The 2010 Fall Beer Fest at Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou treated guests to music, tasty food and over 50 seasonal artisan beers all in the lush landscaped gardens of Brenner’s on the Bayou near Memorial Park in Houston, Texas. Buxom beer wenches dressed in traditional Oktoberfest garb poured from 9 different breweries including Houston’s oldest craft brewery: Saint Arnold which is celebrating its 16th-year.
Founders Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol, along with the recognizable tie-dye painted Bentley were noticeably missing from the event. Probably because the event ran concurrently with the Bayou Bucket Classic; the 39-year old annual football rivalry between the University of Houston Cougars and the Rice University Owls. Wagner and Bartol are both alumni of Rice, which was also celebrating its Homecoming that day at the 50,000-seat Rice University Football Stadium.
While the Saint Arnold men were missed, that did not keep this from being one of the best festivals we have attended in Houston. Tents were set up along the path of beautifully landscaped gardens where patrons gathered on benches, at tables, and seated on blankets on the hillside. Looking up you could see Brenner’s Steakhouse, with skyscrapers rising up behind. The former location of the Rainbow Lodge, we understand the animal heads have been removed from the walls inside, and have been replaced with contemporary decor. All this overlooks Buffalo Bayou, the lush green hills and landscaped water gardens.
Guests enjoyed music by the Ezra Charles’ Texas Blues Band, a Houston-based group since 1987 when they were known as Ezra Charles and the Works. Another Rice University alum and Beaumont, Texas native, Ezra played in his first band at the tender age of 14 alongside Johnny and Edgar Winter. While at Rice, he invented a microphone designed especially for pianos and says his bio, “achieved worldwide fame as a technical innovator.”
Chef Crafted Food and More Texas Beer
Another local brewer serving, with just over two years under their production belt was Southern Star, serving their Pine Belt Pale Ale, Bombshell Blonde and Buried Hatchet Stout. The Buried Hatchet was one of Amy’s favorites. Dark with flavors of dark coffee, creamy toffee and chocolate, it was a perfect pairing for the Guinness chocolate bon bons being served chilled nearby.
Real Ale Brewing Company out of Blanco, Texas, served five selections: Fireman’s #4 Blonde Ale, Rio Blanco Pale Ale, Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, Brewhouse Brown Ale and Real Ale Oktoberfest. Brewhouse Brown was Amy’s favorite here. Charles and Joe didn’t make it over to this booth. Started in the basement of an antiques store on the Blanco town square in 1996. From those humble beginnings it grew to a 60 barrel, four vessel, steam-fired brewhouse capable of producing between 54,000 and 72,000 barrels a year. They are part of Austin Beer Week today through October 30th.
What’s a Beer Fest in Texas without Shiner?
Texas’ own world-famous Shiner, Texas icon was also a part of the festivities. The folks from the Spoetzl Brewery were pouring Black Lager, Shiner Blonde, Hefeweizen, 101 and Holiday Cheer. As always, there was a huge line at the Shiner Tent. A favorite of ours is the Bohemian Black Lager. Shiner’s darkest brew is crafted according to exacting old-world standards with imported Czech Saaz, Styrians Hops and selected roasted malts. Initially added to the Shiner family as their 97th Anniversary Brew, customers liked it so much that it became one of their standard line-up. Shiner began brewing in 1909, and the famous Shiner Bock is now available in 38 states. It’s a hometown operations with just 64 employees producing 450,000 cases a year.
Beer from Outside the State of Texas
While Texas does make some of the most awesome beer around, the festival also included five other great beer brands from outside the Lone Star State.
One of our new favorite brewers is Stone Brewing from Escondido, California. We discovered Stone Smoked Porter at Central Market’s Discover Brewtopia. In addition to the Smoked Porter, wenches at the Stone booth were pouring Arrogant Bastard Ale, Ruination Ale IPA, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Stone is not for everyone, but if you’re into HUGE tasty hoppy bears, they are hard to beat. Joe loves the OAKED Arrogant Bastard. It had a huge hop presence but the oak gives it a richer, more balanced taste. And the Stone Smoked Porter is also an awesome pairing with the Guinness chocolate truffle, Joe’s favorite pairing of the day.
New Belgium Brewing Company
Makers of the popular Fat Tire, the Fort Collins, Colorado beer maker New Belgium Brewing Company also sampled Ranger IPA, Hoptober, 1554 and Mothership Wit. New Belgium calls 1554 an Enlightened Black Ale, and its story is intriguing. It seems that in 1997, a Fort Collins flood destroyed the original recipe for this chocolaty lager. So Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert and researcher Phil Benstein traveled to Belgium to retrieve it.
Their first challenge was deciphering antiquated script and outdated units of measurement, but trial and error (and many months of in-house sampling) culminated in 1554, a highly quaffable dark beer with a moderate body and mouthfeel.
New Belgium’s website lists 29 different beers. While all of us enjoy Fat Tire, 1554 was also a favorite at this booth.
