Recently, The Dallas Morning News asked us to provide some content to their beer blog. Great source for all things boozy in Dallas. You should take a read. This was my most recent post.
Being the first week to go triple digits, we all need to start to think about ways to keep our sanity. F.O.E pool, Topo Chico, watermelons, cold showers, apartment pool raids and you know what goes well with all that…….beer. Not just any beer though. Not many people want a dank, sweet Double IPA or a massive Imperial Stout or a Barley Wine It would be like drinking 93% caramelized humidity. Imagine walking up and saying, ‘I will take the sweetest glass of Houston you got”. There are many obvious choices and most are correct–hoppy pilsners, wheat and wits, session pales. Those will all do nicely. However, since you have taken the time to read a beer blog, you might be interested in beers off the beaten path. Let’s discuss my big three of the moment.
Prairie Artisan Funky Gold Mosaic. We could talk about the fermentation with wine yeast, Lactobacillus and two strains of Brett. We can talk about Colin Healey’s dream that he shares on every Prairie Artisan beer label. Or, that Chase Healey is a new father every time he brews a beer. The point I am trying to make is that they do everything with love and they truly care. Let us enjoy their family’s latest child; Funky Gold Mosaic is a Mosaic dry hopped version of Prairie Gold. It stops everyone in their tracks whether they enjoy it or not and that always says something. Quite often, they enjoy the hell out of it. FGM conjures up fantasies of running naked on a deserted island in a hurricane of pineapples, lemons and mandarin oranges. Every time you get hit with a 175 mph fruit, your brain absorbs the juicy flavors. This beer would put Willy Wonka’s imagination to shame. It is borderline psychedelic. You get all those citrus/tropical notes in the nose and then it crushes down on your tongue as soon as you start sipping. FGM finishes dry and acidic and refreshing and will have you clamoring for more. At 6.5%, you can have three and feel as calm as the eye of a storm. As you read this, Funky Gold Mosaic has been in DFW for about a week and everyone is running to the beer aisles as if a Category 5 is coming. Find it now!!
Oude Gueze Boon. Pronounced ‘bone’. This beer is almost everywhere. You just didn’t know to look for it. You can find it at Whole Foods, crafty beer bars and craft bottle shops but no one really knows about it which is a shame. Oude Gueze is an old tradition Belgian style that has seen a recent uptick the past few years as palates for been have sophisticated. It is not a style for everyone but it isn’t an obtuse style that wouldn’t totally offend anyone. Boon, along with Cantillon and a handful of other very small Belgian artisanal breweries, resurrected this style in the 80’s from the wasteland of cheap pilsners in Belgium. I won’t go into the history lesson of spontaneous fermentation here. I won’t go into how rare these beers are or the patience needed to produce them. White whales can drive you crazy, Captain Ahab. The reason Boon is especially interesting is because they recently opened the largest and first automated lambic brewery in the world. What does that mean? Most gueze/lambic producers might be able to produce 2000 barrels a year….for the world. That sounds like a lot but trust me, it’s not. That is not the case for Boon anymore and you can already see that in the Texas market with availability and cost. Cantillon would go for $40 as a friendly price in Texas if it ever made it and you would have to be a brother-in-law to get it. Oude Boon Gueze is readily available for $12-$18 in bars and stores. Most beer knurds always want what they can’t have in Texas. However, Boon is everywhere and worth every penny but always gets over looked. Oude Boon Gueze drinks like a spring time romp through a citrus orchard. Thrilling effervescence, bursts of citrus, waterfalls of refreshing acidity and funky earth from the Senne River Valley all escape when you uncork a bottle and drink a glass. It takes three years to produce a bottle of Oude Gueze and an hour to drink it. It is funny how the world works sometimes. Grab it next time you are at Whole Foods or in a lobby of a Best Western in Beersel, Belgium.
And finally, Petrus Aged Pale. This was one of the first barrel aged tart….or sour, if you will, beers I ever drank. It is continually passed over in stores but it is there at craft bottle shops. This beer has been aged for 24-36 months in oak barrels. No big deal right? It is only the mother beer to an entire brewery’s line of blended beers that they offer. Aged Pale is blended into every beer they produce, I believe. The Aged Pale is the straight uncut dope. This is the real pucker deal of tart barrel aged beers of West Flanders beer. Straight to the point…dry as a brut…green apple as a warhead candy….dank, funky 100 year oak barrel/yeast. There isn’t anything quite like it on the market. You can find four packs for $12-14 around town.
