Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Edgy as always, Flying Dog Brewery is preparing for their 20th Anniversary in 2010 with the release of the equally edgy Raging Bitch Belgian IPA. I've been looking forward to trying this beer and this week it was one of the featured beers at the Capital Ale House Steal the Glass Night. Colleen and I stopped in at Capital Ale House Fredericksburg to try out the newest beer from Flying Dog.

Raging Bitch was served on draught in a Fying Dog pint glass. The beer is clear amber with a frothy off-white head. When I took the first whiff, I was struck by the citrus hop aroma. It was interesting that the more I sipped the beer, the more the clove and spice notes were noticed. The aroma is a complex blend of hoppy IPA and Belgian "funk." The flavor is a blend of citrusy and piney hops along with pepper spice notes. It's all backed up with a sweet, bready malt. The aftertaste is a pleasing, lingering bitterness with some mild astringency. This is an extremely flavorful and complex beer.

Going in, I really didn't know what to expect from a beer described with such contradictory terms as "Belgian" and "IPA." However I was not disappointed at all. The beer is a treat for both the nose and the mouth. The flavors are rich and bold. Raging Bitch checks in at 8.3% ABV. The alcohol is detectable but still well-balanced by the intense flavors. I truly enjoyed drinking this beer. A second glass was paired with a chicken tostada appetizer and the beer worked well with the spicy food.

The somewhat risque name did create some humorously awkward moments for the servers at Capital Ale House. When reciting the Flying Dog beers available for STGN, they'd often hesitate after saying "Raging..." I'm hoping these "Musings" aren't flagged for this review!

I am told that Flying Dog Raging Bitch will be available in bottles very soon. I look forward to picking some up when it shows up locally. Meanwhile, it can be found on draught where Flying Dog beers are served.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a Very Merry and Blessed Christmas. May the joy of the season follow you throughout the year.

I hope you enjoy this rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear? performed by the Bowen Beer Bottle Band.

And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
-- Luke 2:10-11

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blue & Gray Minor Dementia

I finally had the chance to crack into the growler of Blue & Gray Minor Dementia Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout I picked up last week. The growler was intended for a Christmas party last Saturday, but that event was cancelled due to the east coast blizzard. Minor Dementia is the bourbon barrel aged version of the brewery's Temporary Insanity Stout. I first wrote about this beer back in February 2008.

Minor Dementia pours dark cola color but is translucent at the edges. There's a thin beige head that persists to leave some lacing behind. The aroma is that of dark chocolate and espresso. Faint hints of bourbon can be detected as well. The flavor is complex. Dark chocolate, espresso, molasses, and dark fruit notes come through. The bourbon flavor is well-balanced and makes itself present in the aftertaste. The alcohol gives a nice warm feeling in the back of the throat. A word of warning is called for here; Minor Dementia checks in at about 13% ABV. While the alcohol level is detectable, it's well-masked. Mouthfeel is creamy and "chewy."

Blue & Gray hit one out of the park with this year's Minor Dementia. How good is it? I'll share a comment from a friend, who shall remain nameless. "I have to give [brewer] Madison some props from this elixer..I enjoyed a 22 oz Bottle and Drunk Dialed is that good!"

It's a good bet that Blue & Gray will sell out of Minor Dementia quickly. Get by the brewery soon if you want to experience some minor dementia for yourself.

A check of the cellar shows me that I still have a couple of bottles from the first bottling in 2008. It will be interesting to see how these "vintage" bottles have held up.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Beer Holster

Just in time for Christmas, here's the gift for the beer lover who has everything.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weathering The Storm

The weather prognosticators are telling us the east coast will be hit with a major winter storm this weekend. While most folks were at the grocery store stocking up on chips, milk, and TP, I had more practical needs on my mind. My goal was to lay in a supply of good cold weather beers. The photo at the right shows the fruits of my shopping trip; Clipper City Winter Storm, Clipper City Yule Tide, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Anchor Christmas Ale, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, and New Holland Dragon's Milk.

If we're cooped up for too long, I also have the growler of Blue & Gray Minor Dementia I picked up this week as well.

What's in your storm survival kit?


Laptops and Beer

We all know that beer and laptops don't mix. No, I'm not referring to an email sent in anger or while under the influence. Spilling your beer can irreparably damage your laptop. A laptop repair company has shared its Top 10 list of liquid spills that damage laptops. Weighing in at number 5 is beer.
#5: Beer (6% of spills). Beer drinkers can't seem to hold their liquor around their laptops, either. Beer is part water, part sugar, part brown goo. American lagers, as well as Mexican beers such as Corona or Dos Equis, are lighter than many imported brands, and may do less damage to laptops.
[Emphasis added]

Perhaps, we should just do away with complicated measures of IBUs, SRMs, ABV, etc. and simply judge beer on its electronic damage capability (EDC.)

Of course, you should keep all liquids away from your laptop. But if you are curious about the complete list, it's here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Local Homebrewers Rock

The Third Annual Virginia Beer Blitz was held Saturday, December 12 at St. George Brewery in Hampton, VA. This annual event is sponsored by The Colonial Ale Smiths & Keggers (CASK). The Virginia Beer Blitz is a BJCP/AHA Sanctioned Competition and accepts entries in all BJCP categories including Mead and Cider. I was happy to see that the Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders (FBI) made a good showing.

Fredericksburg Area Winners:
Arthur King - 3rd Place in Light Hybrid Beer for his 4th of July Blonde Ale, a Blond Ale

Aaron Zaccagnino (Zacc) - 1st Place in Scottish and Irish Ale for his Mr. McTavish, a Strong Scotch Ale
Aaron Zaccagnino (Zacc) - 3rd Place in Meads for his Holiday Delight, a Cyser

Leon Beck - 2nd Place in American Ale for his Patriot Pale, an American Pale

Chuck Arnold - 1st Place in Belgian and French Ale for his New Tools Pale Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale
Chuck Arnold - 3rd Place in Belgian and French Ale for his All Black, a Belgian Specialty

James Tweeddale - 3rd Place in Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer for his Chili Pepper Lager, a Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer

You can find the complete list of winners here.

As you can see, there's a lot of good beer being made right here in Fredericksburg, and not all of it in commercial breweries. Hat tip to Zacc for letting me know about the competition.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pints For Prostates Video

Rick Lyke of Pints for Prostates has posted this video from the Pints For Prostates Rare Beer Tasting held September 29 in Denver, CO. Hear some of the legends of craft brewing speak out in support of regular prostate health screenings for men.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mad Fox Brewing Update

Bill Madden posted some exciting news on his Madd Brewer's Blog today. He's settled on a brewing system for the soon-to-open Mad Fox Brewing in Falls Church, VA. The brewpub is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2010 so this is an important milestone. Bill reports the system will have a 15 BBL brewhouse, and six 30 BBL fermenters. The new brewery will have an estimated minimum production of 6,240 kegs per year. That's a lot of good beer!

See Bill's post here for a complete description of the brewing system.

Minor Dementia at the Blue & Gray Brewing Co.

From the Blue & Gray Brewing newsletter:
Madison the brewer opened one of the oak bourbon barrel casks today to taste and see if Temporary Insanity Imperial Stout has matured into full-blown Minor Dementia.
We found him shortly thereafter beneath fermentation tank # 2 muttering something to the effect of "too good, do not sell". That kind of mixed message required clarification. Luckily, there is a high voltage plug behind fermenter # 2 and we were quickly able to electroshock young Madison back into coherency.

Blue & Gray Minor Dementia is the barrel-aged version of the brewery's Temporary Insanity Imperial Stout. It's that time of the year when you can experience Minor Dementia yourself. The brewery will be sampling and filling growlers starting today, December 11. See their website for hours and directions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Southwest Virginia Brewers Profiled has published a short article about three southwest Virginia brewers. Chris Burcher of Wolf Hills Brewing in Abingdon is featured in the article Cheers for Wine & Beer. Jim Strickland from Bull & Bones Brewhaus & Grill in Blacksburg, and Taylor Smack from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton are also interviewed.
Chris Burcher calls himself a “Captain of Concoctions.” He’s a stream ecologist, with a doctorate degree, specializing in biology. And another thing: “I’ve brewed a lot of beer,” Burcher said, smiling. “Everybody who runs a homebrew likes to think about doing a brewery.”

