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Beer Is So Versatile, It’s ‘Easy to Find a Great Match for Any Meal,’ Says Granary’s Brewmaster

Beer Is So Versatile, It’s ‘Easy to Find a Great Match for Any Meal,’ Says Granary’s Brewmaster

For Granary brewmaster Alex Rattray (right), it’s all about the beer.

The Granary ‘Cue and Brew opened this week, bringing the art of beer making  back to the Pearl Brewery. Visitors can sample several treats from owner and brewmaster Alex Rattray, who has come up with a series sure to please any taste.

The Blonde is light with a touch of hoppy flowers. The Rye Saison adds citrus notes to a beer marked by a rye so pronounced and alluring that you’ll think of it as liquid bread. The India Pale Ale is all beautiful beer bitterness with an engaging hoppy floral bouquet. The Brown Ale unfortunately wasn’t ready when I stopped in on opening night, but it should be soon.

I asked Rattray what beers he likes to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. His first choice would be his Rye Saisonal, which would certainly add an extra dimension of richness to the meal. But since you can’t get the Granary’s beers to go, he suggested looking for a Belgian saisonal, such as Saison Dupont. “I think the dry qualities of the beer and the spicy nose would really complement turkey, pumpkin, stuffing, etc.,” he said.

Rattray also talked about his plans for the Granary’s future as well as offering a few tips for home brewers.

Try four beers in a flight.

Q: What is one misconception that people have about beer that you like to clear up?

A: I think a lot of people still think that beer is not sophisticated or they never think to pair beer with meals. In my opinion, beer can be every bit as sophisticated as wine, but it has a lot more to offer when pairing with food. The vast array of beer styles and the different flavor profiles they offer are quite staggering, and it makes it very easy to find a great match for any meal. Beer is much more forgiving then wine when it comes to food too so you can really have fun pairing different flavors. There aren’t many rules either, so I think beer and food pairings are much more approachable for people to do on their own. Wine pairing can seem intimidating for people that are just getting into it.

Q: What got you interested in brewing your own beers?

A: After a study abroad trip to London and a visit to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, I really started getting into craft beer. I was in a store one day and saw a cheap home brewing kit and thought it’d be fun to try my hand at it. I grew up with my mom cooking daily meals for us from scratch, and my siblings and I learned to cook and bake from an early age. So, I guess we all have that extra desire to make the things that we enjoy. So, I asked for the home brew kit for my birthday, and my brother Tim (my current business partner and chef) purchased the kit for me. I was hooked from the first batch I made.

Q: What advice do you have for home brewers?

A: Keep it simple, especially at first. I think a lot of home brewers try to do too much and add crazy ingredients to their beers. Now that’s half the fun of home brewing, but especially for beginners, I think simplicity is the key. More does not usually mean better. Some of my favorite beers are very simple. Subtlety is important.

Q: What plans do you have for the beer program at the Granary?

A. Obviously we brew our own beer, and that is an integral part of our program. We plan to star brewing our own seasonal beers soon, which will give us a chance to use local fruits, etc. We’re also going to be serving some of our beers on cask. For guest taps, we really want to showcase Texas breweries. Currently we’re the first and only place in San Antonio where you can get a beer from Rogness Brewing. They are from Austin, and their stuff is great. We also plan to start tapping a special cask once a month or so from a local brewery and serve it right on the counter top through a gravity tap. Not only is the beer awesome that way, but it makes for a really cool presentation and fun experience for guests that haven’t had a beer pulled straight from a cask. We’re also brewing our own root beer from scratch and plan to introduce some seasonal house-made sodas as well.

The Granary ‘Cue and Brew is at 602 Avenue A. At this point, it is open 6-10 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and 6-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Call (210) 228-0124 or click here for details.

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Beer of the Week: Full Sail IPA

Beer of the Week: Full Sail IPA

The label on the Full Sail IPA lets you know you’re in for something fun when you pop the top on this beer: “Independent employee-owned Full Sail IPA. 12 fluid ounces of ridiculously tasty India Pale Ale concocted by our massive brewforce of 47. Specialists in the liquid refreshment arts since 1987.”

I like ridiculously tasty beer. I like beer with attitude, on both the inside and the outside of the bottle. And I like IPAs.

I can’t say that Full Sail, brewed in Hood River, Ore., quite achieves the lofty goal on its label, but it is mighty good.

Perhaps my reservations are because Full Sail plays it somewhat safe when it comes to the trademark hoppy bitterness of traditional IPAs.

