Hi. Remember me? I wrote this thing about Tillman’s and got all choked up about tater tots. When Carol asked me last week to write something about beer, I said, “Oh. Well, I like beer.” And then she showed me a photo of the beers Bolsa Mercado has just gotten in stock. I said, “I recognize most of these. They can’t be THAT interesting.” But I’m no aficionado. The only reason I recognized some of the labels is thanks to my good friend Michael (yes, the one who says that not liking seafood is akin to not liking sandwiches). He really likes beer, in an intelligent sort of way, and he knows a lot about it.
Thus, I have dubbed this thing “Beers With Friends,” in which I gather Michael and two other friendly persons with distinguished palates, PCP’s Bradford Pearson and his fiancée Kelleen, to drink hoppy stuff and talk about it like humans with a limited budget for booze-buying. We will strive for equal parts real opinion and total BS (like when I say something ridiculous like “I definitely think this tastes like beer.”) Hopefully, you have fun and learn something new, which is how last Thursday night went down for us.
What we did: Secured a random selection of beers available now at Bolsa Mercado, with a special request for any Jester King beer. Michael brought three bonus wild card bottles from his beer cellar, AKA his closet, but I’m saving those for Part II of this post. We tried to use correct glassware for beer type when possible. Mostly it wasn’t possible. To provide us with sustenance, I picked up a selection of cheeses, my favorite gluten-free crackers (Almond Nut Thins, which were pronounced “crunchy”), water crackers, Gypsy salami, two Cane Rosso pizzas, and a pound of Haribo gummy bears. More on those later. After snacking, we got down to business, drinking from light to dark.
Initial thoughts: Cider at a beer tasting? Better knock it out first. I reminisced about the time my friends came back from their study abroad experience in Prague and wanted to drink nothing but Polish pils and Magners.
About the brew:
Brad: “I could probably drink more than one of these, and that says something because I don’t really care for cider that much.”
Michael: “I just feel like it’s going to give me a hangover.”
Brad: “Oh, all the time. One time I got really sh**housed on Woodchuck. It was a summer in college, on the balcony of an apartment building in Philadelphia, and I just remember the next being like…this is not good. It’s one of those things where you don’t even enjoy it while it’s happening.”
The semi-related tangent:
Brad: “I feel like since we’ve moved here, and I’ve been thinking but I never had anyone else to bounce this off of, bars in Texas, and just the beer scene in Texas is fantastic. It’s really big, and people care. Like, I didn’t expect it all. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Michael: “It’s just happening in Dallas. You’re here for the beginning of that. Austin’s always been better. But what’s spectacular is that it’s way better than it should be with all the roadblocks that the government and the TABC have set up to keep it from happening.”
Brad: “I was at a city council hearing today about when a microbrewery wants to have a brewpub.”
Michael: “You cannot sell your beer and retail. You can’t have a true brew pub here because if you sell your beer on premises you cannot sell retail. Jester King sued the TABC over that. That’s one of the biggest issues. And there’s a bunch of other stuff, just stupid, no reason to exist laws about naming. You can’t call something a ‘strong ale.’”
Brad: “Because people are going just think they’re going to get s***housed on it.”
Field notes: Tastes like natural apple juice, not apple juice with a bunch of sugar added sweet. None of us like or drink juice on a regular basis. Like grapefruit juice, sour beers destroy your stomach lining and give you heartburn. This cider was good, for cider, and not overly sweet.
Spend dollars on it? Only if you like cider, and only if you can pour it into a sippy cup.
Initial thoughts: Michael’s the only one who’s had this beer before, and he said to do this one next to “get it over with.” I am complimented on my excellent snack choices, especially the salami, which was thanks to the nice elderly meat counter guy at Central Market who told me he’d been waiting for me his whole life. Brad reveals that he had some bourbon before we arrived.
About the brew:
Brad: “Wait. I’ve had this before. At Union Bear. I like it. I like white beers a lot.”
Michael: “I don’t. Generally. There’s something with witbiers and Belgian whites, whatever you want to call them, that just tastes chemical-y on the back end. It’s a weird sweetness that I’ve just never ever been a fan of.”
Kelleen: “It’s actually pretty refreshing.”
Michael: “I say I don’t like witbiers. What I mean is, on my grading scale, not a huge fan. I will still drink it, happily. This is not a particularly good example of a white ale, though. I feel largely this doesn’t have very much taste.”
The semi-related tangent:
Brad: “I think it’s so interesting. Everyone tastes things so differently. I mean, the biggest thing is cilantro.”
Michael: “People think it tastes like soap. And I love it.”
Brad: “People either really like cilantro, or it’s like their mouth is just washed out with soap.”
Michael: “It’s one of the things I consider a legitimate food aversion. One of few.”
Brad: “As opposed to Liz’s aversion to all seafood.” Pause. “Liz doesn’t like caramel, either.”
Michael: “Avery makes another beer called Rumpkin that’s 15% ABV. Maybe more. Pumpkin beer aged in Gosling’s Black Seal Rum barrels. It is a f**king difficult glass of beer to get through. I have another bottle in my closet right now. It’s really sweet. It’s real syrupy. They also make an IPA called Maharaja. A little sweet, but pretty good.”