See the complete article here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winter & Holiday Beer Tasting

On Saturday, we finally had the opportunity to present the Craft Beer Tasting we donated last year for our school's fund raising auction. We selected "Winter & Holiday Beers" for the theme of the event. Winter is my favorite time of the year for beer so I really looked forward to doing this. The tasting was held in the home of the winning bidders, who were able to invite two additional couples to participate.

We selected nine beers for the tasting. Since we were going with a seasonal theme, each of the beers was paired with a food that one might serve at a holiday gathering. Colleen had prepared some of the foods in advance, but stayed busy in the kitchen finishing up the courses and dishing them up at the proper time during the 2 hour event. Our son acted as the server, bringing plates to the table and clearing them after each course. (Since this was to benefit his school, it was only right that he worked too.) I had the fun job of describing each beer and food pairing to the six eager participants.

Here are the beer and food pairings we presented.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2009 - This Winter Warmer was served with homemade gingerbread cake and lemon curd. Folks really enjoyed the Anchor Christmas beer. It set the mood for the evening and many of the folks continued to talk about it throughout the event.

Blue Mountain Lights Out Holiday Ale - We paired this Old Ale with olivada, mozzarella, and pita chips. The olivada is made from calamata olives, roasted pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. I had some trepidation that the intense olivada flavor would overpower the beer, but the pairing worked quite well.

Sierra Nevada Celebration - For this course we went with a "classic" IPA and spicy Buffalo wings pairing. Afterall, wings are very popular this time of year. The citrusy IPA served as a change of pace from the preceding malt-heavy beers.

Ommegang Hennepin Saison - This is a year-round beer and not a holiday release. However turkey and cranberries is a popular holiday meal so we decided to devote a course to it. Hennepin is one of my favorite beers to pair with turkey and indeed it went over quite well.

Brooklyn Winter Ale - This Scottish Ale was served with spicy beef and provolone on toasted ciabatta. The beef was slow cooked in the Brooklyn Winter Ale with peperoncini. The mild hoppiness of the beer melded wonderfully with the meat and the slight saltiness of the ciabatta.

Tröegs Mad Elf - This winter favorite from Tröegs was paired with a cheese plate consisting of Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Danish Style Blue Cheese. I was curious how the unique flavor of Mad Elf would go over, but as it turned out most of the attendees really liked the beer. One person who claimed to not be a fan of blue cheese said he actually enjoyed the cheeses when followed by the beer.

Delirium Noël - For this course, we served blueberries & raspberries on lady fingers topped with custard. The dark fruit and sweetness of the beer complimented the fruit plate very well. Although similar in style to the previous beer selection, the two different pairings helped to illustrate the variety possible when working with beer and food pairings.

Old Dominion Winter Ale - We matched up this Baltic Porter with cheesecake with a raspberry drizzle. Typically we'd use a chocolate dessert with a dark porter or stout, however the cheesecake worked very well. One participate at first proclaimed the Winter Ale to be too sweet, but after eating the cheesecake and drinking more of the porter, he said the sweetness of the beer seemed reduced.

Samichlaus Bier - As the final course I brought out some 2007 Samichlaus. This beer is brewed on just one day a year, December 6, or St. Nicholas Day. This strong Dopplebock (14% ABV) was served with a plate of mixed nuts. I had expected some of the tasters might be put off by the strong, sherry-like flavor. However, with just one exception, folks were quite excited by the beer. While they found it very unusual, the Samichlaus was given rave reviews.

The participants all had some previous exposure to craft beer, but most of the beers were new to everyone. Everyone had a great time. All of the beer and food pairings worked quite well, if I do say so myself. There were many compliments made regarding the food. The dishes that Colleen served up were as visually appealing as they were delicious. Unfortunately we forgot to bring our camera so were unable to take photos. It was interesting to see how folks' perceptions of various food and beers changed as they enjoyed them together. It goes to show how a beer's flavor can affect the flavors picked up in the food being consumed, and vice versa.

We donated another beer and food tasting to this year's auction, which was held a couple of weeks ago. We look forward to putting that one on too. Now I have to decide on a theme for next time...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blue & Gray Beer Dinner Next Month

Capital Ale Ale Fredericksburg is holding a Blue & Gray Brewing beer dinner on Wednesday, December 2. There will be six beers paired with five dinner courses. The cost of the dinner is $50 and includes a complimentary Blue & Gray glass. You can see the planned menu here. Tickets are available at any Capital Ale House or online. Seating is limited so get your tickets early.

Last Year's Beers

Winter seasonal beers have started appearing on store shelves and it's time to start drinking some of my favorite beers. But not the stock that is on the shelves now. No, I'm talking about the beers I stashed away last winter. While many winter-release beers are fine to drink right away, they are often even better with just a bit of age on them. Over the past few weeks, we've enjoyed several of these "old beers."

Not surprisingly to regular readers of these musings, one of the first beers to come out of storage was Clipper City Winter Storm. One of my all-time favorites, I've had a case stashed away since last fall. The 2009 release made it to the stores a few weeks ago. I've enjoyed quite a few from the stash already.

Tröegs Mad Elf is one that is eagerly awaited by area craft beer fans. I too look forward to its release. However, I am not a big fan of this beer when it's "fresh." Aging in the basement for a year serves to blend the flavors. I find the fresh version a bit harsh, but I'm certainly enjoying the previous season's batch.

Barleywines are great beers for holding on to. Old Dominion Millennium Ale is one we picked up last year, but saved for later. It seems a touch sweeter than I remember from last year.

In additional to barleywines, imperial stouts are perfect candidates for a bit of aging. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a favorite around here. Indeed, there's a case from last year waiting to be enjoyed on a cool evening in front of the fireplace.

Of course, many folks store these, and other beers, for much longer than a year. I too, lay down a few bottles to keep for a longer time. But these are just a few that I look forward to enjoying after a short rest in the cellar. As the weather starts to cool, and I start hearing folks on the look out for their favorite winter seasonals, I'm ready. No trip to the store needed.

Naturally, I'll need to restock for next year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale - Finally!

It's here. Well, almost. This regional favorite is now in production full time at St. George Brewing Company in Hampton, VA. We got a teaser on Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale last Spring, but it appears the long wait to see bottles is nearing an end. The Tuppers' web site tells us when we can expect it on the shelves:
... the schedule is set and we'll be brewing a nice steady stream of beer in 2010. For the present, St. George can't brew as much as Old Dominion was producing, but it's worth remembering that OD bought tanks and expanded the brewery several times in the decade we were with them. While it will be somewhat scarcer, you'll be able to find it in 2010 if you're willing to drive a bit to get it. When we revamp this website (that's also scheduled to be up and running sometime in January), we'll include a better feature to help you find it.

Read the complete Tuppers news release here.
Thanks to Tom Cizauskas for the heads up via Twitter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Wednesday, November 11 is the day we honor our veterans in the United States. While our Country is under attack from both foreign and domestic enemies, it's even more important to say thanks to those men and women who defend our freedom.

Blue & Gray Brewing is honoring vets with a free lunch today. All veterans of the armed services, including USCG, all reservists and National Guard, active duty and retired can come by the brewery between Noon and 2:00PM for lunch. It's the brewery's way of acknowledging the risks and sacrifices all veterans have made on behalf of the United States.

Happy Veterans Day, and Thank You, to all our veterans!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Denver's Rackhouse Pub

Craft beer fans in the Denver, Colorado area have a new pub to enjoy. Former Flying Dog employee Chris Rippe opened Rackhouse Pub last week, and it appears to be a hit. I was fortunate to be in Denver last week and my plans included an extended stop at this new pub.

