Arlington, VA

This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, 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.

This week I was lucky enough to find myself over at Nationals Park to watch a game and, for professional purposes, to have a hot dog and beer.

It wasn’t my first trip to the stadium this year, but it was the first time I sat up in the newly reopened 300 level, which was much closer to where I’d say my usual seats are (also from where I saw T-Swizzle back in 2015.) However, the closest District Drafts stand was all the way down by the 100s, and because this beer purchase was for Professional Research Purposes™, I made the walk down and back up, which gave me time to think about sessionable beers.

Session beers are hard to nail down in an exact definition. Originating in British and Irish drinking culture, these beers are characterized by being low in ABV (at Arrowine, we’re aiming for sub 5%) and high in flavor and refreshment. You might find stories of workers being allowed drinking “sessions” while working, a “session” meaning anytime you get together to have more than one beer. And you might think that concept exists so ubiquitously that it doesn’t need to have its origins pinpointed. For many folks in the U.S., before the growth of craft beer in America, this is what all beers were. Even now many of the imperial stout and double IPA drinkers I know will reach for light lagers when extended days of drinking are on the docket.

The walk back up the twisting switchback ramp was even more inspiring with a Port City Optimal Wit and a Right Proper Raised by Wolves in hand. My wife and I always toast Opening Day with an Optimal Wit, since the story goes that it was Port City’s Bill Butcher who did some heavy lobbying to get the District Drafts stands into the park. Plus, it is a delightful beer that I could drink anytime, anyplace. The Raised by Wolves stands out as being packed with flavor, extremely aromatic and, because I had sessions on my mind, the 5% ABV really swayed me. Maybe it was because it was a weeknight. Maybe it was because I was ordering the 23-ounce large size of each. Or maybe it was because of the time I spent this week tagging items in our online store to build out the session beer section of our website. Whatever the reasons, drinking something delicious but not Barrel-Aged-Imperial-Coffee-Marshmallow delicious was the raison d’etre.

Never really going out of style, the concept has made many a push in my time of beermongering. You have a strong British influence that was present in corners of the aughts, the rise of session IPAs that followed the “extreme beer” era and even now the number of large craft producers introducing low calorie, sub-4% IPAs geared toward expanding the audience of craft. Add on top of that the rise of craft lagers that are following the hazy IPA wave that has been washing over the industry, and we might be poised to enter a session renaissance.

If you’ve got a favorite sessionable beer, drop a comment below and look out for it possibly coming to our shelves.

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This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, 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 thing you might not always think of when you finally get the chance to step back into our store here at Arrowine (it is coming soon, I promise!) is that we sell agricultural products. The milk for our cheeses comes from well cared for and respected grazing animals, and the wines we sell are made great by growing high-quality grapes in the vineyards — not in a lab where they can be manipulated and fussed with (highly technical terms).

With Earth Day having passed us this week, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a number of the environmental initiatives our brewery friends are undertaking to have a positive impact on our world ecosystem.

Two somewhat newer things you might notice on a label or package these days are Certified B Corporations and 1% for the Planet. Some of the 1% for the Planet member breweries we stock are Maine Beer Company, Vasen Brewing and Bearded Iris Brewing. These companies not only make  financial donations and adhere to sustainable practices in the brewhouse, but they also volunteer their time to different environmental initiatives.

Certified B Corps undergo a certification process that looks at not only their environmental impact but also their social impact. We have beers on shelves from Certified B Corps Allagash Brewing and North Coast Brewing, but you’ll also see the B logo in our freezer from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and in the cheese case on Vermont Creamery products. Allagash also recently started up a recycling co-op for some of the waste products of the brewing process that require special processing. Maine Beer Company and Bissell Brothers, located in the immediate area, also joined in. This echoes a similar program that Bell’s Brewery announced earlier this year that will hopefully inspire more of these collaborations.

Many of our local breweries also make use of local ingredients in order to drive home their commitment to reducing environmental impact. If you’ve recently held a can or bottle of Port City Optimal Wit, you may have noticed that it’s brewed with 100% Virginia wheat grown in the Northern Neck. You’d be forgiven if you haven’t stared at the breakdown of estate-grown vs. regionally sourced malts on any of the bottles from Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery — the beers alone are worthy of all your attention — but if you’re going to geek out a little over that information then we are going to get along great.

