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 the cradle of our democracy and the Piedmont of Virginia, lies a winery that bears the name of the President-Elect. Trump Winery, formerly Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard, sits in the same area that Thomas Jefferson once made wine. A region that has long had its own American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation as Monticello.
Donald Trump bought the winery in 2011 for $6.2 million — a bargain compared the $28 million that was owed on it. As part of that deal, Trump gained the rights to purchase Patricia Kluge’s famous estate, Albemarle House. It is now a luxury hotel for visitors of the winery.
Regardless of the reputation of its current owner or its previous one — Kluge was the divorcee of one-time Forbes’ richest man in the U.S., John Kluge — the winery has racked up accolades from publications like Wine Enthusiast and awards in local and national competitions. Its sparkling wines are its bread and butter, but there’s plenty to like about many of their varieties.
It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that Trump wines are a hot commodity right now with the inauguration of its namesake in a week. A quick search on eBay reveals that there is a market for these wines with the name of the next president on them — in one post a case goes for $295. In fact, the wines are in such demand that they are mostly allocated to restaurants.
We took a look at three of the wines for sale: the 2010 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, 2015 Meritage and 2015 Viognier.
2010 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc
A classic example of a champagne-style chardonnay wine made in the U.S., the 2007-2009 vintages garnered 22 awards among them. Given that the winemaker has been with the winery since before the current owner took over, the 2010 vintage of this wine stands up well.
Named Virginia’s signature white grape in 2011, the Viognier grape is well suited to the climate of the Old Dominion. This wine is fruit-forward with distinct notes of banana and pear. It’s on the lighter side with a slight hit of sweetness.
Meritage is the name of blended wines that are made in the Bordeaux style, without having to be made in that region. The designation is controlled by the Meritage Association, which dictates the grapes to be used and suggests standards. This Meritage is a blend of merlot and cabernet franc grapes. The merlot grape dominates with big blackberry notes while the cabernet franc grape brings a hint of coffee grounds, which grows stronger as this wine warms in the glass. Bottled in 2015, this Trump Meritage is young and could use time to evolve.
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.
The Oxford Companion to Beer mentions several pre-20th century Winter beer concoctions that used heated ale and dessert ingredients like spices and egg and bread. With names like “ale posset” and “egg flip,” these drinks were like drinking beer bread pudding or custard. Since the early 20th century, however, we’ve moved on to styles similar to what’s available now.
Since a beer called Burton ale (generically referred to as an Old ale), Winter ales have been mostly brown ales that are stronger than your average beer. American craft brewers brought back the concept of adding spices beginning with Anchor Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale in 1975. Whether they are called Christmas ales or Holiday ales or Winter ales, these beers will provide a nice respite from the blistering cold outside.
Despite not containing any food like those old beer drinks, Winter ales can still be a bit like having your dessert in a glass. Not as syrupy as a flavored cocktail, but full of the sweet flavors of Winter baked goods. Whether it’s a heavy, boozy fruit cake or Christmas pudding or cookies — there’s a whole array of sweet flavors to be enjoyed.
Below are four Winter ales that take the chill off.
Blue Mountain Brewery Lights Out Holiday Ale (7.0% ABV)
Located in the Blue Ridge mountains, Blue Mountain brews this Winter ale at their Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington, VA. It’s available through December. This relatively light Old ale is bursting with the aroma and flavor of bread pudding with raisins. Bready malts and spicy hops combine with a slightly sweet finish to evoke the dessert. Lights Out stands up well on its own and is just light enough to go well with a hearty stew or roast.
Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) Christmas Ale (7.5% ABV)
Cleveland, Ohio’s Great Lakes Brewing Company started as a pub in 1986, but had expanded to include a separate brewing space by the time Christmas Ale was born in the 90s. An early entrant in the spiced ale category, Christmas Ale has a solid fan base. Brewed with honey from the region, cinnamon and ginger, this beer jollily evokes cinnamon graham crackers. In fact, my nostalgia for the ubiquitous children’s snack made me want some chocolate and toasted marshmallow to complete the dessert as a s’more. It’s good that Christmas Ale only comes once a year, because its delicious flavor and light body might make moderation difficult. GLBC is even getting social with their #ChristmasAleSpirit contest. It doesn’t even require the possibility of winning something to put drinkers of Christmas Ale in the #ChristmasAleSpirit.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (10.0% ABV)
Brewed at one of the few remaining Abbey breweries in Belgium, St. Bernardus, Christmas Ale is a traditional Quadrupel or strong dark ale. Like a good fruit cake — an oft maligned, but tasty treat when fresh — this beer is redolent of fruit like tropical papaya and banana, as well as molasses and dried figs. Belgian ales tend to be quite effervescent as their special yeast tends to continue creating carbon dioxide in the bottle (this is know as bottle conditioning), but Christmas Ale avoids the bubbly bite with a fine mouthfeel. The result is a smooth and strong ale that is just sweet enough to please without being cloying. This is great paired with roasted meat like fowl or pork or enjoy it on its own.
