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WWBG: Canned Applause

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 1, 2015 at 2:45 pm 367 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

Is there a sound of summer more satisfying than the crack of opening an aluminum can? In one percussive moment, it conjures memories of picnics, grilling or cooling off after mowing the lawn. It’s the container that requires no opener other than your own fingers.

Since 1933, when the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company began shipping their Krueger’s Finest Beer in cans, beer drinking just hasn’t been the same. Of course, those cans required a churchkey to punch holes in the top for drinking, but they heralded a new delivery system for beer.

Though consumers might still associate beer cans with mass-produced, light lagers, there has been a real craft beer movement brewing around the aluminum can.

Oskar Blues Brewery started the trend in 2002 with Dale’s Pale Ale, committing to be a bottle-free brewery. According to craftcans.com Cantastic Database of Canned Craft Beer, there are approximately 508 breweries canning beer in the United States today.

Aluminum has numerous benefits that make it a more attractive container for beer than glass. It effectively blocks out harmful light and air — the seal on a can is tighter than that of a bottle cap. Cans are lightweight and less costly to recycle than glass. And, the durability of aluminum means that breweries lose less beer to breakage in shipping. Not to mention that the can is immensely portable for the beer drinker, too.

Here are several tasty brews that just happen to come in a can:

Oskar Blues Brewery Pinner Throwback IPAOskar Blues Brewery Pinner Throwback IPA (4.9 percent ABV)

This session IPA has “throwback” in its name because it’s so easy to throw them back. It’s a cute joke for a serious beer. The aroma is piney followed by a citrus tang. Grapefruit dominates the flavor. The bitter citrus flavor is so big, that it’s easy to forget that there isn’t much alcohol. This is a delicious and refreshing IPA that doesn’t knock you out. It’s great for an afternoon outside.

21st Amendment Brewery Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer21st Amendment Brewery Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer (4.9 percent ABV)

Brewed by the brewery named for the Constitutional amendment that repeal prohibition, Hell or High Watermelon is rather standard — albeit fruity — American wheat.

21st Amendment is better known for it hoppy beers than for malty ones, but they have made a perennial favorite for many craft beer drinkers. This beer starts out as a typical American wheat beer then goes through a secondary fermentation with fresh watermelon. The finished product is a beer that both smells and tastes almost entirely of watermelon. It’s refreshing beer on a hot day and goes well with just about any grilled food. You should be able to find this until late summer.

Maui Brewing Co. Coconut PorterMaui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter (6.0 percent ABV)

Maui’s Coconut Porter is a favorite of their line-up — the Washington Post named it the champion of Beer Madness 2012. Though it’s the darkest of the beers here, the fact that it’s a porter makes a great choice for a summer cookout.

The aroma is mineral with toast and cocoa, betraying just a hint of the toasted coconut used in the brewing. Chocolate and the bittering of the toasted malt is all over the flavor — I got little of the coconut in the flavor. Regardless, at 6 percent this beer is still going to go down easy with a big flavor that pleases.

Brothers Craft Brewing Drift Session AleBrothers Craft Brewing Drift Session Ale (5.0 percent ABV)

The can that I had was still labeled with their old brewery name: 3 Brothers Brewing Co. After a legal dispute left them with the choice of limiting their distribution to Virginia only or changing their name, they chose change.

Drift falls rightly into a category they created called Weekender beers. I have just one word for this delicious beer — pine. It’s in the aroma and flavor, and it’s what makes this beer a great find. Out of Harrisonburg, Va., Brothers Brewing Co. is only distributing within the state. But, as their name change implies, they aren’t interested in limiting themselves.

I didn’t mention all the great Virginia breweries that use some or all cans, nor most of the other U.S. breweries that do. What is your favorite can of beer? Cheers!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm 1,042 0

Shirlington Spring Beer Festival Event FlyerTomorrow, Campbell Avenue Shirlington will close down while dozens of breweries will open up tents and booths for the second annual Spring Beer Festival.

From 4:30 a.m. to about 8:00 p.m., Campbell Avenue will be shut down between S. Randolph and Quincy Streets, according to the Arlington County Police Department, to allow the more than 35 breweries in attendance to set up their tents.

The actual event begins at noon, when festival-goers can purchase a $30 booklet of 10 tickets for tastings from the breweries, which are largely from the mid-Atlantic region. The taps will turn off at 6:00 p.m.

