What’s Next for Washington

otwoa1Washington DC was late into the brewery game, but that is not stopping it from being a hot bed for brewing today. One of the most well known breweries in the area and in the District is DC Brau. Their well known and widely popular flagship beer is On The Wings of Armageddon. Released in 2012 for the Mayan Apocalypse, this is a single hopped beer made using the Falconer’s Flight hop that clocks in at 9.2% ABV that packs a pungent aroma and blistering bitterness, but manages to remain quite balanced. It has been said by some, mainly myself, that this beer can stand toe to toe with Heady Topper. With a highly sought after beer that can legitimately be compared to Heady, you would think the echelon on brewing in DC would end there, but not so fast.


Right Proper Brewing Company:

right-proper-brewing-logo
Located the Shaw Community of Washington, DC, Right Proper is the relatively new kid on the block, but they are making plenty noise with their beer. According to their website, their purpose is to make good beer, but also to fill a void that the District has been missing. From their website:

“We built Right Proper to be a brewery with heart and soul, a neighborhood gathering place that makes and serves fresh beer alongside delicious food that won’t break the bank. The brew pub is the creation of DC beer guru Thor Cheston, head brewer Nathan Zeender and John Snedden, founder and owner of Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company.

We picked a location that would be part of a community, where those who live nearby will stop in to meet friends for a beer and a bite. Established on the spot where Frank Holiday’s Pool Hall once stood — and where Duke Ellington learned how to play jazz as a teenager – Right Proper next to the Howard Theater stands proud as part of the real Washington.”

Right Proper seems to lean more towards Belgian styles such as Saisons and Farmhouse and they are doing a fantastic job with it. They brew classic styles via classic methods and brew using various fermentation techniques along with secondary and tertiary fermenting. With no beers that lean toward being too big, everything at Right Proper is very approachable and is true to the style in which they were intended. Refreshing and appropriate is the name of the game with these guys.

Along with great beer, they are serving up killer food. According to them:

“Right Proper’s kitchen turns out comfort food with a Southern accent. Led by Head Chef Robert Cain, the kitchen crew focuses on the marriage of food and beer. Some dishes are made with beer; some dishes are made for beer. All are made for your enjoyment.”

I can speak from first hand experience that their grilled cheese sandwich is absolutely KILLER, not only in taste, but also in looks. If you want yours dripping with cheese down the sides and would make grilled cheeses in every elementary school from Portland, ME to San Diego, CA jealous, then this is your place. Being from South Carolina, I did not think that finding good chicken livers in Washington, DC would be possible, but to my chagrin, Right Proper proved me wrong. Great beer being served up with great food in a neighborhood that provides the quintessential “just hanging out with friends this evening drinking beer” feel is where Right Proper seems to be excelling. If you find yourself in Washington, DC, make it a point to check out this brewery and you will not be disappointed.

Other Notable Area Breweries:

Atlas Brewing (DC)

Three Stars (DC)

Chocolate City (DC)

Port City (Alexandria, VA)

Mad Fox (Falls Church, VA)

Adroit Theory (Purcellville, VA)

Lost Rhino (Leesburg, VA)

Forge Brew Works (Lorton, VA)

BadWolf Brewing (Manassas, VA)

Heritage Brewing (Manassas, VA)

Old Bust Head (Fauquier, VA)

 

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GABF – No Brewery Left Behind

gabf_medals

The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is a three-day annual event hosted by the Brewers Association, in Denver, CO since 1984 moving from its original place in Bolder(1982), CO. The GABF has come a long from their original 22 Bbeweries and 800 attendees. This year the GABF will have more than 3200 volunteers and over than 200 judges and will judge 90 beer styles. See beer styles

The Festival happens every year on the second half of September to early October.  The 2014 GABF is scheduled for October 2-4.

As an example of how important this festival is; last year’s tickets were sold in 20 minutes (Tickets runs around $80.00 per day) and the brewery spots filled in the first 2 hours. Between brewers and attendees there were more than 49K people attending and they served over 48,000 Gallons of beer, more than 3,100 unique beers.  (“GABF” Website.)