Avery Brewing Company Old Jubilation Ale (8.3% ABV)
This Boulder, Colorado-brewed Old ale even looks like it’s from a different time. The Currier and Ives-style painting on the can and the ornate script in the name gives this traditional ale a traditional look. If we’ve had bread pudding, graham crackers and fruit cake so far, it seems we’re missing a good old fashioned Christmas pudding. Those beguiling British desserts that are prepared by boiling in cheese cloth and are topped with a brandy-infused butter called “hard sauce” have a particular flavor combination of the caramel of dark sugar and the bright sweetness of the sauce. Similarly, Old Jubilation is a swirl of molasses and brown sugar from the combination of malts that is brightened by the light booziness of alcohol. This beer is a fantastic sipper fresh or aged. It’s just the thing to pop open after a commute in 20 degree weather!
What Winter ales are you enjoying? Tell me below. Cheers!
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.
Yesterday was the first day of December and while it might not quite feel like Winter, I think it’s safe to say that we feel like it’s time for Winter to come. The seasonal releases of barrel-aged or spiced or flavored or Imperial stouts (sometimes all of the above!) cannot come at a better time. Done right, a strong stout is a balancing act of roasted malts and sweet alcohol. That dance of flavors works well in these days that can start out frigid and end mild — they’re just bitter enough to be interesting and sweet enough to warm you.
Whether you’re standing in line for the latest release of Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout or breaking up a four pack of Dogfish Head World Wide Stouts, there is no shortage of strong stouts on the market. The stouts in this article aren’t going to blow up your Instagram feed or earn you a rare badge on Untappd, but they are delicious. And they’re on the shelves now!
Lagunitas Brewing Company, High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout (12.2% ABV)
Hands down this is the strongest beer in this article, though it trails the aforementioned World Wide Stout by a few percentage points. But who’s counting? This is a total sipper. Brewed using coffee from Chicago coffee roaster, Metropolis Coffee and aged for more than 15 months in rye and bourbon barrels from Utah’s Hight West Distillery, this is one flavorful beer. These whiskey barrels have mellowed what was no doubt a boozy beer. I expected my first sniff to be slightly shocking with the sting of alcohol, but it never happened. Inhaling conjures up Christmas pudding — dark stone fruit and black strap molasses. Big flavor and no alcohol burn are the highlights of the sip. Despite having coffee in the mix, there seems to be little of its flavor remaining. Instead, there’s a huge fruity sweetness that makes this a fine dessert pairing.
Stone Brewing Company, Xocoveza Mocha Stout (8.1% ABV)
As we move through the stouts in this article, the ingredient lists get longer. Xocoveza was made with coffee, cocoa, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and lactose. The end result is more horchata than hot chocolate, but that’s just fine. The lactose — sugar derived from milk — makes this a milk stout and gives it a creamy sweetness. When you combine that with the big cinnamon bite, this beer warms while painting a picture of the sunshine and warm weather of San Diego. Unlike the coffee stout above, a good long sniff brings out coffee and cinnamon with a hint of char from the roasted malts. The horchata I already alluded to is tempered by an espresso coffee flavor. Though no session stout, this beer is lighter tasting than its ABV suggests. With all that cinnamon and sweetness, enjoy this on its own or even with some tres leches cake.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Beer for Breakfast Stout (7.4% ABV)
I just returned refreshed and rejuvenated from a two-night stay at the Dogfish Inn in Lewes, DE — see my July column about their craft beer tourism for more information about what they have to offer. My stay included the behind-the-scenes “All-Innclusive” tour of the brewery with other inn guests, a lunch with the group and our designated driver Dogfish co-worker, and culminated with an hour-long fireside chat with founder and craft beer evangelist, Sam Calagione. During my two days in the Dogfish bubble I heard one repeated refrain from “Uncle” John, who led our tour, to our innkeepers to Sam himself — Dogfish prides itself on using whole, real ingredients in its beers.
It’s on their new packaging and it’s particularly apparent in this beer. Are you ready for the list of ingredients in this one? There’s cold-pressed Guatemalan Antigua coffee, maple syrup, Rapa brand scrapple, molasses, lactose, brown sugar and chicory along with a diverse grain bill that includes a smoked barley. Just reading about this beer is a real doozy, and, if you’re adverse to scrapple like I am, perhaps a bit intimidating as well. Let me put your mind at ease. This complex, drinkable stout is definitely not the soup that its ingredients suggests. While I definitely got some of the meatiness in the aroma — more corned beef than processed meat — I also got a good nose of smoke and delightful Turkish coffee. The flavor all but avoids the strong umami flavor that meat provides, instead favoring a sweet and darkly bitter coffee and finishing with a distinct smokiness. This is a special release right now, but I hope that it makes it’s way into the line up like Flesh and Blood and Seaquench ales have managed to. This is one of my favorite beers of the year.
What stouts can you just not get enough of? Let me know below. Cheers!
Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). This column is written by Dominion owner Arash Tafakor.
A brewer once told me that it’s not just ingredients and skill that makes a beer taste delicious; that it’s the love and passion for brewing that makes a beer shine.
You begin to discover these special beers more and more as a result of brewery collaborations. The magic of collaborations occur when breweries, restaurants and/or bottle shops from all over the world combine to brew something unique and limited. These beers are brewed based on each participant’s strengths, passion and craft trends. A couple of key factors that make the product extra special are the love and fun that flows into the process.
