My First Craft Beer Experience: A bloggity-thing about stuff by Matt The Beer-Guy

Around 10 years ago, give or take, I unwittingly stumbled upon my first craft beer. This was most likely at a little place in Colleyville, which has a reputation that precedes it, that we have all (most likely) visited at some point. If memory serves, the beer in question was fattire_lNew Belgium Fat Tire. At the time, I had been wallowing in the lower end of the AB/Miller-Coors gene-pool, considering myself “Hip”, or “Snazzy”, or whatever it is the kids say these days. I actually LOVED Heineken. (This is the part where the present-day Me, if time-travel were available, would go back in time and throttle the bejesus out of the past Me. But I digress.) I took that first six-pack home, popped the cap off of the bottle, and took a sip. Then another. 2 hours later, the beer was gone, and I was in a complete state of disbelief, and somewhat intoxicated, to boot. Shockingly, the heavens did not open up, nor did a choir of angels sing, but a profound kick in the proverbial “Old grey matter” DID.

Up until that point, I had no idea that beer of that quality, or caliber, even existed. It completely changed the game. Needless to say, my girlfriend at the time was not as overcome with enthusiasm as I was for my newest object of obsession. That’s okay, my wife is cooler than her anyhow. Fat Tire was a revelation for me, simply because beer, in my opinion, was fizzy yellow stuff that happened to get you buzzed and make you pee a lot.

HERE! Here was a beer with flavors I’d never imagined. Malty goodness all over the place and notes of biscuity wonder, supported by prickly herbal hop-notes that showed me that this was a beer made for folks who give two rips about flavor, and not just alcohol content. It also showed me that there were a whole slew of these little “Craft Breweries” popping up all over America, and the world as well. Businesses owned by people, just like you and me, who made flavorful, inventive beers, because it was what they loved to do. (AND they got paid for it!) Oscar Wilde has been quoted saying “Work is the curse of the drinking classes”. Makes me wonder if he’d sing a different tune if he’d been a brewer himself.

Fast-forward to today. My palate has continued to evolve, so much so that I drink a different style of beer almost every time I have one, and rarely the same beer from the same brewery twice in a day. There are more craft Breweries in America than ever before. Some churning out some amazing, over-the-top beers, and some squeaking by, by the skin of their teeth. This is a great day and age to be alive for us craft beer nerds!!! (REJOICE! And lift a pint, while you’re at it.) That being said, here’s to the fine folks at New Belgium brewing, for opening my proverbial eyes/tastebuds, and ushering my palate into a new era of beer greatness. My question to YOU, dear reader, is this : “What was the first beer that melted your brain, and brought you into the craft-beer fold”?

Matt The Beer-Guy

On the Differences in Beer Culture in America and Česká Republika (Czech Republic)

Recently, I got back from a week in Europe that began with Barcelona, Spain and ended with Prague, Czech Republic. While Barcelona was planned for because of all of the amazing things that the city itself has to offer and see, I’d be lying if I said that the addition of Prague to the itinerary wasn’t influenced by The Czech Republic’s impact on the history of beer.

Bar exterior

U Zlatého Tygra

The Czechs have been brewing beer since the 10th Century and were the first to add hops to beer to act as a preservative and generally take it to next-level-awesome. The Czechs also invented their crown jewel, the pilsner. A beer style that is so popular, that many bars in Prague serve this style alone, sometimes only one brand. A little more on that later. But basically, throughout the last 1,000+ years in the history of Bohemia and Czech, beer has always been there. The country drinks more beer per capita than any other country in the world (150+ liters per person). More than Germany. More than Ireland. More than Belgium. This is the reason I wanted to visit Prague so badly.

Klášterní Pivovar Strahov Brew Tanks

Tanks at Klášterní Pivovar Strahov-a recently reopened monastic brewery that first opened in 1142.

When I first landed, I began asking where the nearest bottle shop was located so that I could buy corked beer to take back to the United States. No one had any idea what I was talking about. I was a little confused because several other beer saturated countries like Belgium and Germany sell bottled beer for aging like this all the time. What I found out was astonishing. No one understood me, because in the Czech Republic, aged beer is looked at in a negative light. There, it’s the fresher the better.

