Beer

BEER RATING SYSTEM
Thanks to the Hartman Distributing Company in Victoria, I've had numerous opportunities to taste a variety of craft beers at their monthly Pint Jockeys event. All that's required to be a part of this cultural event is a photo ID proving you're at least 21 or, in my case, a sufficient amount of gray hair.

Guests are given a sample glass, a set of tickets and a list of the beers on the agenda. The list includes a description of the beer, but as anyone familiar with language knows, describing taste is like describing . . . well, taste. In the world of beer, one man's pungent is another man's poison.

The rating system devised by movie reviewers Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert was simplicity itself, reducing most reviews from four or five stars to two digits, the opposable thumbs separating man from ape. I devised a system of my own which, although more complicated, is more nuanced in keeping with the subtle flavors, malt character, balance of hops and citrus fruits, lingering aftertaste, and strength of IPA and CPA and IRS and FBI.

Just kidding. As everyone knows, there's a granite wall of separation between the government and breweries, unless they make a profit, or produce anything stronger than baby formula.

On the favorable scale:
One check - Meh, I wouldn't spit it out. Could I get a shot of bourbon with this?
Two checks - Hey, I'd drive to the store for this. Is it in stock, do you think?
Three checks - Gimme the keys! I'm driving across town to pick up this stuff!

Unfavorable scale:
One X - Don't you have some something better, like Keystone Light?
Two X - Was this strained through a used baby diaper? Do you have some Keystone Light to rinse out the taste?
Three X - Gaah! I wouldn't let this pass through my urethra! 

Durango Colorado Wheat – bland
Tommyknockers – Pickaxe – higher IPA, tolerably good

Voodoo Ranger/8 Hop Pale Ale – I should have paid more attention to the “New Belgian” label. When fruit is added to beer that is already light enough for ladies to drink fashionably, it turns into “gay shit.” 
May 19, 2017

What the H-Town?!
If you were going to make a beer named for this town, how would it taste? What would you put in it? Would it replace whatever else you have in the fridge next to the barbecue grill behind the house?

I'd want to open that can and hear dogs howling up and down the street at fire engines racing to a warehouse fire. When I pour that beer into a pilsner glass, I’d scratch my head wondering if I opened a can of 60-weight motor oil by accident. I want the bouquet of the spills and sweat of hundreds of drunken patrons at Gilley’s on a Saturday night after a week of tapping and capping oil wells. I would have to use a shot of whiskey to dilute the strength of my version of Houston beer. 

Alas, that’s not what you’ll get with St. Arnold H-Town. If this is H-Town, they must have Bellaire or Katy in mind. It’s sort of Houston, but not quite. Even the label is a weak, pastel hue. It’s not lite beer, but it’s not the Elissa, either. – July 19, 2022

Mr. Octoberfest

Baseball fans will catch the allusion to Reggie Jackson famously referred to as “Mr. October” for his penchant for stepping up his game during the pennant race leading to the World Series. And, of course, beer and Oktoberfest go together like sauerkraut and sausage.

This beer is dark enough to pass for Guinness Stout, only without the chunks of meat floating in it. It seemed a bit sweet, but then I had just eaten some chocolate, and I might have accidentally dropped some in the frozen pilsner glass. That would account for the dark color. Anyway, I would gladly take one to my seat at a baseball game in October. Which is just perfect, because this beer is made only in October.

The Texas Leaguer Brewing Company is in Missouri City, just down the road a piece. No, not MISSOURI Missouri, but the de-facto Houston suburb. I like keepin’ it local. Better get one before the season ends. Baseball. Octoberfest. One or the other. - October 16, 2021

LIVING IT UP SATURDAY NIGHT

The Coogs played out of town on this week. They were in Tulsa, which is a little out of my way for a tailgate. No tailgate, no beer.

