Great American Beer Festival

I am now in my second day of recovery (yesterday was all driving and it doesn’t count) from my first time going to the Great American Beer Festival. I gotta say that I am both surprised and amazed at how much fun I had.  And because I’m not ready to start laundry, here are some points about the things that I (kind of) remember.

Breweries.  In order, I toured the Oskar Blues, Avery, O’Dell, and New Belgium breweries.  Oskar Blues was cool, and a good start, to prepare me for what was to come.  Avery was a total shitshow, and I mean that in the best possible way.  They have a random bunch of industrial buildings near each other that they use to make amazing beer, expanding whenever a neighbor moves out.  I don’t know how they do it, it boggles me that they make such great beer like that.  It’s like a car where all the parts are bought separately and put together with duct tape, but somehow has 600 horsepower and gets 60 mpg.  O’Dell was my favorite tour, if it can even be called that.  There were 3 O’Dell employees showing around about 15 people who work in breweries, and me. Just walking through and talking about stuff. And then we got to drink some of their Friek straight from the fermenter, we also tried an experimental pineapple Gueuze aged 9 months. Wow. Great. New Belgium was big. and Beautiful. and Big. and Beautiful. and SO MANY FOEDERS!!!! oh yeah, and at all the breweries, I got to drink lots of really imaginative beer, none of which did I paid for.  Awesome.

As for the GABF experience, well…  Its like being in a giant room, about the size of about 3 football fields. maybe more, I don’t know.  There are around 600 breweries, over 2000 different beers to try, you’re given a little tasting glass and can go up to anybody to try their beer, for 4 hours. I’m not sure what most of the beers I tried were. Crooked Stave lived up to my expectations, and I remember being really impressed by the Lost Abbey’s Framboise. All other memories are currently lost to me.

Falling Rock is a giant Tap House. It was crowded, and had some amazing and crazy beers. I remember having a lot of fun, and being really excited that I got to try a Cantillion for the first time. A lot of other great beers as well.  Hung out with a lot of Austin people there, and met a lot of new people too.

I don’t see how I can’t not go back next year. It was a great time and I’m really looking forward to it. A big thanks to Real Ale for Taking me along on their brewery tours, and congratulations to them on their 2 medals. Congrats to all the other winners as well, be they Austin, Texas, or National.  PBR!!! Gold Medal!!! I also want to mention my friend Habeab, who was my Partner in Beer and let us take his nice car for the drive. Now it’s time to rest up for Austin Craft week which starts this Saturday.

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Austin as a Beer Destination

Yesterday, my friend sent my a link to an interview with Joe Mohrfeld that went up recently on Bitch Beer.  Joe is the brewer for the brewpub Pinthouse Pizza, which is opening soon.  I’m very excited about this place opening up and will definitely go there once it opens.  I think Austin is lacking in the number of brewpubs compared to the number of commercial breweries that have been opening recently.

My friend was wondering my opinion about weather Austin can become a national brew destination place, based off what Joe said in his interview.

“There are some really great, young talented brewers here [in Austin], and there’s obviously some talented veterans who have been around, but I think we have the opportunity to become a destination beer city in three to five years,” Mohrfeld said. “In a way we are now, but I think we have an opportunity to be on the level of like a San Diego or Portland, or Denver-Boulder.”

“I think the next step is to take it from a really exciting regional scene, to now making people nationally excited about that’s going on here, he said. “It’s a really exciting moment to be on that front edge.”

I must say that it is a really awesome dream, but if Austin is to become a national destination for beer it is probably closer to 10 years away, and never on the level of the cities he listed.  I hope I’m proven wrong, and that I am just being pessimistic about it.  I’m kind of a pessimist.  I would love for Joe’s statement to become a reality, but I just don’t see that happening for several reasons.

First is the limitations set on breweries by Texas laws.  A brewery can be either a Brewpub or a production facility. Many of the famous american breweries started out as brewpubs, learned the craft and experimented before growing to a size where they were comfortable getting into packaging and selling. Brewpubs also encourage creativity. Being able to test a batch on a small scale and see how they like it is much easier than the time and investment needed to brew a full batch and get packaging approval for something you aren’t even sure if it will sell.

Texas beers aren’t available very much outside of Texas.  Between the 2 biggest breweries in Texas, Real Ale is only in Texas, and St. Arnolds is in Texas and Louisiana.  This can be compared to Allagash, produces about the same amount, and is available in most states from Maine to California.  Unless more people from outside the state are able to drink our beer on a regular basis, we will remain a regional beer destination and not a national one.

