Saturday, May 30, 2009

21st Amendment Beers in Virginia

More new beers for Virginia. From a press release:
San Francisco's 21st Amendment Brewery Tells Virginia, "Can It!"

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – East Coast native Nico Freccia is returning to his roots, and he’s bringing beer. Craft beer in a can, that is. The co-founder of San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery tells Virginia’s craft beer fans today, “We drink what we can; we can what we drink.”

Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan, the iconic personalities behind one of California’s few canning craft breweries, opened the bustling 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood after meeting in a home-brew class. The release of the Brewery’s two canned brews, Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer (recently rated “#1 Beer to Drink from a Can” and “Top Fruit Beer” by Draft magazine) and Brew Free! or Die IPA (winner of multiple medals internationally) marks the brewery’s first foray into beer sales on the east coast. Both beers will be available in cans and on draft in select cities in Virginia (but not in DC, unfortunately).

Chief Watermelon Officer Freccia says, “Virginians understand the CAN-cept of great craft beer, and we feel honored to be a part of the local beer landscape.”

These two 21st Amendment beers are currently available in some Northern Virginia stores. Will they make it to Fredericksburg?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Using Good Beer to Help Promote a Business

Earlier this week I attended an open house at a local coworking facility. Business Playce provides "a shared workspace environment for all sorts of business professionals." I am blessed to be able to work from home most of the time, but sometimes it is necessary to find alternative arrangements, perhaps due to internet outages, or just the need to get out and change environment for a bit. Just last week Comcast was having service issues and I found myself sitting in a local Starbucks. This gave me a reason to visit Business Playce and see what they were all about.

Imagine my surprise, and delight, the see that the owners had chosen to serve craft beer at their open house. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA were both available, in addition to a few other brands. (Here's the evidence on the Business Playce TwitPic page.) Maybe the refreshments served at an open house are not the best judge of a business, but that little detail is worth a few points in my book. More so than the just the ubiquitous red wine and cheese combo anyway. While not an exceptionally rare occurrence these days, it's still nice to see good beer showing up as part of everyday events.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Have You "Stolen" Any Glassware Lately?

Last Tuesday I stopped by Capital Ale House for "Steal the Glass Night." Every Tuesday they feature a brewery's beers served in logo glassware, which you are free to take with you. Even though I probably have more glassware than I need, if that's really possible, I do stop by for the Tuesday events on occasion and "steal" a few glasses. I've gotten some interesting glassware in this manner. One of my current favorite glasses is the Brooklyn Brewery snifter I picked up at a previous Steal the Glass night.

This week the featured brewery was Kona Brewing from Kona, Hawaii. Two Kona beers were being served in cobalt blue "shaker pints". While the shaker glass style isn't my favorite, they are very utilitarian, and quite handy for Summer festivities. This particular glass is attractive, though the color does make it hard to see the color of the beer inside. Wailua Wheat and Fire Rock Pale Ale were on tap for the event. I opted for the Fire Rock Pale Ale. This is a mild, but nicely balanced pale ale. Easy to drink and refreshing after a day at the office.

Next Tuesday, June 2, will be a very special Steal the Glass Night featuring Sierra Nevada Brewing. In addition to Pale Ale, Summerfest, Torpedo Extra IPA, and other Sierra Nevada beers, all Capital Ale House locations will feature I.D.E.A. – India Dark Elusive Ale. Capital Ale House's own Chris and Rachel went out to the brewery in Chico, CA and brewed this beer at "beer camp". Tuesday evening will likely be your only chance to try out this limited, one time, brew.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blue & Gray Salutes Our Heroes on Memorial Day

Blue & Gray Brewery will be treating all members of the armed services, former and current, to a free lunch on Memorial Day. The brewery will be serving up free bratwursts and dogs to all members of the military (including reserves) from 11am-1pm. On Monday, May 25, please stop by the brewery and swap stories and lies, or come thank a member of the military for the risks and sacrifices they've made on behalf of the United States.

As we celebrate Memorial Day in America, please take a moment to remember the men and women, along with their families, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of this great country.

"The purpose of all war is ultimately peace."
--Saint Augustine

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Garrett Oliver & Brooklyn Brewery at Capital Ale House

Capital Ale House Fredericksburg is holding a Brooklyn Brewery Beer Dinner on June 30. The dinner will be hosted by brewmaster Garrett Oliver. Garret is also the author of The Brewmaster's Table, the definitive guide to beer and food pairings. Tickets are $75 and include 5 dinner courses and 6 beer courses, a Brooklyn Brewery beer glass, tax and gratuity.

