Home Brewing & Wine Making

Spring in Texas: Beer Fest!

by Shawnda on May 11, 2012

in Home Brewing & Wine Making,Texas,Travel

Texas Beer Festival

We met up with my friend Erica and her husband downtown to celebrate all things Texas craft beer (read: to drink beer outside on a beautiful day) at Texas Beer Festival a couple of weekends ago. Dozens of craft brews, many of them from Texas – every style for every taste, from the easy-to-drink “intro” Alamo Golden Ale that my Bud Light-drinkin’ baby brother would actually drink to a wildy fragrant Chai Porter that Erica and I decided would make a killer cupcake. And frosting! But, you know, maybe just not… beer :P

Texas Beer Festival

My husband seemed solidly unconvinced on the “cupcake + beer = successful bakery” business model.

Clearly, his glass was still half full.

Texas Beer Festival

If you’ve been around here for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that Jason and I are hobbyist craft brewers. We like to drink beer. We like to make beer. And we love to drink the beer that we’ve made.

Texas Beer Festival

Our latest project? I call her “Ruby Moon.” She’s a Belgian-style wit beer (the same style as Blue Moon, hence the awesomely creative name) that we infused with the zest and juice of Texas ruby red grapefruit.

Beer and ruby red grapefruit. They actually were kind of meant to be.

Texas Beer Festival

Our origins in craft brewing were very simple. We bottled our first wine the year before and wanted to do something a little different. Jason printed the description of a beer that he really liked from a brewery’s website, handed that piece of paper to the guy at our wine supply store, and 15 minutes later we had everything we needed to make beer. At home!

Jason’s favorite brew was our first, an agave wheat beer. My favorite brew is our latest, the Ruby. And the good ones in between: a Blue Moon knock-off, a Texas-style bock (Shawndabock!), and a honey wheat. But J loves his Agave Wheat. And I’m going to be hard pressed to find one I love as much as the Ruby.

And that’s coming from a margarita girl :)

Texas Beer Festival

Two things came out of this weekend: renewed interest for pushing the envelope on our next brew and 2) a wicked tan line. It’s a good thing that I bought 5 of those summery kimono dresses from Target. Because after forgetting to put sunblock on my chest, they’ll be the only things I wear for a while.

Texas Beer Festival

Interested in brewing your own beer? If you’re in the Houston area, DeFalco’s is our go-to for beer- and wine-making supplies. They were so nice and super helpful to the two dorks who walked in to their store 6 years ago and declared that we wanted to make wine. And their grain room smells like heaven. If heaven were a beer supply store.

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Beer bottle caps

If you’ve been around long enough, you know that we make wine. Our port is a huge hit among our friends and family. It’s a beautiful ruby with dark chocolate and deep berry notes. It’s dessert in a glass. After 3 or 4 attempts, we’ve nailed the Riesling to a soft, buttery, peachy wine that’s a little too easy to drink :) But the shiraz might actually be my favorite. It’s what we call “pizza wine” because it goes with everything, from fancy steak night to thrown-together-in-6-minutes pizza. It’s a medium red with a nice, peppery/spicy finish.

And now I sound like I know a lot more about wine than I really do. I can make it. And I know what I like. And that’s pretty much it :)

Rinsing the grains

The move from wine to beer was a pretty easy one. It’s not very difficult to make either. You just need a few pieces of specialized equipment and some know-how. (What did people do before Google?) For beer, we start by steeping a bag of grains, boiling it (it = the wort) with a few other ingredients (malt extracts, hops, and a few other things depending on the style), pitch the yeast when the wort cools. And then you magically end up with 9 six packs of beer (nine!) that are ready to drink in about 2 months. It’s usually a two-person job (bottle washing, sterilization, transferring/bottling, etc) so it’s nice to have another thing that The Foodie Groom and I can do together that we both enjoy.

Hops

Those are hops. They give beer its flavor and aroma. They also make your kitchen stink while they’re boiling away. Before the hops go in, your kitchen will smell like GrapeNuts. It drove me crazy the first time we brewed – I couldn’t place the smell!

In the last year, we’ve brewed an agave wheat beer that was The Foodie Groom’s favorite and a Belgian white (think Blue Moon) that was my favorite, all the way down to the very last bottle.

Our current brew is a Texas-style bock (think Shiner) that we jokingly refer to as “Shawnda Bock” because I handled nearly all of it myself. And when I say “we,” I mean me. House rules: you bottle it alone, you get to name it :)

Shawnda Bock

Bottling 9 six packs by yourself is a bit daunting, trying to manage the filler tube, the bottles, the bottle capper, and the 15-month old who wants to get her chubby little hands on the filler tube, bottles, and the bottle capper. It’s easier as a two-person job but it can be done in a pinch.

I’ve already informed the Foodie Groom that I want to keg the next brew. I wonder if he ever thought he’d marry a girl who’d ask for a kegerator for her birthday?

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