US. They happen to have a lot of beer that we cannot get in South Texas. So once again, my friend and I went to buy some brews to enjoy while on the road. We decided on 2 bottles of Rock Art Brewery's Vermonster Ale and a 6-pk of McSorley's Irish Pale Ale.

First, the McSorley's: Let me give you a little history and you can jump to your own conclusions.

The glasses were better in the Mariott

McSorley's Ale was originally brewed by Fidelio Brewery in Manhattan until Prohibition when they went out of business. McSorley's continued to be brewed illegally (do you blame them?) in the basement of the Alehouse until after Prohibition when Fidelio came back to life. During the 1940s they changed their name to the Greater New York Brewing Company and then promptly went into the hands of Rheingold Brewery who brewed McSorley's for 30 years. Then it was sold to Schmidt's Brewers of Philadelphia and then, in the 1990s, to Pabst Blue Ribbon. reference

Long history aside (150 years worth) the ownership of this beer by PBR was something I didn't look up until after I tasted it. It was bland and forgettable. I don't mean to be a snob but I expect my beers to taste like beer. Malt, hops, and any flavor at all would be nice. This is another example of the macrobrewers tricking us into buying something artificial.

Before I get into Vermonster, a little history:

Last year, Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville, VT released a 10 year anniversary brew called "Vermonster." It is a big 10% ABV, 100 IBU beer and was meant to tie them to their home state of Vermont. Well, Hansen Beverage Company who makes Monster Energy Drinks felt that consumers would be confused by the supposed "similarity" between the names. Considering Rock Art Brewery is one of the small guys (9 people to be exact) versus a huge mega-company, the consensus is that Hansen was going to force them to comply through expensive legal proceedings.

Anyway, I won't go into too much detail (beernews.org timeline and beernews.org Rock Art wins if you are interested). After overwhelming online support from people who had never even heard of Rock Art Brewery (including me), Hansen eventually dropped their C&D if Rock Art promised not to get into the energy drink market. Turns out, Monster drinks are distributed by Anheuser-Busch who sued another craft brewer, Dogfish Head, over stupid name conflicts (that time over the names "punkin" and "chicory" in Dogfish beers).

So, there's your history lesson for the day. Here's your beer.

In addition to the smug satisfaction I felt drinking this beer instead of a Bud Light, I also felt something else. It could be the feeling I get when I drink a big beer, or maybe the feeling I get when I try something new, or maybe what I'm feeling is enjoyment!

Vermonster pours heavy and reddish-brown into the glass with a thin head that quickly dissapates into sticky residue that coats as you drink. The aroma is surprisingly mild but I could detect some raisin notes, especially as it warmed. Rock Art recommends a brandy glass or wide mouth wine glass to enjoy this ale to it's fullest.

My first sip warmed my gullet in a pleasant way, a nice nightcap I would say. It started off with a balanced malt sweetness that I would describe as barlywine-like. As it got warmer and I emptied my glass I began to taste a few more things. First, hop bitterness from the 100 IBUs began to break through my palate and leave that wonderful hoppy aftertaste on my tongue. Later, I felt like I was drinking a spiced ale with allspice and/or cinnamon flavors coming through.

Luckily, I had a 22 oz. to drink all by myself!

The Bottom Line: If you happen to visit the Eastern US, The Vermonster is a beer to try and buy. If you make it to Vermont, they do regular tastings and fill growlers for visitors. I would recommend joining their Facebook page to support them and craft brewing in general. I'm looking forward to trying some of their other offerings in the future (Jasmine Pale Ale sounds interesting).

As for McSorley's, pass. Forgettable. Bland. Macro. Bleh.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary

This Friday I decided to taste something that had been in the fridge for awhile, something new and exciting, something my wife picked. Luckily, she made a good choice.

Sierra Nevada Brewery is releasing 4 beers to commemorate their 30th anniversary. They have released 2 of the 4 already and I happened to get a bottle of #2: Charlie, Fred, and Ken's Bock.

As you can see from the picture, this lager came in a 22 oz. bomber that was corked and caged. It sits at 8.3% ABV, hence the "imperial" in the name, and tastes as good as it looks! When I poured into my taster glass a foamy white head bloomed and then faded and left behind a slightly cloudy, golden nectar that I could hardly keep away from my wife. We both smelled the sweetness right away, honey with maybe a bit of the toasted aroma the website describes. It was definitely bold!

The taste was awesome, smooth and sweet with just the right amount of hop bitterness to balance. After sharing this bottle with me my wife declared bock as her new favorite beer style. This bottle happened to be the last one in the store and we bought it because we didn't think we'd see it again. I wish that wasn't the case!

