Flying Saucer Brings Alpine Beer Company to Texas, and More

Photo courtesy Chelsey Ross of Obsidian Public Relations
Since 2000, the Flying Saucer has been Downtown's go-to hub for craft beer.

This week, the Flying Saucer (705 Main St., 713-228-9472), a rare downtown institution amidst the construction and revitalization, became the first bar in Houston to have Alpine Beer Company on tap. The San Diego-based microbrewery has been partnered with Green Flash Brewing for some time, and although Green Flash has been in Houston for a while, Alpine is just arriving for the first time.

The brewery is best known for its selection of IPAs, and that was reflected in the lineup, largely IPAs and pale ales. The Flying Saucer tapped a different beer each day Monday through Friday, and I got to sample each on Thursday while speaking to Asa Hanrahan, the bar's General Manager, and Joshua Justice, the manager.

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Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer Marks Its Introduction in Houston

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photo courtesy Jennie Hatton of Crabbie's
The Crabbie's original, here served as recommended over ice with a slice of lime, is a refreshing alternative to a cider or shandy.

Last week was Crabbie's Week in Houston. I'd never heard of Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer until recently, but I was invited to the media event recently at the Railyard (4206 San Felipe; 713-621-4000) and thought I'd try it out and report back what I found.

First, some background info:

Crabbie's traces its lineage back nearly two hundred years, to John Crabbie's original spiced ginger wine. The recipe currently used calls for cold steeping ginger for six weeks before adding a proprietary spice blend to the malted beverage.

Right now, Crabbie's comes in two flavors, original and spiced orange. (A third flavor, Scottish raspberry, is currently available in the UK and will hopefully be available here for the star of summer.

The recommended way to drink it-- Crabbie's calls it the "Perfect Serve"-- is over ice, usually with a lime wedge, and after trying it neat, I have to agree. (It's bottled at 4.8 percent ABV, certainly low enough to drink neat were it best served that way.) There's just too much spice in the flavor neat; adding ice dilutes and balances the drink more. Alone over ice, it could make a nice substitute for a shandy. It remains spicy yet is now cool and refreshing, without being too sweet.

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Johnny's Gold Brick Opens Tomorrow

Categories: Bar Beat

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Johnny's Gold Brick has shaped up to be a casual but clean, attractive and comfortable hangout.

An industry event at Johnny's Gold Brick at 2518 Yale gave us a glimpse into the bar that replaced the Boom Boom Room. It opens to the public on Friday, March 13.

The cream booths, freshly painted chartreuse walls and wood accents strike a careful balance between dive bar and casual hangout. It is by no means fancy, but it's thankfully absent of the neon-lit mustiness that plagues older dives.

Treadsack director Chris Cusack said it was an extremely well-maintained place to begin with. The prior Boom Boom Room owners were fastidious, leaving a good blank slate to build Johnny's Gold Brick upon.

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Artisanal Cachaça Brand Comes To Houston

Categories: Bar Beat

Most of us in North America were introduced to cachaça by way of a cocktail called the caipirinha. It's the national drink of Brazil and is made by muddling lime quarters and sugar in the bottom of a rocks glass. Ice is added and then the cachaça. It's hard to imagine starting a rodizio meal without the potent tart and sweet drink.

Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugar cane and Cachaça is made from the juice. The United States, though, gets very few exports of the resulting spirit. In fact, it wasn't until April 11, 2013, that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau recognized Cachaça as a type of rum and a distinctive product of Brazil.

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Julep Embarks on a Year-Long Southern Cocktail Program

Categories: Bar Beat

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Two of Julep's new cocktails that pay homage to the rural South: Two Drinks Coming, with a shot in a spent lime shell, and an Amethyst Flip with cognac, sloe gin, purple sweet potato, a whole egg, Champagne and nutmeg.

Alba Huerta at Julep has totally nerded out on Southern cocktail history, and many cocktail fans will appreciate it. It's also allowed her and the staff at Julep to create a historically influenced program that will span the rest of this year and take guests on a journey to the past.

