A Bloggity Thing About Stuff! Beer from There.

Howdy friends! I hope you’re ready for another monthly installment of beer-related ramblings!

This time, I’m going to share some thinky-words with you that came to my brain during a recent trip to Ohio. (Which, although it may not seem like an awesome place to visit, is pretty radass, given the beer selection!) Long story short, we’re going to discuss regional craft beer, and what makes it so great. Think of all the out of state goodies you can’t get where you live…are you drooling yet? I thought so. The question is, “WHY” are you drooling? Is there a specific beer or brewery that tickles your proverbial pickle? (I haven’t come up with a female equivalent of “Pickle”. Sorry. I’ll get on that, ASAP.) Adversely, is there a beer or brewery from your home town that you wish you could share with the world? In this blog, I’ll share my thoughts about these topics with you, and experiences involving beer, travel, and other things that may or may not make you fat. (People under 25 beware…. Your metabolism WILL catch up with you one day. Mark my words.) So without further ado, prepare for my brainfarts.

We all have that friend that knows a guy, that knows a guy, that knows another guy in another state that mails him all sorts of amazing shit we can’t get, and constantly dream about, right? Of course we do… This is why we always see those infuriating

Photo Courtesy of Michael Szydlowski http://instagram.com/mj_szydlowski/

Photo by Michael Szydlowski

posts on Facebook with pics of beer hauls that make us say “WHEN LORD?!?!? WHEN DO I GET TO SEE THE GODDAMN SAILBOAT?!?!?”.

Relax for a second, and think about it. WHY do we want these impossible to find beers? Is it because they’re highly rated? Is it because a friend said that *Insert name here* was “The best BLAH-BLAH I ever had”? Or is it just because we can’t get these beers we lust after? Personally, I find it to be a mixture of all three.

Take our fine state of Texas, for Example. We have some insanely tasty beers to be proud of here, including, but not limited to offerings such as the following :

-Peticolas Velvet Hammerpeticolas Brewing Velvet Hammer
-Community Public Ale
-Real Ale Hans Pils
-Deep Ellum IPA
-Martin House Pretzel Stout
-Rahr BBA Winter Warmer
-Armadillo Aleworks Quakertown Stout
-Jester King Funk Metal

I could continue to list damn tasty Tejas beers for days, until I’m blue in the face. The groovy thing about said above list is that several of said beers I mentioned have won GABF awards, or are considered highly rated on several beer-radass sites. (Remember friends, we aren’t “beer-geeks”, or “Beer-snobs”… We’re “Beer Radasses”. That should be a thing, don’t you think?)

If you’ve ever done a trade, you know damn well that everyone EVERYWHERE

Jester King's set of every beer produced by the brewery. Photo by Rasy Ran Photography

Jester King’s beers. Photo by Rasy Ran Photography

wants Jester King. My question to you is this : WHY? I’d like your feedback. Personally, I love JK, and truly appreciate how far they have come not only as a brewery, but as a group of innovators and advocates for craft beer. I can also say, that come Shotgun Friday, I’d rather have a cold Hans Pils in my hand than almost anything else you can see through. So, other than the obvious, it’s pretty damned safe to say that we’re brewing up some excellence here in our fine state. Yes? Good, I’m glad we agree. Moving on.

Travel. Ah, how I love and hate it. I remember back in the day when “security” was going through the little metal detector and hopping your happy ass on a plane. When checking a bag was cheap as hell, if not free, and no one gave two sparrow-farts if you had booze in your luggage. Security these days is a nightmare, to say the least, but that’s a different topic. Any time my family and I take a little vacation, I always look forward to seeing what’s new wherever we’re going, and doing my best to decide what to smuggle back home. At the end of our honeymoon, my lovely wife and I brought home at LEAST 7 cases of Independence beer from Austin! (Mostly amber and a smattering of Bootlegger, Stash, and Convict Hill.) Convict Hill from Independence BrewingBootlegging home Austin beer is one of my favorite parts of heading down that way. That being said, I also hate long drives involving the stupidity of other people who have no right owning a drivers’ license. But, as usual, I digress. No matter where you go in our great country, there is always some brewery you have never heard of that someone, somewhere, has good things to say about. It’s things like this that make travel for any serious beer-radass amazing. I’m always impressed by the amount of regional offerings that aren’t available across the country when I travel anywhere outside my little DFW home.

Ohio was no exception. For starters, if you make it up that way, I have to say that it IS IMPERATIVE that you get your hands on some Columbus Brewing Company IPA! Being a huge fan of anything hopped with Simcoe, and also the fact that Simcoe, one of Mosaics’ parental hop-units, is the main contributor to this beer, You should know full-well that I’m down like Charlie Brown. CBC IPA pours a crisp golden-amber, with a huge fluffy head, that leaves behind wispy lace. The nose smells like angel-farts, and rich, grassy hops. The palate is awash in peach, grapefruit, pineapple, and crackery & dry malts. It’s perfect, is what I’m trying to say, I guess. This beer almost made me want to move to Ohio. For real-real. But CBC wasn’t the only amazing brewery from the great O-H state that popped my top, no Sir. Thirsty Dog brewing had some amazing offerings as well, not to mention Jackie O’s, and Elevator Brewing. As an added plus, New Holland is a “shelf-beer” up there… (See also : DRAGON’S MILK, EVERYWHERE.) And you can buy liquor in the grocery stores, which is pretty far out too, coming from Texas. Which brings me to my next point.

Down here in Texas, I’ve always been somewhat in touch with what sells well, especially in my store. As a retailer of beer and wine, that’s kinda part of my job description, right? For example, Stone Brewing. In our neck of the woods, Stone limited release stuff practically flies out the door, without any help from myself, or co-workers. Ironically, this isn’t the case up in Ohio!

