Arlington, VA

This sponsored column is written by Steve Quartell, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

Surprise.

If there is one element of beer culture that keeps me engaged, it’s surprise. That moment when I am seized with delight by what I encounter from a new beer, a new brewery or by someone new to beer (or perhaps new to me as a beer drinker).

If my preconceptions about something or someone aren’t being rattled, I start to worry — so that surprise is nearly always welcome.

My late mother-in-law, Kathie, surprised me with her love for dark beers, once exclaiming about my home brewed porter “OOH — and It’s a Dark Beer — Yea! Yea!” You of course can’t hear it, but that “yea, yea” came out of her petite frame with an uncharacteristically deep mezzo that had us calling her Raekwon for the rest of the weekend.

She, perhaps surprising my wife and I both when she suggested we “Meet up in Asheville, cause I wanna try some good beers.” This was the summer of 2014 mind you, when Burial had ping pong tables and Igloo cooler mashtuns sitting where their gorgeous foeders now rest, so Kathie was ahead of the game on a lot of y’all.

We made stops at Burial, Wicked Weed and Green Man, amongst others, and I was floored seeing a side of my mother-in-law I’d never gotten to know. While we were getting to know each other better in the hills of the Blue Ridge mountains, Kathie became acquainted with dark beers during that quintessential German beer drinking event — chaperoning her daughter’s high school bus trip through Europe. One of the many dark beers she discovered on that trip, Ayinger’s Celebrator Doppelbock — was the last beer we shared together.

Kathie’s discoveries in the late 80s mirror my experience in the early 10’s on a trip to central Europe that was a real landmark in my beer education. One of my first delightful surprises in beer was in the first polotmavý and tmavý beers I tried on the Prague/Bratislava leg of that trip.

Even on the hottest day in central Europe that year — every dark lager (tmavý ležák) or “half-dark” lager (polotmavý ležák) I tried was satisfyingly rich while still being completely refreshing. Had I known enough back then I’d have visited the longstanding and much lauded U Fleků — a pivovar in the Tmavy brewing (and only Tmavy) business for the last 500 years — but U Medvídků and U Tri Ruzi especially had pretty darn stand up offerings as well.

Kathie left us too soon. She still surprises me in that I miss her more than I ever imagined, and I savor dark beers just a little more now. It was never big huge dark beers for her either. While she was no stranger to Chimay Blue or Allagash Curieux — bocks, porters and dark lagers were much more her style. Thankfully for all of us this is a style seeing a growing surge in popularity nationally making more and more American interpretations available to try seemingly every week.

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This sponsored column is written by Steve Quartell, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

One of the singular breweries in our area, one that I always enjoyed touring while working with City Brew Tours — is Right Proper Brewing in Washington, D.C.

Like Arrowine, they are a community staple, uncompromising in quality, and have a pretty great cheese counter if I’m being honest. One thing Right Proper has that Arrowine lacks though — is a great name — and I don’t mean the business name. I mean their co-founder…

Thor. Cheston.

His first name is Thor, his last name — just to drive the point home — is CHESTON. *pause for polite laughter from bachelorette party on tour*

I caught up with Thor about running a business and household (with his wife and co-owner Leah Cheston) during our current situation and how things look going forward. Having known, and briefly worked for — story for another column, Thor over the last few years, I still giggle at how awesome his name is. SO, this column will be in Q&A format so I can use that name as much as possible.

Steve: Thor, can I call you Thor?

Thor: You… already do?

Steve: Excellent, thank you. So, Thor, through all this mess, Right Proper has been operating a production brewery, a brewpub, distribution throughout the mid atlantic, and a robust farmer’s market presence — what has this balancing act been like?

Thor: Operating during the outbreak has been bonkers to say the least. Since all draft beer sales dried up overnight, we started taking some of our fun one-off beers and packaging them in bottles and cans.

Steve: That’s how I was lucky enough to grab a few bottles of the Barred in DC Collab — a twitter poll created Ruby Saison. Pretty seamless from ordering to enjoying.

