59°Scattered Clouds

by ARLnow.com — August 21, 2014 at 9:15 am 1,655 0

Crystal City in the distance from the Route 1 bus lanes in Alexandria

Dems Breathe Sigh of Relief After Win — Local Democrats have a bit more of a bounce in their step following Rip Sullivan’s convincing 48th District House of Delegates victory. Some believed that Arlington was becoming more competitive for Republicans, following John Vihstadt’s County Board win in April. Sullivan, however, significantly outperformed Alan Howze, Vihstadt’s Democratic opponent, winning every 48th District precinct. [InsideNova]

Woman Gives Birth on I-66 — A woman gave birth in her car on I-66 in Arlington early this morning. The woman was pulled over onto the shoulder of the eastbound lanes near Washington Blvd when the baby was delivered. Emergency personnel arrived after the delivery and transported mother and baby to the hospital. [Washington Post]

Shirlington Oktoberfest Date Set — Capitol City Brewing has set the date of its annual Oktoberfest celebration in Shirlington, which is billed as the largest Oktoberfest beer festival in Northern Virginia. The street festival, featuring 65+ breweries and German food and music, is set for Saturday, Oct. 4. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]

Falls Church Man Indicted for Sex Trafficking — A Falls Church man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for “engaging in the sex trafficking of a child and transporting a minor across state lines for prostitution.” Alan Cooley, 34, allegedly used force and threats to force a 17-year-old runaway to perform sex acts for money. [U.S. Justice Department]

by Ethan Rothstein — August 15, 2014 at 9:45 pm 421 0

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

Much like winemakers, chefs, and cheesemakers, there’s a strong conservation streak that runs through brewers.

GreenBiz recently ran a good piece illustrating the efforts that breweries of all sizes are making to ensure they are as sustainable as possible. It’s smart business sense to save energy to keep costs down, of course, but that’s not the sole motivation at play with beer. At the heart of good beer is the quality of its ingredients: the hops, grains, yeasts, and, most of all, the water used to create it.

Water is, and always has been, the single most important factor in brewing. Elements found in local water supplies have influenced the styles of beer made in various locations all over the world (perhaps most famously in Munich, where the hardness of the water led to the development of less hoppy Lagers).

So what happens when a brewery’s water supply starts to dry up? Breweries in California are starting to find out, as a three-year drought has begun to choke brewery growth predictions and has many looking for new locations (and water supplies) to use in their production.

The L.A. Times reported at the end of July that Bear Republic Brewing Company (Racer 5, Red Rocket Ale, Hop Rod Rye) has cut its expected growth rate from 35 percent to 15 percent this year because of the shortage of water from its source, the Russian River. Bear Republic has facilitated the creation of two new wells, but the mineral content of well water requires a filtration system to ensure the consistency of the final product; an additional expense to the brewery.

Bear Republic hasn’t been alone in feeling the effects of California’s water woes: MillerCoors and AB/InBev have both taken steps to reduce their water consumption over the past few years, especially at their California facilities. The L.A. Times article also reported that Lagunitas has cut its water consumption by 10 percent over the past two years, and has started incorporating well water into its production.

Lagunitas executives told the Times that they’re concerned the state may require them to switch to well water completely, which may have an impact on beers produced there in the future (though the brewery has already installed a filtration system for the well water it currently uses). Even before the most recent drought concerns, Bear Republic was worried that its 8 million gallon per year water use cap would negatively impact growth.

So what’s a West Coast brewery to do? If you’ve been following the beer industry over the past few years, you’ve already seen the answer in action: go East. Bear Republic is reportedly exploring the options breweries like Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and (soon) Stone have already enacted and opening a brewery on the East Coast (Lagunitas stands out by having opened their second location in Chicago).

The influx of breweries in the area of Asheville, N.C., to take advantage of the Smoky Mountains’ water supply is inspiring others to find new water sources of their own. Whether this leads to a future where breweries play a game of “musical chairs,” jumping from one available water supply to the next, remains to be seen. In the meantime, California breweries are left in the same position as many Golden State residents–praying for rain.

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 at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. 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 — August 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm 508 0

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

We’re into the first week of August, which of course means that fall seasonal beer releases are flooding the market whether we’re ready for them or not. After turning away a handful of Pumpkin Ales that hit the market in July, I’m giving in and taking some now (by the time this column runs, we should be getting our first 25 cases of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale at Arrowine, along with Pumpkin beers from AleWerks, Evolution, and Terrapin — not to mention Great Lakes’ Oktoberfest).

