Arlington, VA

This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

I’m currently living an odd, opposite-day version of Dry January; let’s call it “Oh wow, there’s a lot of beer in the cellar and beer fridge I should get rid of some of those” January.

Pictured is the first round of culling, from a nice, dry, cold-year-round spot in my basement at home. They were kept exactly how you want to keep your beer, if you’re not going to put them in a fridge. I’ll give some praise to a couple standouts:

Brothers Brewing Mezcal Milkshake and Fütnote Boysenberry (2015) — I got these during the year I was a member of the Brothers Brewing Horizon Society. The Fütnote beers were a rotating series of pale Sours with a different fruit addition for each release. This Boysenberry bottle was a little flat, but flavor-wise much more put-together and mature than I’d expected.

Mezcal Milkshake is an Imperial Milk Stout with orange peel and aged in Tequila barrels. I’d been planning to bring it to a bottle share as I’m not much of a Tequila guy but obviously that never happened. It’s still not my thing but if it were, I would’ve been happy at how well it held up.

Surly Smoke (2012) — If I’d been up for taking down a 750mL bottle of 8.4% smoked Lager, I would’ve gone for it with this one. Using smoked malt from Bamberg and aged on oak, Smoke lived up to its name while allowing the richness of the non-smoked malt to come through and was deadly drinkable for its ABV. Impressive.

I’m not going call out the rest beer by beer, but among them I found multiple Brettanomyces (wild yeast) infections: One beer that wasn’t supposed to have Brett in it, for example, I would’ve sworn in a blind tasting to be a Sour. I started taking a video of one beer steadily gushing foam out of its top for some 30-45 seconds after having watched it steadily gush foam from its top for 30-45 seconds.

Some beers were overrun by the Brett that was there originally. One was an entirely undrinkable mess of a beverage. A couple had gone flat, and a couple had lost some of the characteristics that made me want them in the first place. Here’s the thing, though, and this is why I’m not calling all of these beers out for whatever flaws they had: The majority of my experiences with these beers is my fault.

I’ve never really been one to cellar a lot of beer, but there was a moment somewhere during 2014-2015 where I was reveling a bit in the access I had to new and different things, and it made a bit of a “that guy” out of me. I kept putting off opening beers for bottle shares that didn’t happen or nights where I’d want to get to them that never came around. That Sour that shouldn’t have been? If I’d opened it within a year of buying it, it would’ve been fine. It would’ve been what I wanted.

In mostly unrelated news, our draft station is now up and running at Arrowine for growler fills, and I’m hoping to have our can seamer working in the next few days for crowlers. You can follow our draft board in real-time on our Untappd page or on Arrowine.com.

Next time: I raid the beer fridge. Did the old stuff in there hold up any better?

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

I generally try to get around to writing the column a little earlier than Thursday when it’s going to run Friday, but sometimes such is life.

The decade’s not exactly off to a banner start, is it? Makes it hard to focus on something as unimportant as beer. I’m not about to tell you that you should, but if you have a couple minutes, I’ve got a few hundred words, none of which are related to any impending historic crises.

What I’d been rolling around in my head this week was what I’m looking forward to in beer; not only over the new year but the new decade. A bit of “counterprogramming” if you will. There’s a ton of negativity and skepticism out there among industry professionals, a lot of which is justified, but I haven’t seen much of what people in beer were feeling good about.

A lot of the delay in writing this came from having a hard time setting aside my own cynicism. “Craft” beer is an easy target. The term itself is silly. The culture has become FOMO-driven to the point where breweries are putting out flawed product without knowing or caring because they know it’ll sell and get a 4+ star average on Untappd regardless. Breweries are popping up like someone fed them after midnight — over 11,000 in the U.S. at the moment. Entire “styles” of beer can appear and fade out within months, sparked by one brewery’s success spawning a gut of imitators.

