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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I won't be posting for a couple days, but rest assured there will be plenty of new material when the New Year begins. Thanks for all the constructive criticism for 2015!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Like, No Way, Dude! - California Common by Key Brewing

Like, you know, beer is like radically different, from like coast to coast. You know, because, ingredients were, like you know, never the same. And now the ingredients, dude, are coming back and they like have their California-cation put on them. Like their hops and their malt, its like totally integrated. So cool, they like have gone like full circle.

California Common - Key Brewing
Never, dude, was that truer than California Common by Key Brewing Company. The Key Brewing Company (Dundalk, MD) is a small brewery moving on up to the competition of big time breweries. The California Common, one of four beers that Key Brewing has responsibility for, is the first that this beer blogger has gotten his lips on and I can tell you that this beer and this brewery are set to go far.

A California Common (or Cali Common) is kind of an average beer. There have been a few Cali Commons and while they have all advanced a wheat taste, that is where they left it off.  The difference for Key Brewing's Cali Common is that they have picked up that taste and run with it.  The flavor is richer and tastier than in normal beer and just that flavoring make the Cali Common a fun beer and one worth a second round. The color is also darker, slightly and that makes it appear to be a beer ready for more than a first look.

For Untappd, I rated it this way: Pretty good California Common. Nice flavor, low hop count and reduced malt. It sounds reduced, but it is not. Just smooth goodness, Linda. 

I rated it a 4.25 on Untappd.

If you are going to be trying new beers after that holidays, this California Common by Key Brewers should be on that list. It may be a nice surprise.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ahoy Matey! Its Redbeard and He is Bloody Good!

A few months ago, I set about a field trip to Staunton, VA to sample a small brewery in the foothills called Redbeard Brewing Company. A friend recommended it to me and so I set off one Saturday to investigate it. (He was a Raider fan, so I knew it had to be good!) When I found it, it was a little hole in the wall brewery that had really excellent beer.  The problem was figuring out how it was going to move it to market. Well, they have made it (courtesy of Meridian Pints Sour Pints Nights last week) and they, hopefully, are here to stay!

AM OG Stout by Redbeard Brewery
Much improved from the sampling I had some six months ago, the Redbeard Brewing Company, LLC (120 S Lewis St, Staunton, VA 24401 V: (804) 641-9340
Redbeard.Brewing/) is still small, listing itself as an LLC. I can imagine that is going to change in the near future. However, getting information on the web on a brewery this small is a bit of a challenge. (I think I made a similar call six months ago!) But I think this move to a larger market will push the brewery to adopt a larger footprint. We shall see!

On the night in question, I sampled three beers that Redbeard Brewing had brought up to Meridian Pint. The AM OG Stout, the Sweet Potato Pie Porter and the Moriarty Beam Aged. For the purposes of this review, I am going to focus mostly on the AM OG Stout. 

Sweet Potato Pie Porter - Redbeard Brewing
However, the other two represent tastes that can only be described as eloquent and you should try them out yourself. Sweet Potato Pie Porter will take you back inside you grandma kitchen during Thanksgiving when it is filled with uncles, aunts and cousins. The Moriarty Beam Aged is completely different taste experience. Outdoors, the wind blowing in your face, and this is the first your taste of alcohol to warm you up. Each is distinctive and you won't want to pass them up!

The AM OG Stout is a really good stout. So good that my review was about how amazed I was that is made it here, rather than about the beer!  This is a righteous brew and it is really a step up from your average stout. Soothing, nearly black color, slight head and an overwhelming taste just set you up for more. The only problem is that they don't have a brewer's expectation of what to think - everything is coming from the taster. However, AM OG Stout goes down nice and slow and since it is a stout, it is thick and rich to boot! 
Moriarty - Beam Aged - Redbeard Brewing

I gave it a score of 4.5 on Untappd.

Everything about this beer is a real pleasure and they should be very proud how it has turned out. I will be waiting for it, its just a matter of time. My lips smacking in anticipation!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Oh No, It True! Hardywood Park Gingerbread Stout

Sometimes you just sit up from drinking a beer and you say, "Yes, that is exactly what has been missing. Where has this been all of this time?" The timing is just so striking because all of the little pieces that have been missing come together in this singularity. It not so much a rocket to the sky. It is soothing, the kind of taste that just reaches up and gently bring you in. For a while, you are one with the drink.

Gingerbread Stout - Hardywood Park
This is the feeling with Gingerbread Stout by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (2408-2410 Ownby Ln, Richmond, VA 23220 V: (804) 420-2420  Manufacturers of many a good beer out of Richmond, Hardywood Park has created a line craft beer for the season with Gingerbread Stout.  It is warm and cozy, like you have been friends for a long time, but not so much that you can't be friends in a group either.  If you are going to go out and purchase a flavor from this holiday, put aside the money for this one. It is a winner and not too expensive.  

