DC Beer Week at Bluejacket

As I prepared to participate in DC Beer Week last year, I had difficulty finding beer from participating breweries in my local stores.  Unfortunately, that isn’t something that improved this year.  In fact, it was even more difficult to find actual DC beers in the local grocery stores.  Admittedly, this is a little frustrating because it’s sometimes nice to just enjoy a beer in the comfort of my own home, rather than having to head out to a local restaurant or brewery to drink local.  That said, on Monday when I mentioned to a couple of coworkers that it was DC Beer Week and suggested we head to a local brewery to indulge a little, neither of them hesitated to accompany me.

This wasn’t our first visit to Bluejacket Brewery by the DC Navy Yard, but one of the interesting things about Bluejacket is that there is a regular rotation of the beer available on tap.  This does have its cons, as my coworker found out when he went to order one of his favorites–Mexican Radio–only discover that it was no longer on tap.  However, it also means that there is constant experimentation happening at the brewery by both the brewmaster, who is innovating with new styles and techniques, and the customer, who always has something new to taste.

On tap lineup at Bluejacket

On tap lineup at Bluejacket

Haywire on tap at Bluejacket

Haywire Hoppy Wheat on tap at Bluejacket

On this visit, I started with the Haywire, which is a “hoppy” wheat ale.  It was added to the menu at the start of DC Beer Week, so it seemed only right to begin with this lighter beer.  It was a hazy, golden-yellow with an off-white foam and some lacing on the side of the glass.  On the nose, there were lemons and wet hay.  In the mouth, there was citrus, hay, and a hint of something herbal.  The beer had the bitterness I expect from hops, but not as much other flavor as I expected, especially considering the nose.

Chicken burger and caesar salad at BluejacketBecause I was feeling more adventurous with my beer than with my food, I ordered my Bluejacket usual – the Chicken Burger, which is a ground chicken patty with  fried shallots, red wine aioli, and arugula, and the kale Caesar salad instead of the fries.  The Haywire probably wasn’t the best pairing with my lunch, although that was my own bad pairing choice.  I definitely preferred both the beer and the burger on their own rather than together.

Ultimately, my impression of the Haywire was it had some nice wheat beer characteristics upfront, but the finish fell off the cliff leaving me wanting more from the beer.  I was glad I tasted it, but it’s probably not a beer I will order again.
Overall: 3

Spectre Brett IPA on tap at Bluejacket

Spectre Brett IPA on tap at Bluejacket

After the Haywire, as an admitted Brett- and IPA-lover, I couldn’t resist tasting the American IPA that was brewed with brettanomyces–Spectre.  The beer was a cloudy yellow-gold.  On the nose, there was a mixture of pineapple, Riesling, and wet horse.  In the mouth, there was pineapple, grapefruit, and hints of honey and hay.  I thought the beer was interesting and well-worth tasting, although it’s also a beer I could only drink one of before being ready to try something else.  If you like beer that is fermented with Brett, this is definitely a beer you should try.
Overall: 3.5

The Stroppy on tap at BlueJacket

The Stroppy American Pale Ale on tap at BlueJacket

The last beer of the day was The Stroppy, which is an American Pale Ale.  The beer was a clear, medium-to-dark amber.  On the nose, there was some grapefruit and some dry grass.  In the mouth, there was citrus, dry grass, and a hint of something floral.  This beer was the winner of the day for me, although I wish I had some of Bluejacket’s wings or tater tots to eat with it as The Stroppy was very food-friendly.  The beer was very much my style, so I hope Bluejacket keeps it on tap a little longer as I’d love the opportunity to drink it again.
Overall: 4

While Bluejacket’s brews are only available on location, if you like visiting craft breweries and live in the area or find yourself visiting DC, Bluejacket should be on your list of places to go.  It’s particularly convenient if you combine your visit with a baseball game at Nationals Park, which is only a few blocks away.

Question of the Day: Do you drink local beer or wine at home or is it something you tend to order only when you’re out at a restaurant or bar?

A Dead Rise to Start DC Beer Week 2014

This week is 6th Annual DC Beer Week  (August 17-24).  While I’m not sure I will have a chance to participate in the events this year, I am looking forward to spending the week drinking local brews.  If you’re a DC Metro Area local and are interested in participating in any of the events, or if you’re not local but want to follow along, be sure to use the hashtags #DCBW2014 and #DCBrews.  You can also follow the official DC Beer Week accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Flying Dog Brewery Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale

Flying Dog Brewery Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale

There are few things that are more representative of the Mid-Atlantic than Old Bay Seasoning.  For those of you who live elsewhere or who have never been to the DC-Baltimore area, Old Bay is a blend of herbs and spices that is made in the Chesapeake Bay area.  It is a kitchen staple for anyone who lives here, and while it is most notably used on crab and shrimp, locals love using it to season almost anything — French fries, grilled chicken, hamburgers.  Even local restaurants and chefs get creative with Old Bay by sprinkling it on popcorn or using it to flavor ketchup that is made in-house.

