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WWBG: Maine Beer Company


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.

David Kleban’s 2006 dream to open a brewery eventually came true when he and his brother, Daniel, started Maine Beer Company (MBC) in 2009. Starting super small — nano small — they perfected a single beer: Peeper Pale Ale. Eventually they outgrew their original location.

In nearly ten years, they have grown into their own space with a production of around 13,000 bbls a year. That’s in a local market where they are one of 99 breweries, which actually makes Maine ranked 3rd in the nation for breweries per capita.

Every bottle of MBC beer sports the motto: “Do what’s right.” It’s more than just a nice thought, too. They decided early on to make more than beer. By joining an organization called 1% for the Planet, they committed to making a difference. One percent of MBC’s sales goes to 1% for the Planet, where it is distributed to local environmental charities.

I had my first bottle of Lunch — MBC’s famous whale of an IPA named after a whale — in 2013. At the time, there were fewer than 5,000 breweries in the U.S. The New England IPA as a hazy, fruity juice bomb with a velvety mouthfeel was not a national craze. Lunch was a sought after beer.

Instagram and other platforms allowed beer drinkers in parts of America where MBC didn’t distribute to learn about it. And want it. MBC is still here, and even if they aren’t part of whatever fad is happening they show that quality and conviction can lead to success.

I have three classic Maine Beer Company releases to share today. Three beers that have remained vital to MBC and to beer drinkers alike.

Peeper Pale Ale (5.5% ABV)

Starting as Spring Peeper Ale in 2009, MBC worked on their recipe for a pale ale until they had it just right. More than being part of a line of flagship beers, this is the beer that started it all.

Pouring a dark straw color with a generous and creamy head, Peeper gave off an enticing aroma of rice cereal, peach and green apple, and celery. The sip is clean and crisp with a fruity — white grapefruit and unripe plum — middle that coincides with the hint of bitterness that lingers after the sip is over.

I’m happy to see that, among the hazy, sometimes sweet IPAs that are prevalent, the good old pale ale seems to still have a place. It hearkens back to a time when the pale ale was a staple beer for most breweries.

At 5.5%, you can enjoy this as the summer months get into the super humid time. Named for the frogs that come out in the warmer months, providing a chorus for the nighttime, Peeper is perfect for this time of year.

Woods & Waters IPA (6.2% ABV)

Brewed in honor of the establishment of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, Woods & Waters is made using barley and wheat grown in Maine.

The aroma is tangerine and fresh pine sap. The sip is light and citrusy with an earthy finish that is punctuated by a prominent pine resin flavor.

Neither clear nor hazy, this crisp beer refreshes and pleases at the same time. Woods & Waters is effervescent and flavorful without any sweetness.

It’s perfect for sitting on the deck and watching the fireflies.

Lunch IPA (7.0% ABV)

If you don’t turn the bottle to read the rest of the label or visit MBC’s web site, you might be like me and wonder why this storied IPA is named after the midday meal.

Well, if you did turn the bottle or visit the web site, you’d learn that it is actually named for a whale that is know for having a chunk of its fin missing. Now, Dinner, their DIPA IS actually named for the evening meal because it’s more serious than lunch. Right?

Inhale as the head dissipates, and you’ll get an aroma of cantaloupe, mandarin orange and evergreen. Mmmm.

After smelling sweet fruit, the sip is unsweetened and crisp with a bitter finish. As with Woods & Waters, this IPA goes down easily albeit with a slightly herbal hop bite.

With all three of these Maine Beer Company beers, a common refrain is the lack of sweetness — whether perfectly sessionable at 5.5% or on the strong for an IPA side of 7.0% — and the clear and precise flavor notes. Like craft breweries two- and three-times as old, quality and consistency win the day.

This Week’s Beer Tasting

Dominion Wine & Beer is having Foreign Objects Beer for their beer tasting on Friday, August 10 from 5-7 p.m. with two new IPAs! Dominion will have both growlers and cans available of both.

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WWBG: Summer of Riesling


Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Sarah Garratt, a wine and food pairing blogger. Follow her blog  or on Instagram @grapepairings.

Riesling… a white wine that is a wine aficionado’s dream.

It is one of the best white wines for food pairing and has one of the most unique flavor profiles that wine writers love to decipher. However, much of the world is left either confused or just don’t know about the wonders of Riesling.

This is why one New York sommelier and restaurateur, Paul Grieco, created an annual event called “Summer of Riesling.” Every summer, Mr. Grieco refuses to sell any white wine by the glass in his restaurant and wine bars except Riesling.

There are two dozen wines to choose from, but if you want a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, you won’t be able to order it by the glass.

Why? Mr. Grieco wants to show the world how expressive and wonderful the grape can be.

Well, what does a New York sommelier have to do with us? We agree with Mr. Grieco! Riesling is one of our favorite white wine grapes, too, and we are carrying on the tradition. This week’s WWBG showcases three fabulous Riesling as to why we love it!

Riesling is a white wine grape that is mostly grown in Germany; however, it can be grown in any cool climate. France, Austria, the US and Australia/New Zealand are some other areas where it is commonly grown.

Contrary to popular belief, Riesling is not just a sweet wine. Yes, it can be made to be very sweet, but there are many bone dry examples, as well as everything in between. It is almost always acidic and floral, but depending on where the wine is from, expressions of apple, pepper or mango can be found.

Our first example of a bone-dry, fantastic Riesling is the 2015 Tegernseehof Bergdistel Smaragd Riesling from Austria ($30).

With lots of citrus, honey and minerality, this wine would be perfect for a summer strawberry chicken salad or a juicy BLT with farmer’s market fresh tomatoes.

This wine is extremely limited right now. The only 10 cases in the US can be found at Dominion Wine & Beer or their sister location in Maryland!

Another Austrian Riesling that we are featuring today is an Anton Bauer 2016 Riesling Feuersbrunn ($22).

Anton Bauer recently won winemaker of the year in Austria, and after tasting this wine, you’ll know why.

Citrus, peaches, cream, and honey are very apparent, and yet, this is still a dry example of a Riesling. The citrus explodes in your mouth, and the honey and cream notes balance it out at the end. Curries were made for this wine, especially if it is made with seafood!

Lastly, we travel to somewhere a tad more local. The 2016 Left Food Charley Dry Riesling from Michigan ($22) is a wonderfully acidic Riesling with lots of character.

Lime and peach flavors hit you upon smelling, and are balanced out with some honey and apple flavors on the palate.

Your favorite Asian foods would do well with this, whether it be Chinese takeout, Vietnamese Pho, or a spicy Thai stir fry.

Don’t forget to visit Dominion Wine & Beer this Saturday from 1-4 for their wine tastings, and pick up some of these wines so that you can have your own Summer of Riesling!

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WWBG: Prairie Artisan Ales Canned


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.

You’ve probably heard of Prairie Artisan Ales’ coffee stout — Bomb! — which can be hard to get when released. It sits at number 106 on Beer Advocate magazine’s current list of the 250 Top Rated Beers along with five other Prairie beers. This week, I’m taking a look at three of their current releases.