Such popularity among breweries and craft beer aficionados has caused the number of people willing to participate, breweries and attendees alike, to increase at an amazing rate. This year’s brewery registration opened on June 17th and runs to June 26th. Only legally operating commercial breweries in the U.S. are allowed to enter the Great American Beer Festival.

The GABF organizers have looked into ways to make sure every brewery that applies can participate in the 2014 festival. They announce that this year The BA will be able to judge around 5,400 beers; an increase comparing to 4300+ in 2012 and 4800+ in 2013.

According to BA’s Barbara Fusco, some changes were put in place to include every brewery willing to participate.  They decide to use a similar format to the World Cup of Beer, which also happened in Denver a few months ago and was successful model. They think this will avoid all the hassle from last year’s competition and alleviate the fear of breweries have of missing the chance to participate.

I’m sure they are also hoping to not have to issue another apology statement for all the inconvenience the attendees trying to get tickets had to go through with the so called “technical difficulties” on the 2013 pre-sale through Ticket Master.

They raised the cap for participation to 1400 breweries this year (they expect to be way under this number since last year they had 750 breweries applying and many didn’t make into the Festival). The idea is that will allow every brewery to be accepted.

So here is how it will work:

They will take the number of breweries that apply to the competition and divide by their total capacity of judging (more or less 5400). The way they explain on the GABF website is with a simple math.

5000 beers able to be judge /1000 breweries competing = 5 beers per brewery.

If for some unknown reason more the 1400 breweries apply, the registration will close at that point before the due date.

 Award Criteria

Gold A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma and appearance.
Silver An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma and appearance.
Bronze A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor deviations in taste, aroma or appearance.
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Craft Beer Adventures – In Search of a Great Brown Ale

One of the fun things about the craft beer world is the diversity of styles.  You can take a quick dip into a style or two you normally don’t drink or don’t even like just to see how things are going in that corner of the craft beer world.  As I’ve previously written, I’m a fan of the big hoppy beers.

Last year I decided to branch out a bit and tackle a style I was quite lukewarm about: Wheat Beer.  And in doing so discovered some world class beers along the way.  This year I decided to tackle two categories that I have had a long dislike for (with very rare exceptions): Brown Ales and Lagers.  This post is a recap of my Brown Ale Adventure.

What can I say about the Brown Ale?  Boring was the first word that came to mind before starting this adventure.  “Meh.” would have been my reaction. I’d much rather have a Stout or Porter if I’m going for a dark beer.  Now that I’ve explored this style more I can honestly say I’ve gained an appreciation and respect for the style.

SamuelSmiths_NutBrownAle_small

My sampling of Brown Ales overall is still small.  Checking on my Untappd page here’s the breakdown (though not all as I’ve only been on Untappd a year or two):

American Brown Ale – 5
English Brown Ale – 4
Imperial/Double Brown Ale – 3

So, 12 beers in the past 18 months or so isn’t a large sampling but enough to give me a good idea of the variations of the style.  I tasted some decent beers, some nice beers and a couple of outstanding beers.  My favorite of the bunch was Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale.  This is the one Brown Ale that actually made me say: “This is a fantastic Nut Brown Ale!” Words I never expected to utter along the way.  As far as the American Brown Ale goes I’d have to give the nod to Roosterfish Brewing Original Dark Nut Brown Ale out of Watkins Glen, NY as my favorite amongst the sampling I had. It hit every note I’ve come to expect from a Brown Ale and it was velvety smooth.  Considering this was Roosterfish’s first beer and is celebrating its 10 year anniversary I’m not surprised they do such a great job of it.

Overall, I’ve come to appreciate the style a lot more than I had previously.  Still not a favorite style of mine but no longer do I have to frown when presented with a Brown Ale.

