These are a few of our favourite things that have opened up in Austin since March 2012…
For a city that knows how to enjoy one of its favourite pasttimes, these new bars do not disappoint. What we see are bars that are increasingly pushing the envelope – not stopping with Prohibition-era cocktails, but moving onto carefully curated lists of locally or well-sourced beer, alchemic cocktails and novel wines. And all this while paying attention to the fact that our hunger for great food – whether a nosh over a happy hour or a late night plate – never seems to get satiated.
What bar doesn’t entice you to check them out with this opening: While our cocktails might loosen inhibitions and the building’s past might encourage licentiousness, we ask that you refrain from excessive displays of public affection and unwelcome advances towards members of other parties. Why yes, the house rules we’ve always looked for.
As it suggests, Midnight Cowboy has a storied past – a former ‘modeling’ or Oriental massage parlour upstairs from Dirty 6th that has now been turned into a Prohibition-era speakeasy. If the light’s on upstairs, take your (slim) chances at a walk-in by pressing on the rather anonymous buzzers downstairs. For a safer bet, just reserve online. It’s a bit of work since you’ll have to work around a 2 hour slot when you can get it, since Food & Wine among others have tagged it one of the best bars in America. But who says all enjoyment should be easy.
And when your cocktail comes prepared table-side – or at least when you know well enough to order the Smoke & Mirrors, it does – you know that enjoyment doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth it.
Weather Up – 1808 East Cesar Chavez
This is the first Austin outpost for NYC bartender, Kathryn Weatherup’s craft cocktail bar with others widely recognized in Tribeca and Brooklyn. The cocktail menu is outstanding, with a speciality ice program no less. Try a stalwart: the Manhattan absolutely will not disappoint; then go from there. And a critical point for the Hobbyists, they have a great menu – from outstanding happy hour specials to proper features like oysters, mussels and charcuterie. Having trained as a bartender in Paris, it seemed Weatherup couldn’t avoid the inevitability of ensuring her clients are well satiated on all fronts. They have a great happy hour (4-7pm!) that not only serves Sunday Funday well, but more importantly is industry-friendly, running from Sunday to Thursday. And Tiki Mondays are a fixture, always.
Just to check out the taps alone, Banger’s makes it worth it. And striking out on a path different than elsewhere on Rainey Street is something that we respect….and then we learned that Banger’s makes its own sausages. Assuming this meant sausages for most, pretzels for the veggies in the house, we were absolutely stunned to learn that they make a couple veg options. Not to detract at all from the 100 taps that we first mentioned…
Truly a great addition to the Rainey St. scene and a mandatory destination for any beer lover in your group this year over SX. Whether a fledgling cicerone or not, Banger’s will get them at either the beer or the sausages, and take down the rest of us with the house-made pretzels and a surprisingly good pub-level wine list.
More beer? Don’t stray too far from Rainey St. then til you hit Craft Pride, a pub that just opened in time for SX. With 54 local Texas beer on tap, you are bound to be able to do your due diligence here on our great state’s craft beer community. Oh and by the way, local resto, Bacon, happens to have a food truck out back. Be sure to grab one of their Bacon Flag T-shirts, after you’ve recovered from the power combo of craft beer and pork products.
Some bars have a food program, others may have a wine program. Freedmen’s has a barbeque program. And a serious one at that. Evan LeRoy mans the pit taking care to go beyond that and make his own pickles, jams and barbeque sauce reduced from turkey and beef stock, smoking beets and cooking offal beans as his sides. Oh and sorry, the bevvies? Yes…it’s a craft cocktail lounge that you can easily settle into its gorgeous, historic interior dating from the late 1800s and give some time to the menu. The cocktail ingredients are made in house, something we always respect. Sunday Brunch with a brisket benedict and a Bloody Swine. Oh and one of our favorites: Whisky Wednesdays all March – $3 Jameson’s.
Duck confit nachos? Why yes….Oh are we blocking again on the great food that our Austin bars are offering? Sorry, it’s becoming a regular fixation. This East side joint had us at the name, after having one of our group being an early percussionist. Giving that up for a cocktail glass years later, finding spots like this are a great nostalgic moment. Hi Hat has a great beer list, great food and is a spot that you’ll be happy you found with a great atmosphere. Reverse Happy Hour & Half off Wine Wednesdays are to be checked out here! Hi Hat’s closed Mondays…likely not over SX, but just a heads up.