Rackhouse Pub shares space with the Stranahan Whiskey distillery. The pub decor features stacked whiskey barrels along the walls and columns. You can see the distillery operation behind the long bar. The pub features twenty tap lines, pouring 19½ Colorado beers. I say 19½ because the twentieth tap features Flying Dog beer. Flying Dog moved from Denver to Frederick, Md in 2007, although they do still maintain offices in Denver. I sampled a number of Colorada beers during my visit; Avery Old Jubilaton, Dry Dock Paragon Apricot Blonde, Twisted Pine Reily's Oak Whiskey Red, Ska Modus Hoperandi, New Belgium 1554, and Odell Barrel Aged Imperial Stout.

The beer selection at Rackhouse is well thought out and offers much variety. And it's not just craft beer fans being targeted. Even the typical factory beer fan will find a craft beer to enjoy. During my visit Chris was busy introducing factory beer drinkers to craft beer. The bartender who watched over me that evening, Lisa, was very knowledgeable about the beers, and the whiskey. I was also introduced to Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. I've not tried much whiskey in the past, but I certainly understand why some folks enjoy it so much. This may be a subject to explore further in the future.

Rackhouse is not just about beer and whiskey, there's great food too! On Chris' recommendation, I had the "blacks." Listed as an appetizer, this is a meal in itself. Spiced sausage and mussels prepared with beer and herbs, served with a side of flat bread. The mussels were very tasty and I used the bread to sop up the broth left at the bottom of the bowl. The food menu features a wide selection of pub fare including salads, chili, burgers, and sandwiches.

If I found one negative about Rackhouse Pub it's that it requires a four-hour plane flight for me to visit. You folks in Denver aren't so encumbered. There's a new pub in town, and it's sure to be a hit. Fine, local beer and whiskey, good food, served in a friendly and comfortable setting. It's been just a week since they opened, and they're still awaiting some supplies and tweaking procedures, but already locals are finding a new "favorite pub." I will definitely be back.

Rackhouse Pub is located at 208 South Kalamath St. in Denver.
You can visit them online here.
Follow @RackhousePub on Twitter.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Battlefield Brewing Now Open

Fredericksburg's first brew pub is now officially open, and serving beer made on premise. Battlefield Brewing Company is located in The Pub, a long-standing and popular stop for good pub food. To help celebrate the brewery's grand opening on Friday, my family had dinner there and tried out a couple of the new beers. The brewery is currently serving three beers; Chancellor Pale Ale, Iwo Jima Irish Red, and Wilderness Wheat.

My selection for the evening was the Chancellor Pale Ale, brewed with Centennial and Amarillo hops. The Amarillo hops balance the citrus notes with just a bit of bitterness. This creates a crisp, moderately hoppy beer. I found it quite enjoyable, and it should satisfy the hop-head, as well as less adventurous beer drinkers. Colleen ordered the Iwo Jima Irish Red. This selection has a strong malt backbone with a bitter finish. From my casual observation, Iwo Jima Irish Red looked to be the most popular beer during the evening. We did not try the Wilderness Wheat, that will be a mission for another visit.

Both of the beers we had during the evening were very well done. Head brewer Lyle Brown, along with the rest of the brewers, have done an excellent job. Lyle has said that he plans to expand the breweries offerings with seasonal beers, and also let the brewers create special one-off beers in the future. That is something to look forward to. Coming up in a few weeks, Belleau Wood, a Belgian-style ale, will be available as well.

The Pub is a popular eatery, known for it's good pub grub. I am especially found of the burgers, and the fish & chips there. Now that good craft beer is being brewed onsite, it gets even better. Right now the only drawback is the smokiness of The Pub. With the new restaurant ban on smoking coming into play next month, that situation should improve.

Meanwhile, despite the smoke, I expect I'll be a frequent patron of Battlefield Brewing at The Pub. It is now the closest pub to my home, and the only one serving fresh-brewed beer.

For those keeping count, Fredericksburg now boasts TWO craft breweries. Blue & Gray Brewing also has plans to add a pub in the future.

A few pictures from Battlefield Brewing Company are here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NOVA Brew Fest

Last Sunday, I piled the family into the car and we headed up to Bull Run Park in Centreville to attend the 3rd Annual Northern Virginia BrewFest. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and a beer festival. Once we arrived, we saw the evidence that the previous day's weather had not been as appealing. The grounds were covered by ankle-deep mud from the rains the day before. Fortunately, we had been forewarned via the NOVA Brew Fest Twitter feed to wear boots. Still, walking was treacherous at times. However, that didn't stop the beer from flowing.

We stayed just a couple of hours, but we had time to try out a number of beers. I'll mention a few of our favorites. From the Vintage 50 tent, the Oatmeal Stout was quite nice with dark roasted flavors and some sweetness. Capitol City Brewing Fuel was a noteworthy selection. It had a nice espresso flavor to it, along with some bitter chocolate. Also at the Capital City booth, we tried the Organic Trippel which was very nice as well. Colleen was torn between Fuel and Organic Trippel as her favorites of the fest, so maybe there's a trip up to Capitol City in my future!

Moving on to Clipper City, I was pleased to see they had the latest in the Mutiny Fleet series, The Great Pumpkin, an Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I hadn't had the opportunity to try this one previously. Now, typically pumpkin beers I can enjoy only in limited quantities, and grow tired of the flavor rather quickly. However, I did enjoy the Clipper City Great Pumpkin quite a bit. Maybe there's still time to find a bottle or two of this limited release.

I also had a glass of Founders Centennial IPA. Colleen and I are both fans of citrusy IPAs and this one didn't disappoint. Colleen pegged the flavor as being more of an "orange citrus," rather than the typical grapefruit flavor. Another new beer tried this afternoon was Duck Rabbit Wee Heavy. The sweet, caramel, toffee flavors finished off with a bit of hop bitterness made this a good closing beer for our visit.

Despite the muddy grounds, many folks were enjoying the festival on Sunday. Everyone seemed to take the mud in stride. After all, what's a bit of mud when there are good beers to be had? I especially enjoyed the day as it had been awhile since Colleen was able to accompany me to a beer fest. This was my son's first beer festival, and although he's got a few more years before he can enjoy them properly, he got to see what the excitement was all about. Soon we were headed off to find dinner, as I had bribed my son with the promise of dinner at Round Robin. The large burger topped with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg was a fitting feast to cap off the day.

Tom Cizauskas has posted his write up and pictures from the festival at his blog "Yours For Good Fermentables".
Local beer maven Chuck Triplett also has posted pictures here.

The next Northern Virginia Brewfest is scheduled for June 26-27, 2010 in Leesburg, VA

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Battlefield Brewing Opening Set

Fredericksburg's first brewpub will celebrate its grand opening on Friday, October 30, at 5:00PM. Battlefield Brewing Company is part of The Pub, located at 4187 Plank Rd in Fredericksburg. A 3BBL brewhouse was installed in July and we've been anxiously awaiting news of beer being poured. The Pub already has a reputation for good pub food, and the addition of fresh-brewed beer is very exciting.

Head brewer Lyle Brown writes that the brewery will be tapping three beers on Friday. Chancellor Pale Ale, is an American-style Pale Ale with Centennial and Amarillo hops. Wilderness Wheat is an American-style Wheat beer brewed with Hallertau hops and a touch of Munich for sweetness . Iwo Jima Irish Red, is an Irish-style Red Ale brewed with East Kent Goldings hops. Specialty and seasonal beers are also planned for the future.

I'll see you at The Pub on Friday!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Beer Fest - Durham

A few weeks ago I joined three friends for a trip to Durham, NC for the World Beer Festival. As we have in the past, this was an opportunity for us to get away for a weekend of fun, and plenty of good beer. Frank, Jerry, Mike and I arrived in Durham Friday afternoon, and after checking in at the hotel, headed over to Tyler's Tap Room for dinner and an evening of pool and beer.