Sponsors of some of the festival glassware, the Samuel Adams tent asks everyone to “Take Pride in Your Beer.” In addition to serving their popular Boston Lager, the Boston, Massachusetts brewery sampled Imperial White, Coastal Wheat, Octoberfest and Blackberry Witbier, which combines a traditional witbier brewed with Oregon Marion blackberries. In addition there is a hint of traditional orange and coriander that complements the malt character.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Samuel Adams Boston Lager hit the market in 1985, debuting in about 25 bars and restaurants in the Boston area. Owner Jim Koch came from a long line of brewers, beginning in the 1800s. Unfortunately Prohibition forced his family to shut down their business. Jim got his great-great grandfather’s recipe from his dad’s attic and started trying to resurrect it by brewing in his kitchen. At the time there was no office, no computers, no distributors and just two employees determined to make something better than the mass-produced, watered-down American beers. American craft brews were basically non-existent.
Due to popularity and brisk sales, by 1988 they were able to build a small brewery in Boston, selling 36,000 barrels to folks on both coasts.Today Samuel Adams employs 750 people with their breweries in Boston, Cincinnati and Pennsylvania. They produce over 30 different beer styles. With 2009 net revenues at $415.1 million, Samuel Adams beers are now available in all 50 states and more than 20 foreign countries.
Those who couldn’t make it to Oktoberfest in Munich, could enjoy German’s most popular wheat beer in Houston. The oldest brand represented, Paulaner refers to the order of Saint Francis of Paola friars that resided in Neuhauser Straße in Munich and began brewing beer for their own use in 1634. For those fluent in German, you can check out Paulaner’s interactive website here. If you’ve consumed a beer already, you may want to turn off the sound of water running through a brook embedded in the background.
The lusty wench pictured above was pouring samples of Paulaner Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest, Original Munich, Pils and Salvator. A a rich and hearty dopplebock, Salvator is reddish-brown in color with a smoky, sweet malty nose with accents of Hallertau hops. The Paulaner monks used to drink Salvator as a food substitute during Lent. Amy’s favorite of the festival, the Salvator is an excellent pairing with pulled pork sandwiches.
The Paulaner brand is distributed through the United States. The German Paulaner group previously worked through a distributor in the USA. But in 2009, Paulaner decided to import its beers through a subsidiary known as PAULANER HP USA.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
Dogfish Head says they make off-centered ales for off-centered people. We know they are talking about us. But by the time we got to the Dogfish Head booth around 4:00 p.m. most everything they were pouring was gone. We did pick up a couple of “Custom Shark” bottle openers. Those are pretty cool.
Scheduled for tasting were the 60 minute IPA, 90 minute IPA, Raison D’Etre, Indian Brown Ale and the Midas Touch. Released in limited monthly 4-pack quantities, Midas Touch is said to be from an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700-year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of Midas himself. Dogfish brews craft ales and higher alcohol by volume limited-release beers in Milton Delaware. In November they release a World Wide Stout “with the depth of a Tawny Port.” (ABV 18%)
In addition to a plethora of brews, Dogfish Head hand-distills rum, vodka and “jin” in a still upstairs in their Rehoboth Beach brewpub. Site of the original brew operations, the brewpub now serves as a restaurant. Their website is chocked full of interesting stuff, and the brewery looks like an amazing place to visit. We wish they had some beer left for us to try. We’ll have to go searching for it at our local retailer.
We were pleasantly surprised at all the great food and beer available at the festival. The location was awesome, and per Joe and Charles, “The Beer Wench costumes ROCK!” Stone and Saint Arnold were two favorite breweries. Almost everyone there had their own version of Octoberfest, but Joe thought the Saint Arnold Oktoberfest was the best one.
We were a bit disappointed to see the beer run out early, and the booth folks packing up everything at around 4:30 p.m. given the festival was billed as a 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. event. It was great to see such a diverse group of festival-goers representing Houston’s cultural melting pot.
You may not know that the real Oktoberfest in Munich is not actually held in October. While it ends on the first weekend of October, the festival actually starts in the middle of September, and continues until the last Sunday of October. Over the years Houston has hosted a number of Octoberfest events, and this one was the most enjoyable to date. We hope they bring the Fall Beer Fest back again next year!
About the Sponsor
Brenner’s Steakhouse, located at 1 Birdsall Lane off Memorial Drive near Washington, is one of Landry’s Restaurants, Inc.’s 29 different restaurant brands. Others in the Signature Group include Pesche, la griglia, Vic & Anthony’s, Grotto, and Willie G’s in Houston; national chains Rainforest Cafe, Saltgrass, Aquarium and the recently acquired Oceanaire Seafood Room. A Houston company since its first restaurant in Katy, Texas in 1980, Landry’s also owns Kemah Boardwalk, several Galveston hotels and the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Nevada.
Check out our pictures from the 2010 Beer Fest. If you attended, you may just see yourself in the crowd!
Charles Chang, Joe Power and Amy Corron Power all contributed to this post. This is Charles’ first appearance as a blogger for Another Wine Blog – we hope to see him here often!