Photos by Benjamin Lewis
Some people consider it uncouth to begin drinking before 5 p.m. Thankfully, you won't run into any of those spoilsports at the "Blind Salamander Day" tour and tasting at Rahr & Sons brewery tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
I took my first tour of the brewery last weekend and sampled the brewery's newest product, Blind Salamander. For some reason, I had the idea that the tour would be very academic and dry, with thirsty tourists suffering through detailed explanations of the brewing process while waiting for tiny sample sips. Thankfully, I couldn't have been more wrong.
It was more like a party that happened to take place in a bottling plant, complete with a wedding-caliber band blaring classic rock covers. The vast majority of revelers spent far more time standing in lines for beer (and the "beer depository," a.k.a. the restroom) than getting a closer look at the bottling machine. Now I understand why up to 600 people a week will pay $5 each for the tour and tasting - the emphasis is on the tasting.
Blind Salamander Pale Ale is the first in the Rare Breed line of beers, a portion of sales from which are donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help its efforts toward habitat reclamation. It's made with East Kent Goldings hops, closer to a malty English-style pale ale than America's hopped-up counterparts. Think Bass, not Sierra Nevada. Brewmaster J.B. Flowers and managing partner Tony Formby both said they have already entered it into the next Great American Beer Festival.
"Unlike sometimes, the first batch was a home run," Formby said.
And though Rahr only began brewing it some six months ago, the beer is much more mature than a typical ale, Flowers explained.
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"One thing that makes it so good is, most of the time when we make ales the whole process is much quicker," he said. "We can do an ale in three to four weeks, but we've been doing these six to eight weeks, giving it time to clear out in fermentation and letting all the flavors mature."
The idea to dedicate a line of beers to endangered species came about after Central Market asked the brewery to come up with some kind of tie to the community. Besides, Formby jokes, "Texas breweries and the blind salamander have something in common: we're endangered species."
Currently, a nonsensical Texas law prohibits breweries from selling their own beers in gift shops, which severely hampers craft breweries. That could change if the Texas Legislature's House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee can be convinced to allow sales.
Until then, I'd suggest you do your part to help two endangered species at once and stop by Rahr to celebrate Blind Salamander Day tomorrow.