I enjoyed several good, and new to me beers Friday evening. Starting the evening off with a bang, I ordered a Foothills Seeing Double IPA. This is a highly hopped, resiny, bold but balanced beer. I've often remarked that I'm a fan of the DIPA and Seeing Double didn't disappoint. In fact, I would revisit this one several times over the weekend. I was excited to see that Tyler's also had Terrapin Depth Charge on draft. This beer is a result of a collaboration between Terrapin Brewing in Georgia and Left Hand Brewing from Colorado. Depth Charge is full of robust dark roasted coffee goodness in a smooth, creamy milk stout. Although we ordered the beer during dinner, we all remarked that it would make an excellent dessert. After dinner, we moved into Tyler's Speakeasy and spent the evening (and early morning) shooting pool and trying out a variety of beers from their extensive menu.

Saturday was the main event, the World Beer Festival, held at Durham Athletic Park. We had four hours to try out as many beers as we (responsibly) could. I decided I would mostly focus on "dark" beers. I usually seek out the hop bombs but felt this would be a good way to try a lot of beers I'd not had before. Naturally I varied from the plan here and there. I'll mention just a few of my favorite finds.

After enjoying the Seeing Double IPA the previous evening I made a couple of visits to Foothills' booth. During one of those stops, they were pouring a barrel-aged Sexual Chocolate. Molassas and dark chocolate flavors were blended with a hint of bourbon sweetness. The timing was just right to get a taste of this limited beer before it ran out. I was happy to see Great Lakes Brewing in attendance. I enjoyed a sample of their Edmond Fitzgerald Porter. When I mentioned the beers' (non)availability in Virginia, the reply was "We're working on it." Just recently Great Lake beers made it to West Virginia, so maybe we'll see them here soon.

New Holland Charkoota Rye-Smoked Rye Dopplebock was an interesting beer. The mouthful of a name describes a mouthful of a beer. The mild smokiness mixed with the sweet malt and dark fruit very well. I'd definitely pick this as one of the best beers I tried at the festival. I'd like to enjoy it again, in more than a sample sized serving. Left Hand Smoke Jumper Imperial Porter was another smoked beer being poured. Smoke Jumper has a very woody smokiness to it that's a bit different than the "bacon-in-a-bottle" flavors of some smoked beers. I think it might appeal even to folks who say they don't like smoke flavor in a beer.

As I said, I didn't drink only dark beers at the festival. Aviator Brewing was pouring their HotRod Red through a container of fresh hops to infuse extra hop flavors into the beer. The Dry Hopped Kellerbier from Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery in High Point, NC was another notable selection.

All in all, I tried about 20 new beers, and a tasty lamb pita sandwich, during the afternoon. The World Beer Festivals are some of my favorite events. The beer selection is extensive and the events are extremely well run. I'm looking forward to the World Beer Fest planned for Spring 2010 in Richmond, VA.

I was too busy enjoying the beer to take many photos, but a few are posted here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Northern Virginia Brewfest Breweries Announced

The brewery list for the 2009 Northern Virginia Brewfest has been posted. Among the more than 50 breweries expected, nine are new to the festival this year, including Terrapin, Bittburger, Schneider Aventinus, Holy Brew and Gaffel.

The Northern Virginia Brewfest will take place October 24 and 25 at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, VA. Admission tickets, good for either day, are available at the gate or online. The NOVA Brewfest is, in my opinion, the premier Virginia beer festival, and one you shouldn't miss.

The complete participating brewery list is posted here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Capital Ale House Oktoberfest A Success

I was out of town this weekend so I did not get to to visit the Capital Ale House Oktoberfest held in downtown Fredericksburg on Saturday. (I attended the World Beer Festival in Durham, NC. More on that later.) However, the Free Lance-Star was on hand to report on the festivities.
The 900 block of Caroline Street was closed to vehicle traffic for the day, and pedestrians took over. Sidewalks remained open, but the pavement became a beer garden at noon. The area reached its 1,200-person capacity by 1 p.m.

"There are many more people than we expected," Matthew Simmons, Capital Ale House president, said.

It sounds as if the event was a rousing success. I certainly look forward to seeing more events like this in Fredericksburg.

Read "Huge crowds on tap for Oktoberfest" for the complete article and pictures.

Update: Local bloggers post their reviews at "Sarahiously Speaking" and "In The 'Burg".

Friday, October 2, 2009

Around Town With Blue & Gray Brewery

This weekend you'll have several opportunities to try some Blue & Gray beers around Fredericksburg. The brewery will be pouring samples and selling beer by the glass at the Fredericksburg Area Wine Festival all weekend. That's right, beer at the wine festival!! They've done this in the past and it's great to see Blue & Gray invited back.

On Saturday, from 11:00AM - 4:00PM. Blue & Gray representatives will be pouring free samples at the new Wegmans on Carl D. Silver Pkwy. Stop by and show your support. Also, on Saturday, there are the usual free tours and tastings at the brewery.

So even if you're stuck shopping this weekend, it will be easy to squeeze in a bit of good beer.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

There's Plenty To Do This Weekend

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the number of beer festivals occurring this weekend. But wait, it gets even better! I overlooked a few other local beer events also taking place at the same time.

Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA is having their Oktoberfest Celebration October 1-4, at the brewery. They are having "Steal the Stein" day on Thursday as well as debuting Humpbock Oktoberfest Lager. Live music and specials continue all weekend.

Fort Belvoir us holding its 14th Annual Oktoberfest October 1-4 as well. The event is held on the base but is open to the public.

As mentioned previously, Capital Ale House continues their Oktoberfest celebration with a block party in downtown Fredericksburg on Saturday, October 3.

The 10th annual Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, sponsored by Capitol City Brewing also takes place on Saturday in Shirlington, VA

Me? I'll be in Durham, NC to attend the World Beer Festival sponsored by All About Beer Magazine. We'll be arriving in Durham Friday evening and look forward to taking in some local beer stops. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

No matter where you are in Virginia, there's a beer festival near you this weekend. Get out and enjoy it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Local GABF Winners

The winners at the Great American Beer Festival were announced today.

Congratulations to the Virginia winners!

Devils Backbone Brewing Co. : Gold Leaf Lager : Gold : International-Style Pilsener
Devils Backbone Brewing Co. : Natural Born Keller : Silver : Kellerbier/Zwickelbier
Devils Backbone Brewing Co. : Danzig : Silver : Baltic-Style Porter
Devils Backbone Brewing Co. : Vienna Lager : Silver : Vienna Style Lager
Great American Restaurants (Sweetwater Tavern) : Crazy Jackass Ale : Gold : Rye Beer
Great American Restaurants (Sweetwater Tavern) : Wit's End : Bronze : Belgian-Style Witbier
Rock Bottom Brewery - Arlington : Dude! Where's My Vespa? : Gold : Coffee Flavored Beer
Starr Hill Brewery : Dark Starr Stout : Gold : Classic Irish Style Dry Stout

Special kudos to Jason Oliver at Devils Backbone for the impressive showing of 4 medals!.

Our friends at Clipper City and Flying Dog were among the Maryland Breweries bringing home medals.

Brewer's Alley Restaurant and Brewery : Brewer's Alley India Pale Ale : Bronze : English-Style India Pale Ale
Clipper City Brewing Co. : Clipper City Marzhon Vienna Lager : Bronze : Vienna Style Lager
DOG Brewing Co. : Pub Dog Black Dog Stout : Bronze : Classic Irish Style Dry Stout
Flying Dog Brewery : Horn Dog Vintage 2007 : Gold : Aged Beer
Flying Dog Brewery : Dogtoberfest : Gold : German Style Märzen
Flying Dog Brewery : Gonzo Imperial Porter : Gold : Imperial Stout
Flying Dog Brewery : Barrel Aged Gonzo : Silver : Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer

In addition to the 4 medals, Flying Dog Brewery, and brewer Robert Malone, also won the award for Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.

