Beer, Bluebonnets, Wine and Rings

Friday was a road trip with our best friends, Bev and John. We did have a purpose to the trip, but the route was allowed to be managed from the male perspective. The one given, and not subject to deviation, was a meeting with our youngest son receiving his class ring at Texas A&M in the 4:45 PM grouping. The tradition of the ring is pretty well understood within the state of Texas but it is a bit foreign to those on the outside. Rather than spending a chunk of time trying to explain it, the following link will put it into context for all y’all that may be interested. Just a side note, I have spent most of my life in the petroleum industry and that Aggie ring network is powerful and widespread.

http://aggietraditions.tamu.edu/symbols/aggiering.html

John and I knew we had to arrive in Aggieland in time to buy Joe and the entourage lunch and still make the ring event. The rest of the planning was up to us. Beer was on our list and we chose the Brazos Valley Brewery as a stop on the return trip. On the trip to College Station, Aggieland, we selected a small winery in Chappel Hill, Texas Star Winery on the day before the Bluebonnet Festival…..for you non Texans, Bluebonnets are the state flower and kind of a big thing. No, they are a really big thing…..this is Texas after all.

The winery was almost a non-stop. We pulled into the parking lot at opening time and we were met by a distinguished looking gentleman several years my senior….He was an A&M grad and was proudly displaying his ring. He also told us that the winery was closed for a private event….Bummer………… Fortunately John needed to get rid of some coffee and ran into the winery owner….the esteemed Aggie had it a little wrong….the tasting room down the hill was open!

Off to the tasting room and we were the first four folks in the door. Fifteen minutes later a couple of younger women walked in and they were a hoot. Yes, they were Aggies, both proudly displaying their rings. The wines were interesting and we bought a couple of bottles to take with us….Conversation with the young women was also very interesting and very Texas infused. Seems that one of the businesses that one of the gals was involved with was the selling of bull semen. Apparently lucrative and again, very Texan. Sly smiles and subdued chuckles all around.

Winery 1

Outside the winery tasting room.

Winery 2

Inside the tasting room

Back on the road to stay on the timeline John and I had planned. We wandered the backroads through ranch land, rolling hills and occasional patches of Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes and Texas Longhorns. We found a nice little open field on a sharp corner turn for some quick photos on the way to meet the gang for lunch prior to the Aggie ring event. This year’s Bluebonnet display was nice but paled in comparison to last year’s trip to Muleshoe Bend near Johnson City.

Flowers

We made it on time to College Station and gathered the gang up for lunch at Madden’s in Bryan, the town is melded to College Station. This party of 8 included my son Joe, an Aggie friend and former swimmer at Kingwood HS and A&M University, Austin, another Kingwood HS swimming friend, Steve and Steve’s girlfriend Alisa. Oh yes, and the four that started out on the journey. Great meal and great conversation until I said something about the Aggie gals at the winery and the phrase bull semen. Apparently I said it loud enough that some of the 8 at our table dipped their heads and folks around us spun their heads around in apparent disbelief, amazement….Oh well, not the first time I have been a little too frank or as some may say clueless, about my choice of words. Those who know me well shrugged it off as one of those “Bishop” moments.

The ring event was an efficiently run affair, an Aggie engineered event run by four hundred volunteers. The smile on my son’s face was well worth the trip. He is a Petroleum Engineering student and has now joined an amazing fraternity of Aggies. It will provide a powerful network for the future.

Ring 1

My little son with his ring and with his proud parents!

OK, now for the beer. I violated the code. My wife Kathy knew where we were off to, but we kept the final surprise from Beverly. We did tell her we were heading toward Brenham, Texas. Lots of options there in her mind, antique shops, restaurants and the awesome Bluebell Ice Cream Factory. Word of warning….navigating the confusing streets in the downtown area is difficult and made more difficult with 3 navigators. We managed to find the Brewery and now the cat was out of the bag. Note to others heading that way, the sign on the outside of the patio area says Brenham Brewery but the real name is the Brazos Valley Brewery.

This is a very comfortable and unpretentious place. The friendliest people that you could ever imagine. I also learned that this 6 degrees of separation is much, much smaller. I have to tell the story. John had engaged a seasoned gentleman in conversation. In the conversation John shared that he and Bev were from Rhode Island and mentioned that Kathy and I were from California. Somehow during the conversation, Tom, the seasoned gentleman, asked where I lived in California. His response was, “I lived in Taft!” Small world! I told him that I was born in Taft….well we had a Taft conversation and world travels in the oil filed discourse…I hated to end the conversation, just for a short bit because the flight of beers I ordered were not getting any colder.

Here is my flight……Golden Ale, Silt Brown Ale, Black IPA and the Cream Ale. Very well brewed and more than drinkable. This is the first brewery where my wife uttered these words, “Every one of the beers I tried were very good. Not a bad beer in the bunch!” High praise from her as she can be a discerning beer drinker…OK – just a bit picky sometimes.

One of the Brewers and a man of great business sense, David Nowowiejski, took us on a personal tour of the brewery. Wow, clean and well organized. The man knows his stuff. He answered all my questions, and that is saying something because my wife always tells me I quiz the brewers too much in all of our visits! We bought two six-packs of the Golden Ale to bring home with us….my wife loves it and for a non IPA I enjoy it too!

I just have to mention….this place is one where you aren’t a stranger from the moment you step onto the patio. I will sing the praises and pass along great reviews to any and all beer drinkers I meet.

File Apr 12, 3 35 06 PM

L-R Old Man Bishop, Lovely wife Kathy, “Goo” friend John and his Lovely wife Bev. Selfie at the Brewery! Note the black eye my wife gave me has almost faded away! She didn’t really  mean to hit me.

 

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly,

Bishop

 

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