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)
In 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)
Boulder, 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)
Brewed 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)
Another 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)
Brewed 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!
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.
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.
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.
When 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.
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 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.
Eight 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Sehkraft Brewing (925 N. Garfield Street) in Clarendon is holding a series of beer release parties this month.
Starting on Thursday, May 5 — Cinco de Mayo — the brewery and beer hall will release varieties of its in-house brews. First up is Sehkraft’s “Good to Go IPA,” starting at 5 p.m. on May 5, followed on May 12 by the release of its “Hoptastic IPA” at 8 p.m. Both release events include a free concert from 8:30-11 p.m.
From May 19-21 Sehkraft will be holding a “haus party,” with five of its in-house beers on tap: Good to Go, Hoptastic, Sehkraft Amber, Wicked Weiss (a Berliner-style wheat beer) and Uber Awesome IPL (India Pale Lager).
“It’s American Craft Beer Week that week so what better way to ‘Say Craft’ by throwing our Haus Party/Grand Opening of Sehkraft,” owner Devin Hicks told ARLnow.com in an email. “We’ll have our friends Hardywood, DC Brau, and Left Hand Breweries over to help celebrate on the 21st. They’ll be bringing a couple of their brews over and we’ll be doing BBQ specials all day on Saturday. DC Brau is bringing over their Wings of Armageddon and 5th Anniversary brews and Hardywood is bringing over some Richmond exclusive brews.”
“Going to be quite an event,” Hicks added. There will also be free live music each night and a kids show Saturday morning, he said.
After the “haus party” week, Sehkraft will be rolling out a number of other brews, including “Pro Forma Pils,” “Hopriculous Double IPA,” “Earl of Clarendon Robust Porter,” and “Nova IPA,” a collaboration with Vienna-based Caboose Brewing.
Hicks, who has clashed with Arlington County’s zoning staff in the past, took the opportunity to say that Sehkraft would have opened earlier — it opened in November — had it not been delayed by various local regulatory holdups.
The opening was delayed for four months because, according to Hicks, zoning inspectors insisted that the “brewery tanks blocked the view in the windows to the activities inside the venue.” He called it “a huge waste of time and money.”
“Obviously, a major hardship to us eventually opening, paying taxes, providing quality jobs and contributing to making Clarendon and Arlington County a better place to live, work and visit,” Hicks said. “Obviously we had other delays via the zoning’s ‘effective methodologies’ but this definitely set the tone to our construction nightmares right off the bat.”
“I am hopeful that with my words about the difficulties with navigating through zoning’s bureaucracy, it will help other businesses have a less stressful, less time consuming and less costly ordeal in opening in a great County to do business in,” Hicks continued. “That office needs to recognize that we are all on the same team.”
Previously, Hicks said that county inspectors forced him to install a bulky wheelchair lift in the middle of the restaurant in order to provide those with disabilities access to the venue’s small entertainment stage.
After several years of carrying two Richmond breweries — Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery — Dominion Wine and Beer was looking to expand their offerings from Virginia’s capital city. The great news is that they will be carrying beers from Strangeways Brewing and Ardent Craft Ales.
In a city that has seen a renaissance in recent years — it was named among the top 10 places to travel by Travel + Leisure magazine — one can find 13 breweries of varying size. Soon to be added to those ranks is the San Diego behemoth, Stone Brewing Co. Also among that 13 are the two newest breweries to Dominion’s line up: Ardent Craft Ales and Strangeways Brewing.
Ardent Craft Ales
Ardent Craft Ales began in the way many contemporary craft breweries do: as a result of a great deal of homebrewing. Co-owners, Tom Sullivan and Paul Karns, formed a co-op of homebrewers who bought a half-barrel pilot brewing system and set out to learn as much about brewing as possible. The co-op brought them into contact with Kevin O’Leary had recently brewed for Cambridge Brewing Company in Massachusetts. As the three men shared ideas and continued to learn, Ardent Craft Ales was born.
I’m going to cut right to the chase, this saison is a treat! All the smells and flavors are there from the clove in the aroma and the banana in the flavor. What puts this beer ahead of other recent saisons is the bubble gum sweetness that cuts the herbal bitterness that often comes out in the style. Instead of finishing bitter, Ardent’s saison starts out with a shock of herbs and finishes sweet. This is a tasty, drinkable beer that would accompany your weekend BBQ well.
Down railroad tracks from Ardent is a brewery that RateBeer named the Best Brewery Taproom in Virginia: Strangeways Brewing. Founded by Neil Burton and Mike Hiller in 2013, the original intention was to use an existing brewery in an arrangement called “alternating proprietorship,” but it was against the law. Like other entrepreneurs, Neil Burton worked with the Virginia legislature to put a law in place. His success came right as craft brewing was booming in Richmond, which meant that there wasn’t a brewery that could accommodate another brewer. Burton and Hiller, who met while working on the law, decided to open their own brewery.