In addition to vehicular traffic, parking will also be restricted in the area. Residents and visitors should look for “no parking” signs in the area before leaving their car parked overnight.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 17, 2015 at 1:45 pm 420 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

Full disclosure: I have not been a fan of sours in the past. I took on this little challenge as an opportunity to broaden my palate. It worked, sort of.

I tasted four sours: two European and two American. Like with IPAs, American craft breweries have gone to extremes with sours. Where the two Flemish sours that I tried mixed the sweet, maltiness of brown ales with a fruity tang, the American sours were all sour.

Traditionally, sour beers like Flanders reds, oud bruins and Berlinner Weisse were aged in vertical wood barrels, called foeders, where the beer interacted with so-called acidifying bacteria — like lactobacillus — resulting in a souring of the beer. This was desired. European breweries blend aged sour beer or lambics — “wild” beers that use a combination of wild yeast and bacteria for their sourness — with young beer. The result is a beer that still has many of the flavors of a brown or red ale, but with a lactic sourness.

According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, American craft breweries are forging new roads into the world of sours. Dubbed “new world” sours, these beers are as varied as the ingredients that are used in them. One of the beers in this column is inspired by the “old world” sours, but it lacks any of the subtleness of them. The other American sour here uses blood oranges to bring a big citrus tang to an otherwise “old world” style, the gose.

Anderson Valley Blood Orange GoseAnderson Valley Brewing Company Blood Orange Gose (4.2 percent ABV)
This is the gose — a wheat beer brewed with salt and coriander. The sourness comes from the addition of lactobacillus and a large number of blood oranges. In the glass, the aroma is reminiscent of sodium bicarbonate — a flat, Alka-Selzer-like scent — with just a hint of bitter orange. The flavor is nearly all sour! You get a big citrusy sourness from the oranges, which tapers off to a lightly sweet biscuit flavor in the finish. This is a refreshing, sessionable beer that will be perfect in the heat of a summer day.

New Belgium La Folie 2015New Belgium Brewing Company La Folie 2015 (7 percent ABV)
This beer makes claims to the long lineage of European sours — Flanders reds and oud bruins. It’s made using a blend of aged sour beers that New Belgium is nurturing. Starting out as lagers, the component beers sour over time in wood foeders. Each one has a different character so that when they are blended you get this complex sour beer. The aroma is tart plum with a hint of the sodium bicarbonate. In the mouth, it’s entirely plum and other dark stone fruit with little to no sweetness, lightened by an effervescent carbonation. This is a strong, funky beer. Alex from Dominion Wine & Beer suggests letting this one age before opening it.

BROUWERIJ ALVINNE Omega Sour Blond AleBROUWERIJ ALVINNE Omega Sour Blond Ale (6 percent ABV)
Omega is a Flemish sour beer that uses a blond ale instead of the traditional brown ale in the blend. Alvinne bills itself as a craft brewery in Belgium and it shows in its varied line up of beers. This beer has a fantastic winey and biscuity aroma that hints at the complexity of the flavor. There’s no doubt that this is a sour from the first sip. Starting out strong, the sourness mellows to become fruity right before the sweetness of the malt kicks in. I found the journey from sour to almost sweet made this beer really stand out.

Vanderghinste Brewery Oud BruinVanderghinste Brewery Oud Bruin (5.5 percent ABV)
This Flemish brown ale is a sour is made in the Flanders tradition. Originally called “Ouden Tripel,” Vanderghinste gave Oud Bruin a makeover, including a rename, and found success. Oud Bruin is a brown ale that is blended with an oak-aged lambic to create the Flemish sour brown ale. The aroma is of prune and cinnamon apple. The flavor derives from the lambic and from the yeast — tart stone fruit that sweetens in the finish. This traditional sour was actually the least sour of the group. I enjoyed it immensely as a drinkable sour ale. This approachability and the trend toward sours has made the demand for Vanderghinste’s Oud Bruin so great that the brewery has announced plans to expand.

What are you drinking? Cheers!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 2, 2015 at 10:00 am 4,002 0

Courthaus Social logo from Facebook

(Updated on 4/10/15) Velocity 5 in Courthouse has been closed for weeks, but this month it will be reborn as Courthaus Social.

