Archive for the 'Misc' Category

The top 100 beers in Houston

“So… What should I get?”

I love it when a friend, stumped by the craft beer list at a bar or restaurant, asks me to pick a beer for him. It’s a fun challenge (yes, I’m a nerd).
The great thing about it is that there are just so many options, and it’s really hard to go wrong. Sure, if you order a hop bomb for someone who hates bitter beer, then that’s probably the last time you’ll get asked for advice. But I love turning a Guinness drinker onto, say, Southern Star Buried Hatchet or Left Hand Milk Stout. Or getting a macro-lite drinker to taste their first Real Ale Fireman’s #4 or North Coast Scrimshaw. Or seeing a wine-lover’s reaction when they first taste a Duchesse de Bourgogne or Monk’s Cafe. Or….right, I could go on and on.
The fact is, we get a ton of great beer in Houston — not just decent beer, or good beer, but truly great, world-class beer. Sure, our dumb state laws prevent us from having access to even more great beer, but that’s a different rant for a different time. (Obligatory reminder to sign up for Open the Taps!)
So what’s the point of all this? Well, a Twitter friend — inspired by Alison Cook’s Top 100 restaurants in Houston — suggested that I compile the top 100 beers available in Texas. I couldn’t say no.
It sounded easy at first — and then my “first cut” yielded a list of nearly 300 beers. But after a few weeks of working on it — and a lot of, um, research — I’ve got a Top 100. A few caveats/qualifications/disclaimers:
-I originally wanted to do the top 100 available in Texas, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t. There are a bunch of Texas beers that we don’t get in Houston (or get here very rarely), and I couldn’t properly rank/rate them without having regular access to them. So that’s why you won’t see Freetail Ananke or Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap Pils or Deep Ellum IPA or Peticolas Velvet Hammer (or a bunch of others). I can’t wait for the day when all those breweries can and/or do distribute regularly in Houston, but for now I had to leave them out.
-I only considered “regular” releases — beers that are available year-round, seasonally or on a rotating basis. That means that I had to leave out a bunch of amazing one-offs — including delicious recent releases such as Lagunitas Sucks, Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, Boulevard Love Child #2 and the Left Hand Fade to Black series.
-I also left out a long list of great beers that we got in Houston at some point but may not come back — whether because they won’t be brewed again, or may not be distributed here. Some examples:
  • The Real Ale Mysterium Verum series, including WT3F?!, The Kraken, and Barrel-Aged Anniversary Ale XV
  • Tripel Van De Garre
  • Live Oak Old Tree Hugger Barleywine
  • Harpoon Leviathan Triticus
  • Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA
  • Samuel Adams Utopias
  • A bunch of the New Belgium Lips of Faith series, including Dunkelweiss, Cocoa Mole, Le Terroir and Eric’s Ale.
-Finally, I didn’t include “regular” beers that change their recipe/hop/barrel with every release. It’s a safe bet that every version of Anchor Our Special Ale, Duvel Tripel Hop or La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique will be worthy, but they’re each unique releases.
Are those enough disclaimers? Oh right, the most important one of all — this is all highly subjective, and should be taken simply as one nerd’s opinion. I consulted a few friends, but ultimately it’s a necessarily subjective list. I tried to push beyond my biases (I’m not a hop-head, I’m a sucker for huge stouts, I’m recently obsessed with Brett, etc.), but that can only go so far.
OK, enough of that. Here is my list of the top 100 beers in Houston:
  • (512) Pecan Porter
  • Abbaye des Rocs/Brasserie des Rocs Brune
  • Anchor Porter
  • Avery The Maharaja
  • Avery Rumpkin
  • Ayinger Brau-Weisse
  • Ayinger Celebrator
  • Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen
  • Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
  • Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale
  • Bosteels Deus Brut des Flandres
  • Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet
  • Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad
  • Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine
  • Boulevard Rye-On-Rye
  • Boulevard Saison-Brett
  • Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
  • Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue)
  • Chimay Premiere (Red)
  • Chouffe Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
  • Deschutes Black Butter Porter
  • Deschutes The Abyss
  • Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
  • Dogfish Head Burton Baton
  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown
  • Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
  • Duvel
  • Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
  • Fuller’s 1845
  • Fuller’s ESB
  • Fuller’s Vintage Ale
  • Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw/Blue
  • Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
  • Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
  • Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine
  • Green Flash Rayon Vert
  • Green Flash West Coast IPA
  • Jester King Das Wunderkind!
  • Jester King Le Petit Prince
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
  • Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale
  • Liefmans Cuvee-Brut
  • Liefmans Goudenband
  • Lindemans Gueuze Cuvee Rene
  • Live Oak HefeWeizen
  • Live Oak Pilz
  • Malheur 12
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
  • North Coast Old Stock Ale
  • Ommegang Abbey Ale
  • Ommegang Hennepin
  • Orval
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub
  • Oskar Blues Ten FIDY
  • Rahr & Sons Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer
  • Real Ale Sisyphus
  • Trappistes Rochefort 10
  • Trappistes Rochefort 6
  • Trappistes Rochefort 8
  • Rogue Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager
  • Rogue Chocolate Stout
  • Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout
  • Saint Arnold Endeavour
  • Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
  • Saison Dupont
  • Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
  • Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter
  • Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo
  • Schneider Weisse Aventinus Weizen Eisbock
  • Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser Aventinus
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA
  • Ska Modus Hoperandi
  • St. Bernardus Abt 12
  • St. Bernardus Pater 6
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8
  • St. Bernardus Tripel
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale
  • Stone Double Bastard Ale
  • Stone Imperial Russian Stout
  • Stone IPA
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale
  • Stone Ruination IPA
  • Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde
  • Unibroue Maudite
  • Unibroue Trois Pistoles
  • Van Steenberge Gulden Draak
  • Victory Headwaters Pale Ale
  • Victory Prima Pils
  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
  • Weihenstephaner Vitus
  • Westmalle Dubbel
  • Westmalle Tripel
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
As Tony Kornheiser would say: “That’s it! That’s the list!” I can’t wait to get feedback from everyone about it. Let me know what I missed, what I overrated, etc.

