Draft Notes

One beer at a time…

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Port City Downright Pilsner

Port City Brewing Company is located a few miles from me in the neighboring city Alexandria, Virginia. They are one a handful of fairly new breweries in the Washington, DC area along side of DC Brau, Lost Rhino, and Chocolate City (3 Stars coming soon!). Port City has established themselves as a solid brewery with a tasty lineup of core beers and so far some impressive seasonal releases. So when I stumbled upon their seasonal pilsner release while browsing my local beer store, there was no way I was leaving without a six-pack. Apparently Downright Pilsner is so highly classified, they brewery doesn’t even list it on their website. However, I have been able to dig up a little information on this beer to give you a quick description. Pilsner Malts (surprise) and Saaz Hops were used to brew this German style pilsner which weighs in at 4.8% ABV. Saaz hops are one of the five Noble hops which are traditionally used in pilsners and you may be familiar with the phase “noble hops” from the Sam Adams Noble Pils commercials. One of the more common pilsners you may know using this hop is Pilsner Urquell.

Port City Downright Pilsner

Alright, let’s pour the bottle and see what this beer is all about. I pour the 12 ounce bottle into a pilsner glass and it flows into the glass settling with a nice brushed gold color and thick frothy head. The head begins to recede slowly as the carbonation races to meet it at the top of the slender pilsner glass. I do not get much in terms of smell, primarily grainy and a slight spice from the Saaz hops.  As I take my first taste I am immediately greeted with a well-balanced taste of malt and hops. The grains I could smell come through in the taste along with a very slight bite of citrus. The mouth feel is medium weight with heavy carbonation while the finish is quite hoppy and bitter.  I am a fan of bitter (and not to mention hoppy) beers, so this is really up my alley.  I would stack the Downright Pilsner up next to the best of them.  This beer reminds me of Victory’s Prima Pils which is definitely a compliment. I am going to have to rate this 4 out 5 on the Draft Note Mug scale due to the well-balanced, yet bold taste in a low ABV beer. My only issue with this beer, and Port City, is the fact that this is only a seasonal release!

Although I have tasted the majority of Port City’s beers, I plan to head down to the brewery in the next month to complete Draft Notes first brewery tour and tasting review. You just can’t beat beer straight from the brewery. Please look out for this upcoming post.

For more information on Port City Brewing Company, visit http://portcitybrewing.com/.  Also, look out for a very limited release of Derecho Common in bars this weekend (or so says their Facebook page). This beer is the result of the brewery losing power a month or so ago for about a week. The brewers saved a batch of beer by converting it to a California Common or Steam beer. Basically it is a beer which ferments at a higher temperature (think back to the California gold rush and the lack of refrigeration – you couldn’t go without beer, so of course you adapt) which is what occurred during the multi day power outage at the brewery. If I can get ahold of some I will give a more in depth review and description.

PS.  Support your local breweries.


Maui Brewing Company Bikini Blonde Lager

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend Savor, a craft beer and food pairing event at the Building Museum in Washington, DC. This is a first class, annual event, featuring about 75 breweries paired with dishes by Adam Dulye from The Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco. While working through my “Must Try” list it was time to stop by Maui Brewing Company (MBC) to see what they had to offer. As my wife and I were about to get to the table we were selected by a Savor Representative to receive free tickets to the MBC Educational Salon hosted by founder Garrett Marrero. The event allowed us the opportunity to try a few extra beers while Garrett discussed the MBC history, the beers, and had a Q&A session. Besides tasting the fantastic beers (and accompanying food), I enjoyed hearing of their commitment to investing in Hawaii and sustainability efforts. They are doing some great stuff for the people of Hawaii and are determined to brew 100% of their beer in Hawaii.

Maui Brewing Company Bikini Blonde Lager

One of their core beers not poured at Savor was the Bikini Blonde Lager, so after thoroughly enjoying both the Coconut Porter and the Mana Wheat (Pineapple in this wheat was amazing!) it was necessary for me to give this one a try. As I mentioned last week I love my summer beers, and what is more summer than a Bikini Blonde from Maui? At $12.99 a six-pack it is natural to have high expectations, but let me quickly explain the price – Hawaii is 5000 miles from Washington DC. Alright, there is more to it than that. MBC purchases core ingredients like malt, barley and hops from Europe and the mainland, so now you have to double the traveled distance of the beer (or at least the ingredients). Furthermore, MBC’s hard stance on brewing only in Maui (unlike Kona who brews on the mainland cutting a lot of expense) and shipping in cooled containers means we will just have to deal with the price or miss out. Ok, so I guess I should get to the reason we are here and see what Bikini Blonde has to offer.

