Thursday, June 5, 2014

Texas, the biggest state in the union

Of course we say that not ignorant of geography, it's the biggest of the contiguous states, as Hawaii and Alaska are not part of the lower 48. So maybe America has 50 states, but the United States in really only 48?    MR MS MB

You can almost gauge how nice or good a trip is going to be, by how it begins. This trip started out with meeting one of our consultants at the airport, and heading east towards Houston. We stopped for some great barbecue at this place called City Market in Luling TX for real classic Texas smoked pork and beef. 

Tried a soda called "Big Red" which is kind of like a red Mountain Dew one supposes. 

From then on it was a little surprise, as we went for an unscheduled visit to a brewery - Spoetzl - that brews the famous Shiner Bock. Very interesting in that the place is bigger than one would assume. A combination of old and new to the classic Southwest architecture of the original brewery with the massive construction going on the expansion.

The taproom was very nice and that the staff was friendly. Did see beers that being from New England, one rarely ever sees. Although parenthetically we have to add that even some of these beers we have never even seen in Texas! The taproom had the biggest collections of memorabilia for sale. And another pleasant surprise was it was priced quite reasonable compared to some places. Was able to sample the:
White Wing - Ale, Belgian Witbier  [7.5]
Shiner Premium - Lager, German  [8.0]
Light Blonde - Ale, Blonde, American  [8.0]
Bohemian Black Lager Shiner 97 - Lager, Black  [9.5]
Shiner Bock - Lager, Bock  [9.0]

Arriving at the Marriott, was told to computer system was down and people cannot check in yet, so would you like to have a free appetizer or free beer at the bar? And the choices were…
Saint Arnold Brewing - Fancy Lawnmower - Kölsch  [7.0]
Karbach Brewing - Rodeo Clown Double IPA - Ale, IPA, Double   9.5%  [7.5]

For dinner it was a very short walk to the Flying Saucer in Sugar Land TX

Note to people who travel for work; always pay for the beer separately from the food expense account that way no one can ever complain! 

For those that don't know it, Flying Saucer it's one of the better beer chains out there. They have a lot of good beers, apparently each store is allowed to stock local brews as well.
Stone Brewing - Cali-België IPA - Ale, Belgian IPA  [7.5]
Real Ale - Blakkr - Ale, IPA, Imperial, Black  [7.0]
Boulevard Brewing - Long Strange Tripel - Ale, Belgian Tripel  9.2%  [8.5]
Deep Ellum - Numb Comfort - Ale, Barleywine   11.5%  [7.5]

They also have flying saucers you can put your name and a witty saying on, and post on the wall if you're a regular patron. What many don’t know (nor did we) was that you don't have to live near a particular Flying Saucer. You can pick one that could be your "base of operations" and you can go to the other Flying Saucers that could still count on your total.

As it was close and good, the next night was also at Flying Saucer. That's really good beers including a dogfish head becomes a special Dogfish Head get a free glass night. One of the bartenders was either impressed or bemused we used an infrared thermometer and app for the iPhone to check beer temperature.

512 Brewing - 512 Five (aged in Maker's Mark barrel) - Ale, Porter, Imperial  10.1%  [10.0]
Real Ale Brewing - Real Ale Mysterium Verum Benedictum - Ale, Sour  5.4%  [9.0]
Firestone Walker - Easy Jack Session IPA - Ale, IPA, American  [7.0]

Back at the hotel, decided to try something new and mass market (and not great)
Miller - Fortune - Lager, American 6.9%  [3.0]

The next day it was a special because for years a consultant we work has been trying to get us to Royers Round Top in Royer Texas (they also sell fantastic pies). 

Must admit to mixed emotions because some of the reviews didn't like it, but apparently these are people want something like a Morton's steakhouse experience, not a good steak. 

The place is small, kitschy, friendly; and it has one of the three best steaks I have ever had. 

From there it went it was to the Faust Hotel in Braunfels Texas, which is a brewery hotel. 

Had a selection of homebrews ranging from decent to spectacular, as well as a good selection on tap. I mean really - Tripel Karmeliet in rural TX?
Faust Brewing  - Ginger Honey Wheat - Ale, Wheat, American, Fruit  [10.0]
  You owe it to yourself to try this, not overly ginger at all, hints and very drinkable
Faust Brewing  - Mike Crowe IPA - Ale, IPA, Double  5.7%  [8.0]
Faust Brewing  - Hell Fire Irish Red - Ale, Red, Irish  [6.0]
Faust Brewing  - Altered States - Altbier  [7.0]
Faust Brewing  - Altered States - Whiskey Barrel Aged - Altbier  [8.5]
Bosteels - Tripel Karmeliet - Ale, Belgian Tripel  8.4%  [8.5]
Adelbert's Brewing - Philosphizer Saison - Ale, Belgian Saison  7.8%  [8.5]

Brewery Pet Peeve #27, please try and list the ABV (alcohol by volume) with the beers, even a small range (e.g. 4.5 - 4.7) as this drives beer geeks (nuts? nerds?) crazy.