In 2012, Oklahoma-based Krebs Brewing Company started brewing under the name Prairie Artisan Ales. The goal was to create a brewery that was adventurous, that pushed the boundaries. Making their name on strong stouts and farmhouse sours, Prairie also stood out on shelves and in social apps with their bold, colorful labels.

A year ago, they began canning with their coconut and vanilla flavored imperial stout, Paradise. While not every beer they produce is canned, I want to share a few that are. Happily, they’ve carried over the eye-popping artwork to these beers.

Blueberry Boyfriend, sour ale with blueberries and lemon zest (5.4% ABV)

I have not had the pleasure of exploring Prairie’s offerings, sour or otherwise. So, I had no idea what to expect with this blue sour.

The aroma was a mix of blackberries and blueberries with a tang of malt vinegar and a bright lemon juice. The flavor is tart with a short, fruity sip that doesn’t linger with an aftertaste.

The purple-blue color is spot on with this refreshing sour. Blueberry Boyfriend reminds me more of a tart blueberry lemonade than a sour ale as any maltiness is masked until it warms a bit. Even then it’s only evident at the end of the sip. This is a lovely sour for those who don’t care for the style.

Vape Tricks, sour ale aged on cherries (5.9% ABV)

First, how awesome is that wine red color?

Inhaling, I get sour cherries, baking soda and lemon. The sip is slightly tart with a good cherry flavor that ends with a lightly sweet maltiness.

Wine red in color, this refreshing sour looks like it tastes.

This is a relatively simple beer — perfect for backyard hangs. Whether you pour it into a glass, a Solo cup or drink it straight from the bright pink can, Vape Tricks is perfect for Summer.

Paradise, imperial stout with coconut and vanilla (13.0% ABV)

When I saw this, I immediately thought of Maui Brewing Company’s Black Pearl imperial coconut porter. It makes sense — they’re both dark beers brewed with coconut. But that is where the similarities end. Paradise is dessert in a glass.

I was reminded of a magic bar — there’s some chocolate and coconut and a whole lot of vanilla. I got licorice, toffee, toasted coconut and s’mores in the aroma. But the flavor was all sugary vanilla upfront with chocolate, coconut and a slightly bitter finish.

Paradise is best savored sip by sip — especially considering the 13% ABV.

This Week’s Beer Tasting

Join Dominion Wine & Beer on Friday, July 13th from 5 to 7 p.m. at their weekly beer tasting with Bell’s Brewery, Old Ox Brewery and Dogfish Head Brewing Company. And don’t forget your growler for a fill-up from the rotating options.

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WWBG: Unique Summer White Wines

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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 Sarah Garratt, a wine and food pairing blogger. Follow her blog www.grapepairings.com or on Instagram @grapepairings.

In case the heat and humidity haven’t given you a clue, summer is finally here!

Time to put away your red wines and break out your whites. Yes, many people like to enjoy rosés during the warmer weather (and we do, too!), but let’s not forget about the many refreshing white wines that can cool us off!

When many people think white wines, they often think of the most common three: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio. However, did you know that there are well over 200 different white grape varietals? Today’s WWBG features two varietals that you may not have heard of, plus one that you have.

The first grape that we are featuring today is Rkatsiteli (pronounced R-cat-set-el-ee). It is originally from the country of Georgia, but is now grown all over Eastern Europe.

It is known for being zesty and tart, which makes it great for dry or sweet wines.

Stobi’s 2016 Rkatsiteli from Macedonia ($11.99) is a dry wine. It is bright with acidic flavors of lemon and grapefruit that are well balanced with green apple and spearmint. It’s acidity make it a great pairing with creamy cheeses such as blue cheese or gorgonzola. Any summer salad would be delicious with this as well!

Traveling west to Italy, we learn about our second featured grape, Verdicchio (pronounce ver-dee-ck-io). Verdicchio comes from the word verde, which is Italian for green. The wine is called “Verdicchio” due to the grape’s green color. This grape is also known for being acidic, but not as much as the Rkatsiteli.

La Staffa’s 2017 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Regularly $16.99, on sale for $14.99) has a beautiful nose of Asian pear, peach, and clementines, with woodsy notes coming at the end. On the palate, there is a little zing coming from the fruit. Grilled veggies and fish were meant to go with this dish, so it will definitely be a winner at your next barbecue or cookout!

Lastly, we feature a grape that you have all heard about: Sauvignon Blanc.

However, this may be one of the most versatile grapes around! It can have a lemongrass-y, acidic taste that many people enjoy from New Zealand. It can be more tropical when coming from California. From France, it could be more floral with mineral elements to it.

The Sauvignon Blanc we are featuring today is from Oregon, which is a nice blend of Californian and French styles.

The Patricia Green Cellar’s 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from Willamette Valley, Oregon ($24.99), is unlike many Sauvignon Blancs that you have had before. The smell alone is full of tropical notes like pineapple, mango, and lychee. However, there is also something that will leave you curious to try more. It is an herb? Is it hay? Is it floral? Grab some next time you are in the shop and figure it out with us! It will go perfectly with your next grilled chicken or sushi!

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WWBG: Early Summer Beers

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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.

After a long, rainy Spring we seem to be crawling into Summer. We thought it would be a good time to look at some refreshing beers to enjoy as the weather turns warmer.

These three beers have one thing in common: they’re perfect for enjoying in the heat of the afternoon on your deck or patio. Ranging from sour to slightly sweet and malty, these three beers are perfect for days with more sunlight than moonlight. Though not necessarily seasonal beers — though one is — this time of year is ideal for all three.

I recently wrote about the first beer below, but, now that it’s actually warming up, it’s worth another look.

Raspberry Empress Kettle Sour IPA (6% ABV)

The first thing you have to do when drinking one of these is take in that guava pink color — made possible by the raspberries used in the brewing process. Then go ahead and inhale deeply — you’ll find an aroma of berries and Pinot Grigio with a distinct earthiness.

Sour IPAs can be exciting beers. For one thing, they tend to be slightly less tart than most sours. And, it’s interesting to taste how the hops interact with the sourness.

In this case, the beginning of the sip is distinctly fruity and tart. Midway, that fruit is offset by a bitter herbal flavor right before finishing with a biscuity malt. This is a tasty and flavorful sour that would be a welcomed beverage on a hot summer day.

Jackie O’s Scrip Grisette Style Ale Aged in Wine Barrels (4.5% ABV)

Apart from beer, the word “grisette” means “young working woman” and typically referred to women who worked in urban factories, as opposed to those who worked on farms. Think of a grisette beer as a counterpart to a saison or farmhouse beer.

These beers were brewed for industrial workers. In fact, Jackie O’s has named this beer after the factory town currency that was only good at the company store.

Scrip uses only saison and brettanomyces yeasts. It ferments for 2 months in stainless tanks and is then transferred to oak wine barrels for another 9 months.

Where the Raspberry Empress is kettle soured — made sour in the brewing process by the introduction of lactobacillus bacteria — a sour like Scrip is made using brettanomyces yeast and then aged to allow the “wild yeast” to change the beer.