The “American beer garden” concept at the sports bar space at 2300 Clarendon Blvd has been in the works for years, but owners Fito Garcia and Nema Sayadian are completing the final buildout now, preparing to open by the end of April.

“Courthaus Social is the perfect spot for a happy hour, a pit stop en route to the city or a final destination to spend an entire evening,” Garcia said in a press release. “Our beer garden is dedicated to remaining an establishment that delivers unforgettable experiences to every guest. Whether you live in Arlington or are here for a few days… Grab a boot and sip, savor, and share in the spirit of beer and great food.”

Velocity 5 in CourthouseThe opening has been pushed back from its original April 13 date, but the owners hope that by the end of the month Courthaus Social will be ready to go, serving two-liter boots and steins of 30 beers on tap, with long benches for social seating.

Sayadian told ARLnow.com that the interior will look wildly different from the Velocity 5 the area has come to know.

“It’s night and day, a 180-degree difference,” he said.

Garcia said the beer garden will have “life-size games” and will be community-focused, focusing on Virginia breweries and “humanely raised, free range” meats. It will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily.

Photo (top) via Facebook

by Ethan Rothstein — March 25, 2015 at 10:00 am 4,609 0

(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Julie Drews and Beth Helle have lived in Arlington for a decade, and they grew so tired of not having a specialty craft beer store in their neighborhood that they decided to open one themselves.

They have leased space at 2004 Wilson Blvd, in the new 2001 Clarendon apartments, to open The Brew Shop, which will sell craft beer, homebrewing supplies, wine and locally roasted coffee beans.

The pair are accountants who hail from the Midwest. Drews is from Michigan, home of craft beer landmark breweries Bell’s Brewery, Founders and New Holland. She said now that the D.C. craft brewing scene has taken off with the likes of D.C. Brau, 3 Stars and Port City, it’s an opportunity to capitalize on the area’s craft beer community.

“There was almost nothing here when I first got here, but things are definitely turning the corner now with beer in D.C.,” Drews told ARLnow.com yesterday. “This is an area where people care a lot about beer.”

The Brew Shop will offer growler fills and partner with local breweries for events. Drews — who reminisced about drinking at Dr. Dremo’s steps from where her shop will open — wants The Brew Shop to be a hub of the local beer-drinking community.

“We want to be the first great beer shop in Arlington,” she said. “There are a lot of wine shops that sell beer, but we want to be the great beer shop that sells wine.”

Drews and Helle have applied for a permit with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and are in the construction permitting process with Arlington County. They hope to open in the fall.

by ARLnow.com — March 24, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,777 0

Shirlington Spring Beer Festival Event FlyerCapitol City Brewing will host its second annual Mid-Atlantic Spring Beer Festival in Shirlington next month.

The event will take place outdoors, closing down a portion of Campbell Avenue. It will feature tastings from 35 area craft brewers, all of which will be from Virginia, Maryland or the District, including “several newly opened breweries.”

“New this year, all participating breweries will sport their own exhibition tents that showcase their company creations and colorful brand designs,” organizers said in a press release. “A variety of Shirlington Village restaurants and local eateries will feature their favorite springtime fare with music provided by a popular local DJ.”

The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 25. Much like Capital City’s Shirlington Oktoberfest event, the Spring Beer Festival will run from noon until 7:00 p.m., rain or shine, with taps closing at 6:00 p.m.

Tickets to the event will be available for purchase the day of the event, starting at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 and include a wristband, tasting glass and 10 drink tickets. Additional tasting tickets will be sold for $1 each, with a $5 minimum.

Non-drinkers and children can attend for free.

by ARLnow.com — March 24, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,854 0

Early spring in Westover Village

Advocates Decry Proposed Bike Cut — An optional budget cut floated by Arlington County Manger Barbara Donnellan in her proposed FY 2015-2016 budget is attracting some push back from cyclists. Donnellan said the County Board should consider a $800,000 cut in funds for the county’s BikeArlington program if it wants to make additional cuts beyond her base budget. Bike advocates say the cut “would be a huge mistake.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Condo Fence Mowed Down — A car ran through the fence of a condominium complex next to Long Branch Elementary School Sunday evening. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]