North Carolina breweries were well represented on the winners' podium as well.

Foothills Brewing : Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout : Bronze : Imperial Stout
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Inc. : Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter : Gold : Baltic-Style Porter
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Inc. : Duck-Rabbit Barrel Aged Baltic Porter : Bronze : Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer

I'll be sure to look for some of those North Carolina beers next weekend at the World Beer Festival in Durham.

You can see all the GABF winners here.

Photos ©2009 :
TOP: Aaron Riley (bartender @ DBBC), Jason Oliver (head brewmaster @ DBBC), Charlie Pazian (President of the Brewers Association), and Steve Crandall (owner of DBBC) accept their awards at The Great American Beer Festival.
BOTTOM: Mark Thompson (brewmaster @ Starr Hill), Jason Oliver, Steve Crandall
Photos by Heidi Crandall.

Update, September 29: Draft Magazine has posted an interview with Jason.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blue & Gray Oktoberfest This Weekend

The 7th annual Fredericksburg Oktoberfest at the Blue & Gray Brewing Company officially kicked off this evening with the ceremonial tapping of this year's Oktoberfest beer. A large crowd was on hand Friday evening to enjoy the LOW'n'BROWS oompah band and plenty of German food. Of course, the Blue & Gray beers were also flowing.

The celebration continues through Sunday at the brewery. There are family-friendly activities planned all weekend, rain or shine. This year's Oktoberfest beer is very nice with a smooth, sweet malt backbone and just a touch of bitterness. Be sure to get some before it's all gone.

Ball Park Brewery in Loudon?

A proposal for a ball park in Loudon County includes plans for an onsite microbrewery. Ball Park Digest reports:
Organizers of a new Loudoun County ballpark in suburban D.C. are looking at quirky features for their new ballpark in the proposed Kincora development.

That could include any number of features already found in Peter Kirk ballparks in suburban Maryland, like a water-based bumper cars and a climbing wall. It could also include a microbrewery, which organizers say would be the first in a minor-league ballpark. (Coors Field, of course, has its own microbrewery on the MLB level.)

More on the proposed development here.
Hat tip to the loudon Twitter account for the news.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maltese Beer

At the end of our pilgrimage, we were excited to spend two and a half days in the island nation of Malta. Malta has a fascinating history and we visited some of the oldest pre-historic ruins in Europe; the Tarxien Temples and the Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum. We also visited numerous early Christian sites, including the grotto where St. Paul passed his three-month captivity on the island.

Malta has an interesting beer culture. There is just one brewery on the island, Simonds Farsons Cisk, simply called Cisk (pronounced chisk). The Maltese are quite proud and fond of the Cisk beers. Before the trip, I made a query on Twitter regarding beer in Malta and received an immediate reply from a representative of the Malta tourism group regarding Cisk. The beers are everywhere. You'll see them in two sizes of cans, in bottles, and on draft. Three different Cisk beers easily found; Cisk Lager, Hopleaf Pale Ale, and Blue Label Ale.

Cisk Lager is bright yellow with copious carbonation. The flavor is grainy and slightly sweet. This is the most popular of the Cisk beers and in every café or bar the bright yellow cans can be seen on tables. I enjoyed the ubiquitous Cisk Lager both canned and on draft several times during our short stay. The Hopleaf Pale Ale seems to be the next most readily found beer. The initial taste of the english pale ale is that of mild, bitter hops. Unfortunately the aftertaste was metallic and not pleasing at all. I only had this one once, so there's the chance that we had an off-flavor sample, but one that was left unfinished on the table.

The final Cisk beer we had on Malta was Blue Label Ale. This one was a little more elusive. I didn't order it the first time I saw it offered. When I asked our Maltese guide about it, he replied "It's a dark beer." After two weeks of pale lagers, I was intrigued. Blue Label doesn't seemed to be offered in as many places as the other two so I went out on a search specifically for Blue Label one evening. When I found it, I was reading the can when the cashier told me "That's a dark beer." Well, dark is a relative term. The beer was only slightly darker than the Cisk lager, but definitely not anything I would label as "dark". However, it was a decent English-style ale. A little nutty with a bready malt base. When we were leaving Malta, I had the chance to order another Blue Label at a restaurant in the Malta airport. This time the beer was served on draft. The beer was darker than the previous serving, with a thick, creamy head that lingered to the end. (Pictured bottom right.) I suspect the beer was served on nitro, but didn't have time to investigate.

The Maltese beers are mild compared to the typical American craft beer. Indeed checking BeerAdvocate scores reflects that. (BeerAdvocate reviewers are generally biased towards "big" beers.) However, this only serves to illustrate one issue with review sites such as BA. It's my feeling that they don't take in to account the whole experience of enjoying the local foods. (Yes, don't forget beer is food.) After walking for a few hours in the hot Mediterranean air, that can of Cisk with the ice on top was especially refreshing. All of these beers would qualify as session beers; Blue Label has an ABV of just 3.3%. The beers are as much a part of the local delicacies as any food. One morning we headed into a local restaurant for breakfast. It was just 10:00 AM and the servers were already clearing away empty bottles of Cisk Lager the locals had been enjoying. Try that with your Double IPA.

Beer isn't the only alcoholic beverage local to Malta. We also enjoyed Bajtra Liqueur. The liqueur is made from the fruit of local prickly pears, which are the fruit of the widely-grown Opuntia cactus. Served chilled, this liqueur has a mild, watermelon-like flavor.

Cisk also makes a cola drink called Kinnie. We were given samples of this when we arrived at our hotel. The carbonated beverage is made from bitter oranges and herbs. It's definitely an acquired taste. Both Kinnie and Cisk Lager are also offered on board Malta Airlines. If more airlines served local beer, plane travel would be more enjoyable. (Air France, which carried us across the Atlantic, offered only Heineken.)

We enjoyed our visit to Malta very much. I was also intrigued to see the enthusiastic following for local Cisk beers, and how it was so much a part of the eating and drinking culture.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wolf Hills Brewing Update

Last week I received a note from Cameron over at Wolf Hills Brewing in Abingdon. I was travelling at the time and couldn't post to the Musings. The brewery has received their off-premise license and they held their first "growler hours" last Thursday night, September 17. They had three Wolf Hills beers available; Stonewall Heights Stout, Creeper Trail Amber Ale, and a version of the Pale Ale. The brewery posted a few photos from the event on their Facebook page. Since then, Wolf Hills has received label approval and they expect to begin selling kegs to local restaurants soon, possibly as early as this weekend.

Congratulations to yet another Virginia brewery that's up and running! My introductory musing on Wolf Hills Brewing is here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Italy Trip

We recently made a two-week trip to Italy and Malta. The trip was planned as a religious pilgrimage rather than a vacation, but we managed to find time to do tourist things as well. Along with about 25 other folks and a Priest, we visited holy sites and shrines in Assisi, Loreto, Lanciano, San Giovanni Rotundo, and Rome in Italy. (I'll report on Malta in an upcoming post.)

The trip was glorious and exciting beyond expectations. Standing on the same ground as so many early Christians, and seeing the relics of so many of these Christians and martyrs was at times simply overwhelming. The trip was a well-organized group tour. However, in addition to the planned tours, several of us made efforts to immerse ourselves in the local culture. Each evening we ventured out and walked the towns. We enjoyed gelato, espresso, and other local foods and beverages. We took in local festivals and parades. Sleep? That's something best left for when we returned home.

In Italy, wine rules and we enjoyed local wines with every dinner. As far as beer goes, Italy is a land of lagers. I read about a few artisanal Italian beers before the trip, however I did not run across them while there. Granted, no extreme effort was expended in the search. There was just too much good wine readily available.

