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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 4, 2014 at 8:30 am | 764 views | No Comments

Workers affix signage to the door of the soon-to-open Heavy Seas Alehouse in Rosslyn

Resolution Honors Arlington’s First Female Judge — The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a resolution honoring Eleanor Spence Dobson, Arlington’s first female judge. Dobson served in the General District Court from 1982 to 1997. She passed away on September 18, 2013. The resolution honoring Dobson was sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (D). Another Hope-sponsored resolution, honoring the late Arlington civic activist Robert Atkins, is scheduled to come to the House floor on Friday. [Sun Gazette]

Chick-fil-A ‘Date Knight’ Returns — Missed your chance to go on a medieval-themed fast food date with your mom last year? Good news: Chick-fil-A is once again holding its Mother-Son Date Knight at Ballston Common Mall (4238 Wilson Blvd). The food court eatery is one of the participating Chick-fil-A locations nationwide that are hosting the whimsical event. As of last night there were still a dozen reservations available for the event, which is being held the evening of Monday, Feb. 10. The Crystal City Chick-fil-A location has already sold out of its Date Knight reservations. [Chick-fil-A]

Starr Hill Brewing Tasting Tonight — Virginia brewery Starr Hill will be holding a complimentary tasting tonight. The event is scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Copperwood Tavern (4021 Campbell Ave). Reservations are required. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]

Your Beermonger: SAVOR 2014, Back in DC with a Great Lineup

by ARLnow.com | January 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 747 views | No Comments

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

After a one-year detour to New York, the Brewer’s Association’s SAVOR craft beer festival is back in the District for 2014. For beer geeks like me and many others planning to attend, waiting for the list of participating breweries is becoming a bit of an occasion.

While “supporting” partners and breweries are mostly known about ahead of time, the reveal of the lottery results determining who will fill out the 76-brewery lineup has become something of a beer holiday. This year’s SAVOR attendees were announced early this week, showcasing a huge amount of change and potentially a coming-out party for several states — including Virginia.

65 percent of attending breweries at this year’s SAVOR are different than those at the 2012 event, when it was last held in DC; compared to last year’s event in New York, that number rises to 70 percent. Atlas Brew Works and Bluejacket will represent DC, while Evolution, Flying Dog, and Heavy Seas fly the banner for Maryland.

Virginia is set to make waves at SAVOR 2014, however: five Virginia breweries will be attending and showing off their beers—Alexandria’s Port City; Richmond’s Strangeways and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; Lickinghole Creek from Goochland (I swear I’m not making any of that up — have fun, ARLnow commenters); and Devils Backbone of Lexington. The tremendous growth of Virginia breweries could start to make national waves as brewers, buyers, and press from across the country take the opportunity to experience them at SAVOR.

Beyond our local representatives, the list of SAVOR attendees is full of breweries whose wares I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Among them are Funkwerks of Fort Collins, Colo.; Spokane, Wash.’s No-Li Brewhouse; Kuhnhenn Brewing of Warren, Mich.; and Great Raft Brewing from Shreveport, La., co-founded by DC Beer Curmudgeon Emeritus Andrew Nations along with his wife Lindsay (proud of you guys!).

Who else am I’m going to make sure to visit at SAVOR this year? Well, the Bell’s table is always worth waiting for, as is Dogfish Head’s. I’m really excited to see Port Brewing back at SAVOR and I may make a beeline for the Surly table as soon as I get inside — everything I’ve tried of theirs over the past year or two as been great. Are you planning to attend? If so, which breweries are you looking forward to most? Let’s hear about them in the comments. Before that, though….

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Heavy Seas Targeting Mid-February Opening in Rosslyn

by Ethan Rothstein | January 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 2,356 views | No Comments

Heavy Seas Alehouse in RosslynHeavy Seas Alehouse, which has been under construction at 1501 Wilson Blvd for months, is targeting next month for its opening.

“We are aiming for somewhere around the week of Feb. 17,” The Alehouse said last week. “No official date yet, though.”

The alehouse, affiliated with the Baltimore brewery of the same name, was originally targeting a December opening date. In recent months, it has been hiring staff and, last Friday, announced its Chef de Cuisine would be Marc Kennedy, former executive chef at McCormick & Schmick’s in Crystal City.