On one of my many beer-forays whilst on vacation, I found several bottles of Stone Old Guardian Barleywine (2013 vintage, bottled 1-16-2013, if you care.) just SITTING on the shelf, in the cooler, at a Giant Eagle grocery store. I approached the cashier, and began to pay for the brain-exploding purchase I’d stumbled upon, I struck up a conversation. It went something like this:

<Me> Holy crap, dude! It’s not every day you find Stone OG from last year sitting on the shelf…
<Cashier> Really? I love Stone, but it just doesn’t sell here… It’s like people don’t know what they’re missing, and junk. It just sits on the shelf. (I’m Paraphrasing^^^)
<Me> Are you kidding? Stone sells like whoa down in Texas where I’m from….
<Cashier> Not kidding, Man. It blows my mind how great stuff like this can come into our store, and just sit…. I see people buy bud and coors, and think “Why in the hell do they drink that piss”?
<Me> Brother, I’m right there with you. *Shakes cashiers hand* Have a good day.

I was knocked for a loop! Here was a guy, a cashier, a random employee, who echoed the same sentiment I’ve been spouting for years. “Why do people buy crap beer like Bud, Miller, or Coors, when there is so much good stuff available out there?”. That tiny conversation was the inspiration for this whole blog. It really stuck in my head! In fact, being a Craft-enthusiast, and home brewer, I think its’ fair to say that said conversation inspired me. It gave me the drive to get off my lazy butt and write this post. It also drove me to work harder at converting the folks who come into my store every week, looking for beers from “The Big Three” to REAL, Craft, beer.

I spent a good 20 minutes today explaining to a wonderfully nice older couple, who had recently read a somewhat misleading, but slightly factual article about mass-produced beers containing certain “Chemicals” or “Additives”, and how Craft beer doesn’t have said crap added to it. (If you’re part of a dedicated Craft Beer group, or page, you probably know which article I’m talking about.) They left with a few six-packs, and what I hoped to be, a decent amount of knowledge about great beer. If they come back in a few days, I will high-five myself, and come home and have a radass Craft beer. Additives. Adjuncts. Chemicals. Crap. Yikes!

So, as for this installment, I’ve spouted off about as much as I feel the need to! (I hope you enjoyed it…) And as usual, would love to hear your feedback. Where, dear reader, have you recently traveled, and found liquid gold? What piqued your palate, and made you want to move to wherever you were, to be closer to a brewery that blew your mind? What did you NOT like, and why? Also, what did you bring home, that you would be willing to share with myself, and my pals from the Beer Drinkers’ Society? I promise we’d love you forever…

In closing, wherever you are, and whoever you are: Thank you for reading my ramblings, and hopefully, you got a good chuckle or two out of them. I hope you enjoy today, and tomorrow, as well as the beers that they may bring. If you have any questions, comments, or just want to bitch at me for how long-winded I am, you can reach me at Mattdabeerguy01@gmail.com . Have a great week, fellow Beer-Radasses, and cheers!!!

Jester King: Amazing and Rare

Jester King Brewery EntranceAs you walk up the rough stone path to Jester King in the hard scrabble countryside outside of Austin, you start to get a feel for the culture of the brewery. Picnic tables are spread out across the natural limestone, hidden from the hot Texas sun under the sparse Jester King Brewery Brewpub Brewingshade of cypress and elm trees and separated with old aging barrels. The workers are a laid back bunch that enjoy wrangling yeast as much as they do sitting under a native cedar or running with their pups while sipping a craft beer. They are enthusiastic about beer and it shows in every taste and in the reciprocal demand for their product from beer drinkers across the US and the world. Jester King is nationally recognized for their sour beers that owe homage to their wild cultivated yeasts and barrel aging (a combination that is not matched anywhere else in the US). Drinkers the world over clamor for just a bottle of anything they can find.

Over the past twelve months Jester King has produced about 1,000 barrels of their beers. That’s 20% less than the previous year and a tiny fraction compared to a big brewery like, MillerCoors, that can produce 9 million barrels from just one of its 10 breweries. “We want to make the best beer we can, not the most beer we can.” said head brewer and owner Ron Extract. This decrease in production and the added ability to offer their’s and other breweries’ beers, occurred when Jester King exchanged their brewery designation for a brew-pub one. The TABC change allowed them to promote great beer from those breweries The Jester King Team finds amazing (like Jolly Pumpkin) and sell those beers and their own direct to us consumers in the taproom and for take home.

Jester King's set of every beer produced by the brewery. Photo by Rasy Ran Photography

A set of every beer produced by Jester King. Photo by Rasy Ran Photography

It’s been hard for us non-local drinkers to find Jester King’s beers at our local stores. Extract said “Our model has changed from sending all of our beer through distributors to selling the vast majority here on site. Maybe this doesn’t come as the most welcome news, but that ability to sell on site is driving growth.” Extract knows there is a gigantic demand across the world for Jester King beer and he hinted that we should see more available beer from the brew pub, as it grows and increases production. He also pointed out that Texans should recognize that legislative changes like this give us drinkers access to amazing beers from brew-pubs like; Uncle Billy’s, Free Tail and North by North West in our local stores.

Jester King is also expanding through innovative collaborations with some of their inspirational fellow brewers. Extract explained the method behind collaborations “We really want to produce something that neither of us could make on our own that shows the character of each brewery.” Some brewers that have collaborated with Jester King include; Mikkeller, Fantome, Prairie Artisan Ales and Evil Twin. Unfortunately, we will not see any of these beers here in Texas because TABC will not allow a brew pub’s name to appear on production labels and these collaborative and outstanding breweries can sell their beers in many other US markets without the exorbitant costs of TABC’s approval to sell in Texas.

