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San Antonio Breweries: Blue Star Brewery

This is my first full day back from my trip to San Antonio. I really enjoyed the city, did not enjoy the heat or the humidity. As with any new place I go, I look to see what breweries are around so that I can visit them and taste what they have to offer. The first stop on San Antonio’s brewery list (of 2) was Blue Star Brewery. The brewery opened in 1996 and is located in the Blue Star Arts complex, which is essentially converted factories.

The general vibe of the place is pretty simple. There is a simple menu, none of the decorations are super complex, and the staff’s attire isn’t fancy. It is the kind of place I dig. My wife and I walked there as it was only 3/4 of a mile away from our hotel but my wife swears it was over a mile. All I have to say is that the GPS doesn’t lie. Win! When you walk into the place you are greeted by a line of stainless steel tanks and a seating area to the right. Behind a glass wall at the back of the building is the actual kettle and all of the “hot” parts of the brewery. The bar is backed with the stainless steel tanks.

The had eight different beers on tap when we were there, including one on cask. They had everything from a pilsner to a stout to an English IPA (cask and keg versions). Each sample glass we had came in at about $1.25 with a few of the higher ABV beers costing up to $1.99. Pretty standard prices from my experience.

The pilsner was solid with a nice light but flavorful body and a slight hop crispness at the end. The pale ale was on the more pine side of the hop flavors but it was solid. It also leaned a bit more towards the hop end of the balance. The amber was my wife’s favorite beer and was a solid amber with a nice malt component an a bready aftertaste. The stout was a real treat, very straightforward but balanced and a great, smooth roast flavor on the backend. The English IPA was more hoppy than what I was expecting. If was an American IPA it would of fit in better, but it did have a wonderful malt backbone that fully supported the hops. They also had a cask version of the beer which was excellent and really toned down the hops and brought out a nice malt complexity. The final beer was the King William Barley Wine which rocked in at 11% ABV. It was good, but I think there was too much heat in there to make it a smooth drinking barelywine.

Overall I really enjoyed the Blue Star Brewery. Since I have lived in Texas I have noticed that service at restaurants has been lackluster to say the least. The Blue Star staff was wonderful (our server was Allen) and always made sure that we had what we needed. My only real complaint was that their menu is very limited. We did commit one crime in ordering according to The Naked Pint, and that was that we ordered a pitcher of their amber. According to the book you should never order a pitcher. I don’t think it really matters and that’s why we did so. The beers were solid, the food was pretty good, and the service was outstanding.

Beer Review #61 Mighty Arrow

Summer may have started on Monday, but today I have a spring beer to review. I said in my last post that I had a backlog of beer reviews, I figured that I should get my last spring beer out of the pipeline before I start moving forward with the other reviews. Might Arrow comes from New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. The beer is actually named for a dog that “ran the brewery” for 12 years. The brewers that the following to say about their beloved Arrow.

This is our brewed tribute to Arrow, Kim’s Aussie/Border Collie mix who ran (literally) New Belgium for 12 years. When she wasn’t patrolling the brewery grounds, she was famous for her office visits: She never met a tummy rub she didn’t like. Atta girl Arrow.

Might Arrow pours a nice bright orange color and it is perfectly clear. A wonderful fluffy white head compliments this beer. The nose is full of bright hops with some hints of grapefruit in there. You can absolutely notice the cascade hops that are used in the beer. Other than the hops there isn’t much to the nose. The typical earthy New Belgium yeast that you can smell on most of their beers, is not present on this ale.

After tasting the beer is as hoppy as the nose promises. It is not as highly hopped as an IPA but on the hoppier side of a pale ale. The earthiness that I didn’t pickup in the nose is there on the taste. You can almost always tell a New Belgium beer from another brewery’s because of their yeast. Holds true on this beer. There is a nice balance in the beer as well. It is still on the hoppier side, but is nicely in balance.

This beer is super drinkable. I absolutely loved it. I wish this was a year-round production. This is an mind-blowing beer, it is just very solid and a joy to drink. It comes in at 6% ABV is it is sessionable as well. Sorry that this review came out after this beer is out of it’s production schedule but if you find it grab as much as you can of it. You will not be disappointed. (more…)

Beer Review #60 Snake Dog IPA

We have reached the end of the week of Flying Dog. There have been a great number of different beers tried (5 to be exact) and I think that they were all pretty solid. Snake Dog IPA is as solid as the others. It comes in as the biggest beer of the bunch at 7.1% ABV and 60 IBUs. This beer is also dry hopped with Columbus hops. Exciting.

