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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

It’s wonderful to be able to drink and talk about pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers in the actual season they are made for. With the first day of fall on Thursday, we are officially in the season of beers that began appearing on store shelves in August. Some of these and some recent releases have become my “faves” of the season. I’ve gone back to these beers, savoring them, and now I’d like to share them with you.

Ballast Point Brewing Pumpkin Down Scottish Ale with Pumpkin (5.8% ABV)

Ballast Point Brewing Pumpkin Down Scottish Ale with PumpkinSan Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing is known more for it’s West Coast IPAs and fruit infused beers than it is for earthy, spiced brews. But, every once in a while, they make an Indra Kunindra — a curried stout — or this pumpkin-loaded version of their potent Scottish ale, Piper Down. Once you pour this dark amber beer, the earthy aroma of squash mingles with cinnamon and nutmeg obscuring a malty honey wheat. Ballast Point avoids creating a pumpkin pie beer by rooting this in the malt forward style of the Scottish Ale. Slightly sweet and spiced at first, Pumpkin Down turns slightly bitter with the flavor of cooked pumpkin flesh. I’ve bought a couple sixers of this delicious Fall mashup. It’s tasty and versatile — enjoy it with a meal or on it’s own.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Punkin Ale (7.0% ABV)

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Punkin AlePunkin Ale has been a staple of the Dogfish Head line up since their earliest days — 1995. It’s distributed in nearly every state and might be the entry point for many into their beers. Though they have controls and labs and all, they are still a craft brewery that relies on humans for analyzing the flavors of their beers. What this means is that some years their Punkin Ale is just alright and some years it’s fantastic. This year’s falls into the latter category — and it has awesome label art. Bursting with aromas of sweet potato pie, cinnamon, nutmeg and sweet biscuit, Punkin seems to be poised to be a Pumpking-like beer. But it isn’t. It’s a solid brown ale that warms the palate with pumpkin pie spices, more winter warmer than typical pumpkin ale. Only in the finish is there a pumpkin presence, and it tends to be more of an earthiness than straight up pumpkin. Whether you’re looking for another pumpkin beer to try or can’t stand the sight of another, this beer might just be right for you. Available in four-packs as a strongish seasonal, this beer is worth a visit or a revisit.

Sixpoint Brewery Tesla Hop-Charged Lager (7.1% ABV)

Sixpoint Brewery Tesla Hop-Charged LagerYou can always rely on Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery to have fun with it beer names. Tesla, named for the inventor and not the electric luxury car brand, refers to the story that Nikolai Tesla once electrified a neighborhoods water supply causing homeowners to get a shock. Joining the recent trend of hoppy lagers or so-called India Pale Lagers (IPLs), Sixpoint has “hop-charged” this lager with American hops for a big, juicy lager. As you’d expect, the aroma is packed with tropical fruit and pine sap from the hops with a hint of Nilla wafer from the underlying lager. This beer is crisp, which is to say that it’s a typical lager, but almost immediately the hop flavors explode your mouth. What I enjoy most about hoppy lagers is that the beer is a nearly neutral vehicle for the varied and robust flavors of hops. This strong lager comes in the signature Sixpoint can and it goes down smooth with very little bite.

Great Lakes Brewing Co. Oktoberfest (6.5% ABV)

Great Lakes Brewing Co OktoberfestI had to include at least one Oktoberfest beer in this article. Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company delivers one of my Fall Faves in their own Oktoberfest. Hewing close to tradition, they brew their Fall lager with the darker Munich malt, which lends this beer its brown bread and raisin aroma. Malt is the name of the game here, too. I confess to crave the sharper flavors of an IPA or a sour, but each Fall there is something comforting about a malt-bomb of an Oktoberfest beer. The flavors here round out with a nuttiness that is satisfying. Grab a couple bottles or a Crowler of this traditional style and enjoy the cooling days.

These favorites and more are available now at Dominion Wine and Beer. Cheers!

by ARLnow.com — September 20, 2016 at 10:45 am 0

Pumpkin beer in the Clarendon Whole FoodsPools might close after Labor Day but summer has been very much still in effect over the past couple of weeks.

With high temps in the 80s and 90s, one does not exactly get the twigs and acorns crunching pleasurably beneath one’s boots feeling that traditionally prompts a craving for fall-related items — you know, the ever-popular pumpkin spice latte or a malty Oktoberfest beer.