So, I ask myself, what do I feel good about? What am I looking forward to? Well…

I’m looking forward to something continuing to build that I’ve seen over the past year: a reemergence of interest in Lagers and classic Ale styles, from breweries foreign and domestic. One of my best-selling beers of 2019 was Tucher’s Helles Hefeweizen, thanks in part to new packaging in .5L canned 4-packs, but also because for months prior, after I’d returned to Arrowine, I’d had customers asking repeatedly for a good, go-to version of the style.

I’ve been heartened by the love I’ve seen for British beers: not only those from the UK, like Coniston Bluebird Bitter, Robinson’s Trooper, and the Ridgeway holiday beers, but for American takes like the ESBs from Green Man and, more recently, Denizens.

I’m looking forward to a return of the “go-to” beer to prominence. The beer you snag a sixer of and can split with a couple friends, whether they’re beer geeks or not. They’re not going to eliminate and replace the rarities and one-offs — that stuff’s fun too. But the trend-chasing is not sustainable, and naturally begets a counterpoint to temper it. They don’t need to be “classic” beers to do this — Solace’s Partly Cloudy is one that comes to mind for me — just well made, and not taxing on the palate.

Mostly, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens here at Arrowine as we head into the new decade. I’m looking forward to seeing which beers and breweries finds homes on our new draft station. And I’m looking forward to continuing to help our clients find their new go-tos, special treats, or seasonal favorites.

Hopefully we can all meet back here in ten years and check our notes. Until next time.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Before we get to anything, an update on our renovation: The draft station is tantalizingly close to ready.

At the moment, I’m at the mercy of a countertop for our back bar that would let us get the last of the plumbing done. A couple of target dates from the countertop folks have come and gone, so I’m not committing to anything beyond getting word out far and wide when the beers are flowing.

Now then, it’s time bring back the Beermonger Beers of the Year. For those new to the fun, this is an unscientific list of six beers that stood out to me this year for one reason or the other, with the main reason being they were really, really good.

Here there are, numerically listed but in no particular order:

6. Anderson Valley Black Rice Ale: There aren’t too many beers that I devote entire columns to, but that’s what I did for this one back in September. I still dig this dry, flavorful, low-ABV beer for being something unique in a market clogged with too many versions of the same styles.

5. Commonwealth Brewing Company Cimmerian/Schilling Beer Company Modernism (tie): Commonwealth’s Cimmerian Czech-style Dark Lager is a great example of all the things the Virginia Beach brewery can do really well. We burned through a ton of cases at Arrowine while it was in stock, and I personally took down plenty at home. You can find some back on the market right now; maybe even on tap at Arrowine in the next week or so. If my countertops show up…

Schilling’s Modernism, another Czech-style Dark Lager, earns a nod not only for being great, but for being the only thing on tap at one of the better area beer bars not too long ago that was interesting to me, and saving me from certain Pastry Stout/Dessert Sour doom.

4. Jackie O’s Who Cooks For You?: 2019 saw Jackie O’s return to Virginia, with a focus on their year-round and seasonal six-packs. Who Cooks arrived as a limited-run, 5.5% ABV double dry-hopped Pale Ale version of a Hazy IPA. The first run outshone some of the best Hazys out there, and Jackie O’s was smart enough to slot it into their year-round lineup by the fall. It’s in-stock at Arrowine now.

3. Väsen Norse Double IPA: Speaking of Hazy IPAs… I haven’t tried to make one, but if I did, the ingredients would be awfully close to the flagship IPA from this Richmond brewery: Golden Promise malt with Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo hops. I like all of these things. The Norwegian Kveik yeast gives this 8% beast a sly, easy feel, and its hops a showcase. Just back in stock at Arrowine this week.

2. OEC Coolship Lager: If you blinked a few weeks ago, you missed out on this Czech-style Blonde Lager from Connecticut’s Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores — OEC. It’s “brewed using a traditional double decoction mash and hopped with fine European noble hops… rests in our copper coolship for 1 hour… transferred over our baudelot cooler into our open tanks for fermentation… it is cellared for several months prior to release.” That’s a lot of words to tell you it’s so easy, and clean, and enjoyable that a four-pack can evaporate before you even notice. Hoping to have this back in the shop, maybe even semi-regularly, in 2020.

