Monday, October 12, 2015

Listen to an Artist

I am not a brewer. But I learned a process for enabling myself to think through problems, analyze the situation, break it down and then reassemble it in a way that made sense to me and those around me.  I think I am pretty good at it and it has enabled me to shift from subject to subject with relative ease.

So I entered Rustico pretty confident that I could weave together a couple of brews and come out all right by the end of the night.  I came in, sat down, said "Hi" to my friend Olga, chatted a bit with her, and then ordered up my first beer. This is where I made my first mistake.

I put in for a Solidarity: Red, White and Gluten, which is a American pale wheat ale, brewed by District Chophouse and Brewery. Now when you see gluten in the name that gluten will be receiving special treatment, and this was no exception. It was kind of strange tasting. I have sampled almost 1500 beers and this one was on the weird list. I found this a bit disappointing and it made more sense that it belonged on the light or perhaps even a sour one, but not American pale wheat ale. It was OK beer but I felt down after drinking it. I gave it an Untappd score of 3.5, but that was being charitable. Could I have blown it so badly?

Olga came over again to see how I was doing. I explained my situation to her and she suggested to tap into my server's knowledge and see what he could come up with as an interim solution. So I did, and it just goes to prove that should listen to your server because they are really more an artist, than a simple worker.

With Olga's assistance, my next order was a Saison De Pipaix, which is listed as a saison/farmhouse ale, brewed by Brasserie a Vapeur. Brasserie a Vapeur is a Belgian vapor brewery founded in the town of Pipaix. This beer is subtle in the way it weaves it aroma around you, slowly drawing you in. The mix of hops and other ingredients take their time, stemming from the vapor, to take their time. Weaving your head and body to the point where you think you are in heaven. It is really good beer. The alcohol is 6% ABV and no IBU is listed.  The website lists is as:

A traditional Wallonian saison beer, born with the brewery in 1785. Dry, normally hopped, slightly acidic, very spicy (black pepper, ginger, sweet orange peel, curaçao, star anise...)

I rate it at an Untappd of 4.25. 

I started to feel my power returning. I was alright, but I needed another beer of similar stature to bring me around. I explained my situation to Jesse (I somehow had two servers!) and he had two potential solutions. I ordered one and he brought two glasses. (I have discovered since then that he often does this - it is a welcomed treat.) He has definitely earned my approval.

The first one I tried was Le Terroir (Lips of Faith), a American wild ale by the New Belgium Brewing Company of Ft. Collins, CO. This starts as a battle between malts, locked in a beautiful blond ale. Some are coming early and others are sneaking in and then striking full force. The battle is epic but somehow soothing at the same time. The battle winds down until you take another drink and it is back on.  It is good beer, though I can appreciate some drinker's hesitance. The alcohol is 7.5% ABV and the IBU is 12. The website couches it this way:

Le Terroir: French, meaning ‘from the terrain, soil, land, ground, earth.’ You may have heard it as a wine term speaking of the environmental conditions of the vineyard, the pH of the soil, even the slope of the land. But beer has it too, especially a New Belgium sour beer, which oozes terroir from the pores of the wooden foeders we age it in. They produce a base beer that’s golden-colored with a soft overripe peach aroma and just the right amount of tart. And after 3 years in the foeders, you can bet it has some nice earthy tones. Round out that fruity base with even more unique fruity hops like Amarillo and Galaxy, and this beer may just have more terroir than your classiest wine. 

I rate it at an Untappd of 4.5. 

Now I turned to the other glass. This was Rio De Sauvin, another saison/farmhouse ale, brewed by Stillwater Artisanal Ale (1028 S. Conkling St. Baltimore, MD 21224.) The mango and passion fruit made their presence early on.  They are up and in your face, but then they go away and leave a really nice pleasant tasting beer. Over and over again. Completely different from the Le Terroir, but still in the same vein of really good beer. These beers compliment each other and I can see why Jesse could not make up his mind. I don't think I could make it up either. Both had roles to play in making my evening turn on an upswing.  No information on the ABV or the IBU because this beer does not appear on the Stillwater Artisanal Ale roles.  

