While Chicago confronted what sounds like a hailstorm of biblical proportions last week, Texas, where I had road tripped, was busy sandwiching the half-hearted tropical storm Edouard with raging, relentless, stick-to-the-car-seat heat. What better way to wash down rain and rampant sweat than with more moisture, in the form of cold beer? If you’re ever in the Texas Hill Country—that incongruous swath of elevation that rides the Lone Star State’s belly like a giant belt buckle—find yourself a bottle of Real Ale. The Blanco, Texas-based brewery is where it was rumored Pierre Celis might land a couple of years back, along with his Belgian-style beers. Alas, that didn’t come to pass, but Real Ale’s brews are doing just fine on their own. Of the three I tried, my favorite was the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, a year-round amber with enough roasted sweetness to resemble a beery chocolate malt.
Back in the Midwest and perusing the beer aisle at the Tribune Tower’s friendly neighborhood liquor store, UnCork-It, I spotted a new-to-me Wisconsin brand, Sand Creek, from Black River Falls. This brewery’s history reads like the beginning of a campfire ghost story, but the Golden Ale I took home went down more easily. The beer grabs the tongue in a salty bear hug, then mellows into sweeter, milder territory (think waffles). It’s got a bit too much of a saline bite to be a regular for me, but it was a fair introduction to Sand Creek, and one that has me keeping my eye out for the brewery’s two World Beer Cup winners, Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and the Pioneer Black River Red.