When I say fresh, I don’t mean the marketing in America of “born on” dates of Bud Light where there is literally no difference. I mean the unpasteurized kind that is only good within 2 weeks. For example, we went to a bar that specialized in only serving unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell. It was the only beer there, but it was the only beer that was needed. It was the best pilsner that I have ever tasted. And there were several pubs in Prague that followed this business model of only serving 1 beer. They were all packed, not just with the occasional tourist, but filled to the brim with locals, who were all there to drink pilsner.

Urquell Stein

Lokal-a fancy beer hall that specializes in unpasteurized Pislner Urquell.

The Czech dedication to pilsner brings up another interesting point of their beer culture. With the exception of a few pubs in the country, most incredibly successful pubs only needed a few taps with literally no non-Czech beers available. They don’t want or need foreign beers. Hearing our tour guide talk about how amazing it was that the Prague Beer Museum had 20+ kinds of Czech beers was inspirational. In Dallas alone, the most successful beer bars I know would fail within a month if they scaled their beers back to 2 or 4 kinds.

The Czech culture of the love of beer for beer itself and not some search for a rare ESB from Belgium, a super hoppy IPA, or a limited barrel-aged anything is inspiring. You can taste for yourself and see why. The idea of a beer snob is foreign. Our beer tour guide had never even had an American beer, and I don’t blame him. He even taught us the entire social construct that evolved around their beer that I wish more countries would adopt.

Cheers-You give up your seat to any elderly people in the pub.
-You wait until everyone has their beer before drinking.
-You have individual cheers of “na zdraví” with EVERYONE at the table while looking them in the eye. (We did that one wrong.)
-You leave your tip directly with the server and do not leave it on the table.

This respect of fellow drinkers and patrons, when enjoying beer, is commendable.

Prague may have its flaws in regards to sexism, taxi scams on tourists, and the second most disappointing tourist attraction in the world, but their culture and appreciation for beer is something I wish the American beer scene could someday obtain, even though I know it never will.

If you love beer and have a few grand to spare, plan a trip to Prague. You won’t regret it.
-Lee Knox (Traveler)

Lee Knox (Beer Traveler)

Lee Knox at Propaganda Pub-a basement disco in a former communist party bunker.

Review of New Belgium Lips of Faith Gruit

New Belgium Lips of Faith GruitNew Belgium Lips of Faith Gruit pours a clear, straw-gold, with hugely-visible carbonation. A hard pour produces a creamy, fluffy white head with decent retention, and a great amount of stick to the sides of the glass.

Gruit reeks of Saison yeast, but in that good, earthy sort of way. The nose makes it obvious that more than just hops went into this beer. That being said, the herbs are fairly minimal on the nose, with the wormwood and horehound making wispy appearances. The malt lends light citrus notes, redolent of pithy mandarin skin and pineapple.

As far as taste goes, I’m pretty impressed. Seeing as this beer only clocks in at 3 IBU’s, it tastes like it should be closer to the 30 IBU mark. Grassy and herbal, with a good bit of smoky tones, and an obvious contribution from the wormwood on the very last smidge of the palate. The malts add a good amount of sweetness, but don’t overwhelm, making this a wonderfully quaffable beer.

The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, without the prickly carbonation you would expect with a beer that yells “HEY!!! I WAS FERMENTED WITH SAISON YEAST!!!” like this one does. Almost creamy, truth be told. This is probably my favorite part of this beer.

I’m not going to lie. Going into this beer, I had fairly low expectations. Not because of which brewery produced it, but because of all the random herbs you see on the label, added in lieu of hops. (Although they DID use a tiny amount of Target, if you check NBB’s website.) I am seriously blown away by how good of a job they did with this unique, refreshing, and innovative beer. If you’re curious, (You should be, I was.) grab a bottle and try it. Assuming you like Belgian-style ales, this should tickle your palate in all the right places. Well done, New Belgium. Well done…

Cheers!!!