1. Hill Farmstead Legitimacy: It wasn’t a massive, double dry-hopped, opaque, jooooooce bomb that stopped me in my tracks this year. It was Hill Farmstead’s Legitimacy, a 6% IPA with a relatively simple-looking recipe — 2-row barley, oats, Citra/Mouteka/Simcoe hops. Often — too often — I run into IPAs with long lists of hops that don’t seem to justify themselves. At a certain point it all congeals into a nebulous tone of “hoppy”.

Legitimacy blew me away with how each hop contributed identifiable characteristics to the beer: the piney, grapefruity texture of Simcoe; Citra’s exhuberant orange peel and earthiness; the Southern Hemisphere tropical tones of Mouteka. The crew at Hill Farmstead puts out brilliant beers on the regular: Legitimacy is a masterclass for IPA brewers everywhere.

Honorable Mentions: Foreign Objects Chaos Therapy (Juicy Pale Ale); Veltins Pilsener; Foundation Epiphany IPA; Stillwater/Oliver Double Mocha Affogato (Nitro Coffee Stout);  Ocelot Lamp (Pilsner); Maine Beer Co. Dinner (IPA); Charles Wells Bombardier (for saving me from my worst instincts in the face of the draft list at Khyber Pass Pub in Philly one night in June).

Happy whatever and Merry New Year, everyone! See you in 2020.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Everyone’s been asking me how I’ve been enjoying my “vacation” while we’ve been remodeling at Arrowine.

Well, I’ve been working pretty hard most of that time, so once I’ve apologized for my reaction I mention that I did carve out some time during the week to pay a long overdue visit to my friends at what I consider the area’s best brewery, Ocelot.

The first thing many of us think about from Ocelot are their IPAs, and as always they delivered. Home, their go-to 6.7% ABV IPA, was as good as I remembered. The combo of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops often works well, but not every brewery uses Nelson right; Ocelot always gets good stuff from using Nelson.

I tried a couple of the rotating IPAs: Two Lost Souls featured Citra and Mosaic and was an absolute banger, giving off a lot of the “just opened a package of hops pellets vibe that I love so much in Reason’s Pattern Recognition. Having said that, I think I appreciated Vandals a bit more. It was just a bit lower in strength (a hair under 7%) than Two Lost Souls, and paired Mosaic with Galaxy. Not nearly as “loud” with it’s hoppiness, but felt more balanced and elegant.

Musaq, an 8% Double IPA brewed with the folks from Pure Project Brewing in San Diego, was a full-on Southern Hemisphere tropical fruit bomb with Citra, Kohatu, Waimea and Vic Secret. Yes, I took some home.

The stars of the day, however, were Ocelot’s Lagers. Sunnyside Dweller remains as nice a Pilsner as you’ll find in the area, and yes, I took some home. But I got to try their other Pilsner, Lamp. Lamp uses the newer Huell Melon hop from Germany, which in a lot of Hazy IPAs is way overused for the sake of extracting as much of its namesake’s fruit character as possible, but I think it’s actually best applied to beers like this — lower alcohol, easy-drinkers that let it be the pretty, subtle thing it actually is. Yes, I took some home.

Last up was Palaces Of Montezuma, a lager made in collaboration with Right Proper Brewing of D.C. to celebrate the wedding of the great Phil Runco, who deftly handles all things beer for Brightest Young Things. It’s made almost as a Lager version of Home, with the same Citra/Nelson Sauvin combo but working a little rye malt in, too. It’s just hoppy enough to stand out, but still refreshing and easy to enjoy. Yes, I took some home.

So, when will you see some of these at Arrowine? Well, as you read this, we’ll be newly reopened from an insane week of rebuilding and remodeling. In fact, right around the time this posts the last installation work should be wrapping up on the draft station, so look for info on beers for growler fills starting next week!

Until next time.

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Your Beermonger: Changes

This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

If you’ve been by the shop recently — and I hope you have because otherwise we’re all wasting my time and my boss’ money — you’ve noticed the work being done around Arrowine: The wood paneling going up, the walls being built or rebuilt, and definitely the giant bare section of wall where all of my beer shelves used to be.