The 6,000-square-foot alehouse will be at the corner of N. Oak Street at 18th Street in Rosslyn. The bar will have 15 taps rotating primarily with Heavy Seas beers. It will open daily for lunch at 11:00 a.m. and will be able to fill growlers for customers.

Your Beermonger: From the Great White North

by Ethan Rothstein | January 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | No Comments

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

By now most of us are familiar with many of the more boutique Canadian craft brewers; Quebec-based outfits like Unibroue and Dieu du Ciel whose more esoteric offerings are usually Belgian in style or inspiration. But when we think of Canadian beer, it’s usually of big Lager houses like Molson or Moosehead (or Elsinore for the Strange Brew fans out there). But there’s a full spectrum of Canadian craft brews out there, some of which a new importer is bringing to our area.

Canada’s Select Brews (CSB) is dedicated to finding Canadian craft breweries as of yet undiscovered by Americans and bringing them here. CSB is so young that at this point they are only representing two breweries in the U.S., both of which are located in British Columbia, and both of which are now available in Virginia.

Right now I’m not carrying everything from both, but here’s a quick rundown on them and some of the beers of theirs I’m going to be carrying starting this week:

Parallel 49: Vancouver’s “hipster” reputation didn’t materialize from thin air, and its artisan scene has led to a burgeoning craft beer industry. Three friends who grew up in east Vancouver opened a restaurant in 2008, and as its success grew they realized their dream of opening a brewery. I’ve only been able to try a couple Parallel 49 beers, but already my far-and-away favorite is Salty Scot. Based on traditional Wee Heavy Scotch-style Ales, Salty Scot plays with the flavors found in a classic Wee Heavy. Where Wee Heavy beers have lots of caramel notes from the malts used, Salty Scot uses actual caramel to make it “go to 11” along with some sea salt because sea salt and caramel are delicious together. The final product isn’t nearly as sweet as you think it should be, and much lighter than its 7.5 percent ABV suggests.

Howe Sound: About 45 minutes north of Vancouver you’ll find the mountain town of Squamish, where the Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company has been hosting guests and brewing beers of many styles. Howe Sound uses unique “pot-stopper” 1-liter bottles with Grolsch-like rubber flip-tops, and I’m kind of in love with them. With nearly a dozen year-round beers and many seasonal and limited releases, you’re going to be seeing lots of Howe Sound beers out and about. For my money, the Total Eclipse Of The Hop DIPA, Wee Beastie Oak-Aged Scotch Ale, and Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout are the ones to snag. All three are bold in flavor yet show the kind of balance present when a brewer truly cares about keeping their beers “drinkable”. The Megadestroyer is especially impressive, as I usually dislike beers that use star anise and/or licorice: the trick here is that Howe Sound uses the star anise flowers, which impart all of the flavor you’d expect without the intense medicinal “burn” that comes out most of the time.

Try some of these beers out if you see them around, and let’s hope for more great beers to come from Canada’s Select Brews in the future. 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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Your Beermonger: On Greener Grass and Overreach

by Ethan Rothstein | January 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 542 views | No Comments

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

This week was supposed to be about some tasting notes I have (and we’ll get to a couple in a moment), but I wanted to write about something I’d been thinking about this week first.

It’s a little “inside baseball” but I think it’s worth getting into: I had an interesting conversation with one of my distributor representatives early this week. Now such an occurrence may be column-worthy in-and-of itself, but that’s not what I needed to talk about. The conversation veered from general “shop talk” to comparing the roll-outs of new breweries in Virginia over the past year or so, and the differences between those debuts that were more successful and those that weren’t.

I’ve noticed a convergence of factors when it comes to new breweries entering this market that I suspect affects others as well. One factor is the “grass is always greener” line of thinking that develops among us beer geeks: craft breweries grow regionally, eventually garnering national attention and building expectations. I hear often from folks who’ve gone to visit other areas of the country and reporting back how the big local craft brewer there was only “OK.”

There are just so many good breweries all over the country (over 2,700 breweries in the United States, with no signs of any slowdown in openings yet); it’s too easy to be underwhelmed even when a brewery’s entire lineup is good. The other major factor is overreach by breweries that buy into their own hype and the chatter among beer enthusiasts.

Over the past year alone I’ve seen breweries either enter the Virginia market with too many beers when only one or maybe two had the buzz to truly be successful, or at too high a price point across their lineups because they can sell their wares for that price in their local market.

