Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Texas Beer Odyssey, Part 1

I took a business trip to North Carolina last weekend and, as any good beer geek will, used my off hours to scout out the local watering holes. I was somewhat surprised to find, however, that in many of the popular pubs of downtown Raleigh, there were absolutely no local beers.

It reminded me of a trip to Austin earlier this year, except that I had the exact opposite reaction in finding the local goods there. Admittedly, I went down there to visit friends, and much of the weekend's purpose was to hit local breweries and taverns. But I remembered with great happiness that not only could I find the local beers, but I could spend the entire weekend doing nothing but drinking and enjoying them.

And, like any good beer geek, I took notes on my wanderings. And I kept them. So, here are my thoughts on the beers of Texas that I found, for anyone who may be headed down there soon or may even be reading from there. I'll divide it up over two posts, but I'm curious what everybody else thinks about the Texas selections.

1) Real Ale Full Moon Pale Rye Ale
Slightly hoppy with far-off flower overtones, this product of Blanco was a wonderful way to start the journey.

2) Real Ale Brownhouse Brown Ale
I grew to like this beer that came on slightly smoky but mellowed quickly into something that was less sweet than it was full and husky.

3) Shiner Bock
My first two years in college were spent in Fort Smith, Ark., at a time when the microbrew revolution hadn't really hit the South yet, and my taste buds essentially survived on Shiner. Twelve years later, I realize this is a little bland, but it's familiar enough to have a special place in my heart.

4) Live Oak Pale Ale
This English-style pale from Austin provides a full mouthfeel but ultimately is very heavy and takes on that English quality of tasting a bit like a wet rope.

5) Real Ale Phoenix Double ESB
A seasonal that is more flavorful than the average ESB, this is bursting with malt and a tinge of back-tongue sharpness, but it's not overly bitter.

6) Live Oak IPA
This seasonal has a rye-esque, almost flowery feel to it, but the flower feels just a bit different from your normal hops.

Note: One of the great stops we found was the Flying Saucer, a beer eatery chain that is growing throughout the South. It featured more than 200 beers and beer/cheese pairings. I was also impressed by the amount of Colorado products on the menu in Austin - including Steamworks, Breckenridge and Avery - though I stuck to the goal and avoided them.

7) St. Arnold Spring Bock
This Austin seasonal had a really nice caramel balance that created something strong and tasty, yet easily drinkable. It was the easiest drinking beer of the trip.

8) St. Arnold Fancy Lawnmower
Arguably Texas' best know beer outside the Shiner line, this is bubbly, crisp and light, all adding up to maybe too sweet a kolsch. But, man, does it have a great name.

9) Uncle Billy's Axe Handle Pale Ale
There's nothing like pulling into a great barbecue joint and getting beer made there as well. Somewhere in between the ribs, brisket and cole slaw, I found that this light, golden-hued version of the style was a wonderful companion to stuffing my face.

That's enough for one day. More tomorrow . . .

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