One of my favorite locavore beers, though, has to be Salts from Black Narrows. This gose-inspired tart wheat ale harvests natural yeast from oyster shells and also combines a portion of oyster liquor into the brew. The results are not only bright, briny and refreshing, but it also changes throughout the seasons to truly reflect the terroir of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Another essential input to the brewing process that doesn’t even end up in the beer is energy. In cities such as D.C., it can be difficult to grow your own ingredients for your beers — but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own resources. Atlas Brewing’s cans proudly state that they are “Solar Powered Beer,” and if you ever visit their Ivy City taproom, you can see a display on the wall that shows what power is being harvested from the sun, what is being used by the brewery and what is going back to the grid. Their uptown neighbors Right Proper’s Brookland production facility reduced its energy use by installing LED lights and offset half its energy consumption with a solar canopy out front and an array of panels on the roof. In Vermont, Hermit Thrush Brewery uses wood pellets to power its brewhouse created from sawdust from the local timber industry that would otherwise be considered waste.

Port City’s Optimal Wit in their “Beer Grown Here” branded glasses

I’ve got a collection on the Arrowine online store of all the products covered here. Apologies to anyone I may have missed, but thank you for doing your part as well. If you know anybody I’ve overlooked, please let me know in the comments! Whether it’s a brewery we carry here at the store or not, it’s great to point out and applaud these breweries for their efforts. Cheers!

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This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, 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.

This has happened to us all, I am sure.

It’s a little after noon one weekday, and you see the notification pop up on a group text you’re in with a few old coworkers: “I’m adapting Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe to beer and not sure what type to sub in for the wine.” Will this beer cook down to be too bitter? Would a sour mirror the acidity found in the wine? Could this beer be too light and be overpowered by the beef? Maybe. The answer to all of these questions really is maybe.

Cooking with beers can be tricky, but there are a few general guidelines you can follow to set yourself up for success.

First, don’t cook with something you wouldn’t want to drink on its own. If you didn’t like it the way it was brewed to be enjoyed, then you’re probably not going to like what it does in your recipe.

Secondly, don’t start off too bitter — not just hops but intensely roasty beers as well. Long cooking times and reductions will concentrate and intensify those bitter flavors. I strongly suggest skipping over coffee beers, too. The high heat brings out extra bite in the coffee like an over extended brewing time would.

Lastly, it’s better to skip anything you’d describe as subtle or delicate flavor-wise, as those flavors can be masked by other ingredients or lost in the cooking process.

So now that we got the negatives out of the way, let’s talk about the things you can and should definitely try.

Sweeter malty beers will concentrate over time and make an excellent choice for braising and stews. I love De Struise Pannepot, a really unique take on a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that veers towards Imperial Stout. One of the most decadent things I have ever eaten was at Nuetnigenough in Brussels where they served braised beef cheeks that had slow cooked in that beer.

Dinner at Nuetnigenough in Brussels

Rich chocolatey stouts can be incredible in baked goods like brownies.

Steamed Mussels in Lambic are always delicious as well. I’ve enjoyed anything from a classic Gueuze with butter and garlic to Framboise with bacon. Recently, when it was a little too cold to break out the smoker, I even added a bit of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock to some onions, mustard and a pork shoulder and was very pleased with the results after a few hours in a 275°F degree oven. The smokiness wasn’t overpowering at all, and it even cooked down to a rich umami-packed sauce that would be just as good in vegetarian chili as it was here.

Your Beermonger with steamed mussels in Lambic

Anybody out there have a great recipe for cooking with beer they want to share with me? I’ve been wanting to try swapping out a little bit of the water in my pizza dough recipe for a crisp pilsner.

Oh, and if you’re curious what I suggested for the Bourguignon, I pushed for an Oud Brun with its maltiness and tart acidity, but those are getting harder and harder to find. I couldn’t even offer a classic example here, but the friend in question settled on a Right Proper Baron Corvo, which is a pretty damn good choice I’d say.

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This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, 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.

It’s coming to my attention that I have a problem with pop culture, namely that I cannot stop referencing it in my everyday conversations. It hasn’t gotten quite to Abed from “Community” levels of bad yet, but I might be on my way.

I find myself particularly immersed in music pop culture, and a lot of my timeframe for those references is the ’80s and ’90s. The impetus for me realizing this was becoming a problem was when I was having a perfectly normal conversation with a coworker this week, and a little light goes off in my head. Next thing I know, I’m searching YouTube for a commercial Nirvana did with Bobcat Goldthwait.

