Samuel Adams Winter Classics Beer Reviews

Posted in Beer Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2009 by Bill Bowman

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. I have enjoyed some free time since school has let out. Last weekend, I picked up the Samuel Adams Winter Classics variety pack and decided to share my findings. The case cost around 12 dollars at Specs and even came with a bow on top!

Six varieties of beers and a bow on top!

Now, on to the beers. I review the Old Fezziwig Ale, Cranberry Lambic, Holiday Porter and Coastal Wheat. The 12 pack also came with the standard Sam Adams Ale and the Winter Lager, which I have had before and is high quality.

Old Fezziwig is the best named Holiday Beer.

Old Fezziwig is the best named Holiday Beer.

The Old Fezziwig ale, named after the festive character in the Christmas Carol will be first up. It pours dark brown, with a medium head. It smells like spices and fruit. It had a very caramel, fruity, full taste. A very good beer. I give it 3.75 out of 5.

The Holiday Porter

The Holiday Porter, named after the variety of beers popular with old porters in England is next up. It pours thin and dark. The taste is chocolaty and mildly bitter. Not as good as the Fezziwig, but still tasty. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Cranberry Good Times!

Cranberry Good Times!

The Cranberry Lambic is the most unique beer out of the bunch. It pours a reddish orange with a medium hear. It has a cranberry (obviously) smell. The taste is overwhelmingly fruity with some syrup hints. Very good beer, but I imagine not everyone has the pallete for it. I give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Coastal Wheat

Coastal Wheat

The Coastal Wheat is an interesting beer out of the pack. I wasn’t really sure how it related to Christmas. Nevertheless, it poured kind of yellowish with a slight head. Smelled kind of citrusy. It tasted lemony and little bit wheaty (is that a word?). Going from the darker beers to the Coastal Wheat was not the best idea. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Well, I would recommend picking up the Samuel Adams Winter Classic variety pack this Holiday Season, if you want a little variety and great brews.

Bill Bowman

On Campus Beer: Where to get it

Posted in Misc., Pubs with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by Adam Aldrete

As finals approach and students will be leaving their classrooms in jubilee, many will go in search of the first beer they can find. Luckily, the UT campus is home to a number of places for students and fellow Austinites to quench their thirst.

The Newbies

The first two I’ll mention are very new to the campus scene. One of the newest additions to the Blanton Museum of Art is a cafe, which serves sandwiches, smoothies, breakfast items, soups, salads, pizzas, desserts, and a very modest selection of beer. (The last time I was there, I believe they had two or three. Overall, this isn’t a place for the beer connoisseur, but you can grab a cold one before that art gallery opening you decided to attend.

One of the newest additions to the UT campus Credit to

The next location you can grab a beer is the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. Although I haven’t been to the bar here, they should have a selection comparable to a typical bar. I wouldn’t expect  Flying Saucer type of list, but you can look for a pretty decent selection.

The Oldies

Cosmic bowling and beer available in the Union Underground Credit to Will Tung

Both of these venues have been mainstays for UT faithful for decades. The first, the Underground, is a bowling alley complete with billiards, air hockey, and beer! Although the beer collection isn’t huge, they do have Shiner, which is a Texas favorite. The beers are also available at a reasonable price, I believe I had a Shiner for three bucks on a Saturday night. This is a good place to go with friends old and young, just in case not everyone is of age to drink.

Good music and good beer, all on campus

The second mainstay, and perhaps the most popular bar on campus, is The Cactus Cafe. This bar, which allows you to bring in food from the outside, is a campus jewel according to Jack Frink in his 2008 Daily Texan article. In addition to the bar, The Cactus Cafe also has a stage on which live musicians perform from time to time.

Good luck on finals and I hope that you get a chance to check out these places on campus.


Pint Night with the Brew Guys

Posted in Beer Reviews, Events, Misc. with tags , on December 8, 2009 by Adam Aldrete

Hey Beer lovers,

As the semester comes to a close, the brew guys decided to meet up for Pint Night at the Flying Saucer to reflect on all of the beer knowledge we’ve gained over these past couple of months. BE sure to check out our video reviews and the “what I’ve learned” segment at the bottom of the page. We’d also like to send out a big Get Well Soon to brew guy James, who had to miss our night out due to food poisoning.

Here's to our loyal readers, especially Seth!! Cheers!

Tim like the rest of us, took a nice long look at the incredible variety offered at Flying Saucer.