With a 9.2% ABV and a 55 IBU, this beer makes you sit up, but it gently wafts you with the tastes of gingerbread and holiday flavorings. The Web site offers these insights:    
Brewed with babyginger from Casselmonte Farm and wildflower honey from Bearer Farms, Hardywood Gingerbread Stout captures the terroir of central Virginia in a rich, creamy libation with a velvety mouthfeel and an intriguing evolution of flavors from milk chocolate and vanilla to honeycomb and cinnamon to a snap of ginger in the finish.

Deep, dark chocolate in color with a mahogany tint and a frothy, caramel colored head, Hardywood Gingerbread Stout offers aromatics of holiday spice originating from the ginger, and balanced with a generous dose of whole Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and Vietnamese cinnamon. Milk sugar (lactose) contributes to the full body of this stout and tames its roasty character, while oats lend a silky quality. Enjoy fresh, or cellar for a special occasion. We hope Hardywood Gingerbread Stout contributes to your merriment this season. 

As for my special take on this one, I put it like this in Untappd: Gingerbread! Yeah, it just has that taste. It may be once a year, but it is good. It really sits up and you pay attention because it is good.

I rate it 4.5 stars in Untappd.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Death of Cthulhu - I Can't Believe I Am Writing This

I can not believe this. This one is simply not possible, but it is, and I have to suck it up. Dead? Really? I mean, I am not a huge H. P. Lovecraft fan, but Cthulhu and its ever present existence was one of the givens when I was coming up and reading sci-fi and fantasy. So, when I saw it, I had to do a double take. And if you saw who was advancing this idea, you would even do a triple take, because these guys have steadily reinforced their chops. Ah, this is a horror story coming true.

Death of Cthulhu - Adroit Theory
Death of Cthulhu, brewed by Adroit Theory Brewing Company (404 Browning Ct. Unit C Purcellville, Virginia 20132 V: 703-722-3144, is a cold imperial stout that really has no equal. This is not some standard or Russian imperial stout. This beverage has the right combination of oddly off pieces that go together in the right fashion. One thing, for example, is sea salt. Nothing wrong with using salt, but sea salt infused with a series of digestible ingredients puts it over the top. It has just the right combination of ingredients and a 12% ABV that it goes down so easily, you wonder if they are lying to you. But since this Adroit Theory, you know that they are telling the truth and if anything, they probably rounded the ABV down a bit just to get it through the censors.   

As a matter of fact, when I ordered it, the woman next to me asked me what I had ordered. I told her and she ordered one as well because she was curious. She got a couple of drinks into it and proclaimed that it was as one of the best drinks she had had at Spacebar (709 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046 V: (703) 992-0777 that night. (Don't worry Morgan, your ID shall go to the grave.) Not an earth shattering opinion, but you don't get one that often that your on-track.

I rated is a 4.25 on Untappd and I suggest that you try it and give it your own rating. It strange, but true. But can it really represent to the Death of Cthulhu? Well, if it tastes like this, it might not be a bad way to go through life after all.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Come Over to the Mead-ian Side of the Force

Mead. Yes, let's get the title of this one out there because it is important to have in this conversation. I like mead. I like the combination of wine and honey. I can not understand, however, how it gets thrown in with beer, but it is, and that is fine with me.  It is the black sheep of the beer universe, but I think it has a lot of good points that need to be revealed. It is less of a black sheep and more ugly duckling that grows into a beautiful swan.

Iniquity - Moonlight Meadery
Mead as a group have some differences from beer. Mead is higher in alcohol content than beer, usually running at 10-15% per container and is served in a much small container than beer. The one thing about is that is They are also sweeter than beer, taking the sugar from the grapes and from the honey, kind of taking the alternative side to beer, rather than competing with it.  

It is also harder to find than beer. A whole page of beers may be countered by four, at most, of mead and generally only one. Wine is a much better market for grapes and only a few types of grapes, like Cabernet Sauvigon and Chardonnay, plus combinations of red and white wines in between, make the wine market a strong sort to crack. Mead often finds itself the odd fellow looking in.   One of the challenges with maintaining a mead line is that it can not share a line with any other alcoholic beverage. It has to be all mead, all the time, otherwise it will not work.

One brewer in the Washington, DC area that offers mead (there are others in Virginia, such as Mad Fox Brewery, and Maryland) as a regular beverage on the menu is Meridian Pint in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Iniquity by Moonlight Meadery (23 Londonderry Road, Unit #17
Londonderry, NH, 03053 V: 603-216-2162 F: 603-216-1602 is the currently resident.  There is not information on ABV or IBU on the website, but the on the menu it was listed at 12% ABV. The web had a the following information:  

A sinful double play on the senses.  A semi-sweet and smooth apple that leads us into temptation with a finish of light, tangy cranberry. 

