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Checking in on Dallas Beer Week

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Midway through the first official Dallas Beer Week, you could say things aren't quite going according to plan. But considering how loosely organized and sporadically publicized the week has been, that's not especially surprising, even if the cancelation of Saturday's Dallas Beer Festival is a big disappointment.

That said, let's not let that cast a pall over what is otherwise a fun, casual celebration of good beer. Despite the apparent confusion among some commenters who've conflated Dallas Beer Festival with Dallas Beer Week, there are still plenty of great events going on. (Click here for some of the highlights.)

Read on for more event information, including some Dogfish Head 120 Minute sightings, as well as my thoughts on a couple of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. brews.

The Meddlesome Moth and Libertine Bar are both making available some of Dogfish Head's legendary and elusive mega-IPA, 120 Minute. Tonight at the Meddlesome Moth, you can compare it side-by-side with a cask-conditioned Ska Modus Head (according to the Moth's Sour Beer Week calendar, though I'm wondering if it's a typo and should be Modus Hoperandi). Or try it tomorrow at the Libertine Bar. Along with featuring 60 Minute in a pint night glass giveaway, you can enjoy other Dogfish Head offerings (Pangaea, Burton Baton and Palo Santo Marron) in a three-course food and beer pairing for just $20. There's also a "secret" offering.

David Allen called to offer more information about the events at the BlackFriar, Renfield's, Idle Rich and Old Monk family of pubs. Contrary to Dallas Beer Week's calendar, which lists some of them on Thursday, DBW events for all four pubs are tonight. (My Day by Day Guide has been corrected.) You can learn the two-step Guinness draft-pour process or learn how to hand-pump from a Lagunitas cask at the Idle Rich or Old Monk. The Monk has two firkins of Hop Stoopid, while the Idle has Censored and another cask to be announced once the Censored is gone. At the BlackFriar, you can learn the secret to pouring a Franziskaner hefe or dunkel from a bottle into a tall glass by placing the glass over the bottle and then dramatically inverting it. At Renfield's, the pub will pair local music with local beer by including $3 pints of Franconia hefe along with the usual Wednesday night free show, which tonight will be local folk-bluegrass favorites The O's.

And I spoke too soon when I joked that the Holy Grail hadn't invited me as one of its "experts" for tonight's Blind Beer Challenge. Brian Brown at Plano Craft Beer Examiner, who actually deserves the "expert" label, and I will be among the bloggers trying to determine the style, ABV, nationality and menu match-up of beers in four rounds of four beers apiece. Entry for civilians is $15 and offers the chance at prizes each round along with a grand prize for the overall winner. I hope my answer of "Doritos" for every beer gives me a chance in the menu match-up category.

On my way up, I'm hoping to sample some St. Bernardus, Stone Brewing Co. and Samuel Adams beers at Kegs and Barrels' Parker Road location. Along with snacks and free tastings from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., featured beers are available for a 10 percent discount.

The one Dallas Beer Week event I've attended so far was a blast, a chance to put faces to names or Twitter handles along with enjoying some great brews. The Common Table on Monday night was like a beer-nerd convention. Deschutes was the featured brewery, with Black Butte XXIII on tap alongside 2010 vintage The Abyss from the bottle. BBXXIII is an "imperial" take on their Black Butte porter. I've never been really impressed by Black Butte, but this version was incredible, very rich and strong with the noticeable but not overwhelming addition of orange peel, chocolate and chili pepper complementing the imperialized coffee porter. I tried it as part of a flight along with Mikkeler Koppi, an even more intriguing brew: a coffee IPA. It was a foggy orange color, not the dark hue I expected, but the coffee was definitely noticeable even against the pungent hops. I expected a bitter mess, but the odd contrast of flavors really worked. With a deceptive appearance and counterintuitive taste, could coffee IPAs be the next dark IPA?

The Abyss was even richer, darker and thicker than BBXXIII, almost like a chocolate malt with hints of molasses and dark fruit. Mellow in spite of an 11 percent ABV, it was amazing. Then, when a rep for Deschutes spotted some of us drinking it, he bought us a round of this year's Jubelale. He said he picked up on a lot more hazelnut in this year's version. Sure? I remember liking it last year, and this year's was fine but by that point my taste buds were pretty much blown out by the epic BBXXIII and Abyss.

Also part of my flight were the two Deep Ellum Brewing Co. brews carried at The Common Table. Backslider Blonde is a solid, drinkable blonde with a little brighter hop presence and bitterness at the end than expected for a blonde. I'd think improved clarity would lure more of the casual beer drinkers at whom the beer seems to be aimed, but even with a foggy appearance, it's not a challenging beer. It'd be a great session brew and I hope to drink plenty of them at Dada, Trees, the Prophet Bar, the Double Wide and any other Ellum music venue with a sense of local pride. Double Brown Stout, a Baltic porter, is a far more rewarding beer, and a fine winter brew. It's smooth and rich, and well balanced, neither bitter nor sweet, with a blend of oats, rye and roasted malt giving it interesting malt complexity.

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