This is a great spot that’s opened up on the North Loop strip in what everyone will tell you is the old Parlor spot (an Austin stalwart that has focused on its off-Guadalupe location). Focusing on great local drafts, the Workhorse also has locally produced or well sourced spirits and wine. They keep a newly tapped list of beer going that you can check out on their site. And best of all perhaps? A rare bar trying its hand at strictly locally sourced wine, they also do pairings with plates from our favourite, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Once you figure out just where to start on the North Loop crawl, this will be on the hit list.
A new downtown craft beer spot to check out with a great list and the care that comes with craft conditioned ale. Easy to get to from most SX haunts, the Chicago House is situated in an old 1880s historic building where you can grab a delicious pour and re-group.
Situated behind Pelon’s at 8th & Red River, you’ll find this spot focusing on cocktails and margaritas. With a solid happy hour from 2-7pm with $5 house margs, we’re sure that you will find not shortage of satiation to set you up to take on your evening!
This lovely husband/wife duo, Mike & Jessica Sanders, have just celebrated their 1st anniversary. So in truth, they were just cracking their doors open when SXSW12 hit last year. All the same, they are part of the renaissance that is North Loop that deserves some love here. Great spot, great cocktails, great beer selection, great pubbing wine list and…wait for it…great homemade bar snacks. We’re good. Check it out on your North Loop pub crawl that we’re setting up for you – you won’t regret it.
Little brother to Casino El Camino downtown, this lounge is worth the trek deep south if you have wheels or a nice local friend to take you on a bit of a crawl. Casino downtown is known for its real vibe and world famous burgers that have long attracted the attention of the Food Network among others – naturally making Casino South Side well worth the drive. And a session there. Open noon til 2am throughout SX.
Hmmm….so what could possibly go better with a happy hour than wine? Positively nothing, except perhaps some great company & olives. For any oenophile, happy hour can sometimes be a wasteland of options…unless you’re strategic about where you plan your happy hours that is.
We personally love this happy hour and make it one of our regulars…The wine selection is so carefully curated, and turned over often enough that you never risk getting wine list fatigue. The staff is fantastic with a great level of knowledge that never wains in spite of their ever changing list. And the food is fantastic. During happy hour, they have $6 appetizers that range from their ridiculously good flatbread pizza to addictively marinated Castelvetrano olives and they offer $2 off all glasses of wine. It’s a great atmosphere that is truly styled for a wine lover – with a decor of stacked wine racks that can entertain any oenophile for much longer than a mere happy hour.
Where to even start with the happy hours available at this South Austin spot? Every day they have great selections for $5/glass with specials Monday to Saturday 3-5pm, reverse happy hours at other times, along with wine tasting classes on Tuesday night. Great patio tucked away off of South Lamar that definitely is worth checking out!
If you happen to find yourself downtown and needing a laid-back space and a solid glass of red to carry you through the rest of your day at SXSW, Cork & Co. will be your place. Perfectly situated for everything going on at SX at Congress & 3rd, it will be hard to avoid stopping in for their happy hour. $3 off their glasses of wine…you can’t say no.
This is a little gem just off Dirty 6th that we hope stays just that way! Brought by Chef Shawn Cirkiel and his team from Parkside situated just in front, it’s a great, intimate little spot that belies where it’s located. Their happy hour (every day til 6:30) is amazing with 1/2 off all wine on their great, representative Italian list as well as 1/2 off all of their delicious appetizers. Of course, being focused on classic napolitano pizza with a wood-burning oven, just try not ordering one.
Certified Wine Professional, Ron Wright, has put together a great selection of wine and a great team to help you seek a moment of calm from the storm. Set just off I-35 on the east side with a patio looking west over the city profile, the spot always seemed like a curious one – til we got out there to enjoy the profile of our great city while getting off our feet one day. Only to learn that Ron practically loves to give away his wine on Mondays when all glasses are 50% off…
We love this place. What more to say? It combines our love of wine, delicious cheese, great company…and fantastic design over excellent 80s music. Done. Marco has put together a great list of wine that you can enjoy on its own, maybe with the odd surprise bottle being offered or alongside an outstanding cheese plate.