This complex beer has an aroma of saltine crackers and lemon pulp with an astringent edge. The sip is light — both in mouthfeel and sourness — but flavorful.

Up front you get bitter orange and unripe pineapple with a healthy dose of earthiness, while saison yeast cuts the tartness. Enjoy this as the evening begins to cool slightly — this beer is both light and flavorful.

Three Notch’d Brewing Co. Firefly Nights Summertime Ale with Honeysuckle (5.2% ABV)

Inspired by early evening firefly hunts — a rite of childhood — the capture of strange light in hands or jars, Three Notch’d’s brewmaster, Dave Warwick attempted to capture summer in a can. Using honeysuckle, unique for having sweet, edible flowers, helps.

Unlike the multi-dimensional grisette style ale above, this beer is simple and straightforward.

And charming as a result. The aroma is all peach and honey and carnations — the floral a surprising and enticing element. Sipping reveals a light flavor of flowers, which lingers into the aftertaste, on top of peach nectar and finishes lightly sweet and malty.

Grab one of these out of the icy depths of a cooler or beer bucket, wipe it off and enjoy it as the afternoon wanes. This beer is refreshing, sure, but it’s also like Summer in a can. Now, if only it glowed in the dark.

This Week’s Beer Tasting

Join Dominion Wine & Beer on Friday, June 15th, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at their weekly beer tasting with Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton, VA. A representative from the brewery will be there pouring beers and dropping knowledge. Among other beers, Dominion will tap Dank and Stormy.

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WWBG: Rock the Rosé in 2018

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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 Arash Tafakor.

Rosé is huge in the states. I don’t need to tell readers that.

Most social gatherings, rosé is as common as a local craft beer. And why not? rosés are super drinkable, bone dry, with little to no sweetness, and can pair with any food you can imagine.

I literally had one with a PB&J sandwich the other day, and it was life changing.

The good news is rosé is here to stay and there’s a second wave of rosés coming into the market.

The past few years it feels like every winery in the world is now producing a rosé. Apothic, Kendall Jackson, rosé in boxes and even 40-ounce bottle rosés! You should find a bigger and better rosé section at any wine store.

With the flooding of rosés in the market, consumers have gotten more discerning when it comes to quality. Wineries have stepped up their rosé game and started producing enough to make them available year-round so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

This is great news for wine drinkers, quality and quantity of producers.

Even though there’s been amazing rosés being produced for years, one trend that is starting to gain traction in the main stream is to sit on these delicious wines for a few years as opposed to just drinking the most current vintage.

A well-made rosé can last several years after it was bottled and will certainly get better with age.

An example of a winery producing a new rosé that is high in quality is the “The Palm” Rosé by Whispering Angel 2017 from Provence, France.

Whispering Angel, which is one of the best-selling rosés in the world, decided to make a second label. “The Palm” is actually cheaper and quite honestly just as good if not better than its more expensive counterpart.

Don’t take my word for it, my friend Hoppy buys a case of it every few weeks. I told her to sit on a case for the next year or two, but that seems impossible.

Another trend in wine that is gaining a lot of traction is wine in a can.

Like most consumers I was hesitant/skeptical about drinking wine from a can. This comes from a bias that wine out of a can is of low quality, and to be honest, when canned wines first came out a few years ago they tasted like crap.

Like bad beers in cans such as Iron City out of Pittsburgh, there are bad wines in cans. There’s also bad wines in glass bottles. The vessel itself is no different than any other, it’s the quality of liquid inside that matters.

The good news is there’s a resurgence in canned wines, partially driven by the craft beer industry that is mostly canning their beer now. Cans obviously have ecological benefits, they’re fully recyclable and most importantly, convenient.

Wine producers that have decided to can understand these benefits and are putting higher quality wines into cans. Since cans are airtight, aging is not beneficial so most of these wines are made to be crisp, clean, bright and drinkable, which makes it a perfect vessel for… rosé!

A great example of a delicious rosé in a can is the Margerum 2017 Riviera Rosé from Santa Barbara, California. This southern California born rosé mixes sophistication, quality and partying. I have no shame bringing a 4-pack of this rosé to any party sipping them straight out of the can.

Please drink responsibly and come by Dominion Wine and Beer and check out our rosé section.

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WWBG: New Brewery Profile — Rocket Frog Brewing Company

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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.

New Brewery Profile: Rocket Frog Brewing Company

Location: 22560 Glenn Dr., Suite #103, Sterling, VA

Opened: May 5, 2018

Twin brothers David and Richard Hartogs partnered with David’s wife, Jennifer Showell-Hartogs to open the uniquely named Rocket Frog Brewing Company. They brought in their TV producer brother, Peter Hartogs, as an investor and Ph.D. in biochemistry, Russell Carpenter, as head brewer.

The Arlington-natives, David and Richard, have worked in and around beer for years between The Better Beer Authority beer review video series on YouTube and a craft beer meet up group called Beer Head on meetup.com. Now, they get to make the beers that they want to drink.

They’ve built a tap room for today’s beer drinkers with charging stations for phones and other devices, coat hooks galore and plenty of gathering space for hanging and trying their line up of beers. They’re hoping they can find their niche in the beer-rich LoCo.

I reached out to co-owner Richard Hartogs with some questions to figure out just what a “rocket frog” is and where they’re planning to go with the brewery.

What Is a “Rocket Frog”?

“September 6, 2013, a frog was propelled in the air by the Minotaur V rocket on Wallops Island, VA as the boosters blasted the rocket to space. The frog basically photo bombed a NASA photograph and it gained media attention. I thought Rocket Frog was a funny name and suggested it to David. He said yes.  It turns out the rocket was made by Orbital ATK, a mile from the brewery.”

Do you plan to focus on particular styles?

“We want to grow into 4-5 flagships, like Angry Alice IPA, Minotaur V American golden/blond ale, and a kettle sour. We also want to focus on seasonal, rotating IPAs, experimental beers, barrel aged beers, whatever comes to mind. We want you to both know what to expect in our tasting room, and have fun trying whatever Russell Carpenter comes up with.”

What kind of packaging will you offer and do you plan to distribute?

“We will hopefully have our kegs out to market in Northern Virginia and DC within a few weeks, once we sign with a distributor. Kegs will be 1/2 barrel and 1/6 barrel. We hope to bring in mobile canning by the end of month 3. We’ll can some specialty, small batch beers that will be sold out of our tasting room and send our bigger batch beers to market.”

Who’s inspiring you?

“I wouldn’t say there is one person who is inspiring us. I would say we are driven to be successful by the five-year journey/struggle to get open. After such a long process, we’re driven to make sure our beer stands up to anything in our market and our tasting room is a great place to drink. And we’re driven by the risk we’ve taken in order to open the brewery, in particular David and his wife Jennifer Showell-Hartogs.”

Do you have any interesting offerings coming up?

“Cosmic Trails IPA, which is predominantly Citra and Galaxy hops, should be ready and tapped by the end of May.  It’s already tasting great in the fermenter, and it’s still going to get dry hopped some more before it gets kegged off. We are doing our first kettle sour this week, which I’m really excited to see how it will turn out.”

