Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dominion Baltic Porter

Dominion Baltic Porter is the new Winter release from Old Dominion Brewery, still of Ashburn, Virginia.

Dominion Baltic Porter pours a dark cola-like color. The beer is not opaque, and shows some red around the edges. There's a thick beige head that slowly drops to a thin persistent ring. The aroma is fairly mild, consisting mostly of lightly roasted malt and coffee. There's a faint alcohol presence coming through in the aroma. The taste is roasted coffee balanced with lightly sweet malt. Hop bitterness is reserved. A mild licorice flavor is also noted. The roasted malt flavors linger in the finish. Mouthfeel is light, with an oily finish and low carbonation. The flavor profile is not extreme, but presents a nice balance that should appeal to many people.

I paired my glass of Dominion Baltic Porter with a plate of mixed cheeses. I had some Dubliner, Sharp Cheddar, and Chipotle pepper cheeses, along with some rye and wheat crackers. The combination made for an enjoyable evening meal. The 7.0% alcohol level in the beer is well-masked and beer goes down quite easily, dangerously so in fact.

I continue to be impressed with the seasonal releases coming out of Old Dominion, and the Baltic Porter was no exception. There's been a lot of angst from local fans due to the recent changes at Old Dominion. This new beer shows that the brewers there are still producing good beer. It was interesting to see a bottling date of 11/20/08 stamped on the bottle. I first saw the beer on retail shelves just six days after that. I'm sure some places had it even sooner. That the beer is distributed so rapidly is a testament to the advantages of being a local brewery. Whether or not we'll still see that sort of distribution system once Old Dominion moves brewing operations to Delaware remains to be seen. Even more importantly, I hope the beers coming out of the new brewery location continue in the fine tradition we've come to expect from Old Dominion Brewing Company.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

I only have a few tasting events to list for this weekend. If you are out braving the holiday sale crowds, take a break and stop in at one of these local tastings. You might find a new beer to serve your holiday party guests.

Friday, November 28 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Kona Pipeline Porter, Abita Christmas Ale, Brooklyn Winter Ale, Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale

Saturday, November 29 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Bell's Christmas Ale, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Bell's Christmas Ale, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, November 29 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock Rauchbier, Blue & Gray Spiced Winter Ale

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Thanksgiving Day and A Growler Assortment

As noted previously, the wife and mother of our happy home is spending the week in Montana, assisting her parents after her Dad's recent heart surgery. My son and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving Day at the home of some dear, and generous, friends. We started our day with morning Mass, then headed out mid-day to enjoy Thanksgiving at my buddy Frank's home.

While the boys alternated between video games inside and basketball outside, Frank, Michelle, and I enjoyed good conversation while nibbling on dips and cheeses. Frank had recently returned from a trip to Tennessee, and as he often does when traveling, brought back several growlers of the local beer. So while we watched some unexciting football on TV we sampled three beers from The Blackhorse Pub & Brewery in Clarksville, TN.

First up was the Barnstormer Red. This Amber Ale pours a copper-red color with a very thin head. The aroma is caramel malt. The taste is also creamy caramel malt. Other than a faint citrus note, there is little hop profile. Barnstormer Red is a pretty basic session beer, and I would imagine it's a foundation beer at the brewpub.

Next we had the brewery's seasonal Nut Brown Ale. When Frank poured a couple of glasses I was immediately struck by how dark the beer was. In the aroma I picked up bitter chocolate and some nuttiness. The flavor was that of bitter chocolate, along with some roasted malt flavors. I didn't get as much sweet malt as I had expected in a brown ale. In fact, Frank and I initially wondered if the beers were mixed up and we were perhaps tasting a porter or stout. Despite the slightly unexpected flavor profile, this is a nice beer and one I enjoyed quite a bit.

The third growler contained the Coalminer's Stout. This beer poured very dark, with a thin beige head. The aroma is dark coffee and chocolate. The flavor is roasted coffee with some bitter hops that linger in the finish. I was somewhat reminded of an oatmeal stout. The mouthfeel is creamy with a moderately dry finish. Nothing too bitter or heavy, but a nice dry stout.

It's always fun to try out new beers, and it's certainly hard to beat fresh beer. While enjoying the Blackhorse beers I was thinking about the hundreds of small brewpubs around the country that are putting out fun beers. Beers that are probably known only to the local population. Trying a few of them out was certainly a fitting activity for the holiday celebration.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I brought along some Ommegang Hennepin Saison to drink with the traditional Thanksgiving feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetables. At home, later in the evening I enjoyed a relaxing glass of Tröegs Mad Elf Holiday Ale. I hope your Thanksgiving Day was filled with family, good friends, and good beer.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. I hope everyone, no matter where they live, will take a few moments to consider all they have to be thankful for. There's plenty to complain about in today's world, but for today, let's focus on the positive.

As for me, I'm thankful for a loving family, a roof over my head, and the freedom to worship as I believe. I'm also thankful for the many friendships I enjoy. This year, Colleen is away for the week and not home with us for Thanksgiving. She is with her parents in Montana, helping them out while her father recovers from heart surgery. My son and I have had at least 4 invitations to celebrate Thanksgiving with other families. I am truly blessed to have so many generous and thoughtful friends. In fact, all week friends have made offers of assistance, from getting our son to his sports events, to dinner invitations. I've hardly had a chance to prove that I am capable of cooking!

I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. I also hope you have the pleasure of sharing good beer with family and friends.

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
-- G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two BAC Calculators for the iPhone

Notice: The applications reviewed below are for entertainment purposes only. I do not condone irresponsible drinking, nor do I suggest using these tools to determine your ability to drive, or even to be socially acceptable.

I've been looking at a few of the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) calculators I found in the iPhone App Store. There are half a dozen or so similar applications listed in the store. For this review I picked two that seemed fairly full featured.

