On this -- this seemingly average October but post-Oktoberfest hump day -- Mayor Bill White bestowed upon the city of Houston a day celebrating our beloved local brewery.

October 28, 2009 is now officially Saint Arnold Brewing Company Day.

For me this is a day not just to celebrate, but a day to recognize the achievements of Brock Wagner and crew. I readily admit that I have been critical of the Saint Arnold brewery in the past. But today is a day to reflect upon and honor Texas' oldest craft brewery, much like Americans gather on Thanksgiving to forgive the Native Americans for giving the Pilgrims dysentery and thank them for sharing Pocahontas... or when we invite semi-distant relatives into our home for a meal with three dozen side dishes and forget that they did not even bother to send a card on our birthday.

For this reason I have decided to pull out a bottle of every remaining Divine Reserve that I have in the beer cellar and try them again. There is no better day than Saint Arnold Day to reassess my relationship with the brewery's limited offerings.

The Lineup

Divine Reserve No. 1

Style: Barleywine; Cases Made: 327; Date Brewed: August 18, 2005; Date Bottled: October 17, 2005; Original Gravity: 1.099; Final Gravity: 1.027; Alcohol: 9.3% ABV
Smells nice. Pours brown and typical of a barleywine. Taste up front is sharp, with hops and alcohol attacking the palette first and then mellowing into malty and woody flavors. The beer is not too sweet, rather a complex raisin-like flavor prevails. My only complaints are that it seems thin for a barleywine and there are a ton of yum yums floating in the bottle. Overall, my first apology has now been filed.

Divine Reserve No. 3
Style: Double IPA; Cases Made: 542 Date Brewed: July 17, 2006 Date Bottled: September 21, 2006 Original Gravity: 1.082 Final Gravity: 1.010 Alcohol: 9.5% ABV Malts: Maris Otter, Wheat, Caravienne, Carapils and Dark Crystal Other Sugars: Honey, Molasses Hops: Chinook, Centennial, Ahtenum, Cascades
I am a big Belgian beer fan, and DR#2 was a bit of a disappointment as a "keeper," at least that is my excuse for not pulling back one of the sixer that I bought. To make up for it, I bought over a case of DR#3, the 2IPA. The orange color seems about right for the style. Not overly hoppy on the nose. Well balanced flavor, but something is off with this beer. I cannot pinpoint if it is the beer itself or the stiff competition in this style. If memory serves me right, age has not improved my impression of this beer.

Divine Reserve No. 4
Style: Wee Heavy; Cases Made: 823; Date Brewed: December 20, 2006; Date Bottled: February 20, 2007; Original Gravity: 1.0835; Final Gravity: 1.021; Alcohol: 9.5% ABV
I was only a wee bit excited when I found out the fourth iteration of the DR series would be a Wee Heavy. It is just not my favorite style. I cannot really remember my original evaluation of this beer, but I can tell you my current evaluation is a huge thumbs up. This beer is much more flavorful, rich even, than typical beers of this style. Smoky, dark, complex... bravo!

Oktoberfest (2007)
While digging in the back of the shelf holding my reserved Divine Reserves, I found a two year old Oktoberfest. This is one of my favorite of Saint Arnold's seasonals, so I decided to have it bat clean-up in my Saint Arnold Day lineup. Measuring in at only 6.0% ABV, this is the "light beer" tonight. It is sweet and malty with notes of caramel. Since this is one of my favorites, I wish I knew why I felt this year's offering was not as good as previous years', such as this '07 gem. I hope the variance is only in my head.

Sincere congratulations to all the staff and volunteers at Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Keep up the good work.

Next year... parade!

The internet is a powerful and empowering thing. As a result of millions of people's contributions, each with individual passions, the web has become chock full of just about everything you ever wanted to know and ten times more stuff that you never wanted to know about. Like it or not, this is not just a product of the Google generation, even grannies are blogging these days. This is the Google era. It will be taught in grade school history books, and after their final takeover, future generations will be able to Bing and learn all about it.

My particular passion is beer. I am not saying that my greatest quality is somehow beer related or even that my talents exceed that of others who share similar passions, but discussing and partaking in its malty goodness is my escape from my regular world of Engineering or Fatherhood. It provides a medium in which I can both speak intelligently and provide content that others actually read and find interesting (I could only fulfill one of those terms in an Engineering blog... maybe).

Since the launch of TheFerm.org earlier this year, I have been able to successfully work my way into the Kolache Factory World Kolache Eating Championships, laid down an educational rap about the science of condensation, dared to claim AWOL status from the Saint Arnold Army, and even bring in thousands of hits with a list of the top fifteen beer bars in Houston, TX. Such success can go to one's head, so when I got the idea one day that the Houston Press might be interested in someone covering beer related topics around town I thought it was one of my greatest ideas since TheFerm's Anything Mock Draft. The Chronicle already had its guy in Ronnie Crocker, why could I not apply myself and become the RC for the HP?