Autumn is often citied as the favorite season for beer fans, but over the past few years I’ve been increasingly won over by summer beers. Summer beach hangouts, cookouts, parties, and other get-togethers necessitate the light, flavorful character of Summer Ales, which are built to refresh and generally lower in ABV percentage. Yes, fall beers may be arriving early, but there are still some great summer beers for folks like me looking to hold onto the season just a little bit longer. Here are some summer seasonals that haven’t quite wrapped up their runs yet:

Bell’s Oberon: The venerable American Wheat Ale is still available in bottles and 16oz tallboy cans. Expect to see Oberon on shelves well into September, crossing over with Bell’s next seasonal beer, Best Brown Ale.

Three Brothers Drift: Unless I find a good excuse, don’t expect me to be writing about the Harrisonburg brewery’s summer Pale Session Ale again until my Best Beers of 2014 column at the end of the year. The second (and final) canning run of this 5 percent ABV treat is just hitting in NoVA now, so it’ll be available for a little while longer, though considering how much of it we’re going through at Arrowine, not for that much longer. Drift will return next summer for a longer production run; in the meantime, if you haven’t tried it yet, do so.

Anderson Valley The Kimmie, The Yink, And The Holy Gose: I keep expecting this to be gone every week when I try to order more, but no — there’s still a last little bit around. Not that I’m in any hurry to sell through it: at 4.2 percent ABV, with a hint of sourness not unlike the fabled Westbrook Gose that we can’t get in Virginia, Anderson Valley’s The Holy Gose has been one of my favorite beers this summer.

Sixpoint RAD: Radler — essentially a version of Shandy developed for bicyclists (the word radler translates as “cyclist”) in German-speaking countries by mixing beer and soda–isn’t for everyone, but I love it so I was intrigued when Brooklyn’s Sixpoint brewery announced they were going to put a version of its own on the market. Using a fruit juice blend instead of a soda, RAD is a unique take on a distinct style; one I appreciated as an alternative to a Light Lager or sugary soda.

21st Amendment Hell Or High Watermelon: I was pleasantly surprised this week to find out another run of Hell Or High Watermelon will be arriving soon (likely within the next week or two). With its light, clean, fresh mouthfeel, Hell Or High Watermelon would make for a great summer beer even without the fruit added. In this case, though, the fruit is present without being overbearing or cloying. Hell Or High Watermelon becomes more popular every year, with good reason. (more…)

by Nick Anderson — August 1, 2014 at 2:30 pm 554 0

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

One of my favorite aspects of the “craft beer movement” has always been the “anything goes” attitude that permeates through so much of it. For all of the recipes that hew close to tradition, at the end of the day the cardinal rule of beer amounts to “Is it good? Then shut up and drink it.”

I say that so that you know for certain that I am not coming from the perspective of a purist over the new couple of paragraphs as I explain why breweries should use or not use certain words on their labels, or at least take those words into greater consideration.

While I’m not a purist when it comes to beer, I am a bit of a zealot when it comes to words. Words mean things; they have power, and more than a couple of times this year I’ve seen words alter the expectations and experiences people have had with beers.

The most prominent example of this is likely the “Session IPA” phenomenon. Using those words in tandem raises expectations of IPA drinkers, giving them an excuse not to enjoy them (“It’s not an IPA, it’s only ___ percent ABV, and it’s not that hoppy…”) while also implying somehow that Session Ale is somehow “lesser;” not worthwhile. “Session Pale Ales” or “Hoppy Session Ales” would be more accurate, but slapping “IPA” on a label makes a beer easier to sell — or so they say. Marketing wins again, I guess.

Other times, a beer can completely miss its potential audience because of how it’s presented. Twice this year alone, I’ve tried beers labeled as “Sour” (one with the word in its name) that seemed to “miss” with beer fans for different reasons. In one case, the beer was much more a Wild Ale, with a heavy focus on the funky, fruity Brettanomyces wild yeast characteristics. Labeled a “Wild Ale”, that beer would have not only been sought out by fans of Brett beers, but not made promises to Sour fans that it couldn’t keep.

In the case of the second beer, while it was indeed a Sour Ale, it was one where the acidity was muted for the sake of harmony with other elements of the beer (barrel-aging, specifically). Like it or not, in today’s beer environment the word “Sour” carries expectations of highly tart, acidic beers — and with the word “Sour” in its name, some letdown was inevitable.

