Last weekend I participated in a fundraiser for a non-profit organization here in Texas. Open the Taps is a group dedicated to rewriting Texas laws to benefit the beer consumer. Here in Texas, not unlike many states, beer laws are archaic codes put into place after Prohibition and haven’t changed since. For example, in Texas a brewery cannot sell beer on its premises. The odd thing about this law is that wineries are allowed to sell their wine on site. I find that fact astounding and I really don’t have a reason why it is that way. The most logical conclusion I have derived is that to lawmakers the average wine consumer is more “sophisticated” than the average beer drinker. I could not possibly disagree more but the reputations of each drink is the only thing that makes any sense to me.
Open the Taps wants to change laws like this to enable consumer choice. There have been many attempts to change these laws from within the beer industry but Open the Taps is the first consumer-based organization to take up the mantle. Needless to say, I support their cause wholeheartedly and that is why I drove to Waco two days in a row to participate.
Waco is not generally thought of as a beer drinker’s oasis but nestled in the heart of the city is the Dancing Bear Pub. DBP is a craft beer bar just at the edge of Baylor’s campus that carries a HUGE assortment of beer with a penchant for Texas-made brews. Beginning on Friday night, DBP opened its cellar to release rare beers to support Open the Taps. Every hour on the hour a new beer was tapped and made available. Additionally, the Dancing Bear Pub offered up a growler of each beer to be sold in a silent auction with all proceeds benefiting Open the Taps.
I arrived around 9:30 with JoAnna and our timing was perfect. As we walked in there was no line and one of my all-time favorites was still on tap – (512) Brandy Barrel-aged ONE. This was the beer I was hoping to drink if I could make it on time so I was very excited. Brandy Barrel-aged ONE is a Belgian Strong ale that was aged in brandy barrels. It is smooth and very boozy with notes of vanilla and oak. Definitely one of my Austin favorites and pretty high on my all-time list.
The next beer tapped almost caused a riot, well, at the very
least a large line formed very quickly for Dogfish Head Bitches Brew. Bitches Brew was the first collaboration between DFH and Sony Records. It was brewed in honor of Miles Davis and his legendary album of the same name. The beer was also featured on an episode of Brew Masters by the Discovery channel. Bitches Brew is three parts Imperial Stout and one part Tej (honey beer with gesho root). I found it to be the best of both worlds. It is thick, rich, and bold but not too far in any of those directions. The Tej balanced the big, roasty flavors beautifully. Bitches Brew was well worth the drive to Waco from Killeen.
The final beer of Friday night, and the tipping point for some in the crowd, was another Dogfish Head brew, their Olde School Barleywine. It is a HUGE (15% ABV) barleywine with tons of fruit flavors like dates and figs. The beer is pretty boozy but I thought the flavors melded together well.
Every beer released throughout the day was put up for auction in a 32oz growler. I bid pretty heavily on my (512) Brandy Barrel-aged ONE as it is a beer that is usually excluded from growler sales due to is rarity. I also bid on the Saint Arnold Winter Stout. I tried it a few weeks ago and really liked so I figured, what the hell – I support the cause. Then I sat by the bidding sheets and guarded them like a a chicken-hawk until the silent auction closed. Drinking three INCREDIBLE beers and winning two growlers was a great way to finish day one!
Day two was much shorter for me. I had obligations early and late in the day but we still had some drink tickets so we made the drive again. I also wanted to talk to some of the great people I met the night prior. JoAnna and I showed up around 3:30 and jumped right back on the horse. JoAnna tried the Ommegang Seduction, a Belgian Dark Ale featuring heavy chocolate and Liefman’s Kriek. I had the Saint Arnold Divine Reserve #11. Released last year, DR 11 is a double/imperial IPA full of citrusy notes and deliciousness. This keg has aged for a year so the hop profile has subsided but the fruity aroma is still very much present. The beer is delicious. If I am making your mouth water then go out and get a bottle of Saint Arnold Endeavour. DR 11 proved to be so popular that Saint Arnold began brewing it as a year round release this year under the name Endeavour.
My second and last beer of Saturday was a one-off from Thirsty Planet called Jittery Monk, a coffee-infused Dubbel. JoAnna loves coffee and had it as well and holy yum! The sweet spiciness from the dubbel blended beautifully with the roasty, rich coffee flavor. I really hope this beer becomes readily available because I would order it a lot. We bid on the growler of Jittery Monk before we left but with eight hours left of the party we really didn’t stand a chance.
Overall, the Open the Cellar fundraiser for Open the Taps raised over $1000! The people for Open the Taps and the Dancing Bear Pub are some of the nicest, friendliest, and knowledgeable around. Please check out Open the Taps and see what they are all about. Also, if you are ever in Waco, you must stop by the Dancing Bear Pub. Establishments like that deserve our patronage for being great at what they do.
What do we want? BEER!
When do we want it? NOW!