This week, the Flying Saucer (705 Main St., 713-228-9472), a rare downtown institution amidst the construction and revitalization, became the first bar in Houston to have Alpine Beer Company on tap. The San Diego-based microbrewery has been partnered with Green Flash Brewing for some time, and although Green Flash has been in Houston for a while, Alpine is just arriving for the first time.
The brewery is best known for its selection of IPAs, and that was reflected in the lineup, largely IPAs and pale ales. The Flying Saucer tapped a different beer each day Monday through Friday, and I got to sample each on Thursday while speaking to Asa Hanrahan, the bar's General Manager, and Joshua Justice, the manager.
I started with Thursday's tapping, the Nelson Rye IPA. Hanrahan said it was his favorite, and I can see why: the hints of white pepper on the nose make it uniquely pleasing, and while it has that "crispy / crunchy" mouthfeel that is the goal of a good IPA, it finished smoothly, without too much bite or bitterness. It's a treat.
Next was Monday's tapping, the Duet IPA. The Duet was so named because it uses two types of hops, Simcoe and Amarillo. It was the strongest of the beers I tried, and that was reflected in the body, with a big mouthfeel and a very hoppy flavor and texture. The Duet had a surprisingly sweet nose for an IPA, which I appreciated.
Tuesday's tapping, the Hoppy Birthday, was a pale ale that finished smoother and easier than the previous two ales. Less strong and intense in flavor, it was a nice refreshing break from the real "palate-wreckers." (Admittedly, given that description of the first two beers, I should have tried this one first.)
Wednesday's Alpine Ale was described as a "traditional pale ale"; Hanrahan explained it was an attempt to craft a pale ale in the style that was more common before the West Coast hop revolution really took hold as a craft influence. This was not nearly as hoppy and much maltier than the other beers, though the hop flavor was still noticeably present.
I also got to preview Friday's tapping, Alpine Irish Red, a style I am fond of but not one I see very often in craft beer. (Justice also surprised me by bringing out an Irish Red that Green Flash brewed exclusively for the Flying Saucer.) The Alpine was my preferred of the two, as it was the sweeter, maltier, and easier to drink one, which is what I prefer in an Irish Red. (That isn't to say Green Flash's was bad, just that it was sharper and had more bite than the Alpine version.)
I'm not sure which of the Alpine beers are still available at Flying Saucer, but if you can still find any of them, they all merit recommendation. Even if you missed them, Hanrahan mentioned several upcoming events of interest to craft beer fans. On Tuesday, for St. Patrick's Day, the bar is doing something a little untraditional-- "We didn't want to do the Guinness-and-green-beer thing; beer lovers don't want [food coloring] in their beer"-- and hosting a beer-and-cheese pairing. The event will be led by a former cheesemaker who now represents B United, an international importer with a portfolio of small, unique breweries, and will pair cheeses from Houston Dairymaids with beers one of those breweries, Brasserie BFM. Among BFM's beers include the √255, a terrific saison, and the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, a sour that for my money is a serious contender for best beer in the world.
Additional upcoming events include "Stone Hop Madness" in conjunction with March Madness, an event featuring Firestone Walker, and specials planned for Houston Beer Week. Hanrahan also mentioned the Flying Saucer celebrates its 15th anniversary in August, and while I don't have details of that event yet, making it to fifteen years amidst a constantly changing downtown is more than reason enough to throw a big party.