Lesson #1: Just because a beer is a “special release” it doesn’t mean it will be good.
Lesson #2: Finishing 3/4 of a bottle of wine after 3+ beers on an empty stomach is a bad idea. Especially if it’s over 95 out. I apologise for any incomprehensible issues with this post.
This Brewer’s Reserve has been aging
taking up valuable space for a while now, so with the heat index broaching 100, and my life frustration approaching ∞, I decided this would be a good decision.
Lesson #3: When you’ve never made a good decision in you life after 29 years, it’s a pretty good indication you never will.
This was special release #5, a “wheat ale brew with lemongrass and muscat grape juice with lemongrass added.” Yea, lemongrass gets mentioned twice.
It pours a orange colour with virtually no head. It smells, well, funky. Very earthy and floral, maybe a slight citrus.
It tastes, well, funky. Malty core no doubt, citrus (lemon egad!), and some solid alcohol finish. It’s a very coarse finish and not really enjoyable.
Maybe I was wrong, but I assumed this would be a nice refreshing beer on a hot day. Nope. It is, however, 9%, so it did accomplish the most important goal of all alcohol.
Last year turned into a roast of an absent Sam. This year Sam showed up (less the material he forgot in a cab), and it was just as funny. Full details of the East Coast v. West Coast throw-down when I recover.
Friday is supposed to be Big Bottle Breakdown day, but it’s been a while since we did one, so we’ve got three in store for today: Duclaw’s Double-Spice 31 Munich-Style Dunkel, He’Brew’s Hop Manna IPA, and Southern Tier’s Gemini Imperial Blended Ale.
DuClaw Double Spiced 31 Munich Style Dunkel
A beer brewed with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove, & All Spice isn’t exactly a typical spring offering, which is exactly why I picked it up. It poured a nice dark amber with luxurious off-white head. On the nose: Nutmeg. A little Cinnamon and clove, but I mainly picked up nutmeg. It overwhelmed any and all other smells. For taste, well, you can guess where this is going: Nutmeg. There’s a solid, slightly sweet malty backbone, but the spices are really what shine through. But they shine through in a good way. DuClaw has done a really nice job of providing a spiced beer that didn’t have me grasping for a glass of water after every sip (like the Hoppin’ Frog Christmas). It still drank really smooth and finished without too much lingering taste from the spices. If you don’t think cinnamon or nutmeg belong in beer, you will not like this beer. If you enjoy something a little different every now and then, or maybe a new winter option, this is a solid bet.
He’Brew Hop Manna IPA
An IPA dry hopped with Citra, Cascade, and Centennial? Amarillo during the boil? It’s gotta be good, right? Nope. Pours a clear copper color with no head. There’s a piney/grassy aroma aroma on the nose, but nothing too strong. There’s some sweetness up front in the palate and then a light bitter taste with a really bland finish. At the end of the day, it was just really blah. All the hops combined to produce absolutely nothing. No good spiciness or complexity from the Citra, no great bitterness from the Amarillo or Cascade. Just eh. I really can’t find anything that redeeming about this beer.
Take a great beer like Southern Tier’s Unearthly and combine it with another great beer like Southern Tier’s Hoppe and what do you get: a REALLY great beer. This beer pours a cloudy yellow gold clearly indicating its unfiltered format and a small white head. There’s a great spicy piney/citrus aroma on the nose that I could smell despite seasonal allergies. There are just an incredible spicy hop notes with good fruity characteristics. Tangy with some notes of orange/pine. A slight bitter finish on the tongue, but just what you’d expect from a beer like this. Overall a phenomenal effort.
It’s really hard not to appreciate everything Ommegang does, and their Belgian Witte is just another case-in-point. The beer pours like a traditional witte, with a light golden colour, transparent and lots of carbonation, but in this case, the head was just a few thin white wisps on top. There are some subtle citrus notes on the nose, but overall the aroma is far more floral. The taste is nice and crisp up front with a good moderated light taste of lemon that evaporates off the tongue very quickly giving it a nice refreshing feeling. There’s some very very mild bready taste that hides behind the lemon, and lingers maybe a touch too long, but overall it was a well crafted flavour.