Any beer I had in Italy was accompanied by a quick lunch, or alone as a refresher between meals. The most common beers I saw in shops and cafés were Heineken and Becks. I didn't bother with those, though it was apparent they were popular with the local folks. The most commonly offered Italian beers we saw were Peroni and Birra Moretti. Both of these pale lagers are available in the U.S. but I don't think I've ever tried them before. They were as expected, mild and drinkable. Served cold, these beers are refreshing, but at first un-exciting to an American palate more accustomed to bolder "American" flavors. But they aren't horrible either. I didn't experience any "skunky" flavors one often finds with pale lagers in America. Of course, these beers had not been shipped across the ocean either! Nastro Azzuro was another new beer for me. This is a another Peroni product. I purchased a Nastro in a 50 cl can during a roadside stop for lunch. Of the Italian beers, the Peroni drafts I had at a sidewalk café in the Borgo Pio in Rome, with anchovy pizza for lunch, were the most enjoyable.

One other beer I had in Italy was actually an import from Denmark, Ceres Strong Ale. This one seemed to be offered widely, especially in Rome. I grabbed a bottle at a small market down the street from our hotel and enjoyed it right from the bottle. The 7.7% ABV gave this lager a bit stronger flavor that the other european-style lagers.

None of the beers were typical of beers I generally drink. However, they are the beers consumed by the majority of Italian beer drinkers. Pale lagers for sure, but lagers with flavor. Whether it was related to being in Italy or not, I found them more pleasing that the mass produced lagers consumed by the majority of American beer drinkers. After I returned home, I looked up these beers online. As I expected many of the ratings were low, but not reflective of my impressions of these lagers, and the overall experience of drinking beer in Italy.

While we were in Italy I also tried for the first time Grappa and Limoncello. Grappa is made from the leftover grape pressings from the wine making process. It's clear, strong, and will quickly open up your sinuses. I consider it one of those "must try while in Italy" experiences. (Okay, that's done.) Limoncello is a much more pleasant drink. Like grappa, it's served as an after dinner digestivo. It's served chilled and is surprisingly refreshing.

Following Italy, we traveled to Malta. My beer experiences there were both interesting and unexpected. I'll tell you about that soon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Festival Conflicts

What's wrong with this picture?

October 3, 2009, Durham, NC:
14th World Beer Festival Durham

October 3, 2009, Fredericksburg, VA:
7th Annual Capital Ale House Oktoberfest

October 3, 2009, Shirlington, VA:
10th annual Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest

That's right, they are all on October 3. I'll be attending the World Beer Festival in Durham. That's a "guys' weekend" for me and some buddies. So that eliminates the options to attend the other two. I hope all you local beer fans will come out and support the Capital Ale House Oktoberfest. There's been some local opposition, so come out and show the downtown merchants you support these types of events. I suppose in theory, it might be possible to hit both the Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia events the same day. Theoretical, not practical. What's a beer lover to do? Be happy that there are so many options, that's what!

If you are so inclined, the Fredericksburg Wine Festival is also taking place that weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

25 Years!

This post has nothing to do with beer, though it's of great significance. Today, September 15, Colleen and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

To my beautiful wife, you are the love of my life. I thank God every day for all the blessings you bring to our family.

Here's to another 25 years!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Capital Ale House Fredericksburg Octoberfest

An Oktoberfest block party will be held in downtown Fredericksburg on Saturday, October 3 with German food, music and dancing evocative of the 16-day festival held in Munich each year. The Fredericksburg Capital Ale House will host the street party in the 900 block of Caroline Street. The events begin at 12 noon with the traditional tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. The festivities continue through the afternoon and evening with children’s activities, German and polka music, dancing and the food of Germany.

Schedule of Events:
12 noon - Ceremonial tapping of the First keg of Oktoberfest beer
12 noon to 10 p.m. - The SGTEV Hirhsjager Dancers
1 to 3 p.m. - Children’s balloon twister
12 noon to 3:30 p.m. - The Continentals (German and polka music)
4 to 6 p.m. - Die Dorf Musikanten (German traditional music)
4 to 6 p.m. - Children’s balloon twister
6 to 10 p.m. - The Continentals (German and polka music)
9:45 p.m. - Closing Ceremony and on-stage drawing for a trip for two to the Munich Oktoberfest 2010.

Each guest of legal drinking age will receive a complimentary one-liter Capital Ale House stein upon entry. Families are welcome however anyone under age 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is no cover charge.

In addition to the Fredericksburg celebration, other Capital Ale House locations are holding Octoberfest events as well; September 18th & 19th at the downtown Richmond and Midlothian locations, and September 25th & 26th at the Innsbrook location.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Blue & Gray Brewing Octoberfest Weekend

The 7th annual Fredericksburg Octoberfest at the Blue & Gray Brewing Company will take place September 25-27. This weekend-long event will take place at the brewery's new home, which happens to share a parking lot with their old location. This looks to be a fun-filled weekend. Blue & Gray events are family-friendly so bring the whole gang and enjoy the festivities.
Free Admission. ALL WEEKEND!

In traditional Bavarian fashion, Fredericksburg comes together under the big tent in September to celebrate the 7th Annual Oktoberfest!

Family fun, music, magic, song and dance. Newly released authentic Oktoberfest Beer and Hefeweizen from Blue & Gray Brewing.

Numerous vendors selling delicious German foods and pastries. Free fall crafts table for the kids. Free samples of Blue & Gray Oktoberfest beer while it lasts. Beer for sale in 12oz or 16oz mugs, or 33.8oz (maas) commemorative stein. (Sign up on brewery homepage for 1/2 off coupon)

Friday: 5-10pm keg-tapping ceremony and OOOmpah band

Saturday: 12:00 LOW'n'BROWS band OOOMPAH! Sing-along for prizes. 1:30 German Shepherd Exhibition Spotsylvania County K-9 Unit (Invited)

Sunday: 11am-4 Roving accordion, preztel making!

Come join us!

Friday, September 25, 2009 (5:00 PM-10:00 PM)
Saturday, September 26, 2009 (11:00 AM-7:00 PM)
Sunday, September 27, 2009 (11:00 AM-4:00 PM)

See the Blue & Gray website for updates.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Special Tastings at Blue & Gray This Weekend

Over at the Blue & Gray Brewery this weekend, you will have the opportunity to get a preview of this year's Octoberfest beer. The brewery opens an hour early today for tasting (at 2pm) and stays open an hour later on Saturday (until 2pm.) Free samples only, no sales yet. The Oktoberfest beer will be officially tapped during the keg tapping ceremony on September 25th at 7pm during the Octoberfest celebration. At that time it will be available by the glass, growler, and keg.

During the recent move to new quarters, the brewery sold "unfiltered" Classic Lager while they reassembled their piping, and received rave reviews. The beer is slightly richer and more full bodied because it still has a lot of the "good stuff" (proteins) suspended in the beer. Unfiltered beer may be a little more hazy than what you are used to, but the flavor is the same, or better. Blue & Gray decided they would occasionally make the unfiltered beer available for sale. This weekend, they will be offered tastings and growler sales of a "young" Falmouth Pale Ale. Jeff describes it as having a "real citrus-like aroma, like grapefruit juice, and is cloudy with suspended proteins and yeast." Might be worth dropping by for a growler of this one.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pub Cacophony

"Hey, let's get together for a beer!" No finer invitation from a pal could reach my ears. Meeting friends at a local pub is always a fun way to spend time. But usually the point of the meet up is to talk while enjoying that beer. That's where so many pubs are lacking. It's hard to talk to the person next to you if you both have to shout to be heard. Great tunes playing in the background are welcome. Too bad you have to go into the bathroom to hear what's playing. Having a quality beer selection is a laudable goal for a pub, and many establishments go all out in that area. Why not put some forethought into noise abatement as well? Put in some sound partitions, or install sound absorbing materials on the wall. That hardwood looks great, but it bounces and amplifies noises. It's no surprise that a room will get loud when it's full of people drinking and having fun. So why not plan for it?