When I first moved to DC, I was more than skeptical…I was not a fan.  However, I quickly learned that you can’t avoid it because if you can eat it, there will be Old Bay on it.  Somehow, over the last 15 years, I’ve transitioned into one of those people.  I love Old Bay and will use it on everything and anything I can.  So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I started off DC Beer week with Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale.  It’s a beer from Flying Dog Brewery, which is one of my favorite local breweries, as well as the largest production brewery in the area, and it was crafted in celebration of the seasoning’s 75th birthday.

Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale (brewery) is a summer seasonal spiced beer from Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.  The beer is a cloudy medium amber with a white sudsy head.  On the nose, there are grapefruits and white pepper, mixed with a hint of Old Bay.  In the mouth, the citrus flavors dominate initially, while the peppery spiciness and hint of salinity from the Old Bay lingers on the finish.  The beer has a light-to-medium body.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this beer in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At $2 a bottle or $9.50 for a six-pack, this beer is crisp, refreshing, and food-friendly.  The Old Bay is well-integrated without being gimmicky, which gives the beer a unique taste while keeping it very drinkable.  Dead Rise is perfect for a crab feast or summer cookout, as well as for just relaxing while sitting one of the DelMarVa beaches.  My only warning is that when you crack one open, you’ll want to crack some crabs or peel some shrimp too because it will undoubtedly create a craving.  This was the perfect beer to kick-off DC Beer Week 2014.

Question of the Day:  Is there a beer festival or beer week in your area to celebrate local brews?  If so, have you participated and what is your favorite thing about these events?

Price: $2 a bottle (I purchased 2 singles)
Purchased at Whole Foods Market
Overall: 4 Corks

Back to Business with the Downright Pilsner

After several crazy weeks of traveling, things finally started to get back to the normal busy pace towards the end of July.  On Wednesday, July 23, I spent most of my day in meetings or on conference calls while walking back and forth between the House and Senate sides of the Capitol.  I was trying to squeeze in last-minute meetings with Capitol Hill staffers because I had several policy issues pop-up as Members of Congress finished the last of the legislative work before heading back to their states and districts for the August recess.  It was one of those days that I thought was going to be quiet when it first started, but by the time the day ended, I was shocked to realize the day was over and I never even ate lunch.

I got home too late to make it to my yoga class, so I decided to go for a run to burn off the last of the day’s energy before dinner.  And, of course, part of that stress-relieving routine involves following that run with a cold beer.

Port City Brewing Company Downright Pilsner

Port City Brewing Company Downright Pilsner

The Downright Pilsner (brewery) is a German Pilsner from DC-Area Port City Brewing Company (actually located in Alexandria, Virginia).  The beer was a medium golden color with a white sudsy top.  On the nose, there was yeast mixed with hints of lemon and Granny Smith apples.  In the mouth, there were Cheerios, a dry grass, and hoppy-bitterness with a hint of something floral that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  The beer was light-to-medium bodied.

Is it worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass.  At $1.99 for a single 12oz bottle or $11 for a 6-pack, this beer was refreshing, but it’s not a beer I would go searching out.  I prefer a little more flavor mixed in with the hoppy-bitterness.  Plus, there are other Port City beers, like the Derecho Common, that I enjoy a lot more.  At the same time, if the Downright Pilsner was being served somewhere, I wouldn’t say no to it either.

All in all, it felt fantastic to start the normal routine back up.  Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much I’d been missing it, and having the Port City Downright Pilsner hit the spot after a busy workday and a run in the hot weather.

Question of the Day: Are you a Pilsner drinker?  If so, do you have a few recommendations?

Tröegs Brewing Company Beer Dinner at Willow Restaruant

Troegs Pale Ale Welcome Beer and menu

Troegs Pale Ale –Our welcome beer and the menu

On February 19th, several friends and I went to a Tröegs Brewing Company beer and dinner pairing at Willow Restaurant.  I’ve been to several of beer and wine pairing dinners there before, and it’s always a fun experience.  There is always someone from the brewery/winery to walk attendees through the tasting, and often the restaurant will unveil a new dish or serve something that is made specially for the tasting.  In fact, one of my favorite dishes at Willow, the Pigs in a Blanket (a Jamie Stachowski French Garlic Sausage wrapped in house-made puff pastry, baked until golden brown, and served with a black garlic aioli) was introduced at a Flying Dog Brewery beer pairing event I attend there in last fall.

Sadly, the restaurant wasn’t as organized with Tröegs dinner, although that was definitely no fault of the brewery.  There wasn’t a new dish unveiling, the food arrival and beer pouring wasn’t timed well, and there was general confusion through much of the event.  That said, the Tröegs representative was very knowledgeable and friendly, and he did his best to try and work with the chaos that seemed to be happening.  All in all, the food was good and the beer was delicious, so, while the event wasn’t as smoothly run as previous ones, a good time was still had by all.