Well, they’ve already had a serendipitous visit from a frog during an industry event to celebrate their opening. Perhaps it was a sign. I was able to get three of their first beers to try — it’s a great start.

Minotaur V American Blond Ale (4.5% ABV)

The very first beer to make it through Rocket Frog’s system, Minotaur V is named after the rocket that made a frog famous. As it turns out, the Minotaur V was built by nearby company — Orbital ATK. It’s like it was fate. I’m going to come right out and admit that I’m not a fan of blond ales, generally. They tend to be malty and plain. This one is different.

Pouring golden and clear with a generous creamy head, the aroma enticed with cracker, carnation and a bit of cardamom. The sip was smooth and lightly winey with just enough hops to mask any maltiness. I might not tend to reach for a blond ale, but ignoring Minotaur V would have been a mistake. Nearly as clean and crisp as a lager, and as sessionable, it will make a great go-to during the hot Summer months.

Wallops Island Brown Ale Brewed with coffee (5.3% ABV)

Rocket Frog is already playing with their formulas, and they’re barely open. According to their Untappd profile they have already brewed this brown ale with and without coffee and served it with smooth nitro. Of course, I got the coffee version — brewed with Nicaraguan coffee. Unlike the usually malty blond ale, I love a brown ale. I’m always curious to see what a brewery does with this old fashioned style — and by old fashioned I mean 90s microbrewery old.

I don’t know that I’d say that a good brown ale makes the brewery, but I haven’t been disappointed yet. This one is no exception. I wouldn’t fault someone ordering a second one of these and calling for a grande — the aroma is iced coffee and caramelized sugar. Coffee continues in the sip, where it balances the light bitterness from the roasted malt. So dark and toasty is the flavor that you could probably call this a porter, but I’m not complaining. This one goes down so smooth, you could pour some in one of those ubiquitous clear plastic cups and drink it with a green straw.

Angry, Angry Alice DIPA (8.4% ABV)

This big beer was just right. It might refer to Alice, but it reminds me of Goldilocks. Angry, Angry Alice is the double IPA to Rocket Frog’s future flagship IPA, Angry Alice. Just get a load of the hops that Rocket Frog used to brew and dry-hop this DIPA: Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe pellets with LupulN2 powder.

Though not hazy, Angry, Angry Alice had all the signs of a juice bomb. Passion fruit, clementines and pine sap made for an intoxicating aroma. The sip was sweet and fruity — mango followed by grapefruit as the sweetness is delightfully tempered by bitterness. This big DIPA might be simple, but the flavors are huge and on point. I look forward to seeing what other special IPAs they have to offer. That Cosmic Trails sounds pretty good!

Friday Beer Tasting

Join Dominion Wine & Beer on Friday, May 18 from 5-7PM as they host their weekly beer tasting. They’ll be featuring a collaboration between two great local breweries, Solace Brewing Company and Eavesdrop Brewery — JUICE HEAD. It’s is a 9% ABV DIPA that they just tapped on the growler station.

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WWBG: A Refresher on a Refreshing Beer Style — Lagers

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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.

Lagers are truly the king of beers in the United States, if not around the world.

For years now, craft breweries have tapped into an already lager-hungry cross-over market offering traditional styles that contrast with hoppy or sour beers.

A well-made craft lager or even traditional import can be a refreshing alternative to the glut of ales on the market. Often low in ABV, though not always, and crisp and malty rather than heavy and fruity — they make the perfect addition to the Summer cooler.

At it’s root, the thing that sets a lager apart from an ale is the yeast. Ale yeast requires warmth in order to start the fermentation of sugar into alcohol, adding fruity flavors to the beer. Because ales are made at warm temperatures, the yeast remains near or at the top of the wort as it makes the beer — ales are also known as “top fermenting beers.”

Lager yeast actually begins fermentation at lower temperatures and is slower to complete it. That slower fermentation also happens at the bottom of the tank, giving lagers the designation of bottom fermenting beers. The result is a crisp, clean flavor that should be free of the fruitiness that ales display.

The word lager is derived from the German word “lagern,” which means “to store.” In fact, lagering is the process of storing the beer at temperatures around or below freezing for a period of time. Lagering allows the few flavor compounds created by the slow fermentation of the lager yeast to reabsorb and be processed out.

All the lagers that I’m exploring are relatively light in color, but they can also be brown or black as the yeast and the lagering is what makes a lager a lager and not the grain or the color.

Mano Del Puma Blonde Mexican Lager (4.8% ABV)

Mexican lagers are made by adding corn to the grain bill, which adds sweetness and contributes to the crispness that you get with beers like Corona or Dos Equis. Mano Del Puma is a simple, but delicious brew.

Inhaling, I get fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro bracketed by clean, white flour. The sip is crisp soda cracker with a subtle sweetness.

It’s all on point. At only 4.8% ABV this is great for a hot summer day after mowing the lawn or grilling. This isn’t just crushable, it’s totally poundable.

Port City Brewing Company Lager Series: Helles (5.2% ABV)

The first entry in Port City Brewing Company’s monthly Lager Series, Helles is a lightly sweet and crisp lager.

A light honey color — “helles” means pale in German — Port City’s version of a traditional German style poured with a generous, creamy head.

The aroma was fresh cut grass, wild flowers and white bread. Clean and lightly sweet, the sip goes from subtile green herbs to pleasantly malty without ever getting bitter.

It’s refreshing on a 90 degree day like today. And unfortunately, it’s also limited. But look for other Lager Series beers as they will be released every month and a half.

Ayinger Maibock (6.9% ABV)

A maibock is a traditional German beer style, made for Spring with its lighter malt and extra hop flavor — “mai” means May in German.

Made to mark the longer, brighter days that lead out of Winter, maibock contrast with Winter bocks that tend to be darker and heavier lagers.

Pouring a light amber, Ayinger’s maibock gives off an aroma of honey and wheat bread with a hint of floral spiciness. The flavor is simple: sweet and malty with a light hop-derived bitterness. The classic German Hallertau hops that Ayinger uses lend this beer it’s spicy aroma and subtle contrast to the malt.

This is a classic beer that great on a Spring evening as the air begins to cool after the warmest part of the day.

This Week’s Beer Tasting

Join Dominion Wine & Beer on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. for their weekly beer tasting. Mano del Puma will be available on tap and in cans — perfect for the weekend. They will also be pouring IPAs from Offshoot Beer Co. and Reaver Beach Brewing Co.

Cheers!

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WWBG: New Beers from Commonwealth Brewing Company

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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.

Last Friday, Dominion Wine & Beer hosted Commonwealth Brewing Company for their weekly beer tasting. The Virginia Beach brewery was in the area to promote their upcoming beer festival and to share some recent, limited releases.

Lucky customers had a chance to win two tickets to Commonwealth Brewing Company’s 3rd Annual COMMON GROUNDS Collaborative Beer Fest & Camp Night on May 19 from 4-8 p.m.! This event will feature collaborations with some of the best breweries in the country, including Aslin Beer Company and Ocelot Brewing Company.