Just kidding. Ever since I discovered life in a bottle outside of the corporate-approved weak brews, I always pick up some oddball cans and bottles in the craft beer aisle to make my own six-pack. And there’s always a six-pack of St. Arnold Elissa in the refrigerator. I don’t drink often, but when I do, I want to make it worthwhile. Let me take a moment to thank the hipsters for making all this possible. I promise I won’t make fun of your goofy hair if you just keep cranking out the good stuff and keeping the East End pubs open.

I haven’t read any books to report on lately, so I had to make up an excuse to drink beer. Well, I could report on beer. Here’s what passed through my urethra lately.

No Label produces beer. A LOT of it. So many labels, in fact, I couldn’t find the picture to go with this Oktoberfest. I guess they change the can every year. This year’s No Label label bore “PRETZELS + BRATWURST + BEER + THESE GUYS + DEFINITELY MORE BEER.” All I got was the beer. The novelty label caught my eye. The taste caught my tongue. I’m intrigued. What else you got behind the counter?

The Spirit of Houston tailgate for the UH/Navy game offered a coolerful of Mountain Fork: Sneaky Snake/Belgian, Rooster/Mexican, and some other stuff. The Belgian brew was beatific! The Rooster? You know you’re a close friend when you can swap out a can of something you already drank from because something didn’t turn out like you hoped. Thanks to old friends, I didn’t have to pour this on the ground. WIN-WIN! And WE won! Final score: UH 28, Navy 20. Whooose house?! Coooogs’ house!!! – October 2, 2021

COWBOYS FROM HELLES

I don’t remember where I picked this up. Probably the pick-and-choose beer aisle at the HEB on Blackhawk. I guess the catchy name caught my eye. Before I opened the can and poured it in my frosty pilsner glass from Saint Arnold, I drank a 16-ounce can of light beer to cleanse my palate of all the white cheddar popcorn I had eaten an hour ago.

I like to say that lite beer is an oxymoron. Putting this cowboy stuff in a can and calling it beer is another sarcasm. You know it’s piss-poor when the lime wedge is the best thing in the glass. What Helles are these so-called cowboys from anyway? The Miller Brewing Company? Oops. That’s the beer I drank first. Did I inadvertently mix up the cans? Nope. The Miller Lite can was already in the recycle bin.

Oh, well. I still have my go-to brew handy to rinse out the bad memory – Saint Arnold Elissa. Plus, I’m finally getting to listen to a CD by the Bangles I had lost a year ago and just replaced. There are no bad songs on this thing! If only beer were like that in a variety six-pack. – July 1, 2021

HIPSTERS VS BOOMERS

For as long as I’ve been sipping beer and slipping in and out of micro-joints, I’ve noticed most of the people slapping down the bills and slurping the bocks are not of my generation. Yes, folks, I’m old. Worse, I’m a member of the newly-reviled Baby-Boom Generation.

So help me, I had to ask my kids what it means when someone directs “Okay, Boomer” my way. Oh, it’s an insult? Does it matter if I came in at the tail end? I didn’t go to cowboy movie matinees, and I was too young to remember where I was when JFK was shot, but I was old enough to remember when his brother was, and my father took us to the chapel to pray for him.

This is a lot of “by the way” arcana to report on a beer. The name triggered a few thoughts. If you know me, you also know I have a great deal of fun at the expense of hipsters. And their retro clothing, retro beards, and retro technology.

It turns out I have more in common with these anachronistic specimens than I care to admit. Yeah, they have those silly glasses, but they also have some kick-ass stereo systems with – are you kidding? – turntables. Vinyl is back. I’d fit right in. I challenge any of the plaidest-wearing of them to a 33-1/3 collection. Heck, I still have a few 45s. Take THAT, you atavistic bum, you!

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Beer. The can has a picture of a fish wearing a top hat and a handlebar mustache riding a 1910-era bicycle. Is there a challenge to be even more retro? The text on the can reminds us that “All the cool kids are drinking those IPAs these days.”