Tröegs Pale Ale

Tröegs Pale Ale

Tröegs Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
Medium copper color
Grapefruit, limes, and some maltiness mixed with a hint of something floral.
Medium bodied and refreshing.
Overall, this “welcome beer” was a good way to start the evening.  It cleared the palate, even if it wasn’t something out of the ordinary.
3 Corks

Tröegs Nugget Nector and Creamy Oyster Chowder

Tröegs Nugget Nectar & the creamy oyster chowder

Tröegs Nugget Nectar
American Amber/Red Ale
Available Seasonally (February-March)
Medium-to-deep amber with strong orange flecks
Apricot, hints of pine resin
A strong bitterness that works with the body and flavors of the beer.  Not for the non-hops lover.
Pairing = a creamy oyster chowder with winter vegetables.  The strong bitterness helped cut through the creaminess of the chowder, which made it a nice pairing.
4.5 Corks

Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale & Smokehouse Flatbread

Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale & the Smokehouse Flatbread

Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale
American Amber/Red Ale
Deep amber color
Some citrus, pine, and dust
Bitterness and sweetness, but in a way that isn’t balanced or mixed together
Light-to-medium body
Pairing = the Smokehouse Flatbread, which was made with house smoked pulled chicken, creamy leeks, fried shallots, thyme, and Ilchester smoked cheddar.  The beer worked with its strong flavors.  That said, this was the weakest course all the way around, as neither the beer nor the food left me very excited.
2.5 Corks

Tröegs Perpetual IPA

Tröegs Perpetual IPA

Tröegs Perpetual IPA
Imperial Pale Ale
Medium golden-orange
Grapefruit, hints of spiciness and smokiness
Nice balance
Paring = Seared Day Boat Scallops with goat cheese and fines herb risotto and a blood orange vinaigrette
4.5 Corks

Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock & the duck duo

Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock & the duck duo

Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock
Medium brown with flecks of amber and a beige, foamy head
Molasses mixed with breadiness and hints of nutmeg, figs, and cream
Medium-to-full bodied with nice balance
Pairing = Duo of Duck, which was a duck breast with duck confit, spiked french green lentils, turnip grating, and a Tröegenator-infused duck jus
4.5 Corks

Tröegs Dream Weaver & Kate's Bread Pudding

Tröegs Dream Weaver & Kate’s Bread Pudding

Tröegs Dream Weaver
Hazy medium gold
Yeasty with bananas and cloves with hints of white pepper
Light-to-medium body
Pairing = Kate’s Banana Bread Pudding with salted caramel ice cream and spiced pecans
3 Corks

Question of the day: Have you gone to a beer pairing dinner?  What brewery was it and what did you think?

A Saturday Hop Session

Wine at Central InstagramThe week of February 3rd was a ridiculously busy week.  I started off Monday with a dentist appointment, had work events Tuesday and Wednesday night, ran four miles and celebrated Hubby’s birthday on Thursday, and finished off on Friday with dinner out at Michel Richard’s Central and The Importance of Being Earnest at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.   All that activity meant that I enjoyed a glass of wine or two while out, but didn’t have much chance to taste anything at home.

Running in DCSaturday, though, was a usual day for Hubby and me.  We spent the morning grocery shopping, picking up and dropping off dry cleaning, and finishing up the errands we needed to do before lacing up for our long run.  Since the weather was cooperating, I headed outside, running through the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor so that I could get in some hills in preparation for the half marathon.  It was a solid 13-mile run that left me hoping to get a little faster before race day, but feeling strong and ready.  Afterwards, as usual, I opened up a beer and just spent the evening being lazy.

White Birch Brewing Hop Session India Pale Ale

White Birch Brewing Hop Session India Pale Ale

The White Birch Brewing Hop Session Ale (brewery) is an India Pale Ale from Hooksett, New Hampshire.  As the beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized, it was a hazy medium amber, with an inch of off-white foam on the top.  On the nose, there was some yellow grapefruit and hints of Cheerios.  In the mouth, there was lemon and caramel mixed with hints of pine and something herbal.  The beer had a medium body and medium carbonation.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.   At $8 for 22oz, this IPA was a little lighter bodied than I expected, but it had a nice, balanced bitterness that kept the beer refreshing and enjoyable while still giving me some of the IPA qualities that I was really looking for.  We can have the debate about whether a brewery can make a “Session IPA,” but I think the Hop Session Ale embodies the idea well.  It embraced the hoppiness of an IPA without hitting me in the face with it, which meant the big, bold, bitterness that seems to be more and more common in many IPAs didn’t overwhelm this beer and let some of the other characteristics really shine through.  This was the first beer I’ve had from White Birch Brewing, and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more of their beers.

Question of the Day:  Are you an IPA fan?  Do you have a favorite?

Price: $8 for 22oz.
Purchased at Whole Foods Market
Overall: 4 Corks