Stone 17th Anniversary Gotterdammerung IPA

The name is a mouthful, but the reason is that the people at Stone have been experimenting with German malts and hops. They decided to take their experiments and use them to make their anniversary beer for this, their 17th anniversary. This is a double IPA with a fairly strong alcohol kick at 9.5%, but it still is not overpowering in the flavor. This is a unique tasting IPA. They used four kinds of German or German based hops – Strisselspalt, Sterling, Herkules (a new high alpha German variety) and Hersbrucker. They used malts typically used in lagers. The result is a sharp citrus aroma and flavor mixed with a little resin and slight bit of floweriness. It is a tad more on the bitter side. The body feels light for a double IPA and it is very drinkable like a lager. It has a slightly different taste, maybe a touch more flowery, than other Stone IPAs. I liked this beer, but I didn’t love it as much as I love some other Stone beers. I would give it 3 out of 5 proper pints.

Schlafly Golden Ale

This is a very nice, light and refreshing Belgian style ale. It reminds me of a Belgian, but I’m not sure which one. It pours a nice light golden color and has a very small head. It has aromas of apricot and bread. There is a little hint of something spicy as well. It leaves a slight tingle on the side of your tongue. It is very drinkable. One is gone before you know it and you’re looking for another one. It went well with a light stir fry dinner. I would definitely have this again. Three of five proper pints.

Virginia Craft Brew Fest 2013

I went to the Virginia Craft Beer Festival with my family and some friends this past weekend. The life changing thing I discovered is that there is an area to the Southwest of Charlottesville, very close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where there is a concentration of breweries (and wineries) all of which are very good. The festival was held on the grounds of the Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, VA. The others (three of which are on the same road) are Starr Hill, Blue Mountain Brewing Company and Wild Wolf Brewing Company. The festival was nicely done. There was plenty of parking and they had set up camping for people who did not want to drive after sipping beer all day. One really nice thing was that the festival went from 2-9 (1 if you bought VIP tickets). There was live music the entire time and there were four food trucks, including a shaved ice one that my kids loved. The breweries included Starr Hill, Blue Mountain, Wild Wolf and Devil’s Backbone, of course. However, it also included Corcoran, one of my favorite nano-breweries from Loudoun County. Others included Bold Rock Cider, which shares the same road as the aforementioned breweries and Capitol City from the DC area. Two real stand outs included Hardywood from Richmond, which was serving a Blackberry Belgian Wit, made with local blackberries. Not sweet at all, this was a respectable beer with a nice light hop nose and fruity esters from the belgian yeast. The other was Apocalypse from Forest, VA. They were serving a very smooth and decadently, chocolatey Chocolate Stout. One my consistent favorites was Blue Mountain Barrel House. They had an oak aged pumpkin ale with no spices that had a nice oaky bourbon flavor that was deepened and enriched by the pumpkin, but avoided the sometimes over spicing that some brewers are guilty of. They also served a lemongrass tripel that was very refreshing, but packed a little bit of an ABV punch. Another high note was the Wild Wolf pumpkin, which did have spices, but hit exactly the right balance. This one almost rivaled my love for Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. I would definitely recommend getting the VIP tickets. It was nice to sit in a tent on a sunny day. The location is absolutely gorgeous, nestled between the foothills and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I plan to make this a yearly staple.

Uinta Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale

This is part of Uinta’s “Crooked” line of beers (Uinta is a Utah based brewery, yes there is one). It is also the first pumpkin beer I’m trying for the season. It does feel a little early to be drinking pumpkin beer being August is not over yet. However, my all time favorite beer is coming out this weekend (Dogfish Head Punkin Ale), so I guess it’s not too early. If you read my post “13 Pumpkins” from last Fall, you know I tried a lot of beers to see if I could find another one to rival Punkin Ale. I really didn’t, though I would say Schlafly came the closest. Well, Oak Jacked Pumpkin Ale was not one of the ones I tried, or the story might have been different. I would say I have finally found a rival for Punkin Ale. There is some similarity. Of course the big difference is that this beer is aged in oak barrels, giving it a bourbon-y quality, which goes nicely with the Fall spices. There are noticeable notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and vanilla. The spices seem to hit just the right combination to not be too much. For example, I think that while Schalafly Pumpkin is good, it is a little heavy on the spices. Uinta has struck a good balance, very similar to Punkin Ale. It does have a high (10.3% ABV), but you don’t notice it at all. I give it the coveted five out of five proper pints.

