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

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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.

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

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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.”

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1,080 0

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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.

Happy Friday, Arlington!

Let me introduce myself — I’m Garrett. I’m a beer lover, be it craft or import, and a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program. I’ll be writing the beer articles in ARLnow for the folks at Dominion Wine and Beer. I’m on Instagram as CraftHockey, check out my posts for a preview of what I’m going to write about, and more. I can’t wait to share some great beer with you all!

The beers I want to share with you today have two things in common: they are imperial stouts and they were aged in barrels. Either attribute makes them special, but together they transcend your average barrel-aged ale or imperial stout. Let’s step back for a second and learn about what these two things mean.

I used to wonder what it meant for a stout — or any style of beer — to be called “imperial.” Well, in 18th century Russia, the ruling class loved stouts. They were imported from England, but the long trip took a toll on regular stouts. Imperial stouts were developed for export using more hops and malt giving them much higher ABVs so they could stand up to the long journey.

One of the first breweries making this rich beer was Thrale’s Anchor Brewery in London. They were bought in 1781 by Barclay, Perkins & Co. who went on to establish the classic recipe for the imperial stout. Now, we call nearly any beer that has a very high ABV an “imperial.”

Barrel aging, like the “imperial” designation, is something that is saved for only the most special of beers. When the alchemy that is barrel aging works, the result is magical. Wood contains a chemical called lignin, among others, which is absorbed by the beer and converts to vanillin over time — it tastes like it sounds.

Of course, beer was stored and sold from wooden barrels for many years even into the 20th century, but great lengths were taken to ensure that the wood didn’t impart any of its own flavors. According to Randy Mosher, in 1992 Chicago’s Goose Island was one of the first American craft breweries to commercially age beer in bourbon barrels to take advantage of the flavors they can impart.

Let’s look at four barrel-aged imperial stouts that are available now.

IMG_3612Schlafly 2013 Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels (ABV: 10.2%)

Before you even drink this opaque black stout, it’s clear that this has been in aged in wooden barrels. The aroma has the caramelized sugar and woodiness to be expected with a beer in this category. The big pay-off is in the taste, though — its a mixture of molasses from the sip to the aftertaste with a sharp edge from the alcohol. As it warms in the glass, Schlafly Imperial Stout’s molasses grows more complex with the addition of stewed fruit. This stout is a warming treat to sip and savor.

IMG_3613Boulevard Brewing Co. Smokestack Series Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels (ABV: 11%)

This powerful imperial stout fools the nose at first, as it has the aroma of a dry stout. There’s little hint of the barrel-aged goodness in the glass. Once you taste it, though, the wood comes through along with sweet caramel and the tell-tale alcohol bite. I particularly enjoyed this when it warmed up in the glass. Interestingly, this stout poured and feels thinner than most stouts of it’s type, but that is not a negative. Boulevard’s Imperial Stout is a rich gem that is perfect as the days get colder again.

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by Nick Anderson — January 2, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1,223 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

I don’t know how to properly start this week’s column. I have a habit when I don’t know how to start something I’m writing — I simply start writing and see if something comes to me. There’s every chance in the world you’ll never see these words because in a few minutes I’ll know exactly the right phrase or joke to start this column off with, and I’ll simply cut this whole paragraph out and replace it.

Then again, maybe not.

This is my last “Your Beermonger” column for ARLnow.com. The column was sponsored content as part of Arrowine’s promotional relationship with this website, and that relationship is drawing to a close. It’s an amicable parting — simply a case of it being time to move on, and I don’t believe I’ll be speaking out of place when I say on behalf of Arrowine that it’s been a pleasure to work with ARLnow.com. Personally I’d like to thank Scott Brodbeck and Ethan Rothstein for their responsiveness, dedication, and enthusiastic help as this column became a bit of a thing.

You guys — the column became a bit of a thing. Originally, I wasn’t supposed to be here at all; Arrowine owner Doug Rosen penned the first pieces that ran in this space, which was meant to be all about wine. When the business of running one store while working to open another piled up, I was asked to fill in for a couple weeks to talk about beer. The response from you, the ARLnow.com readers, made me a fixture in this space every Friday. Opening the column to comments (which I’d been asking for before you guys started asking for it on the forums, believe it or not) started a wonderful running conversation that I’ve appreciated more than you know, and I found myself being told more and more from Arrowine visitors how much they enjoyed it, too.

