Arlington, VA

This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Before we get into it: yes, the Dogfish Head/Boston Beer Company deal is, well, a big deal. I don’t really have anything of substance to add so I’ve just been recommending Bryan Roth’s great piece for Good Beer Hunting.

So, Memorial Day. Unofficial kickoff of summer. Three-day weekend for all you non-retail-working types. What should you have to drink if you’re spending time by the pool, or the grill, or just enjoying the outdoors over this long weekend? Well, you can go Big Beer — and nothing wrong with that, I probably will at some point too. But if you’re looking for alternatives, I’ve got some suggestions:

German. Pilsener. Cans.

I don’t know what’s gotten into Deutschland, but we’ve been seeing some wonderful canned Pilseners coming over this year, and at wonderful prices to boot. Veltins Pilsener has already become a go-to for me, and this week we’ll see the arrival of Wolters Pilsener in the same half-liter, 4-pack can format. Super-clean and crisp, these beers are hard to beat for a refreshment on a hot day, and when you see the pricing on the Wolters especially, you’ll flip — I did.

Session IPA Ales of all types.

Charlottesville’s Reason Beer alone could get an entire column devoted to its core lineup of 6-pack cans: the Hoppy Blonde (4% ABV), Saison (4.5% ABV), and Pale Ale (5% ABV) are all stunners that you can enjoy more than a couple of without too much worry.

Even the recently released Collaboration 29 IPA clocks in at only 5.5% ABV. I’m also personally a fan of The Trooper and Trooper Light Brigade, made by Cheshire, England’s Robinsons Brewery with the crew from Iron Maiden. At 4.7% and 4.1% respectively, I can get my all-purpose UK fix on easily.

Shameless plug but also a really good option: Three Notch’d Firefly Nights

Charlottesville gets more run in this week’s column. The “Summertime Ale” from Three Notch’d is a lighter-bodied 5.2% Ale with honeysuckle. Good for warm summer evenings; great for Mid-Atlantic nostalgia, and a lovely option for those who want something “different” but not too far outside of the box. Also, Arrowine will be hosting the Firefly Nights Release Event this Friday (hey, that’s today!) from 4:00-7:00pm. Gotta get the most for that Sponsord Content dollar, people.

There Gose the weekend.

There’s a Gose for every Sour Ale fan these days, which would’ve been crazy to imagine ten years ago. Union Old Pro is a favorite, and relatively easy to find. Commonwealth Brewing has a plethora of Goses in the market right now, inspired by everything from sangria to mezcal margaritas to limoncello. Modern Times Fruitlands being available in the area now is awesome.

If you’re looking more local-ish, Vasen Guava Otter Gose is newly available in cans and very tasty.

No matter what you decide to knock back, I hope everyone has a fun, safe Memorial Day. I’ll see you back here in a couple of weeks.

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One month after it served its last beer in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Meridian Pint is planning to open its new location in the Dominion Hills shopping plaza tomorrow.

For owner John Andrade, the move brings his new bar — at 6035 Wilson Blvd — a little closer to home. Andrade is from the neighborhood and many of the wait staff are hired from the nearby neighborhoods.

“I live a quarter-mile away and my daughter goes to Ashlawn,” Andrade said. “I know the neighborhood, and I’ve gotten to understand the void for folks here for craft beer.”

Andrade said oversaturation and competition with a new wave of breweries having their own bars forced Meridian Pint out of D.C., but added that the move is also an opportunity to rebuild the small community bar scene.

“There is a focus on D.C. or even Clarendon or Ballston for beers, but the neighborhoods are neglected,” Andrade said.

A sign at the front says the restaurant will be called Dominion Pint, but Andrade said there was a legal challenge to the name so the bar is sticking with Meridian Pint. The restaurant has been holding a series of soft openings for neighbors and other invitees this week, but the official public opening is Thursday.

It will be the sixth restaurant Andrade has opened, including those no longer operating. Andrade also runs three other D.C. restaurants: Brookland PintRosario’s Tacos & Tequila in Adams Morgan, and Smoke & Barrel in Adams Morgan.

Andrade said the focus of Meridian Pint will be on American grilled food and craft beer — both local and national brands. In addition to beers, Andrade said he’s focusing on the restaurant’s homemade ice cream.

Jace Gonnerman, the beer program director for Meridian Pint, said his goal is to maintain a careful balance of obscure and approachable beers.

In addition to the obscure and higher-end craft beers, Gonnerman said he’s happy to have two more affordable brews for the opening: Narragansett Lager and Genesee Cream Ale.