Open the bottle and the intense floral notes you expect are balanced by caramel and cereal. That’s even before you begin to pour it. Soon, a deep golden color lights up the glass with a little bit of foam that settles into a fairly steady lace across the top.

The first taste is full and rich rich and pleasantly bitter; but instead of being overwhelmingly brassy, like some intense IPAs, Full Sail goes more for a middle ground, with that caramel sweetness keeping the hops in check before ending with a citrus-y finish that’s leaves you primed for more. That’s great if you’re looking for something fun, a beer to relax with after a long day’s work.

Full Sail is also great if you want to pair your brew with food. The hoppy nature makes it perfect with spicy foods, such as street tacos with a habanero salsa, onions and cilantro; with salty foods, such as fried fish or french fries; or even the crackly skin of a roast chicken.

Maybe that qualifies it for being ridiculously tasty, after all.

Beer in the news

President Obama has taken up beer making as a hobby, and a growing number of the beer lovers want to get their hands on one of his recipes. To do so, several activists have filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

The president is said to have made several styles, including a honey ale that reportedly uses honey taken from the bee hives in the White House garden. It is the honey ale recipe that people want.

In order for the FOIA request to be filed, 25,000 signatures are needed on the request by Sept. 17. As of Wednesday, only 14,732 had signed. To add your voice to the growing chorus, click here.

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Beers of the Week: Pedernales Brewing Co.

Beers of the Week: Pedernales Brewing Co.

These days, the town of Fredericksburg and the surrounding Hill County area are known for producing some of Texas’ finest wines. The folks at Pedernales Brewing Co. are hoping to broaden that picture.

The brewery, which opened in March, has introduced four beers to the market so far, two in two different lines,  and a little something to please all tastes.

The Lobo line, with the wolf on its labels, includes:

  • Lobo Texas Lager is billed as a 1910 Pre-Prohibition Lager and is made from a recipe that dates actually to 1907.
  • Lobo Negro is a dark lager, or “dunkel,” which comes from a recipe that dates back to Germany in the 1950s.

The Classic line currently features:

  • The India Pale Ale, which is made in the American style.
  • The Hefe-Weizen, which is said to be unfiltered in the traditional German style (and is the only one of the four I haven’t tried).

All are made in keeping with traditional recipes, because one of the brewery’s founders, Lee Hereford, was looking for an old-fashioned beer that, when you finished your first, all you wanted was another.

So, he and his crew “are taking great recipes and we’re bringing them back,” says Hereford, who once owned a Hill Country winery called Wimberely Valley Wines. “We’re not trying to get out on the cutting edge with the weirdest beers of the decade.”

So, don’t expect a choc-van-straw porter or a brussels sprouts stout any time soon.

Yet making a century-old beer recipe work today is not as easy as it may seem. Brewmaster Peter McFarlane admits on the company’s website that he’s tinkered with the recipe for the Hefe-Weizen for several years.

There’s also a question of getting just the right Hill Country well water for the Texas Lager, the appropriate “dry malting” for the IPA and cold enough temperatures in the Texas heat for the dark lager.

The efforts have been worth it, based on a recent sampling. The Texas Lager was a pleasant, refreshing drink, smooth, but not so polished that it’s lost a cleansing bitter finish. The Lobo Negro managed to hit the right notes of cocoa and malt and was sweet enough to go nicely as a topping for Blue Bell’s vanilla ice cream.

My favorite, though, was the IPA with its hoppy bitterness mixed with a pleasant toffee-like sweetness and an herbal touch. It’s perfect for spicy foods or just something  bold to stand up to its layers of flavors. I had it with ribs at Tycoon Flats.

You can find Pedernales’ offerings at a variety of places around town, including the Alon H-E-B and Green Fields Market as well as Barriba Cantina, Chama Gaucha, the Friendly Spot and Myron’s Prime Steakhouse. You’ll also find it throughout the Hill Country; I saw it at the Silver K Cafe in Johnson City this past weekend. Click on the website above to find a full list of people selling this solid new addition to the burgeoning Texas beer scene.

 

 

 

 

 

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Beer of the Week: Big Sky IPA

Beer of the Week: Big Sky IPA

Opening a beer doesn’t generally remind me of wine, but the Big Sky IPA is an exception.

I opened a bottle recently and discovered a huge explosion of caramel sweetness and flowers bursting forth in the aroma, in keeping with some India pale ales, though perhaps not at quite this intensity. And there was just the right amount of hoppiness bitterness on the palate. Nice.

