Last Friday, I was invited to the birthday party of one of my BJCP judging class participants at No Label Brewing in Katy, Texas. I hadn’t visited the brewery in a good while and was impressed with their new facilities, which now include a really nice little tap room and event space adjacent to the now expanded brewhouse. Aside from giving me a chance to chat with my homebrewing friends from the local club, the Cane Island Alers (The CIA… get it?), it also gave me a chance to try the full range of No Label beers, including their one-offs and seasonals straight from the brewery taps.
One of the great advantages of drinking at the brewery is knowing that what’s on tap is both fresh and exactly as the brewer intended it. John Maier of Rogue Brewing once spoke at the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing (MCAB) when it was held in Houston. He said “Beer has three enemies: light, heat and distributors.” Truer words were never spoken. As part of my judging class, I try to use “classic” styles and that often means rolling the dice on a beer that may have been abused on its way to the store shelf. It’s a testament to the durability of beer that we can have imported beers that still taste like they’re supposed to five thousand miles from their source. When they don’t make the trip well, even that can be a learning experience.Heineken is alleged to have purposely “skunked” their beer when they began shipping it to the United States in kegs, because Americans had been buying it in the green bottles, which were more readily lightstruck. When their consumers switched to draft, they didn’t think the beer tasted “right” so Heineken gave them what they expected!Thankfully, the Heineken you get today is no longer subject to that flawed expectation.Whether that story is apocryphal or not, it illustrates that once the beer leaves the brewery, it’s at the mercy of time and temperature, which can be a beer’s worst enemies.
My favorite No Label beer of the night was Hop Solo, a single hop IPA series they are brewing and this version was brewed with Mosaic hops. They had just put it on tap that night, so it was in perfect condition. It had that bright tropical fruit nose you expect from Mosaic and, on first sip, it hits you with a mango note that quickly changes to lemon drops and lime.Attenuation had dropped the pale malt’s sweetness to a level that allowed the hop bitterness to bite without being overpowering and it finished with a fading herbal, grassy note. The beer was everything you’d want in a hop focused beer: vivid flavors, effervescent carbonation, aromatic and clean. Brewery fresh beer may sound like a marketing term, but on a hot summer’s night in Katy, Texas, it’s what hits the spot!
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
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