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Thankful Thursday XXXVIII – ‘Owl’ Drink To Napa Valley Going Green

This Thankful Thursday I’m thankful for Napa Valley wines. And I’m a beer guy, not an oenophile, which is apparently a wine lover. A word I’d probably have already known if I actually loved wine. I might seldom partake in their beverages, but I’m thankful for them after seeing a story recently about how they are beginning to “go green.” More and more of the vineyards in that California valley are turning away from chemical pesticides and towards organic solutions…including owls!

Wine might be healthy for us in moderation, but creating it isn’t always healthy for the land. Growing the grapes invites a lot of nuisance animals to the area… rats and mice especially. For much of the past century, the growers relied on heavy doses of pesticides to keep the rodents in check. Needless to say, this isn’t beneficial. Besides the rodents they’re looking to control, other animals can ingest it and die, or eat the poisoned rats and in turn sicken or die themselves as the poison builds up inside them. And while one would imagine that the amounts of pesticide retained by the grapes during the production would be minimal, the risk to farm workers is real. For instance, zinc phosphides, a common type of rat poison will “increase calcium levels in the blood, leading to organ failure” according to scientists. One would think even a trace amount lingering in the wine wouldn’t be doing its enthusiasts any good and working in the fields with it day in, day out even less so.

So, I’m happy more and more grape-growers are shunning the chemicals and instead encouraging owls. Barn Owls in particular, an especially effective rodent weapon. Apparently a typical one will eat close to ten critters a night, so just a couple of pairs of nesting ones is going to significantly lessen the enjoyment of the area for rats! The vineyards are cleaner, and the growers save money. It costs far less to put up a few nestboxes for owls than to buy pounds of chemicals, needless to say. They may even reap a small financial reward as birdwatchers begin to take the vineyard tours in hopes of seeing a striking-looking owl more than tasting a fine Chardonnay. And the Barn Owls, declining in numbers across the country are finding new homes with ready supplies of food. A win-win.

Organic wine, helped along by owls. I’ll drink to that. Or should I say, “owl” drink to that!

Boffo Beer Blog, Week 9 : Weisse N Easy

Well for this week’s new adventure on the beer frontier, I made a return visit to that brewery as close to the hearts of many a Texan as bluebonnets and bucking broncos – Shiner. You might recall I looked at one of their winter drinks, Frost, and mentioned how the little Spoetzl Brewery from the town of Shiner has a big footprint in the Texas market. And funny commercials. Well, this time around the curiosity got the better of me and I tried their new Weisse & Easy.

By “new” I do mean new; it appeared on local shelves just last month and somehow hasn’t been added to their website yet. As an interesting promo, Shiner (typically a glass-only company) offered it in specially-priced, one-gulp mini-cans, but I rolled the dice and went for a normal 12-ounce bottle.

Shiner describe the drink as having “all the flavor of a wheat beer but with only 95 calories. Unfiltered and brewed with native Texas dewberries…perfect for kickin’ back and taking it weisse and easy.” For those unfamiliar with “Dewberries” (like me for example), they’re apparently a small shrub-grown berry much akin to blackberries. So it was try a new beer and expand my vocabulary all in one! The drink seems a natural for Shiner since they also famously brew “Ruby Redbird”, a light beer with Texas grapefruit added.

I had it with a late lunch of a robust garden salad and a turkey sandwich. Pouring it into the glass, it was quite fizzy (“highly effervescent” as Beer Advocate correctly pegged it as) and built quite a solid head. The color was nice, but unusual, rather an almost rosy shade of gold; mainly clear and quite “effervescent.”

Having a swig to finish up the bottle, my first reaction was “Wow!” Not a “best thing I’ve ever tasted” kind of wow, but neither a “ooh! Spit it out!” kind either. Just a “Wow” of surprise, as it didn’t come across as a swig of beer. It seemed more like a red sparkling wine or perhaps a berry-flavored cooler. A little sweet, a bit tarty too but very fruity. The tartness seemed a bit more prominent in the relatively light aftertaste.

I found it rather “fresh” and that it paired really nicely with the salad veggies. I could imagine this one as a summer picnic refresher, and with the lite beer rating of just 4.0% alcohol, one which wouldn’t impair performance on any three-legged race or other funtime activity that could grow out of it. With the turkey, it seemed a little more bitter but kept its flavor, not getting over-ridden by the meaty flavor.

In short, a fairly pleasing and intense taste, but unlike the Ruby Redbird (which tastes beer-y but with a dash of citrus) this one comes across more like a spritzer of bubbly wine. So, a fine drink, but not exactly for someone wanting a conventional beer. Likewise, probably too hoppy still for a discerning wine-fancier.

Still, I rate it a 3 out of 5 for strength and 4 out of 5 for flavor and overall,


3-and-a-half Crane brothers out of five.