On Untappd, the smell was key to the alcoholic content of this drink. The wine was obviously very good, which is so key for a mead and the rest falls into line.  The wine did not run off with the flavor, but rather roped in the taste. All in all, it was very good and worthy of a second glass. (Nope, I didn't have a second glass, but it was tempting!)

I scored it a 4.5 on Untappd.

I will be recording my experiences with mead alongside with beer. Their maybe some interesting experiences to be gained here and I think we need to reflect them along with those of beer. This is going to be good!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Biggie S'mores - When Big Just Isn't Good Enough

Sometimes, big just isn't big enough. Sure, there are super sizes, but when it comes right down to it, big just fails. You need something big in terms of flavor and also in terms taste - something that is not just large in terms of flavor but brings other tastes to bear.  Big tastes, say, from the campfire, tastes that remind us of really good flavors from the past and that have been brought back, if even only for a little while, to soothe our worried brows and put us into a state of nirvana.

Biggie S'mores Imperial Stout
Biggie S'mores Imperial Stout does just that. Brewed by Three Notch'd Brewing Company (946 Grady Avenue, Charlottesville, VA 22903 V: 434-293-0610, this imperial stout brings us to the edge of the campfire for tails of spooks and goblins. The brew is introduced by a strong graham cracker taste and then it mellows to a chocolate-y concoction that tastes like marsh mellows, without giving away that it has no marsh mellow content in it. It has a warm and fresh feeling throughout the pour - once it has you, it never really lets go. It really "feels" good.

The ABV is 8% and the IBU are 40. According to the Web:
This rich, creamy, Imperial Stout is made with 80 boxes of Honey Maid Graham Crackers.  The special roast barley used, gives the beer a rich, chocolate-y backing and the lactose gives the beer as sweet, smooth finish.

The release date is November 19, 2015, so it is a fairly recently addition to the beer world.

I put it this way into Untappd:  
How do it describe it? It is S'mores, plain and simple with a few chocolate chips. You just want to sit back and take the time to drink it in. So good!

I gave it a score of 4.75 on Untappd.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Always Interesting What You Find Under "Beer Cycling"

I thought that BeerCycling was a pretty interesting article. Cycling around in Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy for 5 or 10 days and filing comments on the 10 or so breweries you would encounter. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Until I tried it a couple of days later and inserted a single space in between "beer" and "cycling."

A whole new world opened up. It was related to beer and cycling, but a whole different world of cycling. None of it, by the way, related to BeerCycling. Irish beer jerseys, selling your bike, and bike tours of Ft. Collins, CO (home of New Belgium Brewing) are among the most popular on that page.

So, if you are curious about BeerCycling and the adventures of Evan Cohan, remember, its one word and one word only.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Make Way for the Interlude!

Smooth and long lasting, there for the long haul. Sometimes beer just demands time and careful handling and they reflect that in their outcomes. Interlude by Allagash Brewing Company (50 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103 V: 800-330-5385  Web: is a blend of merlot and syrah mixed with beer to give a beautiful blend of flavors.  Served up at Rustico, this fantastic taste came wafting over to me three years after it began (three years?) and it had a total fermentation and conditioning time of 10 months. It takes a while for this beer to be labeled ready to go, but when the time comes, it is ready. It will bust at the seams, it is so ready.

Allagash Brewing Company's Interlude
It has an ABV of 10% and not information on IBUs. The Web lists is this way: Two yeast strains were used to create this unique Belgian-style ale. The first, a Saison yeast, establishes the flavor foundations of a classic Belgian-style ale.The second, our house strain of Brettanomyces yeast, contributes a myriad of flavors including pear, apricot, graham cracker, and  bread crust. A portion of Interlude is aged in red wine barrels, which imparts a distinctive vinous, plum character and a drying, almost tannic finish.  Grains were listed at caramel malt, red wheat and castle pils. Hops were listed as Perle and Strisselspalt.

On the Untappd app I briefly listed it as: You can really taste the merlot and the syrah in the original barrels. Smooth, serene with a deep sense of hops. The myriad really makes it. It listed it at 4.5 on Untappd.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Sather Gate
On my last day in California and I have to get in a quick trip to Berkeley. All this time, two trips as a matter of fact, and I still had not gotten out and walked around in the Peoples Republic of Berkeley. The school and the city, for all of their differences, could not be any less well connected.
Yes, I know, it is not part of the mantra, but I am feeling a little homesick for some familiar territory.  Piedmont feels combortable but its Mom and Dad's house that feels that way the most. Berkeley, for all of its good and bad parts, feels more like home.
Wheeler Hall and the Campanile

The Campanile


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout - It Melts in Your Mouth!

Every so often you sample a beer from a brewery that hits it just right. The flavor is really balanced throughout the beverage and you sit back and enjoy sipping it, feeling it is wrap around your whole mouth, until it is completely gone.  I had one of these experiences at Meridian Pint and it was truly remarkable.