In addition to flagship favorites, Aureole Lager and Big Papi DIPA, Commonwealth shared limited releases Tinta Rosa Gose, Lethe Pale Ale and There Goes Gravity IPA.

Tinta Rosa Sangria Style Gose Ale (5.4% ABV)

The fourth entry in Commonwealth’s international street vendor drink series, Tinta Rosa is a gose in sangria’s clothing.

The purple coloration is the first clue that this beer might be just what they promise. While the aroma of lime and green plums doesn’t scream sangria, it does evoke a good gose.

They nailed the sangria flavor in the sip! Though it starts out extremely tart and sharply salty — as a good gose will — the orange and raspberry comes through evoking the fruited wine drink.

For fun, I’d pour several cans into a chilled pitcher with some fruit to complete the illusion. We may not be able to keep our warm days around, but Tinta Rosa was a welcomed beer on a recent warm day. Grab a four pack and hold on to it for when Spring finally returns.

Lethe Pale Ale (5.1% ABV)

It’s refreshing to see the humble pale ale make a resurgence.

The gap that had opened up between low-alcohol sours and big beers like imperials and double and triple whatevers has been gradually filled by lagers and, once again, pale ales.

I’m not excited about all pale ales — many of them taste like watered down IPAs — but breweries seem to be getting their pale ale mojo back.

Take this beer. It’s light, fruity and hazy, like a sessionable New England IPA. The aroma of passion fruit, orange and guava with a hint of sharp herbs, delivers a sip that is slightly tart and fruity with a barely bitter finish. Lethe is, dare I say, crushable — a delicious alternative to stronger hazy IPAs.

There Goes Gravity Wheat IPA (7.0% ABV)

Brewed with El Dorado and experimental hops and a large amount of wheat in the grain bill, There Goes Gravity is a naturally cloudy exotic IPA. I was intrigued by the aroma that blended bubble gum with apricot and sweet honeydew melon.

The sip is sweet and smooth with a slightly bitter finish — like taking a bite of the sweet part of a honeydew along with a little bit of the rind. Sweet and slightly strong, There Goes Gravity is a sipper that can sneak up on you if you drink it too fast. Enjoy this one slowly and savor it. Besides, it won’t be around long.

This Week’s Beer Tasting

Dominion Wine & Beer is having their friends from Ocelot Brewing Company over for a little party to kick off their 3rd Anniversary, which they’ll celebrate at the brewery on Saturday.

Join them Friday, April 20 from 5-7 p.m. when the brewers from Ocelot will be in the house pouring some of their newest IPAs, Gorgeous and Alone, for the first time outside the brewery. Come meet Mike and Jack and grab some beer for the weekend!

Dominion will also be giving away two tickets to Ocelot’s anniversary party on Saturday at the brewery. There may even be a surprise or two in store so keep an eye on Dominion Wine & Beer’s social media.

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WWBG: Where I Like to Grab a Beer in NYC

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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.

On any trip to New York City, I try to get to my favorite watering holes and to find new ones.

Recently, I visited the Big Apple with my family. While there, I decided that I’d like to share my favorite restaurants and bottle shops for grabbing a beer.

Whether you’re waiting in long lines to get into the Supreme store in SoHo or in the long lines to get into the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or are waiting to get into the next showing of Hamilton — you’re probably going to want beer when you’re done.

Beer Table

(22 Grand Central Terminal, Across from Track 13 and WESTFIELD WORLD TRADE CENTER, 185 Greenwich Street)

My first stop was Beer Table in Westfield World Trade Center.

This small space had quite the singles selection with five beers on tap for filling in a variety of vessels that range from pint jars to mini kegs called “Gregs” — a contraction of growler and keg.

I couldn’t pass up a jar of Runcible, a Brett IPA from DC’s Right Proper Brewing Company. My literally pint-sized jar came cozily wrapped in a complimentary koozie and sealed well enough that the longish walk back to my hotel without immediate refrigeration did little to diminish the freshness.

As small as the Lower Manhattan location is, the one at Grand Central is even tinier. But show up on a Friday evening and you’ll find a line that stretches out their door and down the corridor. Thirsty commuters looking for some tasty beer for their train rides out of the city keep this location hopping!

They have big plans for the future, too. Their origins were in the restaurant business with a now-closed Beer Table restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Now, they’re returning to their roots with Beer Table Coffee Table on Third Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets.

While You’re In The Neighborhood…

When in the Financial District, be sure to grab a bite — and maybe some groceries — at Eataly.

Conveniently located upstairs from the Beer Table in Westfield World Trade Center, you’ll find a lot of Dogfish Head beers (they have collaborated on beers in recent years) and beer from an Italian craft brewery, Baladin. While I didn’t manage to try Baladin’s beer, they do make delicious sodas that we all fell for.

Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen

(169 8th Avenue and 87 2nd Avenue)

The last time I was in New York City we got up early to get a head start on the day. And we walked. We always walk in New York, but we really managed to get an unusual amount of walking in before lunch. We had walked about as far as we could manage and, while we contemplated our next move, one of us noticed Cooper’s across the street.

It was an oasis. I mean it. It was below freezing outside and, because it was the weekend, they were serving brunch. We were won over (everything was good but do try the french toast).

Now a must-visit for my entire family, Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen in the East Village sits blocks from Cooper Union at 87 2nd Avenue. Inside this corner restaurant with its panoramic views — great for people watching — is a gastropub that has more than 20 taps serving up great craft beer alongside delicious food. If you’re a locavore when it comes to craft beer, you will always find great New York area beers in addition to beers from around the world.

It feels like a cozy neighborhood hang out as much as a trendy craft beer bar. It has plenty of cool, but you’ll enjoy it if even if that’s not your thing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

While You’re In The Neighborhood…

Perhaps you’ve just finished your meal at Cooper’s and want to grab a growler or some bottles or cans. Head a few blocks to the east to Good Beer NYC. Located near Tompkins Square at 422 E 9th Street, Good Beer is a step down off the sidewalk and into a compact bottle store that always has a great selection.

Tørst

(615 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY)

When in NYC, you have to make the trek to Brooklyn’s Tørst in Greenpoint. At least that’s what Dominion Wine & Beer’s Arash Takafor said. There are so many reasons to venture into Brooklyn, but when you’re in Manhattan, it can feel like you’re completely leaving the city. I can tell you that there is no place I’ve been to that was more worth the effort.

Take a few trains from Manhattan — we took three, some with only one or two stops before the change — and get out at the Nassau Ave. station. Just down the block is an unassuming door with a sandwich board in front that marks it as Tørst.

Inside is a warm wood interior with communal tables and a long bar sporting 21 taps. Details are important to the Tørst experience. Each of the tap handles is a different shade of wood, from light to very dark. This corresponds to the color and strength of the beers on draft. Lighter pilsners and session beers are on the light end (think birch) and IPAs and sours run through the middle and heavies and stouts are on the dark end. (think walnut).

