The Texas Beer Festival

May 9, 2011

Beer

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!

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51 Comments on “The Texas Beer Festival”

  1. Jeff B Says:

    The location was actually pretty good. Houston is so large that people have to travel 30 miles on a regular basis. There was plenty of free parking and it was easy to get to. I think the Festival should be in late March/early April if the Humble Civic center is used for the future. Until the festival hits 3,000 – 4,000 people, the Civic Center is a good spot.

    Reply

  2. Leslie Says:

    good points, I assume it also had to do with the rental cost as well. I do love free parking!

    Reply

  3. Shannon McNair Says:

    I live on the South side and was concerned about the drive to Humble, but it was fine. The civic center was perfect location and most importantly – covered. I loved the brewery selection from not just Texas but around the nation. Great festival, congrats to the CBRG. I’m looking forward to the Houston Beer Fest.

    Reply

  4. Josh Says:

    Why would you say the Houston Beer Fest doesn’t look too promising? Looks VERY promising to me. Cheaper, downtown, many of the same brewers, and 3 stages of music (not just three bands).

    Reply

    • Leslie Says:

      For me, I am not into games like beer pong and flip cup (which looks like a big selling point for them). I am about the beer. I also would like to see what beers the different breweries are bring, especially before paying for it, but that’s just my opinion.

      Reply

      • Bryan Says:

        The games arent a huge part of HBF. Its just something fun to do. Maybe the website shows too much bias to the events? Relative to the registrations for the tournament, registrants are less than one percent of our audience (registrations/current sales). We have a list of beers, but want to finalize it more before we post it (I believe TBF did the same thing, posting a final listing closer to the start of the event). At the end of the day we just want to pull people out to try new beers and be in good company.

      • Leslie Says:

        Thank you for the information, in my personal opinion it seems a bit gimmicky to me, but I suppose I am, admittedly, a beer snob. I love good beer, and as I have said, if I can make it, I want to see what it is all about! Cheers.

    • Jeff B Says:

      The reason the houston beer fest is cheaper is because it will be outside in a park. I have no idea how much it cost to have that space, but it is much cheaper than the Humble Civic Center.

      Reply

  5. Leslie Says:

    I definitely appreciated the covered arena and those huge fans! They also had good transportation to and from certain places in Houston as well as a hotel deal nearby which was great for people driving much farther.

    Reply

  6. Jennifer Royo Says:

    Glad you were able to taste our Stout. We did realize it was a little bitter than we wanted. It was our first try on this style and we will be tweeking it. We are working to improve the bitterness a bit. A great event this weekend. Good company and good beer!

    Reply

    • Leslie Says:

      Jennifer- thanks for the feedback! I can’t wait to see the stout developed a bit more, I commend you guys for doing some one-offs (like that jalapeno ale I missed!!) while getting your new equipment going. Cheers!

      Reply

  7. Jeff B Says:

    People will complain about having to park downtown and it will be uncovered in the hot sun. Yes, the beers look to be the same. As far as the TBF, it takes a lot of money to rent the space, the security and the events co-coordinator. People also don’t realize the cost of the beer that has to be bought and any open case of beer is “bought” and there was beer leftover. That beer is the property of the event company. So let’s say at 7pm a case of Arrogant Bastard is opened and only 1 beer is used from that case. The Festival has just bought a case of beer that can’t be used. Everyone understands the cost was a bit high, but it was the first year and things can only go up from here. Please send any and all suggestions for improvement to the Beer Festival webpage. Even the Great American Beer Festival in Denver had hiccups the first few years.

    Reply

    • Leslie Says:

      I thought it was very well organized and definitely understand growing pains, I am just being honest. I appreciate all the hard work and will definitely be there next year.

      Reply

      • Jeff B Says:

        The honesty is appreciated and will help going forward. Do people play beer pong with good beer or Bud Light?

      • Leslie Says:

        I believe Bud Light, seems like it would be quite costly to use a Bombshell Blonde or other craft beer! And think of the spilling!!

  8. Brent Dawnay Says:

    Yeah, why would you say the Houston Beer Fest doesn’t look promising? The Texas Beer Fest was in Humble, to me that’s not Houston. Humble is it’s own city. I have friends traveling from Ohio to come to the Houston Beer Fest.

    Reply

    • Leslie Says:

      Like I commented above, I am not into certain parts of what the Houston beer Festival seems to be promoting, like a “tubing” area, beer pong and flip cup. I don’t need games or activities to enjoy beer. I just like beer.

      Reply

    • Renee Says:

      She is allowed her opinion. She is being very polite about it too.

      -Renee

      Reply

    • Jeff B Says:

      So what if the location was Humble? It is a Texas Beer fest and if it was in Pearland, would you have a problem with that? What if it was in Bellaire?

      Reply

  9. Christine Says:

    The Houston Beer Fest will be a great festival for people who are new to beer or those who think that craft beer is limited to Shiner and St. Arnolds. But for the “beer snobs” out there, I predict disappointment.

    Reply

  10. Ray Mathis Says:

    The Houston Beer Fest doesn’t look promising? Wow! That’s not nice to say at all. You should be positive and support this event like me and 10 of my friends will be. Go Houston Beer Fest! I love Houston!