Last Call is a free application from Avvo, Inc. Interestingly, Avvo is an attorney rating and profiling service. To use the application you first must enter your weight and sex in the preferences. As you consume alcoholic beverages you add them to the drink log. The drink selection menu is divided into Beer, Wine, Shot, Cooler, and Cocktail categories. Using Beer as an example, the selection is further divided into generic styles, with predetermined alcohol levels ranging from Low Alcohol Beer (2.7%) to Barley Wine (10%). It may be necessary to pick a percentage that is close, rather than exact. After selecting the beer type, you then pick the serving size. Serving sizes are also fixed, and range from Small Glass (8 oz) to Pitcher (48 oz). After selecting the serving size, you are returned to the main screen. The main screen shows the drinks you've entered so far, and your BAC level. There is also a graph that shows the trend, and where you fall in relation to the .08 legal intoxication level.

When you first add a drink to Last Call, the calculations do not immediately reflect the added alcohol. There appears to be a time lag, which I assume is meant to indicate the rate of absorption into the blood stream. After adding a drink, the reflected alcohol will rise with time. After a while, when new drinks are no longer added, the alcohol level will slowly drop. The updating display gives an interesting visual prediction of when the alcohol level in your body will be reduced or negated. As a stark reminder of the dangers of over-indulgence, there is also a button labeled "Intoxicated." Selecting this presents you with an option, tied to Google Maps, to locate a taxi service. A second option is labeled "Find Nearby DUI Lawyers." I strongly urge you to avoid needing that option.

Cheers! is a similar application, but with a small $2.99 price tag. The interface is a little more complicated than the previous application, but provides a greater level of granularity. To begin you set your weight, sex, and the legal BAC limit. The main screen shows the drink log, and also provides data on the total ounces of actual alcohol consumed. The drink selection menu is divided into Beer, Wine, and Liquor categories. In each of these sections, you enter the serving size in half ounce increments, and the alcohol percentage in 1% increments. There is also a quantity selection. I guess that might be useful if you are really throwing back the drinks.

The status tab shows the current BAC percentage to a somewhat excessive 8 decimal places, along with a clear indication of where that is in relation to the legal limit you entered in the preferences. Hitting the refresh button will recalculate the percentage. Like Last Call, this application also provides a link to Google Maps in order to find a local taxi should you find yourself in that situation. There is also a drink log screen that shows all the entries in the session. In contrast to Last Call, as a drink is added the application assumes the alcohol is already absorbed into your blood stream.

Both of these applications provide similar results. When entering the same data into both applications, the reported BAC level is higher initially in Cheers!. However, both applications eventually synchronize, and the rate at which the level drops appears to be about the same. Cheers! offers more granular drink entry options, for both serving size and alcohol content. I found the display of the BAC trend to be an interesting feature of Last Call. Both applications can record drinks for just one user. It might be fun to be able enter data for a drinking partner at the same time.

To repeat what was noted at the top of this post, I consider both of these apps, and similar ones offered in the iPhone App store, to be for entertainment purposes only. There are additional factors that affect the rate of absorption of alcohol into your body that cannot be taken into account by these applications. Everyone's metabolism rate is different. To properly determine BAC requires a breathalyzer or a blood test. Responsible drinkers will know, and respect their limits.

Download Last Call on iTunes here.
Download Cheers! on iTunes here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter Beer Trinity

While deciding what I wanted to drink on a recent cold evening, my decision was essentially focused on three options. It was the same three beers that I find myself going back to over and over in the Winter months. I dubbed it my Winter Beer Trinity. (We Catholics are naturally inclined to group in sets of three. :-)

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - I picked up a case of the Brooklyn Brewery Winter release on the day it arrived at the local retailer. Black Chocolate Stout is my choice for a late evening repast. Though frequently served with a dark chocolate dessert, I most often enjoy this one from a snifter, sipping slowly as I unwind from a busy day.

Clipper City Winter Storm - This ESB from Clipper City is my usual go-to beer, with meals or by itself, during the Winter. I'll stock up on enough to be able to still enjoy it occasionally during the summer months. This beer combines sweet malt with bitter hops for a balanced treat at any time of the year.

Sierra Nevada Celebration - The brewers at Sierra Nevada take a slightly different approach to Winter beer. Neither a dark beer, nor high in alcohol (relatively speaking), Celebration is a rich, hoppy treat. The enticing hop aroma and flavor make this one easy to enjoy at anytime.

All of these beers get frequent mention on the Musings. Their frequent mention is one of the things that earned them a place in my Winter Trinity. There are numerous Winter releases that we enjoy and look forward to each year. But these three are staples in the house for as long as they are available. What is your Winter Beer Trinity? You can share your picks in the comments.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Brewpub Kid Cups

There was a recent thread on DC-Beer discussing kid-friendly pubs in Maryland. I thought it was an interesting topic. For beer to become more mainstream, it needs to foster a family-friendly image as part of the change in common perceptions. The other day I grabbed a plastic cup from the kitchen cabinet and noticed it was from Outer Banks Brewing in North Carolina. The cup was collected during a family dinner at the brewpub this summer, when our son enjoyed a lemonade while Colleen and I sampled the house beers. We actually have another cup from the same brewpub. That one is from a few years back, before Outer Banks Brewing put up its windmill.

Granted, this brewery is located in a beach town, so plastic cups are handy for other purposes. In this particular case, it might not technically qualify as a kid-cup. However, if any pub goes to the expense of printing cups for kid drinks, it's probably a good indication of family-friendliness. What do you think?

Sharing Good Beer For A Good Cause

The annual auction gala for our son's school was held this weekend. This is always a fun event and helps to raise much needed funds for the school. The auctioneer is the 2006-2007 International Auctioneer’s Championship winner and he is quite adept at getting the crowd excited. It's a good time for school parents to dress up, leave the kids at home, and have some fun for a good cause. This year's auction raised about $50,000 for the school. Historically, there are usually one or two wine dinners to be auctioned off. Last year, Colleen and I decided to donate beer tasting. The beer tasting was well-received and we were asked to repeat the donation for this year's auction.

