When people ask what my “gateway” or first craft beer was, I answer “Shiner!”. I could never stomach the other beers that kids drank in high school and college, so I always went for Shiner. When I got tired of Shiner Bock everyday, I tried the Shiner Blonde, then their seasonals and commemorative series. I must have tried everything they’ve made since I’ve been able to buy beer (legally), but I still have not made the trip to Shiner to see the town and brewery. So, when a good friend and Open The Taps member and supporter, Randy Rouse- owner of Shiner Restaurant and Bar, announced that he was doing a Texas themed beer dinner, I knew I didn’t have any excuse not to go. Unfortunately, the Spoetzl Brewery doesn’t have tours on weekends, so I wasn’t able to check it out. I’ve been told the tour isn’t that great, so I’d rather not ruin my romantic ideas of Shiner anyway. Shiner Restaurant & Bar is on the corner of 7th street in a building that dates back to 1911. The building details are very ornate and give off that old, small town vibe. The bar was made in Germany and then transported to Shiner!
Randy prepared a 5 course menu with 5 Texas beers from all over the state, truly a fantastic representation of styles and breweries from Texas. It was also quite impressive for a bar in Shiner, Texas, population +/-2,000. Randy works very hard to get great beer for his bar, and it definitely showed at the dinner. Before the dinner I finally got to try one of Shiner’s new beers from their Brewer’s Pride series, the Ryes and Shine Rye Lager. I first saw news about the new beer back in October on Beer News (where else?) and knew I would have to have it. It was delicious, the chocolate and rye malts gave it sweet, caramel flavors and was a full-flavored light beer. Shiner does very well in that category.
On to the dinner…
Citrus Salad with poached red snapper, gulf shrimp, fennel | Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #11
You know you’re in for a treat wen the first beer of the night is Saint Arnold’s wildly popular Double IPA from their Divine Reserve Series. Saint Arnold is making this a year-round offering, to the delight of Houston’s hop heads. I am not a big fan of this beer, but I, admittedly, do not like most IPAs. However, the citrus and seafood in the salad helped to cut through the bitterness and I quite enjoyed them both together. The fennel didn’t give off too much licorice flavor, and the crunch was a nice contrast in textures from the soft fish.
Homemade Späetzle with fried onions, local oyster mushrooms | Shiner Old Time Alt
Beside the Ryes & Shine I had before dinner, Shiner’s Old Time Alt is another beer I have wanted to try. It only comes as part of the family reunion packs which is unfortunate, because I would definitely buy a 6-pack of this alone. If you want to try it, you may need to get a hold of it sooner rather than later, as it’s run at the brewery is over. The pairing was perfect, homemade späetzle with a German style brown ale. The mushrooms gave the späetzle a very earthy flavor and the fried onions were a nice contrast in texture. It needed a touch of salt, but I tend to put salt on everything. The Alt has a great caramel flavor and is truly a session beer at 4.2% ABV.
Chicken Fried Axis, sweet potatoes, kurant “gravy” | Real Ale WT3F?!
This was, by far, my favorite pairing of the night. When I first tried WT3F?! I wanted it to be sour, but the brettanomyces plays very well with the barrel aged Tripel. There are great grassy and citrus notes to balance the funk of the Brett and the creamy mouthfeel I expect from Belgians. Axis is a variety of deer, originally from India, but transplanted in Texas some time ago. The coolest part of Axis deer (besides eating it) is their antlers; there is a period of time when their antlers have velvet on them. Anyway, the Axis was chicken-fried to perfection. The meat was juicy and tender, some of the best deer meat I’ve had (don’t tell my father). The sweet potatoes and kurant gravy were great accents to the Axis, giving it a sweet flavor that went well with the WT3F?!.
Coffee rubbed, smoked Akaushi beef rib with balsamic reduction and bone marrow | Rahr & Sons Chicory Cask Winter Warmer
Akaushi beef is Japanese Wagyū beef, and Randy gets this from someone locally. The ribs probably needed a bit longer on the smoker, though I don’t mind rare meat, and definitely were over-salted. The pairing, however, was great. The sweet, boozy, spicy chicory cask of Winter Warmer from Rahr paired well with the salt and richness from the beef. Bone marrow is always a treat, I smeared the fatty, creamy marrow on the Shiner beer bread that Randy has for patrons at the bar; it was an excellent accompaniment to the big, rich beer.
Vegan Crème Brûlée, chocolate covered bacon | Jester King Black Metal
The crème brûlée might be the first vegan dish I have ever seen at a beer dinner, and probably the first dish I’ve had that was advertised that way. I definitely think the idea was good, but the execution was less than favorable. I didn’t taste anything that was remotely like crème brûlée, and I missed the crispy, caramelized sugar topping. Luckily, there was chocolate-covered bacon to save the day. The chocolate and salty smoky contrast of the bacon paired very well with the Black Metal on nitro. I love Black Metal; the graphics and label story are enough to buy a bottle without knowing it is a fantastic beer. Dark fruit, caramel, roastiness, molasses and chocolate notes combine for “face-melting awesomeness”, as Randy put it.
Beside the food and beer pairings, the demographic of the attendees had to be my favorite part of the dinner. I was the youngest person in the room (more so than usual!), it felt like I was at a beer dinner with my grandparents! Though many of them were admittedly just there for the food, they were at least trying the beers, which is definitely exciting. They know Randy very well and treat him like their son, supporting all of his ventures. Anyway, the dinner was excellent, as I expected, and I cannot wait to go back and visit again!