Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quick Hits..

...Perhaps not the most in-depth reviews, but the thoughts I recorded on the Untappd app upon drinking these brews tonight: 

My initial thoughts, in 140 characters or less: 

"For the 2nd week in a row, I may have started with a beer bigger than I wanted. Overpowering alcohol.  Missing the balance others rave about."  2 out of 5 stars. 

DC Brau's Penn Quarter Porter... 

My thoughts: 

"Strong, enjoyable coffee scent.  Nearly a stout without a stout's thickness.  Nutty, with a bit of spice on the front. 4 of 5 stars" 

Devil's Backbone Eight Point IPA

"Local bias.  A preferred IPA.  Good flavor but would benefit from increased thickness and more bite.  Smooth for a hoppy brew. 3 of 5 stars, but given how often I choose it... 4 stars may be more applicable."

And this is tonight's selection: 

I have repeatedly stated that Stone's Vanilla Porter is too rich, and I have repeatedly craved it to the point that I keep returning to it!

In Stone, I trust. 


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unanticipated Beer Paradise

I've shared previously the intimacy that one often experiences in the craft beer relationship. This weekend was a testament to that passion. 

Picturesque western Virginia was the site of Saturday’s V.A. Craft Brewers’ Fest. It was a wonderful time, although the consistent rain made it an event that at times needed to be more tolerated than enjoyed. 

That said, the Fest offered a wonderful mix: tasty local brews matched against the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Mountains. The event’s host was Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company

Several beers were sampled throughout the day of many variations. Unfortunately, the rain, and lack of cover from it, kept me from recording the notes I would have liked. 

From memory alone, one brew stood out: Corcoran’s Pale Ghost I.P.A . This was my first experience with the brewery.  I had never even previously heard the name mentioned, but given the quality of product, I'll do my own best to ensure that this is not the same for fellow Virginia beer lovers.  I look forward to turning a future Saturday into a day's visit of Waterford, and the Corcoran Brewing Company.  

To my surprise (pleasantly!), the best of the day’s beer experience was to follow departure from the Fest. Western Virginia is home to a handful of fine breweries situated in the rural foothills. I visited two; Blue Mountain Brewery being one. The other, Wild Wolf Brewing Company, was the most memorable of the day. 

Blue Mountain was sort of romantically situated, and seemed desirous of targeting the blue-blood of beer connoisseurs. 

Not to take away from the luxuries of Wild Wolf -- it simply seemed the more inviting of the two facilities.  And, it offered, in my opinion, a better selection of house beers to boot. 

Although I sampled a few, and liked them all, I was most impressed by the first Wild Wolf I ordered, their Wit Wolf – a take on a Heife / I.P.A. combination. 

I’d have to try the Wit Wolf again, and love having reason to do so, to provide a credible review. I can say, with confidence however, that it was excellent. 

Despite the rain, a day spent in western Virginia discovering craft beer was a journey worth the challenge.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Smuttynose Really Old Brown Dog

Nothing breaks this craft beer guru's heart more severely than discovering a beer that is less than delicious from a brewery that is otherwise excellent.  Enjoying craft beer is a habit of passion and one can easily fall into relationships of sorts with preferred breweries. 

So, it is with disappointment, that I have to relate a poor review of Smuttynose's Really Old Brown Dog. 

On the menu at Capital Ale House, where the beer pictured above was purchased, the alcohol content is described (from what I recall) as approximately 9 % ABV.  I have read claims that it may be higher.  

Smuttynose's regular brown ale, their Old Brown Dog (as opposed to this, the REALLY Old Brown Dog) is excellent.  This take on the brown ale, however, is a brew gone too far.  The drinker should probably know what to expect when tackling a beer with alcohol content this high, but even so, as I was, I discovered it overwhelming. 

The Really Old Brown Dog starts with a light aroma.  That scent, as light as it may be, gives the first hint of the intense bourbon flavor that awaits.  

I noted that I immediately tasted strong liquor.  In a quantity greater than I preferred.  Worse, Really Old Brown Dog lacks balance.  The power of the alcohol would be served well with a compliment. Balance could be attained by a dash of spice, which it seems to have none. 

The absence of spice leaves Really Old Brown Dog without bite.  So, sort of paradoxically, despite being rich in bourbon, it tends to finish smoothly.  

