Arts & Culture:
In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once...
By Enrique Lopetegui
LBD’s 2010 Divalicious Red is the wine equivalent of sausage making: there are nine listed red grapes plus “other.” “It smells like a Glade candle,” said one taster. “There’s very soft blackberry fruit,” said another, hopefully. “Nobody would buy this unless it were $4,” was another opinion. (It’s actually around $12.)
Which brings us to the pink-labeled 2010 Bitch Aragon Grenache, one whose target audience was less clear. In the words of more than one wine industry pro, it might be equally aimed at men and termed a “panty-popper.” (Note that others make variations on this theme: Royal Bitch, Sweet Bitch, Happy Bitch, Sassy Bitch…and these are more clearly woman-oriented.) Regardless, “Is this really a joke? That’s the secret power of this wine,” and “I’m upset that I like this the best,” were typical comments.
In the end, there was pretty much universal scorn for the marketing premise as typified by Little Black Dress: “Flavorful and feminine, [these] blends are the perfect way for every woman to embrace her inner diva.” Why not, we thought, celebrate instead women in wine by concentrating on influential female winemakers—of which there are many. Seems like a superior sisterhood.
The Cerveceros had their monthly meetup at Missions Untapped on the last Saturday of September. Meetings are open to visitors, so my father-in-law and I made the drive in from Comfort on an uncharacteristically rainy day to attend. Mike Farringer, the current Cerverceros president, an affable guy in a mongrammed workman’s shirt, greeted us. Farringer was the nerve center of this meetup—fielding questions, entering email addresses for the Cerveceros newsletter and greeting fellow enthusiasts as they came through the door, as well as tending a pile of taxi vouchers to ensure every homebrewer could make it home responsibly.
Due to the rain delay, we had missed most of the discussion, which centered on the role that grain (along with water, hops and yeast, the foundational elements of brewing) plays in the production of beer. Half a dozen mason jars were lined up with grains ranging from black to near white, with six more mason jars in front of them offering the resulting beers for comparison. There were about 30 club members present, many for only their first or second meetup, splitting beers either store-bought or home-made for a spirited session of taste-testing.
Securing an Abita pecan ale for myself from the bar, I talked to Farringer and Dan Gomez, the club’s founder, about the Cerveceros’ mission.
Gomez, a welder and machinist by trade, first encountered craft beer through relatives in California and resolved to bring the diverse recipes and grassroots approach of Sierra Nevada and Russian River back to the River City. As a nonprofit, they offer their services for free (costs are supplemented by private in-house brewing tutorials).
Aside from their monthly meetups, the Cerveceros participate in an equipment-lending program for beginning brewers, monthly “Collaborations For A Cause” with local breweries, which allow members of the club to convene with local breweries such as Busted Sandal and Branchline (both of which employ former Cerveceros) to produce 15 gallons of beer to be sold for charity. Their most recent collaboration, benefiting ALS research, was named the Ice Bucket Ale. The Cerveceros also participate in the annual Teach A Friend To Homebrew Day (November 1 this year), the name of which summarizes the goals of homebrew clubs everywhere: to get more people bottling their own ale.
As I concluded my conversation with Gomez, he shared a fascinating anecdote. “A co-worker of mine found us because he read about us in the newspaper. I hadn’t seen him in eight or nine years. He came by and said, ‘Hey Dan, did you know about my background?’ I never knew he was a homebrewer. I knew his name all along, I just didn’t know his pedigree or history.” The gentleman’s name was Jack McAuliffe, who built the first microbrewery in the U.S. after Prohibition, New Albion, and is widely credited with reigniting the American love for hand-crafted, small-scale beer. Uncle Sam (and Sam Adams) would be proud.
Branchline Evil Owl Amber 5.2 percent ABV
Brewed here in San Antonio, the Branchline Evil Owl delivers with a rich amber taste and a mild bitterness, like the mid-point between a standard American Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada’s flagship green bottle) and the malt flavor of a true amber (Fat Tire). Light in carbonation and relatively dry, the Evil Owl is a beer that stands independent of a pairing snack. But be careful, after a few of these heavy-bodied beers, you may forget about the chow all together, spilling your contents into some unfortunate bush—or God forbid, the gazebo—in Maverick Park.
Pedernales Classic Hefeweizen 5.2 percent ABV
From Fredericksburg’s Pedernales Brewery, this Bavarian-style Hefeweizen is a revelation for drinkers stuck in a Blue Moon or Hoegaarden rut. A delicious wheat beer, the Pedernales ferments their Hefeweizen with delbruckii yeast, giving it the strong signature taste of this brand of beer (“Hefe” is German for yeast). Unlike some Hefeweizens brewed with orange peel and coriander, the banana tones of the delbruckii would not benefit from a citrus garnish. Sparkly, crisp and finishing smooth, this Fredericksburg-brewed beer lives up to the legacy of the town’s German roots.
Saint Arnold Oktoberfest 6.0 percent ABV
Is it possible for a beer to be too smooth? From Texas’ oldest craft brewery, the Saint Arnold Oktoberfest has a sweet first impression and a texture that’s barely there, a dangerous combo for a beer clocking in at six percent alcohol by volume. Though it’s a little suave at first, the orange-amber colored beer hits with a barley malt flavor after a few sips, delivering on the traditional Oktoberfest flavor first concocted in Munich.
Leprechaun Premium Hard Cider 7.1 percent ABV
Founded in Texas, but now operating out of Washington, Leprechaun crafted an impressively sweet hard cider for its high alcohol percentage. Brewed with champagne yeast and crushed apple, this pale goldenrod cider has a dry feel and pucker-sweet taste, the ideal beverage for gluten-free attendees looking to get a little boozy. —Matt Stieb