Yesterday's gathering of the Fredericksburg Brewing and Tasting Society was "big and brash", and not for the faint of heart. This month's theme was American Beer. The theme could be interpreted in a number of ways. One interpretation was that of beers that are uniquely American, based on ingredients, brewing methods or innovations, including of course, the American trend to imperialize everything. (Of course, some might argue that the entire craft beer movement is an American creation.) The other interpretation used was any beer that had "American" on it's style listing in the BJCP guidelines was fair game. All this latitude made for a long, and highly enjoyable afternoon for the dozen or so participants. All total, we sampled 28 commercial beers and three homebrews.
Kona Wailua Wheat, an American Pale Wheat Ale brewed with passion fruit was the kick off beer. This beer got mixed reviews from participants and was noted to be very good when had fresh on tap at the brewery. Legend Golden Ale was an "out of order" surprise in that, despite the name, turns out actually to be an American Pale Ale. Fiddler's Green Blond Ale, from F.X Matt Brewing was a sleeper that many participants had seen but never tried. A nicely balanced blond ale, it might be a good "intro" beer for new craft beer drinkers. Bosmo's Imperial Cream Ale is a special beer brewed for the American Homebrewers Association meeting in Cincinnati this year. Cream ales are an American creation and this one was smooth with a slightly buttery, malt flavor.
Alaskan Winter Ale, a uniquely American beer brewed with spruce tips was a special treat. The flavor was slightly sweet with spicy, herbal notes, and very drinkable. Avery Ellie's Brown Ale, listed as an American Brown Ale in the 2004 BJCP Guide, though it's closer to an English brown, was well-received. FABTS members are quite generous and often share special beers with the group. Williamsburg AleWorks "400" Ale was one such beer, brewed just once to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first Virginia Settlement. Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale, a beer I reviewed previously, was well-received. Brewed with maple syrup and certainly "imperial", it definitely qualifies as uniquely American.
The beer that could be said to have kicked of the American craft beer movement, Anchor Steam Beer was up next. Followed by Coney Island Sword Swallower, a new beer to the area. We next ran through a litany of Pale Ales and IPAs including Boston Beer LongShot Grape Pale Ale, Bluegrass Brewing American Pale Ale, Left Hand Jackman's American Pale Ale, Butternuts Porkslap Pale Ale, Butternuts Snapperhead IPA, Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale, and Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale.
Port Brewing Hop 15, an Imperial IPA, may have been the hit of the day, at least for the hop heads in attendance. This beer exemplifies the term imperial, and is done very well. Hopped to the extreme, but very well balanced and quite drinkable. First brewed for the 15th Anniversary of Port Brewing in Solana Beach, CA, the brewery uses 15 hop varieties in the recipe.
Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Victory HopDevil, Southern Tier Hoppe and Moylan's Hopsickle rounded out the Pale Ale and IPA section of the sampling.
Three barleywines were next on deck. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, Alaskan Barley Wine and Old Dominion Millennium Ale. The Old Dominion Millenium was previously listed as an American Barleywine by the BJCP Guide (2004) but is now listed as an English Barelywine. It did provide a nice contrast to the two American Barleywines.
The commercial section was concluded with Bell's Kalamazoo Stout and Alaskan Smoked Porter. I'd been eyeing the Alaskan bottle all afternoon, as had others. The smoke aroma and flavor of this beer is very pleasing and is a different flavor profile than other smoked beers, or Rauchbier, that I've had. The brewery smokes the malt over local alder wood and produces this special beer each Fall. That's three Alaskan Brewing beers enjoyed this afternoon. These beers are not available in the East, except by mail order. Did I mention how generous FABTS members were?
We also were treated to three homebrewed beers this afternoon. Dave brought more of his "Applewood Smoked Honey Pumpkin Ale." We've enjoyed this beer several times in the past and it's interesting to see how the beer changes with age. The smokiness level has decreased, and this may be seen as good or bad, depending upon the drinker's opinion of smoked beers. (This drinker enjoys them very much.) Joe brought two beers for us to try. His "English Spoken Here" English IPA was very well-received and quite enjoyable. Finally his "Radiant Copper IPA", an American style IPA was enjoyed.
As usual, thanks go out to our hosts at Kybecca for the meetings space, and donated beers and cheeses, and Angela and James for their usual cheese and cracker platters. Of course, all the members who donated the many beers made the event possible. It was quite an enjoyable, and long afternoon. There was the usual good natured banter and ribbing, but you'll have to come to a meeting to hear about that. I had picked out a couple of special beers to enjoy later in the evening, however after this marathon session, the main thing I enjoyed Saturday evening was a nap!
The next meeting is scheduled for August 9 and the theme will be Meads. Be sure to watch the official FABTS web site for details.