Combine a slightly different name with a bit of explanation on the label and in your press materials, and suddenly you have a beer that is interesting not only to Sour Ale fans (who now can be pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed something so subtly sour) but fans of barrel-aged beers in general, who might have found a new interest thanks to the intriguing bit of acidity racing through the beer.

As annoying as it can be to think about, when you name a beer or put a descriptor on its label, you are quite literally “branding” it. It’s one thing to have aspirations of filling a market niche — or, in the most rare cases, creating one — but you cannot turn a beer into something it’s not through mere insistence. Care must be taken to avoid watchwords that create expectations; there are so many beers out there now — there’s no excuse for shooting yourself in the foot by creating opportunities for people to dismiss your product.

If you’re embracing those watchwords? Well, the beer better damn well live up to the expectations of the devotees of that specific style. Remember, words mean things; don’t just throw them out there.

Enough about that, let’s get to the fun stuff:

What I’ve Been Drinking This Week

It’s been a while, but I haven’t been taking time away from trying new things — I’ve just been pressed for time to take notes on them. Here are the impressions I’ve gotten from a couple of recent releases:  (more…)

by ARLnow.com — July 30, 2014 at 9:30 am 2,011 0

Il Radicchio on Clarendon Blvd

‘Republican’ Not Found on GOP Candidate’s Signs — Republican candidate Dave Foster, who’s running to represent the 48th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, has a notable addition and omission on his campaign signs. Foster’s signs include a union label, but do not include the word “Republican.” Foster will face Democrat Rip Sullivan in a special election on Aug. 19. [InsideNova]

Arlington Transportation ‘What Ifs’ — Three shelved transportation proposals could have had a big impact on Arlington over the past 50 years. One would have seen a new 22-mile Blue Line built through Arlington, under the Potomac via a new tunnel, to Georgetown and eventually to RFK stadium. Another would have converted Route 1 through Crystal City to “Interstate 595.” A third would have built a new bridge from Spout Run Parkway to Georgetown. [Washington Post]

Clarendon ‘Good Morning Guy’ Profiled — Robert Gordon, the Express newspaper distributor who excitedly wishes Metrorail commuters in Clarendon a good morning on weekdays, says his is “the best job I can ever have in the world.” [WJLA]

Blues and Brews in Crystal City TonightClarence “Bluesman” Turner is scheduled to perform in Crystal City tonight for the monthly summer “Blues and Brews” concert. The event, in the courtyard of 2121 Crystal Drive, also features a craft beer garden. [Crystal City]

Courthouse Square Survey — Arlington County is inviting the public to weigh in on the latest design concepts for the Envision Courthouse Square project. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4

by Nick Anderson — July 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm 734 0

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

The big news for beer fans this week is the arrival of a very special, highly anticipated release: Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America 12-packs. Featuring one bottle (or can) each of collaborations between the California craft beer icon and 12 of the most renowned brewers in America, the Beer Camp 12-packs are only one part of a massive celebration of American beer.

Sierra is taking the Beer Camp on the road with a nationwide Beer Camp Across America tour, with seven stops in various regions of the country offering a day of live music, food, and dozens of different breweries sampling their wares at each stop (Note: if you’d like to try to make it by one of the Beer Camp stops, the last two are in Philadelphia Aug. 2 and in Mills River, N.C. — home to the new East Coast Sierra Nevada brewery — on Aug. 3).

In an April press release, Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman explained the rationale behind Beer Camp Across America: “We’re about to open a second brewery in North Carolina, and while that’s exciting for us, it’s an even greater reason to celebrate the future of craft brewers everywhere.”

It’s an impressive undertaking, and all with the aim of promoting and helping the beer industry overall: the same Sierra press release revealed that “a portion of proceeds from the festivals will go to brewers guilds or other nonprofits in the host state of each festival, while a portion of proceeds from the sales of the 12-pack will go to hop and barley research,” a worthwhile cause as the rapidly increasing number of commercial breweries puts a strain on both commodities.

The Beer Camp 12-packs have been popping up and selling out at retailers all over NoVA this week — we’ll only be receiving a handful at Arrowine, probably around the time this column runs, and we’re lucky to be getting even that — so what’s the fuss all about?

Put bluntly this is a 12-pack unlike any that has come before, featuring new collaboration recipes from Sierra along with a murderer’s row of the American craft brewing scene: Allagash, Asheville Brewer’s Alliance (represented here by John Stuart of Green Man and Luke Dickenson of Wicked Weed), Ballast Point, Bell’s, Cigar City, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Oskar Blues, Russian River, 3 Floyds, and Victory.