Here’s hoping we see more positive changes in Texas legislation that will invite more craft beer from outside the state and the US and help small craft beers (like Jester King’s Provenance, Atrial Rubicite, Funk Metal and RU55) find their way to our local shelves. Until then, I suggest checking out The Jester King Blog or their Facebook and take a trip down to visit the brewery and pick up some amazing AND hard to find beer.
Jester King fermentation and bright tanks

Pre-Release Tasting & Review: Adelbert’s Contemplating Waterloo

photo 2 (3)Friday was a frighteningly difficult day for yours truly. My infant son is teething, growing, and quite overwhelmed by all the discomfort; not to mention he’s 100% determined to crawl by Monday morning, and therefore feels sleeping is not of any great importance at this point in his young life. So, when I ran by the grocery store yesterday evening to restock the essentials, the checkout attendant was confronted by a rather harassed looking woman with dark circles under her eyes, wild unkempt hair, and a complete inability to answer simple questions such as “How are you today?” and “Did you find everything you needed?”

I say all of that to preface this: It was a good day for a good beer.

I gathered my favorite tulip glass, the gifted bottle of Adelbert’s Contemplating Waterloo Gin Barrel Aged Belgian-Style Saison (perfectly chilled to the recommended 45º-55ºF), and a couple of my favorite beer tasting buddies – my best friend and husband Ben Webster, and my brother-in-law Ben Esely. I must confess, one of my FAVORITE things to do is preview a beer before it hits the market. I love having the whole spectrum of possible tastes and smells to pull my first impression from, without any influence from the outside world.

While I waited for the guys to pull together their tasting accoutrements, I looked over this bottle I had received in a flurry of excitement only days before. Adelbert’s labels are casual, classic, slightly rustic, and so inviting – you just want to pick up their beers and see what they’re about. In fact, this is how I first stumbled across this brewery several years ago; Mr. Webster and I were doing some beer and cheese shopping, and I picked up a bottle of Black Rhino.

Early-label Adelbert's from our home cellar

Early-label Adelbert’s from our home cellar

This was when Adelbert’s was distributing using the earlier version of their label, of which we still have a few beers in our cellar at home. I was instantaneously a huge fan, and I have always been charmed by their inclusion of recommended glassware, serving temperature, batch number, and ABV. I’m a girl who likes to have all the data, and Adelbert’s delivers. Also, seeing Batch #1 on my bomber of Contemplating Waterloo totally gave me the warm fuzzies…

On first pour I was drawn to the slightly murky, warm, honey color that swirled into view, and noticed as light hit the side of the bottle that there was plenty of sediment visible on the bottom. The pour formed a delicate head, like melted butter foaming in a hot pan, and left a desirable amount of lacing clinging to my glass. The alcohol legs from the 9.1% ABV were clearly present, and syrupy.

My nose immediately picked up the lavender and alcohol, followed by orange peel slash citrus notes, and a bit of vanilla, which all combined to create an almost smokey fragrance.

I was pleasantly surprised by the effervescence: a dense concentration of small bubbles that feel light and slightly whispy on the tongue. The alcohol creates a wonderfully warming, prickly, piquant feel that has a nice dryness to it like a fine Chardonnay or Muscadet.

Contemplating Waterloo.Full Label

When the full spectrum of flavors hit me, I thought “Gin lovers rejoice!!” There is a clear presence of lavender, and the resinous almost sweet taste of juniper, which are softly emphasized by the floral of the noble hops. This herbaceous combo is smoothed, and complimented, with nutty bready flavors brought forth by the malt, along with oaky vanilla. The finish is highlighted by the spice that is so intrinsic to the Philosophizer Saison, and the elevated ABV* leaves your mouth warm and tingling.

Adelberts Lineup 2I let my first pour of Contemplating Waterloo wash over me, and soothe away the stress of my day. As I sat reminiscing about this preliminary tasting, I found myself more than impressed by the distinct gin presence in this barrel-aged brew. Given the unmistakable spicy, citrusy, wonderfully yeasty profile of Philosophizer, I fully expected any gin flavors from the barrel to take a backseat to those of the Saison. I was delighted to find, however, that those crisp gin flavors can not only hold their own, but distinguish Waterloo as a wholly novel enterprise in its own right. I also love LOVE the warmth brought to the beer with the increased ABV. I’m looking forward to cellaring a bottle of Waterloo, and discovering how the flavors meld and mature over a year, maybe two. Which will give me plenty of time to indulge in the full range of barrel-aged beers evolving from this new series. Hats off to you Adelbert’s, Contemplating Waterloo is unique, delightful, and a great introduction to what is sure to be a phenomenal series!!

Check out our interview with the Adelbert’s crew here, and remember, Contemplating Waterloo hits DFW Monday at a limited number of retailers!! Make sure to watch Facebook and Twitter, both Adelbert’s and Beer Drinkers Society, for the link to the list of receiving vendors. If you haven’t already liked our Facebook page, just use this link, or follow us on Twitter @beer_society.

Jamie Webster is the editor-in-chief of BeerDrinkers.com and the culinary adventurer responsible for our beer pairing articles.

*Philosphizer Belgian-Style Saison has an ABV of 7.8%, whereas Contemplating Waterloo has an ABV of 9.1%

 

Getting to Know Adelbert’s Brewery & Contemplating Waterloo

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.21.27 PMWhen I received this email from Adelbert’s announcing their new barrel-aged series:

Adelbert’s Brewery is pleased to announce the first release of a new special series it will be creating with barrels from Treaty Oak Distilling Co.- Contemplating Waterloo, the inaugural beer for the series, is a distinct barrel aged beer that was made by aging Adelbert’s Philosophizer, a spicy and citrusy saison, in Waterloo Antique Gin barrels from Treaty Oak Distilling Co. The result is a complex array of lavender, juniper and oak from the barrel balanced with the Philosophizer to create a smooth, warming ale.