Luckily for me, this ’80s and ’90s pop culture knowledge does leave me primed to understand where a lot of these beers are getting their names these days…

Poring over a beer list these days can sometimes be pretty intimidating. Occasionally you’re presented with a beer that is straightforward and clear about what it is. Take, for example, Hardywood Pils. You’ve got the name of the brewery, the style of beer — and that’s it. Then you’ve probably got your fair share of puns, a few ten-cent words and the ever increasingly more popular short paragraph. But the ones that jump out at me are those names that drop a quarter into the jukebox of my mind.

Just this week we got in a new West Coast IPA from Brooklyn’s Interboro called Left of the Dial, and when I see the can, I can hear in my head the strum of The Replacements. DuClaw just released an orange and vanilla infused IPA called It Was All A Dream-sicle, and there is absolutely no way I can read that without following up with Word Up magazine.

The alternative rock and hip hop of the ’90s I grew up on definitely seems to overlap with brewers, marketers and others involved in the naming process of these beers. You see some folks that might skew a little older — I see you, Bluejacket with your Mexican Radio and Love Cats — and of course the more “of the moment” names as well. You also see someone like Atlas swelling with hometown pride with their Dance of Days Pale Ale, which pairs well with house shows according to the can!

To celebrate a few of the musically inclined beers we have in stock right now, I’ve put together a little Beermonger’s Playlist on Spotify. Feel free to have a listen.

If you’ve got a favorite beer I missed, let me know below. I skipped a few I really enjoy that aren’t in stock now (sadly no Permanent Funeral just yet), but I know there’s some great examples out there.

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This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, 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.

Your old, jaded Beermonger here was all set to pen an ode to the simple yet complex joys of the humble lager and its recent return to respectability within the craft beer culture at large. We’re talkin’ beers driven by high-quality ingredients and centuries-developed techniques, not by hops that form their own sentient amorphous T-2000-esque ooze or the effects of non-nutritive cereal varnish on head retention.

Instead, within the past week, we saw one of the most long-awaited brewery launches (technically a re-launch but it’s been a LONG time) from 3 Floyds out of Munster, Indiana. You might know them for their bright comic book inspired artwork, their frequent collaborations with heavy metal bands, their annual Dark Lord Day festival or, if you’re the type of beer drinker who frequented RateBeer or Beer Advocate in the late aughts, then you know them as The Best Brewery In The World.

That last bit was where I first really was introduced to the brewery. Dark Lord used to sit atop pretty much any list of Best Beers in the World that was floating around at the time. I was convinced, in my mind, that the praise was based highly on the fact that you couldn’t actually get the beer. (The more things change the more they stay the same.) Dark Lord may not have invented the “beer you can only get for one day a year,” but it sure took the beer release to a new level. It was a beer geek party that included bottle shares that were seemingly the stuff of legends.

At the time, the full lineup was very much the same way. They distributed to a very small number of states. (At one time, that distribution reached the East Coast but as demand went up, they pulled back to a very small handful of states.) For years I would visit my in-laws in Chicago and carry an extra suitcase on the way out in order to bring back plenty of Zombie Dust. The beers they produced were very in vogue for the time of Extreme Beer, high ABV, high IBUs, aggressive names and labels — worlds apart from the soft, pillowy hazy IPAs, triple fruit smoothie sours and every type of candy bar in the grocery store checkout aisle pastry stout that rule today.

I was so impressed by Alpha King the first time I had it because, in my mind, it sat perfectly in the space between two of my other favorite beers at the time, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Dogfish Head 60 Minute. To see that beer being one of the hottest items on the shelf in 2021 tops my list of unexpected events of the year so far. Let that sink in for a moment. Here, in this calendar year, it’s people losing their minds for bitter IPAs you can see through that has caught me the most off-guard.

Here at Arrowine we got in our first shipment of 3 Floyds last week, and it sold out before I could even send a newsletter out. Luckily we got another shipment this afternoon, so it looks like the Midwest Masters of Hops are going to be here to stay.

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This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, 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.

Hello, readers of ARLnow.

This is your new Arrowine Beermonger, Todd. I figured, rather than the typical introduction, I’d let you get to know me a little bit more by talking about one of my favorite beers. (Three sentences in and you’ve already learned that I sometimes take the long way to get to a point.)

The concept of a desert island beer seems pretty simple, right? You’re stuck on an island, and you have only one beer to drink until someone conceivably comes to rescue you — or you live out the rest of your days in an introvert’s paradise. Are you thinking of your all-time favorite that you can enjoy over and over, never tiring of the taste? Or maybe you’re looking to pamper yourself in this hypothetical by loading up on that rare bottle you’ve never gotten your hands on.