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by Nick Anderson — July 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm 402 0

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

I’m not going to lie to you: the beer world is a little quiet this week. That’s okay — I don’t need everything to be going at a breakneck pace all the time, and it gives me a chance to write a column I’ve been wanting to get to for a while. There’s a good amount of time left in the summer, and many of us are still gearing up for our summer vacations. Here’s a list of beer-related books to read if you find yourself with some free time this season:

Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide: All of The Beer Hunter’s books are worth reading – Ultimate Beer; Great Beers of Belgium; Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion – but the Great Beer Guide is my personal favorite. Jackson reviews 500 classic beers in the Great Beer Guide, pulling off the incredibly difficult trick of translating sensual perceptions (sights, aromas, flavors) concisely and clearly, in language anyone can relate to.

The Oxford Companion to Beer: Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery edited this nearly 1,000-page tome than includes sections on the history of beer, styles, food pairing, culture, and more. The Oxford Companion is a fantastic reference/time sink, with answers to nearly every beer-related question you can think of. Oliver’s own The Brewmaster’s Table is also highly recommended; a guide to the art of pairing beer with food, it’s a manifesto for the inclusion of beer among the ‘noble’ beverages of the world.

The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance: What else could the story of Stone Brewing Company be called? Co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner along with freelance food/drink writer Randy Clements tell the history of one of America’s most renowned (and occasionally controversial) craft breweries. Not only does the book go into the philosophy behind Stone, but it gives valuable insight on what it’s like to start a brewery, and includes recipes for some of its beers and dishes featured at Stone’s World Bistro and Gardens. For a deeper look at the craft beer business, check out The Brewer’s Apprentice, by Koch and Matt Allyn, which offers some tips on brewing technique and ingredient information in candid, interview-style section with industry luminaries like Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo, Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman, and many more.

Brewing Up a Business: The first time I met Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione was at a beer dinner around the time Brewing Up a Business was released. If you’re a fan of Dogfish Head or interested in what drives its business approach, this is a must-read. As much an autobiography of Calagione as it is a biography of his brewery, Brewing Up a Business  is an engaging read that is also an unexpectedly open and candid mission statement of sorts.

The Craft Beer Revolution: A recent release that I’m about to pick up myself is The Craft Beer Revolution by former AP reporter and Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy. Jeff Alworth at Beervana reviewed the book this week, and it sounds like a fascinating look behind the scenes of the industry as craft beer came to prominence. In particular, Alworth calls the second half of Hindy’s book “a revelation. Here Hindy starts talking about the inside of craft brewing, the blood-and-guts reality that has been largely airbrushed out of the canon.  He treats the flood of money in the mid-90s with more details and insight than I’ve seen anywhere.  It’s a blend of big-picture trend analysis and anecdotes that reveal the more human aspects of that time.”

There are hundreds upon hundreds of beer books out there: do you all have any favorites? 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 at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm 670 0

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

While cleaning out some stuff around the house last weekend, I found an old price catalog from one of my distributor partners from 2005.

In a blog post earlier this week, I had some fun going through it and seeing what was/wasn’t available at the time (no Bell’s or Founders, for example), but in this space this week I wanted to go in a different direction. With plenty of concern over rising hop prices and the impact they’ll eventually have on the cost of beer, and with the discussion of beer pricing in general ongoing, I thought it might be fun to compare 2005 beer prices to where they are today.

Now, I’m not about to go talking about how much a distributor charged or charges for something: what we’ll do today is compare by what I would charge. The results were interesting in ways I wasn’t quite expecting. Sure, some beers have notably jumped in price: in the 750mL format I prefer, Delirium Tremens has gone from $7.99 to $11.99 per bottle. Most increases are shockingly mild, however–Bear Republic’s 22oz bottles (there was no six-pack production in 2005) have only gone up a dollar, from $4.99 each to $5.99 now. Spread out over nearly ten years that’s actually quite impressive, especially for an industry comprised mainly of small businesses.

What really surprised me was how many examples I found of breweries whose prices have held, or in some cases have even gone down thanks to distributor quantity-deal pricing that wasn’t possible when supplies were more limited. Mainstay beers like Hofbrau Lager and Weissbier remain in the price range to hit shelves at $10.99, but prices of $9.99 or lower are possible with the right number of cases ordered. In the case of Anderson Valley’s six-packs — the Solstice seasonal beers to be specific — while the ‘frontline’ price has increased, it hasn’t gone up so much that the retail price has had to move up from $11.99.

