29th March 2020
To quote Alan Partridge (whom we could really do with right now) ‘Sunday, bloody Sunday!’.
Sunday in Austin is a day for brunching outdoors with friends at Phoebe’s Diner or the Kerby Lane Café, sipping on cheap mimosas and soothing my hangover with my favourite crab cakes or chicken n waffles. It’s a day for day-tripping adventures, driving through the Hill Country to small Texas towns, visiting new brewery taprooms or hanging out in our favourite spots playing board games in the sun. Sunday is a hard day to be in isolation.
This Sunday our spirits were lifted by the arrival of some very special beermail from our good friends Johan and Suyapa, and obviously we plunged straight in (beer before lunch – cos why the heck not?!).
Saint Arnold Chocolate Milk Stout
Drinking this lovely, well-balanced dessert-beer before lunch gave our Sunday an edge of decadence. We felt a little naughty, but also a little pleased with ourselves. We were making the day special, different, as well as celebrating the kindness and generosity of our friends. We both adored the beer itself, which was surprisingly light with a gentle, measured sweetness I really enjoyed, rather than the often-overbearing full-on chocolatiness that can put me off this style of beer. The use of Mexican chocolate added a pleasing dryness and a jaunty hint of spice, making it even more delectable. We may have grappled over the last few sips.
Although Saint Arnold are a Texas institution we only got around to visiting their taproom recently, and it is a hugely grand affair decked out like a giant cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of beer, complete with an enormous beer garden, a games area and water features, just in case their status at the epicentre of Houston’s exploding beer scene was in any doubt. While Saint Arnold’s core beers are reliable and consistent, for me they are all about the specials which we seek out as often as possible. Today’s brilliant brew was definitely up there with other Saint Arnold highlights, including their excellent Bishop’s Barrel and Divine Reserve series’, stonking Bourbon Barrel French Press Coffee Porter and the spectacularly indulgent Cascara Coffee Stout we tried, on cask no less, during our taproom visit. I am very glad indeed we have a second bottle for next Sunday’s pre-lunch treat.
Ingenious Hop Wing 2020 Oat Cream DIPA
I have to admit I was super jealous when I saw Johan and Sue tweeting about this beer, so having its surprise arrival on my doorstep made my lil heart skip a beat! We visited the Ingenious taproom nearly two years ago, the day after the Wild West BrewFest, when I really shouldn’t have felt like drinking more beer, but obviously I did. Humble, TX is just outside the Houston city limit but feels like proper Texas countryside, and our adventure to Ingenious (by way of the also-excellent Back Pew Brewing) is such a happy memory. Ingenious are the kings of Texan dessert-beers – if you want a Peanut Butter Marshmallow Time Stout, Blueberry Ice Cream Sundae Stout or Vanilla Coconut FroYo IPA (to name just a few of my faves) you have come to the right place. Obviously this means their beers are not for everyone (or indeed every mood), but what they do they do damn bloody well. The Ingenious taproom is also a delight – their colour scheme of cotton-candy-pink, forest green and butter-yellow, super-hip branding and décor and excellent music taste all came together to leave us aching to pick the whole place up and take it back to Austin. We sat out in the sun for what felt like hours, sipping crazy pudding beer after crazy pudding beer in utter contentment, and drinking the frankly magnificent Hopwing 2020 in our lush green garden helped us recapture the scent of that moment.
The beer itself was close to perfect – the smooth rich oat cream lactose performing an impressive tightrope balance of sweet, full n chewy without ever teetering over the edge into syrupy. The quadruple hopping obviously helped out with that, ensuring the milkshakey texture never overwhelmed the punch of the hops. I really had to make myself slow down with this as it was just so incredibly drinkable. I can still summon the taste up just thinking about it. Knowing our friends care enough to share it with us made drinking it even more special. I’m actually a little teary now.