The reality of the beer retail in Northern Virginia in 2014 is that while the craft beer bubble hasn’t burst yet, space is becoming tight as far as styles go (with the exception, it seems, of IPA: no one’s losing money making a great IPA). When a brewery overreaches with regard to the demand for its full lineup, beers sit that otherwise would better serve their home market and the availability of their most popular beer is limited.

When a brewery overreaches on price, they alienate consumers and retailers, regardless of the quality of the product. There is no one right way to open a new market, but it seems right now that the slow roll, allowing one great beer to build a fanbase for the rest of a brewery’s line, is the smartest move. If nothing else, it allows for the natural growth of a brand, as opposed to massive roll outs that can feel forced and overwhelming. (more…)

Your Beermonger: The Bubble Bursts on ‘Craft Bubble Bursting’ Pieces

by Ethan Rothstein | January 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 410 views | No Comments

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

With the start of every new year come predictions as to how the craft beer business will fare. I was pleasantly surprised by a column I saw this week by wine writer Jamie Goode, who sees 2014 as potentially a “big year” for craft beer — though I don’t believe that craft beer’s rise has to come at the expense of wine’s fall.

The point is that all too predictably, columns start popping up every December and January warning of the craft beer bubble bursting; of impending “collapse;” that there is “too much craft beer” on the market and that a 1 percent drop in overall beer sales means that the market is closing in on craft beer’s approximately 10-12 percent share, leaving no room for new brewers to succeed – no room I tell you!

The predictions of impending doom for craft beer come in spite of craft’s continuous, steady growth. The Brewer’s Association (BA) is a trade association whose mission is the advancement of the craft beer industry, so you’d expect them to try to put the best possible spin on any bad news; it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be any.

The BA hasn’t yet posted numbers for 2013, but its 2012 figures indicate craft beer sales grew 15 percent by volume and 17 percent by dollar over 2011; a year that saw sales grew 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by dollars over 2010. This, by the by, is during a period where big beer saw dramatic losses, leading to the major mergers that have taken place over the past few years (and will continue to take place).

The BA figures bear out when I look at craft beer’s growth in our area. Growth of beer sales in shops I’ve worked in over the past ten years bears a close resemblance to BA’s reporting, and one local beer distributor has seen its craft beer sales roughly double every year from 2010 through 2013.

With more breweries opening in the U.S. than ever, you will see more fail; that’s simply unavoidable. Not every brewery will light the world on fire, and a lot of money-chasing will inevitably lead to busts. A true craft beer bubble could burst any year now, but from my perspective and experience it appears to be years, perhaps decades away.

It will happen someday — all things must pass, after all — but not while the biggest names in craft beer are still dwarfed in size by the smallest of the international conglomerate brands. Personally I think 2014 won’t be about any bubble bursting so much as craft finally breaking through to the mainstream, becoming less a niche and more accessible to more consumers than ever.

In any case, none of us knows what’s going to happen, so let me have some fun and call it here: the only bubbles in the beer business are for the big boys, who have saturated the market in nearly every possible way and have nowhere to go but down, and for concern-trolling columns by everyone who wants to be able to say they were the first to notice the sky falling- — as if it won’t be obvious when/if it does happen.

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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Your Beermonger: New Beers Resolution

by ARLnow.com | January 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm | No Comments

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

2013 is in the books, and it was a great year for beer and those of us who enjoy it. As we enter 2014, I’ve been taking some time for self reflection and reassessment (as one does), and I’ve come up with some beer-related resolutions of my own. Like most new year’s resolutions, mine will more than likely be forgotten a month from now, but it’s good to set goals even you don’t reach them, right?

Right? Well, in any case…

Get out more often. The retail schedule means a lot of late and weekend shifts, which in turn means I don’t get out that much. There are just too many great options in our area for beer lovers, from ChurchKey to Right Proper, Meridian Pint, Black Squirrel, Mad Fox, Port City, DC Brau, BlueJacket and so many more—this year I’m hoping to get out there a little bit more and spend some more time among the wonderful folks of the DC beer scene instead of just writing about them.

Focus. The number of new breweries available to us in Virginia not only from the U.S. but from all over the world, is increasing at a rate that makes it hard to keep up with. I want to focus in 2014 on keeping the space for our longtime favorites while not getting carried away with chasing down every new beer that comes in. Of these resolutions, this will be the one that I’ll break first and with the most zeal.

