Breweries "Visited"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beer, Country Songs, Guns, Tourism

Day #417 Fireman's #4 / Real Ale Brewing Company, Blanco, TX
Previously from this brewery: Marci's take on Real Ale

You ever been to Blanco, Texas?  No, well I have.  As part of our beer blogger ninja mission to Texas, we drove down to San Antonio, and on the way back to Austin drove out through central Texas Hill Country.  Do you like ranches, wide open spaces, and.... hills?  Do you not like seeing a ton of people?  Soft spot in your heart for Friday Night Lights?  Then you might like Texas Hill Country, home of Real Ale Brewing Company.

Before we get to Real Ale, let's pause for a moment and discuss brewery tours.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I don't usually seek out brewery tours.  I mean, you see one tour, you've seen them all - grain and water get heated up, sugars are released, the sugars ferment, you sit around for a while, and SHAZAM you have beer.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  How many times can you sit through that presentation?  However, I do have a bit of a soft spot for tours, as they do let you meet some of the brewery employees, see what they consider to be the unique features they bring to their beer, see what makes them tick.  I've taken three really different, yet really fun tours in my day.  One, I'll talk about in another post.  Another was a work trip to visit a client (admittedly, they're as macro as macro beer gets), where I got the exclusive, behind the scenes VIP tour, and got to see virtually every square inch of the plant, from the train cars that bring the grain in to the area where they recycle glass, and everything in between.  I got to drink beer from an executive lounge, and I got to pet the Clydesdales (yeah, that macro brewer).  It was crazy  access to a world that tourists never get to see, even though the tour was incredibly safe and sterile.  We wore eye protection and ear protection, closed toed shoes, and had to stay within the yellow lines or risk dying.  No joke: when you first walk onto the brewery floor, you see a banner that reminds people to look around, otherwise you might die like an employee who died a few years back.  Yikes!  Informative, interesting, awesome, safe, and without a doubt one of the coolest days I've had at work.

And then there's the Real Ale tour.  Considering how far out into the middle of nowhere Blanco is, there was a downright huge group queued up for the Friday afternoon tour.  Armed with some free samples, we headed into the brewery, where we received no safety briefing, other than to not touch anything.  That was really more of a warning than a safety tip, now that I think about it.  We were crammed in among the tanks, and moved through the facility by stepping over hoses, ducking under pipes, dodging steam vents and skirting around puddles.  Heavy metal music from Ronnie James Dio was blaring over speakers somewhere further back in the plant.  I'm pretty sure the tour leader was making some of it up as he went along.  Despite the random nature of the tour, I learned about what Real Ale feels is important to their beer, saw equipment waiting to be put together for their new bottling machine, saw a basketball hoop in a corner of a warehouse (no one would challenge me to a game, sadly), and saw the new warehouse where they are now barrel aging beers, which is always good news.  In other words, it was glorious.  I'm not sure if you'll ever be in Blanco, Texas, but if you do, you MUST stop by for a tour.  You won't regret it.

My official beer review is for the Fireman's #4, a blonde ale that appears to be the most popular beer Real Ale puts out, at least from my unofficial survey of bars in Texas.  It pours a hazy gold color with a fluffy white head.  The aroma is light, with plenty of grain, and the taste is clean, with grass, grain, biscuit, and a good dose of hops, although without much bitterness.  A nice beer, easily enjoyed at a mellow 5.1% ABV.  Texas forever, friends.  Texas forever.
Another beer drank at Hopdoddy?
Another beer drank at Hopdoddy.
Breweries in Texas can't sell direct to the consumer, so most have tasting rooms where they give away free samples.  I had the Fireman's #4 in a bar in Austin, but did sample the Rio Blanco pale ale and a barleywine, both of which were quite nice.  I bought a pint glass, because I wanted a pint glass.

Thing to Think About Today:
The Real Ale brewery is 533 miles away from El Paso, Texas.  Why is this important?  Because tonight's thing to think about is the old Marty Robbins Grammy Award winning 1959 classic, El Paso.  Why is this important?  I'm  not sure if I'll ever set foot in El Paso in my life, and no one has written any cool songs about Blanco.  So.... there you go.

I think my parents had this record when I was kid, because I remember listening to it as a kid, and it has stuck with me ever since.  Why is this song awesome?  Well, it's about a guy who goes to a bar, falls in love, realizes his crush has a boyfriend, shoots the boyfriend (I repeat: he shoots the boyfriend!), rides away on a stolen horse, realizes he can't live without his new lady friend (who he just saw in a bar, it's not like they were living together), rides back into town to find her, gets shot by the posse looking for him, and (SPOILER ALERT) dies in the arms of his lady.  That's badass!!!  Give it a listen, and have a good night.  And avoid gun battles in bars in Texas, because I don't think they end well for anyone.

"Down in the west Texas town of El Paso / I fell in love with a Mexican girl..."

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