The next day, after a meeting in Austin, a drive to San Antonio; after dropping the car off walked to Blue Star brewing

This is where MR was able to have beer number 5,100; a slightly aged barley wine which was very good.
Blue Star - Flying Pig Extra Pale Ale - Ale, IPA, Double  [7.0]
Blue Star - King William Ale MMXIV - Ale, Barleywine  8.7%  [9.5]   (#5,100)

Blue Star - Pale Ale - Ale, Pale, American  [7.5]

The next evening took a taxi to the Flying Saucer in SanAntonio; the main reason was there was a fresh gravity-fed cask from Ranger Creek with hibiscus and ginger. Besides some really good grub, enjoyed and shared the:
Ranger Creek - OPA w/ Ginger & Hibiscus - Ale, Pale - cask, hand-pulled  5.8%  [9.0]
Dogfish Head - Red & White - Ale, Wheat, American, Fruit  10%  [8.5]
Mikeller - It's Alive - Ale, Belgian Strong, Pale  8%  [9.0]
Ayinger - Celebrator Doppelbock - Lager, Bock, Doppelbock - tap  6.7%  [8.0]
Odell - Footprint - Ale, Barleywine  9.5%  [6.5  too sweet]
Shiner Spoetzl - Light Blonde - Ale, Blonde, American  [7.0]

Note for the scores listed here it is for the style of beer, and therefore the Odell Footprint barleywine is not a necessarily a worse beer than the Shiner Spoetzl Light Blonde ale.
Also note by sharing one can try 2-4 times the number of beers a night, which is easier on both the wallet and liver (use Breathometer to be sure!). 

During the week we toured the San Antonio Riverwalk. Amazing; the photos do not do it justice.

Later in the week, we were able to go to the Friendly Spot, which is a fantastic outdoor bar with good food and great beer. 

As is often customary among members of Club-Belgique, a gift was brought for the owner. We left with the bartender Ruben a carefully-packed bottle of Spencer Abbey ale for sharing/tasting. 

Note we have even sent bottles as far away as Taiwan!

Tried the following beers:
Rogue - Old Crustacean - Ale, Barleywine  11.5%  [9.0]  tap
New Braunfels - HimmelWeisse - Ale, Saison  7%  [7.0]
Big Sky Brewing Company - Moose Drool - Ale, Brown  5.1%  [7.0]
Gazda - Pivovar Steiger (Slovakia) - Ale, Fruit  2.5%  [7.0]  very refreshing
Adelbert's Brewing - Dancin' Monks - Ale, Belgian Dubbel  9.1%  [9.5]  caged bottle

New Belgium - Rampant - Ale, IPA, Imperial  [8.0]
Shiner Spoetzl - White Wing - Ale, Belgian Witbier  [7.5]
Real Ale - Fireman's 4 Blonde - Ale, Blonde  [6.0]
UFO - Big Squeeze - Ale, Fruit  4.5%  [7.0]

Next day we were able to squeeze in a visit to the Filling Station - a very small bar in an old filling station. 

As always (MR having visited in 2012) the beers are extremely good. And as with the Friendly Spot, we left with the bartender a bottle of Spencer Abbey ale. Also left a business card, so anyone who got a bottle, feel free to write a "thank-you" note sometime!

We were also joined by someone who was very near and dear to MR because this person had, many years ago in graduate school, shown the difference between something like an ultra-flavorless American lager and a Pilsner Urquell. May Saint Gambrinus bless you, Ed G.

Sampled the following:
Deschutes - Mirror Mirror Oak Aged - Ale, Barleywine  11.2%  [10.0]
Avery Brewing Co. - White Rascal - Ale, Belgian Witbier  [7.5]
North Coast Brewing - Scrimshaw - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  [7.5]
Southern Star - Buried Hatchet Stout - Ale, Stout, Imperial  8.2%  [7.0]
Uinta - Hop Nosh - Ale, IPA, American  7.3%  [7.5] almost a double IPA?
Deschutes- Hop-in-the-Dark - Ale, Black  6.9%  [8.0]

In the late afternoon went up the San Antonio Tower of the Americas, and besides the spectacular view, 

enjoyed a: 
Cervecerìa Cuauhtémoc - Carta Blanca - Lager, American  [6.0]

Went for dinner the next day to Lüke, however the manager from a couple years ago was no longer there. We did present the current manager with a bottle of Spencer Abbey ale. Not looking for this, but good beer karma directed the manager to provide a very nice free appetizer! The food and beer was great, the only complaint was that service seem to be slightly mixed up; in that one of our members' appetizer came as a main course; then when we were all done; his main course of oysters on the half shell came in really late.
New Braunfels  - FeuerWeisse  [8.5]
New Belgium - Snapshot Wheat - Ale, Wheat, American  5.0%  [7.5]

Next day, walking around near the Alamo, besides seeing a wolf-dog,

stopped in at the Menger hotel in San Antonio. 

What is interesting is the hotel has tunnels - from Prohibition days - where they used to bring beer up to the hotel.
Pedernales - Lobo Texas Lager - Lager, Pilsner, Bohemian  5.0%  [6.5]
Pedernales - Lobo Negro - Lager, German Dark, Dunkel  5.5%  [7.5]

Of course, if you do not like beer, there's always Tequila! 

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