Travel. There are so many places and breweries I want to visit, and I’d really like 2014 to be the year when I start finding the time to. I haven’t done the Dogfish Head brewery in years—I’d love to pass through there again. I have an entire New England swing I planned out in my head a year ago that would be fun; Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, etc. There are breweries scattered across North Carolina: I’d like to visit again, maybe spend a couple days in Asheville again. Then there’s the west coast—Oregon, Washington, California. I could make trips of each of those states, and still find reasons to go back.

What I’ve Been Drinking This Week:

Dogfish Head Namaste: Now available year-round in six-packs, Dogfish Head’s Witbier is spicy and at 4.8 percent ABV light enough for most any occasion. The use of lemongrass among classic Wit spices is a wonderful touch, and Namaste was an excellent pairing for some great Thai food we had.

The Bruery Melange No. 1: Went to a bottle share with some friends over the weekend, and this rarity from The Bruery popped up. A blend of their Black Tuesday bourbon barrel-aged Stout and the red-wine barrel-aged Flemish Sour Oude Tart, Melange 1 finds a great balance between rich malt and intense acidity. Very cool, and as a Bruery fan this was a treat.

The Bruery Bourbon Barrel-Aged 4 Calling Birds: More Bruery goodness. This hard-to-find version of one of The Bruery’s 12 Beers of Christmas Series was delicious; with a couple years of aging the flavors have mellowed into something resembling a beer doing an impression of boozy eggnog. I know how that sounds, but it was pretty awesome.

Mother Earth Windowpane Series Double Wit Raspberry: An Imperial Wit aged with raspberries in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir barrels. The wine influence is strong — very strong — but it makes the beer work for me, and I hope that we’ll see this series of beers up here sometime this year.

Aventinus Eisbock Barrique (Tap X): A small amount of this was sent to Virginia last summer, and I’d been dying to try it. This is a small batch of the already unique (and massive) 12 percent ABV Aventinus Eisbock aged in Pinot Noir barrels for two years before bottling. The rich, malty, dark fruit notes in the standard Eisbock mesh perfectly with the cherry notes in the wine barrel. Eisbock Barrique was a joy for the Burgundy fan in me, and even the non-wine drinkers at the bottle share dug it.

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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Your Beermonger: Beers of the Year

by Ethan Rothstein | December 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm | 1,104 views | No Comments

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

Before we get to the mildly-anticipated Beermonger Top 5 Beers of the Year list for 2013, a quick note: in last week’s column of notable Christmas Ales I gave Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout an honorable mention, which led ARLnow.com commenter Truth to say “You’re high, go home” in response.

The thing is, Truth had a point: I was trying to focus on beers that were and might have still been available in our part of the state, and with it not being available up here and having written a tasting note for it just before last week’s column ran, I decided to give it the honorable mention. In the context of the column I stand by the call, but in hindsight I should say that were it available in Northern Virginia this year, Gingerbread Stout would have been right at the top of my list, and I should have taken a moment to clarify that. Moving on.

This week I’m taking some time to shine a light on five outstanding beers I’ve had during 2013. As a heads-up for those who missed last year’s list: my Beers of the Year list is fairly arbitrary, taking into account not only those beers that made the biggest impression on me, but those that I feel have a certain importance or are special beyond being rare/high ABV/cellared, and the like. With that, let’s start the list with…

5. Maine Beer Company King Titus/Red Wheelbarrow: I think I’ll stop putting Maine Beer Company brews on this list when they give up the habit of sending great new beers our way. I’m cheating a little by mentioning two Maine beers this year, but I just couldn’t leave either out. Red Wheelbarrow is a recent release — a Red Ale with a bolder, citrus-fruity hop character compared to their piney, earthy Zoe Amber Ale. King Titus Porter has become a staple in the Arrowine beer department over the course of 2013, with a balance of rich, roasty, hoppy, malty, dry, and sweet characteristics.

4. Stillwater Classique: This is a version of Stillwater’s Premium (my pick for Beer of the Year 2012) that doesn’t have the same veracity of Brettanomyces, but is more easy-going. After trying Classique on draft at an event early in 2013, I was thrilled to finally start receiving the packaged version later on in the year. The canned 6-packs that Classique comes in are not only perfect for shotgunning (as was the brewer’s intention), but signal a shift in what we expect from “gypsy” brewing. In a category dominated by hard to come by, high-powered, often prohibitively expensive single-bottle beers, Classique stands out as a Session Ale that can bring a wider audience into the fold.