In a growing and rapidly changing beer industry, collabs are nothing new. They’ve been around our industry for a very long time. But in a market with increased competition between breweries, distributors and bottle shops, collaborations are an escape from our increasingly evolving industry. Sharing ideas, developing long term relationships, and bringing people together help bring a sense of community within the Craft beer world.
Dominion Wine and Beer is no stranger to collaborations. Recently, we coordinated a collaboration called All Eyez on Me with Aslin Beer Company (Herndon, VA). All Eyez on Me was a New England Style Double IPA with a unique hop profile. Aslin is well known regionally and nationally for brewing incredibly juicy IPAs. The opportunity to brew a beer with such a fine brewery was an incredible experience for Dominion. Dominion also brewed a Citra Hopped low IBU IPA beer with Three Notch’d Brewing Company (Richmond, VA) that turned out fantastic and we can’t wait to brew again.
Three Notch’d also recently launched a new project called “RVA Collab House,” to enable individuals or groups in the Richmond community to leave their mark through the art of Craft Beer. If anyone is interested, the signup form is attached HERE. Both collaborations proved to be a huge hit and very popular among the beer community. The Aslin / Dominion All Eyez on Me lasted about 15 minutes, flying out of the cooler in our pre-filled crowlers. Similarly, our Three Notch’d collaboration lasted only a couple of days on the menu and sold out quickly at the brewery. These results exceeded our expectations.
Jace Gonnerman, the Beverage Director of Meridian Pint, Brookland Pint, and Smoke & Barrel, three craft beer centered restaurant establishments in Washington D.C., is the “King of Collaborations” in my opinion. I spoke to Jace about this article and he explained to me how collaborations are an integral part of his restaurant group’s identity.
If a local brewery crosses your mind, there’s a good chance that Jace has already been there to brew a collaboration. Jace noted that collaborations help support local breweries and foster lifelong personal and business relationships with brewers and breweries. Jace’s collaborations are also legendary. His collaboration with Ocelot Brewing Company (Dulles, VA), called Talking Backwards, is an extremely drinkable high ABV Triple IPA, was considered one of the best IPAs ever brewed in Virginia. The industry cannot thank Jace enough for all his hard work and dedication to the craft. He sets out and pursues collabs, invites friends of his in the industry to come share the wonderful experience.
Be on the lookout for the following upcoming collaborations:
- Boulevard Collaboration No. 6 Barrel Aged Blend with Firestone Walker, a blend of each breweries barrel aged beers.
- Aslin and Manor Hill out of Ellicott City Maryland are brewing an IPA, bringing MD and VA together.
- Meridian Pint, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer, and Union out of Baltimore have a collab scheduled for early next year.
What are your some of your favorite collabs? Any we should be on the lookout for to put on tap?
Three Notch’d Brewing Company and Oskar Blues Brewery Black & Goldings black ale (6.3% ABV)
Dave Warwick of Three Notch’d and Tim Matthews of Oskar Blues first met when they were starting their careers in Pittsburgh. Black & Goldings is their tribute to that time. This beer is pretty simple — the black malt adds a welcome bitterness that you don’t get with the refined Golding hops. Simple is not bad. This is classified as an American black ale, but it’s more porter (a black ale) than black IPA. Freshly poured, Black & Goldings smells enticingly of coffee and dark chocolate. The tangy bitterness imparted by the black malt borders on smoky giving this beer an unexpected flavor kick. This a limited offering, so I’d pick one up soon.
Old Ox Brewery Black Ox rye porter (6.0% ABV)
Back in August the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild held the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup — Black Ox won gold in the American Dark Ale category. It’s really no surprise why. Old Ox Brewery of Loudoun County brews this porter almost like a black IPA, with the rye really spicing things up — so to speak. The aroma blends the expected coffee with exotic licorice and a hint of floury biscuit. I’m no porter purist — I definitely love a hoppy black IPA — so this beer is pretty exciting. Despite the description on the web site, Black Ox in the can appeared to be hop-forward. It combined the bitter tang of the black malt, the peppery spice of the rye with a bit of the dankness that hops impart. This was the kind of beer that you finish and immediately think of pouring another. It’s frankly delicious.
AleSmith Brewing Company Anvil ESB (5.5% ABV)
San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing Company considers Anvil its flagship beer. This American take on the classic British pub ale, the Extra Special Bitter, is both classic and fresh seeming. Essentially, a bitter is a pale ale. When brewed with mild British hops, however, the malt tends to take over. Anvil, brewed with appropriate hops, nevertheless manages to balance the malty tendencies of the bitter. Before I even took a sip, I picked up the pumpernickel and brown sugar in the aroma. I was surprised, however, by the complexity of the flavor. I expected a malt bomb, but I got winey raisin with a malt backbone that is clipped by a slight bitterness in the finish. Overall, this was a super drinkable beer that wasn’t too much of any one thing. At 5.5% it’s even sessionable — share a 22 oz. bottle or enjoy it all to yourself.