“We want to have a beer for everyone,” Gonnerman said. “We want something for the community, but also the latest and greatest for aficionados.”

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

There are any number of issues that keep breweries from turning out their best beer.

Sometimes (read: often) there are equipment malfunctions; sometimes ingredient supply chains are interrupted, or a hop producer has an off-season; sometimes the demands of expansion cause a brewery’s consistency to suffer. What’s happening in Belgium to one of the world’s best-known breweries, however, may be a harbinger of an issue we’ll see more often in the near future.

The Guardian reported recently about the brewery of the Trappist order of monks at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy of Rochefort, Belgium — better known to us simply as Rochefort — and its efforts to keep a local lime quarry from drilling into the area’s aquifers, lowering the overall groundwater level.

Popular Mechanics (yes, they’re writing about beer now, too) notes that the quarry wishes to drill some 60 meters deeper than the current level in order to extend the quarry’s lifespan from 2022 to 2045.

The fight has been ongoing since the quarry, owned by the Lhoist-Berghmans, one of Belgiums wealthiest families, first revealed its plans for drilling deeper into Rochefort’s groundwater about a decade ago. A December ruling by a regional administrator to allow the quarry to test the effects of drilling on the local water supply has taken the dispute to a more urgent level.

The Rochefort monks have accused the administrator who approved the testing of bias (once again, the quarry is owned by one of Belgium’s richest families) and are passionately fighting even the testing of deeper aquifers. Rochefort believes the drilling will not simply affect their beer. Luc Perez, a representative for the monks, was quoted saying that “The water that Lhoist will pump up is not drinkable.”

Issues surrounding the quality and availability of freshwater are rising and will continue to rise due to the effect of climate change. While worldwide freshwater supplies are currently arguably good in terms of being able to sustain society and industry, they are unevenly distributed. Belgium specifically is in relatively decent shape, but there is still reason for concern.

European groundwater overall tends to run cleaner than its lakes and rivers, the issues that are found are usually due to “nitrates from agricultural run-off, salt intrusion and hazardous chemical pollution from industrial sites, mining areas or waste storage. Mercury was one of the most common pollutants, with common sources including mining, coal combustion and other industrial activities.” (European Scientist, 5.7.18.)

Still, Lhoist’s testing is slated to begin mid-month. It may turn out to have no effect at all; it may irrevocably alter one of my personal favorite beers ever — the sublime Rochefort 10. Even if the monks manage to fight the quarry off, they won’t be the last to be put in this position.

As demands on freshwater supplies increase, there will be some cases where industry flexes its muscles, and others where the greater societal need will outweigh the concerns of a mere brewery. Something worth keeping an eye on.

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Morning Notes

Body Found in Submerged SUV — “Authorities were working Monday night to recover a body inside an SUV submerged in the Potomac River [near Roosevelt Island]… D.C. Fire & EMS said they found tire tracks leading into the river and divers were able to locate the SUV by 6 p.m. Monday. Sources confirmed to News4 that a body was trapped inside.” [NBC Washington]

Clarendon Beer Garden May Open Next Month — “The 22,000-square-foot space, dubbed The Lot… [is] anticipating an early June opening, pending final permit approvals, with plans to incorporate drinking games, picnic seating, and tacos.” [Eater]

UMD Coming to Crystal City? — “The University of Maryland is scouting out potential sites in Crystal City, where it could potentially help to feed Amazon.com Inc.’s long-term plans to hire at least 25,000 workers to support its second headquarters. The state’s flagship university is in the market for between 20,000 and 25,000 square feet to support the growth of HQ2, according to sources familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Mosque Security Measures — “Members of an Arlington, Virginia, mosque are being trained on how to respond to an active shooter. Worshippers are learning how to take security measures to protect themselves and save the lives of others. The training follows mass shooting at houses of worship around the world.” [Voice of America, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

A Twitter thread caught my attention recently from Raven Book Store, an independent retailer in Kansas.

The story is familiar to anyone in retail, especially in the age of Amazon and other online outlets. Beer and wine haven’t really had to deal with e-commerce as a threat to smaller brick-and-mortar shops — not yet, anyway. The conversation has centered on “big boxes vs. little guys” instead. Now, though, it appears that big-time online beer and wine retail is just over the horizon.

Washington Business Journal reported earlier this month that Amazon is looking to hire a Manager of Public Policy focusing on alcohol, fueling speculation it’s looking to take another run at becoming as potent a force in the booze business as it has been everywhere else.

