Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale

Hey readers, I hope everyone has been doing well during my hiatus. Over the past four weeks I have been busy learning the ins and outs of mortgage servicing for a job in Bank of America’s mortgage department, and I have often found myself too braindead to keep things up on the ole blog.

Now that I have gotten into something of a routine though, the day-to-day struggle is getting to be less taxing, and I have found the energy to punch out a review as opposed to get numbingly drunk and falling asleep.

To get back into the swing of things, I have picked up a brewery new to my taste buds, Southern Star Brewery. Hailing from Conroe, Texas, this is one of the few small breweries in the state to can, as opposed to bottle, their beer offerings.  The beer is their Pine Belt Pale Ale.

The beer, being poured from a 16-ounce can, comes out a cloudy, nearly opaque, umber color. Atop the beverage a very formidable, frothy, off-white head forms. The head, while exceeding the limits of the pint glass, keeps its body and avoids falling over the side of my pint glass.

Taking a healthy whiff off the top of the head, slightly brushing my nose against the foamy goodness, the aroma of hops, primarily of grapefruit, mingles with a subtle malty note of caramel.

Sufficiently enticed by both the appealing smell and appearance, I take a healthy first sip of the pale ale. Flavors of slightly toasted sugar and pine hops frolic in balance across my tongue. As the sweet malt body subsides, it is replaced by a warm, mild bitterness on the backend, both in medium body.

While I would characterize the flavor as good, but not great, this beer has one of the most rich and creamy mouth impressions I have ever enjoying in an ale not coming from the tap, and without a nitrous widget in the can or bottle.

Southern Star has brewed a beer that, despite my “meh” response to the flavor, being neither impressed nor dissuaded, still is a beer that exhibits all the elements of a beer that has been crafted from good, quality ingredients, and a skilled brewmaster.

I am a little disappointed that I did not fall in love with the beer, but I will easily buy another sample from their offerings with the anticipation that it will be brewed with equally enough care and pride.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shiner Old Time Ale by the Spoetzl Brewing Company

Well, it’s the last day of September, but by the time this gets posted it will probably be the second weekend of October or so.

The past couple weeks have been a little hectic as I am preparing to start another job in customer service, and have been wavering in and out of confidence for this project, and another that I started in the beginning of the month.

While asking myself whether or not this project, Intoxico, is viable and a worthwhile use of my time, the fact that despite pulling back in the amount of updating I have broke personal records. In September I have exceeded the most views in a single day (243), my personal record for unique page views in a month (2290), and exceeded a total lifetime page views at over 8,000.  Now I know that this is just a drop in the pan for most blogs, but given my past history, things should continue to exceed these markers. Hopefully these small but compounding victories result in more success in my modest goals for this blog.

Tonight, after planning a bit of “session” drinking, I reached for what I thought was one beer, but pulled out instead a bottle of “Shiner Old-Time Alt”, from the Spoetzl Brewery.  Because this is the last bottle I have on hand of the stuff, I decided that I needed to write up a review, despite the backlog of reviews still pending review by my editor.

Pouring the beer into the prerequisite Shiner Bock pint glass, the beer was a nice true copper color, with a slightly cloudy body.  A substantial head formed then died down to about half a finger, but held strong throughout the consumption of the ale.

On top of a bready aroma, sweet caramel malt and light pine hop scents are present.

Enjoying the first mouthful of this Alt, it had a mouth feel that suggested the beverage could be chewed. The thick feeling beverage coated my mouth with the flavor of sweet, slightly burnt sugar, followed by a rush of generic hop bitterness that became more developed and pronounced in relation to the quantity consumed.

Seconded probably only by the “Kosmos Reserve”, this would have to be one of my favorite offerings from the brewery in Shiner, Tx.


Brew Free or Die IPA by 21st Amendment Brewing

By the time you read this, several days will have passed due to my editor, aka my wife, has left me to visit her aunt, uncle, and brother in Oklahoma. In her absence, my brother and I are trying to repair a fuel line in my Toyota econo-box which required that I spend seventy bucks on a piece of rubber and plastic about 12 inches long.

In order to cut the pain of being without cash and a car, today I decided to break open the last can of a group of sample beers from the 21st Amendment Brewery, their “Brew Free or Die IPA”.

Popping the top off the always interesting and well-designed cans from this brewery, the beer poured a crisp and clear orange hued beer that danced with the bubbles of active carbonation. About a nickel’s width head formed, and retained for the length of the beer’s consumption.

The nose is warm, and bright with the aroma of grapefruit and perfume like hops.

As the light, somewhat refreshing beer hits my palate, a medium-bodied grapefruit forward flavor is experienced. Unlike a lot of American brewed IPAs, there is not an all-out assault of bitterness on the drinker’s tongue, but more of a background suggestion is created by a mild malt backend that brings out some orange-like character in the beverage.