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Veterans United Craft Brewery

The name of a brew sets an expectation. It should represent what you will experience. What do I expect from two great names such as Raging Blonde Ale and HopBanshee? An ale that makes me want to tear through a field at dawn, not caring that I’m getting bugs in my teeth and being scratched by stalks of wheat or corn, or whatever fields are made of. (Apparently in this scenario, I’m in the Mid-West.) I expect an IPA that’s so hop-full, I lose my delicate modesty and begin wailing like the crazed hop head I’ve become.

veterans-unitedWe’ll get our chance to find out how true these names are when Veterans United Craft Brewery has its grand opening. The plan is to open in July 2014, but this is contingent on getting their new equipment. They will post updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Speaking of names, it isn’t called Veterans United Craft Brewery just to invoke a sense of national pride; the brewery is veteran-owned. They will be doing what they can for veterans. One of the investors, Bob Buehn—himself a retired Navy captain—told the Jax Daily Record that “it will be modest at first, but the whole focus will be on veterans.”

Speaking of beer, there will be a variety (in addition to the two beers I’ve already mentioned.) According to the marketing director, Christine Bradford, they will “brew all styles of beer from super hoppy Imperial IPAs, fruity and flavorful Belgian ales, malt-centric American and British beers, to a variety of German-style ales.”

According to Ms. Bradford, the special release and seasonal beers will be taproom-only, but they hope to eventually distribute these limited release and seasonal beers to the retail market.

Of course, they’ll have their year-round staples that will be distributed in Jacksonville, and the locations will be available on their website. Their beers will be available via kegs, growlers, and cans.

They are setting up shop in the heart of Southside, which means the heart of what I call the Office District. I predict many crowded evenings (and probably many crowded weekends, too). It won’t be far from good restaurants, too, in case you don’t want to drink on an empty stomach.

Regardless of whether you’re an office dweller like me, seeking respite and good beer, or looking for a little space from our already crowded “Beer District,” you’ll soon have a new choice off of Baymeadows Rd. in the Southside of Jacksonville, FL.

Links:

http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=542208

http://vubrew.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VUBrew

https://twitter.com/vubrew

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Legislative Trolling Level: Stone

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I have had some mixed emotions over Stone’s announcement of coming to the east coast. I love that they are expanding, but I quickly grew tired of every ZIP code east of the Mississippi cluttering up social media with pleas for the craft beer giant to settle in their town. Like anything that gets hyped to that level, I am usually ready for it to go away as soon as it appears.

I don’t think Stone could have reached the level they are at without being smart. They are going to build where the highways meet to minimize transportation expenses. They are going to build where there is sufficient population to staff the brewery jobs with quality people that are willing to work. They are going to build where the disposable incomes of the people that live there can support regular crowds at their classy beer garden and restaurant. I don’t think they are going to merely rely on a Facebook page with 500 likes to make their decision:  “Well, this town doesn’t fit our model and they don’t have any land….but there is this guy with a lot of passion that roped 500 people into clicking a thumb icon. Let’s go there!”

This week though, I had an epiphany. I had been spending significant effort being annoyed with the attention-grabbing mayhem. Then, in a moment of clarity–the kind of clarity that can only be achieved when one spends 30 minutes in a hot shower drinking a cold craft beer–it hit me. Perhaps that is exactly what they wanted.

Stay with me on this. You don’t have to do too much Googling to find that the legislative gears are cranking wildly to pass laws that make Stone’s picking their region an attractive option. As we rebound off of the economic bust of the last 7 years, getting some fresh investment in a growing industry looks pretty attractive to most states. I think Stone is talking about a $30 million investment here. That gets the elected officials all kinds of excited and willing to move on changes to the laws (even in an election year).

All of this deregulation might be trying to influence Stone’s decision, but it is having the side effect of making a more beneficial environment for ALL craft breweries in their jurisdictions. The ramifications of these new laws will be felt long after the fact. I will leave the discussion about what impact these laws will have (I know the law in South Carolina is getting some heat from both sides of the argument) for a different day, but make no mistake, the changes could be significant. There is a broad range of states and municipalities that are anxious to get a piece of the growth in the market, and none seem to be to worried about some archaic laws getting in the way of that.