Many beers will do the trick this summer but if you want to get some serious dry, refreshing acidic beers to quench your mind and straighten yourself out, you could start with these. Put on those jean shorts, tuck that watermelon under your arm, find that apartment pool and pop an Oude Gueze Boon. It might feel like double digits for a while?
Pairs nicely with vinyl of Black Mountain, Sleep and Velvet Underground.
Alright. Love Child dropped. You have permission to freak the hell out. The crazy-maker is back and it happens. In the middle of it, years never seem to pass so slowly as when between Love Children, and surely the next few months will fly by as we enjoy all that we can.
Number Four is no less a beast as any of the other Children, but this is an creature in its youth. We are here to joyously watch it take its first steps into the world as we prepare to follow its journey through life and maturation. This entire beer screams of youthful bravado. On the nose you’ll find bright red fruit among wood and telltale wild-fermentation characteristics. Sour cherries and blackberries, earthy and tart rhubarb. This is 50% aged in bourbon barrels and 15% aged in wine foeders and it shows from the start. Peppery oak and tobacco with a subtle caramel sweetness interweave with classic spicy Brett funk that only grows as the beer warms in your hand.
On the palate, aggressive tartness dominates. I mean dominates. This is a child shrieking to be heard. Blindingly bright lemon acidity and an almost moisture wicking sodium quality that I can only compare to that of a cherry-flavored Atomic Warhead, abruptly softens to whiskey vanilla and a winy warmth before a sneakily lingering finish of bitter tannins and a puckering sourness.
This is definitely one for the Sourheads and We Who Worship the Tart will watch with focused interest while this beer mellows and expands. The label declares, “It will change as it ages, but don’t we all?” And honestly, Boulevard, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Up next is Wild Beer Co. Modus Vivendi, an old ale fermented with Brett and aged in single-use bourbon barrels for 90 days. Wild Beer is new to Texas from the U.K. and I personally am excited to see beers like these coming out of one of my favorite beer-producing regions.
Their brewery is set up at an honest-to-god dairy within rolling pastures and orchards that seem to supply their Somerset terroir yeast strains. Their website is geared toward making these wild and barrel-aged ales accessible for people who might not have had much experience with them. They take part in a beer and cheese festival that I’m actually a little upset at this being the first time I’ve ever heard of something so magical. And they’ve even collaborated with a local bakery for a neo-Berliner Weisse fermented with a 58 year-old sourdough yeast strain. They’ve an obvious passion for innovation within the traditional view of beer and food as the perfect bedfellows and it warms and excites me to see so many of these beers on our local market.
Modus Vivendi itself is a fine beer with a profile and complexity that will be familiar to anyone with a taste for the wild. On the nose, sour cherries appropriately meet you first with subdued funk and bitter oak that all fold into a jammy fruitness around dry, pungeunt black pepper. Brett and oak and tartness are here in droves, but held in a very concise balance
On the palate, caramel malt and burnt honey sweetness roll in first. The sourness of Modus Vivendi is infinitely more understated and restrained on the palate than on the nose, letting the dense, malty base of the old ale style take the stage with accents of oak tannins and mild berry tartness at the edges. The finish is characteristically dry that turns slightly fruitier as it warms a bit with mild notes of floral Noble hops All in all, this is a delightful sour that seriously whets the palate for all else the brewery has to offer us now that it’s made it to Texas.
Oh yes, it’s sour times at the Moth these days, but the good kind. The kind with beer.
From prehistorical China to ancient Greece, from the cradle of civilization to the barbarian hordes of the north, fermented honey is thought to be the first of all fermented beverages that, millennia later, we still enjoy. Of those, it’s maybe mead we’re most familiar with and of those it’s mead we maybe have the most narrow notions of. Like cider or port, mead does not have to be simple and overwhelmingly sweet, but due to lack of quality products in our local market, that’s the idea that’s taken hold. A few months ago, however, our local market was enriched with the arrival of Dansk Mjød, traditional mead from Denmark. The Viking Blod has made its rounds and we’ve seen the Klapøjster as well, but it’s G.I Dansk Mjød (Old Danish Mead) that stands out to me as one of the most interesting, complex things I’ve had the pleasure to experience.
