Your Beermonger: New Year, New Beer

by ARLnow.com January 4, 2013 at 3:35 pm 15 Comments

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

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Year’s Eve. My wife and I celebrated with a small group of friends and while a good number of Champagne bottles were consumed, I was encouraged to see the quality of brews brought over by friends who aren’t necessarily what you’d call beer geeks. It’s always fun to talk to those folks who are just discovering a love for beer and share in their journey just a little.

Being someone who doesn’t make resolutions, I can’t exactly write a column about what I’m resolved to do this year beer-wise. My wife suggested writing about the beers I’m looking forward to the most this year, but the unpredictable nature of both the schedule of special releases and the emergence of new breweries in the market makes that impossible.

Not to go ‘behind the curtain,’ but most weeks I’m tweaking orders and my section of Arrowine’s newsletter until literally the last minute as I’m finding out about new releases and re-organizing my Saturday tastings. Instead, here are some broader things I’m looking forward to in 2013:

Emerging stars: 2012 was a huge year for breweries new to the Virginia market. From the more everyday breakthroughs of Maui Brewing and Great Lakes to the esoteric wonder of BFM, and Italy’s LoverBeer, there seemed to be great new beers popping up every week. BFM in particular seemed to just explode as more of the Swiss brewery’s offerings hit shelves. I’m also looking forward to seeing what we get from Maine Brewing; the young brewery’s move into a new facility this spring should translate to more great beer for us here in Virginia.

Gypsy brewing comes of age: The great variety of beers from Mikkeller established a template for others to follow, and 2013 is poised to be the year “gypsy brewers” breakthrough to the mainstream in a big way. We’ll be experiencing a greater availability of Evil Twin brews in 2013, and the great Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales was recently featured in a New York Times piece on brewers using Brettanomyces yeast. The sheer spectrum of styles and recipes made by gypsy brewers nearly ensures that there will be a beer for everyone within their lines, and the ‘celebrity chef’ aspect of brewer fandom gives beer geeks everywhere a constant source of debate and conversation.

The rise of local beer: I couldn’t ignore the boom in the amount of local/regional beer sales and availability last year. Not only is Port City a go-to everyday brand for many of my customers, but Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain beers have become items I must have in stock every week. DC Brau is still doing great work and growing (even if it’s not always readily available), and Maryland’s Flying Dog and DuClaw breweries are making noise. Look for more local beers on retail shelves and on tap this year.

New breweries entering Virginia: Only a few days into 2013 there are already new breweries entering the market with promise. Asheville, North Carolina’s Highland Brewing had been available in the past, but they’ve recently switched distributor partners and are making a bigger push in our area. Slumbrew of Somerville, Massachusetts is just starting to show up in Virginia (I recommend their Porter Square Porter). Just a couple of days ago I found out that the beers of Ca l’Arenys Guineu, located in Barcelona. Catalunya has an emerging craft beer scene, and this week we’ll see the arrival of their Riner, a 2.8% ABV IPA-style that is generating a lot of buzz among beer geeks right now.

Of course, there are always the releases of brews like Bell’s HopSlam, Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, Founder’s KBS, Southern Tier Pumking, and the like. What are you looking forward to 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.

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  • Aaron

    I love me some Devil’s Backbone anytime, but it’s often odd to see them categorized as a local brewery when they’re a solid half hour further from Arlington than breweries in Milton, DE, or Salisbury, MD, for example.

    Also on the periphery of our region, I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some Smartmouth out of Norfolk. I’ve heard people rave about their saison, but as far as I can tell, they’re keeping their distribution pretty much to the Hampton Roads area.

    • TheBeermonger

      Yeah, it gets tough defining “local” I tend to think more regional, but wanted to focus more on VA for this column.
      Haven’t tried any Smartmouth yet, but I’ve been liking the Hardywood stuff out of Richmond I’ve been able to try.

  • billj

    Thanks to WOB for showing me the way of Devil’s Backbone (among others like Firestone Walker)

    Is Arrow Wine going to offer a wait list for Hop Slam?

    • TheBeermonger

      With stuff like HopSlam, I usually have so much demand with so little product to match that I don’t even bother with a list and go 1st come 1st served. That and generally I’m spending too much time in the wine department as well to even properly maintain a list. If you get the newsletter or follow us on Twitter or Facebook you’ll hear about it arriving.

  • malaka

    Ca l’Arenys Guineu “Riner” – at 2.8% ABV I doubt it’s generating that much of a buzz among beer geeks 🙂

    • TheBeermonger

      Well, you’d have to drink a fair amount to for sure.

  • John

    I am personally looking forward to trying New Albion Ale. This is Sam Adams relauch of Jack McAuliffe’s pioneering craft brew.

    • TheBeermonger

      I’d forgotten about this. Was reading up on it a few weeks ago. Good call.

      • John

        It is supposedly on its way to stores now

  • KivasFajo

    Any idea if Hardywood will be available in Northern Virginia this year?

    • TheBeermonger

      I haven’t heard anything. I’d really like to see them here.

  • SteamboatWillie

    I was able to attend Slumbrew’s event at Rustico in Ballston recently. I liked everything I tried, but the really interesting choice was the Dampfbier. Dampf is the German word for steam, but the beer isn’t a steam or California Common beer; instead, the name refers to the appearance of the bubbles during brewing, according to the brewery owner.

    It really tasted like a Dunkelweiss, and the owner said that he often hears that feedback and that while there is no wheat added, he uses a Weihenstephan yeast strain. Very good session beer that deserves its own separate style category.

    Also, I’ve heard that the next must-try brewery in Virginia is Hardywood Park out of Richmond. Anyone here sampled their offerings or seen them in the area?

    • TheBeermonger

      I haven’t tried the Dampfbier yet. I have some Porter Square Porter on the shelf, and am considering their IPA. We’ll see what happens.

      Lot’s of buzz for Hardywood in the comments here. I’ve tried their Bourbon Cru and thought it was very good. I’d like to see them up here but I imagine they’re pretty busy around Richmond so I wouldn’t expect anything just yet.

      • SteamboatWillie

        My apologies for asking about Hardywood after others posted essentially the same and you had addressed the question. I was skimming the comments a bit too casually.

    • SteamboatWillie

      That Dampfbier is called Rising Sun Ale. BeerAdvocate classifies it as an Altbier, but it really deserves its own category and doesn’t taste like the typical Düsseldorf specialty.

      From the brewery’s website:

      Inspired by a less known German brewing style called dampfbier – an all barley malt bill fermented with wheat beer yeast – we found a delicious new expression for our Happy Sol yeast. This beer pours a deep red color with unique malty flavors from roasted barley, Munich, pilsen and caramel malts. A subtle hop spice is derived from German Perle and Hallertauer hops.


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