A buddy of mine and I took a day off work to drive around and visit some Virginia breweries. We hadn’t spent much time visiting ones in Richmond, so we decided to go there. Unfortunately for our plan, it happened to be a Monday and many small breweries are closed on Monday. Nevertheless, we did a little research and found that Strangeways would be open. Initially, I wasn’t sure about it. We thought Hardywood would be the main objective. Nevertheless, I perused Strangeways’ website and was surprised to see the variety of different beers they had to offer. They do high alcohol and low alcohol beers. They barrel age some of their beers and add unusual ingredients to get unique flavors. They also have more standard beer styles. More than many, they really seemed to have something for every taste. They have four main series of beers – Nucleus (Albino Monkey White Ale, Woodbooger Belgian Brown, Phantasmic East Coast IPA, and Wild Wallonian Dawn Honey Saison), Migration (notably including Uberlin Berliner Weiss and Gourd of Thunder Pumpkin Porter), Woodsman (including the Delightfully Immoral Grisette, Disintegration Barrel Aged IPA, and Umlaut Boktoberfest), and Annihilation (including Vatos Muertos Tequila Barrel Aged Stout with Ghost Peppers and Soledad Rum Barrel Aged). In the tasting room they had at least 30 of their beers available on tap and it may have been more. On my visit, they actually had three of their beers in a gingerbread style – the Gourd of Thunder Pumpkin, the Woodbooger and Umlaut Boktoberfest. The atmosphere of the tasting room was also undeniably funky and creative, adding to the sense that these beers were not going to be run of the mill. Some of their beers were available for sale in bombers at the tasting room. It appears from their website their beer is also available at quite a few restaurants and stores that sell beer in the Richmond area. I have not seen it available in Northern Virginia, but hope to find some soon. I tried 7 of their beers on my visit and there were none I didn’t like. The Vatos Muertos Tequila Barrel Aged Stout was particularly good. So good in fact I had to buy a bottle and take it home. I was also a huge fan of the Uberlin Berliner Weiss, which they serve plain (I don’t care for plain berliner weiss) or you can add a woodruff syrup or raspberry syrup, the way they do Germany. I had it with the green, herbal woodruff syrup and it was delicious. The syrup takes away the sourness and gives it a slightly citrusy and slightly herbal flavor. Gourd of Thunder Pumpkin Porter and Woodbooger Belgian Brown were also standouts. Strangeways along with Adroit Theory are now my two favorite Virginia breweries, though I have yet to visit them all and more seem to be opening all the time. Anyway, I give Strangeways five out of five proper pints.
I really have to say I’m liking Hardywood. I recently went down to Richmond in the hopes of visiting, but it happened to be on a Monday and they were closed. This one is their seasonal Christmas beer. I found it at Trader Joe’s and I understand they may be out already, but are expecting another shipment. It definitely goes fast. It pours dark, almost black with a medium off white head. It smells just like gingerbread. The body is medium with a creamy texture and a decent amount of carbonation. I’m not a fan of milk stouts that are flat. The flavors are definitely gingerbread-y, including cinnamon, molasses, ginger, bread crust, honey, and there is a teency bit of burnt coffee roastiness at the end. A very good beer, perfect for the Holidays. I give it five out of five proper pints.
I saw the label and noticed this is a Belgian Dubbel with plums. I love a dark fruit flavored beer. It pours a reddish brown with a light tan head. The aroma is dark fruit. The flavor really pops. You get a combination of the fruity yeast flavor, with plums, a little pepper, cloves, berries and raisins. The alcohol is well masked, but sneaks up on you. This is a very refreshing beer with a warm chicken pot pie on a chilly Fall evening.
I have not always been impressed with Samuel Adams, even with their limited release beers, but this one is an exception. It’s a Christmas seasonal, Gingerbread Stout. It pours a dark brown with a medium off white head. It has a creamy mouthfeel and medium body with a pretty fair amount of carbonation. The taste is clearly gingerbread, molasses, cinnamon, with a little burnt roasty malt at the end. The flavors are nicely balanced and the alcohol is well hidden. This is a quality made brew and quite tasty to boot. I give it four out of five proper pints.