Well, I jumped right out of my chair and did my most enthusiastic happy dance. Adelbert’s is a favorite brewery of Ben’s and mine. We’ve been cellaring their beers since they were distributing with the old labels. I mean, an entire brewery with a soul-shaking commitment to Belgian-style ales? Just magic. A magical place full of all the things I want for my birthday…

But I digress; I immediately jumped on the opportunity to learn more about these guys, to share their newest beer experience with all of you, and in the beer nerd recesses of my mind imagined us, maybe just maybe, becoming super duper beer friends for always.

I threw everything I had out there, in hopes of Adelbert’s being receptive to (and forgiving of) my overt enthusiasm, and they responded in the most genuinely friendly and amazing way possible. Sarah, general manager for Adelbert’s, sent back wonderfully detailed answers to our questions, not to mention, a selection of beers for us to review, including a sneak preview of Contemplating Waterloo.

This beer is in my kitchen!!

This beer is in my kitchen!!

MY WHOLE YEAR JUST GOT MADE.

Now, as I have no doubt that you’re ready for me to move on to the beer-fan questions that are undoubtedly forming in the recesses of your minds…

For anyone new to the label, can you tell us a bit more about how Adelbert’s came to be?

A passionate homebrewer for many years, [Scott Hovey] found his calling when sampling aged Belgian beers at his first Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC). In 2010, after retiring from the semi-conductor industry where he worked for over 25 years, he completed the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ Malting and Brewing Science Course while developing the business plan for Adelbert’s Brewery. The brewery name and brand was inspired by his brother, George Adelbert Hovey, whom the brewery is named after. In addition, all of our year-round ales are named after Del’s wild and crazy life stories!

Treaty Oak Barrels at Adelbert's Brewery in Austin, TX

Treaty Oak Barrels at Adelbert’s Brewery in Austin, TX

When did Adelbert’s first meet Barnes from Treaty Oak distillery? 

Scott met Daniel [Barnes] and the Treaty Oak crew on day one. They were based in the same building as us until recently. It was a quick friendship because Chris Lamb, their lead distiller, was interested in learning more about fermentation and Scott was interested in learning about barrels. Last September, we began brewing whiskey wash for them. We found it to be a challenge to do a different type of fermentation, and push Scott and Taylor’s brewing skills.

Will you guys be increasing (or have you already) the brewing capacity to make room for these new barrel-aged beers? 

We are in the process of increasing our capacity, but not specifically for the barrel aged beers. We are increasing to better meet the needs of our markets and support growth plans that we have. Since the Vintage Series (barrel aged line) is based on our year round beers, the increased capacity will help them as well.

What was the inspiration for this new series?

Scott was inspired by Goose Island’s barrel program from [the beginning]. He calls their Bourbon County aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels “liquid gold in a glass!” He and Ramona (co-founder and Scott’s wife) fell in love with the romance and flavors of barrel aging. We all look forward to the day when our tasting room is surrounded in wall-to-wall barrels.

Is barrel aging going to be a primary focus for the foreseeable future?

Yes and no. We will always keep our primary focus on our year-round Belgian-style ales, and make sure we are meeting the demand for those. However, we love to try new things – no reason why we can’t keep things interesting, and keep our fans happy. We’ve had a lot of success so far with our previous Vintage Series beers, which were aged in wine barrels. As we do our warehouse expansion over the next several months, we plan to also expand the barrel program.

How many beers are planned for this series?  Will the series center around barrel-aging? Or is Adelbert’s planning to incorporate one-off beers as well?

This series specifically will center around barrel aging with Treaty Oaks barrels.  Contemplating Waterloo and Tripel Treat are the first two planned. Later this year, we plan to use Treaty Oak’s whiskey barrels for Barrel of Love, a bourbon barrel chocolate stout, we released last year for Valentine’s Day.

We do occasionally do special releases, such as our upcoming Sundowner (a Biere Brut), but won’t lump those under our barrel program unless we put it in a barrel.

One day Scott would like to work with barrels from Europe, maybe a port barrel. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.

[Editor's Note: The second installment in the series, Tripel Treat, is Adelbert’s Tripel B aged in Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum barrels, as mentioned in Adelbert's press release, posted Aug. 15th on Beer Drinkers Facebook page]

Contemplating Waterloo.Full Label

Now that we know about Contemplating Waterloo and Tripel Treat, what other beers could we expect to see out of this series?

We are planning to age our Barrel of Love…for the 2015 [Valentine's Day] release.  As far as other beers, we still don’t know yet. At any given time we are producing at least seven beers, but usually closer to nine when you factor in special releases. So we are cranking out 2 to 3 times as many as other breweries of similar age and size. Due to that, sometimes we have to wait until inspiration strikes for something new.

 We’re intrigued by the choice of gin/rum barrels versus bourbon barrels….

Scott is a big fan of Treaty Oak’s Waterloo gin because it is more lavender forward and thought it would be fun to play with. Everyone had done bourbon barrels! He picked Philosophizer for its spiced profile which he thought would complement the gin flavors. And who doesn’t like rum!

Will we be introduced via press release to a taste profile on the Tripel Treat as well?

You bet ya! The two are so different and similar at the same time.

What flavors do they expect the rum barrels to impart on Tripel B?

Well, if we told you now what fun would the press release later be?  Let’s just say the warming notes from the rum blended with the Tripel B to create a surprising flavor profile.

Could this lead to a break from their usual Belgian focus into pumpkins, or stouts?