After an unsolicited tweet and an email went unanswered, I resigned to the fact that I am an Engineer, and that ain't a bad day job. But then... this. Within days of my life-changing fantasy and subsequent giving up on my dreams, the Houston Press foodie blog "Eating Our Words" posted a job opening. Certainly it was meant to be. Maybe this section of the Houston Press just never noticed my previous inquiries. The instructions were simple enough:

To apply, send a cover letter, resume and examples of your writing to [email address removed]

Cover Letter. Check.
Examples of Writing. Check.
Resume. Hmm.

Assuming you do not lie on your resume, resumes do not lie. Your resume is your list of accomplishments, your curriculum vitae. I was faced with an interesting dilemma. Submit my actual resume, which shows I would be uniquely qualified to develop energy savings projects for a facility of the Houston Press' choice, or create some sort of resume showing my writing accomplishments, which I guess are either what I have left behind on the web or some gripping energy savings technical reports. My choice was to do what all of you are probably thinking as well: Skip the resume and go straight to the interview portion of the screening process.

While it may seem pompous to assume that the Houston Press would want to interview me just because I inquired about the job, I had an idea.

I will have the real life me interview my blogging alter ego. [Picture me nodding my head in that kind of blind self-congratulatory way right now.]

Below is a reproduction of the exact pretend interview I had with my blog writing alter ego.

My Interview for "Eating Our Words"… with Myself

Day Job Greg = Norris
Writing Alter Ego = SirRon

Norris: What is your biggest regret, and why? Ha! Just kidding. This is not that kind of interview.

SirRon: Soooo... I took a look at your resume... pretty impressive, if you were looking to manage the maintenance department at the Houston Press facilities.

Norris: Thanks, I guess. I noticed that you don't have a resume. Tell me a little about your qualifications.

SirRon: I've had a few items published.

Norris: Wow. Really?

SirRon: Yes. Ever heard of the "National Written and Illustrated By" contest? I won that. Well, actually it was an honorable mention… in eighth grade. But the key word there is "National."

Norris: Oh.

SirRon: I also scooped up an English Student of the Year award that year from my junior high.

Norris: Yeah. Well. How about any writing accomplishments as an, um, adult?

SirRon: I sent a "deep thought" to Ruminate.com that got published online and distributed to their subscribers. Want to hear it? Hear it goes. "I always keep a smelly fish in my pocket in case someone ever walks up to me and says, 'I will give you a million dollars if you have a smelly fish in your pocket.' Who is the crazy one now?!"

Norris: Ok, got it. I think I understand your experience, but I'd like to ask some questions specific to this job opening. The Houston Press is looking for a foodie blogger.

SirRon: I'm a foodie... I'm a blogger... aaaannnnd I'm pretty sure there was not a question in there (good thing the Houston Press isn't looking for a reporter).

Norris: What I mean is that I understand your passion for food. I've seen all your RSS feeds of food blogs, the tweeps you follow, your Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen online subscription and TiVo season pass, and your outstanding gourmet-ish tailgates. But right there on the HP website, the appeal for a new writer states:

Are you a regular at those Houston "throw-downs" involving pork bellies and fried chickens?

SirRon: I would have to say no to that.

When a hot Houston restaurant has a special event, are you the first to sign up?

SirRon: Not exactly.

Do you go to Houston festivals and try one of everything from each booth?

SirRon: Yes!

Do you take pictures of every damn thing you put in your mouth?

SirRon: Ummmmmmm.

Norris: Focus!

Can you string together sentences in an entertaining fashion?

SirRon: Does a pig fly in the woods?

Norris: Huh?

SirRon: Anyway, I may excel in covering the minutiae of drinking topics, but I can write about food. Did you catch my "5 Reasons Why... Beaver's Ice House Changed My Life" post?

Norris: As a matter of fact I did.

SirRon: ...my coverage of the SAVOR experience in Washington D.C.?

Norris: Which was a beer festival...

SirRon: A craft beer AND food paring event, thank you very much. I covered all seven days (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) of Craft Beer Week this year.

Norris: Yeah, what was up with all that text before the beer reviews?

SirRon: Anecdotes are... eh, never mind. You don't really have something like that in your Engineering world I guess.

Norris: Back to my interview. Why writing?

SirRon: Someone around here has to be the yin to your yang. The Creative to your Project Manager. The fiction to your calculations of chilled water pump BTU. The right brain needs exercising every now and again.

Norris: What is your favorite thing about being a blog writer?

SirRon: Sharing my experiences... and the feedback.