Quantity deals on the Solstice beers helps keep it in its price point, as does the fact that the now-available cans cost less at wholesale than the bottles do. Lagunitas six-packs have held steady at frontline, but quantity deals open up the possibility of retail pricing at $9.99 or even $8.99 per six-pack instead of $10.99 or $11.99.

The trend seems to be moderate price increasing on six-packs, while 22oz or 750mL bottles have gone up more significantly. Bucking that trend is Stone, whose six-packs are notably more expensive now than in 2005, while its 22oz bottles have increased only a little bit (bear in mind, this is before special releases like Enjoy By, RuinTen, the Stochasticity Project Series and others that are more expensive than the core Stone lineup).

Even when a brewery’s lineup has jumped in price overall, today production levels are such that distributors will offer retailers deals to get pricing close to 2005 levels, if not outright matching them — provided the retailer is big enough to take on 50/75/100 cases of a single brewery’s beers at a time.

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by Ethan Rothstein — July 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm 5,872 0

The second location of the Westover Beer Garden, expected to open near Clarendon in March 2015, is beginning to take shape.

The establishment will be called the Sehkraft Beer Garden and Haus, a play on words of “sehkraft,” which is German for vision or eyesight, but pronounced “say craft,” owner Devin Hicks said. The brewpub, at 925 N. Garfield Street, expects have a 10-barrel system to brew beer in-house, five taps straight from the tanks to the bar, five taps for house-made kegged beers and collaborations with other breweries, and 30 “guest” beer taps.

“We’ll do growler fills, which should be a big hit,” Hicks told ARLnow.com this morning. “Right now we’re working on getting some of our beers to be distributed so we can send them to various bars and restaurants. It’s legal in Virginia, but Arlington zoning has deemed it to not be permissible within Arlington County. We’re looking into fixing that with our lawyers that helped us with the county in Westover.”

The head brewer for Sehkraft Brewing will be John Peters, who most recently was the lead brewer for Lost Rhino in Ashburn. Peters worked with Hicks for a collaboration beer – a triple IPA with 150 bitterness units and 10.1 percent alcohol by volume – in 2012. Hicks said he already is planning collaborations with established West Coast breweries Stone Brewing and Sierra Nevada.

In addition, head chef Jay Jenks, currently the head chef at Westover Beer Garden, will be in charge of Sehkraft’s kitchen. The 10,000-square foot space will have a butcher shop, a small market, and seating for 210 on the inside and 122 in the outdoor beer garden. Hicks said he will soon be applying for a live music permit, and is in the application process for ABC permits.

“This is desired and deserved for Arlingtonians,” Hicks said. “It’s going to be really exciting for everybody. We’re going to have great beers, a lot of guest brewers from notable brewers across the country… The importance of beer gardens in Europe is pretty huge. It’s always been a social gathering spot for drinking their local beers, and we want to bring an American version of that.”

by Nick Anderson — July 4, 2014 at 9:00 am 473 0

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

What else did you think I’d be writing about this week? The Independence Day holiday falls on a Friday this year; it’s like a perfect storm of reasons to celebrate, and so we shall. Pool parties, cookouts, World Cup watching parties, you name it — there is reason after reason this weekend to crack open some great American beers.

Here are some of the brews that will be in my cooler this Fourth, and some recommendations for great summer party beers:

Three Brothers Drift: Not only is this my favorite new Session Pale (though at 5 percent ABV, it’s not technically a Session Ale), but it may be my favorite new beer of the summer. An abundance of Citra hops makes for a boldly flavored Pale Ale that is also refreshing; seemingly “evaporating” on the palate as my friend at their distributor says. Each swig of Drift invites you to the next, and you’re happy to oblige. It’s delicious, 5 percent, and comes in tallboy cans — I love this beer.

Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager: This is the beer to keep around for those friends of yours who say they just want a “beer.” Anyone can pop open a can of Gold Leaf and enjoy it. A light, easy-going malt profile and just enough hops to keep things crisp make Gold Leaf a great option for big crowds who usually drink more “mainstream” beers.

Abita Strawberry Lager: Don’t look at me like that. My love for Strawberry Lager is well-documented, so of course I’ll have some on-hand for the holiday. Bright in feel, with a bittersweet fruit note that never feels artificial or cloying, Abita Strawberry Lager is a mainstay in my fridge for as long as it’s available every year, and especially this Fourth of July.