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Your Beermonger: Best of the Holiday Beers

by Ethan Rothstein | December 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm | 717 views | No Comments

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

We’re not going to waste any column space today because I have a very special tasting note that I want to tack onto the end for you all. Holiday and winter seasonal beers are among the most popular of the year, and like everyone else I have my favorites. This close to Christmas, many of the holiday releases have already come and gone, but it never hurts to ask of something’s still available. Now, in no particular order:

Blue Mountain Brewing Company: This Virginia brewery produces three great winter beers: Lights Out marries the spiciness expected in Christmas Ales with a just-malty-enough Old Ale. Blitzen is a classic Belgian-style Noel, with one of the best labels you’ll see out there. I opt for the Long Winter’s Nap; a 10% Blond Bock-style Lager that is as balanced in feel as it is rich in flavor.

Mikkeller: The father of “gypsy brewing” always celebrates the Christmas season with special beers, and this year has been no exception. The 2013 Red/White Christmas and Santa’s Little Helper are great as always; the former being a blend of a Belgian-style Wit and a hoppy Red Ale and the latter Mikkel’s take on a Noel-style Ale. This year we also go Via/To/From, a spicy Porter with a nifty gift tag printed right on the label; and Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas, an IPA made with ginger and pine needles that is very cool and recommended.

Heavy Seas Yule Tide: If you’ve been passing up the Uncharted Waters Series releases from Heavy Seas this past year, fix that mistake in 2014. Heavy Seas closed out this year with Yule Tide, and Imperial Red Ale with ginger and aged in Rum barrels. There are still some bottles of this floating around out there; if you can find one give it a go.

Honorable Mentions: Port City Tidings; Vicaris Winter; Hardywood Gingerbread Stout; Sly Fox Christmas; St. Bernardus Christmas; Dogfish Head Piercing Pils. Now it’s time for a very special…

What I’m Drinking This Week

Thanks to a friend who had opened one at a bottle share and gave me a few ounces, I recently got to try the 2013 edition of Sam Adams Utopias. Produced since 2002, this is the $200 bottle that is notoriously hard to come by and involves blending batches of up to 19-year old cask-aged beer with a final ABV upwards of 28%. If you’ve never tried Utopias before, it is most often compared to fortified wines and spirits like Sherry, Madeira, and Brandy.

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Your Beermonger: The Joy of J.W. Lees Harvest Ales

by Ethan Rothstein | December 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm | No Comments

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

This is a very special week indeed, friends and fellow beer geeks; for this week sees an all-too rare library release of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale.

For the uninitiated, J.W. Lees is a brewery founded in 1828 in Middleton Junction, a town in the northern section of Greater Manchester, England, by retired cotton manufacturer John Lees. As Manchester grew along with the Industrial Revolution, so did the popularity of J.W. Lees, and the momentum has carried the brewery into its sixth generation as a family-run business.

Today, J.W. Lees is a stalwart of old school pub fare, producing mostly cask Ales along with a handful of Lagers. It was through a modern addition to the lineup, however, that I was introduced to the brewery years ago. The J.W. Lees Harvest Ale is a vintage-dated Barleywine first produced in 1986, featuring the first hops picked from the year’s vines along with a classic British malt character.

Not only does Lees produce the Harvest Ale, but they also source barrels from wine and spirits barrels for special runs of the beer. The Harvest Ales are built to cellar for years, and develop as long as enthusiasts care to hold on to them. All of the Lees Harvest Ales that arrived this week are relatively young, but in their way all of them are approachable even now.

The 2009 Port-Aged Harvest Ale has the vinous note but not the extra sweetness from the fortified wine that you might expect. Of the four barrel-aged Harvest Ales, the Port is the most subtle. That’s definitely not the case with the 2011 Lagavulin-Aged Harvest Ale. My first experience with the Lagavulin-Aged Lees was with a fresh bottle of 2009 upon its release; the Scotch flavor overwhelmed the Barleywine, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Not long after starting at Arrowine I got to revisit the ’09 Lagavulin Harvest Ale, and the two years had done it a world of good. Not only did the peaty Scotch notes calm down and integrate into the beer, but some of the extra heat had died down as well, making for a smoother experience overall. The 2011 that just arrived should be in much the same place, and should also continue to develop more in the years to come.