Bill in deep thought, probably solving the world's problems

Tasting Texas’ Craft Brewing Culture

Posted in Beer Tasting, Features, Pubs on December 7, 2009 by James

Hi Austin Brew Readers. Over the past month I have been compiling interviews with Texas craft brewers. These interviews have taught me a lot about the past, present and future of brewing in the lone star state. I’ve created a small web-story to give beer lovers an idea of how Texas craft brewing operates, and it can be viewed by clicking on the photo below. This project has led me to consider putting together a full documentary about the subject and I encourage anyone who has any ideas on how to make this documentary successful to comment below.

Click to view

‘Tis The Season

Posted in Beer Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2009 by Tim

Well, we’re a week into the month of December and it’s even started snowing (sort of) in Austin, so what better time to try out a little seasonal Christmas cheer in bottle form. I have selected a very diverse cast of beers from three very different breweries in order to see how different regions around the country sustain themselves over the cold winter months. (They were also the only ones that HEB had at the time.) Let’s get started!

The festive label screams, "Happy Holidays!"

First up, let’s check in with an old familiar favorite from the Lone Star State, the Shiner Holiday Cheer from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. The Shiner Holiday Cheer has been an annual tradition for a little while and is described as “an Old World Dunkelweizen brewed with Texas peaches and roasted pecans.”

The Cheer gave off a real strong flavor of berries, although that might be in keeping with the peach elements. It also had a delicately hoppy flavor with a light body and a smooth mouthfeel. This brew has an alcoholic content of 5.4 percent alcohol by volume, but doesn’t have an overwhelmingly alcoholic taste. On the Austin Brew Scale, I would give this beer 4 out of 5 mugs.

For my next seasonal beer, I went to the Pacific Northwest and the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company out of Portland, Oregon. Their current winter offering is the Brrr Seasonal Ale. The Brrr is available late October through early January and is recommended to be paired with “holiday favorites like ham and turkey.”

After an initial sweetness, the Brrr gives way to a much more bitter flavor than the Holiday Cheer. The Brrr also has a strong, hoppy aftertaste.

The Brrr has a smooth texture and a slightly thicker body.

After an initially smooth tasting,I definitely got more of a sense of the 7.2% alcohol by volume as I continued drinking. Finishing up became more difficult as the alcohol started to kick in.  I would give the Brrr a 3 out of 5 mugs on the Austin Brew Scale.

The final beer that I tried was completely different from the previous two, and provided something completely unexpected to the whole experience. The beer comes from the Magic Hat Brewing Company, located in South Burlington, Vermont. For the winter season, Magic Hat brews a beer that they accurately describe as a “Black-As-Night Winter Lager”. The beer, called Howl, is made with English ale yeast and a bitterness rating of 32 IBU.

The folks over at Magic Hat take this beer VERY seriously according to the description posted on its homepage: “Born of dark and cold and snow in the marrow of the northeast’s longest night, HOWL comes in on wailing winds with winter-weary eyes burning holes in sunless shadows. In its darkened depths out inner voids are warmed.” Okay, well now I’m a little scared. Not exactly the “holiday cheer” I was expecting. But it gets even crazier.


The website for Howl begins with a darkly lit flash animation accompanied by eerie music and a rather sinister voice in a British accent reciting an expanded version of the  poem above. In the less terrifying description of the beer, the company describes it as “A dark, medium-bodied beer with a rich roasted malt flavor and smooth hop bitterness.”

The thing that is the most shocking about Howl, however, is the 4.6% alcohol by volume. The reason it seems so shocking was evident from the first sip I took of Howl. Whereas the Shiner didn’t have much of an alcoholic taste or kick to it to begin with, and the Brrr gradually became more intense as you drank it, Howl immediately felt like a punch in the face. The overall taste of the alcohol gave me an extreme “whiskey face” that I could feel in the back of my throat and the sides of my mouth. This was quite surprising considering that Howl had the LEAST alcohol by volume of the three beers that I tried.

In terms of texture, Howl was surprisingly very thin and fizzy. It did not produce much of a head despite being an extremely dark and almost completely opaque beer.


Another facet of the taste that struck me as different about Howl was the overwhelming presence of malt flavor. The beer contained at least three kinds of malts, including pale, crystal, and carafa. This made for an interesting flavor and an even more curious look to the beer. As you can see, when held up to the light, you are able to see the hundreds of tiny malt crystals floating within the beer. While this might be perfectly normal for some of you, it kind of grossed me out a little. For being a little a too bitter and malty for my taste I give Howl a 2 out of 5 mugs.