I’ve almost gotten used to the space, but we’re coming up on our final push in Arrowine’s great remodeling, so I think it’s a good time to talk about what to expect from the brand-new Beer Department once everything’s in place.

First thing’s first: The biggest new feature of the Beer Department will be that, finally, we’ll have draft beer for crowler and growler fills. Yes, it’s going to be all to-go for now and for the foreseeable future. You may not have a hard time imagining that this is the piece I’m most excited about; I’ve worked beer and wine retail for 16 years and never have been able to access everything available to me because I haven’t had draft lines to play with.

The selections available at the station should, I think, reflect the approach I’ve had to beer buying at Arrowine since I first started on. You’ll find a mix of hot, “gotta have it” beers from all over, along with some hidden gems from all over the world. I’m really hoping to be able to spotlight styles and breweries that may not be what you see everywhere but will work well with what the new Deli Department is going to doing. My importer friends are going to be getting a lot of bothersome texts and emails, is what I’m saying.

The logistics of the new layout will mean a loss in the sheer number of bottles I’ll be able to keep on-hand. My hope is that the rotating features in the draft station will make up for the loss, and of course I’ll continue to find ways to fit ten gallons of beer in the five-gallon space that is our Beer Department. Old habits die hard.

I’d love to be more specific about what I’m going to be running with going forward; it would certainly make answering questions about it easier. The thing is, I’m going into this not expecting any particular thing to happen. The Beer Department here at Arrowine grew as it did the first time because I let my instincts and the response from our clients guide it, and I’m going to do the same this time. We’ll see where it goes.

In the meantime, with my fingers crossed as hard as I can possibly cross them, I’ll hopefully be back up by the end of the first week of December ready to see where this thing takes us, and I look forward to seeing many of you there for the ride.

Upcoming events at Arrowine:

Friday, November 22, 5-7 p.m. — Frankie Quinton of Atlas Brew Works
Saturday, November 23, 1-4 p.m. — Joe Kasper of 3 Stars Brewing Company
Wednesday, November 27, 10-7 p.m. — Thanksgiving Eve
November 28 — Closed for Thanksgiving
November 29-December 4 — Closed for renovations (subject to change for any number of reasons — but I really, really hope not)

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

It’s a season not unlike the harvest: you can have a feeling for when it’s going to start, but never really know for sure until you’re in it.

The revelry is just as real though, and, quite literally, intoxicating. I’m speaking today of Stoutmas, the nebulous holiday season that my wife and I invented some years back and has kicked off in earnest this week.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that ours isn’t the most religious of houses, but Stoutmas (or #Stoutmas if you’re on social media, because if anything else can get a day, surely we can get a whole season for Stouts) has become one of our few observed high holidays (along with Halloween, Dia del los Muertos, our “leave us alone” Christmas Day wherein we’ve already done our family stuff the day before and stay in being lazy, new Bojack episodes — though I guess we’re gonna have to find something to replace that one…).

It started a few years ago and has become a beloved tradition not just for us, but now for many of our clients at Arrowine.

Stoutmas began during my first stint at Arrowine, as we were heading into the fall rush and holiday season. Occasionally, breweries give buyers like me samples of upcoming releases to try, and periodically, I find my fridge bursting a bit at the seams with beers I haven’t quite gotten to yet for one reason or another.

With an impressive collection of Stouts and Porters built up, and sharing a love of dark beers of all strengths and styles, my wife and I decided to start opening and splitting at least one of them per night. We got to try many things new, either to her or to both of us, and freed up precious refrigerator space for stuff like, you know, food.

Soon enough we realized that as November rolled into December, there were more than enough Stouts coming out that we really could do a different one every night leading into the Christmas holiday. Hence, Stoutmas.