Bell’s Brewery Roundhouse India Red Ale brewed with honey (7.5% ABV)
Ranked 7th among all craft breweries in America by the Brewer’s Association in 2015, Bell’s is large enough to offer great variety in its beers. Whether you’re looking for the reliably hoppy Two Hearted Ale or the hop bomb Hop Slam or one of their milder malt forward offerings, there’s plenty for you. Neither plain nor extra fancy, Roundhouse — with its playful boxing ring turnbuckle on the can — brings the hops and the malt to the party. Just smelling it gave me the impression that I was about to be assaulted by a malt-forward beer — bready malt mingled with earthy hops. Despite the aroma, Roundhouse starts out with a peach black tea bite that is softened by the malt in the finish. While I definitely don’t mind a good wallop from hops — and kind of expect it from a beer that puts “India” in it’s name — this beer pulls its punches. In the end though, it’s still a tasty brew that goes down much easier than its 7.5% ABV might suggest.
Though Halloween is over, there are plenty of treats to be had. These are just several of the delicious new offerings that this Fall is ushering in.
In the mid-nineties two breweries opened across the United States from each other. One in a former mechanic shop in Utah and the other in a brew pub in Delaware. They each had a philosophy that drove them. They each developed an aesthetic that defined them. In 2016, they both underwent a facelift, a redesign of their core beer labels.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery started in 1995 as a brew pub in Rehoboth, Delaware. From the beginning, Sam Calagione saw his beers as intrinsically connected to food. Whether it was his use of the wine-bottle sized bottles to encourage sharing over a meal or the exploration of beers that used culinary ingredients, the brewery was establishing a consistent approach. In the 21 years since opening, Dogfish Head built a recognizable brand with the shark logo and Sam-inspired “Doggy” typeface.
The importance of the ingredients and the basic elements of Dogfish Head’s design have come together to create the new look of their core releases — their IPAs and other year-round releases. Prior to this year, Dogfish labeled its core beers with a plain label that used “Doggy” and the shark, while its ancient ales had unique labels that featured imagery that evoked the origin of the beer. Now all of the core releases, which includes some ancient ales, sport colorful labels that feature painterly illustrations of key ingredients along with brewery ID and beer name/description in playfully set “Doggy.” Off-centered, like it’s beers, is the shark logo as it breaks out of the label. Dogfish Head’s in-house department worked with Boulder, CO-based food and beverage packaging design studio, Interact, to develop the new look.
Uinta Brewing Company
Out west, in 1993 Uinta Brewing Company set up shop in the state with the fewest beer drinkers. Their first beers included three that remain in their core beers to this day: Cutthroat Pale Ale, King’s Peak Porter and Trader IPA. In 2005, Uinta created the specialty brewery called Four +, which was responsible for beers like Monkshine and Wyld. In 2011, they introduced the compass to their brand. This year, the compass at the center of their brand and their various 12 oz. releases finally came together to form a consistent Uinta-infused look.
Working with studios like Portland-based Sincerely, Truman and Nashville-based Anderson Design Group, Uinta introduced both a new logo and refined look that ties all their core releases together. Starting with a new logo that streamlines the well-known compass and mountain range mark to feature a simple east-west pointing diamond with a clean, bold typeface. The labels tie together beers like Punk’N and Monkshine — whose labels were simple and type only — with their illustration-based releases like Dubhe and Cutthroat. Prior to this redesign, the illustration-based labels used WPA-style images that evoked National Parks posters. Now all of their labels feature the colorful nature images, uniting all their beers and making them stand out on the shelf.
In this age of Instagram and Untappd, breweries’ core releases are increasingly considered passé by beer drinkers looking for the next big thing. A good redesign generates fresh buzz. A good redesign gets at the essence of a brand — the personality and the visual style. A good redesign re-introduces a brewery to beer drinkers. We all win with these two redesigns, since we get attractive packaging and delicious beer. Go ahead and judge these beers by their labels, you won’t be disappointed.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Midas Touch Ancient Ale (9% ABV)
Part of the Ancient Ales category, Midas Touch always had a unique label. An oversized golden fingerprint sat a top a solid purple label with the words “Midas Touch” in an evocative typeface that suggested Mesopotamia. Now, the purple carries forward with the gold transferring to the beer name. Rather than referring the golden touch that King Midas was said to have, Dogfish focuses on the ingredients. That, after all, is what makes this beer so unique. The illustration under the Dogfish shark logo depicts generous amounts of muscat grapes, barley and honey comb.
Midas Touch has been in the Dogfish Head line up since it first arrived in 1999. This early example of the wine hybrid beer adds mead to the mix — based on analysis of residue in vessels taken from the tomb of King Midas in Gordion, Turkey. Make no mistake about this beer — it’s not in the same vein as their much loved IPAs — this is a sweet, delicate brew with grapes, honey and malt at the fore. Let Midas Touch warm slightly out of the refrigerator and you’ll get a nose full of ice wine. If you have a taste for dessert wines, you’ll enjoy the sweet fruitiness up front. A malty finish keeps you from forgetting that this is still a beer. Despite its sweetness, I always feel that the honey takes a backseat to the grapes. Enjoy this winey beer with some cheese or a creamy alfredo.
Uinta Brewing Company Dubhe Imperial Black IPA (9.2% ABV)
Uinta’s year-round black IPA made a modest change from its previous look. Dubhe’s previous label featured a nighttime scene in a Monument Valley-like setting featuring the name swooping underneath the mountains. Now, the setting is the same, but at twilight as the smallest amount of orange light remains on the horizon. In the foreground is a red VW bus, which sits directly above the name, which is now set in a condensed sans serif typeface that appears hand drawn like the illustration above. Shining brightly in the dark sky is the official star of Utah, Dubhe, which makes up part of the big dipper.