And just like one of favorite summertime wines, the Argentine Torrontés, which smells floral and sweet but is dry and crisp in your mouth.

But enough about wine. Back to the beer.

Big  Sky IPA poured a rich copper color with one finger of foam that lingered quite a while.

Those intense aromas carried over into the taste, as caramel, flavors of wheat, a touch of orange and herbs mixed with that hoppy bitterness, all leading to a lengthy finish that had a metallic touch.

I enjoyed this brew with a spicy Caribbean-style oxtail stew and let the various spices in both beer and stew complement each other. the same would be true for pairing this with Mexican street tacos with plenty of onion and cilantro on top or grilled burgers with pickles and, again, onions on a whole wheat bun.

This beer comes from Big Sky Brewing is in Missoula, Mont., an area that has plenty of sky indeed — and now it has beers with enough flavor to match.

Brew notes

A new brewery, Busted Sandal Brewing Company, has plans on opening in SA later this year.

According to the company’s website, the “nanobrewery” will specialize in small craft brews made with locally sourced seasonal ingredients: “We are full of brewing energy! Our ambition is to privately brew 20 concept batches in 18 weeks! In November, members of the ‘secret taster’s circle’ will judge the concept batches. From these 20 beers we will select only our best to move forward with. By this time, we will be very close to beginning pilot batch brewing and will begin opening our tasting events to the public!”

The company is the work of brewer and founder Michael DiCicco, “brewchitect” Robert Garza and brewer Joseph Alvarado, who is also responsible for brand development. Follow them on Twitter @bustedsandal for more details.

 

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Beer of the Week: Singha Lager Beer

Beer of the Week: Singha Lager Beer

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s hot. Even after the sun sets and a breeze kicks in, it’s all just a lot of hot air moving about and making things hotter.

That means it’s the perfect time for a beer whose purpose is to take the edge off the heat. One such beer is Singha Lager.

This Thai brew is a great counterbalance to the incendiary dishes of its home country, so, in its way, it fights heat on two levels.

I had a couple of bottles the other night at Siam Cuisine, 6032 FM 3009. It was the first time I’d enjoyed the beer in perhaps a year, and I was won over again almost instantly. One sip and I felt refreshed as flavors of malt and citrus went down easily, like any good thirst quencher, and prepared me for the food to come.

Singha is Thailand’s premier beer and, until recently, its top seller. It’s a fine example of a pale lager, with a lovely yellow color that shone in the setting sun. It poured with a generous head that lingered for a few minutes.

The aroma was pure malt while the flavor, as I mentioned, was malty with a tingly lemon acidity and a slight hoppy bitterness. But more than the flavor is the clean feeling that it leaves in your mouth as it goes down.

Pair that with a fiery stir-fry of pork, vegetables, mushrooms and noodles or a mild dish of beef with eggplant. The beer prepares you for the next bite, whether the seasonings you’re enjoying are lemon grass, basil and galangal root or red hot chiles and coconut milk.

So, chill out with a Singha. By the way, Wikipedia says the correct pronunciation is sing, which is fairly apt, as it will likely have you singing for more.

 

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Beer of the Week: Shiner Ruby Redbird

Beer of the Week: Shiner Ruby Redbird

These are the bird days of summer, and Shiner’s got just the beer to wet your whistle. It’s Shiner’s Ruby Redbird, the second time that the brewery in Spoetzel has released its Texas twist on a shandy, the classic beer-lemon mixture.

As you might be able to guess from the name,  the citrus in this beauty of a brew is Texas Rio red grapefruit juice from the Rio Grande Valley, and it’s mixed with a taste of ginger.

It pours a light golden color that fairly gleams when it catches the light. There are flecks of red, but little visually to suggest the ruby red component. The bouquet is redolent of ginger over wheat and hops that rises robustly as you pour it.

This brew pours more like a ginger ale than a beer, all fizzy but without much of a head at all. That’s the mouthfeel you get, too, with a light carbonation that is reminiscent of a soda.

But the taste is not like a ginger ale or even a ginger beer. The folks at Shiner have blended the grapefruit, the ginger, the hops and the malt (“pure Munich malt and Mt. Hood, Citra and Cascade hops,” according to the label) so that they’re well balanced, fruit goes with spice with malt with hops. Nothing stands out or dominates. Everything is fairly smooth. It’s also relatively light, with only a 4.01 percent alcohol level.