This year’s Stoutmas is kicking off with the release of Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout, First of Its Name and Hearald of the Vaunted Variant Releases. But, by the time you find this column online, I’ll also have rich, bold, dark Stouts in stock from Union, Oliver, Wicked Weed, Stillwater, Southern Tier, Smartmouth and Schalfly with many more to come. Wicked Weed’s entry is seemingly made for Stoutmas: a 4-pack with one bottle each of four of their fan-favorite Imperial Stouts (Milk & Cookies, French Toast, S’mores and German Chocolate Cake).

Stoutmas is best celebrated with friends and/or family; those Imperials can add up quickly. You can hold off until December 1 and do the advent calendar thing, but I like to think Stoutmas lives in our heart and livers all year round.

There’s truly no wrong way to celebrate the season. So go forth, and indulge that curiosity about that Imperial Stout you’ve always wanted to try, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll find that the real Stoutmas was the friends we made along the way.

Next time: The “interesting” column I promised last time — I hope.

Upcoming tasting events at Arrowine:

Friday, November 8, 5-7 p.m. — Jesse Ploeg of Potter’s Craft Cider
Friday, November 22, 5-7 p.m. — Clayton Daniels of Abita Brewing Company
Saturday, November 23, 1-4 p.m. — Joe Kasper of 3 Stars Brewing Company

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

During my time working for Port City, the decision was made to bring its Session Rye IPA, Ways & Means, off the wider market and make it a tasting room house beer, I understood, but never completely got over it.

Beyond the recognition Ways & Means got in awards, it got national attention as a great example of what Session IPA could be. Also, I was a sucker for its combination of spicy rye malt character with big hop aromas and flavors, so I was happy to hear that six-packs of Ways & Means were coming back out.

With their arriving this week, I reached out to my former boss, Port City’s Bill Butcher, to get some more info on this returning favorite.

The first change you’ll notice with Ways & Means is its packaging. It has a very nice new label and six-pack design, a harbinger of full package rebranding to come in 2020. Changes can be found in the bottle as well as outside of it: over the time it spent as a house beer, the Ways & Means recipe was tweaked slightly but not insignificantly.

Like all Port City beers, Ways was and is packaged unfiltered; Bill Butcher told me during its time in the tasting room Ways started to be kegged unfined as well, with a warm dry-hop addition of 100% Citra hops to punch up the aromatics. Butcher tells me PCBC Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves likes to say they’re “‘using hazy techniques for our non-hazy beer’,” but you may notice a touch of cloudiness to your new Ways & Means.

Asked why Ways & Means is reappearing now, Butcher cited “quite a bit of great feedback and demand for package” the beer had been receiving since going in-house. That’s not the only reason, however.

“Also, we are seeing lots of interest in lower alcohol, lower calorie beers. At 4.5% ABV, and 122 calories per bottle, this one fits the bill nicely.” He and the team at Port City decided to roll Ways back out now because they think “the hoppy flavor profile makes for a great fall session beer.”

Ways & Means isn’t going to be the only session-strength offering we’ll see from Port City during the next year; a new Session Ale will arrive for the spring, replacing Ways & Means on the market until the season comes around again. You can find Ways & Means in stock at Arrowine and stores around the area — but c’mon, buy it at Arrowine.

Until next time, which should be very interesting.

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Your Beermonger: WTGABF

This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

With this past weekend, another Great American Beer Festival has come and gone.

Virginia had another strong showing: 12 Virginia breweries won 13 medals at this year’s GABF, with three of those being Gold Medals won by Bluemont’s Bear Chase Brewing, Starr Hill and Port City.

Beer competitions kick up a lot of the dust you find in any situation where an attempt is made to apply the objective to the subjective. There are always the quirks of which beers get entered into which categories — The Vanguard Brewpub in Hampton, for instance, took away a Bronze in English Special Bitter for their Red Ale.

There are also dozens of factors at play in how a particular beer shows on a particular day: How that batch turned out, how/when it was packaged; how it was handled in shipping; what temperature it was served at; how long it was open pre-judging; which judges are handling which categories; what kind of shape they’re in.