Dubhe pours stout black with a rich, creamy head. Between the appearance and the aroma, which balances black coffee and cocoa with the cardamom sharpness of pine sap, you’d be excused for confusing it with a spiced Turkish coffee. This beer is appropriately sweet, thanks to the alcohol, but the dark roasted malt combines with the dank hops to create a richly flavored beer that evokes the spiced coffee that is hinted at in the aroma. Black IPAs are one of my favorite emerging categories and this beer is regularly a go-to for me.
The harvest period for hops in the Pacific Northwest happens to coincide with the end of Summer and beginning of Fall. As rows and rows of bines — that’s what hops grow on, though they resemble vines — fill out with bright green leaves and hop cones, farmers reap what they sowed. Most hops are processed in a kiln to dry them and keep their valuable oils stable. A certain portion of hops are shipped directly to breweries so they can use them to make “fresh hop,” “wet hop” or “harvest” (though there can be confusion between a fresh hop “harvest” beer and a brown ale called a “harvest” beer) beers.
Fresh hop beers can only be made during and immediately following the hop harvest as the wet hops (they are literally wet with moisture and fresh hop oils) have a short life span if they are not dried. The oils risk spoiling and worse, the moisture can lead to rot. Before long all those lovely, fresh hops are garbage. That’s why fresh hop beers are so special. That’s also why Fall is truly the one seasonal period for craft beer that cannot be superseded by seasonal creep. A fresh hop beer cannot be made before its time.
Thomas Cizauskas gave me the idea in a comment on my last column. He inquired about whether I had any favorite fresh hop beers that are limited to Fall. Since that article was about my faves up to that column’s release, I couldn’t say. There just weren’t any fresh hop beers available to me.
As it is, I had to cross the Potomac to Dominion Wine & Beer’s sister store, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer to find two locally brewed fresh hop beers. These beers represent another aspect of the fresh hop category: the appeal to locavores. Both are made using only locally harvested hops, while one even uses locally sourced grain and honey.
Waredaca Brewing Company, Whetstone Session Pale Ale (4.4% ABV)
Located in Laytonsville, MD, Waredaca is designated as a farm brewery, which means that they include at least one ingredient grown on the farm. Established on the Waredaca farm, the brewery brews small batches of draft-only beer. Their Whetstone is a fresh hop beer that is made with Cascade and Chinook hops from their farm and a Maryland hop farm, Pleasant Valley. The result is a beer that smells of biscuit with an earthy overtone and a hint of pear. The sip is light-bodied with a subtle hop fruitiness that gives way to hints of pine. While there’s a bitterness in the finish, it’s very light. As it warms, the green grass that can be a hallmark of fresh hop beers begins to come out in the flavor. Subtle is THE word with this style and certainly this beer, too.
Oliver Brewing Company Harvest Ale (5.6% ABV)
Oliver Brewing Company started in 1993 with a focus on traditional English style beers. Since then, they have expanded from the basement of a brew pub to their current location and began to can their flagship beers. They still brew smaller batches of special beers, like Harvest, that are only available on draft. I had actually just sampled this fresh hop beer at the Ale House of Columbia days before grabbing my Crowler from Downtown Crown. Oliver’s fresh hop ale is more of an amber ale that gives off a delightful scent blending honeycomb, Nilla wafer and dark berries. Similar to the Whetstone, Harvest is light on the tongue. The flavor is more malt than hop flavor, though a hint of smoke appeared as my glass warmed. Oliver sourced its fresh hops from Black Locust Farms in Maryland, its grain from Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia and honey from Miller Bee Yards in Maryland.
These two beers aren’t merely entries in a brief annual release schedule, they are celebrations of local farming and economies. I set out to learn more and to share with you about a style that I knew existed, but hadn’t given much attention. I ended up finding a style that can be used to epitomize the concepts of #drinklocal and #shoplocal.
Check out Dominion Wine & Beer to see what fresh hop beers they have. These subtle beers are worth exploring now since the season for them will be gone before you know it. Cheers!
It’s wonderful to be able to drink and talk about pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers in the actual season they are made for. With the first day of fall on Thursday, we are officially in the season of beers that began appearing on store shelves in August. Some of these and some recent releases have become my “faves” of the season. I’ve gone back to these beers, savoring them, and now I’d like to share them with you.