Many of you who have met me and mentioned the column have heard me say how odd a feeling that recognition is; that I write the column assuming no one will ever read it. I never quite got used to it, but I do want to thank all of you who took a moment to let me know you’d read or been reading Your Beermonger — it’s a simple but powerful thing, and I’ve greatly appreciated it.

I’ve appreciated every interaction in the comments — even the ones from folks who disagreed or outright disliked something I had to say. Writing about beer and having these conversations in the comments week after week has made me continually re-evaluate what matters to me when it comes to beer, and most importantly why. All of you have made me a better beermonger through this process. Thank you.

The first year or so of this column was dedicated to a specific purpose: what do I wish someone had told me when I was first entering the beer world? What were the basics, and what preconceived notions should I rid myself of? From there, we explored various beers of course, but also the breweries and places where these beers are made and enjoyed. On my way out, I’d like to give you some more information: often I’m asked who I read when I’m reading about beer. Here’s a shortlist:

The indispensible Tom Cizauskas of Your For Good Fermentables is a stalwart of our area’s beer industry, a respected beer professional, and a damn good writer to boot. He takes a look at beer issues both local and national.

Our area’s growing beer scene can be tough to keep pace with. Two must-reads are the outstanding DCBeer.com, and Virginia Beer Trail.

BeerPulse is still the go-to source for beer industry news, but I’ve enjoyed the newer Craft Brewing Business for its well-reported deep reads on this sometimes-insane industry. (more…)

by Nick Anderson — December 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,410 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Saving me from finding one more angle for a Christmas-themed column, I realized that the 26th will mark the last “Your Beermonger” of 2014 — which means it’s once again time for my little-anticipated, completely unscientific Beers of the Year column.

As always, this is a list of six (the list is six this year, because reasons) beers that I wouldn’t necessarily say were the “best” of 2014, but those new/new to me that I enjoyed the most and/or made the biggest impression. OK, onto the fun:

6. Abita Bourbon St. Imperial Stout: A chocolate-toned, boozy bit of decadent fun that over-delivered in every aspect. There were some criticisms that Bourbon St. was a little “thin,” but amid a sea of unbalanced, milkshake-y, rich for the sake of richness Imperial Stouts, even if Bourbon St. seemed light by comparison (I personally didn’t find it so) that isn’t necessarily a knock on it. In any event, Bourbon St. was an important shot across the bow of the beer world from Abita: the Louisiana brewery hasn’t been around for over 30 years by accident, and still has some tricks up its sleeve.

5. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin: Sculpin may not be the perfect beer, but it’s certainly a perfect beer — representing the best in West Coast hop-obsession in an IPA that doesn’t overwhelm in terms of bitterness or ABV. Sculpin wants for nothing, and yet the addition of grapefruit rind does something magical to this beer. The grapefruit doesn’t necessarily make Sculpin better; it’s just more wonderful, more fun, more lighthearted. After trying Grapefruit Sculpin at Stone’s Anniversary Party this summer, I worried we’d never see it in Virginia. A late-December shipment barely qualifies as a cameo in terms of sating demand, but here’s hoping it’s just the first of many runs we’ll see of this delightful beer.

4. Sixpoint Sensi Harvest: 2014 was a big year for Sixpoint; a repackaging/rebranding effort saw its core beers move from tallboy can 4-packs to 6-packs of the sleek 12-ounce cans previously only used for bigger beers like Resin or 3 Beans. The new Sixpoint sixers were arriving much fresher than before, which paid off in a big way when it introduced Sensi Harvest Ale. Back in October I wrote about my love for Fresh Hop and Wet Hop beers, and it didn’t take long for Sensi to become by go-to Harvest Ale. I appreciated its combination of its 4.7 percent ABV with an intense clarity of hop character. It’s too late to catch Sensi Harvest Ale but the current Sixpoint seasonal, Global Warmer, is highly recommended.

3. Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose: This summer’s release of Anderson Valley’s The Kimmie, The Yink, And The Holy Gose delivered an unexpected hit from the stalwart California brewery. As the summer ended, I figured that was that and we’d have to wait until next year for more — and then the brewery posted a picture of Gose cans ready to be filled, with the words “Blood Orange” added to the labeling. The Blood Orange variant of Anderson Valley Gose isn’t just a tart, light, addictively easy-drinking Session Ale; it’s become the palate-cleanser beer of choice for bottle-shares all-around. A recently-arrived batch of the standard Gose has ignited hopes that one or both beers may go year-round; we can only hope. (more…)

by Nick Anderson — December 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

At this point in the season, we’ve all been inundated with “What to Get the __ Fan in Your Life” articles. There’s nothing wrong with that; I enjoy them — hell, I wrote one for this site last year (for Black Friday).

But I’m not what you would call a “holiday” person; by this point in December, I’m a little burnt out and ready for New Year’s to come around already. So rather than focus on the best gifts for the resident beer geeks in your life, this year I’m going to recommend the best beers to help you get through the holiday season.

Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra or WorldWide Stout (15 percent+ ABV): Returning to Dogfish Head’s lineup after a nearly seven year absence, Raison D’Extra is in short supply but if you’re lucky you can snag a bottle or two at retail (or visit one of the Dogfish Alehouse restaurants, who may have bottles/draft). WorldWide Stout will be harder to find; the Delaware brewery didn’t brew any this year, and what I have at Arrowine is from last year’s release, which I’ve been storing in our cellar.

Both beers clock in above the 15 percent ABV mark, so they pack a punch. D’Extra is a supercharged version of Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Etre, a Belgian-inspired Amber Ale that uses brown sugar and golden raisins in it. D’Extra turns the dials up to 11, showcasing a Brandy-like quality in its youth that only mellows and becomes more elegant with time.

WorldWide is a bruiser of an Imperial Stout, with intense roasted malt notes of chocolate and ripe dark fruits. At its extreme ABV level, the combination of those fruity flavors with boozy heat give WorldWide Stout a Port-like feel. It’s structure also gives WorldWide a lifespan like a fine Vintage Port; back in 2011, I drank a 2002 bottle that shocked me by how “young” it seemed.

Devils Backbone Wood-Aged Kilt Flasher (8 percent ABV): The winter-only Kilt Flasher Wee Heavy from Devils Backbone is already one of the better seasonal offerings among Virginia’s breweries. The Wood-Aged version accentuates all of the great characteristics of Kilt Flasher — the balanced sweetness of the malt, the “just right” level of heat that keeps such a big, malt-driven beer from feeling too rich. A limited run, but one I hope is expanded next year. If you can find it, it’s definitely worth trying.

Mikkeller Red/White Christmas (8 percent ABV): One of Mikkel’s many Christmas Ales, Red/White is a blend of a Belgian-style Witbier with a hoppy Imperial Red Ale. The two styles should clash, but instead they find an unexpected harmony: The Wit takes some of the bite out of the Imperial Red’s intense hops, while the malt in the Red Ale balances the Wit’s spicy character. The best part? Red/White Christmas comes in 1.5-liter magnum bottles. Quality and quantity!

Lagunitas Brown Shugga (9.99 percent ABV): What was a batch of Barleywine gone wrong thanks to an overly exuberant addition of brown sugar is now one of the most beloved seasonal offerings of the beer world. Brown Shugga shouldn’t work — but somehow, it does in its own unabashedly sweet, hoppy, punchy way. For it’s strength, Brown Shugga is all-too easy to throw back, but that may be exactly what you’re looking for right now.

Whatever you’re enjoying this holiday season, I hope you enjoy it among the company of good friends and family. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.

 

by Nick Anderson — December 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm 594 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

This week I did something I had never done before over my near-20 years of beer geekery: I signed up for a membership in a brewery’s reserve society. The idea of these ‘societies’ or ‘clubs’ is becoming more popular every year, but they aren’t without their detractors. As always, only you can determine what is worth spending your consumer dollar on, but here’s a fairly short rundown of what these memberships have to offer, why some folks don’t like them, and why I decided to finally take the plunge with one.