Well, we have produced a stout before – Barrel of Love, the bourbon barrel chocolate stout, I mentioned above. However, we do have plans to play with that one a little before next year, and give it a little more Belgian flare.

We aren’t pumpkin people. Every year we are asked whether we will be doing one. Obviously, we haven’t. Typically, we like to make the beers we like to drink and no one at the brewery loves pumpkin beers currently.We prefer to play with new and different ideas. Between now and the end of the year we will be releasing three special releases – Contemplating Waterloo, Tripel Treat and Sundowner. We don’t have time for things we don’t love, and pumpkin isn’t one of them.

We are also launching several sub-brands within the brewery. Naughty Brewing was our first, and more are in the development stages. These lines are created, and developed, by our staff that are looking to create the beers that interest them, but may not fall into the Belgian realm. We want all of our employees to have the opportunity to be inspired and share their passion with the world.

How often can we expect a new release from this series?

There are several factors that impact that – availability of barrels from Treaty Oak, time in the barrels, and any other special releases. I think we will see how well Contemplating Waterloo and Tripel Treat are received by the public, and go from there.

Contemplating Waterloo Bottle.Image 2Will the release of each beer in the series be around 100 cases total?

It is all determined by the availability of barrels. Contemplating Waterloo was made with small 15 gallon barrels. In the future, we are hoping to get 56 gallon barrels from Treaty Oak.

When can we expect the list of receiving vendors to post to Adelbert’s website?

As soon as the beer is loaded in the truck and on its way to each market, we will be posting on Facebook (with announcement to look at Facebook on Twitter). Each market will get its own release day starting in a little over a week.

AND DFW’S DELIVERY DATE IS THIS MONDAY – AUGUST 25!! So watch Adelbert’s Facebook and Twitter feed for that list of vendors, because they’re only shipping 110 cases to cover Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

Don’t forget, Beer Drinkers will be getting into that bottle of Contemplating Waterloo this Friday, and will have our review out to you Saturday; so subscribe to receive email updates of all our postings, or go like Beer Drinkers on Facebook to find it in your feed!!

Jamie Webster is the editor-in-chief of BeerDrinkers.com and the culinary adventurer responsible for our beer pairing articles.

Local Brews Local Grooves: The Struggle

House of Blues Brewers of Local Brews Local GroovesSo.. I wrestled with myself on writing this review, trying to figure out a way to not make it sound like I’m being a total hater. To be fair, I didn’t really know what to expect going into a craft beer festival hosted by a renowned music venue, but what I encountered made me incredibly thankful for the variety provided by the other brew festivals D/FW plays host. While there wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with Local Brews Local Grooves, I think my preference for the more open, flatland approach of fests like Big Texas Beer Festival and Best Little Brewfest in Texas definitely marred my opinion of this event.

My journey this time included the lovely Michelle, aka The Craft Beer Bitch, who makes the wicked awesome Blooming Beer Can Flowers you see around at breweries and festivals, and with whom I immediately got lost upon arrival. There were lines to get into more lines beside other lines (I should mention that House of Blues decided to host some concert for what looked like mostly middle school girls at the same time this beer festival was going on). The place was packed. Upon entering, it was a whirlpool of confusion unless you knew the layout of the House of Blues venue by heart because there were no maps, only a “Passport” that told you what was in which room.. but not where those rooms were.

The Fort Worth room, on the entrance floor, hosted Martin House, Rabbit Hole,Danielle Goff and Michelle, The Craft Beer Bitch with Tait of Rabbit Hole Brewing Revolver, and Rahr, as well as musical guests Buffalo Ruckus, J. Charles & The Trainrobbers, and The O’s. This was also where you could access the one and only smoking area. The smoking area entrance coupled with the great festival turnout made this area the highest traffic room. We spent most of our time in this room, despite the fact that people were packed in like sardines and you could barely hear yourself think over the music and general chaos.

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers playing the Main Stage at Local Brews Local Grooves

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers playing the Main Stage at Local Brews Local Grooves

Downstairs in the main concert hall was the Dallas room where you could find Deep Ellum, Four Corners, Lakewood, and Peticolas, as well as entertainers Bethan, Jessie Frye, Warehouse, and Cursed Diamond. It seemed most of this whole area went to waste with the four breweries lined up against the back wall and the floor in front-of-stage was empty. Having been to House of Blues for concerts, I expected much better use of this unoccupied expanse. The entire area that usually houses “general admission, standing only” patrons was left completely barren aside from a few standing tables. Really this large standing room seems like it should have been a feature of the festival by positioning the breweries there, especially since the only definition between the rooms were the breweries housed within.

Last but certainly not least, if you were willing to brave four flights of stairs and fight your way down a tiny dark hallway off to the side, you would find the Burbs room full of brews from 903, Armadillo, Franconia, and Grapevine as well as grooves from Andrew Sullivan, Nicholas Altobelli, and Doug Burr. This room was tiny and stuffy with brewery lines stretching crisscrossed across the floor, but if luck got you lost down one of the hallways, you’d find a back elevator to get down to the entrance floor so you didn’t have to walk back DOWN four flights of stairs then UP one more to get back to the main level. Unfortunately, this elevator was out of order before it was dark. This trek was probably my least favorite simply because I’m not a fan of trudging up and down multiple flights of stairs holding a cup of beer and trying not to spill it all over me and some poor innocent bystander (sorry, dude!).

