Earlier this month I spent a weekend in Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest, where I was able to spend some time in the very cool Black Star Co-op brewpub and also bring back a few beers that I hadn't seen in Dallas.
One of the Austin-made brews that really made an impression on me was Jester King's Commercial Suicide English mild. Since then, Paul Hightower writes at Dallas Craft Beer Examiner that it, along with Jester King's Wytchmaker rye IPA, is available on draft at a few beer joints around town like the Common Table, Flying Saucer, Meddlesome Moth and Ginger Man, and will eventually make its way to stores in bottles -- all great news.
After the jump, some thoughts on a few of the beers I brought home, Real Ale's Sisyphus barleywine and Independence Brewing Co.'s Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout and Stash IPA.
Also, I've put together a few links that will be helpful if you're looking for Thanksgiving beer-pairing suggestions.
As far as I can tell, Independence Brewing Co. products are available only in the Austin and San Antonio area. I hope they'll start distributing to the Dallas area as well, because the two four-packs I tried were both very good examples of their respective styles. Stash IPA isn't quite as dank-smelling as its (presumably) pot-referencing name would imply; it has a nice hoppy nose, a good mix of lemon, floral and pine notes, along with some caramel malt notes. It's a very dry, refreshing, slightly rough IPA. The ABV isn't listed on the bottle, but RateBeer lists it at 8 percent -- which was a big surprise, considering how drinkable it is and how dry it is compared to other strong IPAs, which tend to be sweeter and sometimes syrupy.
Independence's Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout was even more impressive. It's a deep black stout with a tan head. It smells like a chocolate milkshake, and the taste is a nice blend of chocolate, coffee, molasses and vanilla, yet it's not especially sweet, and hides the (again, unlisted) 8.5 percent ABV remarkably well. The body was very smooth and rich, though it could have been a tad thicker. Overall, a great stout, and would make a fine pairing with dessert.
Unlike Independence, products from Real Ale are relatively easy to find in North Texas. However, I had yet to try their Sisyphus until I saw a metallic green 2009 bottle at a Whole Foods in Austin. It poured a hazy orange-copper color with just wispy off-white traces of a head. The nose was a rich mix of toffee, caramel, prunes and grapefruit hops all floating in a cloud of boozy alcohol. Taste was all those elements with an intense malty sweetness and a good bitter finish -- a surprising hop presence for a barleywine. It was rich, thick and syrupy, and overall more balanced than the Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 10. I still think I prefer DR10, but Sisyphus is still a very good barleywine.
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Last year, I asked Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and the Libertine Bar's Simon McDonald for Thanksgiving meal beer-pairing suggestions. Oliver offered a few general suggestions, while McDonald created a full menu with a beer to match everything from the appetizer cheese plate to the chocolate cake and pecan and pumpkin pies. Their thoughts are definitely worth a read.
Also, Lautering rounds up suggestions from three different bloggers with some helpful guidelines (hat tip to Deep Ellum Brewing Company).
And finally, don't forget about Great Brewers' online Beer Sommelier (though its suggestions can sometimes be a bit odd). It recommends a Vienna-style lager, Belgian-style dubbel, traditional German-style bock or a dark/münchner dunkel for roast turkey. You can have a lot of fun finding other suggestions for various side dishes.