Unfortunately, I struggled with this one.  

Smuttynose offers super brews.  Their regular Old Brown Dog is great, and their Finestkind is among my favorite IPAs.  But the Really Old Brown Dog underwhelms.  It's certainly not terrible, and I would be willing to give it another try.  That said, as a kneejerk reaction, I grant it 4 stars out of a possible 10. 

My trust in Smuttynose is such that I feel compelled to give their Really Old Brown Dog another chance in the future. 

In this relationship, I refuse to allow Smuttynose to disappoint me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Search of Great Beer, Virginia edition

This weekend, I took my righteous journey in search of excellent craft beer to central Virginia.  

The results? I visited one brewery, two Capital Ale House locations, drank moderately but to great satisfaction, and returned home with a selection of promising brews; mostly local in origin.

My day began at Legend Brewing Company in Richmond, Virginia.

Before visiting this brewery, I had only sampled one of Legend's variations, their take on the brown ale.  However, I had enjoyed their offering to the extent that I had sampled it with some regularity.  I had noted that Legend's brown ale was perhaps oxymoronic in nature; on one hand, it was a bit bland but, yet, on the other, there was something appealing that continuously beckoned me to return for more. 

With the positive experience of the brown ale as motivation, I had anticipated this brewery visit for some time. 

The Legend Brewing Company is located in a rather rough, industrial section of Richmond.  While the brewery's facade is met with warehouse row, the back patio offers this unexpected, but certainly impressive view:

During my visit, I had two beers.  I began with their Imperial IPA, which I had not seen previously offered outside of the brewery.

I noted that this brew was "spicy and thick.  Great taste, but would be better with some notes of pine.  Very powerful, yet enjoyable."

I then had their pale ale, which, as expected, tasted like a junior sibling of the first beer sampled.  Like the Imperial, this was also acceptable, although in the case of the pale ale, not particularly memorable. 

Overall, I enjoyed the beers offered by the Legend Brewing Company.  In this guru's not-so-humble opinion, their varieties are a bit less excellent than those offered by another Virginia brewery, Starr Hill.  Perhaps, this is less of a knock on Legend's quality than one may think; Starr Hill is stiff competition for the very best craft breweries. 

The beer at the Legend Brewing Company was satisfying, and as far as locations go for something like, say, a date, the brewery's patio (with its epic skyline view) would definitely make the visit worth the while.

I enjoyed my brief stay at Legend's and then continued to the Capital Ale House in Richmond; unbeknownst to me then, I would eventually end up at another Capital Ale House... in Midlothian, just outside Richmond.

Of the beers consumed, two stood out; one from each Capital Ale House location.  In Richmond, I enjoyed the Hardywood Double IPA, which is brewed locally at what seems to be Virginia's popular "brewery of the moment".

The influence of the Belgian Yeast in this offering was strong. I had commented that this massive brew seemed perhaps the product of a Saison/Tappist/IPA battle royale.

I noticed to my great appreciation that the Richmond location had Stone's Ruination on tap, along with other preferred offerings such Bell's Two-Hearted.  With restraint, I subdued my ambition to over imbibe!

At the Midlothian location, not far from Richmond itself, I was most impressed by a beer served from the cask: Victory Brewing's Hop Devil Ale

Of the two locations, both showcased deep and varied beer selections, but I felt more welcomed at the Midlothian Capital Ale House location.  The server working my end of the bar offered entertaining wit, an impressive knowledge of beer, and demonstrated established rapport with the locals, which I always appreciate. 

I made a final stop at the Total Wine in Richmond to choose a selection for later enjoyment.  As I entered, a beer-education class was concluding, and its leader was enthusiastic about helping me select what I am sure will be a great group of beers.

Some, like the Lagunitas and Founders, are dependable stand-bys. 

So, I wish you all "cheers!"  I promise a big update in the coming weeks as Saturday, August 25th is Virginia's Craft Brewers Fest!  My ticket, as you can imagine, is already purchased. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In Search of Exceptional Craft Beer...

...Maryland edition.  

(Well, with a quick pause in northern Virginia.) 

I spent my Saturday exploring, looking for good beer.  

My first stop was the DuClaw beer pub in Hanover, Maryland: 

The first brew I tried was one that I had not sampled before, their American dark ale.  They call it Black Lightning, and I really, really liked it. 