4 Hands Brewery's Chocolate Milk Stout
Chocolate Milk Stout, brewed by 4 Hands Brewery (1220 South 8th Street, St. Louis, MO 63104 V: 314-436-1559 Web: is one of these beers. It advertises chocolate milk, but it is not anything you have had in glass before. Its a blend of dark and thick milk chocolate, all whipped into a glass. From the minute you taste it, you are hooked. It takes you back to that warm chocolate milk that your mother used to make coming home on a rainy day. It just felt so good and you did not want it to end.  The thing is reminds me most of is Hershey's Special Dark, before Special Dark was available on a regular basis, because of the blend. 

The ABV is 5.5% and there is no IBU. From their website:

Our chocolate milk pours black as the night sky with aromas of dark chocolate, chocolate malt, & more chocolate. With a frothy tan head and a rich velvety mouth feel, our Chocolate Milk Stout is a perfect addition to the change of seasons. Brewed with over three pounds of cocoa nibs per barrel, this beer is a chocolate lovers dream! 
  I gave it an Untappd score of 4.75.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Brooklyn Brand Insulated Dark Lager: Take Your Pick, but Not Both

Brooklyn Brand Insulated Dark Lager
Well, in addition to Tuesday night being lined up for Meridian Pint, it is also the day that Auld Sheebin has its "Taste of Tuesday" where they bring in a single beer and distribute it that day. Its not a big thing, but I think it is kind of fun. This week they have Brooklyn Brand's Insulated, which is a dark lager.

Brooklyn Brewery is a good brewery out of New York. For the November to March time frame, they have produced an Insulated brand of dark lager to sooth the winter doldrums. Alcohol by Volume is 5.6%. Malts are German Munich, Carafa, Pilsner, and American black barley. Hops are Perle, Hallertauer, Amarillo and Centennial.

The biggest thing with Insulated is its weight. Its definitively a light weight beer, especially since it is a lager rather than an ale. As a result, it comes across as a lighter weight dark beer - it is missing something. Plain and simple, that lager gives it away.  For a lighter crowd, the lager will be just fine. But I find myself looking at the bottle and saying, "if you were only an ale, my questions would be answered."

Monday, November 16, 2015


Ever though of crossing bike riding with sampling beer? I know that I have multiple times but the biergarden is to far from the bike path! Not anymore.

BeerCycling, put on by Evan Cohan, has sought to reduce the barrier between cycling and beer consumption with bike tours through Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. Tours are discounted through the 31st of December.  More to come shortly, but this I had to get out early!

Friday, October 30, 2015

He's Just My Brewer, But Has He Got A Load to Carry!

Do you remember the other day when I said I was going to update the list of breweries? Yes, I did say that and I set about typing them all in. Ever single brewery listed within fifty (50) miles of my house is included as well as a few that I frequent pretty regularly.  I knew this was a big task but I did not realize how big. Anyone care to guess how many breweries this encompassed?

Grand total: 62. Thats right kiddoes, there are 62 breweries within 50 miles of my house (give or takes 5 or 6, such as Borg Brugghus which is in Iceland, but we have a relationship with them.)

Kind of blows the mind and there are new ones opening soon. Now I move over to the breweries I have visited on a couple of the field trips. Breweries are on the upswing and it will be interesting to bring their treasures back!

Union Station Brewery, Providence, RI

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

He's Not Heavy, He's Just My Brewer

Shipyard Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Breweries. They just keep rolling out new ones or expanding old ones. I sat down to build out the current list of breweries from Virginia, DC, Maryland and the eastern and central parts of Pennsylvania, and was really overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. While I plan the expansion, I have added a few to the list. Hopefully, you have been to a couple of them, but as for the whole list, more power to you if you have.  When I get basic list done, I will post the results of the ventures to California, Maine, Rhode Island, and Colorado.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dark, Dank, Dreary and a Perfect Tuesday Night

Tuesday was just one of those days: dark, dank and dreary. The clouds had been in all day long and had been threatening until late when they brought down their torrents. But there was a break in the weather and I ventured out to my usual Tuesday haunt, the Meridian Pint to see what elements had been brought to the table. It was a good thing that I did because I had a remarkable evening.

After ordering my food (half a Peruvian chicken, yucca and coleslaw with a nice fresh verde sauce) I put an order in for my beer. I wanted to try something with the beer order that I had thought about a couple of times that is going from light to dark. Not a big deal, but it is something that I have though about doing, so I did it, and I have to say it worked out pretty well!