Well that’s all I have for this time, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holidays (while sampling out new bears of course) and let us know in the comments what your favorite winter beverage is. Until next time, Cheers!

photos by Preston Edmands

Beck’s & Buckler: Non-alcoholic beer showdown

Posted in Beer Reviews, Grudge Match with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2009 by Adam Aldrete

Hey beer lovers,

Today I am coming to you from the Flying Saucer, home of countless beers and the always popular $2.75 fire sale. Tomorrow I will be taking the LSAT, as such, I am abstaining for alcohol and have decided to explore the oft-forgotten part of the menu…the non-alcoholic side.

The Saucer is sensitive to the wants of those seeking alcohol-free beer

Believe it or not, such beers exist! Truthfully, they do contain a small amount of alcohol, usually under 0.5% by volume. Neverthless, the amount of alcohol is so small, it would take ALOT to even sniff the buzzed state of mind. In order to make these creations, brewers will generally go through the process of vacuum evaporation.

Interestingly enough, both of these beers were quite tasty…but only one can win today’s showdown.

First, I tried Beck’s non-alcoholic. According to their wesbite, the brewers “stop the fermentaion before the alcohol can form, but not before it achieves the distictive taste and aroma of a Beck’s.”

With hardly any alcohol, this beer packs a strong smell but not much of a taste.

Beck’s poured a golden yellow with no head and a pretty strong aroma. It doesn’t pack a huge punch as far as taste goes but does maintain a very soft, semi-sweet aftertaste.

My rating: 2.75 out of 5 mugs

(See our rating scale here)

After Beck’s, I tried Heinekin’s Buckler beer. Although beeradvocate didn’t think very highly, I found this beer to be pretty good.

Honey Smacks beer? Its not quite that sweet.

It was similar in color to Beck’s but seems to have less carbonation. After pouring it, no head appeared and the aroma was nonexistant. The taste was interesting, my first thought was “this beer tastes like Honey smacks without the sugar.” It left no aftertaste and was very easy to drink.

My rating: 3.25 out of 5 mugs (TODAYS WINNER!!!)

Thank you for reading today’s post. I hope ya’ll enjoy the big game tomorrow night! Hook’em and cheers!

MGD 64 versus Bud Select 55 – The Ultra Light Battle

Posted in Beer Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by Bill Bowman

This past weekend, I decided to determine what the best ultra light beer was. Miller Genuine Draft 64, with a puny 65 calories and Bud Select 55, with a minuscule 55 calories. I will not delve into how they got the calorie content so low, but I will comment on the effect of these low calories. And it is not a good affect.

MGD 64 and Bud Select 55 ready to duel.

I picked up the beer at Wal-Mart for around five or six dollars for a six pack. Took it home, flipped on the TV to watch a little football, threw the sixers in fridge. About an hour later, I popped the top on the MGD 64, and poured it into my mug. It poured with a slight head, a pea color and a water consistency. I would describe the smell as that of a sink that has not been cleaned in recent days.

When I started drinking, I realized it needed to be a lot colder, so I threw one in the freezer to help out. The taste is unremarkable. It had almost no taste at all. It was like drinking water and about as alcoholic. The alcohol content is just 2.8 percent. Compared to around 4.5 percent for a typically light beer, 6 percent for a darker beer, 12-15 percent for wine and 40 percent for liquor.

I started double fisting the twang into the beer to elicit some flavor. That helped somewhat, but there is no way I would buy this beer again. I give MGD 64 a 1 out of 5.

Twang adds some flavor to MGD 64.

After the MGD 64, I was curious to see how the Bud Select 55 stacked up. I grabbed a bottle from the freezer and poured it out. Immediately, I knew this could be rough. It poured a little darker than MGD 64 and had no head. I would describe the smell as “rubberish”. Not the best adjective when describing beer, but this was not a good beer.

Bud Select 55 had a similarly low alcohol content, with 2.4 percent, but actually had flavor. Now, this was not to say the flavor was good. I would describe the flavor somewhat skunky and reminiscent of trashcans. Drinking it made me feel like I was jogging behind a garbage truck. Not a good time. I could barely finish one of these lightweight beasts. After finishing it, I still had a lingering aftertaste in my mouth. Not a good beer. I give Bud Select 55 a .5 out of 5.

Drinking Bud Select 55 is not an enjoyable experience.

In conclusion, I would not recommend any ultra low calorie beers. MGD 64 is my favorite of the two however, because no flavor is better than bad flavor.

Bill Bowman