Just a little bit about the name:

Charlie Papazian is a pioneering homebrewer in the US. He founded the Association of Brewers, Great American Beer Festival, and wrote The Complete Joy of Homebrewing of which he has sold over 900,000 copies. It's easy to say that if it wasn't for Charlie we probably wouldn't be homebrewing like we are now, if at all. His book was my first homebrewing book and summarizes most homebrewers philosophy: Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew!

Fred Eckhardt is also a pioneering homebrewer. He is known as a "beer personality" or "beer guru" and frequently lectures and judges at the Lone Star Circuit "Dixie Cup" in Houston, TX - a huge homebrew competition that judges homebrewer, team, and club of the year for the state of Texas. He also wrote The Essentials of Beer Style in 1989 which has become a sort of Rosetta Stone for beer judges everywhere.

Ken Grossman is one of the founders of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, CA in 1980. This is one of the most popular craft breweries in the USA. Their Pale Ale is the second highest selling craft beer in the US, second only to Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

The Bottom Line: I wish I had more than one bottle of this beer! It tasted even better knowing the recipe had been formulated by two of the country's top homebrewers. I'm hoping for two things: #1 - that the rest of the 30th Anniversary series tastes as good as this one and #2 - that I can find it in South Texas!

Style: Imperial Helles Lager
ABV: 8.3%

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Harviestoun Ola Dubh (30 Year Old)

Welcome to South Texas Beer Blog, where you can see and read about Scottish beers aged in Scottish whiskey barrels that you cannot buy in the UK. Why would this brewery only sell to the USA? I don't know and since I got to drink one, I don't care. They are brewed and aged in "small batches" so each bottle is numbered and dated. They come in a faux-whiskey box and have a small Harviestoun charm hanging from the neck. We got the 30 year batch but there were 12, 16, 18, and 40 year reserves.

We got bottle 21323/Sept. 2007 - and yes, we laughed at "Master of Wood"

This black old ale (Ola Dubh means 'Black Oil') is definitely not one to bring to the lake. It sips like a bourbon whiskey and is best as an evening nightcap or paired with British Cheshire cheese or cuisine like Scotched woodcock, Gentlemen's relish on toast, devilled pilchards, devilled kidneys, or a rich fruitcake. I split an 11.2 oz. bottle with my friend Ramsey and we both had different, but similar impressions.

My Impressions: Pours jet black, thin, with a caramel head. Roasted stout/porter aromas filled the room as I poured our two glasses. As a matter of fact, the aroma led me to believe that it would have roasty, coffee, and chocolaty flavors. The slight chocolate was there but the taste was overpowered by the oak. It has a definate spirity mouthfeel, low carbonation, not really like a beer. Overall, it was like having a glass of Bushmills or Jameson Irish Whiskey with subtle stout undertones.

Ramsey's Impressions: "I would say very smooth, dark concoction with oak notes and a very impressive body but it's not heavy, that's what surprised me. And it tasted like a stout. Oh, and it smells like whiskey!"

Ola Dubh's website has a lot more information about the brewers and the collaboration with the distillery (Highland Park Distillery, Scotland). This is the first time a named distillery has aged beer in their barrels. They use Flash so it's a little annoying to navigate and it won't work on your iPhone or iPad, but I still recommend "How do you Ola Dubh?" for food pairings and a whole lot of information about British cheese. I also checked out "The story of Ola Dubh" for some interesting information.

The Bottom Line: Find a bottle, try it out. If you enjoy stouts and/or good whiskey you will enjoy this beer. Next time I think I'll try to find some of that British cheese they talk about!

Style: Old Ale
ABV 8%

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stone Double Bastard Ale

"Ye Shall Know the Bastard, and the Bastard Shall Set You Free."

Holy Bastard this ale is awesome!

Double Bastard Ale

First, I'd like to thank the DoubleTree hotel in Princeton, NJ for providing water glasses that almost perfectly match the taster glass on the Stone website. They obviously thought of men like me when they chose them.

Second, I'd like to thank Stone for brewing such a Bastard of an ale. With classified hop varieties and IBU, this beer has been brewed since 1997. It's available (according to the website) November in 22 oz. bottles, 3 liter bottles, and limited draft. We happened upon a 22 oz. bottle in a liquor store in New Jersey (I'm traveling for work with a friend/co-worker/co-brewer/co-arrogant bastard). We made quite the Double Bastard drinking this extra-hoppy concoction.