For a dark beer, it was plenty hoppy with a very rich kick of chocolate.  

DuClaw offered plenty of choices: 

From DuClaw, I typed "craft beer" in to my GPS and was directed to Frisco's Tap House:

There, I started with an an-always exceptional Stone offering, their Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  I finished with a Heavy Seas Gold Ale, served cask-conditioned: 

From there, I headed in to Virginia, and visited a Dogfish Head Alehouse

And chose a Shelter Pale Ale.  

I apologize for being light on the reviews this afternoon.  I am preparing for a trip to Seattle, but I wanted to share my adventure.  

While I discovered some outstanding ales this weekend, I'll choose to continue the journey...


Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Review, and More!

I have planned a beer-lovers weekend, and I kicked it off with something a bit different. 

Given that this was my first experience, a full review is unfair.  That said, I enjoyed this beer enough that I feel comfortable speaking to its qualities. 

The producers consider this an I.P.A, but I disagree. Describing it as such sells it short. I.P.A.s, as bastardized as that title has become, should overwhelm, IMO.  O'Hara's Pale Ale, however, is most notable because of its balance.  This beer is delicious because it is not over-powering in any one quality.  If one is to choose this beer desiring an I.P.A., I think disappointment will ensue.  

But, with an open mind, one may find this to be an excellent brew. 

O'Hara's offers exactly what a pale ale should be.  While it has no aspects in which it excels, many of its qualities are satisfying.  A pale ale should quench, and offer some distinct flavors; not overwhelm.   

I noted that this beer was light, with very mild piney qualities.  There is definitely a citrus flavor, but it is subdued.  It's may be best described as an orange zest, rather than tasting of the fruit itself. 

The flavor is most noticeable not in the taste, but in the aroma, which was strong and satisfying.  The finish is simple, and complete. 

O'Hara's Pale Ale is one of those brews that delivers exactly what one would expect, so long as one is expecting a pale ale, and not an American-style Indian Pale Ale.  It is easy to drink, and would serve as an excellent session beer.  Yet, it offers just enough bitterness to separate it from run-of-the-mill ales.  

It's certainly tastes not like a lager, but to classify it as an I.P.A. is to place it with company that it can not, and should not, compare  

I prefer beers that tend to the excessive.  As I type, I am sipping a Bear Republic Hop Rod, which is many magnitudes more syrupy compared to the O'Hara's.   While my preferences, personally, tend toward this Bear Republic, I can appreciate the O'Hara's.  It's balance should be appreciated. This is a very good ale. 

I would recommend the O'Hara's Pale Ale to anyone wishing to sample a beer different from their typical domestics.  Would craft beer enthusiasts love it? Hard to say; it's a bit simple as craft beers go.  But, for a "pale ale," it offers balance, flavor, and aroma; all of which satisfy. 

O'Hara's Pale Ale gets a six, out of ten, from me.  It poured apricot, with some floaters, and a small head.  It's worth trying no matter one's preferences.


Moving on...

I have been waiting since the beginning of July and, finally, it has been delivered: 

Lagunitas's Lil Sumpin Wild.  I have one chilling now.  I have been promised that Stone's smoked porter is also worth the wait.  Which I trust to be true, because no Stone offering has ever disappointed.  Reviews of these are to follow...  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy IPA Day!

So much to share, so little time!

First, my pub of choice, the 909 Saloon in Fredericksburg, VA, will be celebrating the first event of our newly implemented beer club.  A preferred brewery of mine, Smuttynose, will be hosting a tap takeover tomorrow night, Friday, August the 3rd. 

Unfortunately, due to military obligations, I will be unable to make it.  But I encourage you to do so.  

And, coming soon, a website dedicated to our new Beer Club.  Pictures from tomorrow's event will surely be included on the site. 

As for me? 

As a testament to how much I enjoy the beer, I tell you this: my local pub offered drafts on special, and I was cognizant of it being IPA Day, yet I ended up with this: 

And why? 

Despite my preference for hoppy beers, Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout may be my favorite beer of the moment.  It deserves a professional review but, at the moment, I will just say that this brew provides a big taste without being overwhelming, and finishes cleanly.  It's nearly a perfect beer. 

So, in honor of the holiday (for beer enthusiasts, at least), I picked up some old dependables on the way home: