Today I would like to depart from my regular role here at The Ferm of "poking a stick at The Man" or "angering Houstonians with my personal opinions" and instead dispense a little science. Today's lesson is on condensation.

Working in a mechanical engineering position in the HVAC field, I could readily pull out my trusty Psychrometric chart and start breaking down the properties of air with you guys, but that makes better party conversation than blog reading. I'm assuming that our astute readers already know that condensation is the transition of a vapor to a liquid, so we'll just skip to the good stuff. It is the driver behind the creation of your favorite distilled beverage, it is responsible for the conditioning in your home or office, and it is responsible for all those sweat rings on your coffee table.

Condensation is natural, powerful, beautiful, and even dangerous. In an attempt to deliver today's lesson on condensation in a fun and exciting way, I've chosen to make it into a little educational ditty. I find rhymes make everything more enjoyable. If I did my job right, you'll come out of this not even realizing that you learned something.

Dewed, Hold My Beer
He was hangin' at the sports bar with his crew.
His buddies sporting khaki pants and retro shoes.
His beloved dirt burglars just got shocked by BYU,
But they drown it out with another round of brews.
Rack 'em up, time to break, and grab a pool cue.
While they all start jamming to blink 182,
Dude starts dancing something that looks like kung fu
So he scoops up his beer and beelines for the loo.

"Excuse me!" I proclaim, with my ballyhoo.
"Your ice cold beer should not be wasted, yes this is true,
But the facts of condensation I must first construe.
I won't bore you with a nerd-ish book review.
Confuse you with enthalpy, wet bulb, or BTU.
But this restroom you just brought that drink into
Is filled with saturated air from a patron or two.
You see, urine is a warm and some evaporates too."

"Now look down at the top surface of your cold brew.
That surface, my friend, is now covered with dew.
I know you'll miss your beer, but please think this through.

Thank You.

Recently Mrs. K Dub and myself celebrated our 1 year anniversary by making a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon. After my trip to Portland last year for my bachelor party (another entry all together, ask Sirron) she's always wanted to go, so off we went. We went to try some seafood, enjoy cool weather and of course check out the great beer scene. Well, the seafood was great, the weather was similar to Texas (Epic Fail) and the beer was uh-mazing, especially the brewery shown in this little picture to the left.

I modeled an itenerary after one created by Sirron for my bachelor party and it was quite strong. But on the second day we deviated from the schedule at the recommendation of a nice young lady at Cork (a bottle shop) on 1715 NW Lovejoy. After checking out the awesome beer selection I found a farmhouse ale from Portland that I've never heard of so I thought, "What the hell, I'll try it." I placed it on the counter and the young lady had a look on her face like a little kid in a candy store and told us about the brewery. She said, "Have you heard of Upright Brewery? You should totally check them out, they're brewing farmhouse style ales and are located in the basement of a really cool building called the Leftbank Building." Those were probably some of the greatest words that Mrs. K Dub and I had heard all weekend.

So from Cork (a bottle shop) we stopped at another brewpub, as it was right down the road, and the only thing I could think about was getting to Upright. I was giddy with excitement and just wanted to irresponsibly dispose of those brewpub offerings (ie. shooters baby) so that we could leave. After enjoying the sampler and finish watching the Wisconsin vs. Fresno State game we caught a cab to the brewery.

Which I have to ask, what's the deal with cab drivers? They drive about as well as I did when I was twelve and they drive everyday. What's the deal?

After arriving at the brewery we walked into the tasting area and greeted by another nice young lady in charge of pouring the samplers. She explained to us that they're regular beers on tap are numbered Four, Five, Six and Seven and that today they had two special ales on tap, a Gruit and their Four aged in barrels. Short and simple, they were all great, including the Gruit which I was very skeptical. Side note: Gruits are ales brewed with spices other than hops, I've had other Gruits and have not been impressed, but holy jeez, Upright's was awesome. Other beers available in bottle for tasting were the True Wit and Flora Rustica. After tasting we were led on a guided tour by owner and brewer Alex Ganum.

The tour included viewing the 10 Barrel (one barrel=31 gallons) brewing system, their two open fermenters and conditioning tanks that are all used to brew their tasty ales. Alex was kind enough to break out a bag of Hallertauer whole hops from the freezer for us to rub in our hands and smell, kind of like that other brewer/owner guy from the East Coast. The open fermenter were cool for me because these fermenters are stored in their own room that is kept under positive pressure relative to the surrounding room. I believe brewers do this with the pressure thing on open fermenters so that bacteria, wild yeasts and nasty things don't float their way into the fermenting ale spoiling it. Some beers call for this 'spoiling', but not all.

After the touring we spoke with a nice gentleman that was Treasurer of a local homebrew club, we spoke of great beer, good times and adventurous ideas. But alas, time was against us to go visit another establishment and another friend so unfortunately we had to depart. Before leaving we bought some merch and some beers for the trip back to Texas.

Mrs. K Dub and I have been talking about Upright ever since we got back and if you ever get a chance to visit Portland you should check out Upright Brewing, they pretty much kick ace.

DISCLAIMER: This post reflects the personal views of the author, in his individual capacity. It does not necessarily represent the views of or its other resident bloggers, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them.

If Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve #8 hits the shelves and I'm not there purchase any, does it make a difference?

I am admittedly a little less dedicated to the cause than the rest of the Saint Arnold Army. And when I say less dedicated, I mean I spent my lunch hour four years ago visiting several local Specs Stores (and a few grocery stores) to get my hands on the first release of Divine Reserve, a heavily hopped barleywine. After over an hour of enthusiastic search, I drove back to work frustrated and empty handed. It seems there were loads of local beer drinkers more passionate than myself.

Breweries are known to instill a sense of community among the local population. However, the Saint Arnold Army phenomenon is staggering, awe-inspiring, and enviable. Besides having a welcoming attitude at the brewery itself, Saint Arnold actively supports local businesses and participates in countless community efforts. Hosting Saint Arnold at an event means getting two to four times the amount of attendees than you would have without them. Saint Arnold has that kind of following. Having almost no local and very little regional competition probably helps, but as Texas' Oldest Craft Brewery, they play more of the role of a pioneer than pirate.

This is why their introduction of small batch, special edition beers ordained for craft beer enthusiasts like me sounded so exciting. Saint Arnold may have been late to the small batch party, but this is *our* local brewery. Unable to get my hands on any Divine Reserve #1 in Houston,'s own K-Dub brought me some… from Dallas.

And my first impression? Eh…

Inevitably the beer could not live up to such heavenly expectations. However, paired against its peers, it honestly comes off as mediocre. K-Dub's own hoppy barleywine, which he brewed for me to celebrate the birth of my daughter, blows the earthly Saint Arnold product away. *Gasp* I can almost hear the Internet comments rolling in now ("You Suck!!" –anonymous). The next six releases also failed to live up to expectations, although I will admit, the brewery started to hit their stride around DR#5.

"But SirRon," you say (because you probably only know me by my online pseudonym), "you should support local businesses." To this I say "Sure!" But does the support local movement apply to all businesses, regardless of size or quality? Coffee shops, independent farmers, the old hardware store guy, chef owned restaurants... I understand the correlation and importance here. Is a brewery with statewide distribution on par with these local businesses?

I support countless craft breweries (nightly), all of which are small businesses situated in somebody's local community. I've visited Victory Brewing Company, located in the small community of Downingtown, PA a handful of times. I believe their output exceeds Saint Arnold, but they make outstanding beers. In the end, the experience is what means the most to me. Otter Creek Brewing Company is located in the Middlebury, a Vermont town of just over 8,000 residents. Now that they have distribution in Texas, I wish they were still brewing their Middleberry Ale, a tasty beer brewed with locally grown elderberries and blueberries. Proceeds from the sales benefited their town, if memory serves me right. Ever tried Austin Amber? Guess where this small five year old, distributor-less brewery is located?

On 9/10/09, the Saint Arnold Army will probably be out in force, clearing the shelves of their local groceries and liquor stores of Divine Reserve #8, a Scotch Ale inspired by a homebrewer's winning entry in the 2009 Big Batch Brew Bash. Myself, I'll probably be supporting someone else's community that night. I'm not saying I will never pick one of these up at over at my closest Specs liquor emporium if available, I just have lost that excitement I had in the days leading up to the DR#1 release. I support our local troops and their defense of Saint Arnold Nation, but I think I'll just hang one of those ribbons in my garage instead.

That gets me thinking... If a cynical blogger from an obscure drinking blog is uninterested in the Divine Reserve series, does it even cause any waves?

The Houston bar scene is as diverse as Houston itself. However, the Houston beer culture is quite underdeveloped, and the city's virtual lack of craft beer producers is perplexing given the explosion of microbreweries and brewpubs in the Northeastern and Northwestern States. A good beer bar, however, is the perfect remedy for the Houston beer-hunter.

The ideal watering hole is an amalgamation of many atmosphere x-factors and a beverage selection beyond the predictable basic menu of InBev/Miller-Coors products. The following represent The Ferm's Top 15 recommended places to get a beer. In basic terms, the criteria for the ranking were based on a combination of our subjective opinion of the atmosphere and quality of beers available.

#15 West Alabama Ice House
Address: 1919 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Montrose
How it made the list: While it shows up at the end of our list, it would be wrong to let the horrid Houston climate force West Alabama Ice House off a list of great places to get a beer in Houston. So what if it's an outdoor bar in a city that is 90+F and humid for nine months of the year, this just might be the best dive "bar" in all of H-town. WAIH is so old school… they still maintain a MySpace page! They are family and dog friendly, host live music, and serve free hot dogs on Friday. The hungry customer can also catch something from the food vendors that drop by frequently. The beer selection is a little average, but the unique charm lands West Alabama Ice House the #15 slot.

#14 The Hobbit Café
: 2243 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Upper Kirby
How it made the list: While not necessarily a foodie nor a beer lover's paradise, this quirky eatery became the only traditional restaurant on our list by being good in all the categories that count. The Hobbit is a perfect place to stop for dinner during an Upper Kirby pub crawl. I wasn't aware Tex-Mex and Caribbean inspired foods were the preferred cuisine of Middle Earth, but I do know that Hobbits enjoy their drinking… and the Hobbit has a limited, but great beer menu, including several Texas craft beers on draft.

#13 The Red Lion
: 2316 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019
Neighborhood: River Oaks
How it made the list: It is a British Pub, so expect the typical Bass-Harp-Guinness-Stella draft selections. Some craft beers such as Anchor Steam and Fireman's #4 also adorn the draft menu, all of which are served in 20oz imperial pints… nice touch. The pub grub here is exceptional. Baked Chicken Tandoori Quesadillas, uhh yum!

#12 Molly's Pub
: 24905 I-45, Spring, TX 77380
Neighborhood: The Woodlands
How it made the list: Mr. Smokeypants, who reps The Ferm in The Woodlands, vouches for this north-of-town bar. With around 30 taps, including many local craft beers, Molly's earns our title of best dive bar in the W, and the only non-Houston bar to make the Top 15.

#11 Flying Saucer
: 705 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Neighborhood: Downtown
How it made the list: To be honest, I considered leaving Flying Saucer off the list. The changes to the inside and the location downtown are a turn off to me. So what saves the Sauce despite its lack of much personality or atmosphere and less than ideal downtown location? The ginormous draft wall. Respect the wall, my friends.

#10 Front Porch Pub
: 217 Gray St, Houston, TX 77002
Neighborhood: Midtown
How it made the list: You might be getting some sushi at Fish or a crepe at Coco's, but when hanging out in the increasingly swanky Midtown, this small old house-like pub across from low rise mixed development condos just feels right. The forty something taps are nothing to sneeze at either.

#9 McGonigel's Mucky Duck
: 2425 Norfolk St, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Upper Kirby
How it made the list: It would be quite an exaggeration to say the Mucky Duck is a hidden gem, but this stellar live music venue is probably underrated as a great beer bar. The tap list is impressive, and when it is not packed during a concert, the Mucky Duck feels like a comfortable neighborhood joint.

#8 Onion Creek Coffee House
: 3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
Neighborhood: The Heights
How it made the list: This Heights hangout combines a coffeehouse, lounge, and bar with a neighborhood atmosphere. A previous "Best Coffee House" winner from the Houston Press, O.C. also has loads of beer options (both bottles and drafts). The menu also contains several good breakfast and pub food options. For those not sporting a hangie from the night before, this location also hosts the Houston Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.

#7 Little Woodrows
: 2306 Brazos St, Houston, TX 77006
Neighborhood: Midtown (also others)
How it made the list: Little Woodrows has a lot of beers… like 20-30 taps and 100 beers in stock. I find them good for meet up places or large gatherings. The place gets packed, so don't expect to have a nice comfortable beer and a chat with your BFF here. Plus, the atmosphere is kind of reminiscent of a converted warehouse/garage. The Rice Village location, next Ginger Man, is a convenient place to play darts if the boards at Ginger Man are full but you still want a decent beer.

#6 Rudyard's British Pub
: 2010 Waugh Dr, Houston, TX 77006
Neighborhood: Montrose
How it made the list: While dubbed a British Pub, this is more of a dive bar and live music venue than a pub. The tap selection is great, including many Texas beers and other crafts. In the back, you'll find a handful of dart boards. Rudyard's has that local feel and is relatively pretentious free… a very good recipe for a great beer bar.

#5 The State Bar & Lounge
: 909 Texas St, Houston, TX 77002
Neighborhood: Downtown
How it made the list: Given the hassle of getting to and from downtown and the lack of a concentrated area of rock solid hangout options, I have a bias against most downtown establishments. State Bar is the exception for me. Its classy feel and location inside the Rice Loft mixed development (old Rice Hotel) makes it one of my favorite downtown hangouts. The beer selection is limited, but they usually have a Saint Arnold on draft and both the bar and couch areas *are* the kind of place you would want to bring your BFF (sorry Woodrows).

#4 Stag's Head
: 2128 Portsmouth St, Houston, TX 77098
Neighborhood: Upper Kirby
How it made the list: You will be glad you made the effort to locate Stag's Head, which is tucked away in a shopping center and located within the triangular convergence of Shepherd/Greenbriar/Richmond just north of Hwy 59. The British pub succeeds in satisfying the patrons seeking the pub experience, craft beer advocates, and sports fans alike. Although it's been years since I've seen this deal officially offered, they still honor their old post-Astros game free pint deal if you give them your ticket stub. Stag's Head devotes many of their 30-ish taps to craft beers, and they almost always have a cask tapped. The food is quite good too, making this as close to a gastropub as Houston may have.

#3 Petrol Station Coffeehouse
: 985 Wakefield Dr, Houston, TX 77018
Neighborhood: Oak Forest
How it made the list: Petrol Station is hands down one of the coolest drinking establishments I've ever been to… anywhere. The bar is located in the middle of a residential area in a converted gas station. A peek at the 14 taps and two cask engines reveals an obvious dedication to providing all high quality American craft beers. Get ready for this folks; there are no Bud/Miller/Coors to be found here. As far as I can tell, the owner runs the place most of the time. Not in the mood for a fermented malty beverage? Petrol Station also has various coffee drinks available, all from coffee beans roasted in house. If I lived or worked nearby it would be easily move up a spot on this list.

#2 Hans' Bier Haus
: 2523 Quenby St, Houston, TX 77005
Neighborhood: Rice Village
How it made the list: It is safe to say that the establishments listed inside the top 5 possess all the characteristics of a great place to have a beer. For Hans, atmosphere could be used with either a negative or positive connotation. The structure itself is an unassuming hole in the wall. The bar area is quite small… the air conditioner struggles to provide anything much cooler than the outside air temperature... they have a stack of old board games on a table near the tiny restrooms… and I LOVE IT. The beer selection is outstanding and their impressive draft wall (20-30 taps) lean toward the craft end of the beer spectrum. As much of an inside drinker as I am, I have to admit that Hans' biggest asset is the huge outdoor beer garden. Out back you will find a dog friendly patio bar, a gondola lift car (?), and bocce ball courts. Hans' also frequently hosts live music acts. The quintessential hole in the wall beer bar? Quite possibly.

#1 The Ginger Man
: 5607 Morningside, Houston, TX 77005
Neighborhood: Rice Village
How it made the list: Houston is home to the oldest of the Ginger Man family of pubs, and it has a charm that is unmatched by any of their others… or any of their peers. Serving beer since 1985, this Rice Village pub was a favorite of Michael Jackson, and not the "hee hee" Michael, the world-renowned beer expert Michael. Inside you will find a dark wood filled setting with low ceilings and old bottles, cans, and beer paraphernalia decorated about. Outside you will find a great beer garden in the back and patio with picnic tables in the front. I've never counted tap handles, but there must be somewhere between 50-75 draft beers available, with many more options available by bottle. It is hard to say whether The Ginger Man has defined what a beer pub should be or just provides the finest example.

Not every good beer hangout could make the list, so we have added a few honorable mentions that were under consideration, but missed the cut.

Boondoggles - Clear Lake area. Taps galore.

Brewery Tap - Downtown location. "Cool" location (used to be a tap room for the old Magnolia brewery)

Catbird's - Interesting, low key, Montrose area bar

Washington Ave Drinkery - Owned by The Corkscrew guys (who distribute my favorite weekly email newsletter), so it has to be good.

McElroy's Pub - A good bar, but missed the list because there was only so much room for Irish/British/Scottish pubs, and it is not as distinguishing as the others. Sister pub State Bar is on the list, so no harm no foul.

Kelvin Arms - You can lounge in an actual bank vault here, but being a Scottish bar and having been served stale beer on a few occasions kept this off the list.