Amazon isn’t the only giant sniffing around online retail: ZX Ventures, the growth/investment wing of AB InBev (Budweiser) is already working with larger retailers like Walmart and Kroeger, along with delivery services like Drizly. Bryan Roth offers a good, comprehensive deep-dive here.

Giant corporations see something they want, and they usually get their way. So what does this mean for independents? For the foreseeable future, I wouldn’t expect the price difference to be as dramatic as in books or other items: with sales taxes and delivery fees, online retail prices will hang near an independents’ for now.

Imagine, though, if one of these services really takes off — say, after regulations are rewritten or struck altogether. Amazon might start moving enough of a local favorite at $11, versus $11.99 at an independent, that the distributor gives them a discount to buy per pallet, knocking off $3-4 per case. Then you’re looking at $8.99 online versus $11.99 at an independent that can’t buy by the pallet and can’t match that price.

That’s the realities of the market, you say, and you’d be right. This is the reality we’ve lived with, as big chains and boxes build an interest in “craft” beer. What I keep circling around is an Amazon-type taking it one step further: working with breweries directly.

Ever see your favorite go-to beer pop up at Costco at a price that shocked you? Just wait: if the big guys get their way, this is the game-changer. This is the move that drops the big guys’ cost dramatically enough to see book-like price discrepancies.

Back to books, actually: I support local bookstores as much as I can. I secretly harbor a daydream of opening one, if I’m honest. But if you’ve given me an Amazon gift card over the past few years, I’ve used it to find books on my wish list, used, as cheaply as possible. I do this because it’s fun, it’s convenient, and because I’m a massive hypocrite.

While those purchases usually end up being made through indie bookstores, after Amazon takes its cut who knows how much I’m actually supporting them? Still I do it: pictured are just some of the books I’ve picked up via this method over the past year.

What do my shelves look like when all of our favorites start popping up online for less than I pay wholesale? What will make sense for me to carry? As our success leans more heavily on the experience, and the service we offer, which breweries will rise to occasion to support small retailers?

Will beer go the way of books, shoes, and widgets of all types? If you’re in the business and not thinking about this stuff now, you need to start. Bezos is coming.

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WHEN: Every Friday, May through October — 5-9 p.m.
WHERE: The Stand (at the Crystal City Water Park) — 1601 Crystal Drive, Arlington Virginia

Open every Friday starting in May, Fridays at the Fountain features a fantastic selection of beer and wine, live music from local bands and musicians, and a rotating lineup of local restaurants and food vendors brought to Crystal City by The Stand.

Attendees also have the option of joining the Fridays at the Fountain “Mug Club” featuring a 16-ounce, branded mug, while supplies last. The Mug Club is $10 and comes with a reusable glass mug and your first drink!

Mug Club members will get discounts on draft beers for the entire Fridays at the Fountain event series (May-October).

Buy your mug today for 1/2 price and enjoy 16 oz pours for the price of a 12 oz beer all summer long!

Purchase today’s deal now.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Expounding a bit on the last column’s theme of anger in craft beer, this time within the industry itself.

This is the true story of 7,500 breweries, competing in the same marketplace, with the number of outlets having not increased at the same exponential rate, as we find out what happens when “craft beer” stops being polite, and starts getting real.

This is the American craft beer industry, 2019: Anger over breweries closing; breweries opening; breweries “selling out”; kids in taprooms; taprooms versus bars; whether new styles are actually styles, or if they’re actually beer; if traditionally-minded beers are traditional enough and who gets to decide; what’s local and what’s “local”; what’s “craft” and what isn’t.

I reached out to people in the industry both personally and on social media to ask why craft beer seems so much angrier than it did a couple years ago. A major theme emerged — saturation (emphasis mine in italics).

“Personally, I think it stems from the saturation of the market.”

“…distribution is basically flat with tons of breweries opening up or in planning… the competitive aspect of the business is getting more intense… supplier reps getting shadier and shadier as shelf space gets tighter…”

“10 years ago, when there were only 2,000 craft breweries out there to choose from, there was enough elbow room. Now with 7,000+, not so much… We may be near the saturation point… It’s no longer a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ situation…”

Some respondents found blame with brewery reps, with one buyer noting how they’re “getting a lot more pushy,” and an industry veteran referring to the “new breed” of reps from breweries acquired by larger interests as “widget salespeople… more concerned with their numbers” than the culture and history of beer.