This is one of those IPAs that is hopped so heavily that the malt bill has to be increased enough to balance. The malt sweetness is not initially noticeable since it blows your nose off with hop aroma. I got a waft of smokiness as well. The beer pours amber and thick with a sticky, hoppy head. The first taste has that initial smoky flavor, balanced malt sweetness and, of course, hoppy bitterness that stays on the tongue.

I really enjoyed this ale. Our bottle was labeled as a 2009 release and will cellar and age well (and taste great) regardless of vintage. Buying the bottle is worth it for the quote on the back alone, my favorite line:

Perhaps you have been so lulled by the siren song of ignorance that you don't even notice your white-knuckle grip on it.

Bottom Line: Be a Bastard, be a Double Bastard. Drink this ale if you can find it. I haven't seen it in South Texas, but if you do share with the rest of us aficionados.

Hop Varities: CLASSIFIED
ABV: 10.5%

Friday, July 16, 2010

Left Hand Milk Stout

Left Hand Brewing Company

If your experience in drinking beer is limited, Left Hand Brewing Company's Milk Stout is definitely one to pick up. Here's where you can find them.

Sweet Stout, Cream Stout, and Milk Stout are all traditional names for "sweet" tasting stout beers. Normally, sweetness refers to a low-attenuation by the yeast. In other words, the beer is sweet because there are a lot of residual sugars that the yeast did not eat and turn into CO2 and alcohol. In the case of this style the sweetness is caused by the additional of a non-fermentable sugar, lactose.

If you see a beer named or described as any of the above three titles they are all the same style and can be quite delicious! As an interesting note, apparently in England (where the style originated) they aren't allowed to use the term "milk stout" anymore. I don't know why (but if you know leave the info in the comments).

Left Hand's Milk Stout has a subdued roasted character and creamy flavor. Since it's carbonated and not nitrogenated the creaminess is not as significant as Guinness or Young's Double Chocolate Stout. However, the sweetness balances this stout well and makes it a good choice for borderline drinkers as well as experienced craft brew enthusiasts.

Bottom Line: Great example of a sweet stout. Must try this one! Creamy and slightly roasty, it's my brother-in-law's favorite beer (maybe). And that makes it worthwhile to try at least once!

SRM - 47
ABV - 6%
IBU - 25
Plato - 15.5
Malts - Pale 2-row, Crystal, Munich, Roast Barley, Flaked Oats, Flaked Barley, and Chocolate
Hops - Magnum and US Goldings
Other - Lactose

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead, or JAOM, is a simple homebrew mead recipe that originated from Joe Mattioli on MoreMead.com and seems to be pretty popular with homebrewers on HomeBrewTalk.com.

Mead is a beverage of love! Originally the word "honeymoon" came from the provision of mead to newlyweds for 30 days (or one moon) after the wedding. The beverage was attributed to the birth of sons and was drank by many many civilizations. Meadmakers were regarded as dignitaries and were congratulated when the child was born. Now, anybody can make mead in their home with ingredients found at the grocery store!

I made a 1 gallon batch of JAOM tonight. It's extremely easy with ingredients you can get from any grocery store. I'm using a 1 gallon apple cider container that I've saved (actually I have 4 of them for various mead and beer batches I've done). The only "specialty" equipment I'm using is the rubber stopper and 3 piece airlock I bought at my Local Homebrew Store.

From the information I can gather this yeast will ferment from 13-15% before stopping. The OG (Original Gravity or sugar content reading) was 1.132 which is pretty high. High gravity means high alcohol content! However, it will also finish pretty sweet with residual honey and orange flavor (maybe somewhere around 1.030). I'm really looking forward to drinking it!

Here are a few links for this recipe, some pictures and discussion about other homebrewer's experiences with making it. Good luck with your own batch!

Joe's original post on MoreMead


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Today is my father-in-law Mike's birthday, so I let him choose from an assortment of beer in my fridge which one he would like to try and I'll write a post about it. He chose Rogue Dead Guy Ale, one of their most popular offerings. I opened and poured and then he gave me a hard time for giving him "dead guy ale" on his birthday! Is someone feeling old?

Anyway, I've actually never tried Dead Guy Ale before so I bought a bottle. I like Rogue's assortment but I usually choose their more extreme offerings. Dead Guy was actually surprisingly complex and unique. I don't usually trust breweries most popular offerings since most people drink Bud Light. For example, Real Ale in Blanco, TX has great beer but I don't care for their most popular Fireman's 4 Blonde Ale. Different tastes for different people I suppose.