And what happy hour list could close without a reverse happy hour? After 10pm all of the healthy pours at this new North Loop joint are $5. What more does a girl need to say? They have a great wine list, which is something we would like to see more of at local pubs – a pub doesn’t need a wine program, but it wouldn’t hurt to get with the program a little. So, all that to say that we have managed to taste a few wines up here that have caught our eye at Spec’s – and for $5 as a follow-up to a great dinner at Foreign & Domestic or to change things up from a Brown Sugar Snow at the Tigress across the street, yes! Oh, and did we mention they have homemade Chex mix?
We had just finished with Pitchfork’s Peoplelist and compiling a list of the best albums from 1980 – 1995 with some friends when we cracked this beer. To say we were hugely nostalgic for the ’90′s would be an understatement. This was the perfect compliment!
This is an interesting beer on many levels. First, it was brewed by Seattle based Elysian to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the cities Sub Pop record label which rose to fame in the Seattle grunge scene as the first home of Nirvana, Mudhoney and Sound Garden but has also been home to recent acts such as the Shins, Fleet Foxes or Iron and Wine. At times in their careers Sebadoh, Dinosaur Junior and Sonic Youth have also called the label home. They’re kind of a big deal and we’re sort of fans! We originally thought the name of the beer was actually a reference to the Beck song but it turns out that Odelay was put out by Geffen (not Sub Pop) so we are not really quite sure where it came from. The ‘90’s were a bit of a blur.
Second, this beer is a might unusual as it uses the incredibly hard to find (but amazingly delicious) Sorachi Ace hop to create a very unique pale ale (the only other beers we can think of that use Sorachi Ace are the Brooklyn Brewing saison of the same name a couple of companies that have used it as part of a single hop IPA series). Elysian beers tend to have a signature malt base that is sweet and syrupy. Strong maple and peach flavours. That is still present here but the Sorachi ace provides an interesting twist. There is a hint of lemon citrus to counteract the sweetness and an overwhelming creamy or buttery taste that means the beer goes down really smoothly and lingers on the tongue for a while. It’s nicely carbonated which helps to keep it light.
Definitely a beer that is worth trying because it is wildly different! Put on that old copy of Nevermind gathering dust on the shelf (OK, use your iPod if you must, but that really is selling out) and relax with this easy drinking pale ale. The slogan Corporate Beer Still Sucks, originally Corporate Beer Sucks when Loser was first bottled in 2009 is a reference to a shirt Kurt Cobain wore when Nirvana first graced the cover of Rolling Stone which pronounced “Corporate Rock Sucks” (shout out to #pdxbeergeeks for that tit bit).
Lagunitas Brewing Co. : Hop Stoopid
This hop-laden beer from Lagunitas is certainly interesting. Not interesting like “Huh, the covers on my TPS reports didn’t print right” interesting, but actually interesting. Like finding out that because Garfield was black and orange, and the gene for black or orange fur in cats is found on the X chromosome, that in order for him to be black and orange, he either had to be a she, or he was a XXY trisome and therefor very likely sterile. We also just found out, while “researching” this opening bit, that Nermal was a dude. Who knew?
Childhood cartoon belief-crushing genetics aside, the really interesting thing about Hop Stoopid is that it is proudly brewed using a lot of hop oil and extract. GASP! It also uses a truckload of different hop varieties to hit the 102 IBU’s that this beer packs (at least 5, if not more). And boy oh boy can we tell.
The minute we cracked the cap on our bottle, the room smelled like a warehouse full of fresh hops, it really was quite incredible. Tipping this golden liquid into our glass only made it more prominent, like someone had plucked two ripe, oily hops right off the vine and very carefully crammed one up each of our nostrils (Mmmmm… hoprockets…). Frothing up through the thick white head we get all kinds of lively, fresh, sweet, grassy, piney aromas and some honey smoothness. Above all we can’t get over how much this smells like fresh hops, which all seems so contradictory given that is exactly what they’re telling you is not what is in this beer.
The taste brings much the same, like liquefied fresh hops, yet unexpectedly smooth for all the IBU oomph. At 8% it comes with a nice little alcohol tingle, and a silky mouth feel from beginning to end. The beer fronts a short, spicy sharpness offset almost in parallel with smoothing malty sweetness. Middle notes move towards some floralness and more prominent bitterness, where the beer finishes, strongly bitter, but still smooth. We even noticed the next day that the head was so thick that we could see the residue of dozens of dried out little bubbles on the glass.