Look, if you have to remind people what “cool kids” are up to, you’re like that “cool mom” who knows the lingo, but will never fit in. Oh, you’ll let the girls borrow your photo ID to buy this beer, but your pom-poms are out of shape.

Drop the sh
tick. The beer is good enough for this Boomer, and should be good enough for you, man-bun and all. - May 12, 2021

The Paws That Refreshes

I went to HEB to pick up  few items, and turned into the beer aisle. Is it a coincidence it’s next to the aisle with chips and tortillas? HEB puts the “hops” in “shops.” Imagine my delight to find the 8th Wonder Brewery offers Cougar Paw. The can is mostly red with the image of a cougar on the label. It’s a red ale. Surprised?

As beers go, it’s decent. It’s a little sweeter than I care for, but nothing a few tortilla chips and salsa won’t fix. Has to be red salsa, not green. This is HOUSTON, not Tulsa!

The can helpfully advises that it’s designed to enjoy “while rooting for the Coogs!” Maybe the 8th Wonder Brewery will help out the Spirit of Houston tailgate come roaring back to life next year. – November 22, 2020

I Barley Made It On Time!

I accompanied my daughter to the Spindletap Brewery in a part of town I couldn’t find in the daytime. Fortunately, Sara is better at navigating than driving. An old high school friend of hers (and former student of mine) operates a food truck with her husband on the premises of the brewery. We arrived just after dark and was offered a can of Hop Crusher. Hoo-wee! This stuff has more hop than a kangaroo with ADD.

A pleasant evening suddenly turned into a dream as Liz set a 2X4 with four holes drilled in to hold four mini-glasses of a variety of craft beers. “Wait – you were serious about me writing a review of the beer?!” It reminded me of an episode of Cheers! when Norm! got a job taste-testing beer. I love writing, and you know how I feel about beer. If I got a job doing this and got paid in beer, I’d never ask for anything else in life. Except maybe a side-job in a chocolate factory. Mind you, I don’t have the palate of a professional. I mostly go by how I’m feeling as I’m tilting the glass and my head.

Well, the “boss” expects a review, so here are the four in descending order - not that I knew any better by the time I got to the last one:

1. WIAB – I had no idea what the initials stood for, so my working name was “Wimmen with Attitude, B*****!” Actually, the letters stand for “Where It All Began.” It looked like that pineapple beer my kidneys wouldn’t touch the last time I was at a bar with my drinking partner. A splash of grenadine sauce and you’d have a Tequila Sunrise. Never mind. It has an 8% alcohol content, and I was looking at three more glasses. I felt really good, so my first impression was the equivalent of winning a prize after knocking down all the pins on my first throw at a carnival.

2. El Jugo – This bad boy has an alcohol content of 9.1%. That makes this a sippin’ beer. Is this even legal? Making a boilermaker with this would be redundant. How does it taste? Who cares!

3. Bull Rush – This must be a new product. It’s not on the web site, but I may have gotten the name wrong. I was distracted by a crispy pizza with copious amounts of cheese. The beer was good. So was the pizza. Actually, it was a “quesadizza” – quesadilla plus pizza. Get it? Beer. Pizza. Free. Why are you out of focus? Did someone smear Vaseline on my glasses?

4. Faded comes in a can with barbershop stripes. My earliest memories of getting a haircut bring back memories of no-nonsense men with flat-tops sitting around smoking Lucky Strikes. To open a can of beer back then you needed a “church key” and a tattoo on your forearm. This is the kind of beer they’d drink if the store was out of Falstaff or Pearl. - September 29, 2019 

Abita Andygator

Have you ever eaten or drunk something that was enhanced by the context? I mean, sometimes something even as bland as Coors Light (light beer = oxymoron) is improved by the company you’re with. Conversely, something you enjoy may leave a bad taste in your mouth because of the memories it conjures up. 

