Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sunday Hombre Funday Pt 2: No Cruza Enfrente del Autobus! (The #3 Pub Crawl)

The Twitternet has a habit of making pals out of strangers and because of some general common interests, like beer and music and America's war on sarcasm, the gents at the Austin Beer Guide have had ourselves some pretty hilarious online banter.  

Online affairs between social media dweebs, however, only keep their pretty sheen for so long before things wears off into perilous awkwardness.  Reflecting back, the ABG fellas are the kind of dudes who will only passingly acknowledge my massive brilliance in 140 character micro blogging, so, we did as chaps do, and that was to meet for beers IRL (In Real Life, Twitternoobs).

The plan was to entrust our Sunday to Capitol Metro and its #3 bus, and rely on our vital organs to see us through the madness to Monday morning.  And because I put a ton of value on professional development from those who allege beer-drinking-and-beer-writing as their forte, I was down for some continuing education from the ambassadors of Austin's beer scene. 

These are the lessons I learned on Sunday Hombre Funday Pt 2: No Cruza Enfrente del Autobus, or How to Crawl Pubs on the #3 with Two Bucks and a Debit Card.  (Read Hombre Sunday Funday Pt 1, here)

[note: names have been withheld to protect the guilty. -- AA]

10 AM

Its early as shit for a beer crawl, but thats cos we are living in the wilds of wives and kids.  As a pittance, we offer said wives/kids the opportunity to send us off on our voyage with a last-supper-like brunch, where a balloon man makes a solid bid for the gig of 'foul entertainment/talent' for the ABG Spring Release party.  Things are off to a great start. 

After we feast on light fare like fucking warriors, we dismiss the progeny and balloon talent away from the restaurant so that we may focus on our mission of conquering the bar portion of NXNW (Stop 1).  In a toast to men's liberation, we all drain a tulip of something barrel-aged like a murder of bosses. 

Lesson 1: When on a pub crawl with unfamiliars, always order the barrel-aged option to establish dominance, or else order something low-alcohol.  Its like the unwritten, but mutually acknowledged prison rule of either kicking the baddest dude's ass right away, or offer to become someone's bitch.  You want to let everyone know right away where you stand. 

We set out in Austin's northern wasteland suburbia in search of the most elusive fucking bus stop on Cap Metros entire map.  One would suspect given the ocean of surface parking and low-rise apartment complexes, these things would be easy to find.  Shit, there it is.

Lesson 2: Catch an early buzz because you're going to need it on the #3 Bus Pub Crawl.  This ties in with rule #1.  The first bus hunt is a bitch.  We're not telling where it is.

11:15 AM

11:45 AM

The main expectation of any bar tour that the first real stop will be something pretty damn special.  If you do it right and follow this guide, this is absolutely the case for this crawl.  Buddy's Place (Stop 2) is the oft-forgotten fourth stop on the overrated Burnet dive bar tour, we're saving it today from pub crawl exile.

We stroll into the limo-dark bar the way five lardy idiots from the internet would ...



Every time I stumble into a dive, I get the feeling that I'm fucking up some foreign-war townie's day as a result of my enthusiasm towards their favorite joint.  As a sign of humility and recognition of this, five beer nerds order five Lone Stars, ignoring Buddy's singular craft beer choice -- Boulevard's Single Wide IPA (I'm imagining Buddy on a Wild Turkey bender with the Keg One rep, being convinced that this is what would bring the jerks on a pub crawl into this bar.  Wrong, Buddy.  It's Lone Star.).  None of us are into vintage IPAs, anyway, so we pass and head over to the jukebox to load it with a shitload of Bob Seger. 

Eventually, between shuffle board games and Night Moves, someone notices that we should hustle to catch the next bus -- but urgency will not be in the cards today with this group.  We go back to our Seger and Lone Stars.

Lesson 3: Always bring a roll of quarters for the occasional chance of lifting a townie's spirit through the magic of heartland rock. 

12:20 PM

Balls.  Missed the bus.  We think.  Some of us keep staring up Burnet Road like passengers waiting to de-plane in row 55, while others try to figure out Cap Metro's QR code (which is surprisingly accurate, come to discover).  We need this guy to attract our ride ...


 
We think we have 20 minutes until the next pick up, which in crawl-years, is like two decades -- so we have some time to kill in any place in the vicinity serving anything stronger than Snapple.   

Lesson 4: Technology. Use it or lose it.

12:25 PM

Waterloo Ice House (Stop 2.5) smells like a fucking glazed donut inside.  Someone in the group mentions how depressing the place is.  No shit.  How can you call a bar Waterloo Ice House, and then give it absolutely no balls at all?  

Although there is a wall-length beer fridge and several taps facing us with what seem like pretty decent selection of craft beer, no one wants to really hang out too long in Waterloo effen Ice House as the next #3 wheezes past us with that cockstrain buses seem to use when ambling around town.  We are more uncertain about the ordering protocol here than we were at Buddy's Place, so we just order a pitcher of something benign and dwell upon our thoughts quietly.  All this glazed donut odor make me wish we'd been stranded at the Applebee's instead, so I could drink one of those signature frothy cocktails.  What are those things called? Mud Slides®? 

