Nine Band's Cactus Cat Is Smooth As Grass.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week, we sipped on Nine Band Brewing's Cactus Cat.
Fast Facts on Nine Band's Cactus Cat.
ABV: 5.2 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): Not sure.
Color: Golden straw.
Availability: In cans.
Nine Band Brewing opened in early 2015, and it has quickly become a popular spot for Allen beer drinkers who want to drink at a place where beer is actually made. But not only has Nine Band become the go-to destination for drinkers who also happen to live in Allen, it's also the only production brewery in Allen as of this writing. Sorry, Two Rows: You have a restaurant attached to you, which makes you a brewpub; I see this production brewery thing as something of a different animal.
Speaking of animals: Nine Band has a really good thing going with its brand story. Most of its beers boast names that have something to do with animals. It's sort of a bummer that it didn't follow through with the animal thing across the board — namely with its two non-animal beers, 28th State stout and The Badge honey blonde ale, which is more a tribute to Old West lawmen than the honey badger.
But, hey, no big deal.
Background on Kölsch.
The Kölsch style has gained some popularity in the last few years. It's an affordable style to brew, and it's great to drink year-round. Oftentimes, a healthy base of pilsner malt is used in the grain bill. The flavor should be crisp and clean, and neither fruity esters nor sulfur should be present in the final product. You will find some hints of fruit and the occasional sulfur notes, perhaps from the lower temperature fermentation, but not in the best Kölsch examples you'll find. Kölsch-style beers are fermented with ale yeast, but at the lower-end temperature ranges for ale yeast. Usually, the Kölsch yeast strains will give off a sulfur sort of aroma, and brewers are known to hang on to these beers a little bit longer to let the potential off-flavors clean up a bit before the beer hits the shelves. Just to get this out of the way for you beer snobs: According to beer standards, a true Kölsch is only made in Cologne, Germany. It just is what it is, sort of like how champagne — if it is to be called champagne — is only produced in the Champagne region of France. It's also worthwhile to mention that, unlike a big badass roasty beer or some other over-the-top style, Kölsch's delicate character does not hide flaws very well.
Cactus Cat pours a beautiful golden color. I like what I see in it! A hard pour produces a firm, white head. But the head dissipates too fast for me, and I'm left longing for that classic Kölsch foam. Also, this beer has a fair bit of haze to it, and I'm left wondering if this is an all-the-time sort of issue or if it's a chill haze sort of issue.
On the side of the can, Cactus Cat tells you that it's going to have some grassy notes on the nose, and it definitely delivers. While this grassy situation may not be a traditional Kölsch's calling card, it is certainly a pleasant aroma. And I like it! Yes, traditional style nerds be damned: I like the grass note. I also get a faint sweet citrus, somewhere between lemon and orange.
The grass notes continue through on the palate, and I'm not disappointed by this, either. I don't know if a German beer fan would approve, but that's not really my call. To me, the finish and aftertaste are nice and clean. I sense just a teeny tiny bit of residual sweetness, but it's not over the top or anything.
The biting of the carbonation is appropriate for this beer, as the Kölsch style lives in the middle range of carbonation. But there seems to be a little much going on in the sweetness category to call this beer a Kölsch. It's not intense sugary sweetness but, in my mind, a Kölsch should finish a bit more crisp. This could be me splitting hairs. Maybe it was an intentional move to have this beer finish a bit on the sweet side. I don't know.
I like this beer. And now I want to see what Nine Band has going on with its other beers, too, because I sort of feeling like I started out by reviewing the junior varsity team. Maybe the beer could be attenuated a little bit better. Maybe it could use some more lagering or conditioning time? Again: I'm not sure. What I do know, though, is that this beer is full of flavor and exceptionally drinkable, and maybe it lives somewhere between a Kölsch and a blonde ale.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Nine Band Brewing's Cactus Cat a 6.
What's happening in the area brew scene?
• Friday, February 26. Brew-HaHa Comedy Night at Oak Highlands.
• Saturday, February 27. Eighth Anniversary Party at Franconia Brewing.
• Sunday, February 28. Anniversary Week at Lakewood Growler.
• Friday, April 1-2. Big Texas Beer Fest.
• Saturday, March 5. One-Year Anniversary at On Rotation.
• Friday, March 11. Bluebonnet Brew-Off at Irving Convention Center.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community's Legion: 10.
• Deep Ellum's Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Woodcreek's Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
• Lakewood's Wild Manimal: 9.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Peticolas' Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Oak Highlands' Golden Mustache: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Crackin' Up: 8.
• Deep Ellum's Play Date: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company's 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
• Bitter Sisters' Belgian Tripel: 8.
• Noble Rey's SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters' Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead's Gritz: 8.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek's Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver's Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek's Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood's Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
• Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
• On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
• True Vine's Unicorn's Revenge: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum's Hop Seeker: 7.5.
• Four Corners' El Super Bee: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
• Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Martin House's Turtle Power: 7.
• Collective's Petite Golden Sour: 7.
• Shannon's Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead's Red Ale: 7.
• Community's Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel's Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company's Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project's Somethin' Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company's Cellarman's Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers' Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands' Chump Change: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
• Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity's Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Collective Brewing Project's Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Four Corners' La Lechuza: 6.5.
• Revolver's Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers' Trot Line: 6.5.
• Peticolas' Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Martin House's Kafkaesque: 6.
• Tupps' Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• 903 Brewers' The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
• Deep Ellum's Numb Comfort: 5.
• Four Bullets' Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
• Four Corners Heart O' Texas: 4.
• Audacity's Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company's IPA: 4.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Twin Peaks' Dirty Blonde: 3.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.