Dallas has few diversions other than eating, drinking and shopping.....and shopping does not interest us.
So we spend our time hopping from restaurant to restaurant and to every pub that we can find in search of the perfect meal and the perfect beer.

We randomly review restaurants and bars, dishes and beers at whim and give our brutally honest opinions of our findings. And while we concentrate on Dallas, we travel far and wide to sample cuisine from all regions of the country and beyond.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Epic Jouney Continues

Have you ever read the book 'The Hobbit'?  It is really quite a good read and very entertaining.  If you have not, let me give you a quick synopsis.  Bilbo, the hero of the story, is a rather timid being, enjoying living his rather dull life.  He was reluctantly convinced to join in an expedition to search for a mythical treasure in a far away land.  What makes the novel "Epic" is the fact that this quiet, unassuming hobbit left the comfort of his home to embark on a daring  journey, wrought with danger, excitement and thrills.  His interaction with all sorts of people and creatures that he had never even dreamed existed, both good and evil, shape him into a person quite unlike the person he was at the beginning of the story.  In the end he found that the rather dull life that he thought was the perfect life had not been so great after all.  Of course, if he had not gone a travelling, The Hobbit would have been only one page long and not terribly epic.

It is now time for me to continue on with my epic journey as well and search for my mythical treasure in a far away land.  I hope that over the years I, or rather we, have opened your eyes and mind to being a bit more adventurous, even if it is only in an epicurian manner.  To those that I have offended and insulted, well, I would like to say that they were mistakes and not prone to repetition, but that would be a lie, for I am an offensive beast.  I would like to leave you with a few thoughts:

1.  Support your local breweries.  There are some incredible beers being brewed here in north Texas (and a few truly awful ones) and they need your support to continue their journey as well.

2.  Try new things.  New beers, new restaurants, new dishes in old restaurants, new music ...... for goodness sake you only get one life, go live it!

3.  Be the teacher.  You are enjoying a beer in a pub that serves craft beers and the person next to your orders a Bud.  Gaaaaaak.  Engage that person in a conversation and suggest a better beer to try .... be gentle, remember, it is their first time.  The only way for the craft beer movement to continue is if we, the lovers of good beer, convince those with open minds to follow along with us.

4.  Life is too short to drink crappy beer.

Thank you for your patronage, we're off to Rivendell.  Now, where did I put that damned ring?

I guess I announced my retirement too soon as that many of you wish to see this continue.  Thank you for your support and I will keep posting as long as you keep reading.  Cheers - Bon

Monday, March 24, 2014

Real Ale Mysterium Verum Event

Name of Event: 
Real Ale Mysterium Verum Quintuple Tapping with brewmaster Erik Ogershok

Event Date/Time:
Friday, April 4, 2014
5 p.m. to close

Event Description:
As part of their Beer Texas Beer Fest pre-party, Flying Saucer on the Lake will have
five tappings of Real Ale’s Mysterium Verum brews. Mysterium Verum is Latin for
“real mystery” – join us to find out why. Come out to meet Real Ale brewmaster Erik
Ogershok and participate in raffles and prize giveaways. There will be $3 Real Ale
Hefeweizen specials all day

Flying Saucer on the Lake
4821 Bass Pro Drive
Garland TX, 75043


Sunday, March 23, 2014

O'hara's Irish Craft Beers

I had an opportunity to speak to the brewmaster of O'Hara's Irish Craft Beers this week while enjoying his beers (and others ... many, many others) this St. Patrick's Day.  His views and inspirations were quite unique but typical of the passion for beer shared by craft brewers worldwide.

It is surprising how many fine craft breweries are located in small towns in remote locations.  Carlow Brewing company is located about and hour and a half south of Dublin in the scenic town of Carlow, the county seat of County Carlow.  The town itself is thousands of years old, predating Irish history while the brewery is relatively new, founded by Monks in the fourteenth century.  Ok, the part about the town is true, the part about the founding of the brewery is a complete lie.  Seamus O'Hara, a former bioengineer, founded the brewery in the early 1990's, and yes, he is also the brewmaster (he assures me that by drinking his beers you will not be part of his bioengineering experiments).  The quality of the beers just leads you to believe that the brewery has been there for centuries.

Ireland, contrary to popular belief, is a whiskey realm with beer coming in a distant second in popularity and Seamus, like most Irishmen, grew up as a whiskey drinker.  While he was living and working in England he was corrupted and converted into a beer lover by the damned English (just like I was), but it was the American craft brew revolution that convinced him to leave his lucrative career to invest in his new love .  O'Hara's now produces +10 beers with the Stout and Irish Red being readily available in the U.S.  Mr. O'Hara is now touring the U.S. trying to expand his market by pairing with the Paulaner HPUSA group to help with distribution. 