The most famous brewery societies are those of The Bruery. The Bruery offers three ‘tiers’ of society memberships: Preservation Society members receive three special-release beers per quarter; Reserve Society members are also offered first rights to purchase small-batch production beers (along with discounts at The Bruery’s tasting room and on all Bruery merchandise); and the ‘you have been chosen’ Hoarder’s Society gives its members deeper discounts, more bottles of limited releases, and exclusive beers.

Locally, D.C.’s Three Stars Brewing Company has its Illuminati Reserve Society. Members are guaranteed bottles of the five limited release beers Three Stars plans on putting out over the course of 2015, along with a discount on purchases at the D.C. Homebrew Shop, special growler fills, and invites to special brewery events. Adroit Theory in Purcellville has the Black Heart Society, with each of its three tiers offering greater discounts at the brewery along with more of its special release beers.

For smaller, more experimentally-minded breweries with dedicated fanbases, clubs like these have multiple benefits. Bypassing overcrowded rare beer release events that inevitably leave more people angry than satisfied is an attractive prospect; establishing limited release for society members guarantees that a brewery’s most sought-after brews go to dedicated fans. Also, societies essentially give brewers a focus group to test new beers with; an especially enthusiastic response to a society-only beer can give breweries an idea of how a recipe might perform in a wider release. For beer geeks like me, societies not only give us a peek behind the curtain at the direction a brewery might be headed in, but they give us the chance to ensure we get access to some of our favorite beers. Also, there’s the “I got this and you didn’t because I’m a Society Member” factor.

For those concerned that beer is becoming “too much like wine”, Societies are a disturbing sign of the times. The concept of societies is adapted from the hundreds of winery Reserve Clubs out there, and their mere existence is an act of exclusion–anathema to the ethos of beer as a social beverage. Some believe the ultra-rare releases for society members encourage ‘Whalers’, who always seek out harder to find beers and look down on anything available at retail. The ‘focus group’ aspect of societies can alternately be looked at as ‘preaching to the choir’, or pandering to a small selection of palates that can’t possibly speak on behalf of a wider audience and are more inclined to demand different, not necessarily better beers.

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by ARLnow.com — December 10, 2014 at 9:00 am 2,041 0

Sunset on the Potomac at Gravelly Point Park (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Fmr. Pentagon Police Chief Dies — Richard Keevill, the former chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, died Saturday. Keevill served as chief of the Pentagon police agency from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, he served with the Marines in Vietnam and later was the 1st Sergeant in charge of the Virginia State Police station on Columbia Pike. On Sept. 11, 2001, he ran into the still-burning Pentagon several times to search for survivors. Keevill died of natural causes. His funeral is planned for Saturday. [Facebook]

Redevelopment May Close Carpool — Developer Penzance and real estate investor Lionstone are working to close a deal to acquire and redevelop the Carpool property in Ballston. The long-time Arlington bar was previously slated to be redeveloped eight years ago but those plans fell through in part due to the recession. [Washington Business Journal]

Another Landlord Spat for Ray’s Owner — Ray’s Hell Burger Michael Landrum has gotten into another landlord-tenant dispute, this time with the owner of a building in D.C. that’s set to house his new restaurant, tentatively called Steaks in the City. Landrum was kicked out of his Ray’s Hell Burger locations in Rosslyn in 2013 following a dispute with his then-landlord. [Eater]

Christmas Beer Event in Courthouse — Fire Works Pizza (2350 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse will be hosting a tap takeover dubbed the 12 Beers of Christmas tonight. Starting at 5:00 p.m., the restaurant will offer holiday beers from St. Bernardus, Port City, Great Lakes and other brewers. The event is open to the public. [Fire Works Pizza]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber. Disclosure: Fire Works Pizza is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

by Nick Anderson — December 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm 352 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

The past few weeks have been great for Virginia Sour Ale fans: not only were Rodenbach and Rodenbach Grand Cru re-introduced to our state, but variants we’d never seen before became available to us as well.

Now this week the Lambic and Gueuze beers of Brouwerij Boon are finally back after an absence of many years. The last time Boon beers were available here regularly, “Geuze” was more likely to turn up in your daily crossword puzzle than on your local retailer’s shelf, so let’s get a little background so you know why nerds like me are so excited to get these beers again.

