Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap and Fire Eagle: Yes we can’t

 
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.16.11
 
Pearl Snap is one of the most place-appropriate beer names ever. Pearl Snap. You feel good saying it. I’m wearing a pearl-snap shirt right this minute, and not just for a tasting of six-packs from Austin Beerworks.
 
The canned version of Pearl Snap I bought for $7.70 a six-pack from cases on the floor at Spec’s was different by a full level from the draft version I drank at the Grackle, which I thought was rounder than your usual dry pilsner-style beer, balanced and as pale yellow as a honeysuckle blossom. The kind of beer that doesn’t need brass-knuckled hops to announce itself.
 
In the glass at home, it’s soapy and flat, and I can taste the metallic twang of the can in every sip. I say this out of hope that a local brewer might draw any kind of constructive and actionable lesson from it. I know that Lee Nichols of the Chronicle and I Love Beer doesn’t want me to say anything bad about local beer. He threatened me with vengeance from the bottle’s death’s-head mascot when I described Jester King’s Black Metal Stout as “surprisingly dull-witted, so out of balance you'd think it got drunk on its way out of the bottle.” But we wont get anywhere just patting each other on the back.
 
A six-pack of Fire Eagle American Pale Ale from Austin Beerworks is a happier story for me, and not just because I haven’t had a draft version against which to take its measure. Fire Eagle (also $7.70 for a six-pack at Spec’s) is sharp and fruity, with a lingering creamy head and a drying finish. I’m still getting some metallic notes, but the hops knock them down to white noise.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)

Comments

No, I didn't say you shouldn't badmouth local beer. There are Texas breweries I've criticized, as well. I think Independence's core beers are mediocre (although I do like some of their more recent, more adventurous beers are good) and I have pretty much the same opinion of Fort Worth's Rahr & Sons. Don't care much for Live Oak's Roggenbier, either. As for Austin Beerworks, although I think their beers are okay, I did comment that they brewed "Nothing that blew my mind."

I just said you were wrong about Black Metal, which I think is a singularly outstanding beer.

(If the beer taste soapy: Perhaps your dishwasher isn't getting your glasses thoroughly rinsed.)

Say whatever you want about me, Lee Nichols. But leave my dishwasher out of it. It never hurt a beer in my house. Fair point on my extrapolation of your words, but your post was more acerbic than you're giving it credit for. When you went on to question my competence to talk about beer in general because I didn't like one beer out of the bunch struck me as an overreaction, and they tend to beget one another.  My brother, who lives in Fort Worth, is appalled by Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug in particular. And this is a guy who never met a glass of suds he didn't like. Speaking of the Metroplex, Real Ale's Lost Gold IPA reminds of the first big-hops beer I ever met: Collin County Pure Gold from that long-lost brewery in Plano. I'm still right about Black Metal, and I'll let you pour me a glass just so we can fight about it some more. Beer fight. Bring your poncho. Cheers, Lee. — Mike  

Mike,

 

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to review Fire Eagle and Pearl-Snap.  We sincerely appreciate feedback from everyone who tries our beers.  Constructive criticism is especially valued.  Our goal is to make consistently exceptional craft beers, and reviews like yours help make that happen.

 

As I just mentioned, consistency is incredibly important to us, so I'm very sorry to hear you had a different experience with our beers in cans as opposed to on draft.  In our brewery's defense, I would like to give you some insight into how we attempt to prevent that from happening.

 

Firstly, in order to minimize inconsistencies, we keg and can from the same batch of beer.  We don't dedicate one tank for canning and one for kegging.  The exact same beer goes into both packages. 

 

And secondly, to ensure nothing is amiss in our packaging processes, we regularly check CO2 and dissolved Oxygen levels in all of our packaged beer.  Our measurements have always been essentially identical in both cans and kegs.

 

To address your perception of a metallic taste from our canned beers, I would like to point out that the interior of all contemporary aluminum beverage cans are coated with a non-reactive, water-based polymer.  Beer never touches metal in canned beer.  In contrast, kegged beer is constantly in contact with stainless steel.

 

My intention in saying all this isn't to discredit your experience, but rather to make clear how seriously we take quality control and product consistency.  If you are interested, we would be happy to invite you to the brewery and conduct a blind tasting of our beers from a can vs our beers on draft.  We are unable to distinguish them ourselves, so we will acknowledge and idolize your superior palate if you are able to do so.  You can even wear your mask if you are so inclined.

 

Thank you again for supporting local breweries.

 

Sincerely,

Michael Graham

Co-Founder

Austin Beerworks

 

Hi Michael. Thank you for the reasoned response. I have to guess that the brewer's bane is the handling of the beer after it leaves the brewery, and I imagine that accounts for some of the differences in taste between can and draft. Even draft protocol varies from bar to bar. Metallic notes can spin out from interactions with the wort kettle, from poorly stored hops, even from junk on top of the cans. Occam's Razor tells me that the simplest explanation would be oxidization. Somewhere between fermenter and can and popping the top at home, a little oxygen crashed the party. Doesn't take much. Lost a five-gallon carboy of British ordinary to it from an airlock that was cracked at the stem. Heartbreaking. Known too many dedicated (neurotic?) beer makers to doubt your devotion to technique, and so I'll take your response at its face and hope for the best. Still more Austin Beerworks product to try, and more conversations to be had. Thank you again for writing. — Mike  

Mike,

 

My pleasure.  Thank you for sparking such a heated debate.  As Terrence Henry just noted on Twitter, "We're fortunate that we have so many craft beers

here to argue over." 

 

 

And now that I've had time to reflect, I'm pretty sure that metallic taste you noticed was from the 1oz  of metal shavings we add to every can.  We'll stop doing that from now on.

 

 

-Michael

 

 

Michael, I say those metal shavings are a public service. Here's to your health. — Mike