750-751. The Dancing Bear

Win had mentioned that one of his coworkers was also a bartender at a new beer bar/brewpub in Waco called The Dancing Bear Pub. This was exciting because Cricket's, Waco's other beer bar, focuses more on imports than on craft beer (though there are some good craft options). Waco is already "Chain Restaurant Hell" so it's nice to see something -anything- open that isn't a chain. That's not to say there aren't good non-chain restaurants in Waco , there are (Bangkok Royal has some of the best Thai food I've had anywhere), but the most popular restaurants seem to be chains, and the citizenry only seems to be clamoring for more chains. Enough bitching about Waco though.

The Dancing Bear opened recently, and as a consequence doesn't yet have the permits from the TABC for brewing. According to the menu there will be 5 beers: Dancing Bear Pale, an American Pale Ale; Black Bear Stout, an Irish Dry Stout; 12th Street Wheat, an American Pale Wheat Ale; Barron Estates IPA; and 76 Magnum IPA, a Double IPA. I was a little disappointed the brewery wasn't up and running yet, because I don't know when I'll be back to Waco. Unless something comes up between now and then it won't be until next Christmas.

The Dancing Bear is near the intersection of 12th St. and Speight Avenue near the Baylor campus. The outside isn't much, it's half of a small building with two retail spaces. The other half is a restaurant called "Food for Thought." I've never been, but you can order their food at the bar.

The inside is much nicer. There was a long bench along the left side of the bar with tables and chairs next to it. There were booths along the right side of the bar and taller tables and chairs on the right side at the rear. The walls were half wood-paneled with greenish-beige paint on the top half. The bar was lit by hanging lights, that were somewhat dim, but could have been dimmer. The walls were a little bare. They had some stuff up, but it definitely looked a bit sparse. There was an L-shaped bar with shelving against the wall displaying a variety of bottles. It was raining, but there was a large fenced in patio with tables and a space for a band (live jazz on Thursdays) out back.

The inside is nicer. The night I went it wasn't crowded, a few people at the bar and a few at a table. I think Win said that the other times he's been it's been busier, but this was the first day it was open after Christmas. Maybe it's sampling error, but it seemed to attract the Waco hipster crowd.

Click for a larger image:

There were about 18 taps and about 50 or 60 bottles available, with a lot of good, craft breweries represented like Real Ale, Great Divide, Avery, Left Hand, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Victory, New Belgium, Chimay, Unibroue, Allagash, Bear Republic, Ommegang, Dogfish Head, Rogue and Stone.

I didn't have much interaction with the bartenders, but on previous trips Win was given samples to help him decide on what to order, so the service seems pretty good.

750. Sisyphus

I like to try Texas beers that I haven't had before when I'm back home so I started out the evening with a pint of Real Ale Sisyphus, a barleywine.

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Real Ale Brewing Company
Alcohol: 11.20%
Serving: Tap
Style: American Barleywine, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.0): Pours a hazed amber-copper with a beige head that thins to a film leaving patches of lace.

Smell (3.5): Light overall, dark fruit, a nice caramel maltiness, and hints of alcohol.

Taste (3.5): Sweet caramel malts, vague notes of dark fruit. The finish has a bit of citrus character, with notes of earth and a moderate bitterness. The alcohol is well hidden.

Mouthfeel (4.0): Full-bodied, moderate carbonation, creamy.

Drinkability (3.5): Sweet, and a little strong. Could have used a little more hops.

Overall (3.65): I really liked the maltiness in this beer, but I thought it could have used a bit more hop bitterness.

751. Mothership Wit

New Belgium doesn't distribute to Massachusetts, so I always try to have any new offerings that I see.

Beer Stats:
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing
Alcohol: 4.80%
Serving: Tap
Style: Witbier, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.5): This beer might seem a bit pale for some, but this is exactly how I think a witbier hould look. Pours a pale, hazy straw-golden. The head thins to a film leaving wispy lace.

Smell (4.0): Banana, clove, coriander. A bit of grain as well.

Taste (3.5): Upfront graininess. Light sweet fruitiness, banana, clove, coriander, citrus, and powdery yeast.

Mouthfeel (3.5): Light-bodies and powdery.

Drinkability (4.5): Flavorful, but very drinkable.

Overall (3.9): I thought this was a good witbier. It could have used a bit more boldness in the flavor department, but it was still quite tasty.

294. Shade Grown Coffee Porter

Another great beer that I only get in when I'm in Texas.

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Real Ale Brewing Company
Alcohol: 6.30%
Serving: Tap
Style: American Porter, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.5): Pours black with amber tints at the edges. The beige head thins to a film leaving no lace.

Smell (4.0): The nose is predominantly coffee, with some chocolate.

Taste (4.5): Sweet chocolate and dark fruit flavors. The finish is a nice roasted, coffee bitterness with a bit of lingering fruitiness.

Mouthfeel (4.0): Medium-bodied, moderately high carbonation. Some graininess.

Drinkability (4.5): Very tasty.

Overall (4.35): One of my favorite coffee porters, it has a nice coffee flavors without beating you over the head with it.

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