In 1680 (OK, deep background), a man named J.B. Claes bought a farm in the Belgian village of Lambeek, located on the banks of the Senne. Claes converted the farm into a distillery and brewery. In 1860 the brewery was sold to Louis Paul and renamed Brasserie de Saint Roche, which brewed Faro and Lambic beers exclusively until it bottled its first Gueuze in 1875. Pierre Troch bought Saint Roche in 1898, but it sold again after the economic crisis of 1927 to Joseph de Vits. Joseph’s son Rene became a well-known producer of Lambic and Gueuze beers, but with no one to pass the brewery on to, a new owner became inevitable. Enter Frank Boon.

Frank Boon (pronounced “Bone”) was a commercial blender of Gueuze with the highest respect for the tradition of spontaneously fermented brewing in Belgium. In 1978, Boon bought the brewery from Rene de Vits, rechristening it Brouwerij Boon. Boon has been a unique (he insists on labeling his beers as “Geuze” rather than “Gueuze”) and fierce advocate of Lambic/Gueuze beers, teaming with three other Lambic producers for a near decade-long struggle to earn them special consumer protection status. This resulted in the establishment of the GTS (“Guaranteed Traditional Specialty) certification, which not only establish production and composition standards for Lambic-style beers, but also created the requirement that beers label “Oude” (‘old-style’) Gueuze or Kriek be 100% spontaneously fermented.

By the time he moved Brouwerij Boon to a new facility in the center of Lambeek in 1986, Frank Boon’s beers had already gained worldwide attention. Legendary beer writer Michael Jackson was an outspoken fan of Boon; in the first episode of his “Beer Hunter” television series, Jackson sits down with Boon at a café in Lambeek to discuss Lambic, Gueuze, and the finer things in life. A 1999 Jackson article on Lambic-style beers held Boon up as an example of one of the most traditional producers, along with the highly sought-after Cantillon (more on them in the near future, hopefully).

Unlike other modern Sour Ale producers whose beers showcase a more intensely acidic style (which many of us enjoy, it should be said), Boon’s beers stand out for their dedication to a classically balanced feel. Next to many American takes on Sour Ale, Boon Oude Geuze can come across as almost sweet, with a focus on the fruity, floral, and funky aromas/flavors imparted by the brewery’s wild yeasts.

The Mariage Parfait (“perfect marriage”) beers are Boon’s highest expressions of Gueuze and Lambic; Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait is almost exclusively three-year old Lambic (five percent young Lambic is blended in to provide fermentable sugars and wild yeasts) with a concentrated fruit character and acidity that aims to match white wine at the dinner table. Boon Oude Kriek Mariage Parfait adds overripe cherries to 1-year old Lambic at 400 grams per liter, with extended aging in small oak barrels (smaller oak exerts a heavier influence on the final beer–as it does in wine–taking some of the tart and acidic ‘edge’ off the beer). Boon claims the aging potential for both Mariage Parfait beers is “at least” 20 years; I’ve not tried any that old myself, but I’d love to.  (more…)

by Nick Anderson — November 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm 317 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

By now, we’re in various stages of recovery from our food comas — and I hope everyone out there had a Happy Thanksgiving.

That means today is the start of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday. I’m not going to go in on the merits of Black Friday; Arrowine is closed on Black Friday, and I’ll let that be our only official commentary on that. Personally, I don’t go out of my way to wade into the madness but sometimes there’s a deal on something you want/need that’s too good to pass up — I get it. What I am going to do is talk about some Black Friday deals that are of interest to beer fans.

There are a lot of great deals out there for homebrewers. Northern Brewer is offering their $90 Essential Starter Kit for free to those who purchase a five-gallon stainless kettle and an IPA kit (with a product code; check it out here). Brooklyn Brew Shop is having a Cyber Week sale, with all kinds of stuff on deep discounts from gear to kits to books. If you’re out and about right now My Local Home Brew Shop in Falls Church has Black Friday discounts and offers for customers through 6:00 p.m.

Special and rare beer releases are occurring on Black Friday more often — as if the day wasn’t insane enough. Paste Magazine has a good list here of 10 such releases, including a regional shout-out to Ashland’s Center Of The Universe Brewing, who will be holding a release party for it’s Shut Up Imperial Stout from noon to 9:00 p.m. today. Shut Up is aged in barrels that were originally used to make Bourbon, and then were bought by a Virginia winemaker to age its Port-style dessert wine in.