Norris: Narcissistic much? I saw "Anonymous" doesn't think very highly of your "Top 15 Places to Get a Beer in Houston, TX" post.

SirRon: That piece was the feat of a whole lot of beer bar study. I gathered input from a lot of folks, but I forgot to get input from Anonymous before publishing.

Norris: Don't sweat it. Last question. Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball? Oops, wrong page. I mean, why do you want this job?

SirRon: Quite simply, to take my writing to the next level.

Norris: Cliché alert!

SirRon: I'm (we're? this bit is getting confusing) not ready to quit my day job, but writing for "Eating Our Words" would is the perfect convergence of all my passions: Food, drink, and writing.

Norris: SirRon, you are off the hot seat. Thank you for your time and good luck!

Blogger's note: I have not talked to anyone, before or after, that thought the faux interview was a good idea. Ah well.

4/4/10 Update: Interested in reading about more failure? Be sure to check out Round 2 of my Houston Press misfortunes.

Last week, NBC and Anheuser-Busch made an historical announcement. For the first time in the 35-year history of SNL, the show would have a sole sponsor. The occasion would allow for Anheuser-Busch to promote it's new Bud Light Golden Wheat, while giving SNL the opportunity to bring viewers some never-before-aired clips as they celebrate their past.

To acknowledge this beer sponsored historical television event, TheFerm.org will offer its first review of a TV program, and I will provide this review in two words.

Banned List.

List>"Saturday Night Live">Delete now

I cannot really tell you much about the show, it was deleted from my TiVo unwatched.
The banned list is real.

Thank you.

It Made Me Drive Out to Washington Avenue

Houston is sprawled over some 600 square miles. I'm no suburbanite, but sometimes a trip from the Med Center to The Heights district feels like it requires a special occasion. Sure, this isn't fair to one of Houston's best hoods, but take a look at a map and see what other hot spots one passes through on that excursion (Museum district, Rice Village, Montrose, Midtown, etc.).

With the exception of spotting some of the chochy takeover of Washington Ave, I said to myself, "self, you need to get out here more often." Beaver's was worth the trip, and I'm better for making it.

The Name Is Kinda, umm, Suggestive

A potentially suggestive name does not a good restaurant make, but when a name goes from giving you something to look up on Citysearch.com to personifying the essence of the restaurant itself, then I'm fully on board.

The food, like the name, is unapologetic. It is the playground equivalent of a kid boasting, "What? Say Something!" It is the musical difference between Tenacious D and Nickleback. It is the film equivalent of Pulp Fiction as opposed to Regarding Henry. If Beaver's was a TV show, it would be Curb Your Enthusiasm and not Two and a Half Men. You get the idea.

The Drink Menu Is Not an Afterthought

Beaver's has a pretty full bar. In fact, the drink menu is probably good enough for them to function as a bar instead of a restaurant (although don't get me wrong, I'm not making any suggestions).

With self described "fantastically fun wines," "esoteric and unexpected brews," and "a signature cocktail menu of Front Porch drinks," if those walls could talk they would probably be full of pride (the building is a renovated ice house). If Beaver's had three or so more taps to go along with their already extensive bottled beer selection, I might consider coming for something other than lunch or dinner.

The Chef Tweeted Me Before My Visit

Big deal, right? Maybe a tweet wouldn't change my life if it was from a guy at Olive Garden while taking a break from cranking out breadsticks and never-ending pasta bowls, but this is Chef Jonathan Jones y'all... dude is a marquee chef (formerly working his culinary magic at Max's Wine Dive) with some serious skills!

Chef describes his food as "whimsical, culinary comedy." Do these dishes do anything for you? Fried oyster nachos, bacon ice cream, Pozole (Texas goat, lamb and Akaushi beef and hominy stewed with guajillo and ancho chiles), Spam sandwich (pulled pork, bacon, smoked grilled spam, fried egg), fried brownie balls, etc. Excited yet? For a good time, follow @PapaBeav and @beavershouston.

In Case You Are Still Wondering, The Food Is Off the Chain

Jonathan's kitchen offers numerous flavors of crack. During my visit, I tweaked off their shredded BBQ chicken sandwich, the Pit Boss Chickwich. See if you can spot the fried egg and pickle spear in the picture. We also had a buttermilk battered NY strip that was hands down the best chicken fried steak I've ever tasted. The dish, which was covered with mushroom and bacon gravy, was the only time I've ever felt like chicken fried steak didn't need ketchup. We also couldn't pass up ordering The Houston Press' selection for best crackaroni, er macaroni and cheese for 2009. Outstanding. Even what seemed to be an ordering blunder by one member of our table, The Wedge, turned out to be impressive. A salad? This bad boy came out with little wedges of bibb lettuce, bacon, a fried egg, and blue cheese dressing made with Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale. Nice.