To be frank, any medal competition is a crapshoot, especially GABF. This year’s event saw 9,497 beer entries (with 70 entries for Collaboration categories and 100 Pro-Am) from 2,295 breweries spanning 107 categories. There’s no obligation to hand out medals, either — no Gold Medals were awarded for American-Style Wheat Beer or Historical Beer this year, for instance. Getting a medal at GABF is like throwing a bullseye on a dartboard blindfolded: it’s what you intend to do, but if you do, you celebrate and take it like you stole it.

So, what can we learn from medals? Well, for one thing, so much chance at play, you might not be able to say a medal-winning beer isn’t the objective “best” version of a style out there, but it did show out against a slew of others from some of the best breweries around the country.

Port City’s German Pilsner, which won a Gold Medal for Kellerbier or Zwickelbier, may not strictly be either of those but it’s a damn good beer and maybe the win gets a few more folks trying it.

More broadly, it’s interesting as a gauge of where beer is growing, and which states are producing great beer. Outside of behemoths like California (68) and Colorado (40), there’s a tier of states that Virginia’s 13 medals lines up with, including Texas (16), Oregon and Ohio (15), Washington (14) and North Carolina (12).

Consistent medal-winners pop up too: Portland, Oregon’s Breakside Brewery; Sun King of Indiana, and Ohio’s Fat Head’s Brewery all seem to medal year after year. Here in Virginia, names like Port City, Hardywood (whose Pils, pictured, won a Bronze for German Pilsner), Devils Backbone and Starr Hill medal almost yearly.

If you ever get the chance, I recommend going out to Denver for GABF. If you can’t get tickets to the Festival itself, it’s worth just being in Denver during the week of the event; there’s so much happening around town that there’s all kinds of trouble to get into without setting foot in the Convention Center.

Upcoming Events at Arrowine:

Sunday, October 13, 1-4 P.M. — Super Sunday Wine Tasting feat. Kermit Lynch Portfolio — please call/email in to RSVP
Friday, October 18, 5-7 p.m. — Tyler Weaver of Väsen Brewing Company
Saturday, October 19, 1-4 p.m. — Jackson Brown (not that one) of Canarchy — Cigar City feature!
Friday, November 8, 5-7 p.m. — Jesse Ploeg of Potter’s Craft Cider

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

A few weeks back, I lamented the state of IPAs and brewing in general, after an evening spent trying about a half dozen new-to-me beers that yielded only one good, drinkable brew.

I think it’s only fair, then, that when I come across a new brewery that impresses me, that really stands out, I should take some time to acknowledge it.

A recent drop of beers from Twelve Percent Imports — a fantastic broker of hipper-than-thou, hard to find breweries the world over — included some breweries that were new to Virginia. One of those was Public Access, a name I’d heard and seen bandied about but had yet to try anything from. There’s next to no info on the brewery out there. I had to reach out to Twelve Percent to learn more.

Public Access Liquids is essentially one guy, Ramon Manuel Manrique Hung, contract brewing along the lines of Stillwater or Evil Twin. A Venezuelan native who fell in love with beer living in Belgium, Hung found himself working at Tørst, the Brooklyn beer bar opened by Evil Twin himself Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø.

Hung is the latest branch of a brewery tree whose roots can be found at Tørst. Other bartending alums include Joey Pepper of Folksbier and Anthony Sorice from Root + Branch.

According to Twelve Percent, Hung’s aim with Public Access Liquids is to take “an ultra-modern, forward-thinking approach to beer design and recipe development, but instead of crafting beers specifically designed to stay local, creates them for the express purpose of sharing with high-end beer enthusiasts far and wide.”

Two Public Access beers were offered to me on this shipment; I opened both for sampling among a group of hazy IPAs and Pale Ales from Richmond’s Väsen Brewing (their Azanian Passion, which is excellent), and another new-to-Virginia brewery, Columbus, Ohio’s Hoof Hearted (I know, I know), whose Pale Ale and IPA were very tasty.

What stood out to me about the Public Access beers was that they stood out: they were hazy and heavily late and dry-hopped for sure, but not “hot” or obnoxious with their more tropical and citrusy notes like many can be.