Overall a pretty well compiled hop-bomb, even if it was missing the new TPS cover sheet (don’t worry, we’ll send you another copy of the memo). In comparing notes with a fellow Hobbyist, we had notably different experiences with this beer. Given that ours had been cellaring for a few months, we wondered if this contributed some rounding out of the flavours. Only one way to find out – cellars ahoy!
Ah, ah, I almost forgot…I’m also going to need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too.
Float Fest was our affectionate nickname for an evening where the Hobbyists got together with some good friends and experimented by re-living our childhood in a manner more fitting for adults – by putting ice cream in beer instead of pop! We were lucky that the same beer was only picked twice (and it really was a perfect choice for the purpose). The Hobbyists being an adventurous bunch, no one person showed up with the Vanilla/Porter combination we were all expecting. It was actually surprisingly easy to pair everything, just avoid beers that are overly bitter and don’t pick and ice cream with large chunks (sorry, until we hear otherwise, cookie dough is out).
Being competitive souls, we made it a competition. It worked out pretty well. Here is what we tried.
Round 1: Granville Island Brewing Ginger Beer with Green Tea Gelato
One of our big worries in setting up this evening was that everyone would select a stout and pair with vanilla ice cream. Fortunately, us Hobbyists are an adventurous bunch as this first choice was a testament to. We paired a Green Tea Gelato with Granville Island‘s Ginger Beer. It worked really well, something a little adventurous to set off the night but flavours not so extreme as to ruin the palette. The tartness of the Green Tea ice cream balancing the sweet spiciness of. It went down easily.
Round 2: Granville Island Brewing Ginger Beer with Cinnamon Vanilla Ice Cream
Our only duplication (in terms of beers) came in the first two pairings of the night. Again, this round saw Granville Islands Ginger Beer but this time paired with a cinnamon vanilla ice cream. We didn’t have time to make our own, so the ice cream was put together by rechurning some store bought vanilla with freshly ground cinnamon. It was interesting to see the same beer paired in a completely different way. This time round, the sweet spiciness of the Ginger Beer was complimented by the creamy spiciness of the ice cream. This one was a definite crowd pleaser and one of the highlights of the night, likely due to the fact it tasted like apple pie in a glass.
Round 3: Innis & Gunn Canada Day 2011 with Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
Round three brought something a little different to our previous offerings, we paired Innis & Gunn’s Canada Day 2011 release with a dark chocolate ice cream. The beer is a Scottish ale aged in oak whisky barrels. The trick to this pairing is to get dark, dark chocolate ice cream. This compliments bitterness of the chocolate compliments the malt profile of the Scottish Ale, it really helps the oak aging and whisky notes come through in the beer.
Round 4: Tin Whistle Killer Bee Honey Ale and Mayan Chocolate Ice Cream
This was a beer we had never tried before. Unlike most honey beers the Tin Whistle Killer Bee is surprisingly dark and malt forward. This meant that it paired nicely with a rich dark chocolate ice cream. This roasted malts add a bit of chocolate to compliment the ice cream but also coffee and the sweetness of the honey to offset it and add some complexity. It was a delicious pairing that worked really well and something totally unexpected for our evening!
Round 5: Rocheforte 10 and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
By far the most decadent choice of the night was pairing Trappistes Rochefort 10 (one of Belgium’s more widely available Trappist beers) with a nice vanilla bean ice cream. The vanilla really worked well with the dark fruit and carmel flavours of the beer allowing its complexity to shine while enhancing that slight Belgian vanilla taste present. Most surprisingly, a creamy ice cream balanced quite well with a beer around 11%. This was another favourite of the night!
Round 6: Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter and Strawberry Cheezecake Ice Cream
This was a bold choice and a bit, but not a total, miss. The beer was great and the Haagen-Dasz Strawberry Cheezecake actually paired really well with the Phillips Chocolate Porter. The deep bitterness of the porter balances well with the sweet creamy strawberry. Unfortunately, we had not taken into account that the cheese cake base in the ice cream would essentially create floating biscuits in our beer. Not really a desirable quality! Still, surprisingly tasty besides that.
It was hard to decide a winner in the end, there were so many delicious combinations, but the trying sure was fun! Definitely something we will be doing again!