Thor: Yep, We launched a new website and focused all of our efforts on driving business there. The brewpub has slowly been growing their sales and we’re now getting ready for Phase Two.

Steve: With D.C. entering Phase Two, what has been the bigger challenge — the storm of shutting things down, or the Jurassic Park style turning things back on again in the right order, phase by phase?

Thor: Honestly the shut down was easier. When there is only so much you can do and so much you cannot do your focus is narrowed and you do not end up being pulled in so many directions. The multi-phase reopening is extremely challenging as we are juggling customers’ expectations, our staff members’ concerns and the increased cost of doing business with no real promise of revenue.

Steve: I wager I can empathize. Recent uptick in foot traffic even considered though, I was able to pick up my beer at the Shaw Brewpub pretty easily (Missed out on the Black Beer Movement, Cuffing Saison, collab unfortunately) I imagine the Brookland production facility has been quieter?

Thor: You would imagine correctly sir, to the point that our brewery cat Prima has substantially extended her domain.

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This sponsored column is written by Steve Quartell, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

Words often fail.

But I’m not here to share my words today. I need to listen.

Listen, and read, and watch, and learn and grow. Because I don’t know about you all but I have always been drawn to beer because it is so absolutely human. It is so bound in community. Bound in what we owe to each other. I grow personally as the scope and diversity of my community grows — I hope you feel the same way.

Growth and change are rooted in better understanding, some of that needs to be rooted in today — we’ll get to that with the black voices below that give me continued insight into experiences outside my own — but so much is rooted in understanding our history.

I’m currently a few chapters into “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson. But I’m a slow reader, and I absorb information much better through visual instruction, so I am also “binging” a video playlist on Black Voices and Black History put together by the creators of Crash Course.

In our present day — I just came off two years running brewery tours in Washington, D.C. and had the benefit of meeting thousands of people from all over. Fortunately I’ve stayed in touch here and there with both @TheIPAway from the DMV area and @CraftBeerKillah out of Atlanta, Georgia. I love following their takes on their respective beer scenes and consider it a huge part of my understanding of what people love about beer.

I’ve also been inspired by the work of the Black Beer Movement, and am still kicking myself not ever getting my hands on their collaboration beer with Right Proper — a peach fruited Saison called Cuffing Saison.

On a national scale the work done by Beer Kulture, and the book “This Ain’t the Beer You’re Used to” woke me up to the persistent racism that survives in the beer industry at all levels, as well as the different perspectives needed to create change and move forward — it in turn spurred me to find voices I hadn’t heard before like UnCapEverything out of Richmond and TheBrotherAtTheBar out of Chicago.

And I can’t really speak about the brewing industry without mentioning Dr J. Jackson-Beckham of the Richmond Area and Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, two huge figures who need no introduction I could ever give, but if you aren’t already following them in some capacity — fix that.

Closer to home in our DMV beer industry, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention D.C.’s two black owned breweries Sankofa Beer and Soul Mega — and how much I greatly anticipate when they can begin distribution to Virginia.

At the same time I ran tours, I also worked with one of D.C.’s distilleries One Eight — I had the pleasure of working with and befriending Andrew, @FraudBartender, now the Tasting Room Manager — and worked a tasting table at an event in SE where I had no idea how lucky I was to meet Rabia Kamara owner of Ruby Scoops Ice Cream (Currently trying to finish a store build out in Richmond) and Angela Davis, The Kitchenista — creator of a Mac and Cheese recipe that may change your life.

Just thinking about that Mac and Cheese makes me hungry and also makes me think of the “looks so good it’s unfair I can’t eat it right now” instagram feed of Chef James Turner, Head Chef at Blue 44 in D.C. — you like food? Yeah, I thought so. Me too. Go there, now.

