Friday, October 24, 2014

A Grey Cloud with Silver Lining - The Adroit Theory Brewing Company

Nothing is ever easy.  Nothing at all.  With all of the fantastic flavors within the Fifty States, we also have to put up the blanket of mediocre taste. Sometimes that mediocre taste is closer to home than we would like to admit; DC, Maryland and Virginia are no exception.  But melancholy taste, does, occasional, turn out to have a silver lining.

I had been working for a while on a three part series on a group of breweries in Prince William and Fauquier Counties - Heritage Brewing Company, Bad Wolf Brewery and Old Bust Head Brewing Company. This is a group of breweries I had heard a few good things about and decided to investigate them more fully during DC's Craft Beer Week.

Old Bust Head Brewing Company leads the group - modern, comfortable, relaxing - on an easy stretch to kick off a late afternoon or early evening after a long day.  Its layout is evenly divided between an ample tasting and dining area and a brewing room. It probably seats 50-75 people and is rather full on a Friday and Saturday nights. The tasting room is also supported by an exterior seating area, which gives its an additional 20 seats. The brewery is in the rest of the developed space but it appears to be rather substantial, given the number of beers on tap. The total number of taps is roughly 10 beer with samplers of four.  However, as I discovered, the beer is rather the downfall. It is OK, but nothing really sets it apart. I had sampled the English Pale Ale, the Wildcat, the Old Jail Pumpkin Ale, and Old Imperial Gold Cup and found them good but ultimately wanting.  Nothing really set these beer apart, not even themselves, and that becomes a common theme among these breweries.

Heritage Brewery Company is next up. Great effort here on all front, especially recycling, but again, the beer is short. From the counters to the beer lights, to the water recycling used to bring life to the beer, this operation has all the hallmarks of an operation that will, in my opinion, be the one who makes their mark in the craft beer world. The real question is though, can this life be carried over to the actual brewing of the beer or will it fall short.  After an 8 sample run through of beer (7 regular serving and 1 barrel aged) , which in retrospect is probably a bit much, I was undecided about the quality of the beer.  The beer was just not that good and that is sad for a beer that is run through a fairly complex fermentation process. The barrel aged as great, but I have come to expect that.  The rest were just kind of OK. Not bad, but OK.  (When I got to try them in the context of the Virginia Craft Brewers a week later, the barrel aged was again the acceptable one and the others seemed worse, not better.) So again, great place, nice surrounding, just OK beer.

Bad Wolf Brewing Company gets a pass in this round because I did not go there.

For the most part, they are just OK.  They have the IDEA of what they want to be and the beer they wish to serve, but their idea and its realization are on two different levels. The Old Bust Head Brewing Company has a very good understanding of what they will need to do both in terms of their tasting room and the amount of beer they will need to make available, but it is really a question of whether they have put the two together. They understand what a brewery is and what a brewery can become but they have not really put the two together.  They have a nice seating area, but when it comes down to it, their beer is just not living up to their potential. The Heritage Brewing Company is taking things just a little bit slower, and I would say more judicious, but they need to focus on the beer itself and getting it knocked into shape. Its just rather bland and one or two above average brews but that is not enough in the growing marketplace that both brewers find themselves. They lack the overall outstanding character of a true standout place.

You don't need to be big or have nice seating as much as you need good beer, a wide range of good taste and different flavors of beer. That is one advantage that brew pubs and importers of good beer, such as Churchkey and Meridian Pint, have and that is they can switch up their brews when things change. The Old Bust Head Brewing Company and Heritage Brewing Company can sell their beer now, but what will it be in a year or two?

So, when I opened the email on Friday morning, I noticed a piece from a friend who wanted to know whether I was planning to do an article on breweries as there was one appearing courtesy of the Washington Post.  I clipped on the link and I was floored: here were the three breweries I was planning to do:  Old Bust Head Brewing Company, Heritage Brewing Company and Bad Wolf Brewing Company.  I quickly skimmed to article and did not know what I wanted to do. I put the paper down and went about my chores for the day. But I didn't stop thinking about it - how do I step up to the Washington Post and their Weekend Session review of the three breweries..