Resident Survey to Be Mailed — Arlington County is planning to mail its fourth resident survey to 3,600 randomly selected residents. “This survey will help us find out how we’re doing across many different service areas – and also pinpoint where we need to improve,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. [Arlington County]

Custis Trail Added to Beer Guide — A guide intended to show D.C. area cyclists where they can grab craft brews near local trails has added Arlington’s Custis Trail to its directory. [Bikeable Brews]

A-SPAN To Help Meet Homeless Goals — Arlington County has signed on to a pair of ambitious goals: to house all homeless veterans in the community by the end of 2015 and end chronic homelessness by 2016. The Arlington Street People’s Network, the nonprofit organization that will be running Arlington’s soon-to-open year-round homeless shelter, is preparing to do its part to help achieve those goals. [InsideNova]

WWBG: Beers I’m Loving

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm 638 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

Every once in a while I just want to share some of the great stuff that I’m drinking these days. There is so much great beer out there — here are just a few.

Dogfish Head AprihopDogfish Head Brewery Aprihop (7 percent ABV)

Aprihop is an IPA brewed with apricot juice, but it sure tastes like a fruity amber. That’s quite a compliment, actually. If Dogfish made this a big piney or even a grapefruit IPA with apricot, the delicate apricot would be lost. Instead, the hop bitterness accentuates the tart apricot flavor and is pleasantly balanced by a slight malty sweetness. In fact, it looks like an amber, too. Whatever you call it, it’s a delicious seasonal beer that won’t be around for long. Also, check out the great Paul Bunyan look alike on the label.

Ballast Point Indra KunindraBallast Point Indra Kunindra, Curry Export Stout (7 percent ABV)

Ballast Point is a venerable West Coast brewery that regularly puts out quality hoppy beers that usually range from lagers to bright, fruity IPAs. But once in a while, they dabble in the dark arts of stouts and porters — their Victory at Sea Vanilla Porter is a hard one to beat. This stout is thinner than a dry Irish stout, but no worse for it. The first impression even when pouring it, is that Ballast Point means business with their addition of madras curry and cumin. That vivid array of aroma is all over the flavor, too. Only in the finish is the delicious spice balanced by the bittering of the dark malts. This one is made in limited quantities in collaboration with award-winning home brewer, Alex Tweet — get some while you can!

Ballast Point Tongue BucklerBallast Point Tongue Buckler, Imperial Red Ale (10 percent ABV)

I wish that I’d had this beer a month ago when I wrote about ambers — its description won’t come as a surprise to any of you who read it. What sets it apart, though, is the booziness that comes through. The aroma is an enticing black tea and biscuit — balancing the hops with the malt that should be somewhat forward in a good red or amber. The flavor is quite complex until the alcohol kicks in. It goes from sweet to herbal from the hops to nearly astringent from the high alcohol. This is a strong ale — it borders on spirits — that’s definitely a mouth tingling experience. Like the Indra above, it’s only around for a limited time.

DuClaw and Cigar City Impey Barbicane's Moon Gun Session Amber AleDuClaw Brewing Co. (Baltimore)  and Cigar City Brewing (Tampa)
Impey Barbicane’s Moon Gun Session Amber Ale (5 percent ABV)

OK. This beer wins for my favorite name — to say, to write, to think about — but also for being the one beer that I wish that I had a sixer of. DuClaw is known for their flavorful beers — their Sweet Baby Jesus peanut butter porter is a favorite. Cigar City has its own enormous following — I can easily name their Jai Alai IPA as one of my favorite go-to IPAs. Together they’ve taken the often yawn-inducing session beer category and rocked it! Another amber that I could have happily included a month ago, this beer astonishes with its complexity. The aroma is primarily of floral hops with just a hint of the malt of an amber. The flavor is pretty true to a regular amber, but the hop bomb that this is blasts your palate! My favorite aspect of this beer came as it warmed — the bitter bite becomes more fruity like white grapefruit juice. Enjoy more than one without feeling overwhelmed! (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — March 17, 2015 at 10:00 am 1,606 0

The new plaza at N. Moore and 19th StreetsRosslyn workers can enjoy a beer outside this afternoon in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Today from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is hosting its second ever pop-up beer garden, in the plaza at the corner of 19th Street and N. Moore Streets.