Tickets are on sale now at the Fredericksburg Capital Ale House, or online. I understand there are only 40 tickets available so get yours soon. This is big thing for Fredericksburg and I urge local beer fans to come out and support Capital Ale House's efforts to bring exciting beer events to Fredericksburg. See you there!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Update on Blue & Gray Brewery

Blue and Gray Brewery sent out an email update this week on their impending move. In case you missed it, Jeff Fitzpatrick writes:
We recently cleared a big hurdle. The code of Virginia requires that sprinkler system needs to be installed in our new basement. Spotsylvania County granted our request for modification so we won't have to sprinkle. Other permits are still pending.

The Virginia Hefeweizen will be our first brew at the new facility so the Hefe won't be ready until later in June. Pub opening will be somewhat later. We are thinking about having a 4th of July celebration at our new home. Beer and fireworks, Yee-ha!

The 4th of July? Could that be another annual brewery event in the making?

Also, On Tap Magazine recently did a piece on Blue & Gray here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Get Your Own Virginia Brewery

Here's your chance to pick up your very own microbrewery, or at least the start of one, right here in the Old Dominion. Now that (Not In The) Old Dominion Brewery has moved their operations to Delaware, the surplus equipment in Ashburn is being sold at auction. The items available include 40+ stainless, jacketed fermentation and bright tanks, a 250 bottle / minute bottling line, and labeling and packing equipment. The equipment is available by the piece or in-bulk. But you better be quick, it's first come, first served.

See the auction announcement here. Anyone want a piece of Virginia brewing history?

Friday, May 8, 2009

National Homebrew Competition First Round Local Winners

The first round results of the National Homebrew Competition have been posted. In the South division there were a number of winners from Virginia, including several from right here in Fredericksburg. Final Round judging will take on June 18, 2009 during the AHA National Homebrewers Conference in Oakland, CA.

Category 3 European Amber Lager
2nd 3b Aaron Zaccagnino, John McCissick of Fredericksburg, VA, Global Brew Tribe

Category 5 Bock
2nd 5A Rick Garvin, Christine Johnbrier of McLean, VA, Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP)

Category 7 Amber Hybrid Beer
1st 7C Greg Bruen of Troy, VA, Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA)
3rd 7A Greg Bruen of Troy, VA, Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA)

Category 10 American Ale
3rd 10C Douglas Griffin of Virginia Beach, VA

Category 11 English Brown Ale
2nd 11c Lyle Brown of Fredericksburg, VA, Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP)

Category 13 Stout
Sponsored by Brew & Grow
2nd 13E Greg Bruen of Troy, VA, Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA)

Category 14 India Pale Ale (IPA)
3rd 14B John Van Itallie of Mechanicsville, VA, James River Homebrewers

Category 16 Belgian and French Ale
1st 16c Lyle Brown of Fredericksburg, VA, Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP)

Category 22 Smoke-Flavored and Wood-Aged Beer
3rd 22b Brian Hershey, Megan Hershey of Fredericksburg, VA, Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders (FBI)

Category 23 Specialty Beer
1st 23A Rick Garvin, Christine Johnbrier of McLean, VA, Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP)

Category 24 Traditional Mead
2nd 24A David Johnson of Lynchburg, VA, Hill City Homebrewer

Category 25 Melomel (Fruit Mead)
2nd 25c Aaron Zaccagnino, Barbra Zaccagnino of Fredericksburg, VA, Global Brew Tribe

Category 27 Standard Cider and Perry
3rd 27B Rick Garvin of McLean, VA, Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP)

Congratulations to all the local winners. The complete First Round South Division Results can be seen here.

Tip of a the pint to the Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders for noting that the results had been posted.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tír Na Nóg - Raleigh

After the afternoon session of the World Beer Fest in Raleigh it was time to find dinner. Via Twitter, I had told about an Irish pub adjacent to Moore Square. Ray and I walked back down to Moore Square and soon found Tír Na Nóg. We were quickly seated and began perusing the diverse beer menu. There are quite a few craft breweries featured on the menu. A number of North Carolina breweries are represented in addition other breweries from around the world, with the majority being from the U.S. The pub also offers as selection of "black and tan" combos.

