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Your Beermonger: Surprise Favorite Beers

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

Veering away from existential crises and the wider beer business as a whole this week, I’d like to relate one of the best parts of my job, and of being a beer fan in general: the unexpected, pleasant surprise.

Last week saw the Virginia debut of Nebraska Brewing Company, and I was particularly looking forward to carrying their Melange a Trois, which I got to try at the 2012 edition of SAVOR along with their IPA. But those weren’t the only Nebraska Brewing beers to arrive last week, and I took a flier on a six-pack of Brunette Nut Brown Ale because I’m a fan of the style and liked the idea of having one in cans. Sure enough, Brunette is great: all of the nutty and malty flavor you’d expect from classic examples like those from Sam Smith and other English brewers but lighter, less rich on the palate. This is an easy-going, flavorful, delightful beer that just got me from out of nowhere.

Not all “surprising” beers are everyday drinkers or more modest in style: I knew I’d enjoy Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin, but didn’t expect to become as fixated with it as I have when trying it during my visit to Stone for their anniversary party back in August.

The recently released 2014 bottling of Swiss brewery BFM’s Abbaye de St. Bon-Chien Grand Cru, aged entirely in Champagne barrels (or as they say on the label “Frenchy Sparkling Wine Barrels”) was something no 11 percent Sour Ale has any right to be — refreshing. Something about that version of that beer gives is the trademark Bon-Chien sourness up front, while smoothing out on the back with a finish that draws you right back in for more.

Stone’s Collaboration Series has produced more than its fair share of winners, often showcasing styles they are not necessarily known for. The new Xocoveza Mocha Stout fits right in with the best and most unexpected of them — a Mexican hot chocolate-inspired Stout using coffee, chocolate, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and chili peppers. Usually I’m wary of any chili-infused beer; I’m not a “face-melting — if you’re lucky” hot sauce guy, and too many beers that use hot ingredients can easily go too far. But Xocoveza walks the tightrope perfectly: it’s spicy rather than full-on hot, with roast, sweet, and spicy elements expressing themselves fully but also in harmony. Wouldn’t have expected it, but I’m enjoying it like crazy while it’s here.

What beers unexpectedly became favorites of yours? Which did you think you wouldn’t like but ended up loving? Let’s hear about them below in the comments. Until next time.

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

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

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