Starbucks has been offering the “PSL” since the end of August (McDonald’s now has a version, too) and Oktoberfests and pumpkin beers started hitting local store shelves even earlier than that.

We know that such seasonal beverages are popular choices when the air gets crisp and the days shorter. But are they popular now before the official start of fall? (The autumnal equinox is Thursday.)

Given the proliferation of Starbucks and the crowds at our fall beer tasting event over the weekend, it seems like the answer might be yes. But let’s see whether actual consumption so far this season actually bears that out.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 26, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

Raise your hand if you know what a Crowler is. It’s okay if you don’t know. I’ll admit to having Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” pop into my head when I think of the word “Crowler.” But I digress. 

Crowlers are 32 oz. aluminum cans that start out open on top so they can be filled with beer like a growler. Rather than sealing with a cap, like a growler, a top is placed on the can that includes the tab opener that 12 oz. and tall boy cans have. Then the can and top are placed on a can seamer, which works like a can opener in reverse. 

Once the Crowler is sealed, you can keep it refrigerated for up to a month. Of course, once you open these single-use cans, be prepared to enjoy all the beer inside. While these giant cans are not resealable, their modest 32 oz. volume does mean that you can take that special release to go. Beer in the can will keep reasonably well while you enjoy it if you cannot pour it all into glasses right away. A tip that Richard over at Aslin gave me is to put plastic wrap over the top when you put the unfinished Crowler back in the fridge. Just don’t keep it like that for more than a few hours.

Born of a desire to solve for the inconsistency reusable glass growlers and a need for an affordable and unbreakable growler, Oskar Blues worked with can-maker Ball to develop the Crowler. The result is a packaging option that looks and acts like something that came off a canning line, but actually was filled on demand. 

The Crowler is so effective at packaging beer that local favorite, Aslin Beer Co. in Herndon, uses them — and traditional growlers — in place of traditional beer packaging. With their longer shelf life, it’s no surprise that you see craft beer lovers traveling with their Crowlers. It’s this portability and storability that makes this on-demand beer vessel an up and comer. 

I was able to grab two Crowlers of beer for this article: J. Wakefield Brewery’s El Jefe hefeweizen and Ocelot Brewing Company’s Buddhist Prodigy DIPA.

J. Wakefield Brewery, El Jefe Hefeweizen (5.5% ABV)

El Jefe HefeweizenI opened this Crowler first. I was impressed by the way the experience of this beer was preserved — the very fine effervescence that keeps this otherwise heavy ale light remained. By nature of the yeast that is used in this style of beer, you’d expect to smell and taste banana. That’s certainly in there, but the word here is coconut. It’s in the aroma and from the beginning of the sip through to the finish. While there is a brief sweetness, this wheat beer finishes with a malty quality common to a good hefeweizen. At 5.5%, this was a great beer for one or two in a Crowler.

Ocelot Brewing Company, Buddhist Prodigy DIPA (8.7% ABV)

Buddhist Prodigy DIPAThis is the type of beer that is perfect for the Crowler. It’s relatively high ABV makes it a great beer to share with a friend or two. This beer was in its unopened Crowler for about a week and it came out as though it had been freshly poured. The flavors were crisp and the beer retained its appropriate amount of carbonation. I see a theme forming in this column — tropical flavors! Buddhist Prodigy is a passion fruit juice bomb that favors clarity over cloudy, but nevertheless tastes like drinking in the tropics. Rather than following the trend of tart passion fruit beers, this DIPA starts out sweet and fruity only to transition to a dank, piney finish. The Washington Post’s Best New Brewery of 2016 shows why with this delicious brew. 

Head on down to Dominion Wine & Beer and grab some Crowlers then head home or to the beach or the mountains, and enjoy! Cheers!

by Andrew Ramonas — August 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm 0

Oktoberfest in Shirlington (Photo via Capitol City Brewing Company)Men in lederhosen and women in dirndls are set to descend on Shirlington for a day of beer drinking, pretzel eating and Bavarian music this fall.

Capitol City Brewing Company is throwing its 17th annual Oktoberfest at The Village at Shirlington (4001 Campbell Avenue) on Saturday, Oct. 1, from noon to 7 p.m.

Admission is $30, which gets festivalgoers who are at least 21 years old a glass and 10 tasting tickets. Extra tickets cost $1, with a five-ticket minimum. But non-drinkers can get in for free.