I don’t see either of these things changing anytime soon.  I think Texas beers are about 5 years away from being able to produce enough to meet demand and expand beyond regional and distribute on a national level.  As for changing the laws, that won’t happen until it would become profitable for the big brewers to think it’s profitable to open craft distribution houses.

The other thing is the growth of craft beer everywhere.  While the number of breweries in Austin has more than doubled in the past 5 years, the same trend has been happening across the country.  People used to want to travel for beer to certain places, because those were the only places to make a beer vacation out of.  As the market gets closer to saturation, people can take a vacation and find good beer anywhere, not just the cities listed.

I think the idea of beer vacations is moving more towards beer events instead of just a cities reputation for good beer.  Denver will always bring in people for the GABF.  I think other beer events are more the future of beer tourism.  I think the Texas Craft Brewers Festival was great last year and will only get better, and bring more people in.  If Texas does become a national destination, the Craft Brewers festival, and other non-shitty events will be the key to making it happen.

And Joe, if you read this, I hope that you’re right and I’m wrong, and I look forward to drinking all your beers.

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I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, trying to figure out how I can confess it.  It’s weird for me to say, it’s something I love to do.  I don’t do it enough, and I think that might be where the problem comes from.  but…  I’m not a good cook.

I guess, that isn’t entirely true.  I’m a great cook, but only at one thing.  Breakfast Tacos.  Honestly, I’m only great at making them at my apartment, any other place, I probably need a few tries to get things consistently good.  I should be great, I’ve probably made at least 500 tacos at my place, and that’s a low estimate, 1000 is probably closer to the number of breakfast tacos I’ve made.

Anything else, I can make.  I can make anywhere from decent to supergood.  I know enough, and have enough experience that I can make anything there is to make, and it will be more than just edible.  And as I write this, I think about growing up and my mom’s cooking. I feel like her purpose, as I remember, seemed to be more about edible and nutritious than it ever was about creating edible art.

But cooking has become an art form to me. I think that has become why I critique of my cooking skills.  It doesn’t matter that I can cook something and make it good, I want whatever I cook to be great, and I want to consistently make it great.  I know that I will never reach this point in my cooking skills, but it is something that I will continually strive for.  I can read everything that I can, but the only way I will truly be able to do this is practice, and practice is something I want to do a lot more of.  There is no shame in being able to consistently make great breakfast tacos. It’s a start, but it’s just a start. I will keep cooking.  I will make different things, but I will also repeatedly make the same thing.  I dream of always making great rice,but every time I think I get better, the next time is off. Just like so many other things, which it why I will never stop trying to get my skills at cooking to that of an artist.

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Beer for Brunch

I love mimosas, and it’s great hanging out with friends when mimosa pitchers are $5 each. I only like mimosas for brunch, and I would never think about ordering one with dinner. I have similar feelings about wit beers.

A Belgian Wit beer is a wheat ale that is spiced with orange peel, coriander, and many other possible spices.  It’s a light beer that’s a little bit sweet, and like IPA’s, is best when consumed fresh. Drinking it fresh is very important, it makes the difference between having an orange burst in your mouth, or just having a light beer with a little bit of spiced flavor.

Blue Moon is the most popular and easily available Wit beer. It is also made by Coors, so if that’s all you know, I want to recommend some wits made by craft breweries.

Allagash White is my favorite. I might be biased, because I’m good friends with one of their brewers.  It is the beer that’s the inspiration for this post. The orange and spicy flavor surprised me. It was a burst of flavor when drank fresh, and when a little over a month old still tasted great, but lost a lot of the flavors of the spices used. I highly recommend you trying it if you see it somewhere, and hope they distribute to Texas sometime soon.

Ommegang Witte is another great brew.  I’m a big fan of everything that the Ommegang brewery does.  The fact that they have a partnership with Duvel means that they know what they are doing.  I like this one a lot, and would put it second to Allagash.

Harpoon UFO is the wit on tap at the Dog and Duck that’s not blue moon.  It has a lighter body, and is spiced a little bit heaver.  I also found out recently that it goes great with chocolate ice cream.