Now.. I love craft beer and craft beer festivals and the people who make them what they are. One thing I can say I have never seen anywhere, except House of Blues, were the festival-goers carrying around tall boys of Miller Lite and other domestics because the lines were too long at the beer booths or they couldn’t find the other brewery areas in order to spend those $15 wristbands (which only got you 5 small sample cups, whereas the most common practice is $5 for 12 samples and a souvenir tasting cup). A lot of attendees seemed less than thrilled with the setup and, unfortunately, this was the first craft beer festival for many of them. I found myself encouraging other revelers not think of this event as representative of all craft beer festivals in the area as they all differ so greatly, and reminding them that this was the first year of Local Brews Local Grooves, so growing pains were bound to occur.

That being said, the people of the D/FW craft beer scene make it what it is, not just the venues. None of the breweries were sampling anything new so I made my rounds and picked up samples of my favorites (903 Chosen One, Martin House Salty Lady, Rabbit Hole Rapture, Four Corners Local Buzz, Armadillo Ale Works Brunch Money to name a few), caught a few excellent

The O's Playing Local Brews Local Grooves

The O’s Playing Local Brews Local Grooves

musical acts in the process (The O’s were especially amazing and I ended up finding them on Spotify the next day. If you missed them at the festival, I encourage you to look them up), and made some new friends in the process. At the end of the day, the festivals are what you make them. If you allow yourself to have fun, then that’s a win. Big thanks to House of Blues for hosting the festival and providing the eats, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Local Brews Local Grooves and how their focus might change next go-round.

Danielle is Beer Drinkers Society Events Contributor and Head of The Craft Beer Adventure Club on Facebook.

Guinness Extra Stout Beer Cheese Soup

Beer cheese soup at my house gets the same greeting as three-day weekends or Christmas morning. My husband firmly believes he could live on this concoction, bread, and beer alone. Also, in our hometown, we have a tea room that makes hands-down the BEST beer cheese soup you’ve ever tasted. Thus, in my effort to create a bit of magic from scratch, I had rather large shoes to fill.

The beginning of my soup dream was a complete accident. I was trying to make a not-from-a-can cheesy cream sauce for a broccoli rice dish. My cheesy sauce turned out fabulously (in fact I ran out the door with a spoonful for Ben to taste as he was leaving to go back to work), and the spark of imagination was…well…sparked.

I thought to myself, “This tastes just like a base for a great beer cheese soup!!” And I went back to the store the next night for the missing bits from my pantry…Guinness Extra Stout (simply because GUINNESS EXTRA STOUT) and a loaf of crusty artisan bread.

My first attempt went something like this (Don’t worry, the final version is at the bottom of the article for those who don’t want to read my whole tale of creation. You won’t hurt my feelings. I get it, beer cheese soup and the rapidity with which it becomes available is of utmost importance):

  • 1/2c Finely diced celery
  • 1/2c Thinly sliced baby carrots
  • 1/2c Butter, unsalted (or one whole stick)
  • 1/2c Flour
  • 2c Beef Stock, warmed
  • 2c Whole Milk
  • 1c Mild Cheddar, shredded
  • 2c Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • 12oz Guinness Extra Stout
  • Salt to taste
  • Italian-seasoned Croutons & extra cheese for topping

1. Saute the celery and carrot in the butter until celery is translucent and carrots have softened.

2. Whisk in the flour, and simmer for 2 minutes

3. Whisk in the warm stock (should thicken almost immediately)

4. Whisk in the milk, and heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 mins, or until thickened

5. In 1/2c increments, add your cheeses, and whisk each one in until completely dissolved/incorporated

6. Whisk in your beer, and simmer for 10-15 more minutes

7. Serve with a bit of shredded cheese and some croutons on top, with free access to bread.

In my mind, this should have gone perfectly. However, my soup turned out quite a bit more bitter than I’d hoped for. And by quite a bit, I mean like WAY MORE BITTER. And I was way more bummed.

So, I refrigerated the remaining. Googled everything about rescuing bitter dishes. Tossed and turned in my sleep. Made threatening looks at the tupperware container in the fridge. And tried again after our kiddo went to bed this evening.

Here’s what I learned from the people lucky enough to have posts that show up on Google page 1:

DILUTE: I made another batch of cream sauce (so basically 1/4 cup butter melted and mixed with 1/4 cup flour for 2 mins, added 1 cup warm beef stock and 1 cup whole milk, and simmered until thickened)

STRONG FLAVORS: I added about 1 tsp garlic powder to this extra sauce since I couldn’t sauté fresh garlic at this point, along with about 2 tsp of bacon drippings that I had saved in the fridge, and stirred until completely dissolved. I then poured the entire batch into the too-bitter beer cheese soup that I had warming in another pot on the stove.

SALT & SEASONING: Adding more and more salt goes against every culinary/health fiber in my body. But I tried it and it worked surprisingly well. I added an additional 1 tsp, or thereabouts, to the soup+sauce combo I had going. I also added 1/4 tsp Cayenne in the interest of another dash of strong flavor.

And you know what?? It came together beautifully. The soup was GOOD. And only pleasantly bitter, not overwhelmingly bitter. Still not on par with that of our favorite restaurant, but a girl can dream, and I am a particularly stubborn girl – I will figure this out eventually. In the meantime, I’m pretty proud of Version 1.2!!