I rate it at an Untappd of 4.5.

So I rolled out feeling pretty good - my faith restored and ready for whatever to evening had to present itself. I am glad that I had run into Olga and Jesse. Once again, Rustico helped to fill my need!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Drafting Table

I happened on this eating place quite by accident. I was taking the Metro to Columbia Heights to get off at the Meridian Pint for my usual Tuesday night dinner. The trains stopped at the Convention Center and the driver  announced that we were getting off here because the train at Columbia Heights had lost power. So, the doors opened and we were cast out in the urban wilderness.

I started for Columbia Heights station by cutting over a couple of blocks to 14th Street and then turning up the street. I had walked a couple of blocks when I ran to this restaurant called The Drafting Table.  It looked open and friendly and I said to myself that I really had to try and get back there on a return trip. Thursday came around and I had a bare spot in the calendar, so that became the day to try out The Drafting Table.

The Drafting Table ( 1529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, V: 202-621-7475) is a first come, first serve restaurant and is squarely targeted at the locals on 14th Street, NW.  As the name suggests, it is a place for old drafting tables to come for their final resting place, as well as a few chairs. The place really exudes the effort put in it, especially the larger than life pencil hanging over the entry way. The wait staff continues to reinforce this casual service, but does so kind of haphazardly. Two more wait staff would probably solve this problem, or a host and one wait staff.

I got my seating instructions and placed myself down at a table. Menu came moments later. I had ordered a beer, tomato soup and D.T. jerk chicken. The tomato soup was definitely canned and came with overly dry toast. The jerk chicken was better, but the rice and beans were too dry. Teach me to go out on Thursday Night Football between the Giants and the Redskins!

Agave Wheat by Breckenridge Brewery
The beer listed was mostly skewed to the middle with no stout or porter. The beer that I ordered was Breckenridge Agave Wheat, which is an American pale wheat ale, manufactured by Breckenridge Brewery. This beer had a really unique flavor. You can really taste the agave in the background and the wheat up front. Its really a nice mix, though it is a bit weird. Usually agave is in the forefront, prominent and bold, but being in the background muffles the flavor that normally has a strong agave taste. Weird, but good. Alcohol and IBU information is not available. The website says:
Agave complements the refreshingly light quality of our wheat and adds a subtle note of flavor that expands this beer’s uplifting taste profile. It is familiar, yet creative.

It earns an Untappd rating of 4.25. 

Unfortunately, the beer list that appears with the menu online, does not reflect the beer list at the restaurant. I found several entries on the menu online that did not appear on the list available in the restaurant. There was no date affixed to the list in the restaurant.  They need to pull these more into line - they don't have a good reason for these to be out of coordination.

The Drafting Table gets kind of a mix rating. Good atmosphere, relaxed and approachable, but kind of mediocre service.  The beers that they had were a good mix of weights, mostly tending towards the middle. If they could get the service right, imposing a bit more structure to it, The Drafting Table could be right where DC needs a restaurant - good, fun and serviceable.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Caboose Brewing Company - Vienna, VA

Breweries are sprouting up all over Northern Virginia. From Norfolk to the outer reaches of Appalachia, there is just a plethora of new breweries that fit everybody's taste. Even closer in, a few new ones have sprouted up, including in the Town of Vienna. So, I put in a call and made a reservation at one called Caboose Brewing Company.

The Caboose Brewing Company (; 520 Mill Street, NE Vienna, VA  22180 V: +1 703 865 8580) is based on Vienna's long time association with the railroad. Now defunct, Vienna used to host a good portion of Northern Virginia's short haul freight capability. That freight capabilty has now been turned from rails to trails as the W&OD became a suburban trail for bicycles, joggers and walkers.