Sixpoint Rad: This new seasonal from Sixpoint keeps winning me over a little more with each can I open. A riff on Radler, a blend of soda and beer popular in German-speaking countries and beyond, Rad blends a proprietary fruit juice blend rather than a sweeter soda, with interesting results. While my beloved Stiegl Grapefruit Radler is sweeter and easier to plow through, Rad has a tinge of mouth-puckering grapefruity acidity that defines the beer’s finish. Mandarin orange and peach notes dance on the palate, but Rad never loses touch with its acidity. At 3.2 percent ABV, Rad is a great option for a go-to sipper if you’re going to be outside for long stretches. You can also make cool little mimosa-type drinks with it if you have some sparkling wine around.

Hardywood Capital Trail Pale Ale: If you like your Pale Ales on the earthier, hoppier side, this beer is for you. I’ve developed a mild obsession with Capital Trail Pale since its release near the end of April. It’s a perfect (to me) take on the modern American Pale Ale: lots of dry-hopping gives it a touch of resinous, piney character but not so much that you think it might as well be an IPA. Great beer.

Port City Brewing Downright Pils/Derecho Common: No matter which version of Port City’s Pilsner you opt for, you’ve got a great summer beer on your hands. I personally lean toward Downright myself, but Derecho has a smoothness on the palate and a fullness to its hop character that many prefer, and it is a delightful seasonal release. (more…)

by Nick Anderson — June 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm 424 0

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

(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) I’ve had a thought festering in my head for some time now, but hadn’t been able to crystallize it until a conversation I had with my wife recently. We were talking about Vintage Ads; a repository for images and videos of classic advertisements from yesteryear. My favorite posts on Vintage Ads are often the food-related ones, which tell the tale of American food appreciation throughout the 20th Century.

My wife was pointing out how in the span of a few decades, Americans went from Hot Buttered Cheerios, Squirrel-in-Cider, gelatin-molded veg-all “pie-plate salads,” Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, and frosted ham to a nation of organic, biodynamic, locavore, gluten-free, non-GMO, traditionally-styled/fusion/niche cuisine-craving foodies. That’s when the thought finally came together in my head, as we both realized that beer has taken a very similar path…

We are all Beer Geeks now.

Follow me for a moment: A media star rises, suddenly opening the eyes of an American audience to the history, culture and possibility of their consumables. Most importantly, Americans learn that doing it themselves is easier than they think — and it sparks a revolution. Other celebrities follow, and within a couple of decades an entire industry comes alive, spurred on by those who were inspired by that first exposure, and an American public newly awakened and curious about what it’s been missing out on.

Of course I’m thinking of Julia Child, but I could also be writing about the late beer writer Michael Jackson. In the wake of The French Chef, America discovered more culinary guides: Jacques Pepin, Graham Kerr, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain… hell, throw in Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, and Martha Stewart — it’s a big tent, after all, with room for many tastes and interests. Millions were inspired to start cooking for themselves at home; a small percentage of those went on to careers in the restaurant/food industry. Just like that, you have a revolution in food culture in the United States.

Jackson brought history, context, and a nobility to beer that largely had not been considered by America before him. With President Carter’s passage of HR 1337 in 1978, Americans began making their own beer in greater numbers than ever before; within a few short years, many of the pioneering craft breweries were already up-and-running: names like Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and Bell’s began to stake out territory for a fledgling industry still seen as a curiosity by much of the country.

Their work found an audience thirsty for world-class American beer. One generation of craft brewers inspired the next to not only push the envelope in terms of flavor, but in the ambitions they had for the reach of their breweries and corporate philosophies.

For all the trends and fads, the overall arc of American interest in food has been a continually rising one. The “foodie” phenomenon has grown to the point where now fast food restaurants are offering “healthy” alternatives and are racing to out-do each other with artisanal-sounding ingredients. Neighborhood grocery stores now stock organic, sustainable, gluten-free items — stuff you had to search far and wide for 10-15 years ago. You can buy organic eggs at the 7-Eleven on Washington Blvd in Arlington now. The foodies have won. There’s no going back; this is the new normal. (more…)

by Nick Anderson — June 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm 645 0

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

“We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory-maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.”

So sayeth the back label of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. For many of us beer geeks, those words were formative as we began to delve into the world of craft beer. They were a rallying cry; a call to arms against the ‘Big Beer’ industry. The debate over what a ‘craft’ brewery is and when a brewery grows beyond ‘craft’ status has always been vigorous, but for many, television ad campaigns have always been a line of demarcation.