No one expects a pub to be as quiet as a library, nor should it be. Certainly some effort to diffuse the inevitable sound of fun is certainly warranted. What do you say? Are pubs too noisy for conversation? Does it matter to you?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Festival Volunteer Opportunities

Two upcoming local beer festivals are looking for volunteers. Here's a way to support the fests, meet lots of folks, and also earn free admission.

The 10th annual Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest will be held October 3 in Shirlington, VA. All volunteers will get a tasting glass, 10 beer sample tickets, and a t-shirt. Each volunteer will work a 3-1/2 hour shift pouring tasty malt beverages (Two shifts: 11:30am-3pm or 2:30-6pm). All positions will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the Volunteer Information and Registration page for information.

The Northern Virginia BrewFest is a two day event, October 24-25, in Centreville, VA. Volunteers will be asked to perform many tasks during the event ranging from beer pouring, keg hauling, souvenir sales, and working at the gates. The volunteer times are broken down into two shifts per day (10:30am-2:30pm or 2:00pm-6:00pm). Each volunteer will receive entry into the event, a BrewFest T-shirt, a souvenir tasting glass, and 4 tickets for tasting during their non-working time at the event. Volunteer applications are available at the festival page.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beers of the Blue Ridge

The September/October issue of Blue Ridge Country Magazine has a feature entitled Beers of the Blue Ridge. Author Joe Tennis reports on the growing craft beer community in the Blue Ridge Mountains region. Blue Mountain, Starr Hill, Bull & Bones, and Devils Backbone breweries in Virginia are featured. Highland Brewery in Ashville, NC is among other familiar breweries mentioned in the article.

The article is not available online, so you'll have to track down the magazine to read it. The article does give a nice introduction to the region's craft beer industry. I talk to many people who are unaware of how many great breweries exist in Virginia. So anything that introduces more folks to these beers is certainly a good thing.

The Blue Ridge Country Magazine website is here. They also have posted an online guide to Blue Ridge Spirits.

Update, August 30: The Beers of the Blue Ridge article is now online here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Dogfish Ale House, Fairfax, VA

After missing the Brew Ridge Festival on Saturday, I was glad for the chance to make the drive to Northern Virginia on Sunday to visit the new Dogfish Alehouse. The Alehouse opened opened last week in Fairfax (Chantilly), Virginia. After picking up a friend, our first order of business was a visit to Norm's Beer and Wine in Vienna. I wanted to find the latest installment in the new Mutiny Series from Clipper City, Prosit! - Imperial Octoberfest. Naturally, I was tempted to pick up a few other goodies while there.

That mission accomplished, we headed over to the Dogfish Head Alehouse. Arriving too late for the lunch crowd, but early for dinner, we were seated quickly. There were a few other diners present, but most of the crowd was seated at the bar. The bar is located on a sunken section in the center of the restaurant, with tables located around the perimeter. The noise from the bar is carried throughout the restaurant, making for a somewhat noisy atmosphere. It was apparent the folks at the bar where enjoying themselves.

My plan for the afternoon was to finally have a taste of Dogfish Head Theobroma. However, I noticed right away that Theobroma was not on the ale boards. Our server informed me that it had run out the day before. I was disappointed, but then opted for the Alehouse-only, 75 Minute IPA. The menu at Fairfax is the same as at the Fall Church location, and just as we did during our visit there, started with the Alehouse Wings ("Extra serving of blue cheese dressing please.") Three of our party opted for the smoky, wood-grilled burgers. My son chose a pepperoni pizza. All of our selections arrived quickly, were tasty and well prepared.

We spent a few hours eating, drinking, and talking. The crowd built up steadily as the afternoon progressed. The service was attentive at all times and we never lacked for refills or having plates removed.

Since we were on an "extended stay" we opted for couple of desserts. The brownie sundae was your typical combination of ice cream, brownie and chocolate sauce, and deliciously decadent. The other dish was the Dogfish version of bread pudding. The "pudding" was warmed, served with ice cream on the side and topped with chocolate sauce. Not your typical serving suggestion. The bread pudding was tasty, but the chocolate sauce seemed out of place. Perhaps I'm too much of a traditionalist. In any event, my son, who selected the dish, enjoyed it.

The drive home seemed all the longer due to the stuffed feeling from all the good food and drink, but we all enjoyed our visit and look forward to returning. (Maybe I'll get that Theobroma next time.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1st Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival – Total Success!

That's the declaration from our friends at Nelson County Life magazine. And from all evidence I would have to agree. Despite having my ticket in-hand, (well, it was waiting at the will-call desk) conflicts on Saturday prevented me from actually getting there. I did follow the event via the photos and updates posted by Nelson County Life throughout the day on their Facebook page. The day started off with some rain but that soon cleared off. It was good to see the crowds growing as the day progressed. Jason Oliver of Devils Backbone Brewing, the host site for the event, told me "It was a great festival and it looks like it will be a yearly thing." That's great news and I look forward to attending in 2010.

See the Nelson County Life report here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Clipper City Heavy Seas Big DIPA

Clipper City Heavy Seas Big DIPA is the first in the new Mutiny Fleet series of big beers from Clipper City Brewing Company. I'm a big fan of Clipper City, especially their Heavy Seas line of beers, so I was excited to try this new addition to the lineup.

As is obvious by the name, Big DIPA is a Double IPA style. It pours a copper-orange color with a persistent and sticky head. Copious sticky lacing is left behind on the glass. There is a bready, caramel aroma that becomes more noticeable as the beer warms. The beer has a strong malty base and equally strong resinous, citrus rind hop flavors. The mouthfeel is slightly slick with a sweet, long lasting after flavor. The beer is labeled at 10.6% alcohol and there is some alcohol warmth noted but it is masked fairly well.

In keeping with the Heavy Seas tradition, Big DIPA is a hoppy, big beer. It's meant to be sipped and savored, and I did just that during a relaxing evening on the screened porch listening to the sounds of nature.

The Mutiney Fleet beers didn't make it to Fredericksburg so I had to travel to Norm's Beer & Wine in Fall Church to pick up my supply of Big DIPA. It was well worth the trip to pick up a few bottles of this limited release beer. (Sorry, I think it's all gone now.) And now that Clipper City has released the next beer in this series, Prosit! Imperial Octoberfest Lager, it would appear that another trip to Northern Virginia is called for.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Those Winter Beers for Summer Enjoyment

We've been enjoying some "old" beer lately. I don't mean those high alcohol beers that are traditionally set down in the cellar to age for years. I'm talking about beers that we bought last winter, beer that has been sitting for 9, 10, 11 months. Talk to the average factory beer drinker, and they know you can't let beer sit around that long. But, buy good craft beer and it's entirely possible, with little or no loss in quality.

Around November each year, Clipper City releases its Heavy Seas Winter Storm. I always pick up several cases. Despite this being a winter release, it's a favorite that I enjoy through the summer. The strong malt base and bitter hops hold up quite well. Another favorite around our house is Sierra Nevada Celebration. Released each year around Christmas, Celebration is another one we stockpile when it hits the stores. Even now, months later, the citrusy hop goodness still prevails. At 7.5% and 6.8% alcohol respectfully, these beers aren't your typical suitable for aging beers.

These beers and others are stored in a cool basement, in their closed cases. We keep a few in the beer fridge, chilled and ready to be enjoyed. As we drink them, the fridge is restocked. I expect the stash to be gone about the time this year's releases hit the shelves.

While it may seem odd to be enjoying "winter beers" at the height of the summer, "beer seasons" are simply man-made restrictions. Traditionally, lighter beers such as Pilseners and Hefeweizens are considered summer beers, and while I certainly enjoy them, it's the bold winter flavors that I enjoy the most. So when the time comes for these beers to hit the shelves, I stock up. I'm then able to enjoy these favorites through the summer months.

