Monday, June 15, 2015

Austin? Austin, Massachusetts?

Austin Beerventure!


And then I learned there was an exploding beer scene in Austin

You will like Austin beer if:

You like being on the forefront of a beer movement.
You can handle drinking in a warehouse surrounded by brewing equipment and no AC.
You enjoy creative, innovative and hard-working beer scenes.

You will not like Austin beer if:

You can't handle the heat.
Like, wow, it is hot.
Seriously, heads up if you go there in the summer, hardly any taprooms have AC.

This last-minute adventure took me to see one of my best friends in Austin. We wanted to catch the X-Games, which was headlined by Metallica (forty bucks for the X-Games plus Metallica whaaaat), and I was also thrilled to return to two of my favorite Texan breweries, Jester King and Hops and Grain. 

We tried to last all day at the X-Games, but the heat did us in by 2:30. But we were able to catch the rally car race, which was AWESOME.

Look at this car. 600 horsepower jumping through the air?! You can't see it, but FLAMES shoot out of the exhaust when they floor it. I'm not even really a racing fan, but this was one of the many highlights of the trip. 

Along the way to the breweries to escape the heat, we passed a flaming truck:
Probably couldn't take the heat.
I checked, there were no injuries. 

I'd sampled the beer scene in Austin before, but this time I really tried to experiment with the local brews. We stocked up for the weekend and I made it a point to only buy local beer. My choices were Revolver Sidewinder, Revolver Blood and Honey (which I enjoyed at the legendary Alamo Draft House to see Mad Max: Fury Road for the fourth time), Infamous Hijack and El Super Bee by Four Corners Brewing. 

First up, Revolver has one of the cooler logos I'd ever seen. Sidewinder is a pale ale, brewed with agave and Citra hops. It is light, sweet and citrusy, which was perfect in the heat. 

We had lunch at The Salt Lick. If you ever find yourself in Austin, just go there. Don't ask questions, just put on your stretchy pants and order the all-you-can-eat meat platter. It was a herculean task to put away three plates of meat, so I drank El Super Bee De Saison from Four Corners (thank you byob laws, Texas.) 

Every time I got full, I looked at El Super Bee and he gave me the extra push I needed. Plus it had a pop top lid, which served no beneficial purpose that I could tell. Sweet.

Next up was Strange Land Brewery. Which....I, uh, will link to their Yelp page, which inexplicably has high marks across the board. I did not like a single beer here. One smelled and tasted like floor cleaner. Their firkin of saison (I love firkins of saisons!) poured muddy brown and did not taste like any saison I've ever had. Moving on.... Austin Beerworks. Now here was some Austin beer. If a fraternity of indie hipsters made a brewery, it would be Austin Beerworks. Beards, stretched earlobes, skinny jeans, thick-rimmed glasses and armsleeve tattoos as far as the eye could see. Christmas lights dangled across the ceiling rafter beams. Austin Beerworks is home to the awesome 99 Pack. Yep. So bring a friend and probably a truck if you want to bring home 1,118 ounces of delicious beer. 

Overall this place was solid. I tried five or six (I was already five or six deep by then) and enjoyed them all. Also, I'm not sure if we were allowed to take our pint glasses, but we totally took our pint glasses.

Thanks gents.

Next up was Zilker Brewing Company.  Just about the only brewery there that had AC, so Zilker gets extra points from me. 

But in addition to the HVAC Bonus, their beer was solid. I wanted to try a good saison after that mud firkin, and Zilker delivered with the Honey Saison:
Our beerventure ended at Hops and Grain. Probably my second favorite Austin brewery.

Texas beer laws are still crazy strict, and breweries are forced to battle around archaic distribution laws. No brewery can sell their own beer within their taproom if their property boundary is a certain distance from residential areas. This is why you will find many breweries in the middle of fields or warehouse districts down there. Hops and Grain's boundaries just barely crosses that line, so they can't sell their own beer. 

However, they can sell you a pint glass for ten dollars, and then give you three free beer samples. Every beer there is delightful. Ranging from the dark and rich Porter Culture to the citrusy and hoppy Greenhouse IPA to the malty, floral and slightly toasty Zoe Pale Lager. We didn't have a bad pour. Love you, Hops and Grain!

One of the interesting trends in the Austin beer scene is that most taprooms are right in the heart of the brewery itself. In most taprooms down there, you enjoy your pints surrounded by copper kettles and steam pipes and stacked barrels and kegs. Which is a stark contrast to most Colorado taprooms, where the breweries and bars are kept completely separated. Neither are a bad idea, just an interesting fun fact. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Green Flash Road Warrior


Drinking eternal on the Fury Road to Valhalla

You will like if:
You like being able to chew your beer.
You judge IBUs based on how far away you can smell hops.
You think Imperial IPAs are perfect. Perfect in every way.

You will not like if:
You think hopsplosions are MEDIOCRE.
You prefer your beer so clear you can see through it.
You can't handle driving a War Rig.

Pack if up friends. Mad Max: Fury Road is the greatest movie ever made. Sorry, that's it. It's all downhill from here. But wait! you say. I really prefer the nuanced performance of-

No, you are wrong. Nothing will convince me that there exists a movie better than Fury Road. Even the trailer is amazing:

Bam! I got furious goosebumps just watching that trailer again. If you don't think that's the most insane trailer you've ever seen, get out of my face.

Practical effects and actual explosions?
A badass female protagonist with a robot arm?
You better believe that's a check.
Maybe like fifty total lines of dialogue?
Check that. 
2,000 horsepower of nitro-boosted War Rig?
Double check. 