The beer tasting is an event for 6 people, in the winner's home, that includes 6-8 different beers. We provide food pairings for each beer, along with some (hopefully) informed narrative. This year our donation includes a couple of glasses and a copy of "Ultimate Beer" by Michael Jackson. We also threw in a bottle of Delirium Noël for the winner to enjoy now. Although the offer states 6-8 beers, last year we ended up including 11 different beer and food pairings. You can read the beer menu from that event here.

The bidding for the beer tasting this year was very lively. In the end, the couple who won the tasting event last year walked away with the highest bid. They had been telling us they had such a good time that they would be fighting hard to win this year. And they did just that. Their winning bid was $850. That's $500 more than last year! Needless to say, Colleen and I are quite pleased. It's a thrill to be able to help raise money for the school, and at the same time do something we enjoy very much. I look forward to "paying up" on this donation.

BTW, this year Colleen and I successfully bid on a six course wine dinner. It's a gourmet dinner to be held lakeside in the Spring. I look forward to it as well.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Devils Backbone Now Open

Friday marked the opening of the long-awaited Devils Backbone brewpub in Nelson County. Family commitments conflicted with the opening day, but I'll be visiting soon. Meanwhile I'll enjoy the reports from folks who did make the trip. 

Brewer Jason Oliver created an impressive array of brews in time for the opening. Wintergreen Weiss, Ale of Fergus Scottish 60 Schilling, Eight Point IPA, Spike Pale Ale, and Black Rock Oatmeal Stout were reported to be available on Friday. Still in the tanks and ready soon are a Vienna Lager, a Helles lager and a Saison. Jason's descriptions of these beers can be read in this earlier post.

It sounds as if everyone had a good time. Some folks also visited nearby Starr Hill and Blue Mountain breweries. The Virginia Beer Trail is coming into fruition, one brewery at a time.

Thanks to Chuck Triplett for the use of the Devils Backbone photo.

100 Drinks You Must Try Before You Expire

I came across this recently at Art of Drink. Entitled Imbibers One Hundred, the author has compiled a list of 100 drinks that he believes everyone should try, at least once. He writes:
Remember, this is just a list of things you should try, not the "best of the world" list. The list is about contrast and variation of flavour. I’m sure a few scotch addict’s, vodkaphiles and beeroholics will recommend a particular brand, but in most cases, this list is style specific, instead of brand specific. But please feel free to make recommendations.
Anyone is welcome to play along. I've only hit 43, that I can remember. (Hey, I'm a beer guy.) But it gives me something to aim for anyway.

1) Copy this list into your blog, with instructions.
2) Bold all the drinks you’ve imbibed.
3) Cross out any items that you won’t touch
4) Post a comment at Art of Drink and link to your results.
If you don’t have a blog, just count the ones you’ve tried and post the number in the comments section.

List of Drinks You Must Try Before You Expire
  1. Manhattan Cocktail

  2. Kopi Luwak (Weasle Coffee)

  3. French / Swiss Absinthe

  4. Rootbeer

  5. Gin Martini

  6. Sauternes

  7. Whole Milk

  8. Tequila (100% Agave)

  9. XO Cognac

  10. Espresso

  11. Spring Water (directly from the spring)

  12. Gin & Tonic

  13. Mead

  14. Westvleteren 12 (Yellow Cap) Trappist Ale

  15. Chateau d’Yquem

  16. Budweiser

  17. Maraschino Liqueur

  18. Mojito

  19. Orgeat

  20. Grand Marnier

  21. Mai Tai (original)

  22. Ice Wine (Canadian)

  23. Red Bull

  24. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice

  25. Bubble Tea

  26. Tokaji

  27. Chicory

  28. Islay Scotch

  29. Pusser’s Navy Rum

  30. Fernet Branca

  31. Fresh Pressed Apple Cider

  32. Bourbon

  33. Australian Shiraz

  34. Buckley’s Cough Syrup

  35. Orange Bitters

  36. Margarita (classic recipe)

  37. Molasses & Milk

  38. Chimay Blue

  39. Wine of Pines (Tepache)

  40. Green Tea

  41. Daiginjo Sake

  42. Chai Tea

  43. Vodka (chilled, straight)

  44. Coca-Cola

  45. Zombie (Beachcomber recipe)

  46. Barley Wine

  47. Brewed Choclate (Xocolatl)

  48. Pisco Sour

  49. Lemonade

  50. Speyside Single Malt

  51. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

  52. Champagne (Vintage)

  53. Rosé (French)

  54. Bellini

  55. Caipirinha

  56. White Zinfandel (Blush)

  57. Coconut Water

  58. Cerveza

  59. Cafe au Lait

  60. Ice Tea

  61. Pedro Ximenez Sherry

  62. Vintage Port

  63. Hot Chocolate

  64. German Riesling

  65. Pina Colada

  66. El Dorado 15 Year Rum

  67. Chartreuse

  68. Greek Wine

  69. Negroni

  70. Jägermeister

  71. Chicha

  72. Guiness

  73. Rhum Agricole

  74. Palm Wine

  75. Soju

  76. Ceylon Tea (High Grown)

  77. Belgian Lambic

  78. Mongolian Airag

  79. Doogh, Lassi or Ayran

  80. Sugarcane Juice

  81. Ramos Gin Fizz

  82. Singapore Sling

  83. Mint Julep

  84. Old Fashioned

  85. Perique

  86. Jenever (Holland Gin)

  87. Chocolate Milkshake

  88. Traditional Italian Barolo

  89. Pulque

  90. Natural Sparkling Water

  91. Cuban Rum

  92. Asti Spumante

  93. Irish Whiskey

  94. Château Margaux

  95. Two Buck Chuck

  96. Screech

  97. Akvavit

  98. Rye Whisky

  99. German Weissbier

  100. Daiquiri (classic)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

As always, your local retailers are offering free tasting events this weekend. Devils Backbone Brewery opens today. Many beer fans from the area are heading to Roseland, VA to join in the celebration at Jason Oliver's new digs. Sadly, family obligations prevent me from going, yet.