The next day I was finishing up some chores and heading out from the Springfield Town Center when it hit me - I could do breweries from the northern part of my search area and work my way down to the south.  Abandon the two breweries was a lot of work, but I needed to get out from this Washington Post story. I knew of one brewery that I had heard some really good things about, so I raced home, gathered my camera and laptop, and set off to find Purcellville, VA.

The Adroit Theory Brewing Company has the rich flavor of beer which is the hallmark of a fine establishment.  Wind blowing, I found it in a office park and ventured in. I immediately recognized this place for what it was - an oasis. The seating area was full, not plush and I sauntered up to the bar.  The place was bubbling with excitement for a Saturday night and this energy never went away. I stayed there for 3 hours, marveling at the excitement and the "move them in, move them out" traffic that ensued. After finding a seat, I ordered a Zero - a coffee flavored IPA, and engaged with service staff and the people. Yes, the people responded to my question just like I was anybody. At Heritage Brewing Company, I was occupied by the sales manager and Old Bust Head Brewing Company it was less than that. People were friendly, engaging, and talkative. The place took on a light and airy environment. This is what I had been searching for so long.

After my Zero, I ordered a group of four samples, 3 oz each, of the samples still left on the menu. The El Dorado, the Squash Blossom, the Experimental - Lavender and the Legion - Red Wine Barrel Aged Belgian Stout were what was on the menu and provided the breadth of the experience the brewery sought on its audience. They were delicious, each being a unique take on what the brewer saw as a different take on the environment. The El Dorado was the most straight-laced single malt to date. The Squash Blossom  was exactly the opposite, bold and fruity but not dominantly so. The last two, the Experimental - Lavender and the Legion provided the most fuel for debate. The Experimental - Lavender will creep up on you, slowly winding around your taste buds with ever more lavender flavor until with it finally disappeared. The Legion, which you could have with a steak, assaulted your taste buds, ending with a red wine flavored charge. Three layers of taste, each different, and each necessary. I was so impressed with the Legion that I actually brought a bottle home and I am saving it for a special occasion.

This was it,  I had found my perfect little brewery.  The Adroit Theory Brewing Company made me stand up and take count of me as a beer drinker.  It was not sensing little differences in the brews, such as Old Bust Head Brewing Company and Heritage Brewing Company were forcing us to go through with the promise of something big at the end, it was forcing me, no, luring me, to take that adventure with each change of the glass. This is what makes drinking beer great, never knowing what is in the next swig, assured it is great, but never tied to it.  Adventure is just another glass away and the Adroit Theory Brewing Company will take you there.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Back from the Wild Side With A Bit of Gusto

Well, suffice it to say, it has been a long time in coming. In May, 2013, I said that we would be coming to you once a month.  Then in June, I thought, well, maybe we would be there once every two months, and before you know it, its May, 2014 and I haven't delivered a thing.  Lots going on in my life, some of it going well, some of it not so well, but all of it contributing to the greater good. Now its October 15, 2014, things have settled down and its time to put my stake in the ground. Let's party!

I haven't been delinquent in my follow up, but it certainly hasn't been for a lack of follow-up! There has certainly been quite a bit in the beer world to take stock. The work week has extended itself to where there are more weekend festivals than the average guy can accommodate - and that is good! The number of breweries has exploded in the National Capital Area and more are set up to move onto the scene and that is good as well. Not to mention the microbrewery and home brewery efforts of many of you and the world of variety that has introduced. The future seems bright and its not about to dull anytime soon. This is all good.