Personally, I’m looking for something that will be versatile enough to cover all the bases and that will be continually developing so I’m always on my toes. Enter: Orval.

Brasserie d’Orval is a Trappist brewery located within the walls of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval in the Gaume region of Belgium. Gaume is about as far away from Brussels as you can get while still being in Belgium. And Orval is about as different from your typical Trappist beer while still being a Trappist beer. (Trappist beers are categorized by the monks making it rather than the style or ingredients.) You might be thinking of the beautiful simplicity of Westvleteren Blond or the rich caramelized fruits of Chimay Grande Reserve, and most Trappist beers resemble one of the archetypal styles (Singel, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadruppel).

Orval, on the other hand, at its most simple, is described as a Belgian pale ale, but even that gets a few twists and turns thrown in like dry-hopping and my favorite part: an intentional dosing of wild yeast, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, at bottling. This last addition is what makes Orval my ideal desert island beer. That “Brett,” as best known to its friends and enemies, will continue to ferment the bottled beer for years to come, which introduces differing levels of funk in every bottle, an increase in carbonation (the reason it comes in such heavy bottles) and has the added benefit of scavenging oxygen.

At a young age, the beer is dry, fruity and very refreshing, but as it ages, it becomes bone dry, introducing more spicy notes and far more complexity. To speak to the joys that the full spectrum of this beer brings me, I cite two examples. First, one of the many highlights of spending my honeymoon in Belgium was exploring the grounds of the abbey and sitting in the cafe down the road to enjoy an Orval far fresher than any I’ve ever seen in the United States. And second, I once found two bottles in a store that had been bottled on Feb. 29, 2012. I immediately bought them with the intention of opening one on each of the subsequent Leap Days in 2016 and 2020. (Best laid plans and all but that didn’t work out.)

I was inspired to make this the topic of my first column since we’ve got more Orval arriving at Arrowine today. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend picking up a bottle or two with your next order.

Drop a comment below and let me know what your desert island beer would be!

Cheers,

Todd

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This sponsored column is written by Jace Gonnerman, 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.

Certain beers just have something about them. They can evoke a personal memory or signal the changing of the season.

This week’s return of Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA is certainly one of those for me. Brewed since 1981, its piney, citrusy goodness serves as the unofficial beer kick-off to the holiday season.

And it got me thinking, what beers from around the D.C. area do the same thing? Here’s my list of 10, no order. A couple minor ground rules. I tried to include beers that have been made more than once and are seasonal or sporadic releases.

DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon  9.2% Imperial IPA: The original “hype beer” in the D.C. area. Coveted by beer traders and hop heads across the country. Intensely hoppy with orange citrus, grapefruit and pine. Oh, and in stock this week!

Port City Oktoberfest: Picking which Oktoberfest to use for this list was unspeakably hard. We’re blessed with dozens of worthy versions in our area. But Port City’s version is world class, as evidenced by its multiple Great American Beer Festival medals. Perfectly balanced with toasty malt and light noble hops — and the perfect transition from summer to fall.

Ocelot Talking Backwards — 11% Triple IPA: A beer that I had a hand in creating when I was at Meridian Pint — brewed once a year in late December and released around February 1. The recipe has changed slightly over the years as tastes have evolved, but it’s too drinkable for the hefty ABV and heavily charged with Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops.

Hellbender Dunkelweisse — 4.8% Dunkelweizen: A favorite of mine and perhaps the most unique beer on this list. Hellbender’s unique mash filter system allows them to produce beer using 100% wheat. Hugely flavorful at the minuscule ABV, with a nutty malt backbone and banana fermentation character that screams fall.

Fair Winds Hell’s Navigator — 6.5% Maibock: I’ve been drinking Charlie Buettner’s lagers since his early days at Mad Fox and this is one of his best. A strong, golden lager brewed to usher in spring. Clean with subtle citrusy hops and immense drinkability.

3 Stars Brewing Trouble in Paradise — 6.5% Mango/Guava Sour: As a rule, I tend to avoid heavily fruited sours. Too sweet, too thick. Too much smoothie and not enough beer. This is the exception to that rule. Threads the needle perfectly with balanced acidity and big, authentic, vibrant fruit. A summer cocktail in a can.

Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo — 11.3% Barrel-Aged Stout: My progression into beer sort of went backwards. I got hooked on big stouts and barrel-aged beers before making my way into lagers, IPAs, and more sessionable offerings. And as big barrel-aged beers go, this is one of the best. Full bodied with notes of dark chocolate, roast, whiskey, vanilla, oak and more. It’s not winter without some BA Gonzo on hand.

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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.

Well folks. It’s been quite a ride.

I always knew (as did the fine folks that hired me) that my time at Arrowine was going to be limited, but I’d always figured I’d go out like Paxton: Hard worker, hits all his marks, trustworthy in clutch moments — replaced by a Steve Kerr.

But, well… It didn’t happen that way did it? As Pearl Jam said:

Do you see the way that tree bends?
Does it inspire?
Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays…
A lesson to be applied…

And here I am saying goodbye almost just as soon as I got to know a lot of you. I knew I’d be stepping away sooner or later, but like many things during these times — hard dates went back and forth and up and down for a while.

So. Now, here we are. One last chance to make a forced reference to — er uhhh, one last column, to say goodbye.

It’s not a binder with the words “The Last Dance” scrawled over it. It’s not Phil Jackson inviting the entire ’98 Bulls team to share their thoughts and feelings and then throw them in a burn bin, and it’s certainly not Jordan’s last season in Chicago. But it’s surely akin to the cigar sitting at Jordan’s right hand at the start of my favorite over referenced ESPN documentary.

It’s time to spark that cigar and say goodbye, but let’s have some beers to go with it — a little music would be nice too.

Mind you, if you don’t enjoy cigars or smoke, I’m not encouraging you to start now, and the opinions below reflect solely my own preferences and not those of ARLnow, Arrowine ownership, or any of the Breweries whose beers I suggest. If you’re looking for a beer that brings the smoke without the cigar — I highly suggest you pick up some Port City Rauch Marzen — in store Saturday.

But sometimes a smoke, a satisfying beer and some fantastic music are the perfect triumvirate to sit back and reflect.

Guinness Dry Irish Stout
Drew Estate Liga 9 Panatella
“If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” — Nas featuring Lauryn Hill

If I ruled the world… Well for starters, I’d have gotten more time working with Nick Anderson and Jace Gonnerman, but I could also settle for seeing more of all this.

Sub 5 percent stouts, small gauge cigars, and much more Nas and Lauryn Hill. The only beer on this list you could finish before the song it is paired with is over — Guinness has an inverse relationship between it’s complexity and its easy drinking nature. Pairing it with a shortie like the panatella allows both of them to really shine without eclipsing the other’s talents — just like a duet between Nas and Miss Hill.

Oftentimes you don’t need a giant cigar and a huge, boozy, BA RIS — sometimes you just need to vibe.

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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.

I intended a bit of an Oktoberfest round up for the end of September but the calendar kind of goofed with that. Not only is the column off rotation from the official start of Oktoberfest (last Saturday), but my days at Arrowine are very near officially coming to an end.

I’ll be around for awhile folks, don’t worry — you’ve yet to be released from my terrible jokes and stretched references to broadway musicals, Flight of the Conchords, long dead internet memes and The Last Dance — but I’ll be moving this fall, and it’s time to pass the torch to someone that should be familiar to those of you who follow the D.C. area beer scene.

So today’s column is not an Oktoberfest column (but do check out Commonwealth’s, Sierra Nevada’s, Narragansett’s, or bundle Port City’s up with some Meat Crafters Bratwursts for dinner), today we meet your new Beermonger — Jace Gonnerman.

Jace and I have known each other for a little while, his beer program and bottle list were pretty essential study materials for me while working towards my level two Cicerone, and our shared midwest roots led me to pair up a Central Waters/Local Option Petit Mort with some Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese (check our our Dolce Gorgonzola for your own mac).

Steve: So Jace, both of us are midwest transplants. I came out here when my spouse got a job with the Federal Government — tale as old as beltway time right? What brought you to the D.C. area?

Jace: Baseball initially. I graduated from Indiana State in 2009 with a degree in Sport Management and Business Administration. I moved to Waldorf, Maryland on New Year’s Day of 2010 to work for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Baseball Team. About eight months later I moved into Washington, D.C. and took a position with the same health care consulting firm that everyone works for in their early 20s.

So yeah, my path to craft beer is long and weird, as most are. On top of consulting, a bartending and serving job taken to pay the rent quickly became a career when I fell for beers like Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold and Bell’s Two Hearted at Lou’s. From there I started bartending at Smoke & Barrel in early 2012. Things moved quickly from there and by mid-2014 I was serving as the Beverage Director at Meridian Pint and Brookland Pint as well.