And if all of that makes you thirsty for a beer, call or message your DMV breweries and ask that they participate in the collaboration, “Black” Is Beautiful, raising funds for legal defense reform. I’ll go on record that if my brewery partners brew it, I’ll stack it.

Photo via Instagram

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This sponsored column is written by Steve Quartell, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

Ever throw a party and wonder if anyone will come? How about throwing an anniversary party and knowing people can’t come?

Richard Hartogs, and the rest of the team at Rocket Frog Brewing Company find themselves celebrating their second year of brewing virtually, hosting a Zoom Happy Hour last night. Rocket Frog came out of the gate strong their first year with a Great American Beer Festival Bronze for their Wallops Island Brown Ale.

For many new breweries, that first year can all blur together. In their sophomore season, there are at least reference points to look back on. Per Richard, “it felt like we were finally in a good groove — probably our best as a working production brewery–in February.” And then all those lessons learned had to be shelved for one guiding idea: adapt.

Rocket Frog closed their taproom ahead of Gov. Northam’s executive order and were early adopters of “Biermi,” a beer pick-up and delivery app developed by DMV-area brewery, True Respite. I can say from personal experience their pick-up operation is one of the smoothest and safest of any brewery I have ordered beer from in the last two months. Hand sanitizer is available for guests, staff members are in gloves and masks, and orders can be picked up from tables or brought outside for contactless curbside pick-up with a quick phone call.

Closing the taproom may have been a quick decision, but it certainly wasn’t easy. “We had to lay off some brewery staff. That was hard on Russell (Carpenter, PhD, Head Brewer), but we’ve recently brought them back in for some hours and hope to have him back soon.”

Next challenge: anniversary plans. Richard is no stranger to virtual or in-person beer meetups, having run Beer Head on meetup.com and being a regular contributor to the YouTube beer show Better Beer Authority. Last night, co-hosting with CJ Cross of Hops N Shine in Del Ray, Rocket Frog had their anniversary via Zoom.

Was it as good as an in person event? No. Adaptation is like that. We do what we can while we can. Maybe we find ways, bit by bit, to improve, to move from surviving to thriving. Right now at Arrowine we seem to adapt to something new each day. Until we can see you all again, we’ll be here operating as safely as possible, providing you the assortment of beers, wines, cheeses, and more that help bring some comfort into your home.

Photo via Facebook

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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 receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

For an upstart brewery, even the best of times can be a rollercoaster, and weathering the effects of the pandemic on the service industry is another matter altogether.

For Lorton’s Fair Winds Brewing, this has been especially true. Just a few months after opening in 2015, they won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their excellent Siren’s Lure Saison. The following years saw core lineup beers like Howling Gale IPA and Quayside Kölsch become mainstays of local draft lines and shelves.

Then, in January of last year, co-founder and CEO Casey Jones passed suddenly, not only breaking the hearts of all of us who knew and loved him, but leaving the young brewery without one of its guiding voices at a crucial time.

Over the rest of 2019, Fair Winds found its footing and then, well, you know — all of this. Fair Winds has managed to keep beer moving, however, thanks to a loyal fanbase, a great brewing team, and a lot of work from Sales and Operations Manager Chris Banich, who I got to catch up with during the past week.

Photo via Fair Winds

Banich started in the beer business as a part-timer at the old Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria (where I spent my 2007-2009) and became the beer buyer and eventually the store’s GM in its final months. After stints with a couple local wholesalers/distributors, Chris spent over three years as the Mid-Atlantic Manager for Colorado’s Avery Brewing. Following his time with Avery, Chris did some consultation work for Crooked Run and has been in his position at Fair Winds for close to a year and a half now.

I wanted to ask Chris about how the brewery is doing, how its sales have been affected, and how they’ve had to adapt. The biggest difference is, of course, the dramatic shift from kegs to packaged beer. “We really had no clue what this was all going to look like,” he said.

Initially, the Fair Winds team expected to have to dump a large amount of their kegged beer as many others have had to, but they were able to convert it all to package and sell it. Their flagship Howling Gale IPA has been “averaging double digit cases sold every day out of the tap room and almost 7 times that amount per day in the market.”