My daughter called late Thursday night during the 6th inning of a close Astros/A’s game. She was frantic because her mutt – I mean, purebred dog –turned a routine tinkle in the front yard into an hour-long search when Bo took off to explore the ‘hood. Sara was in the front waiting for me. We meandered around a few blocks. Within one minute, we spotted him sniffing around a ditch. 

I was relieved, and Sara was so grateful that she got her driver’s license so she could buy me a beer at a local bar. On the outside, it looks like a run-down joint frequented by bikers. On the inside, it looked like a run-down joint frequented by bikers. Oh, there were some hipster-looking folks, too. And there were plenty of big screens with the Astros game, now at the top of the 8th inning. It seemed safe enough.

I  ordered an Abita Andygator. The bottle claims it goes well with crawfish (It’s brewed in Louisiana. Go figure.) with “a subtle fruit aroma,” although I didn’t hold that against it. It was okay. Compares with Shiner Bock. And Shiner, Texas, knows about crawfish, although most of them have a Czech, not Cajun, accent.

Speaking of fruit, Sara ordered a large bowl of some kind of pineapple beer. As far as I’m concerned, the only fruit that belongs in beer is a small wedge of lime. I knew it was going to be awful when my nose got a whiff of it. This is some concoction a chick made for other chicks who think apple beer is not sweet enough. I looked it up. Most pineapple beer is brewed in Austin. I’ve seen their men. Most of them wear ponytails and socks with sandals. And that’s not including the ones on campus at a large university there. I wouldn’t even want that stuff passing through my urethra. 

It was an adventure all around. Bo got to see the neighborhood unleashed, and I got to spend time with my daughter at a dive. Except for the fact the Astros left two men on base and lost by one, it was a pleasant evening, after I rinsed out the swig of pineapple beer with real beer. - September 13, 2019

NEON MOON

While grocery shopping in Midtown, which is a more hipster version of the Heights, I found this can nestled among an array of other craft beers. The market for 99-bottles-of- beer-off-the-wall has skyrocketed since I was first aware there was a difference between a pilsner glass, a beer stein and a Solo Cup.
The shrink-wrap coating allows for the colorful label, a quarter-moon with a mustache and cowboy hat. Cute. The side of the can announces a “fruity and tropical aroma [which] “pairs great with a fully stocked jukebox.” It’s brewed and canned by Eureka Heights which is located in – you guessed it (if you live in Houston) – the Heights.

On this shopping spree, I made an offhand crack about hipster culture to my daughter who speaks the language, but with a sarcastic accent which she gets from me. She reminded me that the hipsters are bringing back all the things I miss – vinyl records, pencil sharpeners with a crank handle, toasters that don’t flip over when I push down the button. And now I can thank them for beer worthy of the name.
So, I raise a glass of Neon Moon to you, hipsters. Just remember I was a nerd before nerdiness was cool. - September 7, 2019

ST. NICK AND HIS BAG O' BEERS

This year was our first Christmas in our new home, and we were blessed to have all three of our kids celebrate it with us. And they brought presents! Paul gave me two caps which he got from a store he manages. The store sells caps. Surprise, Dad! Anyway, thanks to him, I have a form-fitting way to show my loyalty to my favorite teams: the Houston Astros and the University of Houston Cougars.

Timothy gifted me with an assortment of beers. It’s a man’s version of a box of chocolates, only I know what I’m gonna get. I don’t know what they’re gonna taste like, however, until I pop the top, but that’s part of the fun. This has become a tradition, along with a critique of the brands:

1. George Killian’s Irish Red – It had so much hope with the words Irish AND red on the label. I expected something freckled and feisty. Instead, I got a blush version of Bud Light. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the Irish reputation for Guinness and whiskey is unblemished.
2. Rolling Rock – Chicks love this. Why not? It’s a blonde Bud Light.
3. Spaten Optimator – Germans are famous for boots, so you’d think a German beer would have a little more kick. Think Rolling Rock came back from a weekend on the Wilhemstrasse wearing a pair of high-heel Fuss-Schuhes.
4. Pacifico Clara – If it weren’t for that bearded Lothario and the ubiquitous “I don’t always [add verb here] but when I do” meme hawking Dos Equis, most Facebook users would be swilling Corona with a wedge of lime. Fortunately for Coronistas, there’s always Pacifico Clara. It’s like, I want to leave the shallow end of the pool but I’m afraid of shark-infested waters. Hey, why don’t I dip my toe in this?
5. Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout – Santa may have left a lump of coal in my stocking, but I’m not complaining. In fact, if I’m good, I’ll be bad all year so I can get more. Compared with the aforementioned ladies’ champales, this is like drinking fermented stew. Or Guinness Stout.

On second thought, a case of St. Arnold Elissa is good for all seasons. - February 1, 2016

LONE STAR FOURTH OF JULY
I hear people drink beer on the Fourth of July. Plan to drink some myself. Recently, a blogger who is yet another expert in a nation of know-it-alls ranked cheap American beers and declared Lone Star Beer is #8 out of 36 beer brands. Why 36? Maybe it was too much trouble to drive to Alaska. Dead last on his list was Keystone. He probably wasn’t old enough to remember Jimmy Carter and the bilgewater that bore the name of his brother – Billy Beer. I have it on good authority that people used it kill to weeds along the fence line.

My oldest brother always said he and his college roommates bought Shiner if they couldn't afford anything better. Now Shiner beer is more expensive than imported beer. And Lone Star is exported outside the Republic of Texas thanks to that cheesy movie with John Travolta. It’s still cheap as long as you’re not in a bar in New York filled with wanna-be-Texans. Well, as another college-educated wag succinctly put it, the worst kind of beer is NO beer. So shut up and belly up.

Whatever your opinion is of our namesake brew, at least there’s a decent honky-tonk song dedicated to it. Red Steagall sang Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music. I’m not a beer snob, but I suppose Lone Star will do – if you can’t afford anything better.  So crack open a cold Lone Star or whatever you’re having, and enjoy this song while you’re rereading the Declaration of Independence, if you’re not too depressed from what Washington has done with it. 

July 4, 2013

HEIDI VS THE SENORITA
On Saturday night, a man with a twenty-dollar bill in the beer aisle is like a kid in a candy store. Hmm. What to buy? You can’t go wrong with Shiner. Well, you could if you get the Holiday Brew. It’s like Bock with a sprig of nutmeg. Only a chick would do that. Sam Adams has always been my favorite but the price of his beer makes me want to pitch it overboard. Ironic. What’s more ironic is the fact that beer made in a town an hour’s drive from my home is more expensive than beer imported from Mexico. Homeland Security be posted on the Mexican border, not highway 77.

There was a big stack of Black Crown Budweiser in the aisle. I’ve never been a Bud man, but a guy at HEB said it won some kind of taste-test award. It's stored in wood barrels under German dance halls where hordes of schöne Mädchen deliriously dance to polkas and is comparable to Shiner Bock. Also, the alcohol content is six percent. Well, that's the tipsy point - I mean, tipping point. In the business world that's known as the "closer."

Okay, I exaggerated a little. But no more than the HEB stocker. But then he was also wearing a Budweiser uniform shirt. Maybe he works on commission. He sure doesn't work for a TRUTH commission. Comparable to Shiner Bock? Maybe if you diluted it with water.

Prosit! Oops! I mean, salud!

If you like beer with meat in it, stick with the Shiner family (avoid the Holiday Brew, though). Me, I'll stay with the Miller High Life, and supplement my intake with Shiner on weekends. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the girl on the moon. I bet the Señorita could hold her own against Heidi in a beer-barrel brawl. At least Miller uses an actual girl for its company logo instead of a goat. - March 3, 2013


No comments:

Post a Comment