If my presumption is correct, I applaud Greg Koch and his folks for playing their hand brilliantly. Since you can’t get congress to act without dangling a wad of cash in front of them, we can leave this one hanging out there for a good bit longer to see what else we be accomplished.

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South Carolina and Stone, beer legislation brewing in the State Senate

Stone is considering locating in SC.

Well maybe.   We are “on the list” of possible locations for a brewery east of the Mississippi River.  Several of our major population centers (Lexington, Myrtle Beach, Greenville) have made a proposal to Stone to come to their area.  We offer cheap land, people able to work at a fair wage, good highway networks for the beer to be distributed upon and friendly business law and regulation.  Mostly…

The “mostly” is currently being worked on by our state legislature. One of our state’s “beer lawyers”  Brook Bristow  from www.beerofsc.com and others from the South Carolina Brewers Association (Shout out to Jamie at Coast Brewing, I know she’s been working hard at this for years) put together a bill that would allow stone to be both a brewpub and a brewery. Brewpub in that they will serve food, and brewery in that they will distribute.  Currently in SC, a brewpub can make up to 2000 barrels a year for on premise consumption.  They are allowed to sell growlers to of their beer to go, but, they are not allowed to distribute.  You will not see any of our current excellent brew pubs  such as Hunter Gatherer and Old Mill Brewpub here in Columbia at any other bar or restaurant in the city.  On the other end of the beer spectrum, our local breweries such as Conquest and Riverrat can’t serve food. If you want to eat while your’re enjoying a pint there, you had better hope a food truck is there for the day. 

(Here is Brook’s article on “The Stone Bill” )

The new law would allow brewpubs to make up to 500,000 barrels a year and distribute.  This means current breweries could start serving food and convert their license to a brewpub license.  They would no longer be held to the 3 beer max per person per day on primes, and, to my knowledge, no longer be limited by the 288 oz (24/12oz bottles or 4- 64oz growlers) per day limit for off premise.  They would no longer be required to give a tour with each sale.

The law was create to attract Stone, and other large breweries looking for expansion. but would benefit our local breweries regardless of what Stone decides to do.  Any sales made directly at the brewery puts more $ in the small business’s pocket, giving them more income to expand and employee more people.   This doesn’t mean distribution and the three tier systems as we know it will end for local breweries.  People still want to drink local craft beer at other restaurants and bars.  And breweries do not want to own trucking companies, they want to brew beer.  It just means that more local craft beer will be accessible, more money will stay with the brewery, and, people might start to choose local craft beer over mass marked light lager products.

Which is where the letter from Anheuser Busch comes in to play. (A link to “The letter” The folks over at AB wrote a letter to the SC Senate, asking them to please consider not passing this legislation.   The bill “creates winners and losers”…. because the currently legislation doesn’t?   We’re legislating that breweries have to give much of their product to a third party if they want to produce more than they can sell at their own facility.   AB is afraid because they’ll lose market share as more and more consumers become aware of what local, craft beer has to offer.  They would prefer to keep legislation the way it is, as it’s currently in their favor.

We are running out of time to get this legislation passed.  But we have come so far with it so quickly, there is quite a bit of hope in the craft beer community that we’ll get it passed this session.  If the legislature will ignore the letter, and recognize that, while AB does have quite a bit of $ now to buy legislation, they are losing market share every year.  The jobs and the tax dollars generated from craft beer will greatly exceed what’s generated from light lager sells.  AB know’s that, and that’s why they are trying to stop the growth now.   If you’re following craft beer nation on G+, Twitter, or Facebook, look for updates on this bill.  And if you see a link asking you to contact our local legislature, please help South Carolina out and follow through with this.  We sent over 1900 emails in 2 hours last week asking the Senate to pass this bill.  If we need to, I think we can do twice that this week.

We’ve got to stand by our local small businesses and craft beer!  Join me in helping South Carolina Beer!