Femme Fatale Yuzu Pale by Evil Twin Brewing
The first beer order was for a Femme Fatale Yuzu Pale by Evil Twin Brewing Company. (The head office is Evil Twin Brewing, 446 Kent Avenue, apt 14A Brooklyn, NY 11249 USA but the web address is  Hoppy! A bit hoppier than normal, but actually pretty pleasing. These are not the real strong bitter hops we have come to expect but a softer version that really compliment the food. The hop flavor stays around and then fades. Nice golden color. It is great. It is brewed in cooperation with Westbrook Brewing Company. Alcohol is 6% ABV and it lists no IBU. The web lists it as follows: 

To take up the challenge and make a 100% true Brett IPA with Yuzu fruit can very easily become a fatal attraction for the Brewmaster. Once you get acquainted with the Yuzu fruits irresistible and seductive personality, along with Bretts overpowering, alluring and very charming nature, it will ensnare you and drive you mad obsessing over how exactly you can create the perfect desirable tangy, funky, crisp, tart flavor in ya mouth.  

Its Untappd score is 4.25.

 Daily Brett by Smuttynose Brewing
Dinner came and the next order went in to the bar.  Smuttlabs: Daily Brett by Smuttynose Brewing Company. (, 105 Towle Farm Road, in Hampton, NH.) Its very serene and then it sneaks up on you to provide a nice bitter taste. You go from drinking plain beer to a bitter beer in the blink of an eye. Not too bitter, but just enough that you recognize it. It is really a great shift in its flavor! Alcohol is 5.9% ABV and it has 10 IBUs. The web lists it as follows:   

Daily Brett is meant to be just what its name implies, a simple, golden, daily drinker with enough barnyard funk from our saison yeast and lots of juicy tropical fruit highlights from a unique strain of brettanomyces known as “Brett Drei.” This is our first beer fermented with two yeast strains in primary fermentation and we’re thrilled with the results.

I gave it a 4.5 on Untappd.

Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing
Dinner was over and I ordered dessert, which of course, is pumpkin pie. Normally I ask the server for their suggestion of what to get, and when I asked Stephanie the reply was immediate. Breakfast Stout was the perfect pairing with pumpkin pie. Boy, I could not have picked a better one. (Three shouts for Stephanie!) Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing Company ( 235 Grandville Ave. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 V: (616) 776-2182 Taproom: (616) 776-1195)

Stephanie was right, it came out tasting like chocolate - deep, rich, dark chocolate with coffee out the sides. It just oozes the flavor, like a chocolate chip cookie being dunked in coffee. It is really great beer. The alcohol is 8.3% ABV and it has 60 IBUs. The web lists it as follows:

The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.

I gave it a 4.75 on Untappd.

I gathered up my stuff and quietly slipped out, feeling comfortable with my choices for dinner and drinks. Stephanie had disappeared, but the Tuesday night belong in part to her rapid responses. I also think that the escalating potentates of the drinks also had something to do with it. I will try that again! In any case, I slipped onto the train for the ride home feeling that despite the dark, dank, and dreary ride home and I had a rather a perfect Tuesday night.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Craft Beer Plays in Vanity Fair

Every so often, you find a good article in the least likely of sources. This time, it is Vanity Fair, who put together an article that crosses into craft brewing. The art of craft brewing has attracted a fair number of unique personalities and this article details the lives of five of them.  Most of them you know from the annals of craft brewing, but you might not know all five.

The article, by Ethan Fixell, is a good accounting of how craft brewing came to be. A couple of these characters really impacted how I came to craft beer, especially Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company out of Chico, CA.

Brian Smith

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!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Heads Up: South Side Brewing

I was searching for a place to eat last Saturday, wracking my brain for a place to go out to dinner in Charlottesville.  Going out to dinner should be easy, especially Charlottesville, I mean, its not even two hours out of Washington, so it should be easy to come up with a place or two that serve craft beer and a fairly interesting menu.

Finally, it was there. A place that served up their own craft beer and created their own menu: South Street Brewery (106 W South Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902 V: 434-293-6550). I pulled up the directions and headed off. The South Street Brewery should be familiar to a number of you because it is owned by Blue Mountain Brewery's team of Mandi and Taylor Smack.

The South Street Brewery is in a group of developed and developing businesses on a central walk in Charlottesville.  When I walked up to the brewery, I was taken aback by how different the outside was compared to the inside. The outside is rather unremarkable, but the inside is large and nicely framed around a bar and to a lesser extent a dining room. As a matter of fact, I would say that it is more bar than dining room given that the bar is so extensive and has space all of its own.

I put in an order for a Hogwaller Kolsch and an order of fish and chips. I don't know what brewers are told about kolsch in this region of the country, but they are generally pretty weak. This kolsch was no different. The secret to kolsch is that it comes in two parts: the kolsch's unique flavor is driven by the hops and then the strength is in the body. They don't come together, but rather at opposite ends of the taste spectrum and that gives the brew its flavor. The Germans learned this a long time ago, but somehow it is getting lost in the translation to the American beverage. I was able to taste some of the kolsch flavor from the hops but it had none of the strength in the body and this kills it for me.

Next up was the Anastasia's Chocolate Fantasy which leads off with a mild ale, extra dark crystal malts,  flaked oats and roast barley. This tips the scale at great than 10% alcohol and it carries through with lots of good old cocoa and Russian Imperial taste. One sip and I was off of the kolsch and into the chocolate fantasy. All was right with the world and I settled into into sipping at my new topaz hops, Guatemalan cocoa nibs and Scottish ale yeast. It was a marriage made in heaven.