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Hay Merchant Third Anniversary Party Preview

Photo courtesy Lindsey Brown of Clumsy Butcher
The taps at Hay Merchant are being cleared this week-- no new kegs will be mounted-- in anticipation for the bar's third-anniversary party, on Thursday.

Three years ago, half of the location of the old Chances bar was converted into the Hay Merchant (1100 Westheimer Road, 713-528-9805), which quickly became the go-to spot in Montrose for craft beer. Once again, the Hay Merchant is clearing out its tap lines in preparation for an anniversary party, where co-owner and beer guru Kevin Floyd will roll out some of his favorite rare beers and special finds to be tapped on Thursday, February 12.

I attended last year's party, and if it was any indicator, this'll be a must-attend for Houston beer fanatics.

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Houston's 10 Best New Bars

Categories: Bar Beat, Top 10

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Moving Sidewalk arose from the ashes of Goro & Gun to become one of Houston's top bars in 2014.

Great new restaurant openings weren't the only story of 2014. There were also new, notable bars that opened that are fun additions to Houston's beverage scene. Despite their youth, some have already landed on the top lists compiled by national publications. First, we'll look at two places to keep an eye on in 2015, and then check out the top picks of bars that opened in 2014.

Check These Out in 2015

Ladybird's, 5519 Allen
December 2014

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
It's a bit early for Ladybird's to be at its best, but we like what we see so far and are looking forward to the upcoming food program by chef Lyle Bento.

How can you not love a place that features a painting of Han Solo in Carbonite on the back door? You can get a cocktail or beer, shoot a game of pool and play Ms. Pac Man, but Ladybird's needs a little more time to get its food program settled. It's located where The Usual used to be. There's no kitchen in the building, so they've asked former Underbelly sous chef Lyle Bento to develop their menu, which will be cooked in an on-site food truck. In the meantime, other food trucks are periodically providing service. Speaking of service, the staff is very kind and happy to make recommendations and while the back bar isn't stocked with anything super-fancy, the brands of whiskey, tequila and rum Ladybird's has chosen are solid. We were happy to see both yellow and green Chartreuse on the shelf.

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From Morning Coffee to Evening Cocktails: Woodbar Now Open

Categories: Bar Beat

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Crispy tacos--delightfully brown on the edges and full of juicy pulled pork--at Woodbar next to Canopy restaurant.

If you're looking for the bar area inside of Canopy you won't find it. Instead, aim to the left and make your way next door. There you will find a room full of tables and chairs in soothing, earthy colors and a long bar in the back. The place is called Woodbar (3939 Montrose), and it's chef Claire Smith's classy solution to a few issues.

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Behind the Bar: Finding a Good Feeling at The Nightingale Room

Categories: Bar Beat

How do you measure a successful night out at a bar?

That answer usually depends on the question of why you're going out in the first place. Some nights you hit the bar so that you can have a good time with friends. Some times the agenda is to make new ones. Other times you just want to dance or sing or cry. Everyone has their reasons for going out and their measure of success. Mike Criss, co-founder of The Nightingale Room, wanted to make a place that he would visit if he was going out.

"If I could go see a live show and have an awesome tasting drink too, I would feel like I would win double," says Criss in the above interview.

That does sound like a good night out.

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The 5 Best Happy Hours in Memorial City

Photo courtesy of Vallone's
Vallone's plump and tender meatballs are one of the restaurant's most popular items.
If you love happy hour as much as we do, you'll love this new series. We're taking a look at the best happy hours in town, 'hood by 'hood. To narrow it down, we're focusing on the spots with the best deals on not only drinks, but eats, too. From upscale eateries serving bar bites and half-priced wine to dives with cheap beer and burgers, we've got it all. See the complete list at the end of this post

This week, we're moving to the 'hood of Memorial City.

Honorable Mention: Build your own antipasti at Ciro's and fancy pants social hour at Eddie V's.

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