Firestone Walker Double DBA

Firestone Walker is a California brewery that has been winning awards and putting out really high quality craft beers for a while now. They rival Stone for their quality, but they are not as easy to find on the East Coast. DBA stands for “Double Barrel Ale.” This does hit you like two barrels. It is a big beer – 12% ABV – in the English Barleywine style, though they call it an “Imperial Special Bitter.” I envisioned it more as a barrel aged Pale Ale, but it definitely had the assertiveness of a Barleywine. It is aged in oak barrels and carries a strong whiff of vanilla in the glass. It leans a bit toward the sweet side with a nice, silky medium body and a moderate amount of carbonation. The vanilla flavor is strong, but there are also notes of oak, toffee and maybe a little cherry. There is also a distinct boozy quality because of the high ABV. It drinks very smoothly and quickly, so watch out. I only drank half a 22 oz bottle and definitely had a little buzz going. More than that and you better not plan on operating any heavy machinery for a while. I give it four out of five proper pints.

DC Beer Week – ChurchKey – Bell’s Tap Takeover

OK, we arrived a little late for the Bell’s Tap Takeover. It featured a cask version of Two Hearted Ale and the Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch 9000. We arrived 90 minutes after the event started and missed both. However, we did get to try the Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout (pictured by itself). We also got to try the Le Pianiste and Le Contrebassiste. Lastly, we also tried the Expedition Stout, the Sparkling Ale and Hell Hath No Fury. All of the Bell’s beers were good, as you would expect. The bier de gardes (Le Pianiste and Le Contrebassiste) were a little meh. Just OK, but not great. I’m not sure I would have either one again. Two out of five proper pints. The Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout was a little like a sour. Very nice, mind you, but a little more sour than expected. Overall, a very good beer. Three out of five proper pints. The last three we had in small glasses, the Expedition Stout, the Hell Hath No Fury (Dubbel) and the Sparkling Ale (Trippel). Each one was better than the last. On balance I might call the Expedition Stout a slight standout. It had a nice smooth starting flavor, then zoomed upward toward chocolate and malt and stayed there as the beer went down. Though, the dubbel was nicely smooth, dark and fruity. The trippel was nice and banana-like, but light, yet carrying a hefty alcohol punch. I really could not say which was the best, they were all really good. Each would get four of five proper pints. Churchkey is awesome, but Bell’s is just a real quality brewery.

Stone R&R Coconut IPA

Created by two home brewers who won an American Homebrewers Association contest and brewed by Stone and Rip Current Brewery. If I could brew this beer on my own, I would be a happy man. Who’d a thunk of coconut and hops? Actually Kona Brewery makes a good Coconut Brown Ale. This one actually doesn’t have a strong taste of coconut. It does give a strong whiff of coconut when you open the bottle. They did add 280 lbs. of coconut to the brew. Along with the coconut, because of the hops, there is also a distinct tropical fruitiness to it. A little mango, a little pineapple and a touch of grapefruit. It does have a hoppy bite, don’t think this is a sweet beer. It went very nicely with some pasta and spicy Italian sausage. I give it 4 out of 5 proper pints.

Flying Fish Dubbel

Wow, this is a nice beer. I had it once before at the DC Beer Fest at Nationals Stadium and I thought it was good then. I saw it at Total Wine and decided to try it again and I was not disappointed. This one hits you with a little hazelnut up front and a little banana on the back. It has a medium to light body and drinks scarily easily. It does pack a 7% ABV, so watch out. You will down a couple before you know it and you will be seeing dubbel! I give it 5 out of 5 proper pints.

Kona Brewing Wailua Ale

I had high hopes for this beer after trying a passion fruit wheat in Guam that was so fantastic I decided to try brewing my own version. I thought this might be as good, but I’m afraid to say I was wrong. This tasted like Rolling Rock with a hint of passion fruit. It wasn’t awful, but I probably would not get it again. 2 out of 5 proper pints.

Port City Derecho Common

Straight up, no nonsense hot weather go to beer. This beer has a little bit fuller mouthfeel and flavor than your average lager, but it is lighter and smoother than a Pale Ale. It had a slight hoppiness, but was not at all bitter. The flavor gave a slight hint of pineapple. You could easily have several of these without thinking too much about it. I would definitely have this again. 4 out of 5 proper pints.