I had this on draft, and I’d imagine it (like basically every witte) is probably better out of the bottle. I’m guessing the draft pour was largely responsible for the poor head, and I wonder what flavours were lost sitting in the yeast at the bottom of the keg. If you like witte style ales, it’s still worth getting if you see it on draft.
The Arlington area is known as a great hotspot for young professionals to drink and have a good time. It’s also known as a suburban hellhole. Rosslyn ends up being all of the latter, and little of the former. I remember when I first started working in the Rosslyn area and had such a difficult time finding somewhere to drink, I was actually excited when I finally made it to a TGI Friday (before they went crafty). Really there is absolutely no reason to ever go out drinking in Rosslyn. However, there are a ton of office buildings in the area, and if you find yourself frequently working in the here, as Shintern and I do, you might occasionally find it useful to have somewhere to drink.
Drank straight from the bottle, so I can’t really comment on colour. The nose was very strongly of wheat, with some mild citrus and coriander notes up front.
Plenty of carbonation in the taste, which starts with some mild orange/citrus flavours before the wheat body of the beer
comes in completely and utterly dominates the beer. It has a very dry, flat wheat taste through most of the beer. It’s not very pleasant, not very flavourful, and really lingers on the tongue. There’s no nice crisp and refreshing finish, just a long wheaty finish with each sip. I did not enjoy finishing this bottle.
Great Divide might have pulled out of the DC market recently, but since I live in Virginia, I managed to get my growler filled at Whole Foods with GD’s 17th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA. I think it’s time to get the phrase “lucky at growler fills, unlucky at love” going again.
The beer pours a dark copper colour, with a nice just off-white head and few signs of carbonation. On the nose there is some sweetness (fruity maybe), but the clearest smell is a nice batch of floral hops.
The taste reveals something different. There is very little hoppiness for a DIPA, and a sweet, caramel maltiness dominates the taste, with a slight – though not unpleasant – lingering flavour. As the glass warmed, I felt oak and vanilla elements in the taste became more prevalent, intermingling well with the malt and caramel.
At 10% it packs quite a wallop, but is certainly an enjoyable testament to a great brewery.
I’m really torn here. Part of me wants to behave like Bill Murray in Rushmore who deliberately talks down a woman to his friend so he can go for her himself. I want to write a horrible, scathing review of Justin’s in the hope that no one else ever goes there; I want to keep it all to myself. The other Part of me wants to pull a Jerry McGuire and storm into a room announcing that “you complete me.” I feel like the entire world needs to know how incredible this place is. Justin’s Cafe opened a year ago down in a very revitalized SE. And it’s incredible. I’ve tried over and over again to find one thing even slightly wrong with this bar, and I just can’t.
Justin’s only has 4 beers on draft, but they all meet Pyzocha’s dream of no macro-brews. Racer 5, Lagunitas, and Bell’s Oberon, and GL Eliot Ness are all available. The draft list is complemented with a solid bottle/can collection including two choices from Oskar Blues, Two Hearted, North Coast, Duck Rabbit and more. While it’s not necessarily the most extensive beer list, it’s unbelievably solid and there is something for everyone there.
But hey, there are plenty of bars in DC with a good beer list – what makes Justin’s so good? Staff and ambiance. The staff at Justin’s is unbelievable. Joe, Eric, Liz and the rest of the staff I’ve met have all been unbelievably friendly, helpful and nice. Despite a somewhat bustling bar, Eric took the time to introduce himself to me on only my second beer. Liz found a way for me to somehow order 7 drinks in about 50 minutes. Joe shared a bottle of GL Holy Moses just because he could, and remembers what people are drinking – when they leave the bar and come back 3 hours later.
Justin’s is just that neighborhood bar. It gets a ton of transient ballpark traffic, but also plenty of locals and other beer aficionados that aren’t just there to drink, but to enjoy people’s company. Sitting by yourself at the bar isn’t a lonely experience at all – I’ve talked hops, SE, Wrigley Field, and women with people I’ve sat down near at the bar. Between the staff, the beer, and the atmosphere, Justin has created a place that really feels great to spend time in.