Newer breweries caught their share of shade. One brewer told me “a lot of them are horrible,” chiding owners “who think they know more” than their often more experienced brewers. A former brewery sales rep lamented these new breweries “bending over backwards” to get draft lines, often skirting if not outright ignoring laws in the process.

That former sales rep hit on another common theme — “getting much more attitude from buyers and consumers about what I wasn’t doing for them.” Entitlement came up more than once, with one distributor sales manager slagging those they see “trashing a beer or brewer or brewery because he’s an ‘expert’ because he has 800 check-ins on untapped.”

I still felt like there was something more behind it all, and then I heard from a bar/restaurant buyer, “Economic (i)nsecurity causes fear and anger is a fight or flight response to fear. It’s fear displaying as anger” from a segment of the industry that “(s)pent so long with double digit growth and prosperity that everyone forgot it is a business.”

And there it was. Craft beer is afraid.

Now, dismissing bubble speculation is craft beer’s unofficial pastime — hell, I even wrote a column about it my first time here. What has my attention now is that the call is coming from inside the house. That bar/restaurant buyer ended our conversation linking to this tweet, putting a fine point to it; as one current brewery rep put it: “It’s getting real out here.”

Until next time.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Arlington’s newest craft beer bar “Rebellion on the Pike” is opening this week.

An employee said it would be open Monday evening, though a phone for the business was not answered as of 5 p.m. A Facebook post from Monday afternoon says the bar was open over the weekend and will be “back open tomorrow after a good day of rest and restocking.”

Silver tables and chairs sit under the string lights of its outdoor patio area. Inside, black and brown wood furnish the bar. The bar is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weeknights and from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Located at 2900 Columbia Pike across from the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, the Rebellion’s menu features a variety of sandwiches like “The Ronnie” which stuffs 1/3 pound of smoked pork on ciabatta with an Alabama white sauce and bourbon picked slaw, and the “Rebel Yell” with smoked turkey breast, bacon, tomatoes, and white American cheese on sourdough.

Rebellion also serves wings, salads, a variety of pork sandwiches, and “communal grub” like fried pork belly bites, and poutine with house beer cheese, per the menu.

The bar will feature 24 draft lines of craft beer, according to social media posts. A full drink list of the beers, wines, and spirits was not available in time for publication.

As of today (Monday), the bar’s website says it’s hiring.

Brian Westlye founded Rebellion and is the COO of the hospitality company that’s managing the bar. Westlye said in February he was “hopefully” opening by March 1, though most new restaurants in Arlington end up being beset by varying degrees of delays. Rebellion quietly opened its doors and served its first customers last week as part of a soft opening.

Wesley founded the first “Rebellion” in D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. That location serves up a sizable whiskey list as well as burgers, beer, and cocktails.

Rebellion replaces “Brickhaus” which closed last year after owner Tony Wagner said it “never took off the way we expected and hoped it would,” after delays from a lengthy permitting approval process.

Last two photos via Facebook

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

We need to talk about “gimmicky” beers. You know, the ones with cookies, cereal and the like thrown in.

I see and hear a lot of disproportionate anger about them; especially of course, on social media, which seemingly explodes daily over some new somebeer-or-other. Even I found my hackles momentarily raised last week, with the arrival of Captain Lawrence’s Cookie O’Puss.

If you don’t know — and if you don’t, take a moment and appreciate the life choices that brought you to a place where you don’t have to know — this is a “Pastry Stout” made with the ice cream, fudge and “chocolate crunchies from the famous (infamous?) ice cream cake, released to celebrate Carvel’s 85th Anniversary.

I don’t know why this one got to me: If you’ve shopped at Arrowine, you know I try to balance carrying what I like and find interesting with the trendy beer releases customers are looking for. Also, I’m a comic book reader and a wrestling fan — I can’t put on airs like I don’t appreciate a good gimmick.

Truth be told, I usually find my way into enjoying them, especially the Stouts. But here I was, drafting last week’s Newsletter, ranting about shameless cross-promotion and “synergy.” Getting mad is easy; staying mad takes work.

So I took a breath, and as I did some thoughts came to mind, coalescing into something that goes like this: Every beer style alive today has survived, thrived even, because of marketing.

Discovering that the origin story of IPA we all are told is a myth is a rite of passage for beer geeks, but it resurrected a style that continues to carry the segment. Porter was named for the working class drinkers partial to it in the 17th and 18th centuries; the coding of that name, the imagery it evokes, allowed Porter (and it’s offshoot, Stout) to be marketed to all classes over the past century, as it is today.