Dogfish Head Brewery : 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Proof that amazing things can come in small packages, this week’s beer comes from the town of Milton, Delaware, population about 2,600 people (thank you Wikipedia). In stark contrast relative to the size of their home-town, Dogfish Head Brewery has a reputation of continental proportions. Sadly, the crew at DFH announced in 2011 that they were pulling their Canadian and UK exports, but they’re doing it in the name of planned, balanced growth that will allow them to stick to their beliefs and brewing philosophies, so, it’s hard to fault them for that, and hopefully they’ll be back soon. Plus, if you live within a stone’s throw of the 49th parallel (as roughly 80% of us Canucks do), they’re just another beauty to add to your cross border shopping list!
DFH are well known for experimental, wild, crazy beers, including a line of “Ancient Ales” for which the recipes are based off of chemical analysis of archeological pottery residue, including pottery found in King Midas’s tomb and a recipe from central China dating back some 9,000+ years (no, seriously. See this is why science is awesome), and Pangaea, a beer that boasts ingredients from all 7 continents (yes, even Antarctica). They are equally well known for their year-round brews, especially one 90 Minute Imperial IPA (a series which also includes a 60 Minute IPA, a 120 Minute Imperial IPA and a 75 Minute cask-conditioned blend of the 60 & 90).
Taking the time to pull 90 Minute out of the fridge a little early is worth it – you’ll get several fingers of great frothy off-white head on your amber-orange beer and the flavours really shine as the beer warms a touch form cold to cool. Founder Sam Calagione recommends this beer in a snifter, but any big-bowled glass will do (something that will contain and concentrate the aromatics), a timely suggestion to get the most out of this deep floral, sweet fruity, toffee nose with subtle round piney traces.
The flavour profile on this beer is really something, uniquely created by the continual addition of hops for a full 90 minutes during the boil, and further dry hopped during conditioning. The explanation is how they basically designed the system after an old-school vibrating football game is pretty awesomely MacGyver (see the video on the 90 Minute page - Science is Awesome #2!). The first flavour we pick up is a gentle coffee / dark chocolate bitterness, then rich sweet malts with further suggestions of pine, toffee and burnt sugar, followed by a deep, dense floralness you don’t seen the likes of in too many beers. Accompanying and likely influenced by the strong malt is a round, mango-like smooth sweetness, which helps to balance out the heavy hops, but even brandishing 90 IBU’s this isn’t just a bitter hop blast, it is a well-crafted, balanced IPA experience. At 9% this brew packs a fair wallop, but the flavours only get more interesting as it warms so it is a beer you can feel free to take your time with, and the alcohol gives a pleasant warming as you sit and sip your beer and ponder the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything….
As we mentioned, currently not exported to Canada, but worth a pick up if you happen to leave the Great White North to spend a little time with our cousins to the South.
Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! : Péché Mortel – Imperial Stout au Café
J’ai eu l’idée d’écrire ce billet de blog entièrement en français, mais j’ai réalisé que peut-être c’et un peu d’un problème pour la plupart de nos lecteurs régulier; donc, je vais continuer en anglais…
Where were we? Oh right, the beer – whenever friends are headed chez Montréal dans la Belle Province and float requests for recommendations, we tell every one of them “You have to go to la Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! You can’t go to Montreal without going to DDC, it’s pretty easy to get to if you’re near McGill, just head up Saint-Laurent (you can pop into Schwartz’s en route) and hang a left on Laurier, but keep your eye out, it’s easy to miss.”
Like many of our early brilliant beer discoveries, we have an older sibling to thank for introducing us years ago to a wee little hole-in-the wall brewpub called Dieu du Ciel! (roughly works out to “God in Heaven!” but it loses a little in translation) that changed the way we looked at brewpubs. A trip for us to Montreal simply does not happen anymore without a few nights exploring beer heaven chez la Brasserie Dieu du Ciel!; it is, simply put, our favorite brew pub on the planet. We don’t know how more glowing we could make the recommendation – if you are ever in Montreal, you must go to DDC. Period.
Suffice it to say when we stumbled across their beer, in bottles(!), on the shelves(!), in Vancouver(!) right there for us to buy without having to go all the way to Montréal(!)… well, it was a guaranteed Hobbyist post.