The address puts the brewery headquarters right at end of the rail line, in a quiet and content spot. As the last building in the rail line, they have a really nice place to service their brand of brew and limited fare.  I walked up to the end of the building, opened the door, and walked up the few steps to the servers table. My table was ready and they escorted me back and presented me with the menu. I selected a four item flight for my drink and ordered up a bowl of duck eggs and miso soup. My meal concluded with a shrimp and grits mix and then concluded with a pulled pork dish. The food was great, but be prepared to order several things at once because they come as small portions.

The four item flight came quickly enough but it container sat rather catty-wompus to the rest of the table. I could never get it to sit straight. 

The flight started off with the Half Wit, a witbier. This hoppy beer quickly takes the drinker into a spicy flavor. A spicy flavor that you just can not get rid of except to take a couple of sips of water. Its almost too much spice to be good and it overshadows the wit. It is interesting that it is not listed as a hoppy beer, but rather as a light beer. The witbier is given a label of 4.7% ABV and the IBU is not listed. The website accords it this way:

Belgian Style White Beer, Sweet & Bitter Orange Peel, Coriander Notes, Grains of Paradise

I scored it as an Untappd of 3.25.

The second entry in the flight was the Sidetrack Saison, a saison beer. This beer is in their fighting for recognition as a good strong saison. It has a nice flavor, but it is just kind of average. Yeah, I had it as average, though I know several other on Untappd had labeled it as good, but it just did not do anything special for me. Its just a saison, special in its own right, but average in the world of saisons.   The saison has a 6.0% ABV and the IBU is not listed. The website describes is this way:

The saison is a classic European style derived from “Farmhouse ales” provided to farm workers during lunch and after their workday. The belgian yeast strain creates a dry, fruity beer with notes of pineapple, citrus and a touch of champagne. The effervescence of the style adds to the champagne comparison, making this one of our most refined beers for the usual wine-drinker.

I scored it as an Untappd of 3.5.

Next up was the Crossroads Lager, which was listed a Vienna Lager. This beer actually struck me as a fresh and moving forward in its taste. Its actually a little heavier than most lagers, like someone had taken the time to measure it out rather than just slapping the label on it. It was good and separated it away from the other beers. The lager has a 5.25% ABV and the IBU is not listed. The website describes it this way:

A light toasted-malt aroma with a medium body. A crisp finish rounds out this brew with a slight noble hop bitterness. This is a well-balanced easy drinking Vienna-style lager perfect for summer.

I scored it as an Untappd of 4.0.

As for the fourth beer, I have to admit, I made a mistake. I had put the incorrect name into Untappd and saved it as Caboose Oatmeal Stout by American Brewing Company rather than as Little Hobo Stout. The Little Hobo Stout, which is a true stout, was really the champion. Warm and wonderful, the stout has a separate flavor that simply sells the taste. That second flavor, which is separate from the stout track, really has a spirited zing. It simply picks up the average beer and pulls it much closer to the goal line. It is neither to coffee or the chocolate but it is a flavoring of the two that brings this one so close. The stout has a 4.5% ABV and the IBU is not listed. The website describes it this way:

A Medium Bodied American Stout with a Roasted Nose, Chocolate & Coffee on the Palate and a Clean Finish

I scored it as an Untappd of 4.25.

I have a pretty good idea that Caboose Brewing Company will continue to ride high as long as the brewing crazy remains in effect. The question become what will happen when the tide runs out and there is a cut back in such places. By 9:30, the place was generally empty on a Friday night and it had not been full. The bar was doing pretty well, but it was not too deep to start with. We will have to see if Caboose Brewing Company has what it takes to stick around.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Meridian Pint - A Tuesday Fit

Sometimes going to a place take a couple of goes before it starts to fit. It just has to fit right and then you can depend on it. Meridian Pint has struggled a bit in that way, but it feels like it is all coming together.

