In the Case of Texas v. Montana

Posted on Updated on

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following a six-month, court mandated gag order on the results of the most important case ever tried before the Supreme Court, the graphine-sealed court documents have been pried open and its contents spilled out onto a gap-mouthed waiting public.

Were it not for this reporter’s efforts, the results of the landmark case may have, much like the official documents from The Warren Commission Report by the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, never been exposed on our lifetimes. But fear not, gentile reader, for the investigative efforts of an expertly trained journalist will always expose the dark underbelly of even the shortest Pygmy Marmoset.

pygmy marmoset
Behold, the Pygmy Marmoset.

Therefore, after a six-month gap in crucial beer and/or burger related coverage in order to dig to the bottom of yet another keg … er … attempted government coverup, your intrepid reporter has discovered the truth in the latest case of state-by-state beer competitions.

To wit, this case revolved around the on-going debate between the quality of Montana beers, i.e. beers brewed in Montana, vis-a-vis same said quality of corresponding beers, but not necessarily from contiguous states. The debate, and future court case, began when one unknowning couple moved first from Texas to Virginia, and then Virginia to Montana.

At the time of the initial relocation, not much was known about Virginia beers, while the nascent Texas beer scene was, well, nascent. However, much to the delight of the new Old Dominionites, VA beer was outstanding. From Three Brothers to Three Notch’d, from Hardywood Park to Heritage, and from Apocalypse Ale Works to Young Veterans Brewing (sorry, couldn’t find a Virginia brewery starting with Z), the craft beer scene sparkled more than moissanite, which I don’t have to tell you is a 9.25 on the Moh’s scale, so is suitable for everyday wear.

Warren Commission
Ever see this before? I didn’t think so.

At the same time, said couple was occasionally returning to the Lone Star State, where craft beer was expanding faster than plastic on a Texas summer day. As a point of reference, dear reader, you should know that plastics typically have a larger coefficient of thermal expansion compared to metals, and therefore expand faster. But back to the beer.

Texas was growing, and not just because it leads the nation in number of people who elect to super-size their meals at McDonald’s. The craft beer scene produced 27 new breweries every 6.13 hours … or at least it seemed like that. How, then, could a dedicated craft beer drinker keep up with the newest options available to his or her discriminating palate? What’s worse, how could our heroic young couple even be aware of the multitudinous options available in their formerly adopted home state when they weren’t living there anymore?

The answer … move to Montana.

“Montana will be great,” their craft beer savvy friends proclaimed. “It has some of the best beer in the country.”

“I know,” said the omniscient husband.

“Yum,” said his thirsty wife.

And so our daring heroes left the comfort of the highest quality craft beer they’d ever experienced and the safety of central Virginia to test their mettle in the Montana wilderness, surviving only on their guile, guts, and outstanding Montana beer … or so they thought.

Upon arriving in the Treasure State — yes, that’s really Montana’s nickname, but c’mon, why not the grizzly state, or the mountain state, or the fishing state, or the Lone Peak State, or the Kaczynski State, or the Get the Hell Outta My State state, which would all be more appropriate — the newbies were treated to the finest concoctions from one local brewery after another by their generous new neighbors. Alas, the tastings left them with more questions than answers.

“Where’s the good Montana beer?” the husband asked.

“Do you think it’s like this everywhere in the state?” the wife pondered.

After months and months of doing nothing but focusing on finding the best Montana beers, and consistently feeling they fell short of what was left behind in the valleys of Virginia, the daring couple challenged their most knowledgable beer-drinking compatriots to a duel that would pit Texas beers against Montana beers. Their former home state against their new home state. A state beer taste-off, if you will.

After placing an order with contacts in Texas, and asking half a half a dozen (yes, three) Montana residents to bring their best Montana beers, the taste-off began as soon as the Texas beers arrived.

Texas beers
The beers from Texas get loose during warm-ups prior to the competition with Montana.

And now, faithful reader, the results of the case of Texas v. Montana are being exposed like a Kardashian on Twitter. The truth is out, and it shall set ye free.

  • Winner, in the Porter category — Real Ale Coffee Porter from Real Ale Brewing out of Blanco, Texas.
  • Winner, in the Scotch Ale category — Iron Thistle by Rahr & Son’s of Fort Worth.

That’s right, the Texas beers swept all four categories from all five judges in front of six people who sat on seven stools on the eighth day of the week. The only momentary exception was in the Porter competition, when a coconut porter emerged on top, but was later disqualified when it was discovered to have been from Hawaii … or Georgia … I can’t remember. Those states are so close together, it’s a common mistake.

So there you have it. In head-to-head competition between select brews from two of the largest states in the nation, Texas pitched a shutout against Montana.

Oklahoma Sucks beer
No cutline required.

Still, the work of your favorite reporter is not over. Now that the gag order has been removed in the case of Texas v. Montana, it may be time to investigate the case of Texas v. Virginia. And when those results are in, dear reader, this journalist will faithfully bring the information to you so that you, you, my friend, can make the most informed beer drinking decision possible when traveling from state to state. Yes, I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

Despite the results of this case, and the possible divide it may create between Montanans and Texans, there is one thing that residents of both states can agree upon … Oklahoma still sucks.

— Eric Van Steenburg

The Bozeman Winter Beer Challenge

Posted on Updated on

It’s the most wonderful time … of the beer.
When stouts are a-flowing,
And porters keep going,
‘Cause malty is here.
It’s the most wonderful time … of the beer.