Friday, November 21 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Penn St. Nikolaus Bock, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale, Kingfisher Lager, Lakefront New Grist Gluten Free Beer

Friday, November 21 - 5:30 - 8:30pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:

Friday, November 21 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Harpoon Winter Warmer, Buffalo Bill's Blueberry Oatmeal Stout

Saturday, November 22 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Bell's Winter White, St. Rieul Grand Cru, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Bell's Winter White, Avery Old Jubilation, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, November 22 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Blue & Gray Winter Spiced Ale, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale, Bell's Christmas Ale, New Holland The Poet, Rogue Santa's Private Reserve

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

November Flying Dog T-Shirt Giveaway Reminder

Just 10 more days to enter the November giveaway sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery. We're giving away a Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter t-shirt to one lucky person. To enter, all you need to do is post a comment to this blog during the month of November. See the announcement post here for the details.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga'

It's my favorite time of the beer year. The breweries are bringing out their Winter releases, the Christmas Beers, Winter Warmers, Holiday Ales. Call them what you want, but Winter is bonanza time for this beer lover. I was happy to discover a new-to-me seasonal recently. Actually, the credit goes to my wife. We were shopping at a local candy store when she spied Lagunitas Brown Shugga' on the shelf. Colleen remarked that it sounded interesting and suggested we try it out. I already had a case of Clipper City Winter Storm in the cart, along with a few other items, but I'm always up for trying something new so we added the Brown Shugga' to the haul.

Well, Colleen picked a winner. Brown Shugga' is a Winter seasonal from Lagunitas Brewing Company in California. This strong ale pours a translucent copper-red color with a thin, short-lived beige head. One thing we remarked on while enjoying it was just how attractive the beer is. The aroma is a very pleasant blend of citrus hops and sweet malt. My first impression of the flavor was the sweet brown sugar tone to the malt. The sweetness is present, but not cloying. The sweet malt provides a nice foil to the big, bitter hop flavors. The beer is nicely balanced and it's easy to drink without burning out one's palate. As the beer warmed, I began to pick up subtle fruit notes. Colleen pegged it as cherries. The flavor is complex and I spent too much time trying to pick out the subtleties. Next time, I'll just drink and enjoy. The ale has a thick, sticky mouthfeel with a lingering hop bitterness.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga' is a big beer. It's big not only in flavor, but in potency, weighing in at 9.5% alcohol. The alcohol is warming but well-masked. This is definitely a sipper for cold, Winter evenings. Bring out some pungent cheese and dried dark fruits and I think there's a feast in the making.

I'm fortunate to have a wife who appreciates good beer and who keeps her eye out for new and interesting beers for us to try. We didn't know what to expect from Brown Shugga'. It turned out to be a very enjoyable late evening treat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Malting and Smoking at Copper Fox Distillery

Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, VA is the producer of Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky. Rick Wasmund's operation was profiled in the Free Lance-Star recently. The former financial planner has been distilling in Sperryville since 2005. In the newspaper article, and accompanying video, Wasmund explains his traditional, by-hand methods. What I found most interesting was his comments on the malting process.
"We're the only distillery in North America that malts its own barley," says Wasmund. "And we do it the traditional way."

Wasmund uses a strain of barley called 'Thoroughbred' that was developed by Virginia Tech. He buys his grain exclusively from a Northern Neck farmer named Billy Dawson, who has an operation at Heathsville.

Not only does Wasmund malt his own barley, using apple and cherry wood smoke, he also buys his grain locally. I talked to a brewer last Spring who was interested in brewing with locally grown barley, which I thought was an interesting idea. I'm not aware of any local craft beer brewers who take on the malting process themselves. That would certainly add a local flavor aspect to the brewing process.

Read the Free Lance-Star profile of Rick Wasmund and Copper Fox Distillery here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest

Yea, it's November. But that didn't stop me from enjoying a good Oktoberfest beer this weekend. Flying Dog Dogtoberfest is a seasonal from Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD. The beer won a Gold medal in the German-Style Märzen category at the Great American Beer Festival in early October. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the beer locally. However the good folks at Flying Dog came to the rescue when at the end of the month a package containing a bottle of Dogtoberfest arrived at my door.

Poured into a Flying Dog pint glass, Dogtoberfest exhibits a bright, clear, copper-red color with a thick beige head. The head dropping quickly to leave a thin ring. The aroma is predominantly malt, with a faint nuttiness coming through. The beer has a rich malt flavor. There are some caramel and toasted notes to round things out. The finish brings a mild, and lingering bitterness and is slightly astringent. Mouthfeel is moderate with light carbonation. This is a well-done, enjoyable beer. At just 5.3% alcohol, had I more to enjoy, I certainly would have.

I had forgotten that I had this beer on hand until Josh from Flying Dog spied it in a beer fridge photo I had posted online and remarked on it. Even though we've already started enjoying the bigger beers of Winter, this winner from Flying Dog was a tasty treat on a cool afternoon.

I hear laments from retailers that once October ends, they can't sell beers labeled "Oktoberfest." Okto-phobia I'll call it. That's a shame, as these beers are enjoyable, easily sessionable lagers that are a good fit year round. Given the success of Dogtoberfest at GABF, I can hope that next year it will be more readily available locally. I'll be looking for it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

As always, your local retailers are offering free tasting events this weekend.

Friday, November 14 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Brooklyn Winter Ale, Flying Dog Tire Bite Golden Ale, Corsendonk Pale Ale, Peroni, Behaven Scottish Ale

Friday, November 14 - 5:30 - 8:30pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale, Sam Adams Chocolate Bock

Friday, November 14 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Cabin Fever Brown Ale, Bald Eagle Brown Ale, Bell's Best Brown Ale

Saturday, November 15 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager, Legend Chocolate Porter, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager, Legend Chocolate Porter, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, November 15 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner, Anchor Christmas Ale, Left Hand Snowbound Ale, Left Hand Warrior Fresh Hop IPA, Lagunitas Brown Shugga

Saturday, November 15 - 1:00 - 5:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Sam Adams (Boston Beer) Tasting
Including Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two Blue & Gray Seasonal Releases Available Now

Two much-anticipated seasonal releases from Fredericksburg's Blue & Gray Brewery are now available for pick up at the brewery.

