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.