While the bitterness does develop a bit more as the beer is consumed, 21st Amendment Brewery has created a very well balanced and crafted beer. This IPA easily has a place in my top 10 list, and would also be very approachable for the American macro lager drinker that is reaching out to discover real beer. 

Rahr and Sons Visionary Ale

I hope everyone had an excellent weekend, or at least a better weekend than myself. While moving to Texas has been full of very stressful and tiring ordeals and struggles, the benefit of being closer to my brother and sister-in-law has been a welcoming refuge from my woes.

As well as being like-minded in subjects of relationships with other family members, and life in general, they both enjoy the pursuit of good food and beer. This literal and figurative thirst often results in a trip to Central Market in Fort Worth.

Alongside a mind-boggling selection of epicurean foods and wines, Central Market has consistently been more expansive in their selection of craft beer than any liquor store I have yet to visit in the state. On one of our weekly trips I recently picked up another bomber from Rahr and Sons, “Visionary Ale”, expecting good things from prior experiences with this local brewery.

Pouring the contents out, a nice, rich and dark brown ale forms a thick, tan head that dissipates to about a dime’s width after a minute or two, but retains a nice cloud like appearance.

The aroma coming off the freshly dispensed beer is malt forward, being sweet and perfumed with a hint of chocolate. 

Like the nose, the tongue is treated with a blend of warm malt flavors. A nice nutty body that is exceptional on its own is given addition depth and complexity by the presence of a medium bodied chocolate essence. On the backend of the drinking experience slight coffee notes and subsequent coffee like bitterness keeps the beverage interesting throughout the 20 ounces of craft brewed goodness.

This beer is a combination of wonderful flavors in a medium-bodied package with a light and refreshing mouthfeel, and continues to earn the respect that this young brewery has developed in its regular production, and especially in its bombers/seasonal/special offerings. 

Hell or High Watermelon by 21st Amendment Brewery

When it comes to beers infused with fruit flavoring, I can’t say I have been the biggest fan. Despite the fact that the practice has enjoyed a long and celebrated life, at least in an intellectual manner, I feel beer should be comprised of water, malts and hops. Perhaps a hold out from my Germanic lineage is hiding in my brain forcing me to recite the Reinheitsgebot laws, or perhaps it’s just snobbery, but I am apprehensive when trying a beer that diverts from those ingredients.

So, when I got some beer mail that included a can of San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery’s “Hell or High Watermelon”, a wheat beer that is infused with watermelon flavoring and juice, I waffled on reviewing it. But, for better or worse, when I opened the fridge for some refreshment, it was staring me in the eye from its wonderfully designed can.

With the gauntlet thrown, I picked the can up and brought it back to my office for a moment of truth.

The beer poured out a nice straw color, slightly cloudy, but mostly clear, and alive with a lot of carbonation. Perhaps I was a bit reserved with the pour, but the head creation was minimal, and retention was non-existent.

The nose was malty, and had a mild, inviting watermelon essence.

So I looked at the beer a little longer, and built my confidence for the first sip.

What greeted me, much to my surprise, was a wonderfully refreshing, just sweet enough, watermelon flavor reminiscent of a Jolly Rancher. There was a slight bitterness on the backend that brought out some of the wheat of the beer which added additional depth.

Is this the beer for me? No, not really, but for those that like beers infused with flavoring, this was a nice, refreshing, unique experiment that adds a little something different to the evolution of beer.  I would highly recommend this beverage to those drinkers that prefer beer augmentation.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hoptober By New Belgium Brewing Company

(This post was written on 9/20/2011)

Hola readers,
Hope everyone has had a tolerable Tuesday.

Today I have enjoyed getting my oil changed, my hair cut, and congratulating my lovely wife on her new job as an adjunct professor at a local community college.

This good news is completed by tonight’s first preseason game for the Dallas Stars, and after the first period they have bested Montreal 3 to nil. So the only thing that can act as the cherry on top of this day is to enjoy a fine beer, and that’s just what I have done.

Diverting from my creation and celebration of Tex-toberfest, I have pulled out a bottle of Colorado’s New Belgium’s Hoptober.

Filling the pint glass du jour, the ale pours a lovely, golden straw color. The beer is very clear, exhibiting only a very slight cloudiness, and forms a nice, frothy, off-white head.

A bready nose mingles with a wonderful grapefruit aroma. This citrus essence carries over as the forward flavor of the beer. With the medium bodied, hop-forward flavor, bitterness is kept surprisingly at bay, while no real distinct maltiness really develops throughout the beverage.

Taking into account a nice lacing and a decent, medium-to-medium full body, this is a good beer verging on excellent. Enough is here to be enjoyed by a hop head, with tempered bitterness to make the beer approachable by drinkers less inclined to sample an ale with the same flavor profile paired with sharper bitterness on the palate.

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