To compliment, I highly recommend using a garlicky light/fluffy bread for dipping, as opposed to the dense/crusty/mildly flavored pane toscana I chose. (A) The soup was too thick for the toscana to really soak it up in that satisfying way (B) The texture of the bread was nowhere near delicate enough (C) That extra kick of garlic is AMAZING with this soup, which we discovered thanks to the croutons

I also read from the successful Google people that boiling your Guinness Extra Stout for a long period (ie. a couple hours) can do one of two things to the bitterness – either you get condensed beer and super bitter soup, OR something magical happens at, like, the 3 hour mark and you get magic Guinness flavor for your [insert dish name here] with zero bitter. The mad scientist in me wants to try both. Either way, I’ll boil the beer separately before adding to the soup – otherwise you’ll destroy the integrity of the cheesy creamy amazingness that makes up your soup base.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Guinness Extra Stout Beer Cheese Soup: Version 1.2

  • 1/2c Finely diced celery

    I forgot to take a picture of our soup before we devoured it, so I’m using some stock footage courtesy of Taste of Home. We even have the square bowls at our house!! Although we employed significantly more croutons…

  • 1/2c Thinly sliced baby carrots
  • 1/2c Butter, unsalted (or one whole stick)
  • 1/2c Flour
  • 2c Beef Stock, warmed
  • 2c Whole Milk
  • 1c Mild Cheddar, shredded
  • 1-1/2c Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • 6oz Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1 tsp Bacon drippings
  • Salt to taste
  • Italian-seasoned Croutons and extra shredded cheese for topping

1. Saute the celery and carrot in the butter until celery is translucent and carrots have softened.

2. Whisk in the flour, and simmer for 2 minutes

3. Whisk in the warm stock (should thicken almost immediately)

4. Whisk in the milk, slowly, and heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 mins, or until thickened (if it gets too thick, just add more milk – a little bit at a time – until you have the thickness you desire.)

5. In 1/2c increments, add your cheeses, and whisk each one in until completely dissolved/incorporated

6. Stir in your beer, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and bacon drippings. Simmer for 10-15 more minutes.

7. Serve with a bit of shredded cheese and some croutons on top, with free access to a soft garlicky bread (think fluffy dinner rolls or maybe biscuits).

____________________________________________________________________________________

And of course, pour that gorgeous Guinness Extra Stout and then settle into a warm Winter’s (or middle of August’s, if you live with crazy people like us) nap.

Happy pairing darlings!!

- Jamie -

Exploitation of San Diego’s Craft Beer Culture?

The first thing I noticed about San Diego is that the city is well aware that they are known for their craft beer. They know that as soon as you land, you’re going to go drink as much Stone, Ballast Point, Modern Times, and Lost Abbey that you can get your hands on. Because of this, San Diego has an industry that I did not know existed until I embarked on this craft beer centered vacation: beer tourist traps.

Gas Lamp Light District in San Diego

Gas Lamp Light District in San Diego

I woke up my first morning in San Diego at 7 AM, a side effect of the 2 hour West coast jet lag. I was excited about a wide open day in a city known for beer and great weather. After a quick workout, I started the mile or so walk to the Gas Lamp district, an area highly recommended to me by friends beforehand.

It was in front of the San Diego Convention Center that I first thought that it might be a good idea to have some sort of agenda before I looked like a lost tourist. I quickly put “craft beer” in my Google Maps, clicked on a random nearby bar, and started walking that direction. My plan was to stop at the first craft beer bar that I saw that looked appealing to me. In hindsight, I was woefully unprepared that morning.

When I was on the main drag in the Gas Lamp district, I saw signs and banners with “CRAFT BEER” in giant letters left and right. I assumed this was what heaven must be like. I looked at the first beer menu posted outside at a pub loudly decorated with the word ‘craft’ littered on its window. Well over 90% of the beers listed were Anheuser-Busch or MillerCoors. I tried the next bar with similar signs. The exact same thing. And then another. Yep. Another wolf in craft beer clothing. Devastated by these series of disappointments, I stopped in a large, open layout bar with a Beer Camp poster (ironically happening in San Diego 1 day after I left,) eager and thirsty.

I’m not going to name the place, because this article is about traveling for beer and not trashing a business, but this “craft” beer bar is named after the brewing process and is one of the largest bars in the Gas Lamp district. When I saddled up to the bar and requested a beer list, I noticed that everyone else at this bar at Noon on a Wednesday was drinking either Bud Light or Miller Light. This is the same bar with the Beer Camp poster on their door. Then, I got the beer menu. Though the ratio of craft to Bud/MillerCoors was better than the other menus I had seen that day, it was still a disappointment in a city supposedly known for craft beer.

The 10 or 11 craft beers listed were year round offerings of several of the local breweries, but nothing to write home about. I finally settled on a Karl Strauss Pintail Pale Ale, the best beer available. It was served to me in an ice cold, frosted pint glass; a bad sign. I hurriedly drank this $7 pint, so I could go back to the hotel and regroup. Surely, San Diego must have more to offer than this, I thought. Luckily, we were right. There was a Stone taproom less than 2 blocks from our Little Italy hotel.

The shining gems of the San Diego craft beer scene are their brewery taprooms. With no rental car and relying only on Uber and my feet, I had surrendered not being able to make it out to the flagship Stone brewery North in Escondido. However, with multiple breweries operating separate taprooms around the metro area, tourists are able to enjoy the seasonal beers of a brewery with relative ease.

Stone Brewing Gargoyle in the San Diego TaproomThe Stone Company tap room in Little Italy is a hidden paradise. Its monstrous yet intimate patio contains gigantic stones meticulously planted throughout. In between the stones are 10 foot long stone tables with Adirondack chairs up-cycled out of used barrels. The all too recognizable 4 foot high gargoyles are also there to greet you at every corner. Songs by Band of Horses and The Shins quietly play in this oasis with string lantern lights overhead. Inside the actual taproom, there is a massive wall with every current year round and specialty beer Stone currently has. The wall length chalkboard above detail the offerings as well. As intimidating as that may seem, I was beyond excited. This was the beer adventure I expected when we booked our tickets to San Diego. I was home.

The tap room offered 4 oz, 8 oz, and (with some beers) full pints. Knowing that I wanted to try as many as possible, I got a flight of five 4 oz tastings. The Mrs. got three tastings as well. And how much did these eight 4 oz tastings that really looked like 6 oz pours cost? $14. Amazing. I would live in the taproom if it was possible.