This spiced white ale smells good and clove-y. It’s a wonderful aroma, which leads into a powerfully pungent sip where cloves and banana collide. The Belgian yeast, and the spices, make all this possible. Underlying the whole thing is a solid wheat-based malty beer that works in harmony with the yeast to create a flavorful brew. It’s easy to overlook these wheat ales, but this one should be savored.
True to its lineage, sour wheat beers, this golden beer has an aroma that mixes lemon with vinegar and a hint of baking soda. The vinegar is a clue that this Berliner Weisse leans away from the traditional balance of malt and tartness, and toward the trend of all out sour beers. The flavor exceeds the expected tartness of the style going all the way to full-on pucker. Though not a copy of the Berliner Weisse style, this sour beer should please those in search of another brew to tie your tongue into knots.
The chocolate and coffee aroma of this dark brown ale are very enticing, but the true delight is in the flavor. Up front is a powerful vanilla that gradually turns into brown sugar and dried figs as the slight effervescence tickles your tongue. This is a fairly simple beer, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. With more character — and sweetness — than your typical dubbel, Woodbooger stands out as a truly American reinvention of a classic. Despite the low alcohol, this flavorful beer encourages sipping. Enjoy one, or two, slowly and get all that it has to offer.
Be sure to come down to Dominion Wine and Beer to get some of these Richmond beers!
Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). This column was written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server, who also writes about beer on his own blog: beerbeltway.wordpress.com. Catch new posts there on Sundays.
I’m back. I took a small break, but I couldn’t stay away for long.
First, we’re going to look at a new trend in craft beer that shows how breweries are trying to keep their beers relevant. Then, we’ll look at two different IPAs that are keeping the once-trendy style up-to-date — one with mysterious and experimental hops and the other by being a solid and delicious local offering.
It’s always an exciting time to be exploring craft beer, but as Spring approaches the releases get more refreshing and bright in flavor. The cold winter after the new year has meant that we’ve had plenty of time to enjoy the heavy stouts, barleywines, old ales and so on that Winter has to offer. Now, get ready for juicy beers, both literally and figuratively. Whether the fruitiness is the result of actual fruit or the wonderful flavor component of a hop or hop blend, these warmer weather beers will brighten your palate.
Fruit Infused Beers
For years now, some craft breweries like Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, 21st Amendment Brewery and Founders Brewing Company have made fruit-infused beers as part of their regular line-up. But in recent years, more and more breweries are either adding new fruity brews or taking their flagship beers and infusing them with fruit or fruit flavor. We have a full-blown trend on our hands. Local breweries are in on it as well with Virginia’s Adroit Theory Brewing Company and Laurel, Maryland’s Jailbreak Brewing Company coming to mind.
Three of this week’s beers are fruity brews that fall into each of the two categories I mentioned above. Dogfish Head and Green Flash Brewing Company have brewed beers that are unique in their line-up, while Ballast Point has taken their Dorado double IPA and spiked it with watermelon.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery shook up it’s annual releases this year, cutting some perennial favorites and trimming some underperforming brews. One of the favorites that was shelved for 2016 is Aprihop. This replaces it! For this year’s Spring fruity beer, Dogfish Head mashed up peaches and mangoes and ginger to create this complex ale. Stick your nose deep in the glass, the hops and the fruit intertwine — spicy stone fruit. Right off the bat, the flavor is winey with the peach flavor lasting all the way through to the finish. Hops bring some spice to the party, but this is no hop bomb. It’s a complex brew that is subtley fruity and hoppy with enough fizz to mask the alcohol. I’ll miss this beer when it’s gone.
Whoa. There’s cucumber and green watermelon rind in my nose right now. The pink flesh of the watermelon is not the first thing you smell. Honestly, it’s not present in the flavor either. What I get instead is the astringent tang of the rind or of cucumber skin. It’s that bitter surprise that makes you screw up your nose — you took too big a bite of that watermelon slice. It’s a challenging brew. If bitterness is your glass of beer, then this might be right up your alley. I can go for hop bitterness, but I am less used to the kind of bitter that this brings. It does grow on me as I sip it. Be sure to sip this one for a while! The high alcohol (10%!) will allow it warm up with out getting undrinkable. Warmed up enough and the bitterness turns to sweetness and the hops begin to shine through.
Shirlington’s spring beer festival is returning for its third year.
Hosted by Capitol City Brewing, the third annual Mid-Atlantic Spring Beer Festival will take place Saturday, April 30 from noon to 7 p.m., rain or shine.
“The springtime beer-tasting event will include a line-up of 35 regional breweries,” according to a press release. “Admission for beer drinkers is $30 (one general admission pass per person), which includes a wristband, official tasting glass and 10 drink tickets. Additional drink tickets can be purchased for $1 each with a five-ticket minimum. The event is free for non-drinkers and children.”
Participating breweries include:
- DC Brau
- Pleasure House Brewing
- Starr Hill
- Flying Dog
- Adroit Theory
- Fair Winds
- Bold Rock
A number of Shirlington restaurants will be participating, offering springtime fare to festival-goers, including Busboys & Poets, Café Pizzaiolo and Luna. Music will be provided by DJ Julius Talvik.