This is a spiced mead or a metheglin with ginger and hops. This is not the sugar bomb you might remember from the Rennaissance Faire. This is born of a centuries-old recipe that accomplishes an exquisite balance acquired through time across history. Initially, honey-sweetness will hit you on the nose along with premonitory alcoholic heat, but display a modicum of patience and you will find floral honeysuckle, herbal aloe vera alongside golden apple and unmistakably honey-drenched pears. Let this warm just a bit and find a grassy, breezy scent that strikes up crisp images of lush green forests and rich soil. I can almost see the last snows giving way to spring and the impossible jade of freshly emancipated pasture.
On the palate rests a deep, luscious sweetness with peach, more pear, and spicy ginger that sinks languidly to candy as bitter florals linger on the finish like a marauding army that has found its purchase. Try this over ice with fruit, at room temperature as you would Portwine, or hot. Seriously, try this hot. Wait until it’s twenty-eight degrees outside then warm – do not boil – five or ten ounces in a pot on the stove. Mulled mead in the depths of winter is an underappreciated wonder.
Now, perhaps it’s my own penchant for the sword and sorcery or the slightly anachronistic quality of honey wine, but I’ve not tasted anything quite so vividly evocative. Here history and fantasy blur in intricate balance. So free your imagination, have a horn of nectar and waft an ancient and sweet spring wind that once soared over deep fields of Scandinavian grass, or that still blows today, in the North of our hearts.
I remember the first time I had Turkish coffee, I remember the first time I had kimchi, I remember the first time I had a Belgian sour, and I will remember the first time I had Prairie Artisan Ales Wine Barrel Noir. The world is full of things we know well, but unless you’re Anthony Bourdain or just filthy stinking rich the world is more full of things that are strange, unfamiliar, and oddly tantalizing. Wine Barrel Noir is strange, unfamiliar, and odd, but in a way that raises the hair on the back of your neck. This is a beer that takes you across a spectrum of recognizable flavors, but in an entirely unpredictable fashion.
It’s an aromatic beer, hugely so. Roast and oak make their presence known immediately in a blend of coffee grounds, black pepper, bitter baker’s chocolate. Then you’ll find the wine – the previous tenant of Noir’s most recent residence – with booze, sweet grapes, macerated red fruit, and hints of well-worn leather.
There really isn’t anything I can say to prepare anyone for the actual flavor of this beer. While the nose retains a quiet complexity, to taste this beer is to challenge what we think our preferences in beer are.
Bitter dark chocolate meets you immediately, but slowly mellows to a sticky milk chocolate. That fresh ground coffee follows, but dissipates, or surrenders, to what is plainly wine. A tartness overwhelms the roast and cocoa and blooms from sharp clarity into jammy sweetness, juxtaposed in a fantastically intriguing manner to an unexpected hop bitterness. With memories of tartness, the fruity sweetness and resiny bitterness stretch out and relax on your palate as if it were on a picnic instead, and you’re left – or, at least, I was – wondering what just happened. None of these things were odd to me, but the order that they were arranged in transformed them into something wholly new and staggeringly exciting.
In short, this isn’t like most wine barrel-aged beers I’ve come across or even wine-blended beers, where all characteristics serve to compliment one another. Instead, both qualities seem to retain their individuality and, rather than integrate, coexist in a bizarre, yet fascinating waltz. This is not a novice beer. Nor is it a beer for the advanced drinker. Simply, this is a beer for adventurers, for those who revel in exploration and foreign delights. This is a beer for those who refuse to be coddled by familiar comforts, because as much as prairie flatland may seem to fan out before you endlessly, beyond the illusion of the horizon lay mountains and the sea and entire other worlds and the true infinity of all we have yet to discover.
Oh come, all ye faithful, for the month of May is filled with events celebrating another staple of American craft beer. We are proud to present New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series all month long with a fresh tapping every Wednesday evening at 5:00 and Saturday afternoon at 12:00 with $4 Fat Tire draughts every day throughout May.
May 7th – Peach Porch Lounger
May 10th – Pluot
May 14th – La Folie, with logo glasses while they last
May 17th – Paardebloem
May 21st – Biere de Mars
May 24th – Cascara Quad
May 28th – Heavenly Feijoa
May 31st – Yuzu Berliner Weisse
New Belgium has brewed some of the most iconic and widespread craft beers for nearly twenty-five years and it thrills us to be pouring their most unique and adventurous entries in a series that has come to challenge and delight the appreciators. They have asked for faith, and those of us who can find the trust to offer it have not been disappointed.