Spiced Winter Ale combines holiday spices with a bit of hop bitterness. Spiced Winter Ale typically sells out pretty quickly. Don't be one of the disappointed fans at the door.

Temporary Insanity Stout is an easy-to-drink Russian Imperial Stout. It's a beer that I look forward to each year from Blue & Gray. I had a taste of this year's batch direct from the fermenter a couple of weeks ago and it was already drinking very nicely. I'll be filling a growler or two very soon.

See the Blue & Gray web site for brewery hours.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Wettest County in the World

And now for something a little different...

The publisher sent me a copy of this book for possible review, and after enjoying it, I decided it was worthy of a post here. This might not cross the radar of good beer fans, but it is related to a common theme on the Musings.

The Wettest County in the World is a historical novel set in Franklin County, Virginia during the late years of Prohibition. The author, Matt Bondurant, is the grandson of Jack Bondurant. Jack, along with his brothers Howard and Forrest were moonshiners in southwestern Virginia. Matt tells a compelling story of the Bondurants and their battles with law enforcement, and competing bootleggers.

Knifings, shootings, beatings, crooked politicians and law enforcement, the book is rife with turmoil. But it is also story of love and of trying to break out of the struggles of the time. What really struck me was the extreme to which the violence brought on by Prohibition was embedded in the lives of the characters in the book. It affected not just the bootleggers themselves, but the life of the town in which they lived. The business was an accepted, but unspoken part of the fabric of life. Reading this novel gives one a sense of just how much Prohibition adversely affected our Country.

The book tells the story not only of the Bondurant brothers, but that of Sherwood Anderson. Anderson was a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, and later shunned by his peers. He travelled to Franklin, Virginia to write a magazine piece on the violence and corruption associated with the moonshine business. He would soon become part of the story himself. It was Anderson who deemed Franklin County "the wettest county in the world."

Matt Bonderant recalls visiting his grandfather, who went on to become a law-abiding citizen and spoke little about his past. He relates that much of the Bonderant family history was unknown, or at least unspoken by the Bondurants. The author researched newspaper articles and court transcripts to fill in the blanks left in family stories. Even given literary allowances, the author gives a riveting account of the people and the time and place in which they lived. If you are looking for a lively and enlightening read, get this book, pour yourself a nice bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout, and settle in for a good Winter read.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November FABTS Tasting Session

Members of the Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society (FABTS) gathered at Kybecca on Saturday to discuss, and taste, "beers to serve with Thanksgiving dinner." Members brought in beer to share and offered up their suggestions on how to pair the beers with the Thanksgiving feast. Though a small gathering with just about 10 members present, the discussions, and beer, were plentiful and folks walked away with some good ideas for their holiday festivities.

The session started off with the beers to serve with, or as, appetizers. Suggestions included Anchor Steam Beer, Oude Gueuze, and Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock. Three distinctly different beers, they offer sweet and tart flavors that will leave the pallet ready for dinner without filling you up. The tartness of the Oude Gueuze (a blend of old and young lambics) was met with mixed reactions. Though I do think the experience of sipping this as an appetizer would be different from just a small quick taste followed by other beers.

The quintessential Thanksgiving food is turkey. Turkey meat is relatively mild in flavor so the beer served with it shouldn't overwhelm, but still cut through the fatty oils that may coat the tongue. Saison was a popular offering. We tasted Saison Dupont, Victory V-Saison, Ommegang Hennepin, and North Coast Le Merle. Though all Saisons, each offered a slightly different flavor profile. I've never had the Le Merle before, but I particularly enjoyed this offering from North Coast with its balance of citrus tart and yeasty funk. Ch'ti Ambrée, a Belgian Pale Ale was also in the lineup for turkey pairing.

Next we moved on to some beers that work especially well with the dark meat part of the turkey, or other darker meats that are often served at holiday meals. A couple of smoked beers started of this portion of the tasting. First up, Lyle Brown's Smoke Out, officially known as Starr Hill Smoke Out. The beer has a light smoke flavor in a malty, golden bock. This was followed by Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. The Aecht Schlenkerla is smoked bacon in a bottle. The smoke aroma and flavor is VERY upfront and probably best paired with a smoked meat, else you risk losing milder food flavors to the smokiness of the beer.

Other beers suggested for pairing with darker meats, and not to forget, the turkey stuffing, were Red Hook Late Harvest Autumn Ale and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale. Gouden Carolus Classic and Koningshoeven Dubbel were some fine non-domestic suggestions to round out this section.

Next we moved on to the dessert portion of the tasting. Quatre-Centième Brassin Commémoratif from Unibroue in Quebec was suggested as a digestif. Brooklyn Local 1, also a Belgian Pale Ale, but from a U.S. brewery, was also offered. Moving on to other beers to have with Thanksgiving day dessert, we tasted two pumpkin beers. New Holland Ichabod Ale has a pronounced pumpkin flavor backed by mild spices. Many of those present remarked that this was their favorite pumpkin beer. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale is more heavy on the nutmeg and clove spices. I describe it as more pumpkin the pie than pumpkin the gourd. Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale was enjoyed next, with its sweet maple syrup flavor and noticeable alcohol warmth.

Continuing with the dessert theme, we moved next to the chocolate beers. Boulder Obovoid Oak-Aged Oatmeal Stout has an earthy bittersweet chocolate flavor. This limited release from Boulder Brewing gets my vote as my favorite beer of the session. I need to look for this one. (And I did drop a hint to Matt at Kybecca.) Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence Stout and Young's Double Chocolate Stout are two beers made with actual chocolate. For my tastes, the chocolate flavors overcome the beer aspect. James described Young's as "Yoo-Hoo for grownups." To close our discussion of Thanksgiving beers, we finished as we had begun a few hours earlier with a sour beer. Duchesse De Bourgogne is a Flanders Red Ale from Belgium. Joe decreed this one of his all-time favorite beers. As with the Lambics, Flanders Red is an acquired taste, one that I admittedly am still working on appreciating fully.

Finally we enjoyed two homebrewed beers. We had another tasting of Dave's Smoked Pumpkin Honey Ale. We have been treated to several sessions with this beer over the past year as Dave ages the original batch. The beer is still very tasty and was well-recieved as usual. Hopefully Dave will do another batch this year. Joe shared his "Big Bad John" Barleywine. This strong, bold, ale is still young by Joe's estimation but was very tasty. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though it did elicit a shocked "woo" from one taster. I look forward to tasting this as it continues to mature.

I left the meeting with a few new ideas for Thanksgiving dinner beers, along with a shopping list of beers I wanted to explore more in-depth. And that's really what these tasting sessions are all about. The next FABTS meeting is December 13 when the theme will be "Holiday Beers." This appellation covers the wide range of special beers that brewers release during the Winter. I'll need to peruse Don Russell's "Christmas beer" book a bit more before that meeting.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tuppers' Beers Back in 2009?

After a long wait, area beer enthusiasts may soon be able to enjoy Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale and Pils once again. Bob Tupper posted an update yesterday:
I wish I had some real news to post, but our efforts to get back in the market the right way are just taking time.

Contrary to some rumors, we don’t have a deal with anyone yet, and there is certainly no fixed price at which we will return, although it’s certain to be about 50 cents higher than “ouch” and it may even be 50 cents higher than “yowie!” I promise you that’s as specific as we’ve gotten on pricing.

But we are making progress. We are in late-stage negotiations with two brewing companies, who together can meet any probable demand. (Though at 50 cents higher than “yowie” we may not need as much capacity as we used to.)

The core of any agreement we reach will include the following:
  • Beers will be made to our specifications—no short-cuts to reach a price point. The ale and pils recipes will not change except to adjust to changing flavors and intensities of hops and malts—adjustments we had to make several times when we were with Old Dominion. Any agricultural product has to run hard to stay in the same place.

  • The breweries will work with us to develop other beers including some seasonal and one-off products.
Working with two breweries presents some legal complications that we did not have when we were permanently moored to the OD dock. Right now we’re working through the details—trying to get a label that will work both in the short run and in the long run, change the way our corporation operates, contract for some quasi-secretarial assistance, and re-establish a distribution network. We hope to have beer in the tank soon and return to the shelves sometime early in 2009.

I was alerted to this news by Thomas Cizauskas' post at Yours For Good Fermentables.

The Tuppers' news link.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

GABF Silver Medal Smoke Out Tapped at Capital Ale House

Local beer fans gathered at the new Fredericksburg Capital Ale House Friday evening as a keg of Smoke Out was tapped. Smoke Out is the GABF Pro-Am Silver medal beer brewed by local homebrewer Lyle Brown and Starr Hill Brewing of Crozet, Virginia. Members of The Fredericksburg Brewing and Tasting Society, the Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders, along with other friends and family came out to celebrate with Lyle.

The evening also marked the first Friday of business for this new Capital Ale House location. By the time the keg was officially tapped at 5:00PM there was already a large crowd on hand. While many patrons where likely unaware of the significance of the event, Lyle proudly carried a tray of samples through the bar offering them to the gathered crowd. I am sure many of the folks on hand learned something and found a new beer to enjoy that evening.

Smoke Out is a full-bodied, bright golden hued beer. The smokey bacon-like flavor hits just the right balance with the malt backbone. Smoke Out has limited availability at all four Capital Ale Houses, just one keg at each folks. It's listed on the beer menu as Starr Hill Smoke Out. Lyle is talking with Mark Thompson at Starr Hill about the possibility of brewing the beer again, but I suggest getting by closest Capital Ale House before the beer is gone. Incidentally, in a testament to brewing skill, Lyle says that the large batch he brewed at Starr Hill for the GABF Pro-Am, is identical in taste to the homebrew he developed. This recipe also won first place in the Smoke beer division of the 2008 Sam Adams Longshot Competition.

The staff at Capital Ale House handled their first Friday evening crowd with aplomb. Service at the bar where I spent the evening was quick and cheerful. I also enjoyed a Brat & Knack Plate for dinner, consisting of a Usinger's knackwurst and bratwurst served with kraut, sweet & sour red cabbage and warm German potato salad. It was the ideal compliment to the Smoke Out beer.

Yours For Good Fermentables blogger Thomas Cizauskas drove down from Fairfax, VA to enjoy and record the events. We deemed the evening the first official gathering of the Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers (C.R.A.B.B.). See Tom's post on the event here.

More pictures from the evening are here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Session #21: Favorite Beer

The 21st installment of The Session is hosted by A World of Brews. The topic chosen chosen by Matt is "What is your favorite Beer and Why?" I had to think long and hard about this question. I've never been able to answer that when asked. Despite our host's admonition that everyone does indeed have a favorite beer I couldn't pick one.

What I will do is talk about a couple of beers that I buy in quantity over other beers. Believe it or not, I rarely buy more than a 6-pack of a particular beer at a time. While I may purchase large quantities of a particular beer through repeat purchases, I typically limit the quantity brought home at one time. At any given time, my beer fridge will be stuffed with 45-60 varieties of beer, so there's only room for so much. (And yes, I sometimes do what my parents forbade, I just stand there with the fridge door open pondering what to select.) Looking back at 2008, there were just a few times that I bought beer by the case. So, let's go with those as (some of) my favorite beers.

Early in the year, it was Tröegs Nugget Nectar. This hop explosion hidden in a amber ale is a Spring favorite. It might even be the beer that opened my eyes to hops. If not, it was at least one of the first really hoppy beers I tried. I anxiously await the early Spring when this one arrives on the shelves.

Jump forward a couple seasons, and we come to my favorite time of the year for beer, Winter. Just a few weeks ago I picked up another in-bulk beer. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a favorite that I reviewed late last year. There's little that can better warm up a cold evening like a snifter of this dark beer. Pair it with a dark chocolate dessert and it doesn't get much better. I remarked recently that Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout probably had the best aroma of any beer I've tried. When I'm enjoying it I have my nose to the glass as often as my lips.

Of course, those aren't the only beers that do get bought in bulk around here. Last Winter we were well-stocked with Sierra Nevada Celebration. While most brewers' Winter beers tend to be darker or even spiced, Celebration is a hop-lover's Winter treat. Another favorite Winter beer is Clipper City Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale. I typically reserve a few bottles to enjoy over the Summer. If "favorite beer" was defined by the number of times it gets mentioned on this blog, then this beer would likely win hands down. Both of the aforementioned beers have been released this season so I'll be picking them up, in quantity, soon.

So, my favorite beer? I still don't know. But I've developed quite a thirst just from the exercise of writing about these beers that get extra space in my refrigerator and cellar.

Update: Matt has posted the summary of all the Session posts.

Weekend Beer Events

On Friday, November 7 there is a special event at the new Fredericksburg Capital Ale House. The GABF Pro-Am Silver medal Smoke Out rauch-hellerbock that Lyle Brown brewed with Starr Hill will be tapped. Come by Capital Ale House at 5:00PM for that. On Saturday, the Fredericksburg Brewing and Tasting Society (FABTS) will meet at Kybecca to discuss and taste "beers to serve with Thanksgiving dinner."

And as always, there are plenty of free tasting events at local retailers.

Friday, November 7 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Heavy Seas Winter Storm, Wild Goose Snow Goose, Schneider Aventinus, Duvel, Fiddler’s Green IPA

Saturday, November 7 - 5:00 - 8:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Clay Pipe Pursuit of Happiness, Delirium Noel, Left Hand Twin Sisters, Cape Ann Brewing Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout

Friday, November 7 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout, Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, Schloss Eggenberg

Saturday, November 8 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Beers TBD, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Victory Baltic Porter, New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, November 8 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Bell's Winter White, Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux, New Holland Cabin Fever, Gouden Carolus Noel, Stone Double Bastard

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Devils Backbone to Open November 21

I received word from Jason Oliver that the Devils Backbone Brewing Company will open for business on Friday, November 21. Readers will recall that Jason left Gordon Biersch Brewery in D.C. back in May to open a brewery in Nelson County. Jason sent along a list of the first eight beers he currently has in the fermentation tanks at the new brewpub:
  • Eight Point IPA - An American-style IPA, 14 plato 60+ IBU's, hopped with Willamette, Columbus, Cascade, and Amarillo hops.
  • Wintergreen Weiss - Bavarian-style hefeweizen. 11.8 plato 12 IBU's
  • Black Rock Oatmeal Stout - English-style oatmeal stout, 11.5 Plato 20 IBU's. Brewed with English malts and fermented with a multiple yeast strain.
  • Vienna Lager - A Vienna-style amber lager. 12 plato 18 IBU's. Brewed with Vienna, Munich, and other German malt for an authentic flavor.
  • Five Apostles Saison - A Belgian-style saison. 14 plato 22 IBU's. Brewed with all Saaz hops, brewing sugar, Belgian yeast strain, and French aromatic malt for a complex traditional version of the style.
  • Gold Leaf Lager - Bavarian Helles-style lager. 11 plato 18 IBU's. Traditional German brewing techniques and cold fermentation should provide this beer with a clean subtle character.
  • Ale of Fergus - Scottish 60 Schilling, 10 plato 20 IBU's. Traditional Scottish-style session beer. Brewed with imported Scottish malts, multiple yeast strain and Fuggle hops for a traditional flavor in this low gravity brown hued ale.
  • Spike - American session beer, 11 plato 40 IBU's. American hops and a low gravity make for an American interpretation of a session beer.

The brewery is getting off the ground with a well-rounded selection of beers and I look forward to visiting very soon. Devils Backbone will be another great addition to the burgeoning beer scene in Virginia.

See the Devils Backbone website for details and directions.

Shooting Creek Hearing Postponed

Last week I reported on an appeal filed by opponents of Shooting Creek Brewery in Floyd County. Today, The Roanoke Times is reports that the hearing has been postponed:
Owners of the nascent Shooting Creek Farm Brewery requested this week that the hearing before the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Richmond be continued until December, ABC spokesman Phillip Bogenberger said Wednesday.

Brewery co-owner Brett Nichols requested the continuance "in an attempt to resolve the matter with the objectors," Bogenberger said.

Does that sound as if the sides are talking? Maybe, and that would certainly be desirable over continued hearings and wrangling.

The Roanoke Times story is here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Old Dominion Brewery - "Virginians in Name Only"

In today's Washington Post, Greg Kitsock writes about the upcoming changes at Old Dominion Brewery. I thought the title of the article "Virginians in Name Only" was thought-provoking. Although I understand the business reasons for the move, and have every expectation to still enjoy the beer in the future, the name "Old Dominion" does suddenly seem a bit disingenuous. Does this old Virginia brewery become the Häagen-Dazs of beer?

However, my favorite part of the article is a quote from former owner Jerry Bailey. Mr. Bailey has been the recipient of a lot of undeserved criticism and I think this puts things in perspective:
Jerry Bailey, who still holds the title of president of Old Dominion but had no voice in the decision to close the brewery, doubts he will be there to pay his last respects. "It was a piece of me for so long, it was almost like being in my own living room. But now, I'd feel like I was trespassing."

Read the entire Washington Post article here.

November Giveaway Sponsored by Flying Dog

This month's giveaway is sponsored by our friends at Flying Dog Brewery. They've sent a cool Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter t-shirt (size XL) that I'll give away at the end of November.

To enter, simply contribute a comment to any post on this blog throughout the month of November and you will be entered into a drawing for the t-shirt. I'll select one name at random at the end of the month. Each accepted and published comment in November will be counted as an entry in the drawing.* It's that simple. Enjoy, and good luck!

*Those of you who have hidden profiles will need to provide contact verification if you win. :-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Capital Ale House - Fredericksburg Now Open

It's been just 11 months since the news broke that Capital Ale House was coming to Fredericksburg, and now the wait is over. The restaurant at 917 East Caroline Street officially opened for business this morning and Colleen and I decided to go in for lunch on opening day.

The restaurant has two dining rooms on the street level, and a display beer cellar downstairs. There is also a lounge area with dart boards and leather couches. As we were led to our table I was eying the 80 foot bar, the stocked beer coolers behind the bar, and the array of tap handles at the end. Capital Ale House currently has 60 beers on tap and over 300 bottled beers on stock. According to company president Matt Simmons, about 100 kegs and 400 cases of beer were delivered last week in preparation for the opening.

My first order of business was to peruse the beer menu, which is an 8.5" x 11" book with around 25 pages of beers listed. I opted for a Lights Out Holiday Ale from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Virginia. The beer was dark with a moderate beige head. It has roasted malt flavors with some hop bitterness at the end and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Colleen and I both ordered the Ale House burger. This thick Angus burger was cooked just right and topped with sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese. The burgers were served with frittes (fries) and two flavors of spicy mayonnaise.

As we ate, other patrons began filling the seats. It looks like they will have a busy opening day. There seemed to be plenty of staff on hand and our server, Nina, was prompt and friendly. She was enthusiastic but admitted a bit of trepidation over the extensive beer menu. Even though the restaurant had been open less than an hour and already had a good size crowd on hand, I had no complaints about the service we received.

The Fredericksburg location will feature the same $1 burger specials on Monday evenings and "Steal the Glass Night" on Tuesdays as their other locations. No burger deal this opening week, but the Tuesday, November 4 "Steal the Glass Night" will feature Schneider Aventinus. Capital Ale House also offers free Wi-Fi internet. And, if you are looking for good beer to take home, the bottle menu is available "to go" at a 25% discount off listed prices.

My visit today was short and I didn't get to truly explore the extensive beer selection. It will be nice to have such a wide variety of beers available locally. I'm looking forward to trying out many new and hard-to-find beers at the Capital Ale House. And, a reminder, the GABF Pro-Am Silver medal beer, Smoke Out, by local homebrewer Lyle Brown will be tapped this Friday at Capital Ale House. I hope to see you there.

Update, Nov. 6: The Free Lance-Star has a good article about Capital Ale House today. (They still insist on calling it a brewery on the front page of the paper.)

GABF Pro-Am Silver Medal Beer On Tap at Capital Ale House

From local homebrewer Lyle Brown comes word that his Smoke Out rauch-hellerbock will be available at all four Capital Ale House locations by this weekend. Smoke Out, which Lyle brewed with Mark Thompson of Starr Hill Brewery, won a silver medal at this year's GABF Pro-Am competition. Lyle will be on hand at the new Fredericksburg Capital Ale House to tap the beer this Friday, November 7 at 5:00PM. Congratulations Lyle!

This is the same beer that won a 1st place award for Smoked/Wood Aged Beer in the 2008 Sam Adams Longshot contest.

The Fredericksburg Capital Ale House open its doors today at 11:00AM.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers

Thomas Cizauskas, who blogs at Yours For Good Fermentables, coined the name Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers, or C.R.A.B.B., to denote "a loose alliance of mid-Atlantic area beer bloggers." Maybe we're not really an alliance yet, but it strikes me as an intriguing way to align the bloggers who keep up with regional craft beer news in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. At the very least I see it as a good excuse for getting together over a beer. I look forward to participating with my fellow bloggers to promote good beer in the mid-Atlantic states.

Perhaps C.R.A.B.B. might be the host of a future beer blogger gathering, an idea floated by Alan and Stan, among others.
Tom's post describing the idea is here.

Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day

The Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders (FBI) held a "Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day" event at the Blue & Gray Brewery on Saturday, November 1. Many club members were on hand to give advice and offer samples of their beers. The club brewed an American Blonde Ale, and Aaron Zaccagnino (aka Zacc) took the lead on the brewing demonstration. I spent a couple of hours watching the demo, talking to the members, and of course, tasting some of the homebrews on hand.

The club put together a very nice display table with different hop and malt varieties. Visitors were encouraged to touch, taste and smell the ingredients. During the brewing demonstration we were also able to taste the wort at various stages in the process. There seemed to be a good amount of interest in the brewing process from visitors, and Zacc and other club members stayed busy answering questions.

I was able to sample a few of the members' homebrews. There's little that can beat fresh beer. I didn't get the brewers' names but I tasted a nice red ale and a very tasty porter. I also had a taste of Jamie Wilson's Big Bug Wheat which won a silver at the 2008 Dominion Cup homebrew competition a few weeks ago. Even though I don't homebrew it would certainly be a joy to visit a meeting of the FBI to enjoy more of these beers.

Not beer but coffee...

I enjoy a good cup of coffee as much as I do a good beer. Coffee Roasters of Fredericksburg was on hand at the brewery showing off some of their fresh roasted coffees. I tried all three of the coffees being offered and was especially impressed with the Indonesian Sumatra Mandeling with its deep roasted flavor. If you are looking for locally roasted and blended coffees, these are the folks you need to see. You can even call in or email an order and pick it up on Saturdays at the Blue & Gray Brewery!

The weather on Saturday morning was clear and warm. It was a perfect morning to spend time with friendly folks to talk about, and taste, homebrewed beer. Roxbury Farm and Garden was on hand with a display of homebrewing supplies they sell. Thanks go out to Jeff and the gang at Blue & Gray for their support of the event.

Pictures from "Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day" are here.

October Giveaway Winner

The winner of the etched Blue & Gray logo glass in the October Giveaway is Sean Nelson of Charlottesville, VA. Sean was among 30 people who submitted a total of 47 comments in October. I'll be announcing another drawing soon.