“In a busy urban area like Rosslyn with a large amount of pedestrians walking around, pop-up events like this do well since they maximize open space, grab attention and present something new and exciting,” Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick told ARLnow.com in an email. “With Plaza on 19th, an area that was previously just sidewalk, we now have a great space to regularly hold events like these.”

The beer will be a collection of Irish favorites like Guinness and Magners cider along with some craft beer selections, provided by the Washington Wine Academy. All of the beers will be $5.

The food will be served by the Urban Bumpkin BBQ truck, an Asian and barbecue fusion staple of the Rosslyn food truck lineup. Playing music during the whole event will be Rew Smith, a “pop/rock singer-songwriter” from Maryland.

Last year’s Oktoberfest beer garden — the first at the new plaza — drew more than 600 people, and event organizers are hoping the holiday and the warm weather will draw an even bigger crowd today. The BID will be passing out green koozies as a bonus for beer drinkers.

File photo

by Ethan Rothstein — March 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm 4,436 0

Metropole Brewing founder Michael Katrivanos (photo via Facebook)A new production brewery could be on its way to Arlington, on Four Mile Run Drive near Shirlington.

Metropole Brewing Company has applied for a permit to start a microbrewery at 2709 S. Oakland Street, in the Nauck neighborhood. The application is for a brewery producing 500 or fewer barrels per year — so far there’s no indication from either the application or the nascent brewery’s Facebook page if it plans to serve beverages on-site.

Metropole’s founder, Michael Katrivanos, did not return a message seeking comment this afternoon. He has applied for building permits with the county, but has yet to receive final approval.

If the ABC license and building permits are approved, Metropole could be Arlington’s first indigenous distribution brewery since 1916, when Arlington Brewing Company stopped making beer.

The only two places where beer is brewed commercially in Arlington are Rock Bottom Brewery in the Ballston Common Mall and Capitol City Brewing Company in Shirlington. Neither of those businesses brew beer to be sold off the premises.

This spring, Sehkraft Beer Garden and Haus plans to open in Clarendon and brew its own beer. Owner Devin Hicks told ARLnow.com last summer that Arlington’s Zoning Ordinance prohibits a brewpub from selling its beers to other businesses, but he was exploring options to work around the regulation.

Since 2012, at least two aspiring breweries had sniffed around Arlington to start operations, but both companies could not find space and close a deal.

Photo via Facebook

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm 622 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

When I think of a winery that has a vineyard, I don’t picture the usual trappings of a farm. To be sure, a vineyard is not called a grape farm. But if you say “farm brewery,” I absolutely picture the archetypal farm — a silo, a barn and equipment everywhere.

After all, the main ingredient of beer — grains — are field crops.

This brings me to today’s topic, one that has piqued my curiosity as a craft beer lover: farm breweries. Two area breweries operate on the farms that yield most, if not all, their ingredients — Richmond’s Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery and Mt. Airy’s The Red Shedman Farm Brewery & Hop Yard. What these two breweries have in common is a deep connection to the land they work.

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (LCCB)

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (LCCB) is known as “Virginia’s Farm Brewery” and opened its doors in September 2013 northwest of Richmond in Goochland. It has continued growing its capabilities and offerings ever since. I first became aware of LCCB in 2013 when they grew a large Instagram following with nothing but photos of their first plantings and the construction of their brewery building. It was clear then that this was a unique brewery.

Estate Series Mango-Habanero Brown AleThe brewery and its farm are “water-conscious and biologically friendly.” They use well-water and they reintroduce purified waste water back into the Lickinghole Creek watershed. A main aspect of their mission is to begin with the farm for the ingredients they need, then outsource for those that they cannot get. In fact, the Estate Series was created to use as many LCCB-grown ingredients as possible. While their other beers may not be made from ingredients grown on their own farm, they are often sourced from local farms or providers.

I was only able to get a hold of one LCCB beer for this article, but it was an absolute gem!

Their Estate Series Mango-Habanero Brown Ale is a real treat. The heat from the pepper balances well with the tang of the mango. Behind the fruit and pepper is a hoppy and sweet brown ale that shows the higher ABV (8.5 percent) without tasting too boozy. You can get this, and other Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery beers at Dominion Wine and Beer — they often have growler fills in addition to bottles and cans.