The food is similarly solid. The brunch, wings, and buffalo burger Pyzocha and I have had there have all been really solid, and I haven’t even had their signature brick oven pizza.
The only possible issue is size and crowd. The cafe isn’t huge and before/after games can get pretty packed in, impacting the overall ambiance. Popularity unfortunately has it’s downsides, but I’ll live with them.
While the weather has been decidedly wet recently, it won’t stay that way before long. Pretty soon a full blown DC summer will blow into town. Warmer weather opens up one of summer’s classic past-times: drinking outside.
I’ve always maintained that drinking makes virtually any other activity (e.g., cooking, reading, watching sports, heckling samdinning) better. Its always more better to relax and crack open a beer, even the most mundane tasks can be improved with a nice beer. Add an outdoor element, and things just got even better: instead of cooking you’re BBQing, watching sports is a lot more fun sitting in left field on a sunny afternoon, and heckling samdinning is a lot more fun when his humiliation is public.
Summer drinking outdoors is also remarkably much more acceptable. Tell a colleague you sent the weekend holed up downing imperial stouts and reading Colonialist history sounds pathetic, and when done before 12 is in fact pathetic. Saying you sat outside read the paper and had a few beers sounds downright respectable. Basically, a no brainer.
The problem (okay, one problem) with DC is there just aren’t a ton of great outdoor bars. Most spaces that have significant outdoor seating areas either have limited beer selections, or are filled with a bit more doucheyness (e.g., CBR, Wonderland) than I’m capable of handling. Panning no small number of DC denizens, I have still failed to find a good, consistent bar to sit outdoors, relax, and drink some craft brews. They have to be out there, but where???
Know a great bar in DC for outdoor drinking? Let us know!
(4) Dogfish Head 60 Minute
(1) Bells Two Hearted
Possibly the two best drinkable hoppy beers out there. There are not a lot of issues on which this match-up could pivot. Then again, Bells has gone litigious on us, so maybe that will keep voters away. Law suits never solve problems except for divorce, gross negligence, defrauding investors, child custody, small claims from auto accidents, slipping on patches of ice…
(5) Bells Hopslam
(1) Heavy Seas Siren Noire
Sweet golden extreme hopiness? check. Delicious chocolate and malts? check. Perfect balance? check. This match-up has everything you could ask for, especially the Hopslam.
(10) Chicory Stout
(11) Duck Rabbit Milk Stout
The Chicory Stout is a classic of craft brewing – one of the first from one of the first. If this were a real basketball team, I feel like they’d be Indiana. Classic, brilliant yet now often under seeded and forgotten. And now, they are going to pull a Bobby Knight and throw a chair at the Duck Rabbit Stout. This isn’t going to be even close: it’s time to dust off the old trophy case, because the Chicory Stout’s got a good chance of adding to the collection.
(4) Founders Breakfast Stout
(5) Bells Hopslam
It’s a shame these beers had to meet so early in the tournament, because both really had a chance to go all the way and cut down the nets at the end – match-ups like this is what March Madness is all about though. The rich, heavenly perimeter shooting hoppiness of the Hopslam will really be pushed by the delicious dark coffee and inside game from the Founders. If the Bell’s can get hot, it’s their game to loose, but the longer the match-up stays close, the better chance for Founders.
(13) Rogue Dead Guy
(5) Brooklyn Brown
There are few beers that pair better with a some nice red meat than the Brooklyn Brown, and there are few beers that are made with proprietary hops like the Dead Guy. The hops are PROPRIETARY. They don’t just own the recipe, they own the ingredients. I’m not sure if I should be impressed or disgusted: maybe a little bit of both. The Rogue pulled a first round upset, but it’s time to take the dancing shoes off. The rich taste in the Brooklyn is simply too impressive and dominant, Rogue might manage to hang in their a little bit, but you’ll want to flip the channel by the 4th quarter.
