Taste of Texas Experience at the Texas Renaissance Festival with North Shepherd Brewing
This past weekend I attended my favorite themed weekend of faire season, Highland Fling at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Bringing in the new Fall season is the ideal opportunity for bonfires, beers, and the glorious sight of Scottish tartan kilts blowing in the wind of the smoke-filled woods of Todd Mission, Texas. A last-minute decision allowed me to extend my camping weekend and freeing up time to attend the Sunday beer tasting hosted by Alan Ward, brewmaster of Brigadoon Brewery. Each weekend during faire season, this beer tasting event showcases a rotation of different local craft breweries from around the city highlighting the beer through tasting & story telling. These classes include samples of different beers which are only available during the class with, question/answer sit down with the brewer, a salty snack and collectible pint glass that includes a full pour of beer. The stars aligned, I scored a Sunday admission ticket and lucky for me, the newest #Houstonbeer beer brand, North Shepherd Brewing was in the house!
Formally named and operated as Astral Brewery, North Shepherd Brewing is led by experienced Houston brewer and local family man, Sam Wright. Loaded down with brewing experience and know-how from Saint Arnold, Holler, and Gristworks, Sam explains that his mission for North Shepherd brewery is simple: Make refreshing uncomplicated beers for all those to enjoy. No gimmicks, no bs, just good beer in a comfortable community spot. A local watering hole where you can always depend on enjoying traditional beer styles brewed in the best way possible.
Scheduled for 1pm Sunday morning, we arrived on time to be greeted and checked in by Alan Ward, brewmaster of Brigadoon Brewery. This small intimate seating space was perfect for interacting with other 11 guests in attendance. At the start of the session, Alan outlined a few basic tips on the proper way to taste beer through aroma and flavor sensory. Each guest also received a large salty pretzel to help clear the palate between beers. And boy, this pretzel sure was making me thirsty!
As Alan poured the rounds – the conversation of the new North Shepherd brand and taproom space began. Sam introduced each beer by style, along with a brief overview of flavor and its story. He also explained a bit more detail on why the pivot from Astral brand was so important. Not only are the beer styles different from the ones seen at Astral but it was also a pivot back towards more traditional brewing styles for more approachable beers. For Sam, it was important that this change was also met with a fresh new brand name. New beers, taproom decor change, and overall new vibe. The beer is sold primarily from the taproom, but they are working on local distribution in select bars in the neighborhood. Don’t expect to find them in HEB or other big retailer anytime soon and the brewery has no plans to distro outside of Houston.
“Beer is meant to be enjoyed fresh & local when possible.” says Sam.
I couldn’t agree more.
Here are the highlights of my beer tasting experience……
Mexican Lager 4.5% ABV – Runner up for my favorite beer of the tasting, this traditional light drinking lager was nicely balanced with a light honey grain malt background and crushable crispy finish. Right out of the gate, the group was very impressed and eagerly awaited the next beer.
Kolsch 4.9% ABV – STRAIGHT DELICIOUS. Light and very clean. Soft bready malt shines here and the sweetness is balanced by a restrained yet firm hop bitterness, offering a hint of spicy and herbal character. This Kölsch achieves perfection in its drinkability and is a beer that effortlessly bridges the gap between complexity and approachability. My personal favorite of the tasting – I’m imagine this should sell well in the taproom.
Festbier 5.5% ABV – This beer features a gentle toasty character that adds depth and complexity, creating a malt-forward profile that pays homage to the festbier tradition. The sweetness is tempered by a mild earthy hop bitterness, creating a well-rounded flavor profile that invites another sip. The perfect beer to huzzah to! 🍻
Yale St. IPA 6.5% ABV – Sam made it pretty clear that hazy IPAs were not his thing but boy was I happy to see this one! This hazy IPA featured subtle notes of earthy Nelson Sauvin hops balanced with a clean hoppy finish. Very enjoyable. Side note: It felt like a crime to watch the non-IPA drinker at the session leave this one alone. Well balanced. Don’t like to chew your IPAs? You don’t have to with this one – give this one a try.
West 43rd Street IPA 7.4% ABV – More medium bitter West Coast style IPA. Citrus undertones with a touch of bitterness. Not a palate wrecker and leans more malt forward to me. Good starter IPA for someone who is new to hops. Probably my favorite of the IPA set.
Durham Dr. Hazy IPA 7% ABV – This beer featured a more tropical flair than the others. Featuring Comet, Strata and Citra hops, it was brighter with citrus notes and had a creamier mouthfeel than the rest. Another stellar example of a hazy ipa without all the heavy weight.
We finished up the beer tasting with a full pint of the beer – so of course I picked the Kolsch which was being poured by the creator himself. Consider taking some time this holiday season to visit the new North Shepherd. The quality of the beers shared during the beer tasting was exceptional which is hard to say about most breweries especially new ones. Not one single off flavor detected or weird indescribable notes – every beer was hella crisp and clean. If you are serious about traditional beer styles brewed the right way with a down to earth community vibe, you are in good hands with North Shepherd Brewing.
Interested in attending this event? The last Taste of Texas Beer Tasting hosted by Brigadoon Brewery is scheduled with Southern Star Brewery’s Dave Fougeron. Get your tickets today – order on Brigadoon Brewery website.
Till next year, let’s give a hip hip huzzah to all local beer craft beer drinkers this Thanksgiving season. While you are sitting at the table this year, be sure to remember brewers like Sam and Alan, who believe traditionally brewed beer will never go out of style. We are thankful for the skill that goes into making these quality beverages that we all very much enjoy.
HIP HIP HUZZZZZAHHHH!