Field notes: Pours especially nice in a tulip glass. Tastes floral, Belgian yeasty sweet/spiciness. Notes of coriander and orange peel. As a comparison, similar to Hoegaarden, though Hoegaarden is sweeter. Drinkable because it’s so unobtrusive, but does have that chemical-esque aftertaste.
Spend dollars on it? For backyard barbecue that requires something besides Bud Light and if you already like white beers, absolutely.
Initial Thoughts: Brad’s getting impatient. He’s dancing a little bit. We’re looking at a Belgian strong pale ale, pours nicely in the tulip glass with a tall head. Pretty wheat color.
About the brew:
Brad: “This might be my favorite of the three.”
Kelleen: “Is this too sweet for you, Michael? I like it, but I feel like you might think it’s too sweet.”
Brad: “You can really tell the difference in the carbonation when you go from that [Jolly Pumpkin Luciernaga] to this.”
Michael: “They feel like big bubbles.”
Brad: “It’s different. I probably would have figured it out if you hadn’t said it, but you can really tell. It’s a very distinct difference.”
Kelleen: “Brad’s confidence is insane. ‘I probably would have figured it out.’ Bull sh**!”
Michael: “No, it’s like the difference between Coke carbonation and Champagne carbonation. Drink this, and the Brookyn beer I brought is brewed with champagne yeast. It’ll be a tighter carbonation.”
Brad: “I do like this one.”
Kelleen: “I like that saison-y taste.”
Michael: “It is nice and malty.”
Brad: “I’m just doing that Brooklyn dance.”
Liz: “Unattractive cackle.”
Kelleen: “OH NO. This cannot be another Glühwine night. I have an interview tomorrow.”
Brad: “Aw, no. It’s not a Glühwine night.”
Kelleen: “You all remember the Glühwine night.”
Brad: “I don’t think he [Michael] does.”
Kellen: “No, YOU [Michael] left in a chocolate chip coma, while at the end of the night Brad was drunk off of Glühwine, polished off the Robert Mondavi out of the big bottle, and then was like doing karate kicks shirtless in the middle of the family room.”
Field notes: Coats the mouth, fizzy on the tongue thanks to the the character of the carbonation. At 9% ABV, easy to drink.
Spend dollars on it? Yep. A good buy for sharing with friends.
Initial Thoughts: The bottle is scary. The stout is appropriately dark and thick. Michael is excited about this, because it’s one of the Austin brewery’s newer farmhouse beers, meaning they’re using multiple strains of yeast to create a unique-to-the-brewery taste. He’s had the non-farmhouse version of Black Metal, and liked it.
About the brew:
Michael: “This is some f**king delicious sh**.”
Brad: “This is really good.”
Michael: “I actually like it better than the non-farmhouse yeast version. Originally when they released it, they weren’t using their farmhouse yeast yet.”
Brad: “Oh my god. It tastes like it’s one of those 85% pure cocoa chocolate bars.”
Michael: “It’s got a lot of dark chocolate. Not as much coffee as some. Good carbonation, which is nice for a stout. And that sweetness. That Belgian yeast sweetness is not bad here. Floral…”
Brad: “It balances it out more than a lot of other stouts. because a lot of stouts, as you said earlier, are sort of cloying. And you drink one, and you’re like, ‘okay. I might switch out.’ But this is much more floral, it’s easier to drink, and the bitterness sort of hits you at the back end.”
Michael: “It’s a lot higher IBU than most stouts…International Bitterness Units. This is the beer that put Jester King on the map. It’s one of the…in the beer trading scene, their stuff is sought after. One of the few Texas beers.”
Kelleen: “So Michael, what’s your favorite beer of all time?”
Michael: “That’s not a good question to ask.”
Kelleen: “That’s like asking a film student what their favorite movie is.”
Liz: Star Wars. Duh.
Brad: Did you know there’s someone in this room that hasn’t seen Star Wars?”
Kelleen: “I haven’t…”
Liz: KELLEEN! Han Solo was my first crush!
Michael: I am tempted to say, just hold out. Because not many people can say it.
Brad: But this wasn’t even the toughest thing for me to hear that she hadn’t seen. She hasn’t seen any of the Rocky movies, either.
Field notes: Brad and Michael loved this beer, finding it rich but perfectly balanced (though Michael does wish they’d bourbon barrel age it). I was less enthused, because despite the carbonation, it still tasted so heavy (as a stout should.)
Spend dollars on it? If you already like stouts, Black Metal might just blow your mind. Drink farmhouse whenever possible.
Final word: Out of these four, Black Metal emerged as the overall favorite, while I found Brooklyn Local No. 1 perfect for sharing at a dinner (an acceptable alternative bringing over a bottle of wine) while White Rascal could serve as an unexpected but welcome contribution to a pool or patio party.
Stay tuned for Part II of Beers With Friends, in which we discuss three fun beers difficult to get in Dallas unless you go spelunking in Michael’s closet, and why it’s a bad idea to bring gummy bears to a beer tasting. The answer may or may not be obvious.