But first and foremost, it has got to get its service right. I have had five different servers from Meridian Pint on each of the follow up visits to the restaurant since I penciled it in to fill the role of the Tuesday night restaurant. The first server was extraordinary.  She really knew her stuff, so much so that I actually ordered dessert from here, I was so impressed. The second time, I was seated in a separate part of the restaurant, where it was semi self serve. The third time it was a pretty nice guy, but I could not get on his schedule. The next two, well, they were OK but lacked the intense satisfaction that had clearly enabled the first.

I like the first server, it seems like we were made to have a good dining experience, so I walked up to her and figured out how to get in her service area the next time. Hopefully, we have worked around respective conflicts. Sometimes you have to be the squeaky wheel.   

I was seated at a rather out of the way table and waited quite a while for the beer list to be made available. I actually go the menu before I got the beer list. It is not a problem, but a brewpub that is short of beer lists is a rarity. I ordered a lamb sandwich and a plate of vegetables.

To go with it, I requested a Vinalia Urbana, which is a golden ale by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery out of Richmond, VA. It comes in a lighter beer color, beautiful viscosity and has a lovely aroma. It has waves of hops that enter and exit at various times, so each sip is effectively different layered. It is really good and is a little bit alluring in its taste. Alcohol is 9.0% ABV and 30 IBU. The website list it as:

Named after the Roman festival held to bless and sample the wine of the previous season, Vinalia Urbana, a Belgian-style golden ale, is aged for months in freshly emptied Sauvignon Blanc barrels. This maturation process lends some light vinous notes and a hint of oak that blend beautifully with the subtle fruit and light spicy character imparted by the Belgian yeast. Vinalia Urbana is delightfully dry and delicate on the palate with lingering white grape and stone fruit undertones.

I gave it an Untappd score of 4.25.

The next beer order was an Equinox, which is an American strong ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company out of Petaluma, CA. Normally, I am a fan of this Lagunitas Brewing but I was taken aback this time. It was light and balanced, but it was just a pale ale with a slight flavoring. Not a real American strong ale like I was lead to believe and I think the website is a bit full of itself. If they re-label it to indicate its lesser flavor, I think that would have hit the spot.  Alcohol is 8% ABV and 50 IBU. The website list it as:

A creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptus, cedar, sprucey, forest blast. First brewed in 1995... brewed today in a time of change.

I gave it an Untappd score of 3.75.

The last order I submitted was for a From Amager with Love which is an imperial/double stout from Evil Twin Brewing in Copenhagen, Denmark. I find myself equally in love with this beer as well a Mikkellar, which I reviewed in an earlier post.  What this beer brings to the table is a unique blend of hops and grain that does not make you think you are getting any at all, but in reality is plying you with plenty. These include a special blueberry alcohol from Amager Bryghus and it just sends you to alcohol that much higher level, but you simply are unaware. The end result is simply scrumptious in a glass. The perfect end to a perfect day.  Alcohol is 12% ABV and no IBU. The website list it as:

Amager is an island south of picturesque Copenhagen, mostly notable as the home of the airport, the place you go to get high and the common colloquial name for Amager is Lorteøen (Shit Island). But Amager has much more to offer than you might think. Like these two dedicated brewers from Amager Bryghus, who traveled all the way from Amager to the states to brew a pitch-black and troublesome Imperial Stout infused with the cutest blueberries. It might look shitty, but once you let it sink in you can feel the love within. 

I gave it an Untappd score of 4.75.

I came out of Tuesday night feeling that I had a long term fit. I think I had the service I needed and I certainly figured I had the beer. It may not be forever, but it will do for now. It will do.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Heads Up: The Partisan

I like it when a pub is vested one way in your mind, and when you go, it is completely spun around the other way.  It speaks to the freedom that a bar can have. Even though you are pretty sure it should be one way, it turns and proves itself is something completely different. I had that experience recently at a place called The Partisan.

The Partisan (, 709 D Street, NW, Washington, DC V: 202-524-5322) is right behind the Archives Station on the Yellow/Green Line on the Metro.  It is tucked into a building storefront with only a small entryway. When you go inside it gets bigger, taking up two store fronts. It also has the unique character of having the bar in the back and the seating areas up front. The bar itself is really quite large and occupies about 60% of the floor space.