Here’s a Google Doc with the top 100, which includes links to ratings and descriptions of each beer, and can also be sorted by style, abv, etc.

And, finally, here are 32 beers that just missed the cut. Any one of these could have snuck onto the top 100 — and I bet you’ve got others, too.
  • (512) Whisky Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter
  • Anchor Steam Beer
  • Ayinger Weizenbock
  • Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
  • Brooklyn Lager
  • Deschutes Hop in the Dark
  • Deschutes Jubelale
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • Independence Stash IPA
  • Jester King / Mikkeller Drink’in The Sunbelt
  • Jester King Boxer’s Revenge
  • Karbach Bourbon-Barrel Hellfighter
  • Karbach Weisse Versa Wheat
  • La Trappe Quadrupel
  • Lagunitas IPA
  • Left Hand Milk Stout
  • Live Oak Primus Weizenbock
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers
  • Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red
  • Rogue Dead Guy Ale
  • Samichlaus Bier
  • Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
  • Sierra Nevada Kellerweis
  • Sierra Nevada Stout
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
  • Southern Star Bombshell Blonde Ale
  • Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout
  • Southern Star Walloon
  • St. Peter’s Cream Stout
  • Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
  • Van Ecke Poperings Hommelbier

New contributor: Robb

I’m really excited to welcome another nerd to the blog.

Robb is not your typical beer nerd. Don’t get me wrong — he appreciates the difference between good beer and crap. The last time I visited him in NYC, he had a big bottle of Chimay Red waiting for us. We drank that, then headed to a very cool Belgian beer bar near Times Square. This was before I was a full-fledged nerd, so I don’t even remember what I drank, but I know the place was worthy.

Anyway, back to Robb. He’s one of the best writers I know, and he has been a blogger for years. He currently runs his own personal site, KiSS THE FiST, and also writes for the Sling Blog. And don’t be surprised if you run into his stuff elsewhere — he’s nothing if not prolific.

On this site, he’ll add a totally different voice and point of view. He’ll write about beer, but it won’t sound anything like what we’ve posted so far.

His first post is almost ready to go, so you should see it soon.

New contributor: Folko

I finally got one of the other nerds to pass along some content. Eventually, I’ll set things up so that posts from different authors are identified as such. In the meantime, I’ll tag each post with the author’s name.

So, let me introduce Folko. He’s a full-fledged beer nerd — and a cigar nerd and a scotch nerd, too. He’s also a part-time homebrewer, although it’s been a while since his crew cooked up anything.

He has good taste, a ton of knowledge and a well-schooled palate. Advance warning, though — many of his tasting sessions involve beer and scotch and cigars, all in the same sitting. He’ll be the first to admit that, at times like those, tastes and smells tend to blend together.

I’m looking forward to getting some of his reviews posted, and hopefully that’ll help improve the frequency of our posts.

My cardboard beer “cellar”

Full disclosure right up front — I’m stealing this idea. But it’s a good one, so here goes.

I recently discovered Simply Beer, a blog run by Peter, a homebrewer and fellow nerd. One of the site’s best features is a tab with Peter’s beer cellar — an up-to-date snapshot of all the beer he has on hand. It’s quite a list, with dozens upon dozens of really good beers — some rare, some aged, some both. He even designates the really special stuff with an asterisk, which means that the beer is “not available for trade, unless it is something equally amazing I may consider”.

Well, I don’t have a cellar, and my collection is nowhere near as awesome as Peter’s. But I do keep 4 cardboard boxes full of beer in the coldest room in my apartment, and just yesterday I did some rearranging and updated the spreadsheet where I keep track of the beers.