The paler, lighter Festbier had largely supplanted Märzen as the Oktoberfest beer of choice in Munich by the 70s. American breweries used the name to market a more exaggerated approximation of the “original” style — essentially what would otherwise be called Amber Lager — which came to be known as “Oktoberfest” here in the States.

More honest efforts to explore and recreate accurate Märzen Lager recipes as Oktoberfest releases are a relatively recent phenomenon.

TL;DR everything is copy. Or, to paraphrase Alan Moore with my greatest apologies: Milkshake IPAs and Pastry Stouts are imaginary styles. Aren’t they all?

I deleted my rant, made a dumb meme and moved on. Nothing to get mad about.

Until next time.

Photo via Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

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Construction is now underway at “The Lot,” a long-awaited outdoor beer garden in Clarendon.

A red, enclosed deck and pine picnic tables are being built at the site, at the corner of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street N. The Rebel Taco food truck is now parked on the site behind a fence.

The site has been in the works for two years on a former used car lot in Clarendon. Since then progress has been slow: a wooden fence erected in October last year was the first major work. In February, crews replaced the site’s old Prime Auto Group signs with two black billboard-style signs reading “The Lot: Beer Garden.”

The company behind The Lot is Social Restaurant Group, which also opened Pamplona and Bar Bao. Originally, they planned to open The Lot in March 2017 but were delayed until the summer, then the following spring, citing a lengthy permitting process.

The Lot’s permit application asked for at least 150 seats, an enclosed deck, and a kitchen.

Social Restaurant Group co-founder Mike Bramson told ARLnow last year he hoped The Lot would offer “a vast variety, from Belgian to German to local craft beers” as well as frozen drinks, food from the Rebel Taco food truck, and games like cornhole and giant Jenga.

The beer garden’s website is currently blank and its Facebook page has no information yet on when it may open.

 

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

It’s that magical time of year, where flashes of not-miserably-cold weather fool a percentage of us in the area into thinking spring is here, and that we won’t get tagged by one more winter outburst.

As we dare to venture from our hovels and spend time with — hold on, what was that word? Ah, yes — “people” again, the occasion might call for something not quite packed to the gills with hop material.

With that in mind, here are some recent arrivals I’ve been recommending for those looking for tasty, non-IPA/hop-driven options — with one partial exception (you’ll see).

Rocket Frog Wallops Island (5.3% ABV)

Wallops Island, from Sterling’s Rocket Frog Brewing, checks a few boxes for me. It fills a need I’ve had here at Arrowine for a classic American Brown Ale, for one. It’s also is a great example of the style, with loads of caramel, chocolate and coffee malt flavors but dry, as it should be.

It picked up a Bronze medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival, to boot. Not bad for a beer from a brewery in its first months of operation.

Von Trapp Helles (4.9% ABV); Pilsner (5.4% ABV)

Vermont’s Von Trapp Brewing (yes, those Von Trapps) has been available in Virginia for a little while now, specializing in Lagers that are both well priced and readily available. The Bohemian-style Pilsner and German-style Helles are both done in the classic style: the Pils has a crisp feel with pleasing floral/peppery aromas from its hops — but not IPA-level hoppy by any means.

The Helles adds light, bready malt notes to grassy, clean Noble hop flavors. Bonus: both are now available in cans!


Photo via Von Trapp Brewing Company

Väsen Savvon (9.2% ABV)

So this’ll be the outlier on the list; nearly twice as strong as the rest and with a notable dry-hop addition, but too cool not to mention. Richmond’s Väsen Brewing Company combines a number of influences, from Belgian Farmhouse beers to American IPAs, with ingredients mixing and matching as much as styles.

Savvon, the first beer of theirs to hit Northern Virginia in package, is a great example: a Brettanomyces-fermented, bottle conditioned Farmhouse Ale dry-hopped with a pair of Southern Hemisphere hops — Galaxy and Enigma — typically found in Hazy IPAs. Tropical hop flavors and aromas play well with the funky, fruity Brett character.

Green Man ESB (5.5% ABV)

An easy way to win my heart, as a brewery, is to produce a solid version of just about any British beer style. Asheville’s Green Man Brewing does just that with their ESB, with it’s crackery/bready/fruity malt character and traditional level of hoppiness.

Since I first got to try this about 8-9 years ago, I’ve wanted this beer in Virginia. Finally, it’s here and it’s not leaving Arrowine’s stock if I can help it.

Let me know in the comments if you’re looking for something new and I’ll try my best to make a suggestion that works.

Until next time.

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