I should mention Pierre Celis, the man who revived the Wit beer style.  He started the Hoegaarden Brewery in Belgium in 1966.  When he started it, there were no brewers making Belgian style wit beer anymore, and he revived the style that hadn’t been brewed for over a decade. His daughter recently announced plans to revive the Celis brewery in Austin, TX, and I look forward to drinking one with some breakfast tacos.

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Pools Boats Rivers

Texas. Swimming season. Sun. Tubes. Girls. Friends. Beer. BBQ. Tacos. Pool. Springs. Useless campfire. Fireworks. Lost Pants. Sunburns. Fireballs. Boats. Fishing. Bike rides. Bikinis. Rope swing. Tents. Reading.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, or PBR as it is often referred to, is by far my favorite summer beer.  It’s tasty, it’s cheap, and it’s canned. I don’t wanna spend summer thinking about what I’m drinking, sometimes I just wanna have fun. To me, PBR stands for Pools Boats and Rivers, the places where it is the best beer in the world. Anybody who disagrees with my, I’ll challenge them to a fight, Dr. Mario style.

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The Role of a Bartender

A couple of years ago, I remember being asked what the most important thing was to be a good bartender. I didn’t have to think about the answer, “Remembering people’s names” was my immediate response. Years later, and a little more experienced, my thoughts have changed a little, but have come back to that original response about what’s most important to being a good bartender.

The thing about that answer is how right it was, compared to how inexperienced I was. Even though I had been working at the bar for about 2 years, I only had 2 shifts. I was working the lazy Saturday afternoon bartending, and a rotating, but always fast paced barbacking shift that had little involvement with customers. I was concentrating much more on my design degree and wasn’t thinking that the service industry would be something I would go for a career in.

I realize now that when I said that answer, it didn’t really make sense to me. I didn’t see myself as important to the development of the bar as I do now. I thought of myself as somebody just there to serve drinks, not a personality that was a part of bar. If you came in and I didn’t know you, it would have been hard to get more than a 2 sentence conversation out of me.

As people moved away I slowly got more shifts, and my thoughts on good service changed. I thought that being the fast so people never had to wait long was important. I started to think knowledge was important, and started to study everything I could about beer. I even made a point of trying to dress up nicer for a while, wearing bowties and trying to make the place seem a little bit classier.

The thing is, all of those things are important, because they all lead to a better guest experience. I have found what works for me, but it doesn’t work for everybody. I think everybody should consider want kind of experience that what people to have when they visit the bar. Doing so will help to create a better environment that you want to work in, and develop a better repeat customer base. I just know I have found what I think works for me, and it starts with remembering people’s names.

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More on Joe Beef

A little while ago, I wrote a review on the Joe Beef book about living.  It was very gushing on my part, and I instantly became a fan of a restaurant of a country I have never been to. If you haven’t read the cookbook, but want to get a sense of what owners David McMillan and Frédéric Morin are all about, eater can help you out. Part one and part two of the interviews are online for all to read.  They talk about wine and it’s relationship with food, what the like, what they don’t like, and why they don’t want to become famous.  All things that make me just want to hang out and get drunk with them.

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Brewing Update

So, since I last made my post about my homebrews and the tasting notes, I have made 3 batches of beer.

The first batch I made is kind of a dark saison.  It is a bastardization of the homebrew store’s recipe for a dunkelweizen. I added about a pound and a half of Goodflow honey, a half ounce of Willamette hops as aroma hops, and a half ounce of Willamette hops as dry hops.  The beer is a strong, dark, and hoppy interesting beer that is about 8% ABV.  I tasted it 3 weeks after bottling and the hop aroma dominated everything and it wasn’t very good, but after 6 weeks, the hop aroma had subsided quite a bit and became delicious.

The next 2 batches are of something which I am calling the G series.  I am making several different beers using the same recipe and different yeasts, all Belgian golden ales.  I am using 7 pounds of extra pale malt extract, a half pound of clear candi sugar, half ounce of Nelson Sauvin hops for bittering, and another half ounce of Nelson Sauvin for aroma.  A Simple recipe, and makes about 4.5 gallons of beer at 1.060 OG.

The G1 used the Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes yeast. It fermented a little better than I expected to 1.010, putting the final ABV at about 6.5%.  One of the reasons I wanted to try that yeast was because I read it had a high flocculation rate, and it ended up with a very clear beer which I was interested in, because I am brewing without any sort of  filteration system.  The beer turned out very good, it is both very crisp and spicy, with a really great finish to it.  It is definitely something that would be very good on a summers day, it manages to be both crisp and refreshing, and still have a lot of flavor.