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The Beer Geek and the Beast

My name is Ashley, and I love craft beer.

I love everything about beer, from brewing it to drinking it.  I also love supporting local, small business. And I love the relationships that are formed over beer. Sharing beer is the best! What I hate, however, is the craft beer beast. From trashing other peoples beer choices, to hording rare release beers for themselves or trade bait, sometimes there’s a darker side to craft beer love.

I sat down at a bar several weeks ago and ordered a South Carolina IPA.  It’s not the best IPA on the planet, but, it’s not bad.  A couple wandered up to the bar and asked for a Hop Drop and Roll.  It’s one of my favorites, so, being the friendly gal I am, I asked if they’d had it before.  They said they had, and we struck up a conversation.  Fast forward about 15 minutes and a single fellow walks up and sits at the other side of the bar.  He orders a Bud Light.  There’s a sporting event on. Everyone’s watching,  a commercial comes on, something funny occurs, and we all get to talking.  Then, after a few words, the fellow in the couple asks the single fellow why he’s drinking *hit beer where there are so many craft options on tap here.

The single fellow starts trying to defend his choice.  It’s crazy.  This is no way to convert a light lager drinker!  And Bud Light isn’t a *hit beer!  Is it relatively flavorless….well, yes. But do you know how hard it is to brew a flavorless beer! Is it produced by a massive corporation that only cares about the bottom line, well, yes.  I’m not going to defend them, but, they do brew a quality product and if this fellow likes it, he should drink it.  I’m certainly open to encouraging him to try other beers.  But insulting his beer is NOT the way to do that.

Sadly, that’s not the end of the story.  After the couple and this single fellow civilly disagree about his beer choice, the couple then proceeds to trash just about every IPA on tap at the restaurant except Hop Drop and Roll, Including the one I’m drinking.  I don’t disagree that HDR is the superior IPA, but, that doesn’t make every other IPA out there terrible.  I ended up paying my tab and politely saying goodbye.

Then there’s the white whale hunter.  The person who goes into the bottle shop and says, what’s the rarest thing you have, ok, I’ll take a case of it.  It’s people like this person that cause the rest of us to have a limit. And even with that limit, some people still find a way to break the system. Hunahpu day is the most recent publicized example.  But there have been others, certainly more localized incidents.  I’m all for people trading beer with one another, it’s fun to try brews you can’t get in your hometown. But keeping your local beer loving friends from having that special release because you want to trade with 12 people across the country just doesn’t seem right. Trade one or two, but don’t be greedy. Some of the best beers are overlooked on the shelves because they’re so readily available.

I think to love and appreciate craft beer, is also to want to share it with others.  I would love to see craft beers’ market share jump from 7% to 30%, or more!  But by being a craft beer beast, you’re only keeping craft beer down.  Be a good craft beer geek. Share what you love! Be friendly and welcoming, and don’t hoard all the Double Barrel Aged Sour Stout!

~The Beer Fairy

 

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My Road to Craft Beer Nation

ArrogantBastard

I’m a Hop Head when it comes to Craft Beer.  A big, bold, bitter, tropical Imperial IPA?  Pine, resin, grapefruit, mango, pineapple, bitterness?  Yes please!  Talking to many other Craft Beer drinkers I seem to be in the minority in how I approached Craft Beer and where my palate has journeyed.

Most people I know started on one end of the spectrum, more on the Lager, Wheat, Brown or Stout side and worked their way over time to IPAs.  Me? I dove right in.  A trip to the store found me staring at shelf after shelf of beer and I reached for two: Green Flash Hop Head Red and Stone Arrogant Bastard.

I cracked each open and sipped and They Were GLORIOUS.  I was worthy!  To this day, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard remains in my personal Top 5 favorite beers.  Since then, I spent a year or so devouring every IPA, every hoppy beer I could find, reveling in the majesty that was The Hop.

And then, thanks to beer festivals and craft beer friends I discovered Ommegang Abbey Ale and the world of Belgian Beers opened up for me.