I can recommend South Street Brewery for the beer enthusiast. Avoid the kolsch and head straight for the Imperial Russian stout. I have yet to try the other dark beers, but if they even come close to the Russian Imperial, I think we have a winner.  It has all of the pieces for a nice, safe, "go to" place in Charlottesville. I know I will be going there again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Jolly Good Fellows: Virginia Craft Brewery Festival

Jolly Good Fellows: Virginia Craft Brewery Festival: There are a lot of brewery festivals and craft contests in the world of craft brewing, especially as craft brewing is expanding to fill the ...

Virginia Craft Brewery Festival

There are a lot of brewery festivals and craft contests in the world of craft brewing, especially as craft brewing is expanding to fill the whole of North America. People like to show off their ability to adapt to the wide variations that craft brew presents, and that is a good thing.

Virginia is no different and this weekend they had the Virginia Craft Brewery Festival in Nellysford down in Nelson County. This is the fourth time they have had the festival and this is the third time I have packed up to attend. Each year it has grown and taken over the Devil's Backbone brewery cafe for the weekend. This year was no different - except that it was bigger than ever before!

This year 60 brewers attended the festivities with two beers each for 120 beers just to be sampled.  Also, they had a series of three awards in a range of brewing categories. Some of the categories were new this year, including sours. Every brewery is invited to enter each individual category; there is no size requirement, which makes this comptetion an investment of equals.

This time, in addition to the usual food trucks, they had outdoor games and an arcade. (Hey, I raked in 14,000 on Centipede!) It is a complete afternoon of fun and frolic - not to mention a complete range of beer.

In terms of beer, I had a collection of seven beers, several of which were really good, and one of which needs to go back to the drawing board. So lets meet our final contestants:

Adroit Theory Brewing Company
Adroit Theory - The Devil Made Me
Dark, rich and bourbon flavor, this brewery was in strike with this batch. It was in your teeth kind of vicious, the brew just dared to you to try it. Untappd: 4.75

Hardywood Brewing Company - Singel
This was a another visit to Hardywood Brewing Company and it was well placed. Its a little lighter but it is still in the Belgian family. Untappd: 4.5

Apocalypse Ale Works
Apocalypse Ale Works - Lustful Maiden Belgian Dubbel
A show surprise! The spirit is in there, but the flavor is a bit weak. It got the heaf, but it is really missing a unique flavor. Otherwise is has everything. Untappd: 4.0

Fair Winds Brewing Company - Quayside Kolsch

I have tried this once before and it came up the same: blah. They are searching for the taste of kolsch and they are missing it by a wide margin. Its OK, its drinkable, but it is not kolsch. Try again! Untappd: 2.5

Spencer Devon Brewery
Spencer Devon Brewery - Soleil Levant Witbier
They have hit this on the head. Warm and charming, the witbier has spirit. It not a light beer, but it comes off that way. Its like a good friend in the bar: warm, personable and ready to help you do your bidding.  Untappd: 4.5

Parkway Brewing Company - Four Damn Fights to a Pint
This was brisk and refreshing. This beer really holds its own. It has two flavors drawn from the hops, one from the start to mid and one from mid to end. They have a flavor of one, but in a transition, It is really good. Untappd: 4.0

Tin Cannon Brewing Company - Virginia Blond Ale
This one was smooth and easy to drink. It is really well bodies and sophisticated, like a number of their beverages. It is just a nice beer to drink and you could do this any number of times. Untappd: 4.25
Virginia Craft Brewers Guild

The Virginia Craft Brewing Festival was a fun festival, replete with a number of craft breweries, awards, food, arcades and games. If you missed any part of it, I assure you, it will be back again next year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Jolly Good Fellows: Recap: What Happened in Philadelphia

Jolly Good Fellows: Recap: What Happened in Philadelphia: As most readers of this blog know, I spent Friday going to Philadelphia to discover what happens to beer coming to the East Coast, notably R...

Recap: What Happened in Philadelphia

As most readers of this blog know, I spent Friday going to Philadelphia to discover what happens to beer coming to the East Coast, notably Russian River Brewing Company's brews and their final resting place, Monk's Cafe. Simple answer: they are dealt with by Pennsylvania's alcohol control laws or Blue Laws.

Now, before I get much further, lets have a brief explanation of what is a Blue Law. A Blue Law is a very old law that has it founding in the Puritanical laws of the country. That is right, these are laws that in some cases are older that the formal founding of the states. They go right back to the colonial period when these states were actually properties of the Crown. The further north you go, the older the bodies of Puritanical law. I think that Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania as well as Virginia have the oldest bodies of law. These bodies of law are rather hilarious and usually do not apply, but when it comes to alcohol, it becomes a different story.