This beer floods the glass black as sin, even when held up to the light (Péché Mortel roughly translates to “Mortal Sin” – see what I did there?), like someone combined coffee, molasses and crude oil. Then put a black hole in the glass just for good measure. The head is something else, rich dark brown, fine and silky on top and self-sustaining throughout our long savoring of this treat, continually replenished by an under layer of slightly larger bubbles, like thousands of glass marbles stacked up and waiting for their turn.
The nose is incredibly enticing; earthy, rich heavy coffee and espresso aromas; vanilla, dark chocolate and roasted malt, brought about by the fair trade coffee infused during brewing. The flavour follows suit, dense coffee and molasses bitterness, which brings with it dark chocolate characteristics, roasted flavours and vanilla. As the beer warms the complexity of the flavour ramps up; touches of dry roasted hazelnuts appear and hints of cherries. You know there is 9.5% hiding in here, but there are still wonderfully smooth drinking stout characteristics, it feels like silk across the tongue. This Hobbyist doesn’t even drink coffee and it is always a go-to beer whenever we’re lucky enough to be on-site.
Now, we have to be honest, we’ve tried a bunch of their bottled beers and they don’t quite stack up against getting it fresh poured and set down on the small round wooden table you’ve occupied for the evening in Montreal, but that’s probably a little unfair as that is somewhat of an experience in itself and fresh beer is hard to beat; they’re darned close and damned good though and we’re stoked to have them available in BC.
Monsieur Lafontain et Monsieur Audet, merci pour la bière. Santé!
Tree Brewing : Hop Head IPA
Okay, first off, we love the fact that these guys were sitting around one day, trying to come up with an awesome name for their new brewery, and they came up with “Tree”. Something about it appeals to the baser instinct in us; it’s very central, core, simple, yet deep. It’d be like calling your brewery “Sun”, or “Earth”, or “Rock” (or Stone even); so simple, yet not at all. Think about where life on this blue speck we call Earth would be without trees (or heaven forbid, beer!). Or, broadening your scope a little, plants in general, both vascular and non-vascular, terrestrial and marine, complex and single-celled. Life as we know it would likely be wildly different, and homo sapiens may not have evolved or advanced the way we have without the sheer diversity and biomass of plants that cover our little globe careening through space at breakneck speeds, happily doing us all a huuuuuge favour converting tons of CO2 into O2 so that us oxygen-loving creatures can thrive (never mind photons into consumable energy, but that’s a whole separate rant / tangent) – it’s like the great cosmic balance, but on a more terrestrial scale. Seriously, if you ever stop to think about how fast we’re moving, it makes all the Ferraris and Porches in the world look like a bunch of expensive metal slugs. If you’re suddenly feeling a little silly about that costly toy in the garage, never fear – Einstein and relativity to the rescue! All those fancy, “fast” expensive cars are still going that much faster relative to the rest of us. But still, the earth has you whooped, she’d smoke you off the line any day like Vin Diesel behind the wheel of a 1970 Dodge Charger.
And without plants like barley and hops, things like beer might not even be possible (GASP!).
No seriously, that would suck.
Right, uh…. sorry, our day job doesn’t exactly provide us with regular opportunity to nerd-out on the wonders of life on this planet… back to the beer. Kelowna’s Tree Brewing has long been on our list of “beers to get onto the blog again”, partly because Hop Head was one of the first IPA’s we really fell in love with, but also because our “Beeralytics” spreadsheet (things our work skills do allow us to nerd-out on) says it has been a long time since we last touched base with Tree.
Hop Head pours a nice deep amber with a short white head that is quick to retreat like early cetaceans back to the oceans once they realized that this whole “land” thing was a whole lot of work, all that gravity and such and such. Hops we find on the nose to be floral with a strong piney resinous backing, with citrus notes leaning more towards orange than grapefruit. The flavour has a slight ESB quality at first but then dives into floral roundness, an interesting back-of-the-throat piney blossoming, and a dry grapefruit pith finish, away from the orange suggestions on the nose. The round floralness of this beer is helped by malty sweetness then cleaned out by dry pith, but bitterness is left to linger under your tongue, leaving you to think about the next sip. We found it quite interesting that the floral and pith bitterness seem to shift relative to each other from sip to sip, sometimes longer floral and sometimes earlier pithy bitterness, but overall striking a firm balance. Definitely a beer we’re happy to rediscover.