Also, look for retailers around the area to be putting out Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. Practically a holiday unto itself among beer geeks, BCBS will be up for sale at various prices and quantities starting tomorrow. Though production on BCBS is higher than ever, supply in our market is actually down dramatically due to distribution now including all 50 states. If you’re looking to try new things or bulk up your cellar, Craft Beer Kings is having a Black Friday Sale featuring limited and rare bottles — worth a look if you don’t mind paying the shipping (which admittedly isn’t all that bad, especially if you stock up in a big way).

No matter what deals you end up taking advantage of this Black Friday (if any), here’s to a healthy, happy holiday season ahead. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. (more…)

by Nick Anderson — November 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm 420 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Thanksgiving is simultaneously the most- and least-forgiving meal of the year for beverage pairing: gauging the sweetness levels of the dishes being served along with the palate preferences of the diners can be the difference between everyone having a rollicking good time, and being berated as a “snob” because everything you have to drink is “too dry” (I’m not reliving any Thanksgiving traumas here, I swear).

Here are some great beer options for every crowd:

For the macro drinkers: Your guests don’t know the difference between Ales and Lagers, and they don’t care. They don’t know from IBU, hop varieties, or yeast strains; they just want to have a couple pops. Nothing wrong with that — none of us would be into beer if we felt any different — but maybe you don’t want to reward the ad budgets of the giant breweries. So stock up on some of the outstanding easy-drinking Lagers currently being made right here in Virginia: Vienna Lager from Devils Backbone; Hardywood’s new year-round German Style Pils; Port City’s Downright Pils; or Blue Mountain’s lush Classic Lager. Shake things up a little with light, crisp Pale Ales like Bravo Four Point from Devils Backbone or The Great Outdoors from Three Brothers (4.4 percent and 4.8 percent ABV, respectively).

Couch-to-table: All of the beers I mentioned above would transition well to the table under the Cardinal Rule of Beverage Pairing — drink what you like, and you’ll never be disappointed. If you’re trying to be more mindful of how your beers will hold up with dinner, look to maltier Ales and Lagers; the touch of sweetness from the malt will play right into Thanksgiving sides. Heritage King’s Mountain Scotch-style Ale, Blue Mountain MacHayden’s Scotch-style Ale, and Mother Earth Dark Cloud Dunkel-style Lager could all work here. English-style Ales work, also: Left Hand Sawtooth Nitro is flavorful but not overpowering, and Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome is a touch hoppy, but still malt-driven and a great choice.

Kolsch! Yes, Kolsch-style Ales are great ‘compromise’ beers by nature; light and easy on the palate like Lagers, but with the fruitier yeast tones of Ales, they make excellent Thanksgiving options. Schlafly is a great choice, but try any of the many Virginia-made versions (Blue Mountain Kolsch 151, Champion Killer Kolsch, Parkway Majestic Mullet Krispy Kolsch) for a complex beer anyone can enjoy.

Don’t be afraid to go big: If you are of a mind to do so, give yourself and your guests a couple options and throw something a bit heavier out there. Doppelbock (Ayinger Celebrator, Lickinghole Creek Creator ‘Hoppelbock’, Troeg’s Trogenator) brings a pleasant combination of warming heat and rich malty flavors. Hardywood Hoplar and Brooklyn Blast! would serve well for the hopheads among us.

Finish strong: Dessert gives us the excuse to break out the big guns, and you can set out some robust Imperial Stouts and Barleywines right alongside the Ruby and Tawny Ports if you like. Founders Breakfast Stout is a classic, and not too overpowering. I always like to open a bottle of The Bruery’s Autumn Maple at Thanksgiving; the sweet potato, maple, molasses, and spice flavors are right at home with dessert. Also just in and worthy of a nightcap are North Coast Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin, Deschutes Mirror Mirror, and the all-new (very limited) Brooklyn Hand & Seal bourbon barrel-aged English-style Barleywine. These are great bottles to break out and share among friends and relatives while enjoying various pies, tarts, and cookies.  (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — November 20, 2014 at 10:00 am 2,683 0

The future location of the Sehkraft Beer Garden and Haus, the Garfield Park ApartmentsThe Arlington County Board has approved a live entertainment permit for the under-construction Clarendon beer garden, from the owners of Westover Beer Garden, without much of a fight.