For the G2, I used the Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison yeast. I’m always interested in saisons, so I thought I would give it a shot and try and make one.  I just bottled it the other day, so I haven’t had a chance to try it like that, but I’m not feeling good about it.  I waited an extra week to move it to the secondary fermenter, because it continued to slowly bubble and ferment, and I’m not sure if I should have waited longer.  The gravity when I put it in the secondary was still pretty high at 1.030  much higher than the 1.010 I had from the G1, not a great sign.  I thought about what I know of Saison Dupont, and tried to force the issue.  I put the carboy in hot water trying to get the temperature up to 90 degrees.  I could see that it was working at first, but that the fermentation would stop as the water cooled, and did that several times over a couple of days.  I eventually got the gravity to 1.020, but couldn’t get it to go much lower, and decided to bottle it.  I have tasted it with my forced carbonation method and it is pretty good.  It has a lot of flavor up front, but quickly disappears.  I will try it in a month, but I feel that this is a beer that is going to take a bit more time in the bottles to get a good flavor.  I’m not expecting a lot, but am hoping for the best.

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tatt tooooooooossssssss

In my current state, I feel like it is important to talk about something which is both meaningless and forever a part of me.


I got some.  a lot of them are food related, and for me, all of them are very whimsical.

Tattoos, once they happen, become a part of someone. And in my opinion, now represent my view on life.  And in this sense, I want to show off the joy I have in living in my tattoos.

Man, I hope this post comes off and makes sense.

But anyways, I recently got into several tattoos about my permanent scarification. This made me start to think about what all this ink meant to me.  I came to the conclusion that my tattoo express the joy I have in life.

This is weird, and not anything I meant to write about when I changed this blog from design to consumption.  But I also think this is a lifestyle blog, and in a way, this is very important.  I have a tattoo of 3 tator tots doing the 3 monkey see, hear, and speak no evil.  I have a tattoo of a fight where a taco is punching a pizza slice.  I have a tattoo that says bad news, even though that is the last thing I would consider myself to be.

The things is, all of these tattoo express a sense of fun, and life.  Re-Write. Death happens, and if somebody close to me died, I would have no problem getting a tattoo for them, but it would be related to the things they love to do when they lived.

Life is hard, but it is fun if you aren’t afraid of it.  I’m really happy with where I am with my life right now.  I also know that I need to keep growing, learning, and fighting to be in a place where I want to be.  My knowledge will keep growing no matter what, but what is more important to me is to continually learning to give better service.

I think this post has gotten off track. It’s important things, but not the basis of the post.  My tattoos will be with me for life, and no matter the circumstance, everyone of them can make me smile.

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Joe Beef

Occasionally, I read books. Let me just say that I read plenty, usually it’s a bunch of random internet articles, blogs, or twitter if I’m feeling really unproductive. But I like books, and sometimes I read them. I just finished reading The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. My thoughts from reading it, is that I want to go to Joe Beef. I want to sit at the bar and talk with whoever is behind the bar while eating 2 dozen oysters and some martinis, and maybe a sandwich.

It is written as a cross between a cookbook, and a “look how badass we are” book. There are plenty of recipes, I’m sure they are good, they sound pretty great, most are very accessible. Some things, such as making your own smoker, are not.  The great thing about this book is how much the personalities of the authors comes through in their words. I cannot think of another cookbook that has done it better. I can feel the love and respect they have for everything they are involved in with their restaurants. It’s inspiring.

Considering that I am trying this as a book review, should you buy this book. YES!!  I figure if you like reading what I write on this here blog thingy, you will like this book.  But don’t buy this book if you are just looking for recipes.  There are plenty of books for that. This book doesn’t even have that many recipes, and one of the chapters is just about booze. To be honest, I think that’s awesome, I totally want to try their version of a Bloody Mary, which comes garnished with a lobster claw. Awesome. I do plan on trying to make the schnitzel recipe in the book, and my friend Andrew recently got all the herbs to make some homemade Absinthe. I might make other things as well, but that isn’t what makes this book great.  You should buy this book for inspiration, because reading about what they have done is exactly that.  Finishing the book gives me the thinking that I can do anything and love what I do, as long as I am willing to work 18 hour days and be incredibly poor for the next 10 years.

I also finished reading a book put out by the Brewers Association called Farmhouse Ales. It’s really technical.

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