July 2, 2013

More drinking in Austin 2013 -- part 2

In this particular trip I chose not to try to make a whirlwind trip through as many breweries as possible. Instead I tried to hit a reasonable number, focused on finding good beers and taking advantage of what might be my last opportunity to drink great beer on the cheap. This wasn't my most exciting trip but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. I didn't end up getting into any tours because it was so damn hot in all the breweries and I didn't end up finding many beers that had a WOW factor. I did find many beers that had something interesting that I thought was worth sharing. (More of my beer adventures can be found here.)

Real Ale Brewing

Real Ale is one of the oldest craft brewers in Texas. They have a staple line of beers that are supplemented by several other product lines, such as the anniversary ales, seasonals, barrel beers, Brewer's Cut beers and various one-off projects. Their core lineup is supported primarily by Fireman's 4, a very straightforward blonde ale, but also features other classic craft styles. The brewery is way the hell out of Austin and tours only take place once a week so it has been tough to find the time to drive an hour or so out of town to get out to Real Ale. A few of the tastiest offerings on the tour:

  • Four squared: Real Ale takes its core product and converts it into a stronger blonde at 6% and drives the IBUs up to 50 with a complex blend of hops and hop additions to create a beer that is easy drinking but carries a lot of depth in the hop flavor and aroma. It's a beer that doesn't get the respect it deserves but it's a fantastic summer beer. 
  • 17th Anniversary Ale: This is Real Ale's biggest beer ever brewed; a Belgian golden strong ale clocking in at 14% ABV. It is slightly boozy but still more tame than any other similarly potent beer. It features a lot of peach and citrus character, which is a combination of Belgian yeast and four new German hop breeds. It's maltier than Duvel-like BGSA but not quite as malty as Piraat. Worth finding, if you can.
  • Mysterium Verium XV: Mysterium Verium is the series of barrel aged beers. This one is a pleasant bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. I know, there's so many BBA stouts running around but I quite enjoyed the assertive bourbon and coffee character in this beer. Unlike many of the bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts on the market, this one was not boozy and the flavor profile was well organized with distinct flavors. No muddled bourbon-oak-burnt flavor like a lot of lesser barrel aged stouts on the market. Again, another one well worth finding.
Real Ale, like many of the old guard of craft brewers, has kept itself relevant for the new generation of craft drinkers who demand more extreme beers by creating new products but also keeping its core base of loyal consumers by not giving up its original line up of beers. However, unlike some of the other older brewers who are not doing such a great job expanding their core line up with solid beers, Real Ale is knocking out each beer the package. I wish I could find more of their beers around DFW in general, especially the Mysterium Verium and Brewer's Cut beers, but I do drink my fair share of their excellent rye pale ale (Full Moon).

Austin Draught House

Austin Draught House is one of the coolest bars I've ever been to and I was excited to make a return visit on this trip. Not only are beers reasonably priced but the selection is very diverse. I scored a 14oz pour of New Belgium's La Folie for $9, which is a very reasonable price considering 22oz bottles run around $15. I had a couple other interesting beers of note:

  • Great Divide 19th Anniversary Ale: This strange concoction is an American strong ale/barleywine with birch syrup and aged on birch wood. The wood/birch flavor is strong although it is not unpleasant like an over-oaked beer. The woody birch flavor is itself sweet but complex. At cooler temperatures the beer was sweet but drinkable. As the beer warmed I found it became cloying. Definitely worth a try but probably a beer worth splitting among a group.
  • Independence Brewing Bootlegger Brown aged in bourbon barrels with bacon on cask: Let me parse through that description. This is a standard American brown ale that was aged in bourbon barrels with bacon and then served on tap. I know the whole bacon beer thing isn't new but this was a first for me. I am suspect of the whole bacon beer thing but I have to say I quite liked this beer. The subtle bourbon notes paired well with the subtle bacon flavor. It didn't taste like a bacon smoothie as I feared. The base beer is nothing special but the combination of bourbon, bacon and cask smoothness created a really interesting combination of flavors. It reminded me a little of Rogue's Voodoo Maple Bacon beer but without the smoke or strange flavor. The bourbon and brown ale added sort of a maple syrup-like character that works naturally with bacon. Totally crazy but pulled off successfully.

 

Thirsty Planet

Thirsty Planet doesn't get a lot of love among beer douches beer snobs because their beers focus on producing well made but classic styles (although they do make a couple unique offerings). It's ok, they never seem to be hurting for business. Some people just can't appreciate the value of a beer that isn't 8000 IBUs and dry hopped with every known variant of hops or aged in barrels with the brewers dirty socks. For people who pitch fits about brewers that produce straight forward beers I'd ask them to explain how a "session IPA", which is just a hoppy blonde ale, is mindblowing but a hoppy blonde ale called a hoppy blonde ale is boring. Ok, back to beer:

  • Perle IPA: I'm not sure whether this is a regular offering or just a tap room offering but I swear I've seen it before. This IPA is made with all or almost all Perle. It's light and the hops are very noticeable but the noble-style hops are gentle without all the bitterness of a standard west coast IPA. I'm glad to see breweries playing with some of these old school hop variants. The drive to use new hop breeds is creating a lot of unique flavors but I think these old school variants still have something unique to offer. I'd like to see them paired with some of the new variants. Perle plus some of the new noble varieties coming out of Germany could make for interesting beers. 

That's a good start on the beers on my list to discuss. I have many more to share but I am trying to get a brew in today while I am working from home so I am also writing up that recipe while brewing and doing lawyer-y work.

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