Texas®

A couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to tell you all about Austin’s Jester King craft brewery and their insanely delicious Black Metal Russian Imperial Stout. Knowing how great that big ol’ bottle of finely crafted brew had tasted, it was an easy decision to head back to the Plano Mister G’s and grab another of the 750 ml Jester King selections they might have.

It would’ve been quite the dissappointment had another one not been available. Wait, I take that back: I would’ve just grabbed another wine bottle-sized Black Metal, now that I think about it.

As fate had it, another Jester King beer was indeed available and – get ready for this – it was an amazing beer experience, well worth the $10 or $11 it takes to acquire the bottle.

Which one did I purchase and then devour, you ask? Drink’in the Sunbelt.

Aside from this being a fantastic summer beer, thanks to it’s hop-intensive, bright bite, it’s made more special by it’s concept. This hoppy, wheat beer is the result of a collaboration between Jester King and Mikkeller, a so-called “gypsy brewer” out of Denmark. According to Jester King, this is the first of two planned collaborations between the brewers. Needless to say, I can not wait for the second partnering.

Look, I’m not a beer expert, nor a beer snob. Yes, I love quality beer that isn’t uncontrollably mass-produced and isn’t usually capable of sponsoring entire major sports leagues. Having stated that, however, I’m just a dude that knows what he likes and enjoys being a tad adventurous with his beer selections from time to time.

The fact is: this beer is worth a shot. I know that’s not very professional sounding, and not something you would hear from my friend The Hophead, but hey, what more do I need to say than: it’s some really delicious alcohol, man.

While we left May’s North Texas Beer Festival slightly underwhelmed (just slightly), we left with some grand impressions on a couple of brews that we knew we wanted to get to know much better than through the 2-3 oz samples we met them with at the very crowded, long-line-filled festival in Plano.

In fact, the beer that left me longing more than any other that day was one that I had been told once before to give a shot, actually. A few months ago, we stopped for a quick quality beer at Dallas’ Meddlesome Moth before a meeting, and as we were ready to leave, the bartender, realizing I had just downed one of their stout offerings said, “Bro, you gotta give the Jester King Black Metal a shot, now.” Unfortunately, we had to leave, but those words were at top of mind as the all-too small sample made its deep impression on out taste buds and frontal lobes at the festival.

This week, we found ourselves with reason to celebrate, and what better way to do that than with a premium beer that has haunted you for months, yet remained unexperienced fully to this point? After a stop into the wonderland that is Plano’s Mister G’s (for real, whether you’re looking for beer, wine or a great deli sandwich, this place is a practical toy store for adults), we had our eager hands on a 750 ml bottle of the Jester King Black Metal.

Easily one of the better Russian Imperial Stouts we’ve ever tasted, Jester King, located just outside of Austin, has simply done it and done it right. Weighing in at a seemingly weighty 10.4% ABV, the chocolatey, smokey, nutty and robust nectar has smooth and full mouth-feel yet never tastes like the pure alcohol that one might expect from a brew boasting a ABV that’s over twice what the typical Miller Lite limps in with.

As great as the beer itself is, Jester King just seems to know how to have fun and how to market their brews to their fellow Texans. The black bottle contains sweet, glam-metal-riffic artwork that would satisfy any KISS fan and the description of the beer that’s located on the back label boasts that it’s a “cruel and punishing brew fermented by the sheer force of its awesome will.” Can’t we all agree that a brewery that puts as much effort into the packaging and marketing of their product as they do in the quality of it is one that we should all get behind?

I thought so…

On Saturday, the 14th, the city of Plano got straight-up sudsy, thanks to the North Texas Beer Festival, hosted at the Plano Centre. Tons of beer vendors from all over the country sharing samples of their latest and greatest brews.

There were some nagging issues through the course of the afternoon, however. Long lines that ran up and and down the trade-show style rows of beer booths made it impossible to simply grab a cup from a specific brewer that might be in the middle of the aisle. So, rather than being able to easily sample something from Mendocino Brewing, one had to head to the back of a long line that forced you to spend time in-front of vendors and brewers that you may or may not want to get to know better. Also, while there were great craft-brew stars – both regionally and nationally - represented, there weren’t many lesser known breweries there, ready to surprise the throngs that arrived looking for a buzz. Maybe that wasn’t the goal, and perhaps that’s all relative – who knows. Southern Star Brewery, out of Conroe, TX isn’t exactly a household name, but thanks to their stellar Buried Hatchet Stout and Bombshell Blonde, the brewery that makes the finest canned Texas beer is well-known to us around here. In fact, Southern Star’s ProAm Smoked Porter was my favorite brew of the afternoon, with Austin’s Jester King Black Metal Stout ranking a close second.

So, there were a couple of issues, but overall, this was a very cool event and I can only imagine that it went about as well as anyone could expect from a first year’s offering.

As I’ve hinted already, Texas beer lovers were in heaven. St. Arnold had their excellent beers on hand, and Franconia, out of McKinney, wowed with their authentic, German-style lagers. Even Shiner Bock managed to bring something that was surely a surprise to most. Their new Shiner Ruby Redbird blended the classic bock taste with bright hints of ginger and grapefruit to make a refreshing and surprisingly even drink. It was easy to expect something that came off as way too fruity and sweet, but the ginger evened things out pretty well.

For the drinkers looking for out-of-state goodness, there were several options, perhaps most notably was New Belgium Brewery. Offering their brand-new Somersault seasonal (in stores very soon, we were told), Colorado’s hippest brewery is clearly continuing their streak of offering perhaps the country’s best beers for the sunny seasons.

Hey, what else is there to say, but that we’re already looking forward to next year’s fest!