The first one we tried, Outer Reality, was a 7% ABV IPA double dry-hopped with Columbus, Mosaic, El Dorado, Simcoe and Comet. The Columbus and Comet jumped out at me — these are hops that went into commercial use in the 70s and are far from the overripe tropical fruit bombs you typically see in New England IPAs.

The resulting beer was hazy for sure, but with a much more “traditional” set of hop characteristics — citrus/grapefruit-forward, piney and most of all dry. It’s a unique and welcome take on the NEIPA.

The other was Suspended Disbelief, a Double IPA at 8% ABV with Galaxy, Citra, Idaho 7 and Simcoe hops; much more in-line with the typical juice-bomb IPA. That said, the beer also came across impeccably balanced for the style, while still displaying all the mango/orange/stone fruit notes you’d expect from a beer with its hop schedule.

Only a handful of Public Access beers have been produced and, as noted, only two have shown up here in Virginia, but I have to say: so far, so good. Keep Public Access on your radar.

Note: Suspended Disbelief has sold out at Arrowine, but some Outer Reality is still in stock. Check your favorite local bars and shops to see who might have what.

Upcoming Arrowine Events:

Friday, October 4, 5-7 p.m. — Tyler Weaver of Väsen Brewing Company
Saturday, October 5, 12-3 p.m. — Patrick Cashin of Charm City Meadworks
Friday, October 25, 5-7 p.m. — Jackson Brown (not that one) of Canarchy — Cigar City feature!
Friday, November 8, 5-7 p.m. — Jesse Ploeg of Potter’s Craft Cider

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Part of my job is to constantly find new beers to stock.

I like those beers, of course, but occasionally a beer comes along that really gets me. This happened recently with the new Black Rice Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. At only 3.8% ABV, it ticks the “session” box; as a year-round, it ticks the “if you make something good, make it available all the time” box; it’s tasty as hell, so it ticks the “tasty as hell” box.

There’s only so much information online about Black Rice Ale, so I asked our local AVBC rep if he had anything else to pass along. What he did was put me in touch with Fal Allen, AVBC’s brewmaster since 2000 and an industry veteran who started his pro career at Redhook in 1988. Yes, I was excited to chat.

Allen told me he had tried Chinese black rice, aka Forbidden or Emperor’s rice, in a dish. “I had no idea what it was but the rich nutty flavor was compelling. I immediately thought that it would work well in a beer.” AVBC’s site describes Black Rice as a Nut Brown, in fact.

I asked Allen if the intent actually was to make a Nut Brown or if they were searching for a style to suit the black rice. “It was really a matter of finding a style that the beer fit into,” he responded, adding “it is not really a nut brown ale but people want to know what it is like… we thought that it was closest to a nut brown ale.”

Allen noted they could also have compared it to Schwarzbier, but being neither German in style, nor a Lager ruled that out “although the beer certainly tastes like a schwartz bier.”

This hit on what, to me, is probably the most intriguing aspect of Black Rice Ale — how it melds roasty flavors of Black Ales and Lagers with the nuttier tones of American and English Browns. I wondered what the black rice actually brought to the beer besides being a cool ingredient to throw in the mash. Allen said the rice gives the beer its “delicious dark color,” and “a nice nutty flavor,” and doesn’t think it contributed anything to the beer’s aroma.

Remembering how the 2014 release of AVBC’s Gose sparked a new era for the brewery (and for Sour Ales in America in general), and noticing that Black Rice arrives at the same time as the brewery’s Barrel-Aged Stouts and Porters moving from bombers to cans and the introduction of its new Hibiscus Rozelle, I asked Allen if we were seeing another instance of Anderson Valley not quite reinventing itself, but refocusing.

“I agree it does feel a little like that, but I think it was more to do with a change in attitude,” he explained. “We are not trying to reinvent ourselves so much as we are trying to get our products out to market a little better.” The unpainted cans AVBC uses allows them to more quickly take what may be initially a draft-only offering and get it out to a wider audience if the response is good.