The 2012 Sherry-Aged Harvest Ale is quite young yet, but it’s my pick for the Lees to stock up on. The nutty, rich Sherry aromas and flavors make for a precocious Barleywine that can come off seeming older than it actually is. With time the Sherry-Aged Lees finds its voice, and of the lot I think it’s the Sherry casks that flat out work best with the beer.

My personal favorite, however, is the Calvados-Aged Harvest Ale, the 2008 vintage that is now in stock. There’s something magical in the melding of the rich, boozy apple flavors of the Calvados with the Barleywine over time, as the caramel notes of the malt assert themselves. The 2008 Calvados Harvest Ale is just old enough to start getting into, but has plenty of life in it for years of cellar aging and enjoyment.

These J.W. Lees Harvest Ales are available now, but not all are easy to find. Barleywines fans owe it to themselves to try these out: not only are they prime examples of the style; they are also great ways to start exploring beers aged in barrels that didn’t contain Bourbon at one point. Now it’s time for our newest hit feature that is taking the country (or maybe just the county, or more likely not even that):

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Your Beermonger: DIY Beer Infusion with Dogfish Head’s Randall Jr.

by Ethan Rothstein | December 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm | 382 views | No Comments

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

There was an item I almost included in last week’s “Beer Geek Black Friday” list, but didn’t because it wasn’t obscenely expense and over-the-top the way the other “gifts” were. That item was the Randall Jr. by Dogfish Head, and mine just arrived this week. If you really are looking for a gift for the beer geek in your life, this is a great idea that won’t cost you a lot of money.

The Randall Jr. was inspired by a device Dogfish Head developed more than 10 years ago called Randall the Enamel Animal. Randall is a chamber that can be filled with hops, herbs, fruit — whatever you’d like — that is attached to a draft line. As beer passes through the Randall, it strips away essential oils and flavors, infusing the beer with the fresh aromas and flavors of whatever is in it.

For years, a great day at Rehoboth Beach was when you stopped by the Dogfish Brewpub and they’d have their 90 Minute IPA running through a Randall filled with fresh Cascade hops; the intensity and clarity of the fresh hops is, well, intoxicating.

Randall Jr. is made to bring the fun of experimenting with flavors home, in a package so basic that it almost seems daft: Randall Jr. is a double-walled plastic container that comes with a screwtop lid and a sieve that also screws on and off. You simply pour your beer into the Randall Jr., add whatever you want to infuse that beer with, replace the sieve and lid, and then wait a few minutes (the packaging recommends 20).

After the beer has a chance to “steep,” pour and enjoy. For the maiden voyage of my Randall Jr., I cracked a bottle of Port City’s excellent Optimal Wit and added some dried blueberries I’d picked up at work along with some thyme. The result was delicious, with the concentrated sweetness of the dried blueberries upfront and the thyme giving the beer some much needed “cut;” keeping it from feeling too sweet — though I think some fresh rather than dried thyme would have given the same effect with more restraint.

At $19.99, there’s just too much fun to be had with the Randall Jr. to pass it up. The only hitch may be that it never seems to last very long on Dogfish’s site when a batch arrives. Needless to say, it comes highly recommended from me.

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Your Beermonger: Black Friday, Beer Geek Edition

by ARLnow.com | November 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm | 385 views | No Comments

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

The holiday season brings with it endless catalogs and gift guides, but my favorite has always been the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

Yes, the Christmas Book’s ‘fantasy gift’ selections are the apex of one-percenter tone deafness, but they go just so far beyond the pale that the catalog seems to be self-aware; a parody of itself. From special edition supercars to multi-million dollar entertainment systems to (I swear I’m not making this up) the “Bespoke Global Falconry Companion” — yours for only $150,000, by the by — the Neiman Marcus Christmas book never fails to entertain me.

In that spirit, I’ve found a list of some of the more absurdly priced beer gifts to give this year, with the biggest difference between my list and the Neiman Marcus one being that I’d actually want pretty much all of these:

Own a piece of BrewDog: When I was first introduced to Scotland’s BrewDog a few years ago, I thought one of the coolest aspects of the brewery was that you could invest in the brewery. BrewDog’s “Equity for Punks” program is an open call for craft beer fans to buy shares of the legendarily rebellious brewery; ‘of the beer geeks, by the beer geeks’ if you will. At 95 pounds (approximately $155) each, the shares of BrewDog can add up quickly, but ownership has its privilege — bragging rights, mostly, but “Hey, I’m a partial owner of BrewDog” is a pretty decent brag.