“We are still brewing a ton,” Banich tells me. “Our wholesaler is begging us for more beer. We have unfortunately had to short them beer a few times” as they try to keep up with Howling Gale sales. Banich credits that wholesaler network with keeping Fair Winds beers on grocery shelves and in independent accounts.

Looking forward, Chris is trying to see the opportunities in the world that emerges on the other side of this. While many key accounts may be lost, he says, “if a thousand or so breweries close, that means a lot more open draft lines. Do we immediately make up that volume in other places?”

Also, the breweries that do manage to survive will have the pick of a wealth of talent that is suddenly on the market. Here’s to the Fair Winds team continuing to persevere.

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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 receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

We’re starting off this week with recommended reading: Mike Snider at USA Today picked up on that Brewer’s Association survey I mentioned in my last column and ran with it, talking to several breweries about their experience during the pandemic, and how long they think they can sustain themselves.

Like in the survey, the responses are not encouraging but they’re not hopeless either. You can check out the piece here.

Prominently quoted in Snider’s article is Greg Engert of Neighborhood Restaurant Group. Besides local beer scene landmarks like Church Key and the two Rustico locations, NRG also has their Bluejacket Brewery in D.C. Bluejacket’s beers had, over the past year, gone from mostly D.C. with some appearances at Virginia bars and restaurants to becoming available at retailers with draft stations like Arrowine.

Now, Bluejacket is one of a sudden multitude of breweries whose beers will show up right at your door through NRG’s Neighborhood Provisions ordering service (Note: my wife and I placed a Neighborhood Provisions order within the past week; it’s outstanding).

With restaurants being decimated, breweries that were previously focused on “on-premise” sales have shifted, making beers available to consumers that we never would’ve expected to be retailed — and with home delivery, at that. Aslin, Bluejacket, Ocelot, Wheatland Spring and more NoVA breweries are now dropping beers at your doorstep — check with each for minimums, etc.

Outside of the immediate area, Richmond heavy hitters The Veil and Triple Crossing are now offering delivery of their beers to homes in NoVA, making many beer geeks daydreams come true.

It’s odd to encourage people to buy their beer directly from the brewery rather than from Arrowine, but the vast majority of these breweries weren’t distributing to retail anyway and weren’t planning to: the exceptions being the occasional Bluejacket keg (as of this writing, I have two on our draft station) and Aslin can release (again, two new ones just hit our Online Store.)

Also, this whole thing is going to come to an end someday and while I know we’ll lose some — maybe a lot — of our great local breweries, I want as many as possible to survive. Not to mention that right now, when we can’t go out and get together like we want to, it’s nice to have something exciting and enjoyable available. Anyway, we’re not hurting for selection at Arrowine.

So, going forward what I think I’d like to do is, as often as possible, use this column to feature different breweries to shine a light on them, and what they’re going through during this… let’s say unique?… period in time. Drop into the comments if you’ve taken advantage of any of these direct delivery options, whose beers you’ve ordered, and how the experience as been.

Take care of each other. See you 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.

Readers of this column caught a hint about Port City’s new Beach Drive Golden Ale last fall, when brewery Founder Bill Butcher mentioned during a chat that “a new Session Ale will arrive for the spring”.

Little did we know then what this spring would be like. With a Brewer’s Association survey released this week showing nearly half of responding breweries saying they would only be able to survive between one to three months under current conditions, what’s it like to roll out a new addition to your core lineup?

I reached out to Port City Director of Sales John Gartner to find out, and to get some details on the beer itself.

Beach Drive has been in the works since July of last year. The concept was “to capture the freedom and beauty of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park — easy going and refreshing.” Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves aimed to create a low-alcohol beer inspired by the low-gravity desítky style of Czech Lager, with the twist of using Port City’s go-to Ale yeast and a new American-grown experimental hop variety with spicy, floral characteristics reminiscent of classic European Noble hops.