Lesson 5:  A well-timed pitcher can prevent over-ordering in a pub crawl time pinch.  These are called Pinchers®.

1:10 PM

Finally on the dang bus again and we're headed to Hopdoddy Burger Bar (Stop 3) for reasons I'm unwilling to accept, because Hopdoddy on a Saturday afternoon in a starter-home, two-kid Austin district is like walking up to the Fader Fort during a Fleet Foxes set.  I pause at the entrance because I'm not sure if I needed to RSVP for this shit.  



Luckily, we've got people on the inside.  They wave us through the swath of scene-dads, to where they are seated.  Two of the 48 members of the Bitch Beer Blog have real estate at the bar.  Ok, fine.  I'm humming Helplessness Blues out loud.

Aside from the fact that it looks like Hopdoddy is giving away free MacBooks, we feel comfortable enough to order some really good shit from the bartender, though he is slammed with pouring enormous goblets of beer to meat-choked daddies.  Fortunately, the ABG crew has no conscience and orders everyone a round of drinks.  Then another.  While most of us decide on something crafty, like Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap and Hops & Grain Alt-eration, one master-level crawler (male) in the group actually orders a bombastic drink that looks like this:



Lesson 6: Ironic drinks are the new ironic hats. 

Finally, my brain is treading in its own cerebrospinal fluid a little bit.  Goodness, yes, a buzz.  Who's ready to fucking party?  But wait -- the familiar stab of fear as we gather ourselves to leave ... more folding of the arms, more northward gazing up Burnet for our public carriage.  I order one more for the road.  

Lesson 7: Between the decision of yes and no, always order another.

2:15 PM

We're on the porch of Billy's on Burnet (Stop 4), which is frankly one of the best beer bars in all of Austin.  Its also a place where, individually, we've all spent an immeasurable hours enjoying sunshine and fantastic pints of local brews.  Everyone is cool and collected and knows all the words to the song.  Billy's isn't a challenge.  Billy's isn't difficult.  Billy's is home.  

Lesson 8: Pub crawls are pointless so long as Billy's still exists.

3:30 PM

Mercifully, we ditch the bus and hoof it over to Pinthouse Pizza (Stop 5).  I'm starting to feel whatever pint it was that I ordered at Billy's that I actually had two of.  Everything is great.  I browse the beer board and notice that Pinthouse still has the barrel-aged imperial stout magic that is Jaguar Shark on tap. 



Pinthouse Pizza Beer Board: Shall we play a game?
An Avenue: Love to.  How about Jaguar Shark?
PHPBB: Wouldn't you prefer a good session beer?
AA:  Later. Let's play Jaguar Shark.
PHPBB: Fine. 

Jaguar Shark is the anesthetic on my face that I'd been waiting for all afternoon.  Now my mouth is flapping away and my tongue moves like it has fur on it.  This is the salve of a barrel-aged imperial stout.  A great one.  This is fun.  I am having fun. 

I'm pretty buzzed. 
 
Lesson 9: Lesson 1 is bullshit.  Never order a barrel-aged beer while on a pub tour.  The winning move is ... not to play.

I think I'm getting fucked up.

 
4:30 PM

If Billy's is our home, then The Draught House (Stop 6) is our church -- the place where we all congregate and worship and gossip and speak in tongues.  

The guys discuss the possiblility of beginning an online Kickstarter for money towards a ride back to our houses.  Why did we turn this hobby into a job? ...

5:30 PM

... but through the shrubbery of the pub's trough gardens, our wives!  Our children!

Rides home!  Salvation!

Lesson 10: The enduring truth? Get married. Its a ride home from the #3 pub crawl.

Note: I stole all of these pictures off of the internet.  I know its hard to believe they weren't from the actual crawl.  Bonus lesson: bring a camera. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bishop's Barrel #2 Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Old Ale on Cherries | Saint Arnold Brewing | Houston, TX

I only recently realized that the way I've been buying beer over the course of the last two years is just absolutely horrifying to me.  

I'm not necessarily referring to the financial angle of my beer buying habits, no -- though that it is equally retch inducing.  

I'm speaking of matters a bit more emotive in terms of how I'm buying beer lately.  I suspect that the  natural evolution of beer nerdery is the progressive hunt for a better hit than the previous one.  The last whiskey barrel aged beer gave a four hour erection?  Super.  Then the next one better be a heart-arresting thrill ride to Boys Town.  I suspect that similar to actual junkies, beer hounds are looking for quality grade drugs in an ocean of Okie-caliber meth.  Well, okay, that's not entirely fair to the craft industry who makes very agreeable, sessionable, school-night beers --  however the theory still remains: I'm an abject street cat who has savored the taste of ōtoro and is experiencing difficulty going back to a diet of StarKist on the weekdays.  My beer buying habits reflect this.