Steve: I can’t lie, I miss pouring over the beer list at Brookland Pint for myself but also picking out beers to go with the pairing meal we offered with City Brew Tours — I kinda want to see what your ideal pairings with that plate would be — so from sweet potato wedges to buffalo wings, what do you got?

Jace: Sweet Potato Wedges — I always like something malty but still crisp here. Any darker lager is great (Vienna, Tmave Pivo, Dunkel, etc). An American Amber is a good pairing as well, especially if using a creamy/fatty dip.

Pint House Salad — The Pint House salad is classic and simple in its preparation. Mixed greens, a few veggies and a house balsamic vinaigrette. A classic, unfruited Gose (sour German wheat beer) such as Union Old Pro would be a great compliment here. A classic Witbier such as Port City Optimal Wit or Allagash White would be another tremendous pairing.

Bean and Cheese Quesadilla — A classic Pale Ale or IPA would be my first choice here. As much as I love the current soft/juicy/hazy IPA trend, the fact is they’re pretty poor food pairings. A classic example with a firm bitterness and bit of malt backbone is going to cut some of the richness of the bean/cheese/butter trio.

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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.

A fair amount of people can probably guess what makes a good beer. Quality ingredients, technical skill, patience, a little creativity helps of course, but what about the best beer you ever had?

What makes a beer reach that level of greatness? Sure — it had to be a beer of some quality to begin with, but it’s like a good run, or a good meal, or a good — you get it. So many things come together for that perfect beer drinking experience. Location, some place new, some place familiar, the vibe, music or nature? Could be solitude, could be with friends, could be with thousands of strangers and one special person.

Some of my best beers? A lot of them have been some of the most simple beers. Zeroing in on a home brew recipe I’d been working on for years over several batches — that was a pretty good beer, it was a simple but good wheat beer but the build up, the anticipation and the satisfaction with every sip — superb

Enjoying my grandfather’s favorite amber lager out of a frosted mug around Christmas… that is definitely a top 5 beer — one of those “you’re in the grown-ups club” moments that tend to happen around the holidays and maybe a couple months before statute…

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of sipping on the national beer of Cuba, Cristal — a pale but malty lager with imported Czech hops — while laying on the wall of a Spanish Fort in Havana while a local wailed Hendrix from his guitar as the sun went down… that was a pretty darn good beer.

But none of those were the best beer I ever had. Best beer I ever had, I’m not sure if I’ll ever have again. For years, I’ve told this story hoping someone like-minded would know what I was talking about, but to no avail.

The best beer I ever had… Was Zwickl Rot. Yeah, you see how that’s not helpful right?

We were on vacation in Vienna, the first time I’d been to Europe and it was a near literal midsummer night’s dream, perfectly warm and sunny with a few clouds as we went from afternoon into early evening — we came upon a festival in the Rathausplatz.

I made my way up to a beer truck and decided, with my limited German, to order the beer on offer I recognized the least — “zwei Zwickl Rot bitte.”

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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.

“Phew!” Was not a thousand percent sure I’d finish the column by Friday.

Took a day off (well, from the store) this week and… ya know how three day weekends often just mean fitting a 5 day work week into one less day? Well.. yeah. I’m there. But we did it. It’s finished, you’re reading it as a finished piece right now. And listen, this may come as a shock to you, but I will often have a beer open as I finish this column.

I’ll pause a moment for many of you to unclutch your pearls.

We’re adults here obviously. This is a beer column. While coffee is in charge when for editing, whilst writing, well… a picture speaks a thousand words.

And that Vleit Pilsner is really true to form, more often than not it’s a lager. I can pop one open as an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head takes more solid form, and one sip after another, one very rough paragraph begins to form, and then another and then a few sentences.

Before I know it I’ve finished a lager, but… boy I still need to see through that last thought. So, that first beer wasn’t bad, I may as well have one more for dessert. Most columns are a two beer write up — I think I’ve had one column that was a three beer job, and that required a full pot of coffee for editing the next morning. But finishing a column feels great — I wish I could do the same more often with books.

Listen, I am great at buying books. I’m pretty good at starting them even — Finishing them however?

The above was an attempt by me to get so many books at once that I’d almost certainly pick one up and finish it. It was a blind box purchase from Capitol Hill Books and to their credit I’m really interested in all these titles. To my credit I polished off one in a single afternoon — The Nose by Nikolai Gogol… yeah… it’s 45 pages.

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