(14) Bells Expedition Stout
(11) Duck Rabbit Milk Stout
These two heavy hitting stouts are coming off surprising upsets and just brimming with self confidence. And when I say heavy hitting, I mean heavy hitting. These are both heavy stouts with a ton of roasted grain. Your real choice is whether you’d prefer the milky smoothness of the Duck Rabbit or the ridiculous maltiness of the Bells. There’s technically no wrong answer here, but the Duck Rabbit would be the less wrong answer.
(2) 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA
(10) Butternuts Moo Thunder
An ode to the Back in Black
To be or not to be (an IPA), that is the question,
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind (liver) to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (sobriety),
Or to take arms (beer) against a sea of troubles (probably women),
And by opposing (drinking) end them?
And you probably thought the only use for Shakespeare after 11th grade English was wooing women. You were just proved to be an idiot.
Also F*ck the Butternuts. You defeated BLUE PAW and crushed the hopes and dreams of so many.
(4) Weihenstephan Hefeweizen
(12) Goose Island Honkers
Remember the scene from Notting Hill where Julie Roberts says she doesn’t get the obsession with breasts so Hugh Grant lifts up the covers to check them out? No? Really? Anyway, I was going to use it to make a very witty and cerebral point that while the “a vote for Honkers is a vote for breasts” campaign might originally seem simple and childish, but we are talking about breasts here, so it’s actually quite a compelling argument. That said, the Honkers is going up against probably the finest Hefeweizen in the bracket – and one of the best out there – and there’s always a chance people will actually pick a beer on taste. Based on the beer selections I witnessed last night during St. Patrick’s day, I think that’s unlikely, but if it happens, Weihenstephan wins in a landslide.
(3) Heavy Seas Marzen
(14) Otter Creek Copper Ale
Nothing says March Madness like a battle royal between a German style Marzen and German style Altbier. Both beers come in pretty tame at under 6% ABV so I expect a low scoring affair. While their pedigrees are impressive I expect their German pedigree to reign supreme – obsessive deference to the rules, socks & sandals, and of course arrogance. Normally you could cite arrogance as a potential downfall for a top seed, but what happens when the underdog is just as arrogant? The Marzen wins, but we all lose.
(2) Dale’s Pale Ale
(15) Sam Adams Boston Lager
Perennial fan (read: uneducated bum) favourite Sam Adams has got the whole city of Boston drunkenly cheering them on, while Dale’s supporters are too busy standing in the snack bar queue due to a massive craving of the munchies, but they will totally defend the awesomeness of the beer if they need to, man. In all honesty, neither beer brings a strong game to the table, and both have some weaknesses that could prove costly. Ultimately, the team that wins will be the one that manages to convince everyone that even when actually playing the game, it’s how you talk the talk that matters.
(7) Sea Dog Blue Paw
(10) Butternuts Moo Thunder
You’d think this would be one of those tough to call middle-seed match-ups, till you really look at the Sea Dog. BLUE PAW will do to this tournament what Gonzaga and Butler have done for mid-majors. By the sweet 16 everyone’s going to be talking about how underrated Sea Dog’s sweet crisp blueberry taste was all season and by the final four, you’ll swear to your friends and co-workers you’ve been a huge fan of Alan Pugsley since he took over in ’02. No one will believe you, ever, but since everyone else is on the BLUE PAW bandwagon too, it won’t really matter. They are up against <Insert Brewery Name Here>, which has shown some real <insert overused and never defined adjective (e.g., tenacity, robustness) here> but in the end it’s BLUE PAW ALL THE WAY BABY!!
The American Porter pours out a very dark brown, almost black colour with no real head. The nose carries hints of cherries, other dried berries, and a faint hint of chocolate. The beer has a good smooth carbonation that makes it go down really well. It starts off with some basic maltiness, however that gives way to a nice cherry/chocolate sweetness. It finishes a little bitter on the tongue, but doesn’t linger much.
Overall, this wasn’t a stellar beer, but it was an enjoyable, mild porter that I certainly wouldn’t mind having again.