Capitol City, Mad Fox, Flying Dog and more than five dozen other breweries are expected to offer beer samples at the event. Patrons then can pair their lagers and ales with bratwurst, giant pretzels and other German food on sale during the festival, as they listen to bands play Bavarian tunes.

Beer taps are set to close at 6 p.m.

Photo via Capitol City Brewing Company

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 12, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). 

This week, Dave and I sat down with Fair Winds Brewing Company’s owner Casey Jones and brand ambassador Mike Kuykendall to talk about our can release party at Dominion Wine and Beer today starting at 5 p.m.

Fair Winds Brewing Company is a fully operational packaging brewery featuring a 30 barrel brew house and expansive taproom in Lorton, Va., right off Fairfax County Parkway and I-95. Check out the video below and learn about how a great local veteran-owned brewery is providing our area with fresh flavorful craft beers.

by ARLnow.com — August 10, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

It’s August 10 and already the shelves of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other Arlington stores are being stocked with fall beers.

Pumpkin beers, Oktoberfest beers — the kind of brews that make you think of crisp, cool weather and fallen leaves crunching under your feet. Yet, we’re still a month and a half away from the first day of autumn, the leaves are still green and another sweltering heat wave is about to get underway.

How do you feel about this practice of starting fall early in the beer aisle? Do you appreciate being able to stock up on your pumpkin beers early, or do you wish retailers would save the Oktoberfests until closer to October?

Regardless of your answer, if you’re a fan of fall beer, be sure to mark your calendars for the seasonally-appropriate date of Sunday, Sept. 18, for a free ARLnow-sponsored “Mega Fall Beer Tasting Event” at Arrowine, featuring a whole bunch of great breweries, some rare brews for sale and grub from local food trucks.

Space is limited, and email subscribers will get first dibs; keep an eye out for an invite.

Hat tip to Peter G.

by ARLnow.com — August 3, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Continental Pool Lounge is expanding with a new, 180-seat indoor/outdoor beer garden.

The new Continental Beer Garden will be located in what’s currently a pop-up urban park with tables, chairs, potted plants and a mural, at the corner of 19th Street and N. Moore Street. Despite being a block from the Metro station, in the bustling, bus-clogged heart of Rosslyn, the 4,000 square foot outdoor beer garden will be a relaxing place to eat, drink and have fun with friends, says Continental owner Curt Large.

“The seating will include a large communal table, picnic tables, outdoor sofas and Adirondack chairs,” Large told ARLnow.com. “Our menu will feature foods meant for sharing, including sausages, appetizers, and other light fare. The beer garden will showcase local Virginia craft beer along with a couple of German brews. Continental will also build outdoor bocce courts for beer garden patrons and will host bocce tournaments and leagues.”

The space, which is just steps away from the Continental Pool Lounge, was formerly the parking lot of a service station. It sat vacant for some two decades, Large said, before being converted to an outdoor seating area by property owner JBG and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District in 2014. The space has hosted a number of events, including a pop-up beer garden organized by the Continental two years ago.

Large says the inside of the service station will be incorporated into the beer garden.

“We will also renovate the interior service station area, located under the office building at 1901 N. Fort Myer Drive,” he said. “The approximately 1,000 foot area will have a bar and small seating area, along with a kitchen and bathrooms. The interior will embrace the industrial grit of the former service station, showcasing some great 1970s vintage garage cabinets and signs behind the bar area.”

Mary-Claire Burick, head of the Rosslyn BID, said the beer garden will be a welcome new amenity for the area, building upon the “pop-up” events that have been held there over the past two years.

“This is a big part of what we do as a BID,” she said. “We saw this underutilized, industrial open space with a ton of foot traffic and made it a priority to reclaim and activate it with our partners, Continental Pool Lounge and JBG. ”

Large has applied for building permits and a liquor permit. He hopes to open the beer garden in the spring of 2017.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

This week, Dave and I sat down with Taylor from Three Notch’d Brewing from Charlottesville, Va., to discuss our tap feature going on today at 5 p.m. We will be tapping the only keg of Bourbon Biggie Smores in Northern Virginia, an absolutely delicious Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels and our very own Dominion Citra IPA, a delicious low IBU IPA that we collaborated with the brewers of Three Notch’d.

Check out the video below for event details and the history and philosophy of Three Notch’d Brewing.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

After a long, cool Spring we jumped right into hot Summer with a heat wave. Inspired by the perennial search for the one song that defines a summer, I began to think about my beers of the summer. When I’d find one that hits all the right notes and epitomizes the perfect beer of summer, I’d post it on Instagram and tag it with the hash tag #BeersOfSummer. But it couldn’t be just one beer, after all there are nearly 4,300 breweries operating in the U.S. as of a 2015 count by the Brewers Association. These are my #BeersOfSummer.