Ballast Point Brewing Pumpkin Down Scottish Ale with Pumpkin (5.8% ABV)
San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing is known more for it’s West Coast IPAs and fruit infused beers than it is for earthy, spiced brews. But, every once in a while, they make an Indra Kunindra — a curried stout — or this pumpkin-loaded version of their potent Scottish ale, Piper Down. Once you pour this dark amber beer, the earthy aroma of squash mingles with cinnamon and nutmeg obscuring a malty honey wheat. Ballast Point avoids creating a pumpkin pie beer by rooting this in the malt forward style of the Scottish Ale. Slightly sweet and spiced at first, Pumpkin Down turns slightly bitter with the flavor of cooked pumpkin flesh. I’ve bought a couple sixers of this delicious Fall mashup. It’s tasty and versatile — enjoy it with a meal or on it’s own.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Punkin Ale (7.0% ABV)
Punkin Ale has been a staple of the Dogfish Head line up since their earliest days — 1995. It’s distributed in nearly every state and might be the entry point for many into their beers. Though they have controls and labs and all, they are still a craft brewery that relies on humans for analyzing the flavors of their beers. What this means is that some years their Punkin Ale is just alright and some years it’s fantastic. This year’s falls into the latter category — and it has awesome label art. Bursting with aromas of sweet potato pie, cinnamon, nutmeg and sweet biscuit, Punkin seems to be poised to be a Pumpking-like beer. But it isn’t. It’s a solid brown ale that warms the palate with pumpkin pie spices, more winter warmer than typical pumpkin ale. Only in the finish is there a pumpkin presence, and it tends to be more of an earthiness than straight up pumpkin. Whether you’re looking for another pumpkin beer to try or can’t stand the sight of another, this beer might just be right for you. Available in four-packs as a strongish seasonal, this beer is worth a visit or a revisit.
Sixpoint Brewery Tesla Hop-Charged Lager (7.1% ABV)
You can always rely on Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery to have fun with it beer names. Tesla, named for the inventor and not the electric luxury car brand, refers to the story that Nikolai Tesla once electrified a neighborhoods water supply causing homeowners to get a shock. Joining the recent trend of hoppy lagers or so-called India Pale Lagers (IPLs), Sixpoint has “hop-charged” this lager with American hops for a big, juicy lager. As you’d expect, the aroma is packed with tropical fruit and pine sap from the hops with a hint of Nilla wafer from the underlying lager. This beer is crisp, which is to say that it’s a typical lager, but almost immediately the hop flavors explode your mouth. What I enjoy most about hoppy lagers is that the beer is a nearly neutral vehicle for the varied and robust flavors of hops. This strong lager comes in the signature Sixpoint can and it goes down smooth with very little bite.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. Oktoberfest (6.5% ABV)
I had to include at least one Oktoberfest beer in this article. Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company delivers one of my Fall Faves in their own Oktoberfest. Hewing close to tradition, they brew their Fall lager with the darker Munich malt, which lends this beer its brown bread and raisin aroma. Malt is the name of the game here, too. I confess to crave the sharper flavors of an IPA or a sour, but each Fall there is something comforting about a malt-bomb of an Oktoberfest beer. The flavors here round out with a nuttiness that is satisfying. Grab a couple bottles or a Crowler of this traditional style and enjoy the cooling days.
These favorites and more are available now at Dominion Wine and Beer. Cheers!
Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church).
For the past few weeks we wanted to see our Dominion Crowlers in the wild. We asked our customers to take a pictures of our Crowlers and tag #dominioncrowler on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We’re happy to announce the winners today on our ARLnow.com feature this week.
Congratulations to Matt Sutton with the Dominion Crowler and American Flag, Peter Beckman with his picture of our Crowler on a lake in Maine, and Kyle Urda with his picture of our Crowler in California with Pliny the Elder.
Raise your hand if you know what a Crowler is. It’s okay if you don’t know. I’ll admit to having Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” pop into my head when I think of the word “Crowler.” But I digress.
Crowlers are 32 oz. aluminum cans that start out open on top so they can be filled with beer like a growler. Rather than sealing with a cap, like a growler, a top is placed on the can that includes the tab opener that 12 oz. and tall boy cans have. Then the can and top are placed on a can seamer, which works like a can opener in reverse.
Once the Crowler is sealed, you can keep it refrigerated for up to a month. Of course, once you open these single-use cans, be prepared to enjoy all the beer inside. While these giant cans are not resealable, their modest 32 oz. volume does mean that you can take that special release to go. Beer in the can will keep reasonably well while you enjoy it if you cannot pour it all into glasses right away. A tip that Richard over at Aslin gave me is to put plastic wrap over the top when you put the unfinished Crowler back in the fridge. Just don’t keep it like that for more than a few hours.
Born of a desire to solve for the inconsistency reusable glass growlers and a need for an affordable and unbreakable growler, Oskar Blues worked with can-maker Ball to develop the Crowler. The result is a packaging option that looks and acts like something that came off a canning line, but actually was filled on demand.
The Crowler is so effective at packaging beer that local favorite, Aslin Beer Co. in Herndon, uses them — and traditional growlers — in place of traditional beer packaging. With their longer shelf life, it’s no surprise that you see craft beer lovers traveling with their Crowlers. It’s this portability and storability that makes this on-demand beer vessel an up and comer.
I was able to grab two Crowlers of beer for this article: J. Wakefield Brewery’s El Jefe hefeweizen and Ocelot Brewing Company’s Buddhist Prodigy DIPA.
J. Wakefield Brewery, El Jefe Hefeweizen (5.5% ABV)
I opened this Crowler first. I was impressed by the way the experience of this beer was preserved — the very fine effervescence that keeps this otherwise heavy ale light remained. By nature of the yeast that is used in this style of beer, you’d expect to smell and taste banana. That’s certainly in there, but the word here is coconut. It’s in the aroma and from the beginning of the sip through to the finish. While there is a brief sweetness, this wheat beer finishes with a malty quality common to a good hefeweizen. At 5.5%, this was a great beer for one or two in a Crowler.