The food offerings range from typical pub fare to traditional Irish dishes. Ray and I both opted for the Fish & Chips. The platter arrived with two fish planks were best described as "huge". The fish had a crisp batter coating over the light, flaky interior. The fries that accompanied the meals reminded me of the thin, and somewhat greasy, "boardwalk fries." The meal was very tasty and quite filling. I enjoyed my fish and chips with copious amounts of malt vinegar. A couple of guys with British-accent sat at a table next to us and ordered the Bangers and Mash. I overheard them telling the server the food was excellent, so I'd take that as another positive review of the food at this pub.

I was glad we decided to eat at Tír Na Nóg. It made for a pleasant evening enjoying good food and a few more local beers. Our server, Larry, was a British transplant of 16 years who hadn't lost his accent. He was attentive and prompt with beer and water refills, throughout our extended stay. When we first arrived we had the dining room to ourselves, but the establishment filled as the evening went by. I suspect a large number of folks were arriving as they left the evening session at WBF.

The scene on the street was markedly different when we left then it was when we arrived. The evening session of the beer festival had let out, and there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere. With my belly full of good food and beer, it was an appropriate ending to an excellent World Beer Festival weekend. Time now to start planning for the next one.

Featured at Kasper on Tap

Kasper on Tap, the Baltimore Sun beer blog, profiles Musings Over a Pint today. Fascinating, simply fascinating. Read it here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

World Beer Fest - Raleigh

Despite a forecast for rain, when I opened the curtains Saturday morning, the sky was clear. It looked liked perfect weather for the World Beer Festival. Indeed, as it turned out weather for the day alternated between clear and partly cloudy.

The first order of business for the day was to eat a big breakfast, so we headed for the hotel breakfast buffet. I enjoy having breakfast in the hotel as it starts to build the excitement for the day to see familiar faces who are also preparing for the Festival. I exchanged greetings with All About Beer editor Julie Johnson, and Pints for Prostate's Rick Lyke. I also ran into Joel Armato from "Planet New Holland". It's often hard to talk to the busy folks working during the event, so it was good to see them in the morning. There were a number of other brewery folks coming and going.

We had tickets for the afternoon session so we headed out to get in line about an hour before the noon opening time. There was already quite a line, and it grew rapidly. That's nothing to be overly concerned about. While we waited, volunteers came around passing out the Festival Beer Guide, so we could peruse that while we waited. I've said it in the past, and it's worth repeating, the All About Beer team has the entry process down to a science. ID's are checked in advance, so once the gates open, it's a smooth process to have your ticket scanned and grab a tasting glass on the way in.

Once you are in, it's just a matter of enjoying the beer. Over 100 breweries were attending. With most breweries offering multiple beers, there were easily over 300 hundred different beers available. I tried to mark off each beer as I sampled, along with any notes. I sure won't list every beer I tried, but I'll mention a few beers that I marked off with an extra "check" in my program. I mostly stuck with beers that were new to me, or unavailable locally.

As mentioned in the previous post, I did get to sample a few beers from Aviator Brewing during my weekend in Raleigh. One of those beers was HogWild IPA. It was being served poured thru a canister of fresh hops. This treatment gives the beer a fresh "green" aspect that I happen to enjoy. (It also creates a glass full of foam, so patience is required to let it settle before drinking.) Another beer that I've heard about but never have had the chance to try previously is the Banana Bread Beer from Charles Wells Brewery in the U.K. I'm not a big fan of fruit beers, but there are a few that I can enjoy. The sweet malt base is mated with sweet banana. It tastes like, well, banana bread. While I only had a small sample of Banana Bread Beer, it was enjoyable. Not too sweet, and the banana was not overpowering.

I sampled two different Saisons at the Festival. The first was New Holland Golden Cap Saison. I found this one to be well-balanced with a mild hop bitterness. There's the expected funkiness and fruit and spice flavors, but it's one I think most people could enjoy. I also sampled the Capital City Organic Saison. The Capital City offering had a little more "funk" to it with stronger flavor profile. Fruit and yeast dominate and it finishes with a dry bitterness. Another nice offering from a (relatively) local brewer. I also grabbed a sample of Garde Dog from Flying Dog while I was enjoying the musty beers.

From French Broad Brewing in Ashville, NC the Wee Heavy-er Scotch Style Ale was another standout. Sweet malts, and a bit of smokiness, made this one a pleasure to drink. I enjoy the stronger caramelized malt flavors of the style and also tried the Dram Tree Scottish Ale from Front Street Brewing in Wilmington, NC. Keeping with the malt trend, I headed over to the Lagunitas Booth for some of their Undercover Shutdown Ale, an American Strong Ale. That was indeed very tasty and I hope we see it distributed locally.