Every scene is perfectly crafted. No wasted space, no wasted time. There are details in every shot that you won't catch the first or even second time viewing. Why? Because you'll be giggling like a small child at the awesome spectacle on the screen. 

I literally stood up and cheered at the conclusion. I've never done that before. 

Things that were awesome beyond comprehension:
-Charlize Theron plays a character named Imperator Furiosa
-They actually built all of the cars and machines, got them working, and then blew them up
-The movie crafted a believable setting without telling you anything. Everything is explained with hardly a word
-Again her name is Imperator Furiosa

I'm going to stop talking about the movie, because I'm getting all worked up again just thinking about it. I can tell you I have renamed my 68 Chevelle "Furiosa" and have been driving it aggressively over the past few days with the Fury Road Extended Soundtrack blasting at full volume.

I actually spent a good, long while at the beer store trying to find a suitable beer to fully capture the essence of the movie. Should I go with a punch-full of hops? A furious alcohol content? An explosion of sour flavor? A blast of nose-wrinkling smoke? 

And then there it was. It was so simple, so obvious.

The Road Warrior, by Green Flash. An Imperial Rye IPA, clocking in at a hearty 80 IBUs and a respectable 9% abv. The label is basic, uncluttered. Clean like a shiny and chrome V8. 

I now realize I should have taken the picture on my Chevelle to really keep with the muscle-car vibe. But let's move past that.

Look at that color. Beautiful red, hazy, thick. It hit me in the nose first. Sweet, with a sudden kick of spicy hops. I could smell the bitterness. 

Despite being a higher alcohol beer, there was no alcohol burn. Which was dangerous, because I love Imperial IPAs, and this was no exception. 

Chewy malt, citrus peel, pine resin, toasted bread.

You could pretty much eat it. I'd imagine it would satisfy a lone road warrior, out hunting for guzzoline. Green Flash hit the spot again, and I can heartily recommend this one. 

I leave you listening to Brothers in Arms:

And may you drink forever on the Fury Road, shiny and chrome. 

Monday, June 1, 2015


Moab Dead Horse Amber


Down is optional. Up is mandatory

You will like if:
It's a hundred degrees out and you need something to relax with.
Your beer palette hasn't been obliterated by Double Imperial IBUs (don't worry, we'll get you there.)
You like your salsa mild, and even then it's too spicy for you.

You will not like if:
You need constant stimulation and are bored easily with beer.
The only beers you like are opaque.
Session beers aren't your thing.

Look out, it's a combo beerventure!

New Belgium Snapshot and Ranger IPA

Snapshot is light and tart.
Ranger IPA is bitter and aromatic with a strong hop presence.

I like experiences more than gifts (most of the time), so for Christmas I got the wifey a ticket for One Weekend Adventure. Which was redeemed for our anniversary weekend. We packed the car bright and early, making sure to include plenty of beer (cleverly packed. Is beer illegal to take across state lines? I wasn't sure, but I felt like a smuggler.)

Six-ish hours later, we were driving through Moab and I executed a tactical pursuit vehicle turn to screech into the parking lot of Moab Brewery. I think it was my adventurer's instincts, to be able to sense when a brewery is nearby. Plus it was about lunchtime anyway. I entered a contest to win a canoe, which, when I win, will be put prominently on display in the house, probably in the living room where I will convert it into some kind of couch.

Beer one: Red Rye IPA - Actually my favorite from this brewery. Malt up front, strong rye finish complemented with a strong hop flavor. It went perfectly with the steadily increasing heat outside. 
Beer two: Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale - Decent brown flavor with hints of roasty, but just wasn't quite strong enough for how I like my nut browns. 
Beer three: Dead Horse Amber - Light, refreshing. Not very flavorful, but I drank most of this pack in the Southwest heat, and it just worked. 

It's a gorgeous, well, amber color, clear and pure white foamy. The tag line up on top of the can, by the way, says, "You can't beat a dead horse." Which I obviously appreciated. 

It's just super light (which is light, but with a cape) and easy to drink. It's not huge on flavor, but in the desert and the summer heat overlooking my pond, it was a perfect first beer.


Six more hours and we came to this:

Probably as illegal as smuggling beer across state lines.

One of the most breathtaking places I've ever seen. I'd been to the Grand Canyon as a wee lad, but I don't think you can fully appreciate it until you return as an adult. It's just....well it's indescribably huge. There aren't any words really to relate how deep and huge and old this place is. We hiked about three miles down into the canyon and hadn't even scratched the surface of hikeable trails. Regardless, we came to this outcropping and had a beer lunch. I chose to pair this moment, this experience with Snapshot from New Belgium, because that's all I could do. I can't describe the Canyon, words can't describe it, so here's just a tiny little snapshot of it. 

Which goes great with the beer. It's marketed as a tart, sour wheat. But it only scratches the surface of sours. It's more of an orange wheat with a tart finish. Just a little snapshot of what sours could be. A great sour starter beer.

The rest of the day was spent hiking the seven and a half mile rim trail, which skirted the Canyon through desert brush and trees. I chose Ranger for this experience pairing, because I mean, obviously. We were exploring, on a weekend adventure. Ranger just seemed to fit. It has a woodsy flavor, and an IPA goes well with hot weather. IPAs came about by dumping hops into English beers to survive the hot weather of India after all, so an IPA in the desert felt natural. 

The trail led to Hermit's Rest:

The beard protects from harmful UV rays.

And rest we did. It was a fourteenish mile day, a three day hike stuffed into one. But that's what a weekend adventure is. Id' like to return some day to raft or camp down in the canyon proper. Another adventure for another day.