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Beer enthusiasts offer taste of craft beer at free event

By Bianca Montes
Sept. 19, 2013 at 4:19 a.m.

Javie Salinas, Del Papa Distribution salesman, pours  a sample of Woodchuck Hard Cider's special reserve pumpkin for his wife, Laurie Salinas,  at the Pint Jockeys' sampling event Thursday evening.

There's a culture of quantity over quality when it comes to beer drinking in Texas, and Joby Stortz considers himself a Natural Light man. It tastes great, and it's cheap.

However, that doesn't mean craft beers are off the radar for the 30-year-old from Victoria. Once a month, he and his friends join the Pint Jockeys, a group of craft brew enthusiasts, for a free tasting event at the Del Papa Distribution Center on East Rio Grande Road.

"It gives you the opportunity to experiment," Stortz said as he sipped a Goose Island Harvest Ale, calling the fruity American hop beer both nutty and light.

"It's really well-rounded," he said. "Anyone who is new to craft beers should try this one."

Cornel's Brewing Company Pecan Pie was another story - the Beaumont-brewed ale came in a dark brown, tall bottle, and Stortz said he would have purchased it on looks alone.

"I would have spent $10," he said, barely finishing the 3-ounce tester and describing its flavor as artificial.

Rodney Norrell, brand manager for craft and specialty beers at Del Papa Distribution, said there's not a lot of science that goes into the beers they choose. "We chose what's new and seasonal," he said.

September is the time of year beers' flavors change, he said.

A special reserve pumpkin by Woodchuck Hard Cider was a big hit for both women and men at Thursday's tasting. Laurie Salinas, 48, of Victoria, said she knew she liked it as soon as she smelled it.

At a 6.9 percent alcohol by volume, the cider was the strongest drink of the night, but Salinas said its sweet and crisp flavor was welcoming at the end of the evening.

Even Stortz - a man who said if he indulges in a craft beer it's usually a dark, bitter stout - said he's beginning to enjoy the ciders.

"I didn't like them at all when they first came out," he said. "But now that they're infusing different flavors like ginger, I'm starting to like them."

The event, which occurs at all three Del Papa Distribution centers from 5 to 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, simply put, is designed to raise awareness for craft beer in Southeast Texas, Norrell said.

"We wanted to give people a chance to try new and interesting beers," he said. "It just kind of felt like a logical thing to do."



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