Sehkraft Beer Garden and Haus, which is planning on opening next spring in the ground floor of 925 N. Garfield Street, was approved for live entertainment at the Board’s Tuesday meeting. However, its request to keep its doors and windows open during live entertainment — while supported by the community — was denied unanimously.

The Westover Beer Garden and its owner, Devin Hicks, had a long, contentious battle with the county a few years ago over Hicks’ desire to have amplified music in its outdoor space. Since 2012, Hicks’ and the county’s relationship has improved — County Board members John Vihstadt and Walter Tejada said they are now proud customers of the restaurant — but the memories of the permit fight were still on some of their minds.

Sehkraft Beer Garden and Haus' logo (Image courtesy Devin Hicks)“There were some issues early on, and I don’t want to gloss over some of the history or the occasional problem now,” Vihstadt said, but added, “I think the beer garden is a huge community asset. It really is the embodiment of what makes Westover great.”

The difference between Westover and Sehkraft, county staff pointed out, is the new brewpub is in the ground floor of an apartment building and has residential developments nearby. Westover Beer Garden is in a business district and is 110 feet from the nearest single family dwelling.

However, the Lyon Park Civic Association supported Sehkraft’s request to keep the windows open so those in outdoor seating could hear the music. William B. Lawson, a real estate lawyer representing Hicks, told the County Board the request was intended to be a trial period.

“We think that an exception is appropriate,” he said. “Devin has put a lot of money into soundproofing and construction techniques that we think will lessen the impacts of the music. If there are any problems we’ll shut the doors.”

Although the Board denied the exception — agreeing with county staff that allowing it “would be inconsistent with current practice” — Board member Libby Garvey recommended Hicks come back in a year when the permit is up for renewal and suggest opening the doors and windows at that time.

“I think we should sort of ease into it a little bit,” Garvey said. “We’re hearing so much from folks in complaints [about noise’ that I think it would be better to ease into it.”

When he spoke to ARLnow.com in July, Hicks said he plans to open the beer garden and brewpub in March 2015.

by Nick Anderson — November 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm 543 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

There were two beer releases beer geeks like me were buzzing about this week. The first was the arrival of Hardywood Gingerbread Stout in Northern Virginia for the first time, followed (about three and a half hours later at Arrowine at least) by the departure of Hardywood Gingerbread Stout. The good news is that more will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks, so if you missed out this week you haven’t missed out completely.

The other big debut this week is the long-awaited arrival of Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery in Virginia. Part of craft beer’s “Class of ’88″, Deschutes has been producing some of the most renowned beers in the U.S. on its way to becoming one of the top 10 craft breweries in the country (number six on the Brewers Association Top 50 list of 2013).

For decades, Virginia beer lovers have been waiting to get a hold of Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and special releases like The Abyss, The Dissident, Mirror Mirror, Hop Henge among so many others. Now, the wait is over — or, at least part of it is.

I say that because initially, year-round beers Black Butte, Mirror Pond, and Fresh Squeezed IPA will be available only on draft, and other Deschutes stalwarts like Obsidian Stout will roll out with time. Don’t expect to see six-packs until spring 2015. As far as bottles go, an earlier-than-expected shipment of Black Butte XXVI (anniversary version of the standard Black Butte with cocoa nibs and aged in Bourbon barrels) and Not The Stoic (a punchy oak-aged Belgian-style Quad) was snapped up by some of the big box stores in the area late last week.

More widely available right now are Zarabanda; a Belgian-style Saison made in collaboration with Chef José Andrés, and the aforementioned Mirror Mirror — a recreation of Deschutes’ first Reserve Series beer. Mirror Mirror is, essentially, a double batch of the Mirror Pond Pale Ale recipe, making for a robust Barleywine that is pretty approachable for something clocking in at 11.2 percent ABV.

It’s a bit of an odd way to enter the market for sure, but we’ve waited a long time for Deschutes to get here — I ain’t complaining. If you’ve never tried any of the Deschutes Brewery beers, give them a try when you see them; there’s a good reason for their success. Until next time!

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. (more…)

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