Pump House IPAThe Red Shedman Farm Brewery & Hop Yard

Opened by Vic Aellen in 2014, The Red Shedman Farm Brewery & Hop Yard sprouted on the farm that houses Linganore Winecellars in Mt. Airy, Md. Vic’s brother, Anthony Aellen, runs Linganore, which was opened in 1971 by his parents Jack and Lucille Aellen. The Red Shedman’s canning operation started in late November, allowing them to self-distribute their brews locally.

In order to obtain a farm brewery license in Maryland, a brewery must grow at least one ingredient that they use. The Red Shedman goes one better by growing barley and hops. Though the barley they grow doesn’t provide enough grain for their beer just yet, they are using farm-grown hops in all their beers.

All of The Red Shedman’s canned beers are available at Georgetown Square’s sister store, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer. The standouts among their solid line up are their Pump House IPA and Vanilla Porter.

Pump House IPA is a West Coast IPA that balances piney hops with a pleasantly sweet maltiness. This beer is mash hopped, which instills a vibrant hop flavor without too much bitterness as the hops are not boiled. The result is a very drinkable IPA, with plenty of flavor.

Vanilla PorterTheir Vanilla Porter is a simple and flavorful beer that is suitable for a light dessert or even with creamy cheeses. The bitterness from the black malt balances the warming vanilla to create a memorable experience. I mentioned in my Instagram post about the Vanilla Porter that this was the best one of its kind that I’ve had. That may have been a bit of hyperbole, but you cannot go wrong with this beer!

Do you have a favorite or new farm brewery that you can share? Or have you tried either of today’s breweries’ offerings? Tell us about them. Cheers!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — February 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm 457 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

I sat in the cavernous tasting room at Tröegs Brewing Co. pondering the deep golden red of my Nugget Nectar just days after its annual release.

The place was wall-to-wall beer lovers — two men at our table were in town from upstate New York. It occurred to me that this beloved hoppy red ale was a sign that this category of beer (splitting the difference between a pale ale and a brown ale) still has legs. It’s so important to Tröegs that the wall just inside the entrance is decorated with a two-story decal of the Nugget Nectar hop squeezing fist.

In the early days of the American microbrew movement, American brewers used the term “amber” to help beer consumers differentiate this hoppy, reddish ale from paler colored pale ales. Ironically, the earliest amber ales were actually pale ales that matched the darker color of European pales.

American consumers were confused, however, as they expected pale ales to be light in color. The name stuck and became a legitimate category of beer.

The American amber ale is characterized by its balance of moderate to high hop and malt flavors. Typically, amber ales are hoppier (with the piney or citrusy American hops) than brown ales and maltier than American pale ales.

This style has included American red ales, Irish red ales and American versions of the British style, Extra Special Bitters.

More often than not, though, an American amber ale consistently matches the flavor profile above. Below, let’s look some amber ales that run the gamut from the typical, hoppy style to more old-fashioned malt-balanced reds.

Tröegs Brewing Co. Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber Ale (7.5% ABV)Tröegs Brewing Co. Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber Ale (7.5% ABV)

This perennial favorite is a classic example of this style. The hops burst forward in the piney aroma and floral flavor. Malt takes a back seat in this ale, but it’s not overly bitter either. It also lacks the alcohol-derived sweetness of other imperial ales, which makes this a sneaky beer. It’s so drinkable, that you’ll want to be a bit careful with this slightly strong beer. It’s no wonder that this Pennsylvania beer is sought after every year. You can enjoy this anytime.

Apocalypse Beer Works Red Hoppocalypse Imperial Red Ale (8% ABV)Apocalypse Beer Works Red Hoppocalypse Imperial Red Ale (8% ABV)

Brewed by the wildly original Virginia brewery, Apocalypse Beer Works, Red Hoppocalypse won the silver medal at the 2014 U.S. Open Championship. I can see why. The aroma of this tasty local beer is a caramel malt that is spiced with hops, very much like a malt-forward imperial IPA. There is a spicy sweetness in the flavor that starts with the sip and continues through after you swallow. The finish is all the more interesting as the black tea-like hop flavor adds a complexity that I wasn’t anticipating. This is one of two of their beers that are currently available in cans, the rest you can only get in kegs.