Bikini Blonde has won multiple awards in the Munich Helles Lager style to include a silver medal in World Beer Cup (as noted on the can). Traditionally this style is characterized as slightly malty and containing spicy hop characters. This particular beer contains Munich Malts paired with Liberty, Sterling and Hersbrucker hops which are known for their spicy flavors. Pouring this beer I see a cloudy gold color with plenty of white colored head which quickly retreats. The smell of this beer is very interesting and not what I expect when I think of a lager. I would describe it as a mix of spiced rum and pineapple, which I find to combine for a pleasant aroma.  Unfortunately upon taking my first sip I quickly realize I do not taste what I smell. I would describe this beer as overly malty and spicy with hints of nutty and vanilla tastes. It definitely has a lot of taste, but unfortunately I just do not feel that the flavors mesh very well and do not see this one matching up to the other beers brewed by MBC. I would suggest other beers in the Munich Helles Lager style such as Schlafly Summer Ale, Victory Lager, or Hof Brau Original over Bikini Blonde. Keep in mind if you enjoy malty beers with intense spice character this may be a great beer for you.

Overall, I really had really high hopes based on past MBC beers and definitely by the smell of this beer; however, all the flavors did not come together to my liking. Too much malt, too much spice. This beer has won several awards for a reason, but it will not fare too well on the almighty Draftnotes.com. I am sad to say I must rate Bikini Blonde Lager 2.5 mugs out of 5.

For more information on Maui Brewing Company please visit: http://www.mauibrewingco.com and Savor DC: http://www.savorcraftbeer.com/

Victory Summer Love Ale

Victory was one of my gateway beers into the craft brewery scene, so I see it fitting for me to kick this site off with their Summer Love Ale. A college friend (and employee of Victory at the time and now owner of Marshall Brewing Company in Oklahoma) brought about 5 cases of various Victory beers to an alumni tail gate to watch our Tulsa football team take on Navy in Annapolis. At the time I really considered beers like Guiness, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and Stella Atois to be unique and those only drank by true beer connoisseurs. Therefore this new range of India Pale Ales, Belgiums, etc was a whole other level to drinking and enjoying beer. To get to the point, the Bud Light and Miller took a back seat to Golden Monkey, Hop Devil, and Prima Pils. 5-6 years later they continue to take a back seat as I find myself enjoying the Victory summer release on hot summer day in 2012.

Victory Summer Love Ale

Now lets get to the beer. First off, how can you not like a beer that is a direct salute to the great American past time – baseball! I must admit that the label alone is enough to tempt me, but the beer stands up to the high expectations I have of a Victory beer and one aligning itself with my favorite summer event. As I pour this beer I am pumped about the golden ale that flows from the bottle into my frosty mug. Taste buds are all riled up and ready to roll. First thought on tasting is that this beer has way more flavor than expected. It has enough hops to let me know they are present, but really crisp taste and feel. I thoroughly enjoy German beer and this one reminds me of throwing back a liter of cold Weihenstephan Original. The use of 2 Row German malt definitely stands out and the American and German hops show their face, but are far from scaring a casual beer fan off. Off the top of my head I am reminded of 21st Amendments Bitter American, Sixpoint Crisp, New Belgium Somersault, and the previously mentioned classic German lagers/pilsners. This is a great beer with a great price ($8.99/six pack at my local shop) and the 5.2% alcohol content allows you to have a few while watching – insert your team here – beat the Yankees during the dog days of summer. I will have to rate this blonde ale with 4 mugs out of 5.

I must say they summer beers are one of my favorite sets of seasonal beers. Maybe it is just because they represent my favorite time of the year; however, I really think there is nothing like having a few cold session beers like this on a patio. Look out for a few more draft notes on summer seasonal before we move on to Oktoberfest in which I probably will claim that they are my favorite seasonals…

Find out more information about Victory Brewing Company and their awesome beers at: http://victorybeer.com/


Welcome to Draft Notes! Basically, I will be sharing my notes on the various beers I get my hands on. The goal here is to give you my opinions, comparisons, and a rating on the Draft Notes mug scale. I can’t always tell you if I taste pine, flowers, or waxy apples, but I will give it to you as straight forward as I can. I will also talk about my brewery visits and any beer centric bars I visit on my journey to beer glory. Ok, so I guess it is time to get to work.

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