Gartner says with Beach Drive, Reeves “was looking for the dryness of our Oktoberfest and the bitterness of our Helles”, and the finished product nails that perfectly. What surprised me was how full-bodied Beach Drive feels for a beer that clocks in at 4% ABV.

The combination of Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malts with that yeast strain works a minor miracle toward that end, and the experimental hop comes through with just the right amount of bitterness and spice.

Beach Drive also looks great, with a very nice wrap around its 12oz cans — another new thing for Port City. In the fall, Bill Butcher was talking about continuing to use mobile canning as Port City introduced its first 12oz canned beer, but the brewery ended up finding a used canning line to install in its Alexandria brewery.

The sporadic nature of mobile canning created constraints in the brewery’s cellar, according to Gartner. Buying the canning line allows Port City to produce the amount of packaging it needs as it needs and gives it flexibility in packaging future beers (no spoilers, but: look for some new 16oz can offerings from Port City this year; new 12oz cans are likely to appear, but none are planned for the rest of 2020 right now).

I’ll let John close the column out this week with some words on the experience of introducing Beach Drive now, how Port City is weathering the pandemic,and what you can do to support your local brewery.

“Launching this brand in our current environment has not been easy… the health and safety of all of our co-workers and customers is the most important thing — so there has been a lot of changes around the brewery to be proactive about internal and external safety, which has caused things to slow down.

“Overall, our staff, distributor partners and customers (like Arrowine) have been extremely helpful… during these times, we are proud to be able to launch new brands, and hopefully create a little joy in the world.

“(L)isten and follow the guidelines of the CBC — and support your local businesses. And not to be greedy, but when you do support your local businesses and you see a Port City product — maybe be so kind and include it with your purchase!”

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.

This was supposed to be a column about beer this week.

Well, it’s always supposed to be about beer but this one was supposed to be about the Lager I just got at Arrowine from Únětický Pivovar in Únětice, Czech Republic.

The beer is stunning: a double-decoction mashed, open fermented, honey golden dream of a Lager featuring malts from the 500-year old Malthouse Kounice and hops from the Žatec region. My friends at B. United sent a pressure — and temperature-controlled tank over, brought it back, and kegged off of it quickly enough to get this unfiltered, unpasteurized gem to a few accounts all over the country — and Arrowine was fortunate enough to be one.

Not only that, but of 3,500L brought to the States, we got 60L worth in the form of a pair of 30L kegs.

Make no mistake, I’m enjoying the hell out of the beer. So are many of our clients at Arrowine (I don’t expect it to last much longer past the time this column is published). It just feels… wrong to focus on it, and it alone?

So: How are you?

We’re holding up okay. Every day is an adventure right now: new guidelines, new closings, new SOP, but we’re here. We’re making it work however we can. Every day we’re getting a little more dialed-in on how the shop’s going to run to get us to the other side of this. I’ve been bowled over by our clients.

I assume a couple of you are on here reading right now, so thank you thank you thank you for your support. Not only in terms of the business itself, but for how many of you have reached out just to ask how we’re doing. I’m not sure I can truly explain what that means to us.

Perhaps I don’t have to. We all have friends in the hospitality industry and have had to watch it be just wiped out by this seemingly overnight. There are so many bars, restaurants, and yes, breweries that are just hanging on for dear life right now and those are the ones that haven’t already folded.

There are dozens of people I know who are suddenly out of work, and many who are putting in Herculean efforts to keep their ship afloat. Over the coming — who knows, weeks, months? — I’m hoping to be able to bring you some of their stories, and let you know how you can support them.

For now, stay safe, and enjoy what you can when you can.

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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’m a good percentage of Irish descent — Cork, to be specific — so I enjoy St. Patrick’s Day but since the more wayward days of my youth I avoid going out for St. Paddy’s as religiously as I avoid being out for New Year’s.