I actually had to make a reservation at The Partisan, which is something unique in Washington. A party of one is generally a pretty good bet to get into a place, but they The Partisan is busy enough to have denied me twice already. So, I made a reservation on a Monday, and prepared for what I thought was going to be a haute cuisine experience.

Trade Winds
Initially, I was right in my belief that the bar was a little bit high on itself. I was seated and the waiter was a bit flippant in his attitude. So once the battle of the attitudes was finished, I order my first beer of the evening, which was a Trade Winds by the Cairngorn Brewing Company. This beer is a 4.3% ABV with no IBU and it is classed as a American pale wheat. Light golden in color, with high proportion of wheat giving the beer a clean fresh taste. The mash blends together with the Perle hops and elderflower providing a bouquet of fruit and citrus flavors. That elderflower really sold me on it. It just a hint of the flower, but it goes a long way. I gave it an Untappd score of 4.25.

One thing that they did which rather irked me was that the beer seem to come in wine glasses. Not all the beer, but mine certainly came this way. Now I understand their reasoning, the flavor and the smell had to be allowed to coalesce in these taste groups, but I still don't buy it. Beer belongs in certain style beer glasses and wine glasses do not cut it. Wine belongs in wine glasses and beer belongs in beer glasses. Period.

Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien
My next order was like night and day. Same server, but it was like we had come to some agreement and the gloves had come off. I asked the server for his suggestions from the menu and picked out an Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien by Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnas which is classed a a Biere de Garde. It is a 11% ABV and is also no IBU. The nice thing is that this is Swiss Ale De Garde aged in oak barrels, so it has a little bit of umph behind the hops.  I gave it an Untappd score of 4.5.

While I was having the glass of Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien, I had a long conversation with the manager to understand the coming together of the management and the professional staff. Fascinating how they managed to pull it off and gave me a better understanding.

I paid and walked out feeling that I had really gotten an education on the placement and stand-up of the The Partisan and that I had a really different feeling about the restaurant. The Partisan belongs in the bar restaurants and it will be interesting to see how it fairs. I know I will be going back.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Quick Flash - Mikkellar's Bar

I am going to try a little something different and we will see how it works. I am going to do a quick write up on place I tried last night and then come back to it with a longer write up. Let me know how well this is received.

Last night was my last night in the Bay Area and I had been saving a pub for just such in occasion. I drove over to San Francisco, parked, and walked to Mikkeller's Bar. It is a very special bar, as far as I am concerned, because a good portion of the bar's make-up is not available to bigger Eastern bars. Hell, I don't think it is available in many bigger Western bars, either.

The beers for the evening consisted of the follows:

Mini-Separation Anxiety - Berryessa Brewing Company
Beavertown XXX - Evil Twin Brewing
Betelgeuze - Mikkeller
Mexas Ranger - Mikkeller
Black Hole - Mikkeller

Erica, who was my Mikkeller representative for the evening, was really helpful and informative. She made the process of going through the beer much easier and she get a thumbs up.

If you have not tried it, Mikkeller's Bar is the place to go. On the edge of the Tenderloin, it is warm and friendly.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Spike's Bottle Shop

It could be the perfect place. Yep, I said it, the perfect place. It is called Spike's Bottle Shop (, 1270 E. 1st Street, Chico, CA V: 503-893-8410) and it is darned near the closest shop I have ever found to being perfect. Hidden away in what looks like a one stop shop for Bud, Spike's Bottle Shop is nothing I have ever seen before - 1600 bottles of beer. 1600! Breweries and brands that I have never heard of before, breweries I have heard of with brands of beer that have gone unnoticed. There was a little bit of every thing and I was just flabbergasted.

When I come back to Chico to visit the Hassenzahl's, Spike's Bottle Shop will be on the list!