I picked five beers that I haven’t already talked about and one that I have. Let’s look at the first five beers.

Derecho Common California-style Common Beer, Port City Brewing Company (4.8% ABV)

Derecho Common California-style Common BeerIn the Summer of 2012, our whole area was hit by a derecho — a storm marked by straight-line winds as strong as some tornadoes. I lost power for several days, along with about a million other DC-area residents. What happens, though, when a business — a brewery — loses power? Alexandria’s Port City lost power for a full five days right when they were brewing a lager. Lagers need colder temps than the powerless brewery could provide, so the beer transformed from lager to common beer. The California-style common beer (also called a steam beer) was a lager that was brewed at a higher-than-normal temperature and air-cooled in the open air. Derecho is a hop-forward example that is lightly bitter and slightly fruity. Balanced with a soda cracker malt that is unobtrusive, Derecho is a supremely quaffable brew. Enjoy this summer seasonal beer ice cold anywhere there is sun — or the occasional storm.

Liliko’i Kepolo Belgian White Ale with Passion Fruit and Spices, Avery Brewing Co. (5.4% ABV)

Liliko'i Kepolo Belgian White Ale with Passion Fruit and SpicesBoulder, Colorado’s Avery Brewing joined the ranks of sour beer with a nominally Belgian take on the tart Berliner Weisse. Ripe passion fruit flesh join a hint of banana and clove in an aroma that accurately foreshadows the flavor to come. From the beginning of the sip, Liliko’i is both tart and sweet. This effervescent ale never goes entirely sour, but balances the pucker with a light sweetness. It’s super refreshing — Summer in a can.

Rubaeus Pure Raspberry Ale, Founders Brewing Co. (5.7% ABV)

Rubaeus Pure Raspberry AleBrewed year-round, Rubaeus is Founders’ own answer to bottling Summer. Drinking it was certainly a nostalgic moment for me — I was transported to an earlier time. A time when Fairfax’s Emmet Swimming was singing about Boones Farm Wine. In fact, Strawberry Hill from that “winery” was the first thing that came to mind when I stuck my nose in the glass. That’s not a dig at Rubaeus, either. The clear red fruit aroma brings to mind other nostalgia-packed beverages like a freshly poured New York Seltzer that I might have had in 1987. These days, that’s not such a bad thing. I mean, it tasted a bit like a strawberry Fanta — perhaps a precursor to the hard soda trend that’s dominating craft beer. I’m having a little fun with this whimsical brew, but it’s totally perfect for backyard BBQs and ice chests and warm nights that refuse to cool off.

Flesh & Blood IPA, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (7.5% ABV)

Flesh & Blood IPAAnother fruity IPA? Another citrusy sweet beer that subverts the hop flavors with orange juice sweetness? Nope. This is, as the Dogfish folks say, an “honest to goodness fruit-forward IPA.” Brewed with lemon pulp (or, if you would, flesh), blood orange juice and orange and lemon peel, Flesh & Blood balances Dogfish’s typically malty IPA with a complex array of citrus flavors. In here is the juicy pucker of the bright yellow lemon along with a pithy bitterness of rinds. Blood orange provides a particular mix of bitter and sweet that works in harmony with what tastes like a 75 Minute IPA — a super drinkable IPA that is neither too weak nor too strong. I will be honest, I was both excited to try this and wary. I mean, would it be another Beer To Drink Music To? A beer that underwhelmed, that was more fun in name and spirit? Nope. It’s a big, juicy (literally) IPA that also has a fun name and description. Let’s hope this one stays in their brewing schedule.

Nimble Giant Double IPA, Tröegs Independent Brewing Co. (9.0% ABV)

Nimble Giant Double IPABrewed once a year, Nimble Giant is Tröegs’ way to kick off summer. Having a higher ABV than the entries above and being conspicuously unfruit-flavored is novel considering that four of my six picks are fruit-infused. Let me be clear, though, there’s a juicy fruitiness that is derived from the Azacca, Mosiac and Simcoe hops — tropical pineapple and guava. There’s also a nod to palate-destroying imperial IPAs with a piney dankness — a welcome twist after enjoying the fruity beginning of the sip. The 9% on the can means that there’s an alcohol-derived sweetness, but it’s never cloying. This might be more of a sipper than the rest of the beers listed here, but it’s just as satisfying on these days with 100º heat indexes. I suggest you do as Tröegs asks and #FindTheGiant.