Now, I like Guinness Draught enough that I’ve always listed it as my desert island beer, but as it appears most of us will be celebrating St. Patrick’s inside this year I figured I should offer up some interesting alternatives to stock up on for your celebration, wherever that may be.

Evil Twin Even More 8 lb 6oz Newborn Infant Jesus (Queens, NY; contract brewed at Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford, CT):

A heads up for those sensitive, this Milk Stout does contain lactose so your mileage may vary. While it’s worth it for the name alone, this newly arrived Stout from Evil Twin makes for a fine change of pace from Guinness Draught. Slightly sweet from the lactose, more complex in malt than you might think, and at 5% ABV only a touch stronger than Draught, this is one to try while it’s available.

Three Notch’d Brewing Hydraulion Irish Red Ale (Charlottesville, VA; 5.3% ABV):

Part of the year-round Three Notch’d line since the beginning. Its name pays homage to a 19th century UVA fire company and its sole engine, a pump wagon called the Hydraulion. Its recipe pays homage to classic Irish Reds with Cara/Crystal malts and Goldings hops, set off with the modern touch of a Warrior hop bittering addition.

Commonwealth Brewing Scrumdiddilyumptious (Imperial Cream Ale, Virginia Beach, VA; 9.5% ABV):

I swear I’m not trying to pick out lactose-added beers, but it’s kinda working out that way. This fun experiment from Commonwealth is basically a Baileys-inspired Cream Ale using coffee and vanilla beans, cacao nibs and lactose. With its higher ABV it’ll knock you around a bit, but that might be what the moment calls for, no?

Greenbrier Valley Irish Dave’s Maple Bourbon Porter (Maxwelton, WV; 6% ABV):

My most blatant shill of the week, as this little treat is my featured draft this weekend at Arrowine. “Irish Dave” is Greenbrier’s head brewer who adds West Virginian maple syrup to this Porter before aging it in 13-year old bourbon barrels from Smooth Ambler. A little boozy, a little sweet and at 6% you can get more than a little in before it bites you — hard to ask for more.

Stay safe and have a great St. Patrick’s! Until next time.

Upcoming Arrowine Events:

Saturday, March 14, 1-4 p.m. — Virginia Tasting with Walsh Family, Early Mountain and Dr. Joy Ting
Sunday, March 15, 1-4 p.m. — Super Sunday Tasting! Three importer/distributors; 18 outstanding wines at standout prices
Tuesday, March 24, 6:30-9:30 p.m. — Spanish Wine Dinner at SER with winemaker Issac Fernanadez and importer Aurelio Cabestrero of Grapes of Spain. RSVP here.
Saturday, April 18, 1-4 p.m. — Port City Brewing feature tasting with Lager Series and other draft-only specialties

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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.

D.C.’s ANXO Cider is a favorite here at Arrowine and, as you might infer, of mine as well.

ANXO’s style is built around zero-adjunct, wine or native yeast fermented, completely dry ciders. The results have been a showcase for the apples used: mostly sourced from here in Virginia along with some from Pennsylvania, but in some cases including varieties from Oregon and Washington — including a very cool red-fleshed apple from Washington used to make their Rosé with no hibiscus or other coloring adjunct.

Among the best-received special releases from ANXO last year was a cider then called Intercontinental, recently re-released under its new name, Hereford Gold.

To make Hereford Gold, ANXO partnered up with Oliver’s Cider and Perry of Ocle Pychard in Herefordshire, England. The process involves Oliver’s sending some of their native yeast-fermented, wood-aged cider to D.C., where ANXO blends it with stainless steel-fermented, Pennsylvania-grown Goldrush apple cider.

The result is a truly complimentary blend of ingredients and styles. The classically earthy, slightly funky English cider of Oliver’s is balanced by the fruitier but no less dry American cider. The ciders have a harmonious acidity level, and while Hereford Gold is still pretty tannic by American standards, it is nonetheless tempered a bit by the Goldrush.

