Category Archives: Dispatches from Brewtopia

T-Shirt Tuesday #11: Jester King Black Metal

It has already been one of those weeks and its only Tuesday so I felt it was fitting to feature a tee from one of my favorite Austin area craft breweries – Jester King.  This is not so much an entry about the tee (which is just fine), but about the brewery (and brews).  I discovered Jester King a few years ago with the release of their humorously named Commercial Suicide.  While I didn’t love that particular brew, what I did like was their approach to brewing.  Their first few beers (aside from Commercial Suicide) were serviceable, but it wasn’t until their shift to brewing farmhouse style beers that I really became a fan.

Add to that, leading the charge against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s ridiculous and antiquated laws, and I am a lifetime fan of Jester King.  Oh, and I didn’t even mention that they are the first (and for the time only) certified organic brewery in the state of Texas!  Well guess I just did!  So much awesomeness and tasty brews – if you can get your hands on some Jester King, definitely give it a try!

So I raise my glass and give this week’s sartorial shout out to Jester King Craft Brewery!  Cue the metal, rock on & wear tees!

T-Shirt Tuesday #4: Black Star Co-op

For this week’s T-shirt Tuesday, I felt the need to share one of my many Austin-related beer shirts.  While I have a serious love for all of my local breweries, Black Star Co-op gets this week’s sartorial shout-out.

You see, back long ago, I was in 4-H.  No, I did not grow up on a farm or raise animals (aside from the occasional cat).  I did, however, compete in various 4-H speaking contests at the state and local level.  One such category I competed in was Co-op Public Speaking.  Despite the title, this was not a contest where two people gave a speech together though that would have been  interesting.  This was a contest where you gave a speech extolling the virtues of Cooperatives in general.  So needless to say, I learned a whole lot about cooperatives.  Aside from some food co-ops which usual specialize in whole and locally grown foods, the most common co-op that most folks will encounter is the credit union.

Fast forward to 2008, when I heard about Black Star Co-op, the world’s first cooperative pub and brewery right here in Austin.  At that time, Black Star didn’t have a physical brewery, but the idea alone intrigued me.  Cooperative Brew Pub?  Sign me on!  So I am a member-owner of this fine establishment.  Aside from just the general coolness that is a Co-op Brew Pub, Black Star is committed to paying workers a living wage – meaning no tipping allowed, serving locally sourced, sustainable food, and brewing delicious beers. So, good for your conscious and your taste buds.  Win-win, I say!

If you’re in Austin, give Black Star Co-op a try on principle alone, though the beers are pretty top notch too! Until next week, raise your glass and sport your favorite tee!

Dispatches From Brewtopia: Off-Centered Film Fest 2012 Part 2 – Great Food, Leone, and More Beer (Oh My!)

Though it has been almost two weeks since I attended this event, I couldn’t go without a blog post on it even if it is a bit belated.  I have mentioned that I like good drinks, good food and good films, often at the same time.  The Once Upon A Time In the West Dogfish Head Beer Feast is a prime example of some of my favorite things all wrapped in a delectably decadent night.  An epic Sergio Leone western with a six course, Italian themed feast?  Yes!  With eight beer pairings? Yes, Yes, a thousand times Yes!  The film-crazed, foodie, beer aficionado in me was like a giddy child on Christmas Eve in the days preceding the event.  I studied the menu imagining the deliciousness to come.

Finally, the night of the event was upon us.  Seated in the theater, we waited as a western-themed pre-show played on the screen.  Soon, the first beer appeared, Ta Henket, a brew from Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series.  Light and refreshing, Ta Henket was a perfect introduction for the evening.

The first course, Roasted striped bass in fennel broth with leek & tomato, along with the second beer of the night, 2010 Burton Baton, arrived just as the opening credits of the movie unspooled.  This pairing was interesting, though I felt like the Burton overwhelmed the delicate fish in a light broth.  On its own though, the beer was sweet and boozy (10% ABV) with a nice woodiness that came from being barrel aged.  Taken separately, these were both very good, but I felt as a pairing, it missed the mark.