Lastly, I want to remind you of a beer that I covered back in March: Green Flash Brewing Co.’s Passion Fruit Kicker. This tart, fruity wheat beer was tasty in the cool, wet Spring, but it takes on a whole new aspect once the hot, humidity of Summer arrives. Whether you find it in bottles or cans, this refreshing beer is just the thing by the pool or on the beach or even in the back yard.

A late addition that, for the time being, isn’t available in Arlington or anywhere else in Northern Virginia (that I’m aware of) is Silver Spring, MD’s Denizens Brewing Co. Southside Rye IPA. This recently canned rye ale is almost more of a red ale where malt and yeasty fruit balance hop bitterness with a hint of pepper from the rye. In fact, it was my beer of choice when writing this column. Check out their brewery in Silver Spring or find their beer on shelves or on tap around DC and Maryland.

Share your beers of summer below. Cheers!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 12, 2016 at 6:00 am 0

CBC Photo

Is there anything better in the summer than great beer, music and games? The Capital Beer Classic presented by Goose Island is coming to FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins, on Saturday, July 30.

With unlimited beer and wine samplings of your favorite summertime ales (and probably a few you’ve never heard of before!), you won’t want to miss out!

“We are excited to launch this inaugural event at FedExField,” Redskins Senior Director Hugh Nicholson said. “The Capital Beer Classic will give guests the chance to come out and interact with many local and regional breweries and vineyards in a festival atmosphere, while integrating FedExField’s unique setting. We look forward to cementing this as an annual event, providing our fans and beer lovers alike with another opportunity to come out and have some fun.”

There will also be live music from multiple bands throughout the day on the Bud Light Party Pavilion’s ESPN 980 stage, featuring performances by DC’s own Turtle Recall and a hot new up-and-coming group straight out of Nashville with some local-DC ties, The Morrison Brothers Band. Plus festival goers will have access to some of the most popular food trucks in all of DC, serving up their original dishes for the day. Tailgating games like corn hole, beer pong and giant Jenga will also be available for everyone looking to join in on the fun!

Not only will attendees get to check out all sorts of local craft beers and wines, but Redskins fans will especially enjoy the kickoff to the upcoming football season by meeting Redskin Alums Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and the Washington Redskin Cheerleaders!

Tickets are on sale now for $45 (General Admission) and $65 (VIP). Guests can select from two different sessions, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. or 4 – 8 p.m. Tickets include a souvenir sampling glass and free parking with VIP ticket holders receiving an extra hour of sampling, preferred parking, a lanyard for their sampling glass, and a Redskins locker room tour. Promotional pricing ends on July 18, so be sure to purchase now!

Traveling from Arlington with a group of friends? Make sure to check out the Skedaddle for round-trip bus routes from Arlington to FedExField, use code “YouLikeThat!” for $6 off.

The preceding post was written and sponsored by Capital Beer Classic.

by ARLnow.com — June 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

It’s being billed as Columbia Pike’s first beer garden.

BrickHaus, a new beer-centric watering hole and restaurant, is coming to the former Blanca’s Restaurant space at 2900 Columbia Pike, at the corner of S. Walter Reed Drive.

News of the opening comes a year after ARLnow first reported that the long-vacant Spanish Revival-style building was perhaps getting a renovation to accommodate a restaurant with a rooftop seating area. A look inside the window reveals that some work has been performed, but there’s a long way to go before it will look anything like a beer garden.

The building was once briefly considered for a “southside” version of the popular Clarendon cafe Northside Social. But prospective tenants worried about the poor condition of the interior and other challenges, not the least of which is the age and relatively small size of the building and the challenge of setting up any substantial level of outdoor seating on the small adjacent lot or roof.

The potential downsides were not enough to deter Tony Wagner, the owner of BrickHaus, who’s also the owner of Twisted Vines Bottleshop and Bistro, which is located across the street at 2803 Columbia Pike.

“Columbia Pike is such a thriving and growing community, we want to make sure there are great [dining and drink] options out there,” he said. “We’re going to make BrickHaus a great gathering spot for the community… It’s very exciting, this is going to be a fun one.”

Wagner said BrickHaus will be a beer garden on the first floor, with some 20 beers on tap and an approximately 30-seat outdoor patio. The second floor — the mezzanine — will be a sit-down steakhouse.