Before I get to joining Craft Beer Nation let me jump back in time to the 1980s.  I hung out in the Irish bars in the Bronx back in the days when the rest of the country had yet to discover Hip Hop.  I didn’t drink back then, not until the late 1980s, on my 23rd or 24th birthday.  But eventually beer found its way to my lips in the form of Rheingold in a bar on St Mark’s Place in the East Village.  However, trips over to the West Village led us to an English pub that also sold, along with their English imports, what I realize now were probably homebrews made in their basement.  This was my original introduction to what would be considered Craft Beer.  From that moment forward my beer intake would bounce back and forth between American macro Lagers and beers from all over the world.

Fast forward to about six years ago when I relocated to the Finger Lakes region of New York State and finally left macro brews behind.  Lagunitas IPA is probably the most responsible for this transformation.  My trip to the store mentioned above where I discovered Stone and Green Flash came the very next day after my first Lagunitas.

As for Craft Beer Nation I got onboard in Google Plus before it was fully open to the public, by chance more than anything and dabbled there for a while.  And then one day I stumbled across G+ Communities and the Craft Beer Nation.  And I noticed they did these Friday Night Hangouts. So I went to their YouTube Channel and watched at least half a dozen of them.  Realizing it was a really good group of people I squeezed into a hangout on my second try and have remained. And over the course of the past year I’ve had fun trying out each different style of beer picked for the week.  If you are wondering about a particular style of beer look for that week’s hangout and in the midst of the camaraderie I hope we impart some tidbit of knowledge.

2013 found me finally working my way in the other direction, exploring things like the Bavarian Heffeweisen and Trappist Beers.  For 2014 I’ve decided to explore the Brown Ale and the Lager, styles that make be go “meh”
and “yuck”. By year’s end I hope to change those reactions to joy and excitement.  Now I’m not expecting an Arrogant Bastard kind of love affair with either style but I hope to come to 2015 having added some more Go To Favorites to my list.

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SlyFox – 360 Top

slyfox-360-top
I bumped into a regional rep for SlyFox at my local bottle shop in Virginia this week. We had a great conversation, and he was nice enough to share with me a can of their Helles Golden Lager in their special 360 Top can. Here are my thoughts:

The beer.  It is a better-than-average representation of the style. It is crisp and well carbonated. The earthy malts balance nicely with the grassy hops. The aroma suffers from the lack of head, as there was no real release of CO2 when I opened the top (like you would get when you pour out into a glass).

The can. I am not totally sold on it. I love the concept. I love the progressive take on developing novel ways to get non-lightstruck beers to the consumer, but there are a few draw backs to this.

First, from a purely beer snob perspective, I like beer from a glass. I like the presentation of a lager in a tall slender glass. The stream of bubbles making their way to the top gives me a zen-like sense of refreshment (all those years of being exposed to television ads, I guess).

Second, a logistical quandary. The area from the edge that touches your lip to the inner ring of where the top is removed from the can is pretty significant. Not so much that it makes a mess, but enough that there is a waterfall effect when the beer comes out of the can to your lips. This effect creates a lot of air being taken in with the beer. The only way to compensate for this (and really, I only had this one can to experiment with), is to stick your tongue out to connect with the inner ring to take the beer in before the waterfall. That edge is sharp, and I was constantly worried of a cut while drinking.

Interestingly, I was told by the rep, that you won’t be seeing these cans distributed any time real soon as Pennsylvania is the only state they are allowed to sell these in. The reason?  If you can believe it….the litter laws. Yes, the tab detaches all the way from the can, and that is a littering risk that other states won’t permit. I am not sure fighting city hall for a waiver is really worth the fight for deliver system that stops at being novel, and never really passes to being fully-functional.

Overall, I think the beer is worthy of seeking out of Munich Helles is your thing. As for the canning process, you don’t have to spend a lot of energy coveting Pennsylvania’s littering laws. Only Jimmy Buffett would lobby for the change in those. He would love his his hit song to be relevant again:  “Stepped on a pop top. Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home…”

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