Terrapin Beer Co. Mosaic Red Rye IPA (6.3%)Terrapin Beer Co. Mosaic Red Rye IPA (6.3%)

Terrapin’s seasonal red is quite the complex beer. On the one hand, it’s an amber, on the other, it’s an IPA — and then there’s the rye. Not to mention the fact that they’ve made it with only Mosaic hops — a newish hop variety that seems to burst with all the major American hop characteristics (floral, piney, citrusy, earthy, tropical fruit and so on). The aroma is on the earthy hop side, masking any maltiness. You really get the complexity of this beer in the flavor: Spicy rye combines with big citrusy hops and a dry malt to create a thoroughly enjoyable beer. These cans won’t be around long, get them while you can.

Three Notch'd Brewing Hydraulion Red Ale (5.3% ABV)Three Notch’d Brewing Hydraulion Red Ale (5.3% ABV)

Named after the only fire engine that the University of Virginia’s first fire department owned, Hydraulion is a tribute to Three Notch’d Brewing’s hometown. It’s also like a bit of history itself. Eschewing the hoppy ambers and reds of today, Three Notch’d has made a malt-balanced red ale, truly in the Irish tradition. The addition of the English Golding hops, rather than an American variety means that the hops will be more subtle. Though this beer does not lack hop bitterness altogether, it’s definitely not pronounced. What you get, instead, is a tasty malty brew that is pleasantly offset by a slight hop bitterness around the edges. You can’t go wrong with this 2014 Great American Beer Festival Bronze medal winner for Irish-style ales.

These ambers are now available at Georgetown Square Wine and Beer, but I have a couple more that I have to tell you about.

My first is Laurel, Maryland’s Jailbreak Brewing Co. Infinite Amber Ale, a local amber that nicely walks the line between malt and hops. It’s the very definition of the American Amber Ale. It’s only available on tap — I had it at Georgetown Square’s sister store, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer.

My second must-share amber is New Jersey’s Carton Brewing Co. Red Rye Returning Ale, which combines several American hop varieties with the spiciness of rye to create an immensely quaffable amber that’s full of flavor. I had this at a great little craft beer restaurant in the East Village in New York called Cooper’s Craft and Kitchen. Now, tell me about your favorite ambers. Cheers!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Ethan Rothstein — February 19, 2015 at 3:50 pm 3,592 0

Beers in a refrigerator (Updated at 4:00 p.m.) An online service that would allow people to order beer and wine to their doorstep could launch next month in Arlington.

Ultra is already available in eight cities nationwide, including D.C., where it contracts with retailers to deliver beer, wine and liquor. While Virginia’s liquor laws restrict Ultra from selling spirits, Ultra CEO Aniket Shah says his company has reached an agreement with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to deliver beer and wine.

We are looking at Arlington as our first city to expand in Virginia, based on demographics, income levels and awareness for new technologies,” Shah told ARLnow.com. “We are expecting the deliveries to start first-second week of March.”

Ultra users would go to the company’s website, enter their zip code, and a list of products they can order (beer, wine, soda and mixers), delivery minimum, hours and estimated delivery time. Customers can order on-demand, which takes no more than an hour, or for more than 30 days in advance, including requests like the wine be chilled. Customers’ IDs are checked when the driver makes the delivery.

“We received huge response from people in D.C. when we launched there and we wanted to expand to Virginia as soon as possible,” Shah said. “[Virginia ABC] were very open to understanding our process and providing guidelines within which we had to operate our service in Virginia. We finally received the approval and we are actively in contact with several retailers to accept deliveries in Arlington.”

Ultra, a New York City-based company, can only sell beer and wine from stores that have delivery permits in place to do so. Shah couldn’t disclose which retailers Ultra is negotiating with because of confidentiality agreements, he said.

Shah said Ultra is the first service of its kind in Virginia, but individual retailers are already able to delivery beer and wine as long as they have an ABC license. Some restaurants, like Lost Dog Cafe, deliver beer along with food.

Shah also said he plans on initiating negotiations with the ABC Board to deliver liquor straight from ABC stores, but it’s unclear how much traction those discussions will have.

File photo

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 23, 2015 at 2:30 pm 889 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

At the end of “The Matrix,” Keanu Reaves’ Neo suddenly sees the code in everything he looks at while in the matrix. It’s a transformative experience —-he is the master of his domain.