Wagner said extensive renovations will be getting underway on the “beautiful, historic property,” which was once a bank before becoming a restaurant and then, most recently, serving as the construction office for the next-door Halstead apartment building. The interior will be pretty much all new and the exterior will be rehabilitated. Plans for rooftop seating fell through after it failed to receive Arlington County’s approval, he said.

Beer-wise, BrickHaus will offer almost all regional brews from Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, in addition to perhaps a couple of German beers, Wagner said. Just as Twisted Vines offers wine for sale and a special wine club, BrickHaus plans to offer beer for retail sale and, eventually, a beer club. BrickHaus’ ABC permit application would also allow the business to sell kegs of beer.

Wagner said he got the idea for BrickHaus after listening to feedback from customers at Twisted Vines, who said they wanted an outdoor option on the Pike and were also looking for better beer options. Staring out the front window at the vacant building on the other side of the intersection also sparked his interest.

It’s because of the success of Twisted Vines that Wagner is looking to expand on the Pike. Since taking over ownership last summer, Wagner says Twisted Vines has “had a really fantastic year.” An anniversary celebration is being planned for Aug. 10.

Whereas Twisted Vines has “one of the best wine-by-the-glass and whiskey selections” in Arlington, in Wagner’s estimation, he’s hoping BrickHaus can be its beer counterpart, filling a void in the community.

“We wanted to keep it local,” he said. “We said, let’s give Columbia Pike another great option with great beer.”

BrickHaus is hoping to open by late summer, in time for Oktoberfest.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — June 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

Dogfish HeadWhen I was 10, I toured the Coors brewery in Golden, CO with my family. I wandered among the gleaming equipment learning very little about the product that was flowing through it. My souvenir was a water bottle. It might’ve been over my head, but I knew it was a tourist destination — a stop for people who had seen the mountains and the ghost towns in Colorado. This idea of beer tourism has come a long way.

For years, craft breweries that are large enough have offered tours for the curious. But one brewery near our area is going beyond the tour to add more reasons to visit the Delaware shore. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which has grown significantly since 1995, is raising the stakes. With brewery tours every day of the week, a boutique motel, and two restaurants at the site of the original brew pub, Dogfish is becoming a tourist attraction on par with the beach and outlets.

If it weren’t for founder Sam Calagione’s then girlfriend, Mariah, we would be talking about Dogfish’s contributions to tourism in another part of the country. As it happened, she talked Sam into setting up his brewery near her family in Delaware. The fact that there wasn’t already a single brewery in Delaware seemed like an even better reason to open one. Well, there was a reason for the lack of competition — Prohibition-era laws prohibited it. Prior to choosing a career in beer, Sam had been on track to become a writer. He worked with lawmakers and even cowrote the legislation needed to make it possible to open his brew pub in Rehoboth. Soon, he was brewing 12 gallons of beer at a time for service in the pub.

That was then. Now Dogfish distributes to 30 states and the District and they are attracting visitors from all over the world.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

IMG_0512-825It felt like the 40th day of rain and I was setting out to visit Aslin Beer Company in Herndon. I got a text saying that they were about to go down to one beer on tap from two. Maybe I should reschedule. With the rain and the prospect of only getting to review one beer — maybe none if there was a rush — I almost changed my plans. Readers, I did not and I’m so glad I didn’t.

Aslin is a nano-brewery located off the Dulles Toll Road in Herndon in the back of a pseudo-industrial park full of catering and delivery restaurants. Their space is tiny, accommodating several picnic and tall tables. Their decent-sized bar also has stools. Clearly visible is the brewery, with its gleaming equipment, which is in use nearly every other day. Their beer is not packaged, but rather kegged for serving in the brewery, growler fills and distribution.

On this rainy Sunday, it was a bright and dry refuge and — by a stroke of good fortune — had not one but three beers on tap. Of course, one of those beers, Stellar Parallax, was being held for a Wednesday release. I found co-founder Richard chatting warmly with customers who had stopped for a glass of beer and some crowlers, 32 oz. growlers that are really large aluminum cans that get sealed by a special machine while you wait.

What I learned from Richard is that he, Andrew and Kai — Aslin’s founders — had been craft beer travelers prior to settling down to make their own beer. Their travels frequently took them north to New England where they visited the likes of Tree House Brewing Company and Trillium Brewing. Not surprisingly they were also avid home brewers. It didn’t take long before they decided that what they really wanted was the same great beer, which includes the recent trend of hazy New England-style IPAs, in their own back yard. They also decided that they were the men for the job.