As with the first course, by just looking at the second course, you would think it was an odd pair: Raison D’Etre with a grilled oyster topped with goat cheese, crushed red pepper, and moscato.  Raison D’Etre is a robust, sweet, Belgian-style brown ale which I thought would overpower the oyster.  Of course, I did not consider the element of goat cheese.  The oyster itself had a nice briny flavor, but the addition of the goat cheese elevated the dish to go head to head with the paired brew.  Overall, a successful pairing.

Next, the rather rare 2010 Olde School Barley Wine appeared in front of me. Fermented with dates and figs, this heady 15% ABV brew lingered on my palate. The pour was only a couple of ounces, so I wanted to savor every sip.  And it was a good thing I did as I found it paired extremely well with the third course, cured duck breast, cherry white balsamic vinaigrette, grilled rhubarb confit, Gorgonzola on a pine nut crisp.  Yes, a whole lot going on there, but oh how it paired with the complex, fruity barley wine.  The cured duck breast was smokey and salty which played against the sweetness of the brew.  The tart, creaminess of the Gorgonzola tied all of it together.  A second beer was paired with this course, Indian Brown Ale.  This is one of the most common Dogfish Head beers, and since I am not much of a fan of brown ales and it paled in comparison with the Olde School, it served as a palate cleanser.

The fourth course was my favorite overall: 2011 Immort Ale with lamb meatballs and semolina-artichoke gnocchi in truffle cream.  Ooh la la!  Even a week and a half later, my mouth waters just reading the description.  The Immort Ale, like so many beers served at the feast is an unusual, strong, slightly sweet brew.  Paired with the gamey-ness of the lamb meatballs and the creaminess of the truffle sauce, it was near perfect.

Bitches Brew, the very unusual brew inspired by the Miles Davis masterpiece was paired with Spaghetti Carbonara for the fifth course.  Bitches Brew is a combination of an Imperial Stout with an African style honey beer.  The result is something very unique.  While many of the earlier courses were small plates with a couple of bites each, this was a full on bowl of very tasty pasta.  However beautiful this dish was, I was nearing maximum density in terms of food (there’s always room for beer!)  The pairing was OK, but I felt the beer was truly the star this course.

The final course included one of my all time favorites from Dogfish Head, 2011 120 Minute IPA, paired with a ricotta-rosemary cake with almond meringue and candied strawberries.  Again, I felt despite the very tasty sounding description, this dish played second fiddle to the hoppy nectar that is the 120 Minute IPA.

But what about the film?  I am ashamed to admit I hadn’t seen Leone’s 1968 masterpiece before this screening, but the opening sequence won me over  immediately.  It was the kind of film, that despite being nearly three hours long, felt just right in length.  Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, and Jason Robards were particularly incredible.  As I mentioned to my husband afterwards, the sixties really were the golden age of beautiful Italian women in film.  Claudia Cardinale is simply gorgeous as Jill McBain.  And to think, she was 30 when this was released!  If you haven’t seen it and you have any interest in Westerns, see it now.  DVD and BluRay versions are available and relatively cheap.

NOTE – For those of you expecting pictures of courses and beers, I’m sorry to disappoint.  No food porn here.  The Alamo Drafthouse has a strict no talking, no cellphones out during screenings policy.  This is something I really appreciate and it is a prime reason for choosing the Alamo Drafthouse to see movies. Of course, some folks in the audience couldn’t control their urge to take a snapshot and repeatedly took photos during the service.  This wouldn’t have tweaked me so much if there hadn’t been a completely badass movie playing and the repeated flash behind me was quite distracting.  I complained at the time and was given a couple of rainchecks (that did not cover the full ticket cost) but I will think twice about attending a movie themed feast if some idiot has to take a picture of his food and drink throughout the night.  I get it.  Lots of people blog/facebook, etc but if everyone who has a camera on their phone took a picture of their food, the flashing would never end. 