Me - "Why would you aim your sights and the US market rather than concentrating more on developing local markets"?
Seamus - "Most pubs in Ireland carry 2 or 4 taps.  These taps have been serving the same beers for decades or even centuries and those brands are entrenched in the local lore and history.  They are not likely to bring in an upstart.  Also, Ireland only has 4 million people, less than the DFW market alone.  If we want to take advantage of  a thriving beer market we must look afield."

Cliché question alert, cliché question alert!

Me - "Which beer and/or beer style are you enjoying these days?"
Seamus - "I rather like the hoppy beers right now, not so much the west coast super hoppy brews, but the English style IPA's.  Our new Double IPA is worth trying and quite delightful".

Seamus, John Slaughter (district manager for Paulaner) and I sat and chatted for a bit and tried the O'Hara's Stout and Irish Red.  The stout is a great representation of a traditional Irish stout, except for the fact that O'Hara's stout is made using ale yeast rather that the lager yeast that you find in most stouts.  This gives the beer a broader flavor signature across your tongue and a mellow richness.  The nitrogen give you the smoothness that you expect and the fuggle hops gives you a bitter, dry finish.  This is a wonderful example of a traditional Irish Stout without fruit, candy bars or cocoa nibs that you will find in many American interpretations of stout.

The Irish Red is a dark ruby red with a long lasting dense head.  Big malts are the key to the flavor of this brew with caramel malts providing an underlying sweetness and dryness provided by the crystal malts.  Roasted barley and a bit of hops are used to provide a subtle bitterness.  There is a marvelously balanced beer with low alcohol (4.3% ABV) which means to you that this is great session beer.  It would be really easy, too easy, to drink several, many, lots of these at a sitting.  There are other beers from O'Hara's coming soon and I look forward to trying them as well.

Craft brewing is enjoying the same resurgence in Ireland that we are enjoying here in the U.S.  So much so that Seamus founded the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin which has over 22 craft breweries presenting their creations to over 10,000 attendees. I was thinking that it would be a great vacation for you to visit the festival in September and then take a trip to Carlow for the brewery tour.  As a matter of fact, I think I will, too.

Carlow Brewing Company Ltd,
Royal Oak Road, Bagenalstown,
Co. Carlow, Ireland.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beer Review - Strubbe's Flemish Red Ale

Brouwerij Strubbe Grand Cru Flemish Red Ale - 6.5% ABV

So, you like the sour beers?  Me, too .... that is unless the sourness is artificially enhanced with additives in which case it becomes a bit .... intense with the sour overpowering the flavor of the beer.  If that is the kind of sour that you desire then you can save some money by buying a Bud and dropping a couple of Jolly Ranchers in it, then guzzling away.  The real/original sour ales are/were created by allowing wild yeast and bacterial strains to 'contaminate' the beer during the brewing process.  Because of the uncertainty involved in using wild yeast, the sour beer brewing process is extremely unpredictable. The beer takes months to ferment and can take years to mature.  The sourness is therefore not overpowering ... refreshing.

Brouwerij Strubbe is a family owned brewer (since 1830) located in Flanders (western Belgium) in the quiet town of Ichtegem located just to bit southwest of Brugges.  The Grand Cru is a relatively new introduction entering the market in 2006 and is created using an interesting method of attaining their sourness.  Their process involves aging their brown ale in Bordeaux oak barrels for two years and while this makes a fine tasting sour, it also leaves the ale rather flat.  So they mix this aged ale with fresh ale to add crispness and carbonation. 

The berry character of the beer is first in smell and taste.  It pours a deep golden brown with bubbles streaming up the glass much like those in champagne.  The smooth brew goes down easily with the berry flavors at the front but followed quickly by caramel and honey notes.  The carbonation and acidity do a fine job of preventing 'beer mouth' that you often get when drinking sours.  Really, really refreshing and delightful.  You should be able to find this lovely brew locally at Total Wine.

Brouwerij Strubbe
Markt 1
8480 Ichtegem

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beer Review - Rabbit Hole Brewing Company

If you have never owned your owned business, please allow me to let you in on a little secret ... overhead kills.  Keeping your production costs as low as possible will allow you to have a bit more profit, and we like profit.  How do small scale craft brewers keep their overhead low?  By purchasing or leasing a small warehouse in an out of the way location they can spend more of their investment capital on the important components, like the brewing equipment and marketing.  I cannot imagine why else the founders, Laron Cheek, Tom Anderson and Matt Morriss (brewmaster), would have chosen this boot outlet town to start their brewery other than to keep overhead as low as possible.

