Beers and Bares

On Tuesday (Oct 8th), Andrea, Colin and I spent the afternoon at King Spa in Dallas. If you’ve never been to a Korean spa, I’ll allow that it is an experience to be experienced…even by the less-experienced. And later that evening, Colin and I went to The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Garland to hear Stephen Beaumont talk and … more importantly… test some quality beers while “learning” {wink wink nudge nudge} about food pairings. But first… the spa…

King Spa…Roman baths Korean style

We bought tickets to King Spa in Dallas before the fire and as one might imagine, haven’t had time to indulge. As they were expiring soon, Andrea, Colin and I went this week. Andrea and Colin tried Spa Castle in September and enjoyed their stay, but this was my first visit to any Korean-style spa. Seven years in Korea and I never went. Six years in Texas and I finally do.

The concept is rather simple: you go and relax and you’ve got 24 hours to do it from the time you check in. There are settees and stuffed chairs in the common (coed) areas for people to sleep on or read. They have recliners in the theater – people sleep there too (I dozed again during Inception). A restaurant with pretty good Korean food, several saunas to try and if you want, massages of various types for an additional fee round out the public side of the amenities.

On the private side, the spas are unisex…and there’s a good reason for that: no clothing is allowed in the spa. Not sure why, but that’s the way it is. I understand that Roman baths were places of socializing, but these places are not. I couldn’t help but think of George Carlin’s schtick on urinals and elevators while I was in there: “Urinals…are like elevators. There’s nothing to do but not look at the other guy.” At least I think it was Carlin. Sounds like him.

Anyway…. starkers in the spas. Hot water in three flavor temps, too. At one water park in Seoul we liked to go to, they had coffee, green tea, jade, other stones and additives in their spas. Here, it was jasmine and some other things I didn’t bother to check. Now, the smart approach is to progress through the pools in increasing order: 106 °F, 108 °F and 110 °F. They also had a cold pool that I braved up to my ribs. Yes, 62 °F after parboiling was a shocker and I couldn’t bring myself to dunk the rest of my stunned body in.

I hear from Andrea and Colin that King Spa is nicer, but Spa Castle had better jets for those sore muscles. Despite not getting a satisfactory answer as to why the spa areas are nude only, now that I’ve gone au naturel in one place in America, I can try another, so perhaps a Spa Castle trip is in the future. More urinals, elevators and Korean spas.

Stephen Beaumont on beer tasting and pairing

After six hours at the spa, Andrea dropped Colin and me off at The Flying Saucer on Lake Ray Hubbard to listen to Stephen Beaumont talk about beers in general and six in particular. We got there right after he had started, but fortunately didn’t miss anything. A plate of three cheeses and a beer in a tulip glass set in front of us, a rating card with the beer details and cheese or chocolate paring already noted, Beaumont describing his experiences, describing the beer of the moment and the reason for pairing it with a particular cheese or dark chocolate…great capper to a self-indulgent day.

Beaumont is a world renowned taster and writer of beers, blogging on The World of Beer, and traveling the world extensively. He says he’s a lucky guy, and because he drinks for a living, lots of folks would probably love to trade jobs. In addition to the six beers, we got a copy of Beaumont & Tim Webb’s “The Pocket Beer Guide: The Essential Handbook to the Very Best Beers in the World“…autographed, of course. And a picture:

Me Colin and Stephen Beaumont

(I took pictures of each of the beers as they came out but the lighting was less than ideal so I’ll not be sharing them.)

The beers…

moa-breakfastThe first beer we tried was the Moa Breakfast (5.5% ABV) from Moa Brewing Company in New Zealand, paired with a Mexican Queso Fresco and Homemade Salsa. I found it perfumy and fruity…specifically cherries with a clear yellow appearance. The taste was of cherries as well. Good carbonation, light and tangy. Intended (as its name) for breakfast, I can see that it would be a good sub for champagne.

1845Number two, was Fuller’s 1845  (6.3% ABV) from Fuller Smith & Turner in England, paired with Catamount Hills cheese laced with arugla and a semi-sweet sauce. The 1845 is a English Strong Ale that is bottle conditioned, meaning a bit of carbonation from the further fermenting in the bottle. The aroma was rich in malts and something else I couldn’t place until Beaumont mentioned hazelnuts. Primed or not, after that, it was clearly hazelnuts. Red amber in color, the flavor was of malts, caramel, nuts and a touch of bitter that was full-bodied and lingered. One of my favorites of the night.

la-fin-du-mondeThird up was a Canadian offering (Beaumont is Canadian) – La Fin du Monde (9% ABV) from Unibroue in Quebec paired with Hervé Mons Camembert. Billed as a tripel, Beaumont pointed out that it really isn’t much like Belgian-style tripels, but he said the owners of Unibroue delighted in coming up with names that Americans couldn’t pronounce. The aroma was perfumy and carried spice, while the pour was a clear light amber with lots of carbonation. Tasting sweet and spicy, the beer was light but with hanging sweetness. I think given its sweetness, it would be one Andrea would like, but I am at a loss to explain the Beeradvocate rating of 96. I did not like it much.

g-schneider-sohn-aventinusAfter a break, the chocolates came out with the fourth beer: Aventinus Wheat-Doppelbock (8.2% ABV) from Schneider (Weisses Bräuhaus G. Schneider & Sohn), paired with TAZA Stone Ground Ginger Dark Chocolate. Schneider is the oldest wheat beer brewery in the world, and Beaumont told a story about how the local royalty put restrictions on how the wheat beers could be made, cornering the market as it were. I smelled spice but not much else except a little banana aroma. The appearance was a rather cloudy brown with a light foamy head, unremarkable taste of caramel malts  and a smooth feel followed by a bit of a bite. The chocolate helped, but it fell short for me despite another 96 from Beeradvocate.

rodenbach-grand-cruOur fifth tasting was a real surprise: Rodenbach Grand Cru (6% ABV) from the Brouwerij Rodenbach in Belgium, paired with a Dark Cherry Chocolate truffle. The Grand Cru is a Flanders Red Ale that smells like cherries, but has no fruit in it at all. I also thought of Worcestershire sauce! A cludy brown/red appearance, the ale tasted like a dry cherry cider. Crisp, fruity and light bodied, the cherry truffle enhanced the flavor. The surprise was how much I liked it, but then, I do like dry ciders. Another favorite from the night.

Founders Dirty BastardOur final beer of the night was an American contribution: Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (8.5% ABV) from Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, paired with plain old dark chocolate truffles. Another red/brown cloudy pour, the aroma was hard to pin down…a touch of yeast smell. The flavors were complex – roasted malts, barley, coffee, bitter without hops, but it had character and an alcohol bite.

So…I can pass on the Moa, Schneider and Unibroue beers, but definitely would be interested in buying more of the Fuller’s, Rodenbach and Founders beers.

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