In other words, it’s meant to refresh,  to go down clean, to be a summertime treat.

But some people aren’t having any of that. The complaints I’ve heard about this beer include: “It’s too light.” “It’s not Shiner Black Label.” “It tastes like ginger ale.”

Well, guess what folks? If you want to drink Shiner Bock or Shiner Black Label, then drink those beers. That’s not the song Ruby Redbird is singing. It’s a different beer, as different as sourdough is from a baguette. Thankfully, there’s room for all tastes.

Frankly, on a day on which the thermometer hits triple digits, a dark beer is the one of last things in the world I want to think about drinking. (A California Cabernet Sauvignon is another.) That’s where Ruby Redbird comes in. So, enjoy a pint with some fish tacos or a spicy po’boy from one our food trucks, and chill out with a new Texas brew that most welcome in our seemingly endless days of summer.

 

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Beer of the Week: Third Shift Amber Lager

Beer of the Week: Third Shift Amber Lager

A new amber lager, Third Shift, has come to San Antonio as part of a test run that its producers are running in a select group of markets. In addition to the Alamo City, you can find it in Austin, Houston and Dallas as well as Dayton, San Francisco, Reno and Sacramento.

You won’t find this beer in bottles, but you will find it on tap at places including Friendly Spot, Leapin’ Lizard, Joey G’s, London Sub, Sideliners, Wurzbach Icehouse and Sugar Time, according to the beer’s publicists.

Third Shift, from Coors by way of a label called Band of Brewers, is worth seeking out if you like the nice play of bitter and sweet in a amber lager.

The beer pours out with the copper color you expect, and there’s a great visible fizz. The amount of head you find will depend, of course, on how its poured for you. Mine had a nice lace of foam around the edge.

The nose is not overwhelming, but it has a nice wheat quality with a touch of roasted malt. Both are evident when you take a sip, too, but you’ll also notice a sweetness reminiscent of caramel and whole wheat. I also detected something that reminded me of roasted peanuts. A metallic side taste lasts until the finish, which has a pleasant bitterness.

Third Shift is not terribly complicated, but it is enjoyable, something to relax with on a Friday after work.

You won’t find extended food offerings at some of the places listed above, but if you’re at the Friendly Spot, think of having a cup with a plate of tacos. The sweet in the beer will like the spicy food.

If the amber lager goes over, there’s talk of the Band of Brewers introducing more beers in the Third Shift series. So, go out and give it your own taste test.

 

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Beer of the Week: Heineken Lager Beer

Beer of the Week: Heineken Lager Beer

The folks in England brew some mighty fine beer. Taste any in the lineups from the likes of St. Peter’s, Newcastle, Boddington’s, Sam Smith’s, Fuller’s (from the fine Griffin Brewery) and Bass for further reference. In fact, have two or three for extra proof. (Just remember to drive responsibly.)

Even the least of the brews would be great to tip back while watching the summer Olympics in London. But, guess what? In case you hadn’t heard, none of the fine brews of Britain has been chosen as the official beer of the Olympics. Instead, Heineken has.

You read that right. Heineken. The Dutch beer that was once a global sensation but has settled into being merely a step or two above the laughing stock stage. When was the last time you had a Heineken? When the other options were Bud Light Lime or Pabst Blue Ribbon probably.

I hadn’t had one in ages, so I decided it was time to give it another try. The nose was dreadful, something fetid that made the wheat seem on the verge of going bad, too. It poured a nice pale yellow with a decent foam. It tasted OK, nothing out of place, but nothing memorable. Even the finish seemed to fade before I even noticed.

Had I missed anything? I decided to check out what other beer lovers had to say. On BeerAdvocate.com, the average of the various ratings of the beer was a 69, or poor, with most commenting on that off-putting nose. One of the nicer comments was: “… a decidedly average beer. Sure there are plenty of better beers that I would rather drink. However, between this and a cheap American Lager – I would drink this any day. Ultimately it is better than Bud.”

More were along  the lines of the following: “Good news, everyone! The aroma is pure skunked maltiness and sulfur that reminds me of Corona. Wait a minute, that’s not good news at all …”

It certainly wasn’t good news to the British, where the issue has become somewhat political.

Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, offered his two pence worth in a statement quoted on Yahoo.com. “Beer is the UK’s national drink and the country has a strong and ancient tradition of brewing; by choosing a mass produced bland foreign lager, the committee has ignored all the wonderful, traditional beers that the UK has to offer and instead gone for the company with the biggest cheque book. The Olympic Games is a prime opportunity for Britain to showcase the best of British, including the opportunity to promote its traditional beers and its thriving brewing industry. By opting for Heineken as the official beer, the opportunity has been lost. The decision is completely at odds with the strong positive British identity of the bid and the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics.”