Ticket sales will begin at 11:30 a.m. the day of the event.
Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). This column is written by Dominion owner Arash Tafakor.
This week, Dave and I sat down with the founders of Aslin Beer Company right in Herndon, Va. near Reston Town Center.
Aslin is one of Virginia’s newest breweries and they’re already on the national map by brewing world class New England style IPAs and a bunch of other tasty brews.
This week we tasted their brand new IPA called Orange Starfish that will be released today at 3 p.m. Dominion will also be getting Aslin’s next round of releases in the next few weeks. So watch the video and stay tuned.
To start, the local watering hole at 2854 Wilson Blvd will hold a release party for a new signature beer tonight.
Created as a collaboration with Devil’s Backbone Brewing near Lexington, Va., the beer is being called the “Whitlow’s Good Time IPA.” It’s a moderately hoppy beer that’s 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, according to Whitlow’s manager Jon Williams.
Locals can get their first taste of the beer for a big toast at 7 p.m. The beer will be offered for $3 from 7-9 p.m. Then, starting at 10 p.m. tonight, local party band For the Win will play a
free show (correction: there will be a $5 cover after 10 p.m.).
On Saturday, the band Virginia Coalition will play a free show at Whitlow’s. “VaCo” used to play at the bar every Tuesday night during the early 2000s before getting big.
“We’re looking forward seeing some old faces,” said Williams.
“The neighborhood has changed,” he said. “The condos got built and the demographics have gotten younger. And obviously there’s a lot more competition now.”
Despite the competition, Whitlow’s has managed to stay busy, attracting both younger bar-goers and long-time “neighborhood folks.” Williams chalked that up to Whitlow’s not straying far from its roots.
“We don’t try to be something we’re not,” he said. “We’re not pretentious at all and we just stay true to what we started out as — a neighborhood gathering spot — and I think people appreciate that. It’s a gathering place people who have lived here a long time know they’re pretty much guaranteed to run into someone they know.”
The most recent major change: the opening of a new rooftop bar, Wilson’s on Whitlow’s, a few years back.
Asked what the future holds, Williams wasn’t sure.
“We’re going to keep chugging along and keep coming up with silly ideas,” he said. “You have to keep doing stuff to stay fresh and current in people’s minds. That’s the biggest challenge. We’re going to get through this weekend and put on the thinking caps again.”
Taste of Arlington will feature a mammoth “street pub” this year.
The 400-foot long portable bar travels the country, offering draft beer from Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery at various large events. Proceeds from the beer sales will be donated to charity, said a rep for the Ballston BID, which organizes the annual event.
“This partnership will not only take the beer garden to a whole new level, but will greatly increase Taste’s fundraising clout,” said Mollie Wagoner.” As a signature event of the Ballston BID’s new charitable arm, BallstonGives, they hope to outdo all past fundraising. The BID has already guaranteed a minimum $25,000 donation to Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) with a goal of raising much more.”
The event, held along Wilson Blvd in Ballston, features food from more than 50 restaurants and attracts some 40,000 people each year. The beer and wine sales area is consistently one of the most crowded sections of the festival.
This year’s Taste of Arlington is scheduled for May 15 from noon to 6 p.m.
It’s February — Today is the first day of February. As happens every four years, this year February will have an extra leap day — Monday, Feb. 29.
Top Colleges for Class of 2015 — In terms of applications sent, the top three colleges to which Arlington’s high school class of 2015 applied are: 3. University of Virginia, 2. Virginia Commonwealth University and 1. James Madison University. Arlington students sent a total of 321 applications to JMU. [Arlington Magazine]
Tomorrow: Celebrating Stratford’s Integration — On Tuesday evening Arlington County will hold a special event honoring the four African American seventh-graders who integrated Stratford Junior High — the current home of H-B Woodlawn — in 1959. [Twitter, Arlington County]
There Are Still Snow Boulders in Arlington — A number of Arlington residents are frustrated that some sidewalks, streets and parking lots are still obstructed by large piles of snow. [WJLA]
Scott Walker Owes Shirlington Company $60K — The campaign of former GOP presidential candidate (and Wisconsin governor) Scott Walker owes Shirlington-based Lukens Company $59,140 for direct mail, printing and postage services. It’s the fourth-largest debt listed by the campaign in public documents. [Milwaukee Business Journal]
Win: District Taco Makes ‘Cheap Eats’ List — District Taco has made a BuzzFeed list of “21 Delicious D.C. Eats That Won’t Break The Bank.” Amsterdam Falafel, which has a location in Clarendon, is also on the list. [BuzzFeed]
Fireball Spotted Saturday Night — A very bright meteor that streaked across the sky in the Northeastern U.S. Saturday night was captured on a dash cam in the Skyline section of Fairfax County. [Capital Weather Gang]
Photo by Bruce Majors