IMG_0499-825Eight months ago, Aslin Beer Company opened its doors to the public. Since then, they’ve managed to gain a loyal customer base that is on it’s way to generating the kind of buzz that is usually seen with the aforementioned Tree House. Crowlers with the Aslin label are making their way out of the DMV as craft beer aficionados recognize the quality and want to share it with friends.

In fact, Aslin’s beers have garnered the attention of the Beer Advocate community where their beers appear in every one of the current top beer lists. On Beer Advocate’s Top 250 Beers, Aslin’s Master of Karate Imperial IPA sits at 101. On BA’s Top 250 New Beers list: Master of Karate is 7, Orange Starfish IPA is 24, Mind the Hop is 32, Stellar Parallax is 49, Dunley Place Double IPA is 52, A Small Town in Ontario IPA is 58, Astro Zombie IPA is 59, Bringing Sexy Back IPA is 92, Neutrino IPA is 137. That’s a whopping nine beers! On BA’s Top 100 Virginia Beers, Aslin’s Master of Karate sits in second place, Orange Starfish IPA is 7, A Small Town in Ontario IPA is 15, Dunley Place Double IPA is 16, Stellar Parallax Double IPA is 18, Astro Zombie IPA is 23, Bringing Sexy Back IPA is 27 and Neutrino IPA is 36.

All that is to say that, after only 8 months in business, they are reaching for the stars. There is even talk of an expansion that would add a second, larger brewing facility to allow Aslin to produce more delicious beer. The great news is that you don’t even have to go to Herndon to find their beers, because Dominion Wine and Beer will be serving and growler-filling their beers, too. Today, Dominion will tap both A Small Town in Ontario IPA and Stellar Parallax Double IPA at 5:00 p.m. Don’t miss the tasting that will accompany this launch.

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by Jackie Friedman — May 24, 2016 at 7:05 pm 0

The new beer garden at Spider Kelly’s is officially open for business.

The beer garden, which is located in the back patio of the Clarendon watering hole, first started serving customers last Thursday. With the sun finally shining after some not-so-nice weather this month, hopes are high for big crowds.

“We are really happy it’s here and our hope is that it will be something that our customers want,” said co-owner Nick Freshman.

“The goal in building it was to create a new outdoor space sort of supplemental to the space that we have inside,” Freshman said. “We kept a lot of the theme from the inside to the outside.”

A local graffiti artist, Andrew Funk, was hired to do a custom graffiti mural to add color to the space and to match the graffiti art inside.

The casual outdoor space offers seating for small and large groups. There is a combination of communal style seating with picnic benches and seating around two fire pits. There is also hightop seating at the bar. The large space offers a capacity of up to 300 people.

Beers, sangrias and ciders are served in the beer garden, and the beer list has been substantially expanded. There are 30 offered cans and 16 tap lines. There are also three homemade sangrias: red, white and sparkling.

For those arriving after work, there is a $4 happy hour drink special. The entire food menu is offered outside.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 13, 2016 at 1:00 pm 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

Just released, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s 2016 Beer Camp Across America features six beers made by 31 breweries across the U.S. Sierra Nevada decided to enlist six regional teams of breweries: Southeast, NorCal, Northeast & Mid-Atlantic, Pacific NW & Rockies, Southwest and Midwest. These collaborative groups make this year’s Beer Camp something of a tour of American craft brewing.

I’m very excited to be able to explore this eclectic collection of beers with you. The previous Beer Camp mixed pack was a bit underwhelming and has since been duplicated with better results by craft breweries across the country. In fact, our own Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, who collaborates on the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic team here, releases their own strong collaboration mixed packs. But the intervening Beer Camp branded releases from Sierra Nevada, like the delicious hoppy lager and the tropical IPA, showed that there could be something exciting from another mixed pack.

This promise of innovative and well-made craft beer is fulfilled in this year’s Beer Camp Across America where the beers really are the stars.