Yeah, I keep a spreadsheet…this place is called Beer Nerds for a reason.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got:

Allagash Odyssey (bottled 7/09)
Anchor Christmas Ale (2 bottles, 2009 release)
Anchor Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale (2 bottles, bottled 1/14/09)
Avery Anniversary Ale Sixteen Saison (bottled 5/09)
Avery the Beast Grand Cru Ale (bottled 2009)
Avery Mephistopheles Stout (brewed 11/08)
Avery Old Jubilation Ale (2 bottles, 2009 release)
Avery Samael’s Oak-Aged Ale (bottled 4/09)
Baltika No. 6 Porter (“production date” 8/7/09)
Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru (best before 3/13/11)
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (3 bottles, Winter 09-10)
Dogfish Head Burton Baton (3 bottles, bottled 6/19/09)
Dogfish Head Immort Ale (4 bottles, bottled in 2009)
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (3 bottles, bottled 9/28/09)
Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre (bottled 3/23/09)
Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada Life & Limb (2 bottles, brewed 9/09)
Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2 bottles, 2006 release)
Fuller’s Vintage Ale (3 bottles, 2007 release)
George Gale Prize Old Ale (2007 release)
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (4 bottles, bottled 10/16/08)
Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Keizer (3 bottles, 2008 release)
Great Divide 15th Anniversary Wood-Aged Double IPA (bottled 6/19/09)
Great Divide Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (bottled 6/15/09)
Great Divide Hibernation Ale (3 bottles, bottled 10/29/08)
Great Divide Hibernation Ale (2 bottles, bottled 10/28/09)
Kulmbacher Eisbock (purchased 10/09)
Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale (purchased Fall 2008)
North Coast Old Stock Ale (2007 release)
North Coast Old Stock Ale (2008 release)
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence (purchased 12/09)
Otter Creek Imperial India Pale Ale (purchased 10/09)
Real Ale Sisyphus Barleywine Ale (2007 release)
Real Ale Sisyphus Barleywine Ale (2 bottles, 2008 release)
Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 8 (5 bottles, bottled 8/20/09)
Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 9 (12 bottles, bottled 11/11/09)
Samichlaus Bier (bottled 2007)
Samichlaus Bier Helles (bottled 2007)
Samuel Adams Double Bock (purchased early 2009)
Samuel Adams Imperial Stout (purchased early 2009)
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2 bottles, bottled 1/7/09)
Stone Imperial Russian Stout (2 bottles, released Spring 2009)
Stone Old Guardian Barleywine Style Ale (early 2009 release)
Victory WildDevil (bottled 4/22/09)

So there you go. By my count, that’s 85 beers, and I’ve got to admit that I’m pretty proud of the collection.

A couple of notes:

-As you can tell, I don’t know exactly how old all these beers are. I guess that’s part of the challenge. Some (such as most Great Divide releases) have the exact bottling date on the label. Others are once-a-year releases (Samichlaus, Stone IRS), so all you need to know is the year. For a few, a little bit of digging is enough to put a ballpark date on them. And for an annoying few, the only thing I know is when I bought them.

-The conditions in which I’m aging these beers are not ideal. I’m no expert, not at all, but from what I’ve heard and read, beer should be aged upright in a cool, dark place. I’ve got the upright and dark parts taken care of, but I don’t have a way to keep the beers at “cellar” temperature. Still, the coldest room in my apartment is pretty much always below 70 degrees, which is better than nothing. As Peter says in his own cellar description, you “work with what ya got”. Hopefully someday I’ll have a full-fledged beer fridge or cellar.

I plan on adding a tab that keeps my current inventory relatively up-to-date, and I’ll do my best to update folks on how these beers turn out.

I’d also love to hear what kind of beers other nerds are aging or simply saving for a rainy day.

Now I’m thirsty…

Site update, and the “Beeriodic Table”

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. Call it a holiday hangover. We certainly haven’t stopped drinking good beer, though, and that should lead to more content soon. We’ve also been active on Twitter, so if you’re following us there you’ve gotten a taste of all the good stuff we’ve sampled.

Speaking of “we” — I’m excited that a couple of the other Nerds are really close to writing their first posts for the blog. This was never intended to be a one-nerd operation, and I’ve pestered the other guys enough that they’re close to contributing. So keep an eye out for some different voices and viewpoints. Just remember that we’re all nerds, and we all love good beer.

One last thing: I received this link from a number of different people over the holidays. It’s a version of the Periodic Table, but instead of displaying chemical elements, it lists beer styles. A friend of a friend noted that it should be called the “Beeriodic Table”, and who am I to argue with that?

It’s pretty cool. Its best feature is the way it gives you a visual look at how different beer styles are related. If you know you like a certain style and you want to expand your palate, check the table for directions.

Let’s say you like Guinness, but you haven’t tried many other stouts. Guinness is considered an Extra Stout (or Irish Dry Stout, or Export Stout, depending on where you look and where you get it). Both Dry Stout and Foreign Extra Stout are on the Beeriodic Table. Below those styles, you’ll see Sweet Stout and Imperial Stout, respectively.

So next time you feel like a Guinness, push yourself a bit. Look for something such as a Mackeson Triple XXX or a Young’s Double Chocolate on the sweet side, and a Great Divide Yeti or Lagunitas Cappuccino on the imperial side.