Is there anything quite like a gorgeous, sunny day to drag you from your seasonal affective disorder and thrust you into the bosom of spring’s warm embrace? Though Texas weather tends to be a fickle, tempestuous bitch who could shove you back into the icy throes of winter at any moment, at least for one lovely day, like last Saturday, all feels new and possible.
That’s precisely how I ushered in the Year of the Tiger — beneath a cloudless sky at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. during its Chinese New Year Weekend Tasting, with a beer in hand and a niggling feeling that I should have applied sunscreen.
The Year of the Tiger marks the third in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac, based on the lunisolar calendar. Legend tells of a race decreed by the Jade Emperor to determine which animals were worthy of guarding him. The cycle corresponds to the order in which each finished the race, and while I’m all for a good myth, I have a hard time stomaching that a rat beat out all the other animals … I suppose if Peter Pettigrew could endure for so long as a family’s pet rat in the Harry Potter series, there must be some basis for the creature’s resourcefulness. Personally, I’m more of a dog person.
Squinting and ducking under the garage door entrance into the taproom lined with barrels and brightly hued cans left me disoriented. While my pupils adjusted, I dazedly approached the ticket counter. Fifteen buckaroos bought me a festive pint glass and three and a half pours of Rahr’s usual ales. Every inch of the gold-rimmed tumbler was decorated in scarlet artwork, with bulbous lanterns, a veinlike network of flowers reaching toward the brim, and two tigers mid-roar as a beer can erupts like a firework betwixt them.
I was a bit surprised that the well-loved local brewery hadn’t crafted a special batch for the occasion. Most everything on tap I’d tasted before, aside from a spiced orange hard seltzer with ginger and cinnamon. My second pour of the day, the fizzy concoction was admittedly subtle in flavor, as if someone had spritzed citrus into the mixture from across the room while another whispered each particular spice in its general direction. Still, I savored the seltzer’s refreshing effervescence.
It seems I was a few days early for the specialty suds. This weekend, Rahr will release a remix of its famous Ugly Pug — just in time for the impending arctic front. A similar dark malt, S’more Pug tips toward sweet with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa. I can’t wait to get my mitts on a can o’ that.
The Chinese New Year event promoted live music from Abbey Munk Band along with Asian and Pacific Island fare from NSFW Foods. While the former delivered, the latter was nowhere to be found. Instead, a boxy Yatai Food Cart whose chalk-art menu displayed a rice bowl with each ingredient labeled was parked to the side of the stage. I made the mistake of eating too much beforehand to curb the headache I would inevitably suffer after day-drinking — yes, 30 hit me hard — so I regrettably didn’t indulge.
The atmosphere was as mellow as it gets. When I walked outside holding the first strike on my wristband, Texas Red, I spotted my friend lounging near the edge of a sea of Adirondack chairs, having already tossed back most of his blonde brewski. Texas Red continues to be my go-to, a scrumptious lager that’s light and just a tad hoppy with a crisp finish. The Blonde feels like a summer sipper to me, and I’m just not emotionally ready to stow my sweaters and scarves yet.
I was pleased to discover that the rendition of “Wagon Wheel” I’d heard from my parking spot on West Leuda had originated from Rahr. Abbey Munk, who can’t be more than 16 years old, strummed away, surrounded by a gaggle of uncle-aged bandmates while her mom flitted about, capturing footage. From the short interludes between songs, you might assume that Abbey is reserved, but then she belts out greats like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and you realize she lets her vocals speak for themselves.
Forgive my sentimentality, but I can’t help but fondly recall my first piece for the Weekly almost exactly three years ago — a review of the “blind tiger” that had just opened, Bodega West 7th. There’s a sort of poeticism there, no? “From blind tiger to Year of the Tiger.” Is it mere coincidence, or perhaps an auspicious sign? Time will tell. Meanwhile, here’s to good times, great beer, and even better fortune. Prost, y’all!