Sunday, August 31, 2008

Southern Star Pine Belt Pale

Carla was visiting her family in Conroe, Texas a few weeks ago -- for those of you who aren't familiar with Conroe, it's in the southeast part of the state, just five miles from Cut and Shoot. Happily enough, one of Texas' newest microbreweries is located in Conroe: Southern Star. She was able to sample their first release, Pine Belt Pale Ale, and -- attentive wife that she is -- she brought me a 16-ounce can so I could try it myself.

It's a solid first effort: quite malty with a good dose of hops. Pine Belt is unfiltered, so it's a little cloudy, and mine even seemed to have some flecks of yeast in it. The hops are not so floral but nicely bitter. Carla picked up what she called an interesting oily flavor -- in a good way -- but try as I might I couldn't taste that. The 16-ounce cans are a great idea -- as more breweries start to can their beer, I hope they go the tall-boy route like this. They still take up less space than a 12-ounce bottle. Hey, how about 20-ounce cans?

The obvious Oregon beer to compare Pine Belt to is Caldera Pale Ale, also sold in cans. The Caldera is definitely a few shades lighter in color, but almost as malty in flavor. Crystal clear -- must be filtered -- and with a little more flowery hops. In my opinion, Caldera's is a little better offering, but there's no shame in that, they've been at it a lot longer than Southern Star, and they get to brew with pure Oregon water. Our correspondent in Texas calls Southern Star the Rookie of the Year. For now Pine Belt Pale is their only brew; I'll be interested to hear what other styles they work up.

Something about the name Southern Star had a familiar ring to it. I finally realized that the beautiful picture of a table laden with Tex-Mex food that takes up the whole gatefold of ZZ Top's Tres Hombres LP shows a glass of beer with a Southern Select bottle next to it. Apparently that was a Houston-area brewery from the 1930's to the 1950's. Given that Southern Star is producing craft ales instead of factory lagers, the naming similarity is probably only coincidental.


  1. I'm really confused. Four or five years ago Mila and I vacationed with some friends north of Houston near the Big Thicket, and I swear I had this beer. How could this be since they started brewing in March 2008?

  2. Po: The only explanation I can think of is that you had a Southern Select with the enchilada/tamale combo plate. Uh haw, haw, haw, haw.

  3. THANK YOU for posting the ZZ Top enchiladas picture. I now have the coolest desktop pattern ever on my computer.

  4. Lee: There's a calendar hanging up behind the food, the picture of the gal with the - ahem - bullets. One of El Azteca's calendars each year has the same picture -- La Adelita. It would go well with your desktop screen.

  5. Maybe next year. Right now that spot is taken by a poster of Blanka Vlasic, who I'm secretly in love with (shh, don't tell my wife).