Sam Adams Utopias: 2013 sees another release of Utopias, the super high-gravity brew from Sam Adams. Made in extremely limited amounts with a blend of barrel-aged beers up to 19 years old, Utopias tips the scales at 28% ABV and drinks more like a rich port or brandy than it does any traditional beer. Utopias are very difficult to come by, and if you do find a bottle at retail expect to pay upwards of $200 per (admittedly very cool) copper brew kettle-shaped bottle.

The Dreamcade Kegerator 60The Bruery Reserve Society: This is one I’ve personally wanted to do for years. Southern California’s The Bruery is one of my favorite craft breweries out there; their combination of fearless stylistic exploration and obvious skill as brewers produces some of the most interesting and exciting beers available today. Not all of The Bruery’s beers are readily available, however, and that’s where the Reserve Society comes in. For $295, you can sign up to receive bottles of The Bruery’s limited-run offerings, provided that you can get to Placentia, California to pick them up or have a friend who lives nearby who can pick them up for you.

The Dreamcade Kegerator 60: It is perhaps the greatest invention in recent history. Dream Arcades has built a custom arcade cabinet that features a 60-inch screen, potentially unlimited numbers of games, and a built-in fridge so you can load up kegs for the three taps attached to it. There are even cup holders built onto the sides of the machine for convenience during multi-hour Street Fighter II sessions (which comes with the Dreamcade Kegerator 60, by the way). Even if I could justify the reported $5,000 price tag — which I can’t, not in a million years — I don’t think I could excuse the sheer space the Kegerator 60 would take up in my house, but I still covet it. Oh my, do I covet it.

Enjoy your leftover food and beverage this weekend, everyone. 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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Your Beermonger: Dreaming of a Belgian Christmas

by Ethan Rothstein | November 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm | No Comments

Your Beermonger logo

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

I can’t pinpoint exactly when the “holiday season” starts for me as a retailer — especially considering that my “busy season” this year started back in August with the early arrival of pumpkin ales. The holiday season always seems to creep up on me a bit; I never notice it starting, but always have a sudden moment of realization that it’s happening.

My moment for this year happened about a week ago, during a busy afternoon of stocking new beers that had just been delivered. In my peripheral vision, I almost accidentally caught a glance of my Belgian beer shelves and it hit me — “Wow, I have a lot of really cool Belgian Christmas Ales in stock right now!”

The spectrum of Belgian Christmas Ales is every bit as wide as that of Belgian beer itself, but there is something approaching a “standard” for the style. Generally maltier, with medicinal notes from herb and spice additions and often candi sugar, the classic Belgian Christmas Ale live on through beers like Delirium Noel, Gouden Carolus Noel, and the recently arrived Vicaris Noel.

For some, these beers can come across too sweet or spicy, while for others they may have to be in the right mood to enjoy them. My personal experience — especially with Gouden Carolus Noel — is that if you’re so inclined, setting a few bottles aside for a year goes a long way toward making the sometimes scattered flavors of the Noel beers come together and find balance.

Other Belgian holiday releases take wildly divergent paths. Scaldis releases a traditional Noel each year, along with a Noel Premium that clocks in at 13 percent ABV and feels more like a Barleywine than a Belgian Ale (I’m a particularly big fan of Scaldis Noel Premium). This year, we received two other variants from Scaldis: the Premium Prestige spends its last six months of aging in oak casks, while the Prestige de Nuits spends those six months in French oak barrels from the Hospice Cotes de Nuits winery in Burgundy. These beers are powerful, complex, elegant, very rare, and pricey — you’ve been warned.

Two of my other favorites take more of an everyday approach. Brasserie DuPont’s Avec Les Bons Voeux was originally brewed at the end of the year to give to importers, distributors, restaurateurs, and retailers as a “thank you for your support” gift.  Its legend grew enough that it became DuPont’s holiday seasonal release. If you’ve ever had the standard-of-its-breed Saison DuPont, imagine a version that is stronger (at 9 percent ABV) with richer, rounder flavors, and you’re pretty much there.