IMG_0380-825pxSweet Sunny South Table Beer [Southeast Collaborators] (4.9% ABV)

Austin Beer Works, Bayou Teche Brewing, Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Funky Buddha Brewery and Wicked Weed Brewing collaborated to create this tart, refreshing summer beer. I enjoyed mine while watching the Kentucky Derby, which though not hot, evokes the lushness of the South. This table beer, which is a nod to the extremely low alcohol Belgian beers of the same name, is made with corn grits in the grain bill, tea leaves and peaches, papaya, guava and prickly pear. The aroma was both fruity (muscat grapes and stone fruits) and alkaline (baking soda), which is an indicator that there’s going to be some sourness. Sure enough, the first things you get from the flavor are a tartness and big fruit. At colder temperatures the fruit seems to be tropical, but the peaches peek through as it warms. At 4.9% ABV, this is a beer that can be enjoy in the sunshine while you grill.

IMG_0386-825pxWest Latitude Session Rye Ale [NorCal Collaborators] (5.5% ABV)

Bear Republic Brewing Co., Faction Brewing Company, Mad River Brewing Co., Magnolia Brewing Co. and Maui Brewing Co. collaborated to create this tart, bitter and spicy beer. Another refreshing offering from this collection, the session rye blends the spiciness of rye with the tartness of hibiscus. The result is a very drinkable and sessionable beer. The aroma suggests a hoppy brown ale with it’s clean floral notes and hint of brown bread. But everything changes when you sip it: the black pepper mingles with the slight pucker of the hibiscus creating a unique experience.

IMG_0379-825pxPat-Rye-Ot Revolutionary Pale Ale [Northeast & Mid-Atlantic Collaborators] (5.6% ABV) 

Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Dogfish Head Craft Brewing, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Stoudts Brewing Company and Trillium Brewing Company collaborated to create this unique cider blended brew. Made with apple cider from Vermont and Delaware and rye, this pale ale makes for yet another unique offering from the Beer Camp set. The aroma balances green herbs and soda cracker with a hint of black pepper. Surprisingly, the flavor takes a sharp turn with a dry biscuit-like malt that is sharpened by peppery spice and floral bitterness. As it warms, the light fruit of the apple is actually quite apparent. I haven’t had a beer like this one before. It tasted both new and, somehow, old. It’s worth letting this one warm a bit – the cider pay-off is tasty.

IMG_0377-825pxMoxee-Moron Imperial Session IPA [Pacific NW & Rockies Collaborators] (7.5% ABV)

Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Barely Brown’s Beer, Black Raven Brewing Co., Melvin Brewing and Odell Brewing Co. collaborated to make this huge beer. Using Yakima Valley hops as the centerpiece of this beer in every step of the brewing process creates a beer that smells and tastes like an Imperial IPA, but manages to stay around the high end for a regular IPA. This is what makes it an imperial session beer — an oxymoron, huh? I get it, though, I prefer to think of it as a session imperial beer as it’s more manageable than a 10% ABV imperial IPA. Anyway, expect big melon, stone fruit and tropical fruit when you smell and taste this brew. Watch out though, it’s too easy to down this one quickly.

IMG_0387-825pxStout of the Union Robust Stout [Southwest Collaborators] (7.5% ABV)

Bagby Beer Company, Beachwood Brewing, The Lost Abbey Brewing Company, Smog City Brewing Co. and Societe Brewing Company collaborated on this flavorful stout ale. Seemingly a traditional American craft stout, this one kind of took me by surprise. My bottle, at least, came across as a hoppy imperial black IPA rather than a chocolatey rich stout. I’m not complaining, in fact it made me like it even more. Sweet coffee in the aroma gives way to a woody, black tea flavor that balances nicely with the char of the black malt. This big brew is quite drinkable and lacks the heaviness of other stouts with similar alcohol contents. In a time of strong, aged or flavored stouts, this one ends up being a welcome change.

IMG_0394-825pxFamily Values Imperial Brown Ale [Midwest Collaborators] (8.5% ABV)

Schell’s Brewing Co., Dark Horse Brewing Co., Half Acre Beer Company, Perennial Artisan Ales and Sun King Brewery collaborated to make this cocoa-infused strong brown ale. This was the only beer in the pack that gave me pause. To say this is strong is not an overstatement. An expected aroma of brown bread and molasses gives way to a flavor that is dominated by brown sugar and alcohol. This beer’s simplicity surprised me, coming at the end of five other diverse and complex beers. That said, it was still pretty good. I’ve been a big fan of the reemergence of the brown ale, whether it’s full of hops or pumped up with alcohol. While this brew might not blow your mind or change your idea of craft beer, it is a solid brown ale.

Dominion Wine and Beer just got this in! Let me know if you’ve tried any of these and what you think. Cheers!

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