Toward the end of the Session, I found myself seeking out the lagers. Mama's Little Yella Pils from Oskar Blues was an enjoyable offering. I've not seen this locally so was happy to see it offered at the Fest. This will be a good Summer-time beer in convenient cans. I also noted that the Dry Hopped Kellerbier from Liberty Steakhouse in High Point, NC was quite refreshing with a crisp dry finish.

One of the nice things about these events is I can try beers that I would not be otherwise inclined to buy. So I wondered over to the Pabst booth. Pabst Blue Ribbon is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and I wanted to see what all the interest was about. I've not had a PBR in probably more than 25 years. I drank the entire sample, and contemplated the question of it's new found popularity. However, the answer still eludes me.

Of course, there's more to the World Beer Fest than beer. I took a break mid-session to wander through the vendor booths outside the beer tents. At some point it's good to get out of the crowd for a bit. I find the food offerings here to be quite varied and, from what I've sampled, tasty. I opted for a Lamb Pita sandwhich for lunch. I sat down under a tent and listened to the live music. My only wish was that I could have enjoyed a glass of beer with the food. I heard a few other folks make this remark as well. However, one can certainly understand the issues that could possibly arise if full beers were being sold at the festival, in addition to the abundant samples. So I enjoyed the bit of beer I had in my tasting glass. During my "break" I also had an interesting conversation with a gentleman from Australia who was enjoying the festival. We talked beer, wine, tourism, and even politics, before I headed back to enjoy more beer sampling.

When the session closed, I capped off my afternoon over at Woody's at City Market. I enjoyed a full 16 ounce cup of Bear Republic Racer 5. After all those 2 ounce samples I craved a whole beer. I listened to some live music and watched a group of folks playing cornhole, before heading back to the hotel to prepare for dinner.

I've said it before, and nothing's changed, I think Raleigh is my favorite of the WBF venues. I know folks who attend just the Durham event in the Fall, but Moore Park is a wonderful setting for the Festival and the layout of the beer tents and related activities seems to work here and come together for a class event. It's a great way to kick off the season and the All About Beer folks, and hundreds of volunteers, do a superb job of putting together a fine festival. It's easy to see that these folks love doing what they do. I ran in to festival producer Daniel Bradford at the end of the session, and he was still smiling. And deservedly so after a job well-done.

I was too busy enjoying the beer to take many pictures, but I've uploaded a few here.

Next up, dinner and (more) beer...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Visit to Two Raleigh Brewpubs

Arriving late Friday afternoon in Raleigh, in advance of the World Beer Fest, we had time to check out a couple of local brewpubs in the evening. I was happy to have Ray Johnson riding along with me, as Ray makes a point of being informed on the local attractions. First stop, Big Boss Brewing. Through the foreboding entrance, up the dark stairs to the pub, first order of business... food. What's that you say? No food? I'm jaded by the regulations in VA that require pubs to have a certain percentage of food sales in relation to alcohol sold. No matter, we'll have a beer, then continue on our hunt for dinner.

I ordered the Big Boss One Meatball. The beer tender described it as an ESB. The beer poured a dark copper color. It had a lightly sweet caramel flavor with a mild hop bitterness. It was easy to drink and refreshing after the long drive. Ray ordered the brewery's Bad Penny Brown Ale. We finished our beers and headed out in search of food and more beer.

Our next stop was the Boylan Bridge brewpub. This new brewery opened just two months ago. Along with house beers, the pub offers a few guest taps. When we arrived I noted three house beers listed on the chalkboard; Rail Pale Ale, Gaston Golden, and Trainspotter Scottish Ale. But as soon as I sat down at the bar the Scottish Ale was being erased. Drat, down to two, so I opted for the Rail Pale Ale. The Pale Ale is copper-orange in color, with a thin white head. There's a faint hop aroma. The flavor is mild citrus hops with a balance of sweet malt. It was an enjoyable, if ordinary, pale ale. I ordered a burger and fries to enjoy with the beer and the food was quite tasty. The kitchen is right behind the bar so you can see the chefs at work through a small window.

One thing that was immediately obvious was the lack of traffic in the brew pub. It was Friday evening and there were plenty of tables available. There is also an outside patio area. From my vantage point at the bar, they seemed to be pouring as much wine as beer. Unfortunately, the beer menu was down to just two house beers, and three or four guest taps from other local breweries. I opted to have an Old BullDog ESB from another North Carolina brewer, Aviator Brewing. This was a light and crisp beer with a bit of lingering bitterness. (I also got to sample a few other Aviator beers during course of the festival weekend and they were all quite good.)