That boundary may soon be put to the test. It’s been nearly twenty years since Arrogant Bastard’s debut, and while a screed like the one on its back label may satisfy the aging punk in all of us, there’s no denying how large and competitive the craft beer industry is now. For some breweries, advertising — specifically television advertising — is going to come into play as a method for reaching new audiences as their distribution grows, while for others it may be seen as a way to cut through the din of an increasingly cluttered marketplace.

A recent article on Advertising Age reported on the recent debut of a campaign by the Craft Brew Alliance on behalf of one of its breweries, Kona Brewing Company. With Anheuser-Busch/InBev owning nearly 1/3 of the Craft Brew Alliance, the CBA’s breweries benefit from access to the InBev distribution network (which is why you see Kona, Redhook, and Widmer beers everywhere now, FYI).

With tasty, approachable recipes like its Wailua Wheat Ale and Longboard Lager, Kona is being positioned by the CBA as a gateway brand; one that can draw in more casual drinkers and those just becoming aware of craft beer. To that end, Kona is now available in 39 states on the mainland in addition to its native Hawaii.

In light of such an ambitious expansion of its potential audience, it makes sense for CBA to take to the airwaves to promote Kona. With the ABI investment in CBA, most craft beer fans don’t consider Kona to be a ‘craft’ beer anyway at this point — so it’s not like there’s any silly sense of ‘street cred’ to lose there.

It’s when beloved craft beers and independents step into the ad game that things start to get more contentious. The best example of this is the Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams, who have been running national television ad campaigns for years. Sam Adams can actually be used in any number of Bugs & Daffy-style “Duck Season/Rabbit Season” arguments over what a ‘craft brewery’ is or isn’t, but the TV ads have long been a point of contention.

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by Nick Anderson — June 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm 839 0

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

Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Company has been very publicly searching for a location on the East Coast to open a second brewery this year, and it appears that a final decision may be coming soon.

The earliest speculation had Stone settling in Horry County, S.C. near Myrtle Beach; the state legislature even proposed a bill to make South Carolina a more attractive option for breweries in general, which quickly became known as the “Stone Bill.” That bill was signed into law last week by Gov. Nikki Haley, and it seemed like Stone Brewing to South Carolina was a done deal.

This week, however, brought news of a list of “finalists;” locations on Stone’s shortlist for its new facility, along with the 300-plus jobs and  $20-30 million investment it will bring. Horry County was out, although Greenville remains on the list to keep South Carolina’s hopes alive.

We talked about the growing craft beer business in North Carolina’s Triangle region a couple of weeks ago; Greensboro is on Stone’s shortlist, with some reports mentioning Charlotte as well. Philadelphia and Cincinnati have appeared seemingly from nowhere, and then there’s Virginia: Richmond and Norfolk have both emerged as potential destinations for Stone.

The future Stone East Coast would be more than a brewery; like the World Bistro and Gardens at its original North County San Diego location, the new Stone facility would house a brewery, a packaging/distribution center, restaurant, and retail location. Richmond is attractive as a city with a long brewing history, not to mention a hotbed of up-and-coming craft breweries and restaurants.

This isn’t the first time a big-name craft brewery has seriously considered opening a location in Virginia: Sierra Nevada was seriously considering Roanoke before settling in the area of Asheville, N.C. in early 2012 (this is a great rundown of how close Sierra came to deciding on Roanoke).

Virginia’s native craft breweries are making some national noise, and that attention is opening the eyes of the industry to our state’s potential. Green Flash Brewing Company is working to get its Virginia Beach location open in 2015 — might Stone be the next San Diego craft brewer to set up shop in Virginia?

Don’t go putting any money on this on my account, but I’m going to guess “yes.” Stone President and Brewmaster Steve Wagner reportedly has said that Norfolk’s port access is intriguing, and with Stone ready to sign paperwork on the European brewery it has sought for years now (supposedly outside of Berlin, Germany according to Stone COO Patrick Tiernan) that’s going to make Norfolk very attractive. Embedding itself in the emerging Richmond craft beer scene also seems like an awfully good fit to me, too. Look for a final decision to possibly come as soon as next month.

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 at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. 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 — June 6, 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).

Just a couple months ago, we looked at how breweries using different formats, packaging, etc. for their beer was re-shaping the beer aisles of grocery stores and retailers everywhere. One of the more notable aspects of this experimentation to me is the rise of the variety pack.