Their glasses take this attention to detail to another level. Made up of a pattern of triangles that appears merely ornamental (vaguely resembling pine trees), they are actually a creatively graduated system. Each row represents 5 oz., 8 oz. and 14 oz. One of the standouts from my flight was the 5 oz. pour of Aslin Beer Co. and Stillwater Artisanal’s collaboration Recess, which was refreshingly tart and fruity.

Finally, the food — think gastro beer bar — and the service — our bartender was knowledgeable, warm and friendly — are details that put Tørst on any must-visit list. Three of us had sandwiches (the favorite being a fried chicken breast with celery root remoulade), while my wife had a green goddess salad with pickled grapes and blue cheese crumbles. The sandwiches arrived with no sides but there was so much to enjoy between the pieces of bread that it was anything but underwhelming. Finishing it off, we shared a dessert of house-made vanilla ice cream with cacao nib brittle and amarena cherries.

While You’re In The Neighborhood…

Our bartender recommended that we walk several blocks to the Northwest to shop at Brouwerij Lane. Also in Greenpoint, Brouwerij Lane is a well-stocked bottle shop that has around 20 taps for growler fills and pours to enjoy on-site by their wood-burning stove inside or out back.

Friday Beer Tasting

Join Dominion Wine & Beer on Friday, April 6 from 5 — 7 p.m. as they host their weekly beer tasting. They’ll be featuring new beers from Cigar City Brewing, Crooked Run Brewing and a collaboration from AleSmith Brewing Company and Pizza Port Brewing Company!

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WWBG: New Look — Three Notch’d Brewing Co.

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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.

Opened in 2013, this Charlottesville, Virginia brewery drew upon the historic surroundings for their name and inspiration.

Their name — Three Notch’d — a peculiarly spelled moniker is derived from the old road that leads to Charlottesville. The road was made famous in 1781 by Jack Jouett, who rode it sounding the alarm that the British were advancing.

Three notches, like small slashes, mark the road. They used to also mark Three Notch’d Brewing Co., but recently they rolled out a complete rebrand. Three Notch’d ditched the slashes and historical looking fonts in favor of a clean, modern take on the historical references. They’ve also added bottles to their packaging options.

I reached out to Jack Murray, the Brand Manager at Three Notch’d to shed some light on the big changes we’re seeing. I wanted to find out more about this new design and whether they plan to phase out cans in favor of bottles. He started by explaining the new mark of three axes:

“The three crossed axes represent the tools used by Colonists to mark the original Three Notch’d Trail in Virginia.  Symbolically the tools represent three values our business strives for everyday — Radical Independence, Freedom of Expression and Civic Responsibility.  We hope our new mark grows our community and inspires them to live everyday to the fullest.”

Why redesign now?

“Three Notch’d has been continually and rapidly expanding both our product line and our distribution/locations since our launch in 2013. As is the case with many brands, as we’ve grown, our brand has evolved and over the course of the past year or so, we discussed the idea of refreshing our design elements to reflect this evolution.

“Most importantly, we wanted to tie the ‘red thread’ throughout our products and locations to create consistency for our customers, so that whether they are drinking a Minute Man, 40 Mile or new Blackberry Gose at a bar in Northern Virginia or visiting one of our locations in Richmond, C’ville, or Harrisonburg — or soon to be opened (in) Roanoke — they identify their experience as something unique to Three Notch’d. And, the timing of our rebrand nicely coincided with the opening of our new production facility and craft kitchen at IX Art Park in the heart of Charlottesville.”

Who did you work with on the redesign?

“We worked with local artists and designers on the redesign. We enlisted the original artists to re-create the illustrations on our Flagship cans to better suit the new look, and had a local designer create the system template from which to work with. Each new packaged beer is then designed to suit the product by an in-house team.” 

Why add bottles to your packaging options and do you plan to keep the cans?

“Yes. We plan to keep cans! Cans are an essential part of our product mix, and the addition of bottles just gives the consumer more options on the shelf and in other retail locations. We just put out a 24 pack and 12 pack of bottles for example that feature our hop forward flagships and a rotating seasonal Declaration of Hops IPA. More variety, more opportunities to enjoy Three Notch’d.”

How has the new design been received?

“Very well! We have gotten some great feedback from our consumer base on then new branding and we look forward to continuing to refine the look and feel of the brand as we release new products.”

Blackberry Gose (5.1% ABV)

Three Notch’d Brewing Co.’s current seasonal offering is this pink and fruity Blackberry Gose. The aroma is all berry seltzer water and baking soda.

The sip cuts right to the punch. It starts out tart and fruity — think dark berries or even plums — with a salty bite then finishes light and malty. And did I mention that it’s pink!

Three Notch’d bills this as a Winter beer, but I always think of tart and refreshing beers as belonging to warmer times. No doubt that’s a limited view, and since our Winter does not appear to conceding to Spring, I can accept that this is a tasty beer for right now. For drinking indoors, with the heat on or the fireplace going when we should have the windows open.

GHOST OF THE 43rd AMERICAN PALE ALE (5.1% ABV)

One of Three Notch’d Brewing Co.’s flagship beers, Ghost of the 43rd APA features an eerie gray cannon firing hops. The Ghost pours a lovely crisp amber and gives off an enlivening aroma of green stems and grapefruit. It’s a malt and citrusy hop balanced pale ale that has just enough lemony tartness to make it refreshing!

I often avoid pale ales, not because I have to have the strongest beer, but because pale ales have seemed left behind. A sessionable beer style that doesn’t assault the senses hasn’t been high on the list of beers sought after by many who prefer craft beer.

However, I think we’re seeing something of a renewed interest in mild beers like pale ales. Sierra Nevada is pouring more resources into it’s pale ale — the beer that defined the American Pale Ale.

Well, Three Notch’d has delivered a pale ale to make me stop and smell the hops. I’d stock my fridge with this Virginia Brewers Cup winner any day.

No Veto Brown English Ale (5.0% ABV)

Perhaps an indicator that beer naming is tricky business in this environment of more than 5,000 breweries, but “No Veto” is a tribute to Patrick Henry. Famous for his fatalistic call to arms, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” Henry was a founding father who was active in the colonial government. One of his contributions to Virginia and the new nation was to oppose and overturn the ability of the British government to veto laws made in the colonies. Hence, No Veto.

Perhaps it’s ironic, then, that the beer that boasts this historical nugget is an English brown ale made entirely with English malt and hops. Smelling of pumpernickel, blonde roast coffee and caramel, No Veto pours a rich dark brown with a creamy head.

This is a good solid brown ale. There’s a light bitterness from the darker malt and a slight caramel sweetness — like a good cola. It has a light enough mouthfeel to keep it from feeling like a heavy beer. This may share the same style as a Newcastle, but it shouldn’t be compared to one. Three Notch’d nails the balance of caramel and coffee with the earthiness of the English hops.

Like the lighter and plainer pale ale, the simple brown ale needs some renewed love. I’m always excited when I get to try a brewery’s brown ale. I’m even more excited when they nail it. I have list of recent winners — Maui Brewing Co. and Solace Brewing Company come to mind — and now I can add Three Notch’d to it.

Minute Man New England IPA (7.0% ABV)

The can’s art used to evoke both Minute Maid orange juice and the historical volunteer-based militia Minutemen. Now, it’s on brand and more evocative of the orangey burst awaiting inside. Orange juice is the star here.

Pouring clear and light amber rather than hazy, I got strong orange juice concentrate with Nilla wafer and pine resin in the aroma. The sip is sweet and dank with a juicy finish.

The orange didn’t dominate the flavor like it did the aroma, but blended with the sappy resin. So many fruit-forward IPAs focus solely on citrus flavors, but I appreciate how this one had the extra dimension of pine.

Minute Man has been getting some attention in recent years. The Washington Post made it the Beer of the Week in 2016. And, before being bought by All About Beer, Draft Magazine listed Minute Man at number 10 on their list of the 50 Best IPAs in America. Put it on your list, too. It’s a delicious, juicy IPA that’s right anytime.

Friday Beer Tasting

Join Dominion Wine & Beer on Friday, March 23 from 5-7 p.m. as they host their weekly beer tasting. They’ll be featuring new beers from Ocelot Brewing Company, Benchtop Brewing Company and Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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WWBG: Precarious Beer Project

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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.

New Brewery Profile
Name: Precarious Beer Project
Location: 521 Prince George St, Williamsburg, VA
Opened: December 2017

Opened in December 2017, Precarious Beer Project is the brewery attached to the Amber Ox Public House on Prince George Street in Williamsburg, VA.

Far from tapping into the colonial history of Williamsburg and nearby Yorktown, Amber Ox and Precarious Beer Project look to today and tomorrow for inspiration. From a modern pub that serves up gastropub fare to a brewery that seems to be uninterested in doing anything too boring or expected.

When Williamsburg’s 24 year old tradition of having a First Night celebration came to an end with the disbanding of the planning committee, Amber Ox and The Hound’s Tale spearheaded a new public event. Despite being only a month old, Amber Ox Public House and Precarious Beer Project sponsored a block party named PG-500 (the “500” refers to their block of Prince George Street).

Like First Night, their party would welcome everyone, but it was still a party. There was live music, barbecue and local beer — featuring recent releases from Precarious Beer Project.

Below are two Precarious beers. Dominion Wine & Beer is one of the few places outside Williamsburg to get limited kegs on tap from time to time.

Precarious Beer Project Cheapbeer (5.8%)

Even their plain old yellow beer has a fun name — CHEAPBEER.

They’re not yelling, they’re speaking in all caps. It may be a yellow cream ale, but it’s well made. There’s a clean white wine and cracker aroma.

The sip starts out with a crisp, winey white grape that finishes a bit sweet and malty. It goes down super smooth. This cream ale would be a great alternative to actually cheap American lagers on a hot summer day.

Precarious Beer Project Capoeira Capybara NEIPA (6.8% ABV)

Ooo. A New England IPA. This juicy IPA is a marriage of lower hemisphere ingredients: Patagonian malt and Australian hops. The result is a delicious and hazy beer with the expected smooth mouthfeel.

Just inhaling is part of the fun — melon rind, passion fruit, bubble gum and ruby red grapefruit.

The sip starts out a little sweet, like juicy fruit gum, then becomes grapefruit bitter. It does sweeten a bit more as it warms, but it never loses that tasty bitterness.

I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed when my crowler was empty.

Don’t miss the Friday tasting today, March 9 from 5-7 p.m. at Dominion Wine & Beer. They’ll be launching another new brewery to the area, Collective Arts Brewing from Canada.

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WWBG: Liquid Pleasure Now Pouring

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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.

In October 2014, Pleasure House Brewing opened its doors.

Led by owners Tim O’Brien and Kevin Loos — who you might meet in the taproom — head brewer Drew Stephenson and his wife Alex, Pleasure House is passionate about two things: making great beer and serving their community.

Each batch of beer is brewed on a seven barrel system, meaning that they are a Virginia brewery serving Virginia.

When it comes to the making-great-beer part, they’re not shying away from trying new things. They have brewed an estimated 175 different beers in the more than three years that they’ve been open.

Drew divides the styles by IPAs and European styles with a particular emphasis on British, Belgian and German beers. That leaves the door open to just about any style you can think of from lagers to sours.

As for serving their community, Pleasure House holds a potluck called Crock for a Cause every Sunday to raise money for local charities. Proceeds from their Rain Barrel Bohemian Pilsner — brewed with rain water collected at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters — goes support the Foundation.

In addition to it’s financial support of local groups, Pleasure House is the first Ocean-Friendly Restaurant for the Virginia Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and frequently help out with the Better Beach Project.

Pleasure House believes that the community that they are part of makes them a better brewery. Now they are excited to share their beer with their distant neighbors to the north. I got to try two of their most recent brews.

1608 Imperial Cream Ale with Rosemary (7.4% ABV)

The Brewers Association classifies cream ales as hybrid ales, meaning they’re brewed with either ale or lager yeast at the warmer temperatures of an ale then lagered or stored for a period of time.

They tend to be blond in color and relatively low alcohol. They also tend to be rather plain — making for a great pairing with stronger flavors like coffee. Well, consider Pleasure House’s Imperial Cream Ale an extreme hybrid beer.

Of course, the “Imperial” adds up to a higher-than-usual alcohol content — 7.4% as opposed to around 5%.

The rosemary first appears like a whisper in the aroma among wheat bread and wine.

Whereas most cream ales are relatively clean in flavor, this beer is more complex. Up front, it’s bready and alcohol sweet but it transitions to a meaty umami flavor when the rosemary kicks in. I was reminded of Dogfish Head’s Rosabi — their Imperial pale ale brewed with wasabi. It, too, had a foody quality that was unlike most other beers. Drink this with a hearty burger or maybe a roast — it’s definitely a supper beer.

Single For The Holidays Belgian Blond(e) Ale (7.5% ABV)

While we’re defining beer styles, the average Belgian style blonde ale is a light colored, easy drinking beer often slightly spicy owing to the Belgian yeast used to brew it.

Pleasure House makes their blonde with an optional “e” and with an extra bit of tartness. The aroma begins with a tell-tale banana, but gets interesting when green plum pops up.

Sure enough, the sip begins with tart — not full-on sour — crab apple followed by a light dried apricot sweetness. Whether the tartness is intended — Belgian-style blonde ales might have fruity esters but they’re not sour — it was a welcomed surprise.

Too often, Belgian-style — that’s beers made outside of Belgium in the style — beers are cloyingly sweet or too heavy on the banana. Single for the Holidays cuts through that. Enjoy this strong brew slowly, its light refreshing flavor masks the 7.5% ABV.

Dominion Wine & Beer is excited to roll out the first of a handful of kegs from Pleasure House Brewing in their weekly beer tasting Friday, February 23 from 5-7 p.m. They will also be sharing some new beers from Evil Twin Brewing and 3 Stars Brewing Company.

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WWBG: Crooked Run. Straight Up.

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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.

In 2013, Jake Endres and Lee Rogan took to popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise capital to start their brewery.

Both brewers had been home brewing for several years, and agreed that the time was right open their dream brewery. Starting as a “nanobrewery” — a brewery that only brewed in small batches — out of their downtown Leesburg location, Crooked Run first brewed a classic English pale ale and a Belgian ale. They even held the distinction of being the youngest brewery owners for a time.

In 2017, Crooked Run expanded to nearby Sterling, opening a 10 barrel brewhouse, a tap room and even a taqueria — a joint venture with Leesburg’s Señor Ramon’s Taqueria.

In addition to adding space and brewing capacity, they’ve added a coolship — a special vessel for fermenting beers that is open — for sours and spontaneously fermented beers. They have been producing beers using the coolship for nearly a year and are looking forward to releasing some mixed-fermentation sours this summer. Also coming soon are some strong, barrel-aged beers.

Crooked Run has also begun to rack up recognition, namely taking gold at the 2016 World Beer Cup for their Supernatural Saison and silver at the Virginia Craft Beer Cup for their Dulce De Leche Stout.

Whether through awards or by word of mouth, they are having success. With the opening of the Sterling brewery, Crooked Run began canning their most popular beers. Now available at local bottle shops, like Dominion Wine & Beer, the cans come in four packs. They aim to increase the production of their canned offerings based on the response.

I’m going to look at three of their cans.

Raspberry Empress Sour IPA (6% ABV)

The first thing you have to do when drinking one of these is take in that guava pink color. Then go ahead and inhale deeply — you’ll find an aroma of berries and pinot Grigio with a distinct earthiness.

Sour IPAs can be exciting beers. For one thing, they tend to be slightly less tart than most sours. And, it’s interesting to taste how the hops interact with the sourness.

In this case, the beginning of the sip is distinctly fruity and tart. Midway, that fruit is offset by a bitter herbal flavor right before finishing with a biscuity malt. This is a tasty and flavorful sour that would be a welcomed beverage on a hot summer day.

Heart and Soul IPA (6.5% ABV)

As “flagship” IPAs go, you probably won’t find many more that are as delicious as Heart and Soul. It’s on the light side, which suits me fine. As good as this IPA is, who wants to stop at just one?

Putting my nose up to the glass, I got a heady mix of mango and currant with a hint of a sweeter citrus and bread crumbs. The sip starts with slightly spicy herbs up front finishing with a fruity tang. A light bitterness remains on the tongue after you swallow. Mingling throughout the sip is a light maltiness.

This is a solid, fruity IPA that still remembers that it is descended from pale ales. According to the brewery’s blog, Heart and Soul is so popular that they are exploring an option to contract brew it. They just can’t keep the 4-packs on the shelves.

Verdant Force DIPA (8.5% ABV)

Whoa, that tree has an eye in it! Despite being billed as a hazy, juicy IPA — perhaps it is on draught — my can was a strong, sweet double IPA.

Earth and pine show up both in the aroma and in the flavor, keeping Verdant Force true to its name. I was a bit taken aback at first by the sweetness, but as it warmed a bit, the sugar seemed to blend in better with the slightly bitter pine. There’s no mistaking this big DIPA for a chuggable beer, sip it and enjoy the blend of Citra and Simcoe hops.

Dominion Wine & Beer’s weekly beer tasting will be this evening, February 9, 5:00-7:00 p.m. featuring Crooked Run Brewing! Dominion is thrilled to have a regular rotation of cans and draft options available. Don’t miss it. Cheers!

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WWBG: The Ice Cream Truck Cometh

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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.

Last week was a fun one for Dominion Wine & Beer and their sister store, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer. First, Dominion collaborated with Herndon-based Aslin Beer Company to brew Haka, a double IPA (DIPA) using exclusively Nelson Sauvin hops that released on January 20. On Saturday, January 27, Dominion will tap their final two kegs of Haka starting at 10 am — Aslin has already sold out of their stock.

Also, on January 20, Cambridge, MD-based RAR Brewing sent out modified ice cream trucks to deliver three flavors of limited beers to Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore, Brookand Pint in the District and Downtown Crown Wine & Beer in Gaithersburg. The guys at Dominion and Downtown Crown captured the festivities on video. I’ve got some thoughts on the beers below.

RAR Pulpsicle American Pale Ale (6.0% ABV)

The first and lightest of the confectionary beers that RAR trucked to Downtown Crown happens to also be the one that I couldn’t get enough of. All the flavors were fun, no doubt, but this one tapped into nostalgia.

What’s funny is that I never even liked creamsicles with their sweet fake orange coating and blandly creamy “vanilla” centers. But RAR has put together a beer that both evokes the specific experience of eating a creamsicle and transcends it.

Promisingly, I found aromas of sweet cream, tangerine and a hint of lemon rind. The sip begins sweet — orange cream soda — only to have the sweet vanilla cream flavor intensify next. A light and welcomed bitterness settles in in the finish. That bitterness is exactly what sets this beer apart from the everyday creamsicle. What a way to make a Winter day feel like Summer!

RAR Neapolitan Complex American IPA (7.0% ABV)

Neapolitan Complex may not have been my favorite, but it did not disappoint — besides it has one of the best beer names I’ve heard in a while. It makes me smile every time I read it.

Really, though, this was a tasty and oddly accurate beer. Sweet and thick, Neapolitan — a name that immediately indicates the flavors you should expect — delivers with a combo that begins with a Yoohoo-like chocolate and finishes with a distinct strawberry tang. Where Pulpsicle was sweet, but still retained some bitterness, Neapolitan and Ice Cream Seas are completely dessert beers.

RAR Ice Cream Seas DIPA (8.0% ABV)

Ice Cream Seas gives away nothing by either its name or its artwork. What is an ice cream sea? It sounds awesome.

Is it salty? I hope not. Great news. It’s not salty and it tastes like you’d hope a sea of ice cream would taste. There’s a little citrus, a little herb and a sweet cream like homemade divinity swirling in every sip. Despite its 8% ABV, Ice Cream Seas remains smooth without any overt alcohol astringency or burn. This adult milkshake is on point.

Aslin Beer Company and Dominion Wine & Beer Haka Double Dry Hopped DIPA (8.5% ABV)

I had the pleasure of writing about Aslin Beer Company for Dominion back in 2016 when Aslin was only 8 months old and Dominion was about to begin serving their beer. By now, Aslin has grown beyond its original location, and Dominion has embarked on multiple collaboration brews with area breweries.

Dominion’s latest collaboration yielded a NEIPA that, true to Aslin’s reputation, is delicious and bold. Made with the popular exotic hop from New Zealand, Nelson Sauvin, Haka is a singular experience.

Aromas of musk melon, Valencia orange and grape skin precede the juicy sip that’s full of white grape and ruby red grapefruit. Thoroughly smooth on the tongue, Haka is fruity and light without much sweetness and a bitter finish. It’s a shame this isn’t a larger run beer, I’d stock my beer fridge with this one.

Don’t wait until Saturday to come down to Dominion Wine & Beer because on Friday, January 26 they’ll have their weekly beer tasting featuring beers from Ocelot Brewing Company, Omnipollo and Weihenstephan USA from 5-7 p.m. Cheers!

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