Ocelot Brewing Company, Buddhist Prodigy DIPA (8.7% ABV)
This is the type of beer that is perfect for the Crowler. It’s relatively high ABV makes it a great beer to share with a friend or two. This beer was in its unopened Crowler for about a week and it came out as though it had been freshly poured. The flavors were crisp and the beer retained its appropriate amount of carbonation. I see a theme forming in this column — tropical flavors! Buddhist Prodigy is a passion fruit juice bomb that favors clarity over cloudy, but nevertheless tastes like drinking in the tropics. Rather than following the trend of tart passion fruit beers, this DIPA starts out sweet and fruity only to transition to a dank, piney finish. The Washington Post’s Best New Brewery of 2016 shows why with this delicious brew.
Head on down to Dominion Wine & Beer and grab some Crowlers then head home or to the beach or the mountains, and enjoy! Cheers!
Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church).
This week, Dave and I sat down with Fair Winds Brewing Company’s owner Casey Jones and brand ambassador Mike Kuykendall to talk about our can release party at Dominion Wine and Beer today starting at 5 p.m.
Fair Winds Brewing Company is a fully operational packaging brewery featuring a 30 barrel brew house and expansive taproom in Lorton, Va., right off Fairfax County Parkway and I-95. Check out the video below and learn about how a great local veteran-owned brewery is providing our area with fresh flavorful craft beers.
This week, Dave and I sat down with Taylor from Three Notch’d Brewing from Charlottesville, Va., to discuss our tap feature going on today at 5 p.m. We will be tapping the only keg of Bourbon Biggie Smores in Northern Virginia, an absolutely delicious Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels and our very own Dominion Citra IPA, a delicious low IBU IPA that we collaborated with the brewers of Three Notch’d.
Check out the video below for event details and the history and philosophy of Three Notch’d Brewing.
After a long, cool Spring we jumped right into hot Summer with a heat wave. Inspired by the perennial search for the one song that defines a summer, I began to think about my beers of the summer. When I’d find one that hits all the right notes and epitomizes the perfect beer of summer, I’d post it on Instagram and tag it with the hash tag #BeersOfSummer. But it couldn’t be just one beer, after all there are nearly 4,300 breweries operating in the U.S. as of a 2015 count by the Brewers Association. These are my #BeersOfSummer.
I picked five beers that I haven’t already talked about and one that I have. Let’s look at the first five beers.
Derecho Common California-style Common Beer, Port City Brewing Company (4.8% ABV)
In the Summer of 2012, our whole area was hit by a derecho — a storm marked by straight-line winds as strong as some tornadoes. I lost power for several days, along with about a million other DC-area residents. What happens, though, when a business — a brewery — loses power? Alexandria’s Port City lost power for a full five days right when they were brewing a lager. Lagers need colder temps than the powerless brewery could provide, so the beer transformed from lager to common beer. The California-style common beer (also called a steam beer) was a lager that was brewed at a higher-than-normal temperature and air-cooled in the open air. Derecho is a hop-forward example that is lightly bitter and slightly fruity. Balanced with a soda cracker malt that is unobtrusive, Derecho is a supremely quaffable brew. Enjoy this summer seasonal beer ice cold anywhere there is sun — or the occasional storm.
Liliko’i Kepolo Belgian White Ale with Passion Fruit and Spices, Avery Brewing Co. (5.4% ABV)
Boulder, Colorado’s Avery Brewing joined the ranks of sour beer with a nominally Belgian take on the tart Berliner Weisse. Ripe passion fruit flesh join a hint of banana and clove in an aroma that accurately foreshadows the flavor to come. From the beginning of the sip, Liliko’i is both tart and sweet. This effervescent ale never goes entirely sour, but balances the pucker with a light sweetness. It’s super refreshing — Summer in a can.
Rubaeus Pure Raspberry Ale, Founders Brewing Co. (5.7% ABV)
Brewed year-round, Rubaeus is Founders’ own answer to bottling Summer. Drinking it was certainly a nostalgic moment for me — I was transported to an earlier time. A time when Fairfax’s Emmet Swimming was singing about Boones Farm Wine. In fact, Strawberry Hill from that “winery” was the first thing that came to mind when I stuck my nose in the glass. That’s not a dig at Rubaeus, either. The clear red fruit aroma brings to mind other nostalgia-packed beverages like a freshly poured New York Seltzer that I might have had in 1987. These days, that’s not such a bad thing. I mean, it tasted a bit like a strawberry Fanta — perhaps a precursor to the hard soda trend that’s dominating craft beer. I’m having a little fun with this whimsical brew, but it’s totally perfect for backyard BBQs and ice chests and warm nights that refuse to cool off.
Flesh & Blood IPA, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (7.5% ABV)
Another fruity IPA? Another citrusy sweet beer that subverts the hop flavors with orange juice sweetness? Nope. This is, as the Dogfish folks say, an “honest to goodness fruit-forward IPA.” Brewed with lemon pulp (or, if you would, flesh), blood orange juice and orange and lemon peel, Flesh & Blood balances Dogfish’s typically malty IPA with a complex array of citrus flavors. In here is the juicy pucker of the bright yellow lemon along with a pithy bitterness of rinds. Blood orange provides a particular mix of bitter and sweet that works in harmony with what tastes like a 75 Minute IPA — a super drinkable IPA that is neither too weak nor too strong. I will be honest, I was both excited to try this and wary. I mean, would it be another Beer To Drink Music To? A beer that underwhelmed, that was more fun in name and spirit? Nope. It’s a big, juicy (literally) IPA that also has a fun name and description. Let’s hope this one stays in their brewing schedule.
