Episode 4: Lone Star State of Intoxication

Welcome to Texas, y’all! Tiney and Laura offer a guided tour of their native state’s history with booze, the popular regions and cities, and personal brewery and winery recommendations.

Whatchu drinkin’?

IMG_8532Kvass by Jester King Brewery: This farmhouse ale is brewed with 300 pounds of miche rye bread from a bakery in Austin, Texas called Miche Bread. Kvass is a style defined by the use of bread in the mash bill and it offers an excellent alternative to throwing away the food when it’s past it prime to serve in its original form. This one has a funky, earthy, and rustic flavor profile. I describe it as having barnyard and bready characteristic in aroma with medium carbonation and a tart finish.

 

IMG_8529Becker Iconoclast 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: Iconoclast is Beckers best selling wine, which is technically a Bordeaux style blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) but Cabernet Sauvignon makes up the vast majority of the blend. This Texas wine goes down easy with violets, vanilla, baking spices, and dried cherries on the nose, followed by dark berries, plums, and coffee on the palate. Great example of a Texas cab!

History of Beer

The Texas State Historical Association is rife with info on Texas’ brewing culture, which basically starts with the German immigrants. It credits William Menger’s Western Brewery on the Alamo Square in San Antonio as the first commercial brewery in the state, having opening in 1878.

Shiner is likely the most popular Texas beer. It’s made at the Spoetzal Brewery, was which opened in 1909 by Shiner-based businessmen trying to appeal to the German immigrants. The brewery’s name was different then, because shortly thereafter, an immigrant named Kosmas Spoetzal purchased it. Its signature beer is Shiner Bock, which was first brewed in 1913.

Tiney’s North Texas beer recommendations:

  1. Mosaic IPA by Community Beer Co.: This is my favorite locally-brewed IPA. It’s a dark amber color with a high level of malty flavor. It’s delicious, but watch out — 8% alcohol content, it’s can sneak up on you.
  2. Peticolas Brewing Co. in Dallas is one of the city’s best breweries. It’s a beer nerd’s dream serving more than a dozen different recipes. The beers are predominantly no-frills, classic styles, though some of them, like the flagship Velvet Hammer imperial red ale, showcase Peticolas’ unique personality. Peticolas only serves its beer on draft, so you can imbibe it at the brewery or one of the many beer bars in Dallas-Fort Worth.
  3. Houston is home to one of Texas’ oldest and most prestigious craft breweries, Saint Arnold Brewing Co. I’ve never visited, but I would really like to.

History of Wine

The first time we see wine being cultivated in Texas is around 1650 in El Paso where Spanish missionaries are planting grapes to make sacramental wine. That’s about 100 years earlier than California was planting! Just like we see in European history, wine spread with religion and missionaries through the country. Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920-1933 and decimated booze business nationwide, with only the largest, wealthiest producers and some sacramental producers surviving. Revival in winemaking kicked up across the country in the 1970s, and really gained momentum after the Judgement of Paris, a blind taste test in Paris that ranked California wines as some of the top in the world!

Llano Estacado is one of the first major players to bring Texas back in the wine scene after they opened in 1976, and they’re now the second largest producer in the state (behind the University of Texas/St.Genevieve). Mesilla Valley was the first recognized AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Texas, although most of the AVA is located in New Mexico. The first full viticultural area located in Texas, Bell Mountain, wasn’t founded until 1986 (Laura’s birth year!). The largest AVA located in Texas, Texas Hill Country, was designated in 1991, it is also the second largest AVA in the country although only ~1,100 acres are occupied by vineyards. There are over 200 wineries across the state of Texas, and more on the way!

Top grapes produced in Texas include, but are not limited to, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Black Spanish (Lenoir), Viognier, Muscat, Blanc de Bois, and Syrah.  

TV Munson Nursery Catalog

Undoubtedly one of my wine AND Texas heros, TV Munson has made several appearances in our podcast episodes. He made invaluable contributions to wine and botany through his travels and journals depicting native American vines, but supported his family through his nursery business in Denison, TX. This week’s episode I mention that while in class at his namesake school I got to see one of the original catalogs from ~1876!! It is obviously a little old to handle, so the listings inside are photocopies made when Professor Snyder originally purchased the catalog.

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Texas Wine Regions:

Follow these links to learn more about each of the Texas American Viticultural Area!

Texas High Plains

Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg

Escondido

The Bell Mountain

Davis Mountain

Mesilla Valley

Texoma

Lots of great Texas wine infographics available here. And if you’re looking for a detailed and definitive list of wineries in Texas check this site out!

Resources:

Texas State Historical Association

https://txwinelover.com/texas-wineries-map/

https://www.houstonpress.com/restaurants/infographic-all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-texas-wine-and-more-6422587

Episode 3: That’s the Spirit!

In this episode, we welcome Robert Likarish, co-founder and distiller at Ironroot Republic Distillery, into the studio to chat about two not-so-distant relatives of beer and wine: whiskey and brandy. Robert founded Ironroot with his brother, Jonathan, in 2014. The distillery is located in Denison, Texas and known primarily for its whiskies, which it began releasing in 2017, but it also makes gin, vodka and moonshine. Ironroot specializes in French-style distillation and plans to release brandy in the near future. Robert brought five whiskies by the studio and we tasted them side-by-side in a bonus audio clip.

Whatchu Drinkin’?

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Ironroot Promethean: A103-proof bourbon that offers spicy flavors thanks for the little bit of rye in the mash bill. Made from purple corn, Bloody Butcher corn, and flint corn, which offers cayenne pepper notes. It’s a cocktail-friendly spirit.

Ironroot Hubris: This is Ironroot’s most popular yellow-corn whiskey, a cask-strength blend aged exclusively in European oak barrels.

Ironroot Harbinger: Cask-strength bourbon with sweeter, fruitier blend made with purple corn and aged in new oak barrels. Flavor profile helps to hide alcohol.

Ironroot Esoteric: This limited release is the culmination of Ironroot’s experimentation series. It’s a blend of more than 25 small-batch bourbons founders Robert and Jonathan Likarish have produced while honing core and new flavor profiles. Sweeter up front with a subtle kick in the aftertaste. It’s released annually in the spring.

Ironroot Starka: A “light whiskey” made with a substantial portion of roasted wheat and distilled at more than 160 proof.

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Courvoisier VSOP Cognac: I had only tried brandy once before this episode, so I decided to go with a standard classic for our show. Courvoisier has been in operation since 1809, was Napoleon’s brandy of choice, a staple ingredient in Charles Dickens’ party punch, and the official toasting drink of the Eiffel Tower grand opening. Like Champagne, brandy can not be called Cognac unless it is from the Cognac region in france, which Courvoisier is. I chose the bottle of V.S.O.P. for our segment — a designation for eaux-de-vies that have been aged for a minimum of 4 years, which means Very Superior Old Ale. This spirit is golden in color with floral ripe peaches on the nose and tastes like caramel, toffee, almonds, and stone fruit, wrapping up with a long finish. It’s obvious why this Cognac has been the toast of Paris for over a century, and still remains a frontrunner in the market today.

That distillery in Waco

We mention a Waco, Texas distillery frequently in this episode. It’s called Balcones Distilling is famous for distilling blue corn to make whiskey.

A Texas whiskey you’ll only find in England

Founded in 1698, wine and spirits shop Berry Bros. and Rudd in London is a revered beverage institution. It’s the exclusive seller a Texas bourbon called Texas Legation Batch No. 2. made by Ironroot Republic Distillery. Here are the tasting notes:

Deep and enticing, dusty sweet corn husks mingle with rich seasoned oak notes to provide an assertive, uplifting nose which is softened by honey and vibrant fruit. The palate expands gloriously with a background sour mash and chalky hit doused by layers of honey and dark treacle. Lingering and giving this is a masterpiece of balance, complexity, texture and structure.

Beer → whiskey

The processes to make beer and whiskey start the same way. A brewer devises a mash bill that includes grains, such as malted barley or rye, and adjuncts, such as corn. Beer brewers most commonly use barley, but also work in varying degrees of rye and corn depending on the style they are making. Distillers most commonly use a mix of barley, rye and corn, depending on the style they are making.

Bourbon, for example, requires a mash bill of at least 51% corn, which is more than you’re likely to find in a beer.

Both brewers and distillers brew a wort and let it ferment, though the length of time and temperature at which each ferments will be different depending on the beverage. Whiskey ferments for a shorter period of time than beer and at a warmer temperature. The whiskey wort is also then distilled and aged for several years.

Coming back to bourbon, distillers are required to age the spirit in new oak barrels to meet the distilling parameters. Much like Ireland has Irish whiskey and Scotland has Scotch, bourbon is the tried and true American whiskey.

Wine → brandy

Brandy initially came into being as a means to preserve wine on long sea voyages. It derives its name from a Dutch word, brandewjin, that means “burnt wine” and refers to the process of heating the wine through distillation. In a broad sense, brandy is any spirit distilled from a fruit and its juices, but if the brandy is made with any other fruit than grape, it must state so on the bottle (apple brandy, peach brandy, etc).

Fermented grape (or fruit) juice is heated to approximately 170°-200°F (80°-100°C) to separate the alcohol from water. The liquids distilled from the wine/fermented grape juice include alcohol, a bit of water, and many of the grape’s organic compounds which impart important flavors to the brandy.

The distillate is placed in an oak barrel (probably French oak with varying levels of toast, depending on the producer) to age. Base level brandies are aged for a minimum of 2 years (V.S. or Very Special), but like whiskey and wine, the longer the brandy is on the wood the more the aging shapes its unique tasting notes, and the higher the quality and price ultimately is. Lower end brandies also doctor their spirit up with something called dosage, an artificial boost to the color of flavor using syrups.

Cognac is most commonly made from a white wine grape called Ugni Blanc, and Armagnac (another noteworty brandy region in France) is commonly made with Folle Blanche. Brandy is typically served as a digestive, sipped room temp from a small tulip glass after dinner, but is also much beloved by many rappers across the country and frequently featured in music videos (Tupac shares his deep connection with Hennessy here, while Bhusta Rhymes feat. P Diddy and Pharrell share their inspiration in Courvoisier, and here’s a smattering of other great references).

It’s important to note that while both brandy and grappa are distilled grape juice, they differ in many ways. For starters, brandy is solely the juice of the grape being fermented, but grappa is fermented grape pomace, which includes the skin, seeds, and stems. Brandy has its roots in France while grappa hails from Italy, and brandy is typically aged in oak barrels while grappa is quickly stored in stainless steel before being bottled.

Big thank you!

Huge thanks to our guest this week Robert Likarish! Check out Ironroot Republic Distillery in Denison, Texas every Saturday for distillery tours and the first Saturday of every month for live music and cocktails. Cheers!