/steps off of my soapbox.

Dispatches from Brewtopia: Off-Centered Film Fest 2012 Part 1- Schnitzengruben & Local Brews

This past weekend here in Austin was the 5th Annual Off-Centered Film Festival, a most perfect union of Dogfish Head Brewery and the Alamo Drafthouse. This is like the Reese’s cup of events.  Two great things that go great together.

While the festival itself celebrates short films referencing Dogfish Head beer made by folks from around the country, there are other events that have become part of the yearly festival. Thanks to the kind folks at Do512, I received two passes for the Fest’s opening night event – The Blazing Saddles Quote-Along Beer Party. OK so not only is Blazing Saddles one of my all time favorite comedies (tied only with The Jerk), but there was plentiful special brews from all of my favorite local breweries.

The pours were small (roughly 4oz) and were $3 each benefiting the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. Before you scream, “Rip-off!” understand that not only were many of these beers rather potent and special, but this was an event to RAISE money for a very good cause.   If you know anything about craft breweries in general and the uphill battle they have been fighting in Texas with the Texas Alcoholics Beverage Commission (TABC), you would think it worth the price and then some.  I actually liked the small pours since it gave me the opportunity to sample a few.  Here they are in no particular order:

Jester King/Mikkeller Beer Geek Rodeo – Imperial Oatmeal Stout, roasted malt, chipotle peppers and Vietnamese Civet coffee.  Jester King is one of my favorite breweries for a number of reasons, not least of which are their repeated collaborations with the Danish Gypsy brewer Mikel.  Smoky, deliciousness, not much more I can say except that I loved it and can’t wait to have more.

(512) Brewing Company Pecan Porter with Toasted Coconut and Dried Cherry – Though not as delicious as the Whiskey Barrel aged Double Pecan Porter (sigh), it was an interesting brew.  Very nice cherry aroma with hints of the coconut which went nicely with the usual nuttiness of the Pecan Porter which is my favorite regular brew from (512).

South Austin Brewing Saison d’Austin – Saisons are my Belgian brew of choice these days, and this was a nice one.  While it is one of their standard brews, it was my first taste from this new Austin brewery.  Lovely fruitiness and a spicy aroma make this 8% ABV go down a little too easy.

Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling Strawberry Milk Stout – Before you think of strawberry Quik beer (yuck), let me tell you, this beer was amazing.  Complex and not cloyingly sweet as one might expect with a slight real strawberry aroma.  And to make it even better, they used locally grown Poteet strawberries, making it a true farm to pint beer.  Can’t wait to have this brew again.  So unique.

Thirsty Planet Brewing Jittery Monk Smoked Coffee Dubbel – While many of the readily available brews from Thirsty Planet are solid straightforward brews (Buckethead IPA is a fave), there are some adventurous beers to be had when you visit the brewery’s tasting room on Saturdays.  A Basil Melon Wit and an Acorn Squash IPA have been on tap when I have visited, as well as other brews that don’t make it outside the tasting room.  Jittery Monk is definitely different and in the best way.  It has a very strong coffee character, but because it is a dubbel instead of the usual porter or stout, it was even easier to drink.  Needless to say, I was glad to find out from the Thirsty Planet folks that it wasn’t just a special experimental brew will be available around town in May.

So after all of those lovely beers, an outdoor Quote-Along screening of Blazing Saddles (complete with cap guns and free beans) was the perfect finish to the night.  This film, along with Young Frankenstein, are in my opinion, two of Mel Brook’s masterpieces.  Witty, often slapsticky, but both films are ultimately about outsiders trying to fit in.

Stay tuned for Off-Centered Film Fest 2012 Part 2 – Great Food, Leone, and More Beer (Oh My!)