With bottle sales way down and cans on the rise on the East Coast, that promises more cool AVBC beers on the horizon. For now, check out Black Rice Ale if you see it around.

Upcoming Beer Events at Arrowine:

TODAY — Friday, September 13, 5-7 p.m. — Tom Blanch of Sierra Nevada
Saturday, September 21, 1-4 p.m. — Devon Callan of Reason Beer Company
Saturday, October 5, 12-3 p.m. — Patrick Cashin of Charm City Meadworks
Friday, November 8, 5-7 p.m. — Jesse Ploeg of Potter’s Craft Cider

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

I don’t like to be negative about beer. I’ve gone out of my way to not be negative about beer. I’ve written exactly one negative review of a beer ever and I came to regret it almost immediately. Going negative inevitably obscures any relevant point you’re trying to make.

That said, I have to level with you all: craft beer in 2019 is making me go a little negative, and I’m not loving it.

A couple weeks back, I had an impromptu Hazy/Juicy IPA shootout with six different beers, none of which I’d had before. Four were samples from distributors; two were from a very sought-after Haze producer and were gifted to me by one of our Arrowine regulars.

Two of the beers were “flawed” — showing obvious errors in production. Another two, from the brewery that has lines of people waiting to stock up every day, were totally out of whack. One of them so misused the Nelson hop that it smelled and tasted like the cheap weed that guy at the party who’s a friend of the host who you kinda know but aren’t 100% comfortable with offers you — and not in a good way.

The other was an extra-hoppy variant of their flagship Hazy IPA. If clone recipes are to be believed, Apollo and Citra hops are prevalent in this beer, both of which can go vegetal used in too high concentrations at the wrong times. Sure enough, it started well enough before going very green onion-y on the back palate. So close. So close.

The last beer was the sole bright spot of the tasting: a flagship New England IPA from a Virginia brewery that showed a vibrant palate of tropical/lemony hop flavors laid upon a delicate grist of pale malts, oats and wheat, with a hint of eucalyptus adding something unexpected and welcome.

Trying a variety of IPAs these days, one finds there are some brewers who really know what they’re doing, but even more who know what they’re doing — cranking out untested/unrefined recipes often producing flawed beers. I don’t care if a brewery is chasing the FOMO crowd and putting out a ton of IPAs every week; I care that those IPAs are fundamentally well-made, able to be judged on their own merits, and not turning new beer lovers off to the style, or beer in general.

For the sake of not being entirely negative, I’ll shout out a couple beers I’ve recently enjoyed, starting with New Realm’s Hazy Like A Fox — the one beer of those six mentioned above that was a highlight. When a brewery’s co-founder and brewmaster literally wrote the book on making IPA, I guess it’s no surprise.

Earlier this week, I got to preview Three Notch’d Brewing’s Nephology Batch 7 IPA (pictured above), the latest in a monthly series of Juicy/Hazy IPAs. Batch 7 features Denali, a relatively new hop variety that I’ve grown fond of in production beers and in my own occasional homebrews.

At 8% ABV, it’s a lush showcase for Denali’s candied, pineapple-y aromas and flavors, but avoids hop burn or coming across as too “heavy.” It’s hitting the market this week and well worth checking out.

Bottom line: there’s a world of good stuff out there right now, but don’t let the hype tell you what’s good. Trust your palate, and if you have an interest, learn more about off-flavors and flaws to help you better discern what’s good versus what’s bad versus what’s flawed.

Upcoming Beer Events at Arrowine:

TONIGHT, 8/30, 5-7 p.m. — Stephanie Boles of Old Ox Brewing
Saturday, 9/7, 1-4 p.m. — Garrett Smouse of Fair Winds Brewing Company
Friday, 9/13, 5-7 p.m. — Tom Blanch of Sierra Nevada
Saturday, 9/14, 1-4 p.m. — Joe Kasper of 3 Stars
Saturday, 9/21, 1-4 p.m. — Devon Callan of Reason Beer Company
Friday, 11/8, 5-7 p.m. — Jesse Ploeg of Potter’s Craft Cider

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