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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Previously: As part of a pre-spring cleaning, I went Marie Kondo on the non-refrigerated part of my beer cellar, exorcising demons of my Gotta Have It past. Little joy was sparked.
I wish I had any duplicates of the beers I opened a couple weeks ago in my beer fridge to do a true 1:1 comparison. I say this because I had as good a hit rate on my beer fridge raid as I had a bad one a few weeks back. I think I just happened to have picked out a few beers that would’ve aged well regardless.
Since I had greater success with this round of tasting, I’ll go into notes on each beer running from left to right in this week’s picture:
Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Kaiser (Red Sash), 2012
The overlooked “other” Cuvee van de Kaiser, this 2012 Red Sash poured a deep golden amber color with healthy carbonation. The trademark Carolus spicy yeast combined with the rich, sweet Belgian Strong Blonde Ale gave off aromas of overripe banana. Tasted like honeyed apple or pear, and reminded me a bit of a lighter-color dessert wine (Vin Santo? Tokaji?).
Stone Double Bastard, 2013
Poured with shocking head retention and lacing for a seven-year old beer. Time was, Stone was all about the aggressive bitterness, but the real secret was how well-thought the grists were and Double Bastard may be among the best examples of this. A tick oxidized on the nose but with sweet golden raisin tones.
Bitterness is mostly faded, playing along the edges of a palate of boozy maple syrup and cocoa flavors. 12-18 months ago, this would have been perfect. As it is, I have another ’13 and a ’15 that I’ll be enjoying soon.
Brothers Fütnote (Black Currant), 2015
Closest thing to a clunker in the bunch. Currant was all but gone; a little oxidized; completely flat but the cork was set kind of odd so it may have been more to do with that than anything else. Still not that bad an old Sour, all things considered.
Almanac Barrel Noir, bottled winter, 2012
50% Bourbon BA Belgian-style Dark Ale/50% Imperial Stout. The best beer I opened throughout this little adventure: a tinge of oxidation with its age, but that age had also balanced the bourbon notes and the Belgian yeast spiciness without losing any of its component flavors. An absolute gem, and a great example of the rare beer that truly benefits from maturation.
Evil Twin Bozo Beer, 2013(?)
A massive 17.2% ABV that only shows out more with time. Evil Twin’s “kitchen sink” Stout with molasses, lactose, chocolate, almond, hazelnut, vanilla bean, cinnamon, oak spiral, chili, marshmallow, muscovado sugar, chestnut and coffee. Nose was all booze, cinnamon/chili spice and chocolate. The first sip shorted my brain out for a moment.
When I recovered, I found the spices quite alive and well, along with a hint of the hazelnut and most of all, the molasses and sugary notes. It was a bit much for my tastes, but in a bottle share I’d be able to have just enough for a laugh and I can see where some folks might really get into it.
I still advocate drinking those beer purchases rather than holding onto them, but this run was a pleasant surprise and a nice reminder that when you do come across the rare beer that ages well, they can be a true joy when caught at the right moment.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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)
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