    Reply

  11. Ray Mathis Says:

    Sounds like it is about Beer, but some people like Entertainment. I won’t be playing the games, but some people will like it. There’s nothing wrong with options

    Reply

  12. Renee Says:

    I do not understand why Leslie can’t have her opinion. To me, the Houston Beer Fest looks like a big party for college kids. I saw the website and had no interest. There are bulls, no restrictions on camping out, and beer pong. I think it is with water, but it encourages mass drinking. That is called atmosphere. She is being very nice about it, but this is my honest opinion. To me, the fest encourages drinking to get drunk. My beer club will not be attending. Plus they are serving Budweiser which, in my beer snob opinion, really hurts craft breweries. Why is it silly to say she is not interested? I’m not interested, which is why I went to the Texas version. It seemed more open to an older crowd. We 40 somethings had a great time and felt safe. The beer review is very good. Leslie is allowed her opinion as am I. It seems like the Houston people are picking on her website.

    -Renee

    Reply

    • Leslie Says:

      Renee, I really appreciate the comments. We are in total agreement! I am not looking for a frat party to go to, rather a place to try some great craft brew, whether or not that is the case for the Houston Beer Fest is yet to be determined!

      Reply

    • Bill K. Says:

      I also consider myself a beer snob. Just because they are going to serve Budweiser shouldn’t be a bad thing. They have to have something for the non beer snobs to fall back on if they can’t take the good stuff. Last I checked, Houston Beer Fest has around 80 breweries on their beer menu. I’ve never been to a “college party” with selection like that. Oktoberfest (Munich) encourages mass drinking and festival games, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, even though it most certainly does not have a wide craft beer selection. I had a great time at the Texas Beer Fest in Humble and I am most definitely looking forward to Houston Beer Fest. I have no plans on playing games, though.

      Reply

      • Renee Says:

        Bill,

        The reason I don’t like Budwesier attending a craft brew festival is because it is like offering McDonald’s at a locally raised steak dinner. People are attracted to the cost and generic taste of Budwesier without thinking about the time, effort, and care spent on craft brews. Budwesier, Coors, Miller, all these “breweries” are mass produced and really hurt local brewers. I understand that you cannot force people to like craft beer, but there are light and low hop options for those people. I don’t think it would be hard to have someone try a craft beer if the alternative cruddy beer wasn’t available. It is harder to get someone to open their minds about a product if you have the bigger and competing product in the same space. Also, as someone else said, I don’t think you can compare the Gemuetlichkeit to the HBF games. The Germans have been doing those games for centuries and take them seriously. It seems on a different level than riding a mechanical bull.

        As for the organizer of HBF, I like that he is trying to help promote his event. I am excited that craft breweries will be there. If you have over 7K in sales, you’ll be fine without me. I will read the reviews and if they are different then what I except, I will certainly go next year.

        Yours stubbornly,
        Renee

  13. Happier Desserts Says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, sweet cheeks. There are plenty more Pigs on the Brownie and Happiness is a Warm Cookie awaiting you – swing by!

    Reply

  14. Happier Desserts Says:

    FYI, we’ll be at the Houston Beer Fest since its just a stone’s throw from our kitchens – so, that is ONE thing that won’t be disappointing to the aficionados :)

    Reply

  15. jilljub310 Says:

    Wowza, people are being a little hardcore with these comments. My fiancé and I traveled down from San Antonio to attend the Texas beer fest, but we won’t be attending the Houston fest. I am thinking reenacting in my own beer snob way; scrabble (party games) and home brews (UBER craft) anyone?! :)

    Reply

  16. Christine Says:

    I’ll just take my $20 to Gingerman. :)

    And LOL to the person who compared HBF games to Oktoberfest.

    Reply

    • Bill K. Says:

      I didn’t compare. I’m sure there is no comparison. I was suggesting that having games at a beer fest was not a bad thing. This was in reply to comments suggesting that a beer fest should not have games and activities.

      What’s with all the negativity? HBF has over 150 beers planned so far. It looks like there will be something for everyone.

      Reply

  17. Tim H. Says:

    Hi all,

    I debated all day if I was going to comment on this post or not. I’m the executive director of the Houston Beer Fest. I just wanted to say a few things, so you guys can get a better understanding about our event. We love the fact that so many Beer Festivals are in Houston and its’ surrounding areas. It’s helping grow the craft beer industry and I think that’s what all the festival producers want at the end of the day.

    Our goal is to attract people to Houston and help main stream beer drinkers learn about craft beer. Well, how do you do that? You have to meet them half way, so that means Bud Light or Miller Light has to be present. I don’t think they’re going to drink Bud Light all day, so at some point they’re going to wonder down the side walk and try a craft beer and that is what we want.

    We have over 150 beers on our roster. I think that’s more than any other festival has had in the past year in the Houston area. Out of that 150 over 90% are craft beers.

    If all the beer festivals in the area had the same beers what would make them different? Location, music, games, etc. I think we all have to build our own identity. We have interaction through voting on several beers, we have music, and yes, we have games. But what true festival doesn’t have games?

    I don’t think that’s our selling point as many people have not signed up for Beer Pong or Flip Cup and we’ve already sold over 7k in tickets. I’m actually worried about the games to be honest.

    At the end of the day we need the Texas Beer Fest to be great and we need the Houston Beer Fest to be great because it pulls people to our city and the craft beer industry and that’s important.

    Thanks Leslie for writing the blog!

    Tim

    Reply

  18. Christine Says:

    Ok seriously people, I think you are taking Leslie’s post waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of context.

    She never once said that the HBF would not have craft beer. A quick glance at the list will show that yes, there will be craft beer. Of course we want people to try craft beer. We were all “beer newbs” at some point. It’s just that as a “beer snob” she perhaps does not think that anything new/rare will be featured.

    So instead of spending your time commenting on this blog and mocking it on facebook, you should focus your time and energy into PROVING all of the beer snobs wrong.

    Reply

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