I am going to take a moment here, and in the spirit of Wednesday, discuss one of my favorite breweries and my impressions of their beer. Real Ale Brewing. Real Ale, located outside of the town of Blanco, Texas is a relatively new brewery to the scene. By new, I mean this is their fifteenth year of brewing. A small company that began in the cellar of an antique shop back in 1996. I have had a number of their brews over the past three years and have been met with mixed emotions.
My first impression of Real Ale came with a sampler six pack that my father and I purchased in a Brookshire Brothers in Wimberley, Texas. A mere twenty or so miles from Blanco. This sampler consisted of their Full Moon Rye Ale, Brewhouse Brown, and Rio Blanco Pale Ales. Neither Dad, nor myself were impressed. I was tempted to swear off the brewery. I mean, if they don’t make a standard beer that I like, why would I ever contemplate their seasonal brews? However, I was not that easily dissuaded. One night, shortly after its debut in College Station, I sat down at the Dixie Chicken and had a draft of Firemans 4. I was hooked.
This Blonde ale, literally rocked my world. Such flavor, such smooth characteristics, such an amazingly well put together beer. I had to have more. I overlooked my opinions of their sampler pack and decided that maybe their bread and butter was specialty beer. Allow me for a second to head down a rabbit trail. I am sure that the sampler pack that they offer are all wonderful beers, but for my brown, pale, and rye ales, I look elsewhere. Anyways, I digress. I then bought a six pack of their “Devils Backbone” a Belgian tripel ale. Honestly, I bought it because I live not far from the Devils Backbone, and the label is pretty awesome. When I tried the beer I was amazed. It was instantly one of my favorite beers, sweet, not overly induced with hops, and very smooth.
So, after this, with two solid beers from Real Ale sitting in my “have tried, really enjoyed” column, I decided that I would just stick to their seasonal and specialty brews. Last fall, I found their Marzen to be the best one of the season. A self proclaimed Shiner fanboy, who found a Texas Oktoberfest beer better than his beloved Shiner? Yeah, that was me. Not even St. Arnolds Oktoberfest last year held a candle to the Real Ale twist. In fact, I tried seven, eight, a bakers dozen different Marzens in an attempt to find one that was on the same tier as Real Ales, and I just couldn’t. It was THAT good. So Real Ale had won me over. What newest offerings would they provide that I would find enjoyable? I found my answer in their Coffee Porter, a wonderful culmination of porter sweetness, with Katz coffee added in? Sign me up Scotty! It was so good, I refused to share it, even with my closest friends.
The next offering of theirs that I partook in was the Phoenixx ESB, I had never ventured into a Extra Special Bitter brew before so I felt the need to divulge. For the specialty hops used, and the type of beer that it is, I found it rather enjoyable. Not a beer that I would drink every day, but a welcome change to my usual palate. Their Alamo brew is an excellent beer to just keep in the fridge for a daily drinking beer. A smooth golden ale with a clean finish. Not overpowering, and it has the characteristics that some breweries like to call “drinkability” which is never to be confused with flavor. Fortunately, the Alamo has excellent flavor, and in the truest sense, a solid drinkability factor.
Now, having moved from College Station to the Hill Country, I am within reach of Real Ales distribution arms and am now able to get some of their more “select” beers for lack of a better term. One Friday afternoon I made the 25 minute trek to their brewery for their weekly tour. While waiting I indulged in some of their draft beers. Including, but not limited to a Russian Imperial Stout which was phenomenal, and that I still need to get a bottle of. Their “Mysterium Verum”, or “Real Mystery” ale as well. At the time it was a brew that they named “Morgul” a porter that instead of being melded with the Katz Coffee, was aged in previously used bourbon barrels. Now. I have had some beers before that were aged in bourbon barrels (Winters Cask Ale from Michelob being the most widely distributed) but that didn’t even hold a candle to this Morgul. Smooth, (considering a ABV of nigh on 11% if memory serves) but you could taste the bourbon through the process. The smell of American oak barrels, bite of whiskey, and the smooth sweet taste of bourbon rounding it out on the finish. Sadly however there were only six casks sent out for distribution. In a recent trek to the Flying Saucer with my friend Sarah, I was informed that they had a cask condition 15th anniversary ale from Real Ale, it turns out this was the Russian Imperial stout (9.8% ABV), so naturally, I just had to have it, and it just blew me away. It came in a twelve ounce pour opposed to the usual sixteen due to the ABV content and heaviness of the beer, but it was well worth the price.
So in conclusion, my take on Real Ale? A wonderful brewery located in the heart of the Texas Hill country that has a knack for creating great beers. Prosit!