There’s much to celebrate during the winter months. First, there are the holidays. Second, the holiday parties. Third, there are outdoor activities like skiing, snowmobile riding, and freezing your ass off, that can only take place during the winter.

But the most wonderful part of the winter months is the increased availability of dark, malty, winter-style beers.

Give me the goods -- dark and malty, roasty or sweet -- and I'm in.
Give me the goods — dark and malty, roasty or sweet, coffee or spiced — that are available during winter .

Every year, Santa spreads his beer magic, leading not just to an uptick in the number of stouts and porters, but the proliferation of Christmas Ales, Winter Warmers, and a never-ending variety of holiday-spiced brews. Happy days!

To celebrate this wonderful time of the beer, a half-dozen or so of us took on the quest of visiting every brewery in the Bozeman area to evaluate who makes the best beers at this magical moment in time. Patterned after the Bozeman IPA Challenge fashioned last summer, presents the results of the first Bozeman Winter Beer Challenge.

The procedure is simple. We hit each brewery — there are seven within a 10-minute drive from, well, anywhere in town — and enjoyed a four-ounce sample of every dark, malty, or seasonal beer on tap. Each participant was furnished a scorecard that allowed him or her to rate the beers on a 1-5 scale, as well as write a few comments. Oh, and everyone was also given a pen that worked. Hey, at, we spare no expense.

The seven breweries visited, in the following order, were: 1) Outlaw Brewing, 2) Madison River Brewing Co., 3) Map Brewing Co., 4) 406 Brewing Co., 5) Bozeman Brewing Co., 6) White Dog Brewing, and 7) Bridger Brewing. The official winter beer tasters knew the name of the brewery, but not what specific beers they were being served, preserving the blind-tasting illusion.

The Cacao Vanilla Imperial Stout, as seen here from approximately 10,000 feet, at 406 Brewing was the hands-down winter winner.
The Cacao Vanilla Imperial Stout, as seen here from roughly 10,000 feet, at 406 Brewing was the hands-down winter winner.

A total of 12 different beers were sampled. And the winners are …

Gold MedalCacao Vanilla Imperial Stout (406 Brewing). The complexity of the combination of malty thickness, cacao bitterness, and vanilla sweetness made this practically a run-away winner with an average score from the judges of 4.3 on the 5-point scale.This limited release beer packs a wallop at 11.1% ABV, and both the alcohol and aromatic strength of the beer were noticeable as more than one judge wondered if it were aged in bourbon barrels. (The answer is “no.”)

Here are some comments from the expert panel of judges on the Cacao Vanilla Imperial Stout:

          “Nice sweet/bitter combination.”

          “Coffee or dark chocolate at the start, sweet finish.”

          “Really strong, complex, well-balanced.”

          “Warms the cockles and brought on the saliva.”


Silver MedalCan’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe (Bridger Brewing) — This dark brew with hints of amber at the edges had a bite that hit the judges late, both in terms of the individual taste and in terms of the entire day. Sometimes that makes scores slightly inflated, but our judges were professionals … not professional beer drinkers, mind you, but professionals none-the-less. Another beer on tap for a limited time, this concoction from Bridger Brewing does include a chili pepper spice at the finish. That, plus the smooth drinkability of the beer, impressed the judges enough to give it an average score of 3.94. Comments from the panel of experts on the CGEoYLB (it’s too long to type again) brew:

The scorecards got a workout, as evidence by the number of pen marks and beer stains.
The judges’ scorecards got a workout, as evidence by the number of pen marks and beer stains.

          “Mellow, yet complex.”

          “Slightly sweet with a bit of spice bite.”

          “Sweet malts, real pepper.”

          “I don’t know … tastes great.”


Bronze Medal tie between Dry Irish Stout (White Dog Brewing) and Ghost Town Coffee Stout (Bridger Brewing) — Both beers were in the traditional stout mold, but stood out slightly from the others available that day. The only difference between the two was the stout from White Dog was drier while Bridger’s stout had slightly more sweetness with the added coffee flavor. But the judges rated the two equally, with an average score of 3.88 out of 5. And the good news is that both of these beers are staples at each of the breweries, which means you should be able to enjoy them year-round.

Comments from the experts on the Dry Irish Stout:

          “Slightly dry, somewhat smooth. Quality stout.”

          “Roasty, good taste.”

          “Balanced, dry, not sweet but still pleasant.”

          “First time here … and I am drunk.”

Comments from the experts on the Coffee Stout:

          “Floral but not sweet. Wow.”

          “Espresso baby. Very strong.”

          “More than just coffee notes.”

          “I like it! Coffee! Definitely!”


Honorable Mentions — While these beers didn’t finish in the top three, their average scores ranged from 3.3 to 3.7 and were a notch above the rest. The honorable mention beers this year included: Black Ghost Oatmeal Stout (nitro) from Madison River; Big Relief Stout from Map Brewing; and the Russian Bill Imperial Nitro Stout from Outlaw Brewing.

Add these six beers to the reasons I prefer cooler weather to the warm stuff. I’ll place them between reason #17 (that I don’t sweat like a pig every time I walk outside) and what is now reason #23 (that I don’t get sunburned ever time I walk outside).

Now if we could just convince the beer-making world to feature these hyper-malt beverages other times of the year. I know, let’s serenade them in song. Ready?


It’s the most wonderful time … of the beeeeeer.
There are porters for toasting,
And stouts for their roasting,
The dark ales are here.
It’s the most wonderful time … of the beeeeeer.

It’s the most wonderful time … of the beeeeeer.

it’s the most wonderful time … of the beer.

— Eric Van Steenburg