Almost dissolved in the [AA] household is the dependable joy of committing to a 12-pack of microbrew for the explicit duty of getting us through the work week, for welcoming friends over to the porch, lining up the small infantry of recyclable musketeers on the rail like the skins of a hunt.  A 12-pack of fresh, grocery store bottles cramming the top shelf of the house fridge like a stack of Kinks or Otis Redding albums on the turntable denoting very imminent sensory pleasure.

At some point during the crossover from enjoying beer, to fussing over beer, the idea to stock the fridge with reliable friends goes away, and the focus shifts to the next great hit from the beer cellar.  Fuck all that.  Drinking craft used to be about the atmosphere and the company and the stack of records serenading us through the open window.  I'm gonna get back to that.  I'm going to leave all that slapdickery about "shelf beer" to the micropenises on Beer Advocate.  Because that's the kind of misery someone too involved with being a beer junkie should have to deal with.

----

I started drinking handsomely crafted ales in the pub mentioned at the bottom of this piece many years before I should have been legally able to; long before admission into Local State University -- possibly around the time many of you reading were still fapping to Six from Blossom, admiring your neighbor's Ford Probe, and talking shit on Netscape. 

Back then, craft beer came from England, and Belgium, and Germany -- but instead of craft beer, we called them 'imports' to denote our acquaintance with a higher class of beer.  These early beer bars were more like English- or Irish-style pubs, filled to the rafters with pre-conglomerate draws of aristocratic shit like Newcastle and Bass and Hoegaarden.  There were so few American microbrews represented, it almost seems comical to refer back to them now as the harbingers of Texas craft: A single variety of Shiner, Celis Pale Bock, Celis Raspberry, and Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde.  Breweries which, at the time, just kind of flitted around making less beer than the big guys spilled. 

And though The Ginger Man was where I went to get my Tetley's and Half & Halfs and Carlsbergs,  not many Americans ever really seemed to quite connect with them as well as we do their later American counterparts, like interpreting Aussie Rules Football to the NFL.

---- 

I am thankful to have had cool and interesting parents who, during our youths, thought the idea of taking their kids to lunch at a brewpub or a tour through a production brewery was solid vacation entertainment.  If nothing else, I owe it to them to get back to the true nature of enjoying craft beer, without all the fuss of looking for that final hit.  I try to explain it to them now, but I can see that it bores them.  They aren't even really drinkers, so to speak.  To them, craft beer it was all about atmosphere and culture -- like the 1990s version of the Ginger Man vibe or a 12-pack between friends.


Only recently did I return to The Ginger Man to remember what all that fuss was about two decades ago.  And although the location is different, it was nice to reflect on all that budding nostalgia from my school days, which I've carried with me for a long time now. 


Its really spectacular to see the G-Man beer-wall evolve like the palate of some youthful punter into an honorable gentleman -- from flouty imports, to casually dabbling in national microbrews, to a nearly-exclusive local culling of craft beer.  In my opinion, this is the proper way to handle the hobby -- a solid selection of perennials with a sometimes treat from their limited release selection. 


On this night, the Ginger Man was offering something pretty interesting: Bishop's Barrel #2 by Saint Arnold Brewery, the successive iteration of an [AA] favorite, Bishop's Barrel #1.  And so, after a round of workday regulars, we ordered one, though, in a move towards declassifying beer as special or necessary, this one was casually ordered and parsed between friends.  This was to be my final hit, but let's be clear about this. There's final hits and final hits. What kind was this to be?

Bishop's Barrel #2 is the result of taking Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale, adding sour cherries, and aging in Chardonnay barrels over the course of 14 months.  The brewery only released a few more than 1,100 cases of it, and a few of them reached Austin, intended to be sold exclusively in bars and restaurants around town.  Naturally, this caused a bit of a stir with the beer community who began heavy pursuit of the few out there for public-only consumption. 

What I found interesting about this beer that had been put away for 14 months to ferment and gain specific characteristics, is that it really started strong and faded quickly, like nickel bubble gum or a Daniel Johnston gig.  There is a definitive sherry note, which is really capable of directing the beer, yet it dissolves into a sloppy finish of slick white wine.  I must have missed the oak entirely.  Like, in every sip it takes to finish twelve ounces.

I suppose I expected something that had aged for 14 months and carried a very respectable 8% ABV to be a bit more muscular and mature.  Overall, it was a nice beer, just not spectacular as was BB1. It was like a really good band's third album, leaving me just a bit underwhelmed and anticipatory.

But that is okay, you see: I'm choosing life, I'm choosing a job, I'm choosing a big fucking television, washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers.  And I'm choosing a future of Lawnmowers on the porch.  Twelve of them.  Just between me and my mates.

ABV 7.8%
Acquired The Ginger Man [Austin]
Can I Find This in Austin? It will likely pop up here-and-there over the next few months.
Album Pairing Third Eye Blind | Out of the Vein (2003)