Nimble Giant Double IPA, Tröegs Independent Brewing Co. (9.0% ABV)
Brewed once a year, Nimble Giant is Tröegs’ way to kick off summer. Having a higher ABV than the entries above and being conspicuously unfruit-flavored is novel considering that four of my six picks are fruit-infused. Let me be clear, though, there’s a juicy fruitiness that is derived from the Azacca, Mosiac and Simcoe hops — tropical pineapple and guava. There’s also a nod to palate-destroying imperial IPAs with a piney dankness — a welcome twist after enjoying the fruity beginning of the sip. The 9% on the can means that there’s an alcohol-derived sweetness, but it’s never cloying. This might be more of a sipper than the rest of the beers listed here, but it’s just as satisfying on these days with 100º heat indexes. I suggest you do as Tröegs asks and #FindTheGiant.
Lastly, I want to remind you of a beer that I covered back in March: Green Flash Brewing Co.’s Passion Fruit Kicker. This tart, fruity wheat beer was tasty in the cool, wet Spring, but it takes on a whole new aspect once the hot, humidity of Summer arrives. Whether you find it in bottles or cans, this refreshing beer is just the thing by the pool or on the beach or even in the back yard.
A late addition that, for the time being, isn’t available in Arlington or anywhere else in Northern Virginia (that I’m aware of) is Silver Spring, MD’s Denizens Brewing Co. Southside Rye IPA. This recently canned rye ale is almost more of a red ale where malt and yeasty fruit balance hop bitterness with a hint of pepper from the rye. In fact, it was my beer of choice when writing this column. Check out their brewery in Silver Spring or find their beer on shelves or on tap around DC and Maryland.
Share your beers of summer below. Cheers!
When I was 10, I toured the Coors brewery in Golden, CO with my family. I wandered among the gleaming equipment learning very little about the product that was flowing through it. My souvenir was a water bottle. It might’ve been over my head, but I knew it was a tourist destination — a stop for people who had seen the mountains and the ghost towns in Colorado. This idea of beer tourism has come a long way.
For years, craft breweries that are large enough have offered tours for the curious. But one brewery near our area is going beyond the tour to add more reasons to visit the Delaware shore. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which has grown significantly since 1995, is raising the stakes. With brewery tours every day of the week, a boutique motel, and two restaurants at the site of the original brew pub, Dogfish is becoming a tourist attraction on par with the beach and outlets.
If it weren’t for founder Sam Calagione’s then girlfriend, Mariah, we would be talking about Dogfish’s contributions to tourism in another part of the country. As it happened, she talked Sam into setting up his brewery near her family in Delaware. The fact that there wasn’t already a single brewery in Delaware seemed like an even better reason to open one. Well, there was a reason for the lack of competition — Prohibition-era laws prohibited it. Prior to choosing a career in beer, Sam had been on track to become a writer. He worked with lawmakers and even cowrote the legislation needed to make it possible to open his brew pub in Rehoboth. Soon, he was brewing 12 gallons of beer at a time for service in the pub.
That was then. Now Dogfish distributes to 30 states and the District and they are attracting visitors from all over the world.
They’re salty. They’re sour. They’re oddly refreshing. And, yes, they are an acquired taste. I’m talking about beers called goses.
Originally popular in pockets in Germany for hundreds of years, goses began to fall out of favor in the 20th Century until they had a short renaissance after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Much more recently, the beer that was conceived in the town of Goslar and later became synonymous with the city of Leipzig, has been embraced by craft brewers in the United States.
With palates expanding from the amber ales of early craft brewing to the ubiquitous hoppy IPAs to sour beers, brewers have begun looking for styles outside of the Belgian sour brown and lambic for inspiration. I’d written a couple of times about the Berliner Weisse, another German sour variety, but I hadn’t yet waded into the salty waters of the goses.
Goses are sessionable wheat beers, complete with coriander which adds a peppery spice, that are brewed with Lactobacillus (for the souring) and salt. Often fruit is added, just as in other sours, to enhance the flavor, but traditionally they are unflavored in the brewing process.
A 2015 article on thrillist.com claimed that the gose killed craft beer. No way! What it is, however, is another example of the wonderful way that American craft brewers are reviving historic and once regional-only styles so that many more beer drinkers can enjoy them. While goses are growing in popularity, there is no danger that they’ll replace your favorite style for good. Enjoy these funky, spicy and salty brews while they’re around.
Victory brews this ruby red tart beer as their Spring seasonal and it’s one to look for. The aroma is a subtle blend of alkaline and acerola cherry — giving the distinct impression that sourness will follow. More tart than sour, the flavor starts with bold, real sour cherry followed by a baking soda bite where you’ll get the saltiness. About midway through the sip is a slight sweetness, much like in freshly picked sour cherries. Every year, my family and I love to pick sour cherries — they make great pies — and eating the occasional cherry is part of the pitting process. There’s always the shock of tartness followed by a sneaky sweetness. That’s Kirsch Gose.