This ale is a malty, hearty beverage described as honey in color on the bottle and on Rogue's website. Maybe we were influenced by the description but Mike and I both tasted honey flavor in this malt-strong ale. Everything about this beer screams malt, the deep golden cloudy color, the aroma, and most definitely the taste. It was just balanced enough to subdue the sweetness. I enjoyed it, but as a fan of hoppy beers I would probably only have one of these before switching to a more bitter offering.

Rogue publishes the origin of this beer on their website:

In the early 1990s Dead Guy Ale was created as a private tap sticker to celebrate the Mayan Day of the Dead (November 1st, All Souls Day) for Casa U Betcha in Portland, Oregon. The Dead Guy design proved so popular with consumers and especially Grateful Dead fans, that we made it the label for our Maierbock ale. Even though the association with the Grateful Dead band is pure coincidence, we have gratefully dedicated Dead Guy Ale to the Rogue in each of us.

I felt like a Rogue, and a Grateful Dead fan, after reading all about it.

Bottom Line: I would definitely recommend this ale. This actually might be a good choice for a friend trying to "convert" another Bud Light drinker to real beer. I'd love to find a 64 oz. growler that they advertise on their site. Finding that in South Texas is not very likely. The more beer drinkers that identify themselves, the more likely it becomes!

40 IBU
78 AA
16º Lovibond

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where's my 120 Minute IPA?

120 Minute IPA news!

Well, keep an eye out for bottles in early August! If you find bottles in South Texas make sure to comment on this post on where you found them.

For those of you who have never tried Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, it's a pretty hefty drink. It comes in 12 oz. bottles for $10 each and it is a good idea to share. Find a drinking buddy and pour half into tulip or wine glasses to try. The ultimate hoppy beer!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Freetail Brewing Co.

Freetail Brewing Co. is a great microbrew pub in North San Antonio. They've been open since November 2008 and are a must visit for any craft beer enthusiast in South Texas. They recently made an annoucement on their Facebook page.

Alright... here is the info! Saturday July 17. Freetail and Real Ale are partnering up for a festival of barrel aged beers. On tap from Real Ale: Empire (barrel aged Lost Gold IPA), Highlander (barrel aged Real Heavy) and Devil's Share (barrel aged Devil's Backbone). From Freetail: Barrel Aged La Muerta, Barrel Aged... Old Bat Rastard, Solera IV and Solera V. Also a number of other Real Ale and Freetail beers on tap

I'll be there! Real Ale only sells Lost Gold IPA and Real Heavy in kegs and I have never seen them in San Antonio. I'm excited to try all three!

I also purchased a bottle of Freetail's 3Tail Ale on Saturday morning. It is their Belgian Golden Strong Ale sitting between 9 and 9.9% ABV (depending on what source you read) released in limited quantities in the bottle. This time they only had 70 bottles available. I'll review it in the future!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rogue Chipotle Ale

My Father-in-law (Mike) recently purchased a bottle of Rogue Chipotle Ale for us to try. We cracked it open last night and split the 22 oz. bottle. I really like Rogue beers but I have to be honest, this one wasn't really my cup of tea (or beer as it was). My Father-in-law and wife didn't really like it either. I think it was a couple of things, first some information about the brew.

Rogue publishes that this beer is dedicated to a Spanish author named Juan de la Cueva who, in 1575, wrote about an ale made with seedless chipotle peppers. An interesting suggestion on the website (Chipotle Ale) suggests blending it with a Rogue Chocolate Stout for a mole black & tan. Now that's something I would find interesting to try!

Anyway, back to the beer. It pours a dark golden color, which was kind of surprising because they state that the Chipotle Ale recipe is based on their American Amber Ale which is quite a bit darker. It had a nice thick foamy head which retained to the bottom of the glass. The aroma was a little, well, funky. None of us could quite put our fingers on it but I assume it was the burnt, roasty smell from the chiles. The first sip hit me in the front end with a lot of smokey flavor. It tasted almost exactly like Shiner Smokehaus in my opinion. There was no spiciness which is what I expected from this description:

Roasted chipotle peppers produce an eye opening chile flavor in this deep golden ale with a malty, smoky aroma and smooth, crisp flavor.

Both Mike and I detected maybe a tiny tiny hint of spice at the back of our tongue. It was definitely not "eye opening chile flavor" but more of a tickle.

Bottom Line: While this ale wasn't bad in any way, it also wasn't my favorite. If you are looking for a chile pepper beer this isn't one to pick up. If you are a fan of Rauchbiers or any kind of smoked beers I would certainly give this one a try. I give it one chili pepper out of 5.

35 IBU
82 AA
23º Lovibond