You can find cans of Hereford Gold around NoVA right now, but there was one sixtel (small keg, 5.17 gallons) that came through — and by now I think you know who has that. It just so happens that our friends from ANXO will be joining us here at Arrowine this very evening, February 28, from 5-7 p.m. for a sampling of Hereford Gold as well as some of their year-round offerings. It’s my first cider keg, so I’m pretty excited.

I hope to see you there, and if I don’t come find me around the shop and I’ll be happy to guide you through our ANXO stock anytime.

Upcoming Arrowine Events:

Friday, February 28, 5-7 p.m.: ANXO Cider tasting — only keg of Hereford Gold in NoVA on tap for fills
Sunday, March 1, 1-4 p.m.: German Wine Tasting — eight tables of German wines with winemakers and owners present
Monday, March 2, 5-7 p.m.: AR Lenoble Champagne tasting with Director of Export Christian Holthausen
Wednesday, March 4, 4:30-7:30 p.m.: Old Ox Brewing tasting with Sean Tracy — seasonal releases open and feature pricing on Black Ox fills
Saturday, March 14, 1-4 p.m.: Virginia wine tasting featuring Governor’s Cup Award winners
Tuesday, March 24, 6:30-9:30 p.m.: Spanish wine dinner at SER with winemaker Issac Fernandez and importer Aurelio Cabestrero of Grapes of Spain

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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.

Valentine’s Day is often associated with indulgences in food, wine and chocolates or other desserts.

If you’re looking to change things up a little this year, there are some beer options that can make your evening just a little more special. If I may humbly offer a few suggestions:

Before Or With Dinner

If you’re starting with finger foods or a cheese/charcuterie plate (wherever might you acquire one of those, I wonder?), a clean, snappy Pils or other lighter Lager can simultaneously accentuate flavors while staying out of their way. My old standby Veltins Pilsener does this well, as do Hardywood’s Pils, Port City’s Downright Pilsner and the new Bruery Ruekeller: Helles.

Helles is a great way to go for something with a tick more flavor that you can also take to the table. Consider The Bruery’s version along with Rocket Frog’s Hellenor.

With Dinner

English-style Ales offer a great mix of sweet notes from both their malts and yeasts, along with easy-going lower ABVs and balanced mouth feels thanks to judicious hop usage that rarely crossed over into bitter or overpowering. We’re lucky to have a couple good local options available in the Denizens Lowest Lord ESB and the recently arrived Fast Mail from Danville’s Ballad Brewing, a lovely interpretation of an English Mild clocking in at 4.2% ABV.

For the more adventurous, a nice Belgian or Belgian-style beer always works. Denizens comes through again here with Third Party Tripel, but it’s hard to stay away from Trappist classics like Westmalle Tripel, Rochefort 8 and Orval. It’s a bit esoteric, but De Proef’s Saison Imperiale is a unique, maltier take on the style that is complex and gorgeous on its own but would play well with earthier entrees.

After Dinner

Staying with the Belgians, Rodenbach’s Felmish Sours play beautifully off of chocolates and fruits. The Rodenbach Classic runs more tart than sour, with hints of cherry, while Alexander actually sees the addition of sour cherry juice. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with Rodenbach.

If you’re veering toward a truly indulgent end to the meal, consider a lush Imperial Stout: Toasted Almond from Back Bay’s Farmhouse Brewing Company in Virginia Beach is a cocktail-inspired, Bourbon barrel-aged monster made with lactose (pair with/on ice cream?), whole coffee beans and yes, toasted almonds.

It’s not cheap and hard to find — apparently only two cases came up to NoVA; guess who got one? — but if you’re going all-out, go all out, right? Also consider: Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal (recently released in 16oz cans and apparently as a year-round beer), Port City Porter, or Hardywood’s seasonal Baltic Sunrise, a lovely Baltic Porter on coffee.

As always, follow us on Untappd or check our site for real-time updates on what’s on the Draft Station. Until next time!

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