I can actually see the need for having Heineken at the summer games. A beer there is said to be priced at a little more than $11. At that price, you either have to offer variety or limit yourself to something that is the brewery equivalent of fast food, something that appeals to the lowest common denominator because of the complaints that will inevitably arise if it’s slightly exotic: “I don’t like dark beer.” “This beer is too bitter.” “That doesn’t look like any beer I know.” “Where’s the lime?”

I won’t be in London for the games. And I won’t be drinking Heineken either. Join me in raising a toast to the world’s finest athletes with one of the world’s finest beers, a real British treasure of your choice. I’ve had a hankering lately for a Fuller’s 1845, which is almost like a fruitcake-infused beer, or St. Peter’s Old-Style Porter, another heavy brew with a tremendous balance of sweet and bitter. Somehow watching other people exert themselves can tire me out and leave me needing great fortification. And that’s what a good beer is for.

 

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Beer of the Week: Brooklyner Wheat Beer

Beer of the Week: Brooklyner Wheat Beer

How much do you like the flavor of bananas in your beer? If you do, you probably know about Wells Banana Bread Beer, which emphasizes its banana quality in its name. But if you pick up a beer that just calls itself a Bavarian-style wheat beer on the label and yet you smell a bunch of bananas from the moment you open the bottle, what then?

That was my reaction to Brooklyner Wheat Beer, which is also called Weisse Beer on some labels. An overwhelming scent of banana emerged as I poured it into the glass. A deep yellow, almost brown, filled the glass and was crowned by a light foam that slowly dissipated into a lacy ring. The hefeweizen was unfiltered, so it was slightly cloudy, yet the golden color gleamed in the light.

Take a deep sniff and you’ll notice there’s plenty going on under the banana, from honey and citrus candies to grass and wheat. But the banana is going to be the make or break element for many beer drinkers.

Many of those characteristics, including the banana, carry over into the flavor with the addition of a pleasant bitterness to cut a little of the sweet. They are further enhanced by a slice of lemon or orange. By itself, the mid-palate had a slight sour quality that the citrus would also temper leading to a lengthy wheat-filled finish. The mouthfeel is fairly full with plenty of fine carbonation.

This is a beer that speaks of summer and would be great with summer food, whether you pair it with watermelon or a green salad. Think of pairing it with simply prepared fish or roast chicken. And don’t forget the banana pudding for dessert; they’d be great together.

 

 

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Beer of the Week: Fun for the Fourth

Beer of the Week: Fun for the Fourth

In case you hadn’t noticed, it is hot outside. Big-time hot. Triple-digit hot. Gimme-another-cold-one hot. And it probably won’t get any cooler by the time the Fourth of July rolls around.

The American craft brew scene is also hot, and brewers in this country are creating  some of the best beers in the world today. Some are complex, layered treats worthy of great contemplation. But more than a few just settle for simple excellence. The best thing  to find out how exciting these bottlings are is to go out and pop a few caps.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, five American beers that’ll make you feel all patriotic because of how good they are.

Fat Tire Amber Ale —Remember the aroma of Mom’s homemade biscuits when they were served with honey on the side? That memory will flash past when you smell this beaut. The finish lingers long in a gratifying way.

Real Ale Firemans #4 Blonde Ale — Brewed up the road in Blanco, this American blonde is a light treat with a great lemony edge that adds to its refreshing qualities in the summer heat. It goes down so easy. Who could want anything more?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — Treat your nose to an intoxicating bouquet of floral hops blended to perfection with sweet malt, an apple dipped in caramel and a touch of citrus. Then drink all that down in a well-rounded brew that finishes on a pleasantly hoppy note. Pure liquid joy.

Ranger Creek Mesquite Smoked Porter — The name lets you know to expect some smokiness, but that’s not all you’ll find when you pour this San Antonio brew. There’s a mellow quality with a sweet, smooth chocolate quality that adds a richness that’s perfect for barbecue or whatever you’re having at a picnic.

Dogfish 60 Minute IPA — When you see the IPA on a label, your first thought, of course, is of hops, all floral and bitter. They’re quite evident here, but that’s not all that makes this beer special. You get a good citrus quality as well as a piney note that just adds to the burn as it goes down.

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