Last week's post about the Texas Beer Festival garnered some interesting responses. Most seemed excited about an event born out of the desire to showcase Texas beers. A few notable exceptions were voiced. Well, now the first annual Texas Beer Festival has come and gone, and I, for one, can't wait for next year.
My wife and I had gotten a late start to the day, having been forced to orchestrate a last-minute baby-sitting adjustment (thanks, Mom!), and arrived at the Humble Civic Center a good four hours into the event, concerned about missing out on all the good stuff. As we walked up to what we thought was the right place, my wife mentioned that the tables decked out in pastel silk and ribbons didn't exactly seem like an appropriate setting for a beer festival. Agreeing, I turned and caught sight of the TXBF banner flapping in the breeze across the parking lot.
A quick course adjustment to avoid crashing the prom, and we were sidling up to the will-call window, proffering tickets and IDs. Two wrist-bands, 24 drink coupons, and a walk past security "scary dude in the kilt," and we were in. We took a quick stroll around the grounds to orient ourselves, noting locations of highlight breweries, promising food trucks, and the specialty beer wall.
It was a nice stroll. The grounds were well laid out and spacious, kept cool by the roof and the most enormous ceiling fan I've ever seen. It was comfortable, but the dirt floor and open sides kept the space from feeling like a convention hall. At one end, Robert Ellis and the Boys were just setting up; at the other end, the food truck court beckoned with promises of tacos, burgers and cupcakes. In between lay the beer stations, with the specialty beer wall taking center stage in the middle of the space.
Over the course of three hours or so, we made stops by most of the local breweries on hand (I never did manage to find the Wicked Beaver Clif mentioned), and made several stops by the specialty beer wall. The wall featured a pretty impressive array of beers, and pretty impressive lines to match. I think I inadvertently stumbled upon a winning plan by showing up late. They had tapped 10 out of the 17 specialty beers by the time I arrived and still had plenty of each left. This meant I had my choice of beers when I first approached the wall.
My first beer of the day, and ultimately my favorite, was a striking Independence Brewluminati offering. Featuring fruity, grape-like aromas and a nutty flavor reminiscent of hay, with a slightly bitter finish and an earthy sweetness like caramelized root vegetables (think sweet potato and molasses), it was intriguing and delicious. My wife, in turn, chose her first selection - No Label Panamanian Coffee Milk Stout - as her favorite. I can't disagree that it was delicious. It was like cold brewed coffee with a strong backbone of roasted malt. It was light-bodied but rich and just vaguely sweet, with a slightly floral finish.
I also sampled:
Petrus Barrel Aged Sour (whose clean and mellow acidity has me rethinking my stance on sours), (512) Cream Stout (like blackstrap molasses with an oddly sour and ashy quality, like carbonized pecans soaked in lemon), Jasmine Infused Bombshell Blonde from Southern Star (sweet and clean with some orange blossom notes, not much different from standard, but with a slightly artificial, potpourri quality), Dogfish Head Bitches Brew (sweet, preserved dark fruit and wood; dense, with some char around the edges; like drinking a library), and Stone Old Guardian BELGO (booze right up front, lots of malt character, slightly grassy; overwhelms itself, slightly).
I didn't wait in line for a taste of St. Arnold DR#11. I'd already had it several times before, and the line was at least 50 deep.
Pours tended to be generous, especially if you were drinking from a TXBF logo-emblazoned pint glass, and grew more so as the night wore on. I don't think I was offered a two-ounce pour anywhere, with an estimate of five to six ounces being more normative as a sampling measure. The atmosphere was certainly not one of parsimony, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
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I certainly did. With Bernie's "Homeroom" burger in hand (sadly sans egg, as they had run out just prior to my arrival at the bus) and a pint of Circle Brewing Company's bright and citrusy Blur Texas Hefe to slake my thirst as Robert Ellis sang Lefty Frizzell, Gary U.S. Bonds, and the Tennessee Waltz, it felt like a damn fine evening. I hope everyone feels the same. By the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, I'm guessing they did. Here's to the First Annual Texas Beer Festival, and a glass raised for the next one.