It was a treat to try out two Raleigh brewpubs during the evening. I had been told in advance to check out the new Boylan Bridge brewery so I was disappointed that so few house beers were available. The establishment is pretty new and perhaps they've not gotten into a groove maintaining their beer supply. The service was friendly and prompt, so I will look forward to another visit in the future, when I'll hopefully get to try a few more of their beers.

Next up, World Beer Fest...

Friday, May 1, 2009

East Coast Breweries Tasting at Capital Ale House

Thursday evening I had the pleasure of enjoying an "East Coast Breweries" tasting at Capital Ale House. Presented by "Hoppy" Jeff Wells, the evening was a whirlwind tour of some of the East's most stalwart breweries. We learned about their history and their contributions to American craft beer. In addition to Jeff, Capital Ale House's Jacab Brunow and Chris Holder were on hand to share their own knowledge, and to pour the beers for us.

As fate would have it, Jeff left Washington, DC just in time to sit in southbound traffic on I-95, and was slightly delayed. No worries, our Capital Ale House hosts broke out some special beers to share. Tröegs Flying Mouflan and Southern Tier Inequity were served while we waited. This was a treat for me as I had not tried either of these beers. Flying Mouflan is an American Barleywine with a nice fruity, hoppy flavor that I enjoyed very much. Southern Tier Inequity is described as an "Imperial Black Ale." An Imperial IPA crossed with a mild stout is the best way I can describe it. Both of these beers are ones I'd like to try again. After these two treats I was half hoping Jeff was delayed a bit longer!

Soon Jeff arrived and we got down to the subject at hand. "Hoppy" Jeff Wells posseses a wealth of knowledge and experience. He currently is a Specialty Account Sales Manager for a DC craft beer, wine and spirits distributor, in addition to being a contributor to Ale Street News. In addition, Jeff has worked in all three "tiers" of alcoholic beverage distribution; from brewery to distributer to bar owner. Throughout the evening he shared the history, trivia, and inside stories of the craft beer world, especially the East coast.

After the surprise appetizers, we worked our way through the scheduled beers. Allagash White (Maine), Brooklyn Lager (New York), Victory Prima Pils (Pennsylvania), Legend Brown (Virginia), Tröegs Hop Back Amber (Pennsylvania) Stoudt's Fat Dog Oatmeal Imperial Stout (Pennsylvania), Smuttynose Wheat Wine (New Hampshire), and Dogfish Head 90 Minute (Delaware). That's a fine representation of "old" East Coast breweries, I'm sure you'll agree. The Legend, Smuttynose, and Dogfish Head beers were served from draft, the rest were bottled.

The Smuttynose Wheat Wine was another new beer to me. This Old Ale / Barleywine style ale is dark caramel in color with a strong alcohol aroma. The rich, slightly sweet, caramel and dark fruit flavors combined for a beer that went down very smoothly. Certainly a fireplace sipper at around 11% ABV. This is very limited release beer; Fredericksburg Capital Ale House received just a single one-sixth keg which they had been saving for tapping at this event. A rare treat indeed.

At the end of the session, Jeff brought out a beer he called his "tardy pass", a 2008 Vintage magnum of Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue Label). A perfect finale to the evening.

There were about 21 folks in attendance at the "East Coast Breweries" tasting. The majority of the folks were Capital Ale House employees there to learn more about craft beer. That is both good and bad. On one hand, it's great that Capital Ale House strives to have well-informed employees, and the employees are motivated to learn. On the other hand, where was everyone else? Chris told me he knows there is a big craft beer interest in the Fredericksburg area, yet they don't often get large turnouts for events they hold. I'll admit I don't get to as many as I'd like to, and vow to do better. I hope others will follow suit. The cost of admission for tonight's event was a mere $8.00. That's a bargain, yes? More tastings and dinners are planned at Capital Ale House and I hope to see more of you there in the future.

Oh, one more thing. I got word of a very special beer dinner and guest coming soon to the Fredericksburg Capital Ale House. As soon as a date is finalized, I'll post the information in the Musings. But, believe me you won't want to miss it. (Hint, we tasted one of this brewery's beers tonight, and the guest is the author of an excellent book I previously reviewed.)

The "East Coast Breweries" tasting was a very enjoyable way to spend a few weeknight hours. It was an informal and friendly crowd and everyone seemed to have a great evening. I look forward to next time.

See some (camera phone) photos from the event here.