I was in San Antonio for SharePoint Saturday last week and after the event, Nate from Rackspace took us out to Blue Star Brewing. I found out later that one of the owners, Joey Villarreal, was instrumental in getting HB 660 drafted. <- See what I did there? For those of you who aren’t from around these parts, go to texasbeerfreedom.org and read why you should support HB 660. Basically, we’re trying to get our Texas craft brews on grocery store shelves next to out-of-state craft brews. The way the law is written now, brew pubs can only sell to people who come to the restaraunt. Worse, breweries like Shiner and St. Arnold can only give it away on site. Every beer they sell has to go through a distributor. The slogan for this effort is “Drink Beer, Save Texas,” and while I didn’t get a T-shirt, we all donated $1 at the end of the night and got an “I support HB 660” button.
But enough about delicious politics. Here’s my review of their beer sampler.
Texican lager – Awesome beer to quench your thirst on a hot, humid day. It’s a Mexican-style beer but no fruit is needed. For added flavor, ask for it with the sour (see next review). This is perfect for sitting out on the patio, hanging your feet off the back of a tailgate, or tubing down the river – too bad they don’t have a plastic growler. A Shiner Bock lover came into the bar and nothing they had on tap was right for him. Texican was too light but it’s where he ended up after trying the stout and the smoke. It gives you an indication of the great divide in lagers. They were out of their amber which is where this guy wanted to be.
Texican lager plus sour – If you like lemon or lime in your beer, do this instead. It’s a lot like when you mix cider or a lambic with beer but this comes out of the tap with the sour mixed in already. I haven’t ever had something like that, so I had to look it up. The concept of souring a beer was popular in Belgium. Entire batches were left to sour in open vats and the result was, you guessed it – a lambic! That’s not what happened here though. Instead of souring it naturally, they added a souring yeast, pasteurized it and added it to a batch of the Texican. I liked tasting this side-by-side with the original brew because I never could have been convinced it was the same beer otherwise. I went out to the Blue Star web site and noticed that they call it Belgian Sour with no description. I hope I haven’t let out a trade secret.
Stout – Props to my server. You know how I feel about mixing malts and hops, so I was very impressed that they gave me the stout next. Unfortunately, it’s one of the chocolate ones, so not my style but it would be very accessible for most. What raised my left eyebrow is that this is a stout you could drink in the summer which is perfect for Texas. It was a medium mouth feel and the head didn’t coat the glass in a wall of foam. Personally, I wouldn’t call it a stout but I don’t think Black Lagers (schwarzbiers) like Shiner’s Bohemian Black and Rahr’s Ugly Pug are marketing real well, so Stout it is.
Smoke Dark Ale – Smoke is an ingredient we’ve seen brewers use in porters before, but this is not a misnomer like the stout. This was a clear, viscous brew in the glass and not with the mouthfeel or head of a porter. Granted, the flavor isn’t for everyone but would be great for pairing with bbq. The taste is still malt but the flavor used is smoke instead of hops. And it’s not like they dropped in a bottle of smoke flavor into the boil either. The malts are wood smoked. The first sip shocks you but your pallet adjusts after that. My server was brilliant and pitched it here in the line-up as a means to cleanse my pallet before the hops.
Pale Ale – Reading back through my notes, I realize that this review is a bit like having tea with the Mad Hatter. Everything is a bit turned around. This Pale Ale had a head like a stout. After that, it was a predictable American Pale Ale – meaning there were hops. Still, it executes ‘nothing special’ very well. If you like reds, then go here. If you like pale ales, then see if they have it on cask. Which they did the day I came in (see next).
Pale Ale Cask – This was very clear for an unfiltered cask. Sure, it had settled over a few days and I got a pull from the top, but I was still surprised. I’ve gotten used to spitting hops leaves out of my mouth at the bottom of an Elissa cask, so this was a real treat. Not a lot of carbonation which is what you expect from this style and it has a thin mouthfeel like the Texican but that’s not a criticism. This brewer has given us a beer that’s easy to drink on the patio on a hot summer day and to think there’s a cask where that is possible is awesome.
Barleywine – King William Ale MMXI – sweet. Is that raisins? Meh. It’s not my style but it’s lovely for dessert. If you drink Muscat wine… This is your beer. And even at 200-300 calories on average for this style, I’m guessing that’s fewer calories than the Texas Pecan Pie on the menu. It is served in a goblet to give you that ‘Midieval Times’ look. For best results, sit at the head of the table and make people dance for you.
After the sampler, I went over and shook Joey’s hand and thanked him for all his work with HB 660, then I went out on the patio and had the best calamari ever with a bunch of geeks who had never motorboated a woman before. My worlds collide like that all the time.