As I mentioned in my previous post about the Kreuz Creek beer dinner, I have been looking forward to The Texas Beer Festival for quite some time now. Over a year ago the crew over at the Craft Beer Revolutionary Guard announced that they were putting together a beer festival way out in Humble, north of Houston. As the beer list grew I was excited to try some of the new Texas breweries that are just starting out and not yet distributing, as well as new beers from some not so new breweries.
The festival was organized very well and they used the Humble Civic Center Arena to it’s full capacity. They had a line to buy tickets (we already had ours) and then a line to show ID and receive your beer and food tickets (12) and a wristband. The first section of the Arena was lined with all kinds of food trucks and non-beer vendors, including my friend Lucrece with Happier Desserts and her amazing bacon chocolate chip cookies. All of her desserts have craft beer in them! After the vendor section was the actual arena filled with the different breweries. Had I gotten a program before leaving, I may have been able to use the handy map they provided to scope out who I wanted to visit. We took a quick walk around to see who was there and what they were serving as well as check out the specialty beer tap station. We got there right around 1:30 when they tapped the first specialty beer, Katy’s own No Label Brewing Company brought a special brew, their Panamanian Coffee Milk Stout, so we started there.
No Label (Katy, Texas)
I have been out to the burbs for one of No Label’s Saturday tastings and have tried three of their year-round offerings so I was interested to see what this one-off beer would be like. No Label recently put in a 15 barrel system, hopefully that will help some of the consistency issues they seem to have.
Panamanian Coffee Milk Stout: I love a good milk stout, Moloko by Three Floyds being my favorite, they are characterized by a syrupy sweetness balanced by roasted malts. While this is a coffee milk stout, I felt like it could have easily just been a coffee stout sans the milk part. I tasted the bitter coffee aftertaste paired with roasted malts which intensified the bitterness. That lingering bitter taste is usually why I don’t drink coffee in the first place so I was disappointed when that’s all I could taste.
New Republic (College Station, Texas)
Bellows Amber: Amber ales usually have a good balance between the malts and hops, a good caramel flavor tinged with a bit of bitterness, but in this beer they seemed to clash. Maybe its the combination of the two they used, Centennial/Fuggles hops with Vienna, Munich and other crystal malts, that clashed but it definitely tasted off.
Live Oak (Austin, Texas)
I had Live Oak’s Pilz and their HefeWeizen at the Monsters of Beer festival held last October here in town, in fact I was one of the volunteers pouring them, so I am quite familiar with them ;) Both of these beers are great examples of their respective styles, so I was excited to see what else they are putting out. They also had their Big Bark Amber Ale (not sure why I didn’t try this too) on tap.
Liberation Ale: This IPA was very well balanced for clocking in at 60 IBUs with hints of citrus and a definite, but assuredly secondary, malt profile. I am not surprised though, Live Oak makes great beers.
Thirsty Planet (Austin, Texas)
Thirsty Goat Amber: This beer smelled pretty funky but the taste was spot on for an amber ale, caramel malts balanced with hop bitterness. Nothing extra special, but sometimes you just want a lighter beer, especially on some of the hot Houston summer days we are about to experience.
Buckethead IPA: This IPA is definitely not for the faint of heart when it comes to hops, they use “Cascade, Centennial and Mt. Hood hops buckets at a time”. If there was any other flavor to notice in this beer, I didn’t get it, just a punch of hops in my mouth, which is definitely not my style. However, I admire the tag line of the beer, “This IPA is not for everyone, but it doesn’t try to be.” Rock on.
Armadillo Wheat: I usually reserve wheat beers for my sister or for super hot days drinking outside (unless I have Victoria) and this was another good wheat to help cool off and quench the thirst from the heat. This beer was a great wheat ale, light and clean and very easy to drink.
Circle Brewing Company (Austin, Texas)
We had a chance to talk to one of the brewers from Circle, one of which used to brew for Independence Brewing and the other from Uncle Billy’s and somewhere in California as well. They currently have a 30 barrel system in place and plan to keep it relatively small for now. I tried all of their offerings and was quite pleased with the Hefeweizen.
Blur Hefeweizen: On first taste it was like drinking an explosion of bananas, which on any other day it may not have tasted so good (it was pretty hot in the arena), but was so light and refreshing. The banana flavor was strong but was accompanied by some caramel flavor too. It would be pretty nice in a beer ice cream float. This was definitely my favorite beer of the day.
Envy Amber Ale: Their Amber left a bit to be desired as the taste of burnt caramel overwhelmed the beer for me. Their website says it is “reminiscent of a lighter version of an old-style English Extra Special Bitter”, but I didn’t get that at all.
Nightlight Irish Stout: This beer was a classic example of a dry Irish Stout, light-bodied with a roasted malt flavor but not too bitter.
Southern Star (Conroe, Texas)
I have had Bombshell Blonde many a times and love it, as well as the always excellent Buried Hatchet Stout, so I wanted to see how the jasmine infused version would be.
Jasmine-infused Bombshell Blonde: Not Surprisingly, it was lovely. The jasmine wasn’t too powerful and paired very well with the light, crisp profile of this blonde ale.
I also used a ticket or two at 512 Brewing for the Pecan Porter, such a great beer! (shoutout to those guys and their badass pours). And finally, one for the last specialty beer we had before leaving, the Avery Hog Heaven. This may sound like blasphemy coming from a barleywine lover, but this was NASTY. To me, it tasted like old sweaty shoes or something. I have had this beer before and liked it, though it is very heavy on the hops and for a barleywine, that can make it just dreadful. I’m not sure what it was that put such a foul taste in my mouth, not the best choice for my last beer of the festival.
I’m really excited to see more beer festivals and the like come to Houston, and this was no exception. Of course since it was the inaugural year there are plenty of things to consider for next year, like location, Humble is pretty far out of town, and cost, $40 at the door admission is a bit pricey for 12 tastings, as well as bringing in more breweries to choose from, but overall I would consider it a success. Next moth there is the Houston Beer Festival that doesn’t look too promising, but I am really looking forward to the second Monsters of Beer that will kick off Houston Beer Week in November!