And remember what your mum told you kids, talk to your plants. Delude yourself all you want about them loving the attention and your awe-inspiring solo conversation (ironically says the guy writing a beer blog…); that blast of carbon-rich CO2 that you uncerimoniously spew out is what they’re really after…
It’s that time of year again folks! Summer has just finally begun, a couple splashes of sunshine in April and/or May, the calendar turns to June July, it’s raining again / still and suddenly – “THIS is the WORST summer we’ve EVER had!!!! I can’t believe it’s June July and it’s raining!!!! Boo-hoo-hoo!”
Stop us if this sounds vaguely familiar, because it should. You all said it last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Don’t feel bad though, quite frankly, we’d be willing to bet that George Vancouver probably said much the same in June of 1792 when he ran into Dionisio Galiano and his Spanish expedition in Burrard Inlet, we can just imagine it…
Vancouver: “Boy it rains a lot here eh? This is like the worst summer I’ve ever seen!! And I’m from England!”
Vancouver (slightly louder): “I said, IT’S REALLY RAINY, THIS SUMMER SUCKS!!”
Vancouver (louder still): “I SAID… oh, you know what, just forget it, this is ridiculous…”
Anywho, once the summer does come, and it always does, in all its brilliant (if memory zapping) glory, here are some beers (in no particular alphabetical order) that we feel make for great summer drinking!
BrewDog: Punk IPA
Deeply floral, creamily piney with a clean grapefruit bitter finish, Punk IPA is in this Hobbyist’s top 10 for sure, and it wouldn’t be a BoS post without a little Brewdog representation; expect a full review in the future. At 5.6%, the second heaviest ABV in this year’s BoS behind our next beer on the list, but certainly manageable; this brew is so good you’ll want to take your time with it anyway. The nose and flavour are an enticing balance of deep floral and piney hops but as deep as the pine is, it is smooth as silk and refreshing. The balance of flavours and wonderful progression from up front pine, broad floral middle with some malt sweet to compliment, finishing with crisp, dry grapefruit bitterness make this a really enjoyable IPA, even on a hot summer’s day.
Brooklyn Brewery: Sorachi Ace
Saisons (Beligan Farm Ales) can provide a great alternative to the traditional summer Hefe. They are similarly light and spicy but generally more aggressively hopped and a bit dryer. That said, Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace is not your average saison. Part of their ‘Big Bottle’ series, this beer uses champagne yeast which gives it a lighter mouth feel and stronger carbonation. Combined with the creamy lemon citrus provided by rare Sorachi hops creates a unique beer that is complex but easy drinking, even at 7.6% ABV. In fact, given the corked bottle and taste profile, this could well be thought of as the Champagne of beer (not to be confused with the Champagne of Ginger Ales) and everyone loves Champagne! The price has dropped significantly in recent years (around $11 at the BCL compared with close to $30 in the past) making it a much more affordable splash!
Howe Sound Brewing Company: 4 Way Fruit Ale
This fruit ale from Howe Sound takes a different tack – rather than focusing on one fruit and working to build a beer that strongly represents that one fruit, Howe Sound picked 4 fruits, and used pure purées of each, as if blending hop or malt varieties, to bring different characteristics to this refreshingly light summer ale. Raspberries lend gentle sweetness to the nose and edge to the flavor while mangoes round out the sweetness and body of the beer, lending touches of smooth, almost creaminess to both. The passion fruit is the clearest in the uplifting tang to the nose, and lends a healthy zip to the flavor as well, supported by and blending with the pomegranate, which combined with the raspberry tartness do nice job to eliminate sweetness overload; you simply won’t find it in this beer. And at 4.4%, 4-way won’t punish you quite so much on those dehydrating hot summer days either; a few score of these have already disappeared in Hobbyists households this summer!
Parallel 49: Seedspitter Watermelon Wit
From East-Van relative newcomer Parallel 49 and the second of three fruit beers to make this year’s list we have Seedspitter Watermelon Wit; we’re not sure if this beer could be more summer. All the looks, nose and flavor of a bright, lively easy drinking Wit, but with a crisp subtle-sweet watermelon flavour that will have feeling like you’re leaning back in the grass by the lake enjoying a nice big cool slice, even if you’re hiding inside and its raining. As we noted in our full review, there’s no problems getting through a six pack of these beauties, or sharing them around; serve ‘em up with a slice of real watermelon and you’ve looking at a winning combo of ultra-summer refreshment.