What I have been keeping up with is my account on Untappd, the iOS beer app available on the iPhone. As of today, I have 886 distinct beers and 188 total badges attributed to me.  Its pretty good, if I do say so myself. Its been fun to do and I think my experiences over the last few weeks have really improved with the entries. Of course, my feedback from my followers is what really tempers that, but I know some of you are followers of that blog as well.

So with all of that evidence of a brewing culture gurgling up to the top, I have jumped back into the fray with gusto. Hang on, its going to be a wild ride.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Long Side of Forever: Waiting to Depart Portland

Getting on the plane in Portland in order to get to Denver via Chicago and we have wait out a series of storms. It's always the way of dealing with the Midwest, but it does not make it any less frustrating. All we can do is wait and run, wait and run.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Newer Apple - The Crisp

Now there are two things that I do not associate together - apples and Brooklyn. I know that Brooklyn is a part of the Big Apple, but when it really comes down to it, there isn't much relationship between the modern big city and the quintessential country fruit. Apples are from Washington, Oregon, Upstate New York, Vermont - any place other than Brooklyn.  Let it be written, let it be done.  Until now. 

The Sixpoint Brewery is about to change all of that in the immediate future.  Located at 40 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn (hey, isn't that the name of someone else who is famous?) the Sixpoint Brewery has been in business for 9 years.  It is Brooklyn to the core and the group proves that throughout their beer lineup.  They have a core group of six beers - Sweet Action, Righteous Ale, Bengali Tiger, The Crisp, Resin and Brownstone. These form the centralized group of beers and these are made all of the time.  These six are followed up by a group of four seasonal beers - Harbinger, Apollo, Autumnation, and Diesel - and a series of beers is a Rotational, Mad Scientists, Spice of Life and Beer For Beast.  The six beers are the center of the core group are our focus because they bring the true character of the brewery to life.  It clear that these brewmasters are crazy - for life in general and for the beer.

So, what does this have to do with apples?  Well, nothing, actually. The apple, however, is the closest living thing to that of The Crisp  The Crisp is a German pilsener style beer with an ABV of 5.4%, IBU of 42 and a SRM of 5.9.  The first thing upon pouring The Crisp is that you can't see through it, despite its light body and color.  You won't get far in navigating this brew.  The first mouthful is the key to The Crisp's taste.  It a highly robust flavor but it doesn't have a distinct taste, so it is common for a German pilsener. Its originally a Sehr Crisp and is flavored with noble hops to give it that flavor. 

The Crisp also available in 4 16 oz cans.  There is no plan to launch a case or to package the group in bottles.  (We will save that for a future edition of Jolly Good Fellows - count on that one!) The taste proves to be consistent throughout the body of the beer and the first mouthful is as good as the last. 

The Crisp is a really great beer from the folks up in Brooklyn and we are glad that they have chosen to branch out to encapsulate other types of beers. Here is just hoping that they don't start in with apples.

Happy Drinking!

Brian Smith

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Anybody Else Ready for Summer?

Don't get me wrong. I love winter...beers. Dark stouts and seasonal winter warmers are some of my favorite beers to cozy up to alongside a good book.

But I made the mistake of looking through old photo albums today and came across this shot. Drinking a beer along the Metolius River near Camp Sherman, Oregon. It's mid-July and a lovely day out...making me ready for warmer days filled with cold, crisp, IPAs (or one of my favorites, the IRA by Double Mountain pictured).

Where was your favorite place to drink a beer last summer? Send us your picture and we will post it!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Holiday Cheese Board: Great with Any Seasonal Beer

I know we discuss all things BEER here at the Jolly Good Fellows, but I come from a beer pairing background and love to match beer with a great cheese. This story is from my former blog, Beer Meets Cheese. It doesn't speak to the beer as much as the cheese - but trust me, any of your favorite holiday ales will pair pleasantly with these cheeses. Before you run out to the store for some last minute items, consider putting together this cheese board to pair with your holiday beers.

Enjoy - and let us know what beer and cheese you like to to pair for the holidays.