< Matt The Beer-Guy>

Review Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale

Lagunitas has always held a special place in my hoppy heart (and liver), and this offering is no exception. While the name is a bit of a mouthful, as is the beer, the story behind it is interesting, and a bit of a nod to how outdated draconian alcohol laws are sometimes still enforced by the government to “Teach the bad kids a lesson” whenever it suits their fancy. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and will now climb off of my proverbial soap-box, and review this beer like a good boy. (Also, if you’re interested in the background of the name of said beer, check out this link… http://beerstreetjournal.com/lagunitas-undercover-investigation-undercover-shut-down-ale-the-story/

Photo Courtesy Alice White https://twitter.com/Alice_White

Photo Courtesy Alice White
twitter.com/Alice_White

Undercover pours a burnt copper-orange, showing a generous two-finger head after a vigorous pour. The Head recedes fairly slowly, leaving behind giant amounts of thick lacing on the glass, that mark every sip you take, to remind you that you’re drinking this High-ABV monster too fast, and that you have to work tomorrow, dammit. Carbonation is visible, but slow and sluggish. Just another sign that this beer isn’t one to pull punches in the booze department. Great! The nose opens with loads of dank, skunky, and piney hop overtones, tickling your sinuses. Hints of white pepper, grass, and lemon pith jump out, as well as lightly toasted rye-bread aromas, and just a nip of a hint of booze. I have no complaints. Life is good. The palate of this beer is awash in soapy hop-goodness! Dense grassy hops dance across the tongue, along with stone-fruit, tangerine, pineapple, and a hint of roasted pepper. The malt takes a backseat on this one, although it does add a goodish bit of sweetness to the palate, and still helps to buoy up the body of this giant-ass beer. Remember me mentioning soapiness? YEAH. This slick little number literally sticks to the tongue, and hangs around like that neighbor kid you could never get rid of growing up, that you didn’t like, but could never figure out why… If you make this your first beer of the night, it might just wreck your palate for lighter offerings to follow. You’ve been warned.

In closing, I always look forward to pretty much every seasonal offering from Lagunitas, because they’re so similar, and at the same time so different. (And the time between them is filled with sighing, and longing for the seasonal offerings past.) I love this beer. Point-blank, period.  If you don’t, that’s cool too, but we might not be as good of pals as we were before. A heady beer that hits all the right spots on a hop-freaks’ palate, Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale is a true gem in a world of sometimes mediocre Hop-forward beers. Should you come across it, and are feeling brave, or wearing your big-kid pants, grab a six-pack. The good folks at Lagunitas will thank you, and so will your taste-buds.

Cheers!!!!

<Matt The Beer-Guy>

B.O.B. Bottle Opener Board

From Ben Esely

“B.O.B is the first ever cutting board with a built-in bottle opener. Great for the beach, boating, camping, tailgating or even at home.”

The idea of a great-looking, bamboo cutting board came from two guys, Pablo Baquero and Josh Lochner who have 20 years of product design experience.  While Pablo has worked for some larger companies throughout the world, he recently started his own product design firm. Josh has been product/brand consulting for small businesses and working on freelance projects throughout the US.

B.O.B. Bottle Opener Board Design“B.O.B was dreamt up over 2 years ago at one of our frequent visits to Chipotle. We ordered beer to complement our lunch, but unfortunately they were still capped. Josh quickly reached for a beer and popped the top off with the tray the food was on. Pablo was intrigued by this, but knew there had to be a better way. The rest of lunch consisted of ideation with high-tech napkin sketches. We don’t know if it was the delicious burritos or the cold beer, but something just clicked that day and from then on we both knew the Bottle Opener Board must become a reality.”

I enjoy long hike trips and could see a lightweight and antimicrobial cutting board being very useful. B.O.B. Bottle Opener BoardHow many times have you spent some of your limited pack weight on a steak for that first night and had to use your camp knife as your only means to eat it? This little bad boy could be a useful prep board or plate, not to mention having a bottle opener readily available.

Josh and Pablo could use your help. They launched on Kickstarter to get B.O.B. built. Check out what they’re giving away for contributions.
B.O.B. contribution packages

Interview with Doug Odell of Odell Brewing Co

Photo courtesy of Sean Buchan www.mackinnonphotography.com

Photo courtesy of Sean Buchan
http://www.mackinnonphotography.com

Just recently Odell Brewing Company brought their amazing beers to Texas. You have probably already seen the iconic logo on glasses, signs and in friends’ pictures on Facebook.

“This is our 25th year in business. We’ve just always wanted to be known for the quality of beer we produce and the culture we maintain at our brewery and the philanthropic efforts that we make in our communities.”

What are you doing philanthropically?
“We do a lot of work in Fort Collins because that’s our hometown. Our customers show a lot of loyalty to us and we just want to give back to the people that support us. Our Charitable Team researches our many requests and we decide what issues and organizations we’d like to support. It’s divided between environmental, educational and social causes. We’re available to support any cause that we feel is worthwhile.”

