I’m back with a new beer to take out for a flight…Texas Beer’s King Grackle Stout. As I’ve noted before, I like birds and so this one was a “must try” for me. And decidedly Texan!
For those who aren’t familiar, grackles are blackbirds, long, slender, social and shiny. where I came from (as well as much of North America) there’s the Common Grackle, a noisy bird a bit bigger than a robin and a sure sign of spring when they return in March. As they say though, “everything’s bigger in Texas” and here we host the Great-tailed Grackle, a much larger version of the regular ones and one of the biggest songbirds on the continent. And boy do we have them! They nest around the cities but in winter, they’re joined by their friends and cousins from the colder states and congregate in flocks that can number in the thousands, often in trees around shopping areas. They’re bold and eat almost anything and are thus successful…and like most animals that thrive in urban areas, the locals by and large hate them. But I always find them colorful, enjoy watching them fly out of nowhere to chase a passing hornet and am in awe of their synchronized twists and turns as the flocks get ready to settle for the night. Cities like Dallas, Austin and Waco have the biggest numbers of them anywhere.
So we have a bold, quintessentially Texan bird which is mostly black in color. Fittingly, the beer named after it is dark and bold as well. The brewery describe it as “a full bodied stout that flies boldly above the flock.” They note that it’s “bold and flavorful” with “notes of coffee and chocolate.” Which might sound unusual but actually is typical of European stouts and could pretty well describe Guinness too.
The Texas Beer Co. is a relatively new addition to the roster of craft brewers around the state, starting up in 2015 with the help of a Kickstarter fund as well as private investments. They built their brewery in an old brick building in Taylor, not far from Austin, and like many others, have a Taproom on site which offers trivia nights and live music in non-pandemic times! Among their popular brews are a blonde ale, a Hoppy Duck IPA and Pecos Amber, a beer which took a gold medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival.
For my try, I popped open a 12-ounce can (suitably dark and adorned with a picture of a Grackle) and poured it, noting its similarity to Guinness in appearance. It was almost black in color and produced a tall, creamy caramel-colored frothy head which lasted some time. I had it with a toasted ham and tomato sandwich lunch with some cut-up green tomato (unfried) on the side.
My first impression was that this is a strong drink. Strongly-flavored with a foamy head that actually retains a bit of texture when drunk. It is bitter, but not displeasingly so and rather hoppy. I could detect just a hint of chocolate in the mix (they actually use some cocoa brewing it) and although it didn’t taste precisely like coffee, it did evoke a bit of a feeling of a cold, strong black coffee. Thankfully, I like black coffee.
As it might be assumed, it held its own with the meat sandwich and the tomato (green tomatoes , by the way are quite meaty and less “sweet” than most typical ones). It actually created an odd little “zing” when washing down the sandwich and had a nice silky, creamy kind of feel. Substantial was a word which came to mind. The chocolate hints and strength of it make me think it would go well with a real coffee over a sweet pie or ice cream dessert as well. But at over 7% alcohol (the can says 7.5% but their website claims 9%) it is a brew for enjoying when the day is done. You’re probably not going to be flying energetically after downing one.
Overall, I like it for times when a drink with a bit of kick and intensity feel right. It might not be my everyday choice for cooling off with or having while watching a couple of innings of baseball, but it’s one I might just keep on hand. I rate it 7 out of 10 for strength, 7 out of 10 for flavor and
3.5 out of 5 king grackles!