Picture it... Phoenix, 2011.

I’m at my in-laws house for Christmas day. All of them have heard about my blogging and my love for beer and cheese. Suddenly, the dreaded question is asked: “why don’t you make a cheese board for Christmas brunch?”

Oh, crap. Now I have to put my money where my mouth is – or some clever phrase like that.

Did I mention I’m in a dry household?

Well – at least that helps to end the fear of pairing beer with my cheese.

Now all I need is to get my cheese board together.

But we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. While one of the 5 C’s of Arizona is cattle, dairy cows are definitely NOT part of this agreement. Finally, after going to several “standard” grocery stores around the Scottsdale area, I broke down and drove the 8 miles to Whole Foods Market. I could feel the rays of light shining down from heaven as they lit my path to the cheese counter – filled with lovely gourmet cheese! Finally, I feel like I’m pack in Portland for a moment (the sunshine outside tells me otherwise, but that’s why I’m here in Phoenix to avoid the rains of an Oregon Christmas).

Selection was easy from that point – a 5 month old Manchego cheese to be paired with a pear / apple chutney (made from the gift box from Harry & David’s – thanks aunt Molly and uncle John!) was the first selection (thanks to Deborah Madison's book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for this suggestion!).

Then I moved to my old standards, a good aged Gouda and some creamy Taleggio. From here, I was stumped… but thankfully the friendly WFM cheesemonger was there to save me!

He suggested we try La Tur, an Italian cheese made from pasteurized goat, sheep, and cow’s milks. What we discovered was love at first bite! I would describe the cheese in my own words, but I find that Murray’s Cheese shop of New York City does it the best justice:
From the great wine region of Piemonte comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang. The effect is like ice cream served from a warm scoop: decadent and melting from the outside in.

Um…yes, please! I’d like to crawl into a bucket of this and not come out until the New Year… oh, wait, you mean I can do that!? Ye-es!
Seriously, spend the extra duckets to buy this cheese next time you pick up some food for a party (impressing your friends = priceless), or maybe just hoard it for yourself once your realize how delicious it is!

For pictures of the entire cheese board and brunch, please check out my Flikr page HERE.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Best Books About Beer: A Perfect Gift for the Beer Lover

Looking for a great gift for the beer lover on your list? Here are some of my favorite books about beer:

This book, organized like a hybrid dictionary/encyclopdedia, is my go to reference guide for everything about beer.

As described by the Oxford University Press website:
The first major reference work to investigate the history and vast scope of beer, The Oxford Companion to Beer features more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 of the world's most prominent beer experts. Attractively illustrated with over 140 images, the book covers everything from the agricultural makeup of various beers to the technical elements of the brewing process, local effects of brewing on regions around the world, and the social and political implications of sharing a beer.


This book is a must have for the beginning to expert brewer. 

As described by The Complete Joy of Homebrewing website:

Charlie Papazian, master brewer and founder and president of the American Homebrewer's Association and Association of Brewers, presents a fully revised edition of his essential guide to homebrewing. This third edition of the best-selling and most trusted homebrewing guide includes a complete update of all instructions, recipes, charts, and guidelines. Everything you need to get started is here, including classic and new recipes for brewing stouts, ales, lagers, pilseners, porters, specialty beers, and honey meads. 


If you are going to own any book about beer, it should be one written by the late great Michael Jackson. The companion to beer is a nice little guide, easy to travel with, and easy to reference. The perfect book for that person who enjoys beer, but wants to learn more about different styles and new styles.


This book is for the true beer geek. It's filled with lengthy descriptions of the anatomy of beer - why is beer a certain color? What does bitterness really mean, and how is it measured? How do I have my own tasting party? All of this and much much more is included in these pages. It's also filled with some lovely illustrations, graphs, and infographics, which was wonderful for somebody like me who loves visual communication.

Enjoy finding and reading some of our favorite beer books! 

Did we miss one you love? Let us know!

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