Since most of the laws that deal with alcohol are state laws, with fewer federal statutes, we have to pay attention very close to state laws. This is where to Blue Laws have their impact because they were issues governed state by state, or in some cases, colony by colony.  In the cases of Pennsylvania, an original of the Thirteen Colonies, Blue Laws have a foundational effect, especially in terms of who can possess and sell alcohol. This is the case with the Russian River Brewing Company and Monk's Cafe.

Because Monk's Cafe is a Pennsylvania institution it is held to Pennsylvania standards for a brewing establishment. It is governed by a different body of law than the Russian River Brewing Company, which is a California company. Pennsylvania brewing institutions have really bizarre standards when it comes to what you can sell and to whom. In Virginia, you can sell beer and wine to an individual (not hard liquor) and in pretty much in any given quantity. Not Pennsylvania. You can not sell individual containers of beer, wine or hard liquor. You have to sell them in groups and those groupings are pretty high. Period. In other Pennsylvania counties, I have seen them stipulate a twelve beverage minimum purchase.  If no one stocks a twelve bottle minimum, no one can sell it. You can order a single bottle is a store and you can drink it in the store, but the minimum order outside of the store makes it high enough to make it not so doable. At least not that a bar keep is willing to keep on hand.

Monk's Cafe - Philadelphia, PA
So, when you go into Monk's Cafe and request a bottle of Russian River Brewing Company beverage, they have to say "no"  because they do not carry that much. Applies even in the bar, where they do have Russian River's gold standard "Pliny the Elder." Not for sale. So, when faced with this problem, I said that I would take a single bottle and drink it. It was good, REALLY good, so I satisfied the law, but there was no way I could deal with the outside law. Kind of silly, but that is the way that have dealt with it.

Monk's Cafe - Philadelphia, PA
Now, this begs the question: is it fair? As a native Californian (Go Bears!) and even as a Virginian, I have to say "no." We have come a long way since the Puritans and the Blue Laws and it does not seem fair to hold alcohol any longer in its grip. However, this is woven into the fabric of certain states, Pennsylvania being one of them, and they are not likely to walk away from it. It is also a significant source of revenue for the states and even in Virginia, when they talk about changing the revenue stream surrounding alcohol, people take notice. In the short term, there won't be a switch to the alcohol system, but in the long term, there has got to be.

And how about Russian River Brewing Company and Monk's Cafe? Well, Monk's Cafe will keep selling Russian River, they have a good relationship and everyone is all smiles, and I will keep going up to order it. Pennsylvania is on my list of places to go for beer, even if it is a little weird.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Three Simple Glasses: The Interesting, the Wise and the Wicked!

Three simple glasses was all it took. One with a simple name and two that are somewhat unpronounceable, but still three simple glasses of beer. It framed the evening, formed a triangle, and bounded it.  No one ever said beer drinking was not without its surprises!

Simple Life by To Ol
The first was the most exotic and came with the most straightforward name: Simple Life by To Ol of Denmark. It was complex and alive, so many facets coming to life all at once, it felt like an explosion of brilliant colors. It is one of those that starts off smooth and then builds, weaving a taste through out your mouth and then it just melt away. Each and every time. It was like feeling a someone just tying your mouth into a ball of fine velvety threads and then wanting them to come back for more. It was wonderful and I did not want the glass to end. Powerful stuff and oh so smooth. It rated a 5 star on Untappd.

The next round was kind of confusing, so I asked Zach, my server, for his advice.  He kind of surprised me because he said they were the same thing, just two varieties of cherry. I asked him again and he said "cherry": one wild and the other refined. Very refined.

Spontanframboos by Mikkeller Brewing
So, I ordered the very refined cherry and was pleasantly surprised. Spontanframboos, made by Mikkeller, takes its cherry formula from the cherry itself. This was the formal cherry. You will not find a bit of it that is not cherry. Not a bit. It was like drinking cherry juice with a small hint of alcohol in it. You simply will not find a higher volume of cherry in a drink and it was simply fantastic. There is no better way to describe it. If you can find this somewhere, try it and you will not have cherry taste again.

Slaapmutske FLOSS by Browwerij Slaapmutske
Before I even taste the second glass, I knew what to expect. It would the cherry, but it would be something that had a flaw, something that I would say was almost there but it failed that test. Boy, was I ever wrong! Slaapmutske FLOSS by Brouwerij Slaapmutske

is a really good wild cherry, totally different from the Mikkeller and almost as good. It had the charms of a wild cherry, the kind of berry that you plucked off the tree and savored in July and August. You wanted to savor it, sitting out one a summer day, just kind of day dreaming, and occasionally biting into one of these wild berries. It was distinct, different and good.

It was time to call it quits after a total of five beers (we did not even get into the other two beer which were also quite good) and head for home. Zach, who is a regular bar tender at the ChurchKey in Washington, DC really made it a special evening and I will make this page tonight dedicated to him. He knowledge, experience and willingness to make the evening special really made tonight a bonus. Congrat, Zach!

An Old Adversary - Blue Laws

So, I made it to Philadelphia in good time and I legged out to the Monk's Cafe. Wonderful old place with lots of crack and crevices. Philadelphia at its finest. Now, when you look at the menu, you will find absolutely no beers from the other side of the country - nothing to be sure from the Left Coast. But I wanted to be sure, so I asked, and yes, they do have brews from the West and proudly advertise them (in the front portion of the menu which mine was absent.)

So, the $64 question: could I have one? Pretty please - I didn't even say I was from the Left Coast - and the answer is "maybe." Yep, "maybe" is actually the correct answer because they are ruled by that oldest tradition - Blue Laws. Just when you thought that they were dead, the Blue Laws wrangle their ugly heads. Damn things have away showing up. So, you could drink them there is the Monk's Cafe, and but you could not take them out of the establishment. Not a drop could leave the place. They even had Pliny the Elder at the front bar but it could not leave.

I did what any red blooded American would do - I order one and drank it. And I have to tell you it was GOOD, really GOOD. Now they let me keep the bottle - they are only going to thrown it away - so there was a bit of solace in that - but it was tiny bit compared with bringing one home.

Now I know there are those among you who would have come up with someway of getting the bottle out of the bar and at least a little left in it, but I look at this as a long term relationship.  At least we know where we can change to law and even if we can not change it in Philadelphia (or Pennsylvania as a whole) there is place that we can have friends, and where you can have friends, you can have allies.

Anyway, at least we know where we can have a cold Pliny in future.


Russian River Brewing and Monk's in Philly

OK, what do the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA and Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia have in common? Well, plenty, actually. Monk's is the ONLY outlet that features the Russian River Brewing Company east of the Mississippi River. That's it, no more, just the one! Now you may ask yourself why that is important? Well, Russian River is the one and only manufacturer of two brews: Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. Today we set off in search of these brews (Pliny the Elder being the more likely) and all sorts of other things that will set us off on adventure.

Hang on, this is going to be fun!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Stomping Ground - Really Good Breakfast

I admit it, most of the places I usually frequent specialize in late lunches, dinners and occasionally late night snacks. Its never really a problem, I am a late night diner (much to the chagrin of my mother) and I always have been. But this does cut out a class of place that has been growing in importance. They serve this thing called "breakfast" and the name of the establishment is Stomping Ground.

Stomping Ground (2309 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301 703-548-1973) is something new in the Del Ray region because of its emphasis on breakfast. Most of the places have a firm grip on lunch and especially dinner. But breakfast is a meal that most seem to avoid. There are a few that have breakfast, but they are "coffee and go" types of restaurants. The Stomping Ground seemed to put its mark on the breakfast establishment in Del Ray.

Stomping Ground
Stomping Ground does have a relationship with Del Ray Pizzeria because that share an investor. That, however, is where is the similarities end and the differences begin. It is open from 7am to 3pm, Tuesday through Saturday. It's basic sandwich is biscuit based. It is so prominent that it literally is the first thing on the menu. Then it moves on to biscuit sandwiches and then finally to breakfast. Lunch comes dead last with only three items on the menu. Breakfast is definitely in their genes.

The restaurant is very new, as they finished it in May after a delay. The service area where you place your order is right up front. It is an old building so all of the mechanicals are placed right over the service area but that it is covered. Restrooms are across the hall. You reach the larger dining area as you move to the back and a small little outside backyard. The seating area is done in rough hewn lumber and is really sturdy. Johnny Cash was playing on the musical playback. It is quite comfortable.

I ordered the Anderson Valley Holy Gose (come to find out later that this is not the name of the beer, just an interpretation) and then asked what the server for her recommendation for an entree. She recommended "The Favorite" with baked egg and bacon. The service was very good.

The beer is quite good, a sour ale, and unique to the season from California. I scored it 4.5 out of 5.0. The sandwich is about the size of a slightly larger English muffin and comes with half an orange cut up. It seem rather peculiar though having a biscuit sandwich with a gose beer. The two just don't mix well, but they did work together somewhat. I was satisfied and it is quite filling and I walked out of the restaurant feeling full and happy.

One question though is why they opted to have beer in this restaurant. Beer (and wine) seem to be a sophisticated drink and these folks have gone for gentler fare. Orange juice would have seem more adapted to the biscuit sandwich that beer. Maybe this is the evolution of our eating and drinking establishment, but it does seem rather peculiar. They certainly have a small but diverse choice of beers (six varieties) but it seems to be reach. It will be interesting if they keep it or not, or to have it seasonally through the winter.

So the flag has been planted for breakfast, along with a beer twist to the whole ordeal. I might start getting up to go down and check out this establishment. Maybe there is a reason for me to get up in the morning after all.