Justin, Texas.  Yes, I have known about Justin, Texas but have never been.   Why not?  A better question is why would I?  To buy some boots?  Then lo and behold up pops a new brewery from a prairie dog hole, or rather a rabbit hole.  So off we go to northern Tarrant County to what could be charitably described as the 'rustic' town of Justin and though the drive was a bit tedious, the results were worth the aggravation.

Our first impression was that we were a bit surprised that this nondescript warehouse in this nondescript town had been found by so many people ... the patio was packed.  And many of the patrons were part of a bicycle club that rode twenty miles to get there to drink.  And drink they did.  The ride back must have been interesting with drunk bikers swerving all over the road and stopping to take a leak every 10 minutes wherever they could find a tree.  But I digress.  You will receive, as is typical, a glass and 4 tokens that will each get you a tasty beverage and as that they only have 3 beers, you have better like one of them well enough to have a second. 

The first beer we tasted was the Mike Modano 561 Kolsch style beer.  Regardless of the explosion of craft beer breweries around north Texas do not deceive yourself into thinking that fissy, pissy, watery beer does not still rule our area.  The owners of these small breweries know that in order to survive they must appeal to the melon heads that still drink that swill and thus will (almost) always produce a lighter beer to fit their simple palates.  Many in Texas brew a watery lager and name it a Kolsch to sound crafty, and up to this point they have never failed to disappoint me.  The original Kölsch is a German style beer brewed around Cologne and unlike lagers, is warm fermented.  It should be a clear, straw colored brew with medium hops and a dry finish.  Most American versions of this produce it like a lager (cold fermented) which takes away a lot of the flavor and having had many, many beers of each style, American and German, I usually avoid the American version.  Rabbit Hole, however, makes a dandy version that you really need to try.  If you have had a Kolsch in Germany you will appreciate the craft that Rabbit Hole has shown in creating a flavorful, authentic tasting Kolsch.

How do you react when someone offers you an IPA?  Does your mouth water with the anticipation of a hop bomb exploding on your tongue?  Do you cringe at the thought for the same reason?  But as that you are all now well versed in all of the beer styles out there, you know that the English India Pale Ale, the original of this style, is much easier to drink and much more refined.  The hops do not overpower the palate but lead it along an interesting trail of complex flavors.  The 10/6 English Style India Pale Ale from Rabbit Hole is a superb rendition of what you would find in England.  Having sat in many an English pub and imbibing in ohhhh so many English IPA's I can tell you without hesitation that if you were to serve this 10/6 in a pub in England, few of the patrons, if any, would be able to distinguish this ale from the ones that they had been drinking for years.  It is very authentic and quite delicious.

You may find this hard to believe, but over the years I have drank a lot of beer.  A lot of beer.  My tastes vary in my preferences from year to year and from season to season, but my very favorite beer style has never changed.  Unless something new and unprecedented comes onto the market, the traditional English Brown Ale will be my 'go to' beer until the day my doctor forces me to quit drinking altogether.  You all know that the brown ale is a malty, smooth thirst quencher, but what you may not know is that there are 3 recognized styles of English Brown Ale.  The Mild which is lighter in body with low gravity, the Northern English Brown which is dryer, sometimes hoppier and more nutty than malty, and the Southern English Brown which is a luscious, malty ale with thicker texture and rich dark flavors.  Rapture by Rabbit Hole is an excellent representation of the Southern English Ale.  I would feel quite at home drinking this gem in any pub in the U.K and sitting on a dusty patio in Justin, Texas did not make it any less enjoyable. 

If you are looking for something new, something unique, something that you have not tried before, this is not the brewer for you.  If you are a purist, like me, that really appreciates beer that tastes as the original creators intended it to taste then my friends, we have an excellent local source.  Rabbit Hole brewing does not have a 'proprietary' yeast that they use in all of their creations like most brewers do, they use the yeast that is correct for the style of beer that they are brewing.  More difficult?  Yes, but worth the effort.  For those of you who are relatively new to the craft beer movement, these selections are a superb way for you to get to know a beer as it was originally created.  You may then compare beers with the same moniker and know whether or not they are representative of the style that they are claiming to be brewed.  I applaud your efforts gentlemen.  We are very happy to be able to recommend that you try the beers from Rabbit Hole Brewing. 

Rabbit Hole Brewing Company
608 Topeka Ave
Justin, TX 76247