For my flight, I went full seasonal. I woke up my palate with the Sacred Druid. This Scottish ale has a mellow mouthfeel with light navel orange notes. There is a present cherry zest and finishes with the familiar malty taste of a Scottish ale.

After that, I jumped into the Double Dry-Hopped Ruination. This DDH beer has a fantastic centennial hop nose, but finishes clean through and through despite a medium body. Now that I kicked myself in the face with hops, I went to the Varna Necropolis, a golden Belgian strong ale aged in bourbon barrels.

Aged Belgian strongs are my favorite style of beer, though I generally steer clear from all bourbon barrel beer. The Varna Necropolis was the exception to my rule. Though it has the expected bourbon nose, your first taste is a sweet wood. This is the lightest colored bourbon barrel aged beer that I have had. It was an all fruit and no floral beer that I could write poetry about.

The next offering I went for was the Sublimely Self Righteous. This was the most radically different beer in my flight. It is an intensely dark, black IPA. It has all of the malt and cocoa of a stout, but with a subtle hop finish to remind you that it was an IPA at birth.

Finishing things off was Matt’s Burning Rosids, the 10+ ABV farmhouse ale from Stone.Flight of 5 Stone Brewing Beers at their San Diego Taproom That beer begins with a sweet, astringent nose and a thick cherry taste. It has a low alcohol taste, but with a flora, sweet wood that is difficult to describe. I would recommend finishing any Stone flight with this offering. Beyond happy and satisfied, we left the beautiful patio at this Stone taproom to retire to our hotel, for the next day was going to be a mixture of craft beer and the Mission Beach boardwalk.

When we were ready to begin our adventure again the next day, we decided to spread the wealth to Ballast Point, my wife’s second favorite brewery behind Twisted Pine. Luckily, there was a taproom about 1.5 miles away from our hotel. We put on our boat shoes and Texas Rangers caps and started our journey there. However, 2 blocks away from the tap room, we were sidetracked by a bottle shop.

The Bottlecraft Beer Shop and Tasting Room in Little Italy is the bottleshop any beer traveler should stop by to bring back treasures to their home state. To the untrained eye, this store seems small. However, when you look closer at the fridge and back walls, you can see that they are stacked to the hilt of almost every craft brewery that California has to offer. And interestingly enough, you can open your beer right there and drink it in the store should you choose so! Weekly flights are also offered. If it wasn’t for our planned trip to Ballast Point and the beach afterwards, I would have definitely stuck around for the advertised flight of 5 sours.

Modern Times Beer at The Bottle Craft Beer Shop in San DiegoAfter we had our basket filled with single bottles from The Bruery, Pizza Port, Hanger 24, and Lost Abbey, the cashier told us to hang around for 10 minutes or so. A shipment of Russian River was on the way. Pliny the Elder was coming. As one of the only people in my beer group that had yet to try Pliny, we grabbed and cracked open some Modern Times cans and eagerly waited for the shipment. No more than 10 minutes later, it came. 1 case of Pliny the Elder. 1 bottle a person limit. $5 each. Incredible. After I had a bottle of this liquid gold to bring home with us, we walked the 2 blocks to the Ballast Point taproom.

The Ballast Point taproom is vastly different than Stone. Instead of large rocks, the inside is polished metal with a large open room format and about triple the amount of staff on duty. The conical fermenters and barrels also let you know that actual brewing takes place in the building as well. Also different about this taproom is that they have a full food menu here, necessary for any Thursday at 2 PM beer journey. Where it was similar to the Stone taproom is that every year round and seasonal offering is available to taste in 4 oz flights, priced at 3 for only $5, which I eagerly jumped at.

If you’re unfamiliar with Ballast Point as a brewery as a whole, they specialize in beers that are lighter and smaller than several of the other California breweries. Their style is that of the San Diego coast, and it shows. They are sipping beers made for a summer day with a high of 78 or a night of sharing fish tacos around a beachside bonfire. They exist on the other side of the beer spectrum than Stone operates on.

For my flight, I stayed towards the lighter, more flavorful offerings. My palate was opened with the rotating Scottish Ale, Piper Down. It was a very mellow red ale with light whiskey notes and a medium malt finish. Overall, it was incredibly pleasant to sip on a patio with the sea breeze surrounding us.

Second, I tried the Sculpin IPA with grapefruit. When you order this beer, do not expect it to be like the Shiner Ruby Red, as I assume many a Texan has done before. It is a taste with an IPA beginning and a strong bitter grapefruit finish that lingers on the tongue. It is a wonderful take of their classic IPA, but is only second to my final beer.

Of course, I had to try the Sculpin IPA with habanero. There was no way around it. Beers at Ballast Point TaproomAs a half Latino, I am contractually obligated to try all pepper beers. This beer begins with an immediate lingering spice, though not as intense as Twisted Pine’s Ghostface Killah or as subtle as the No Label Don Jalapeno. Though the low pepper nose is at first deceiving, the beer finishes with the classic IPA hop nose and taste. When held side by side with the grapefruit Sculpin, it is remarkable that they are made using the same IPA. Pleased with this offering, we went onto the non-beer sides of our vacation, enjoying the beaches, hiking, and fishing that this city has to offer.

Similar to Denver and Portland, San Diego is a city that any serious, American beer drinker must experience. The beers offered in this city help you see the soul and wide spectrum of their history with beer. There is a brewery for everyone, regardless of where your palate falls. The seasons are mild and the people are friendly. And the great part about the vast amount of breweries in the area is that one trip there is only enough time to see a small fraction of the beer the city has to offer. San Diego is definitely a beer trip that I will make again.

Lee Knox is the Travel Correspondent for Beer Drinkers Society.