It has been a tough, tough month for me with a few unexpected trips to Austin, Texas to tend some family matters. Thankfully, I’ve had the excitement of The Brew Shop to distract me and the best of friends and family to lean on. I’m also continually amazed by the kindness of strangers, especially beer strangers.
The weekend of my grandpa’s funeral in Austin happened to be an exciting weekend for Formula 1 racing – read as not a single hotel room available anywhere in the greater Austin area. Unless I could afford $600 a night for a room… I can’t, duh, I’m opening a beer store! My aunt’s friend, Michael, offered to host me at his house for the weekend. Before my arrival, my aunt told me a few things I should know about Michael – he has two grown daughters, an exceptionally nice wife that would coincidentally be in DC that weekend, and an adorable dog named Luna. All good things in my book. But if you know me, I was still anxious.
The morning of my grandpa’s funeral Michael and I were sitting around making small talk and, naturally, Michael asks me what I do. To be honest, I hate this question… I never know how to answer. So I said something like, well I was a CPA for nine years, but I recently left the profession to open a beer store. And then I waited for the obligatory gasp. But it never came – instead Michael immediately went to show me the bottle of the beer he had the night before: A Prairie Oakie from Praire Artisan Ales – an imperial brown ale aged in oak whiskey barrels. Oh man, my aunt forgot to mention one important detail about Michael – he is a fellow beer nerd!
After a long day, I headed back to Michael’s house to pack up and get ready for my early morning flight back to DC. Emotionally exhausted, I collapsed in a large leather chair as we searched for a good movie to watch. After we agreed on Best In Show (no, I hadn’t seen it before!), Michael offered me a beer and showed me his beer fridge in the garage. Impressive! Michael is a huge fan of malt just like me, so the fridge was loaded with specialty bombers of Belgian style quads and stouts – Ommegang, Clown Shoes, and Nebraska Brewing Company to name just a few. I picked Nebraska Brewing Company’s Melange A Trois – A Belgian style blonde ale aged six months in Chardonnay barrels. The Melange A Trois poured a classic golden color for a blonde ale with the perfect balance of faint oak and Belgian yeasty goodness. For being 10% ABV, the Melange A Trois is a dangerously easy sipper. This beer is quintessentially me.
Part way through Best In Show, a glass of the Praire Oakie appeared next to me. And rightfully so, it was just cruel to taunt me with an empty bottle before I left for the funeral! The Oakie was as delicious as Michael said it would be – pouring a murky, chocolate color, the whiskey flavor was both prominent and comforting.
To cap off the evening, Michael showed me his beer cabinet – yes, he has a beer fridge AND a beer cabinet. Michael magically pulled out a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopia and gave me a pour. If you aren’t familiar with Utopia, it’s a big big boy at 29% ABV and usually retails for about $200 a bottle. WHAT!? The Utopia pours dark, with very little carbonation and with the aroma of vanilla, alcohol, and brown sugar – reminiscent of sipping a very good cognac. The perfect, strong finish to an emotional day.
After wrapping up my third trip to Texas in the last month, I’m quickly learning that Texas is a great beer state. Get your hands on some Deep Ellum IPA from Dallas if you can – hoppy goodness with the perfect malt balance.
But I’m also learning, that sometimes it’s a stranger that knows exactly what you need in a weak moment – for me, it was the comfortable conversation and laughs of someone with a shared passion for beer. I will be forever grateful to Michael for welcoming me into his home and sharing his love of beer with me. The next morning when I left Michael’s house at 5:30 am, I found a bottle of beer with a note next to the door. A local beer, one of his favorites – Naughty Brewing Company’s Kentucky Streetwalker. I’m looking forward to opening up the Kentucky Streetwalker and sharing my tasting notes with Michael.