I felt like Neo when I began to understand the basics of Belgian beer styles. The Belgian section of a store or menu can seem daunting with all the numbers (Rochefort) and color-coded labels (Chimay) and styles (dubbel and tripel). And what’s a quadrupel anyway?

The truth is that many of the Belgian beers that we typically can get fit well into the established styles that I’ll cover. Today, I’m going to introduce, or reintroduce, you to the Belgian strong golden ale, the dubbel, the tripel and the Belgian strong dark ale (sometimes called a quad or quadrupel).

Before I look at the individual styles, I want to mention the common ingredient in most Belgian beers that gives them a character all their own — yeast. Belgian yeast is distinctive, imparting a uniquely fruity flavor that can sometimes seem spicy, like black pepper or clove. When non-Belgian breweries make Belgian-styled beers, they do so with this special yeast.

The large numbers on bottles or bottle caps and colored labels are a handy code devised by brewers as a short hand for their styles. I’ve read that the numbers refer essentially to the ABV of an original recipe, but that current recipes for these styles have different amounts of alcohol. I have also read that they do not refer to anything, but are merely representative for a particular brewery. For instance, Rochefort uses a “6” to denote their dubbel, while Westvleteren uses an “8”. Though unscientific, color and numeric coding can help you choose the right beer when you know what else to look for.

Let’s look at the four categories and the beers that represent them.

Duvel (photo via Arash Tafakor)Belgian Strong Golden Ale
This beer is light in color, hence the name, with mild bitterness and high effervescence. Though relatively high in alcohol at around 9 percent ABV, these beers don’t taste like it. The original strong golden ale is our example, Duvel.

Duvel (ABV: 8.5 percent)
The aroma is mildly spicy with some citrus evident as you take the first sip. The taste that follows blends the spice with a citrusy bitterness from the small amount of hops that shine through. Overall, it’s no surprise that Duvel is a clean, pleasant beer. If you’re looking to have this with a meal, it pairs well with a wide variety of dishes.

Dubbel Ale
This beer pours a dark brown with fairly high effervescence. Generally, dubbels are malty with a slight sweetness, though not all will exhibit this sweetness. They tend to be slightly high in alcohol hovering around 8 percent ABV, which is not apparent in the flavor. (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — January 12, 2015 at 4:45 pm 5,677 0

Velocity 5 in CourthouseVelocity 5, the sports bar mainstay in Courthouse, is getting a makeover this spring into what its owners call “an American beer garden.”

The restaurant will close down for a month before re-opening as “Courthaus Social,” a beer garden with an expanded patio outside the location at 2300 Clarendon Blvd. The plan to close Velocity 5 and reopen as a beer garden has been around for nearly two years after new owners bought the location of the regional chain, which opened in Courthouse in 2009.

“We were trying to find the perfect concept,” one of the co-owners, Nema Sayadian, told ARLnow.com today. “You realize you have to find your own identity, and that’s what we were struggling with.”

Sayadian and Fito Garcia, also a co-owner, originally had planned to rename the restaurant “Social Haus” and turn it into a Bavarian-style biergarten, serving almost exclusively German beer and food. Courthaus Social, while still configured as a beer garden with “social seating” — long benches inside and out — will focus more on local craft beers from breweries like Starr Hill, Port City and Mad Fox.

There will still be some German beers on the menu and Sayadian says “we’ll still have the biggest schnitzel in town.” The concept will now be more food-centric, with locally sourced meats and sustainable practices Garcia hopes will serve as a model for other local restaurants. At its heart, Courthaus Social hopes to be a relaxed, community business.

“We’re not going to be pretentious about it,” Sayadian said. Garcia added, “Arlington needs beer places. And with Summers closing down, we want to help the area.”

When it opens, the bar will have about 1,000 square feet of patio seating fronting Claredon Blvd, adding to its patio facing Courthouse Plaza’s Wells Fargo Bank. There will be more than 30 beers on tap, and they will still be available in two-liter “boots” as well as steins.

Velocity 5 has served as a registration spot for bar crawls in Clarendon and Courthouse in years past, and while Garcia and Sayadian say they’re not against participating in more bar crawls, the attitude of the restaurant is shifting.

“We love the business that comes with the bar crawls,” Garcia said, “but we want to have a different focus and build a community around us. If Arlington is for the bar crawls, we’re down, but we’re not going to take part in something that’s frowned upon.”

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