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

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