The beer pours an orange amber color and is perfectly clear. There is a large off-white head to goes along with the pour. The nose is full of hops. Go figure, a IPA that smells hoppy. These hops are very bright like the pale ale, it might do due to the fact that both beers are dry hopped, but I really have no idea.  These particular hops give off a piney smell more than anything else.There is some malt in there, along with some caramel, but the hops really dominate the nose.

On first tasting I was pretty happy with the malt backbone in the beer. It was strong enough to support the hop that dominates the beer itself. There are some caramel and bread notes, but you more just get the hop than most other things. The hops have a really wonderful mix of pine and citrus. Some beers really blow you away on the piney hops, which I really don’t care for, but Snake Dog IPA was a nice mix of both varieties of hop flavors. As far as balance goes, this one is a bit out of balance and learns more towards the hop end of things. For an IPA that is fine, and can almost be expected.

The mouthfeel is medium and creamy. I think this beer is very drinkable. It isn’t my style of beer as I am not a huge hop head but the beer has enough other features to offer that it was enjoyable. I have had better IPAs but just like the rest of Flying Dog’s beers it is a solid example of a style of beer. If you are looking for a good tasting of an IPA, this beer is for you. (more…)

Beer Review #58 Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale

Day three of our week of Flying Dog and today we bring you Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale. There are a lot of Pale Ales out there today and the take on them can be very vaired. Depending on how the brewer designs the beer, it can be malty with slight hops or less malty with a fair bit of hops. Doggie Style does a nice job of giving a good malt body while also delivering on the hops. The hop component might be punched up a bit because of the fact that they dry hop this beer with “buckets full of Cascades for an unrivaled hop flavor and aroma.”

Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale pours a nice amber color and is perfectly clear. It also comes with a large off-white head. The nose of the beer hits you with hops. And they are bright hops. When I say bright hops I am referring to the fact that they smell fresh and clean. Often when hops age they have a staler odor to them and don’t really hit your nostrils. Bright hops on the other had have an unrivaled smell and you can feel the difference in your nose. Behind the bight hops is some slight malt.

On my first taste I was surprised about how much malt I could get. There was a nice mix of caramel in there as well. Soon after was the hops. The nice thing about this pale ale is that the hops are there, but do not overwhelm the beer. It is such a well balanced beer. The sweetness of the malt and the dryness/bitterness that comes from the hops mix and do a wonderful job of equalizing each other while not canceling each other out. I also noticed an ever so small hint of so heat (alcohol) in there.

The mouthfeel is light to medium and has good carbonation. Overall I would say this is an extremely drinkable beer. I enjoyed it a lot. It comes in at 5.5% ABV and rocks 35 IBUs. I generally tend to lean away from pale ales as the majority of them I have had recently lose all sense of balance and just overdue it with the hops. Not Doggie Style, it is wonderfully balanced. I could drink this in the fall, spring, or summer. If you are looking for a great example of a Pale Ale this is a beer for you. (more…)

Beer Review #55 Full Sail Pale Ale

When my wife and I look our honeymoon to Portland, Oregon we had our first taste of Full Sail beers. Since living in Texas, I have gotten to taste them more regularly since they distribute here. Full Sail Brewing Company is based out of Hood River, Oregon and is completely employee-owned by 47 employees. Full Sail Amber is one of my favorite amber beers, in fact I think it may be the most classic example of an American Amber Ale out there. These guys don’t mess around when it comes to making quality beer.

Full Sail Pale Ale pours a bright amber color with a nice white head that lasts all the way through. As you expect from a pale ale it is perfectly clear. The nose has some nice hoppy aromas with bits of sweetness from the malt and also a few bready smells as well. Very clean and nice to say the least.

On the taste of the beer you will get the malt sweetness up front, with come bread/caramel, then followed by the hops. The hops are very crisp and leave easily and without any fuss. Some of the bread flavors hang around long after the hops are gone, which I really enjoyed. Unlike some Pale Ales that try to be something special, this one seems to take a straightforward approach and succeeds very well. The whole KISS principle worked very nicely here. The balance was perfect and the taste is everything a pale ale should be. Unlike an IPA where the hops leads the way (but should still be balanced) a pale ale can be slightly hop forward or slightly malt forward. This one leads a bit towards the hop end, but the balance is right there.

This brew is medium bodied and is slightly creamy. In terms of drinkability it is spot on. A wonderfully drinkable beer great for any time of the year. As I said before nothing on this beer jumps out at you and says this is something “wild and crazy” but it is a great example of a wonderfully brewed pale ale. I highly recommend it, I don’t think you will be disappointed. (more…)