Of course, these aren't the only two winter releases suitable for summer enjoyment. They just happen to be two of our favorites. What are your favorite seasonal release beers that you keep on hand to enjoy throughout the year?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chantilly Dogfish Head Alehouse Opening Tuesday

The third Dogfish Head Alehouse is expected to open this Tuesday, August 18. This is the word Gregg Wiggens to sent to the DC-Beer mailing list. The new Alehouse is located in the Greenbriar Town Center on Rt. 50 in Chantilly. What's really exciting to me is that this new location is located just a few miles away from a friend who recently relocated to Chantilly. I've already let him know we'll be visiting!

I recently visited the Dogfish Alehouse in Falls Church. You can read that post is here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beer Pioneers - The Documentary

The craft beer revolution started in the 1970's. And for the last 15 years Jay Sheveck has been interviewing and filming the pioneers of the craft beer world. In Summer of 2010 he intends to release the full-length documentary Beer Pioneers: The Craft Brewing Revolution. Using interviews and archival photos of early breweries, Sheveck will trace the history of craft brewing in America. The list of interviews includes Herbert "Bert" Grant, Charlie Papazian, Jim Koch, James D. Robertson, Frederick "Fritz" Maytag III, Thomas Dalldorf, Bill Yenne, Dan Gordon, Dean Biersch, Bill Owens, Donald Barkley, Jack McAuliffe, Steve Harrison, Ken Grossman, Rob Widmer, Kurt Widmer, Charles Finkel, William Newman, David Geary, Ed Stebbins, Steve Mason, Maurice Coja, Richard Yuengling Jr., David Heidrich, Alan Sprints, Fred Eckhardt, Michael Jackson, Don Younger, Vinnie Cilurzo, Denise Jones, Brendan Moylan, Jay R. Brooks, Greg Koch and more.

I don't recognize all of the names listed above, but I know enough of them to be excited about seeing this film. Visit the Beer Pioneers website to view a teaser for the film.

Jay Sheveck also has a blog where he posts updates and photos from his project.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival

Devils Backbone Brewery in Nelson County will play host to the inaugural Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival on August 22. Not your typical beer fest, this live music festival will however feature great beers from "Brew Ridge Trail" members Starr Hill, Devils Backbone, Blue Mountain, South Street, and Albemarle Cider Works.

Discounted tickets are available online here. Buy your tickets in advance to get free music from the performers. Advance ticket purchasers are also eligible to win great prizes such asmerchandise from Starr Hill, Devils Backbone, South Street, and other local establishments, along with prizes from the performers.

The "Brew Ridge Trail" meanders through scenic Nelson and Albemarle Counties and into historic Charlottesville. Check out the trail map here. So spend a day in the Virginia countryside and enjoy some fine Virginia beer (and maybe escape the heat of the city.) I'm hoping to do just that.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Allagash Beer Dinner Menu Posted

Capital Ale House has published the menu for its upcoming Allagash Brewing Beer Dinner with brewer Rob Tod. The lineup of beers is quite intriguing. The event will be held at the downtown Richmond Capital Ale House on August 12.
Opening beer: Allagash White

1st Course: Allagash Victor
Country Pate with Pickled Hop Shoots

2nd Course: Allagash Confluence
Brie with summer fruit salad

3rd Course: Allagash Curieux
Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail with foie gras butter

4th Course: Allagash Burnam Road Smoked
Smoked Duck Breast

5th Course: Allagash Interlude
Creme Brulee

Tickets can be purchased here. The $75 price includes includes the 6 beer courses and 5 food courses listed above, an Allagash glass, tax and gratuity. Doors open at 6:30PM.

First Hop Harvest at Devils Backbone

The folks at Devils Backbone Brewing Company are enjoying the harvest of their first crop of hops grown at the brewery. On Monday, brewer Jason Oliver and team were picking Cascade hops from the brewery's garden. Nelson County Life has the story and photos from the harvest. In the article, Jason says "Already a portion of these hops are “dry hopping” a special blend." You can't get fresher than that!

Nelson County Life story and photos here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wolf Hills Brewing Company, A New Brewery for Virginia

If all goes according to plan, Virginia will soon gain yet another craft beer brewery. Wolf Hills Brewing Company is a new brewery in the works in Abingdon, Virginia. This small brewery has been in planning for about a year. Local permits are complete and they are waiting on approval from VA ABC. Like many craft breweries, Wolf Hill grew out of a passion for home brewing. Brewer Chris Burcher was a college professor who has a PhD in Biology and Stream Ecology. Chris says that brewing fulfilled his scientific interests, plus he "got pretty good at it." Chris explains his plans thusly:
We have a tiny space (275 square feet, that's 18X16) with a 1 barrel (31 gallon) system using a basic 'homebrewing' style setup. We will be able to produce 6 bbls a week with me working part time. Wolf Hills comes from the original name "Wolf Hill" that Daniel Boone called the area while exploring. While trying to camp his dogs were attacked by wolves form the local caves and the name was born. We will have 4 year-round beer styles, also named after local ideas or people. Fighting Parsons Pale Ale is our flagship and is a very hoppy American style Pale Ale with a intense hop aroma and flavor from dry hopping. It is named after an early leader from the area who famously preached from the pulpit with his rifle by his side. Creeper Trail Amber Ale is a lighter, more malty selection. Black's Fort Brown Ale is an India Brown Ale that balances a complex malt character with west coast style hopping. Stonewall Heights Stout is named after the street where the brewery idea was born and is a dark, rich American example of the style. We will also offer White Top Wheat in regular and blackberry varieties and Wolf's Den Double IPA as seasonal beers.

Though incredibly tiny we anticipate offering tastings and growlers at the brewery site once we're licensed. We don't anticipate that our beers will make it very far outside of Abingdon but we are poised to expand if the demand exists (which, of course, we think it does). We are intentionally starting very tiny to keep our investments low and to minimize risk. However, we all are very excited to make available fresh handmade beer to the local area just like it used to be.

We'll be keeping an eye on Wolf Hills and wish them great success. I was alerted to Wolf Hills by Ray Jones of Shooting Creek Brewery who said "Pretty soon we might have a brewery in every hill, holler and corner of southwest VA." To that I respond, one can only hope!

Visit the Wolf Hills website, under development, here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Holy Brew on Jerry Doyle's Radio Show

We were first introduced to Holy Brew Brewing Company at the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest in June. On Thursday, Holy Brew founder Scott Kasper was interviewed on the Jerry Doyle show. Scott spoke on a number of topics, including how the name Holy Brew come about, contract brewing, the company's progress so far and plans for the future, and even some thoughts on the recent "beer summit" at the White House.

It's a interesting interview. You can listen here.
(There's a small recording gap near the beginning - hold on, the audio will continue after a short pause.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good News for West Virginia

Our neighbors in West Virginia should soon be seeing an expanded craft beer selection on their retailers' shelves. The Charleston Gazette reports that in just three weeks since a new state law allowing higher alcohol craft beers to be sold in West Virginia went into effect, steps are being taken to bring the newly permitted beers into the state.
Since then, the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration has approved for sale 54 beers with higher alcohol levels, from eight different breweries or distributors, according to ABCA beer administrator Cindy Clark.

Approved labels include such items as Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA, at 10.05 percent alcohol; Samuel Smith's Yorkshire Stingo Ale (8 percent); Trappistes Rochefort 10 Belgian Ale (11.3 percent); Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale (8.43 percent); Samuel Adams Imperial White (10.3 percent); Great Lakes Brewing Blackout Stout (9 percent); and Nosferatu Stock Ale (8 percent).

The new law, which the West Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association had tried to block, raises the allowable ABV level for beers sold in West Virginia from 6 percent to 12 percent. Of course, approval doesn't mean these beers will instantly show up on store shelves. It's up to distributors to carry the beers, and retailers to stock them. But that's good progress in three weeks, and hopefully the beers will start showing up this Fall.

So, to all you craft beer fans in West Virginia I say: Cheers!

I was alerted to the Charleston Gazette story by a Twitter post from our friends over at