A beer with a loyal fanbase that is still somehow “under the radar” is the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. A 10 percent ABV Quadrupel, Bernardus Christmas is surprisingly mild on the palate with hints of molasses, mint, and spice.

There are dozens of Belgian holiday beers that will be available to us in the area this year. Share some of your favorites in the comments, and have fun finding new ones this year. Until next time.

Cheers!

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…)

Morning Notes

by Katie Pyzyk | November 13, 2013 at 9:00 am | 845 views | No Comments

Colorful park in Crystal City

Victim, Witnesses Testify During Krusinski Trial — The 23-year-old woman accusing the Air Force’s former sexual assault prevention chief of groping her in May testified about the incident yesterday during the first day of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski’s assault and battery trial. The woman broke down in tears while describing how Krusinski allegedly grabbed her buttocks after he spent the night drinking in Crystal City. Witnesses reported the woman repeatedly punched Krusinski following the alleged groping. One of the witnesses who testified — a transgender woman who goes by Jordain — also reported being groped and propositioned by Krusinski that night. Jordain said Krusinski appeared to be a “happy drunk” and she brushed him off. The trial is expected to last three days. [Stars and StripesMilitary Times]

County Prepares for Winter — No snowflakes have fallen yet, but Arlington County has already launched preparations for the 2013-2014 winter season. The snow removal team includes 92 drivers and 46 trucks that are equipped with plows and salt spreaders. Residents will be able to track the progress of road clearing online, including the ability to check traffic cameras at certain intersections. Residents are asked to clear snow from sidewalks within 24 hours of a storm, per the county’s Snow Removal Ordinance. [Arlington County]

1K Wine and Beer Walk on Sunday — The Washington Wine Academy is hosting its semi-annual 1K Wine and Beer Walk in Crystal City on Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 16-17). Start times will be staggered from 1:00-5:00 p.m. and participants get to sample 22 different types of wine or beer while strolling through the Shops at Crystal City. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online. [Washington Wine Academy]

Your Beermonger: Double the Bastard, Double the Fun

by ARLnow.com | November 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm | No Comments

Your Beermonger logo

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

Like many pursuits and interests, being a fan of craft beer for a long time — especially one who works in the business of craft beer — can lead one to lose their enthusiasm for the hobby. I’ve done my best over the years to focus on learning about and discovering new things, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t weeks where it just seems like nothing exciting is happening.

There are still some beer releases I anticipate like a child on Christmas Eve, however: the first run of Founders Breakfast Stout for the year; anything coming off the boat from LoverBeer; the rare once-per-year delivery of Brooklyn Black Ops. This week is one of those weeks for me, as this week is the yearly release of Stone Double Bastard Ale.

Stone’s legendary Arrogant Bastard Ale is a longtime favorite of mine. In fact, it’s the beer that solidified my love of craft beer and sent me down the long, torrid path toward becoming the beer ‘professional’ I am today. For all that Arrogant Bastard means to me, it’s the once-per-year Double Bastard version that holds a spot in my heart.

Where Arrogant Bastard is unapologetically bitter, albeit with enough malt that you can’t qualify it as ‘just another IPA’, Double Bastard is full-on, over-the-top, unflinching San Diego-style hop worship. First made in 1998 to celebrate Arrogant Bastard’s first anniversary, Double Bastard cranks the ABV up from 7.2% to 11.2% and pours a foreboding red/orange hue.

Double Bastard attacks the palate with a rich mouthfeel from the high ABV and a sweet malt character that is almost Barleywine-like, supporting an intense bitterness that lingers in the finish with resiny notes of grapefruit and melon.

It’s not for everyone, and in the years since its debut we’ve seen hoppier beers hit the market, but I’ll be damned if I don’t find myself smiling every time I hear that a shipment is arriving. I still buy a handful of 22oz bomber bottles as soon as they come off the delivery truck, and crack one open as soon as I get home. It’s a ritual that never seems to get old with me: an affirmation of my enjoyment of what I think is one of the best beers in America.

This is all by way of saying that Double Bastard is hitting the market this week. If you enjoy big crazy hoppy stuff, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. If not — well, there’s a lot of great beer out right now. Ask your local bartender or beer guy about some of the great seasonal releases we’re seeing arrive. The rest of us will be reveling in the hoppy madness. Until next time.

Cheers! 

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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