Enjoying the Local Species

Blue Mountain Barrel House Local Species

Blue Mountain Barrel House Local Species

Blue Mountain Brewery is about 2 and a half hours away, so it’s definitely not a “DC Beer,” however, I still think of it as local. In fact, Blue Mountain Brewery makes quality craft brews, and while it’s taken me a little while to find my favorite of their beers, I have enjoyed the ones I’ve tasted so far.  So, admittedly, while I ended 6th Annual DC Beer Week  (August 17-24) with a non-DC beer, I did go with a “Local Species,” and it definitely hit the spot.

The Local Species (brewery, untappd) is a Belgian Pale Ale made by Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County, Virginia.  The beer was a dark, hazy, reddish-amber with an off-white, foamy head and a lot of lacing on the glass.  On the nose, there was toasty maltiness mixed with hints of red apple and caramel.  In the mouth, there is a maltiness and some grass mixed with the slightest hint of something sour, maybe sour grapefruit, and some toffee-like sweetness, probably from the bourbon barrel the beer was aged in. The beer had a nice body with a long, smooth finish with only a hint of hoppy bitterness.

Cork and closeup of Blue Mountain Barrel House Local SpeciesIs this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this beer in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At $11 for 750ml, this beer is easy to drink, food-friendly, and well-balanced.  Hubby and I have started the fall race season training, so I enjoyed the Local Species on a Sunday evening while recovering from one of my first longer training runs.  It was a great beer for putting up my feet, relaxing, and catching up on my Runner’s World and Vogue magazine reading.

Question of the Day: How far away is still local for you when it comes to buying local beer or wine?  For you, is buying local more about supporting small producers than it is about actually buying local (for example, is buying a Robert Mondavi wine when you’re in Napa still buying local)?

Price: $11 for a 750ml bottle
Purchased at Whole Foods Market
Overall: 4 Corks

Getting Rowdy During DC Beer Week

With Congress in recess during August, the 6th Annual DC Beer Week  (August 17-24) couldn’t have fallen at a better time for me.  The slower work schedule not only allowed me to head out to lunch at places that were offering local beers, but also let me taste one while there.  Halfway through the week, I met a colleague at a DC restaurant institution — Old Ebbitt Grill.  Old Ebbitt can be a little touristy, but they have some of the best crab cakes in the city, so when I saw that they were one of the restaurants participating in DC Beer Week, I couldn’t pass up going there.

As I already mentioned, a number of DC beers are only available on tap at local restaurants or at the breweries themselves, which adds to the mystic of some local brews.  The problem for me is that unless you visit the brewery, you’re missing out.  And, since Hubby doesn’t drink, going to a brewery on a Saturday afternoon isn’t really his idea of fun, so there are a number of local beers I’ve been reading a lot about, but haven’t had a chance to taste.  As, Atlas Brew Works has only been open for about a year, their beers are a little harder to find than some of the other local breweries, so I haven’t had a chance to try one yet.  Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I saw the Rowdy Rye on the tap list at Old Ebbitt.

A pint of Atlas Brew Works Rowdy Rye at Old Ebbitt Grill

A pint of Atlas Brew Works Rowdy Rye at Old Ebbitt Grill

The Rowdy Rye (brewery, untappd) is a rye beer from Atlas Brew Works in Northeast Washington, DC.  The beer was a hazy, copper color with hints of amber.  On the nose, there was rye bread, caramel, and black pepper mixed with a hint of something floral and zesty.  In the mouth, there was only the slightest hint of hoppy bitterness mixed with rye, caramel, black pepper, and resin. The beer had a medium body.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this beer, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  This beer is anything but rowdy, as it’s well-crafted and nicely balanced.  It’s a beer  I wish was available in my local store because it would make a regular appearance in my house.  In fact, it’s a beer that I enjoyed so much, I looked up the location of the brewery to figure out how difficult it would be to visit semi-regularly so that I could keep some of their beer on hand.  The Rowdy Rye was smooth and easy to drink on its own, while also making a gorgeous pairing with my crab cakes.  To be honest, when I first tasted the beer, I was concerned about how the pairing would work.  I loved the way the beer tasted, but I couldn’t picture it mixing well with my lunch.  So, I was very pleasantly surprised to see how the beer and the crab cakes really enhanced each other when put together.

Question of the Day: Do you buy growlers of beer from a local brewery or store?  If so, I’d love to hear more about your experiences.

Atlast_Facebook_ImageP.S.  For those of you who are local,  Atlas Brew Works is holding an anniversary celebration at the brewery THIS Saturday (9/6) from 1-5pm.  There will be local DC food trucks (including one of my personal favorites, Cap Mac), live music from local bands, great beer (obviously, although only your first beer is included in the price of admission), and community spirit, as all the proceeds from the event will benefit the Washington Humane Society.  Tickets are $10, and you can purchase them here through OnTap.  I’m not getting any kickbacks from the brewery or OnTap if you buy tickets, although I did receive complimentary admission from Atlas for Hubby and me, so we’re planning on checking things out.  If you see me, say hello and we can toast some fantastic local brews together!

When & Where: Saturday, September 6, from 1 to 5 pm
@ 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, Washington, DC
Food: DC Sliders, Cap Mac, and Woodland’s Vegan Bistro
Music: Live music from Bumper Jacksons (a DC roots jazz/country swing band),
Unstable Heights (a Baltimore progressive/alternative rock band), and Sunwolf.

Price: $6.95 per pint
Purchased at Old Ebbitt Grill
Overall: 4 Corks

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?