Variety packs used to be largely a method by which breweries would introduce themselves to new customers; a relatively straight-forward sampling of core beers from which people could pick out a favorite. Only over the past couple of years have craft brewers come around to the idea that variety packs could be used as a way to get limited-release beers to the public, while also tapping into potential sale increases not unlike those for seasonal releases.

Unsurprisingly, craft breweries are coming up with new themes and variety pack formats all the time. He’Brew has just recently released its Hops In He’Brew 12-pack featuring some of its best-known, hopped-up Ales along with an exclusive hoppy Lager, but I’m partial to the Holiday Packs – complete with eight beers and candles for you to make your own “beer Menorah” with during Chanukah.

Just this week, Stone Brewing Company sent its special Mixed four-packs to Virginia. The Stone Mixed Pack features four of its 22-ounce bomber bottles bundled together; out of the bunch only one (Imperial Russian Stout) is a special release, but the pricing of the Mixed Pack is very attractive.

When it comes to variety/sampler packs though, the 12-pack still reigns supreme. Devils Backbone released their Adventure Packs this year, which will rotate out some previous draft-only and one-off brews every few months or so along with two of their hit year-round offerings. Hitting stores in Virginia this week is Victory Brewing’s Summer Variety 12-pack, which will include their popular Summer Love and Whirlwind Wit seasonals along with two previously draft-only beers from their Hop Ticket Series.

Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp 12-pack debuted in 2008, with participants from the restaurant, retail, and distribution sides of the business going to Sierra’s Chico, Calif., brewery to develop recipes with them. The 2014 edition of the Beer Camp 12-pack take the concept to another level: Sierra is teaming with a dozen of the biggest and most influential craft breweries in the U.S. to create all-new recipes in celebration of its new brewery opening near Asheville, N.C. Look for Beer Camp 2014 to arrive later this summer.

As craft breweries proliferate and retail space gets more and more crowded, look for variety packs to be used more often. What are some of your favorites?

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 at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. 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 — May 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm 503 0

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

Looking for a quick read about craft beer this week (besides this column right here)? Check out this retrospective on Founder’s KBS; it’s almost a mini-history of how quickly “big beers” and bourbon barrel-aged everything became widely popular seemingly overnight.

The article caught my eye not only because seeing the letters “KBS” paralyzes me with fear (retail quirk), but because I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of the proliferation of barrel-aged beers lately. I’m the first to admit that bourbon barrel-aged beers aren’t for everyone, and for those of us that enjoy them not every one that’s made is good.

There are a lot of imbalanced bourbon barrel beers out there, whether by virtue of being too “hot” (boozy, astringent to the point of unpleasantness), too sweet, or the result of beer styles being applied to barrels that perhaps shouldn’t have been. Personally, I still think after all these years that when bourbon barrel-aging works, it’s great. What I’ve been curious to see is a greater diversity of barrels being used for aging beer, and now we’re starting to see that happen.

Wine barrels seem like a logical next step to me, and more breweries are beginning to experiment with them. Victory has found success with Red Thunder (their Baltic Thunder Porter aged in red wine barrels) and White Monkey (Golden Monkey Tripel in white wine barrels), and Allagash has aged its Interlude in red wine barrels for years, making for an elegant Belgian-style Ale with the vinous notes you’d expect.

Not all experiments work out, of course; I think breweries looking to use wine barrels either should have a knowledgeable “wine guy” on staff or one who can consult them in barrel selection. It’s too easy to overlook elements like Brettanomyces that are widely used and accepted in beer but considered a flaw in wine.

Brett can make some beers more interesting, but if you’re building a wine barrel aged beer for cellaring the wild yeast can sap the beverage of sweet or fruity notes prematurely. Scaldis Prestige de Nuits is a great example; it’s a wonderful Belgian Quadrupel aged in barrels bought by the brewmaster at the Hospice de Nuits St. George. With the barrels emptied and bottled back at the brewery, the Prestige was added to the freshly emptied barrels. The combination is magic.

Belgian brewery Hof Ten Dormaal has been trying out alternative wine/spirits barrels with its Barrel Aged Series. Dormaal has spent the past couple of years taking its outstanding Blond and Dark Ales and putting them in everything from Armagnac barrels to Port, Madeira, Sherry, Brandy, and Grappa barrels. They’ve even sourced Scotch barrels from Ardbeg and Port Charlotte. (more…)

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