Townsite Brewing: Zunga Blonde Ale
Another recent addition to the BC craft beer scene that we thought might make the BoS list right from our initial review, and sure enough it did! Zunga is the first of their beers we tried and is the one we find ourselves going back to as summer pushes its way into the province. Good, nicely hopped golden ales are rarity in North America but make for the perfect summer refreshment. It’s probably no coincidence then that Brewmaster Cédric Dauchot hails from Belgium, a place that excels in this style! As we noted initially, it’s sharp, clean and refreshing. There are hints of grass and pine, like a fine summer day in the woods. This beer has enough there to keep an enthusiast interested but is not so overpowering as to scare off the average punter.
Unibroue: Ephémère Apple
Of all the fruit beers on our list this year, Unibroue’s Ephémère Apple takes the prize for being the most like fruit in beer form. This white ale is Granny Smith apple through and through; the nose smells like lightly spiced Granny Smith apple-pie filling before it’s baked and the flavor is lip puckering tartness balanced out with secondary sweetness with an incredibly dry finish. A little extra effervescence only helps to further the impression. What else can we say, it really is like biting into a vibrant green, crunchy Granny Smith. A word on most excellent refreshment achievement; we find this beer is best a little extra chilled, if you let it warm too much, the sweet background starts to take over and can be a little cloying.
We’d be remiss to be talking summer beers without mentioning one of our tip-top perennial favorites, Howe Sound’s King Heffy, which we featured last year and reviewed in full previously, a pint of which would fit into your hand well on any sunny patio. If you’re still looking for ideas on what to grab on your lazy saunter over to your buddy’s balcony-b-q, check out last year’s post for a few more bright summer ideas.
Parallel 49 Brewing Company : Seedspitter Watermelon Wit
A Battle of Wits? To the Death? I Accept!
Ooooooor how about we just have a beer. Then talk about it. Wit-death-battles just seem a little over the edge, but hey, I suppose it worked out for Westley… still. Let’s stick with beer.
Introducing one of the newest additions to the Lower Mainland Craft Brewing scene, Ladies & Gentlemen! (insert drum roll) ….. Parallel 49 Brewing Company! (cymbal splash!). Right here in East Vancouver, practically in their own backyard according to their story, the boys from St. Augustine’s, who already hold title as one of the esteemed craft beer bars in town, have done something else that so many of us dream of. They started a brewery.
Mingled in with their initial trifecta of core brews, an India Pale Larger, a “Classic Ale” and a Ruby Ale, we find Seedspitter Watermelon Wit, a curious conglomeration of Belgian-style Witbier with a summer-synonymous sweet snack, the watermelon. The first thing we notice about this beer, and all of their beers, is the playful, carnival-style artwork, pretty cool! Excited to see what a watermelon beer is all about, we pour, and sure enough, this beer has all the looks of a Wit – cloudy, yellow-orange in colour, a quickly dissipating head and a nose full of citrus orange and coriander.
Every time we try to explain the flavor of this beer, we get stuck on “lively and bright”. It goes down nicely clean, refreshing, with bright wheat malts, a little lemony zip and slight astringency met well with a little sweetness, but not stickily sweet as you might think from a watermelon beer. We sessioned this beer one night with a buddy, and even at the end of our 6 we found the crisp, balanced sweetness enjoyable. Similarly, the watermelon flavor is nicely subtle, coming to the fore as you get to the middle of the body and on into the finish. This beer really is like a watermelon, thirst-quenching, not too sweet and perfect on a hot summer’s day.
With the carnival-style art, we can’t help but think the character on the bottle would be a performer, some sort of seed-spitting phenom. He’d have to be pretty good though to beat the current world record, which depending on your source (we couldn’t find it in the online GBoWR’s) is either almost a full 69 feet, or an astonishing 75 feet!! That’s nearly 100 SeedSpitter bottles laid end-to-end, or, like some infinitesimally small percentage of the distance to the moon (roughly 2.9729061227596179458883519159785 x 10-6% if you must know…).
Anywho (nerd over). Parallel 49 – check ‘em out! Definitely keep an eye out for future posts on their other creations!
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