Texas makes the 11th state that Odell’s distributes their beers (All between the West Coast and Mississippi River). But Odell Brewing isn’t planning to share their beers with the entire United States. “Our business model has always been to be the regional brewery. I really like the idea of moving around the United States and other parts of the world and being able to find things I can’t find at home. I think it’s a much better world if you can’t find the same thing everywhere you go. If you’re in Illinois you can’t find our beer, but if you come to Texas here it is.”

What can we expect to see in Texas?
“We’re starting with our 90 Shilling IPA, our winter seasonal-Runoff Red and of course our Mercenary which is Myrcenary Double IPAour year-round Double IPA. And then Lugene, our chocolate milk stout, will be here shortly. That’s one beer that even with our increased capacity we couldn’t keep up with demand. You guys gotta wait. Sorry about that. I’m looking forward to learning more about the craft beer scene in these Texas Markets. I know that it’s changing daily around here.”

Can we expect to see any other beers from Odell’s?
“As time goes on. We do a lot of one-offs and 750 mLs. Our 750mL Cellar Series program is going to follow the package release (Mid-March). This year we have 10 beers scheduled for release. We plan to increase production on those Cellar Series beers by 50% just to cover Texas.
But I really want to see that we could bring some of our more unusual beers, that we’re quite proud of, down here to this market. They’re not going to be beers that you’ll find everywhere because there may only be a couple of kegs that show up in Texas. So they’ll be few and far between. But it’s fun stuff for us to do and we want to share that with our customers.”

At Meddlesome Moth, I had a chance to try a 90 Shilling from peach casks. So I asked Mr. Odell about the cask program too.Odell  90 Shilling Bottle Opener
“We do so many one-off cask deals, that I can’t keep up with them. I’m a real supporter of our cask program. It’s very small now, but it really does give us the opportunity to show our beer drinking friends what we can do and what kind of beers we can put out. It’s more of on-demand than having something in a cooler. It’s usually for a special evening or for special requests. We have a lot of barrels that are one-off barrels in our Barrel Cellar. So we can go to the well there and pick out things that will satisfy almost any whim.”

How does one get a hold of a beer from these barrels?
“One has to show up in the right spot. We have a firkin on our bar 2 or 3 times a month. We have a very talented guy, Jay Montez, who likes to play around with some creative ingredients.”

From all of us at Beer Drinkers Society Thanks to Odell Brewing for bringing some great beer to Texas (now and in the future) and thanks to Mr. Odell for sitting down with me to talk beer!

Bevometer

Have you ever had a long day at the game, on the golf course or out at the lake and wondered “How many beers did I drink?” This is probably not a common occurrence with a high ABV craft beer, but you may have encountered it with those 4 or 5% session beers. Well, here’s the koozie that will help with that question.

Bevometer“The Bevometer is an innovative take on the traditional koozie.” This little guy tracks the number of beverages (adult or otherwise) that you consumed over a specific period and over the lifetime of the koozie. “The Bevometer is truly unique: There is nothing else available similar to the Bevometer. It’s hip and relevant: The Bevometer definitely adds to fun times, but also promotes responsible consumption, helping us all to be accountable. It’s extremely versatile: The Bevometer works for adult beverages, soda and water.”

The inspiration came from a simple enough encounter with a well loved koozie from developer, Justin Richmond’s father. “My parents were visiting us when we lived in Portland, Oregon. As always, my dad brought  ‘the Bud kooz’ to aid in his beverage enjoyment. It’s a serious understatement to say that this koozie had seen better days.bevometer evolution We started joking about how many beverages this relic had seen during years of dedicated use. My dad’s stories became our inspiration for the Bevometer.” Justin then began asking those questions of how many beers that koozie had held over time and his idea was born.

We can see using The Bevometer to keep track of consumed drinks to promote responsible drinking and as a bevometer specsconversation starter for how many beers you’ve had since you bought it. Watch that number and make sure it  doesn’t get too high!

Well, these little accountant koozies aren’t available yet. Justin and Jenny have launched on Kickstarer and need support. A $20 pledge will get you a First Edition Bevometer. Higher contributions receive a custom Bevometer with T-Shirts and more.

Check out their Bevometer Kickstarter Page for details.