On June 29th, 2012, a ferocious storm hit the DC metro area with such might that over a million residents in the area were without power for up to a week. Most of the damage was done within 10 minutes due to extremely high winds associated with the type of storm known as a Derecho. One of those residents impacted was Port City Brewing Company located in Alexandria, Va. Adding to Port City’s dilemma was a record breaking heat wave and all in all it was a bad situation for the young brewery. Thankfully they were able to procure a generator and save the beer. Yah! However, one batch (I assume the pilsner) fermented at a higher temperature than usual and the brewery was able to make some slight adjustments resulting in a California Common. Dubbed the Derecho Common, Port City recently released this unexpected and potential one time brew to the public.
A California Common (aka steam beer), is a lager which uses a special strain of yeast allowing it to ferment at a higher temperature than the average lager. Beer Advocate states that this style of beer was born and raised during the California gold rush of the 1800’s due to the lack of refrigeration. Anchor Brewing Company is credited with reviving/modernizing the beer style with their Anchor Steam Beer first bottled in 1971. Port City’s version, Derecho Common, uses Saaz hops and pilsner malts (like the Downright Pilsner previously reviewed) and then is dry hopped with Amarillo hops to add a little extra spice character to the beer.
In order to taste this beer, I had to visit the brewery or find it at a limited selection of local restaurants. I decided to go straight to the source in Alexandria. I paid $4/pint and it was well worth the trip. The beer pours a brilliant gold color with a thin white head. There is a moderate amount of carbonation. I smell the combination of citrus and the spicy hops. If it tastes as refreshing as it smells, we will have a winner. Taste immediately reminds me of the Downright Pilsner with a little extra spice and even more bitter finish. Citrus is definitely present in this beer. The mouth feel is light to medium and is very drinkable. Overall it is a very refreshing beer that at 4.8% ABV could find itself in my regular summer drinking rotation. Too bad it may only be a onetime deal! My wife joined me at the brewery and she was drinking the Pilsner, so I had to do a quick comparison and I could really detect a difference in the finish with more bitterness and spice. Derecho Common is every bit as good as the pilsner and has a little extra on the finish, so I am going to rate this 4 mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.
As a side note: During the power outage/heat wave I found it really awesome to see the way our DC area breweries supported Port City Brewing Company by promoting a few events on their behalf to Twitter, Facebook, etc. followers. DC Brau in particular was encouraging their fans to attend a pint party delayed by the storm to help Port City through a tough week. With non-stop collaborations in the VA/DC/MD area, the craft beer scene is exploding and I think the breweries willingness to work together should be credited.
To read more about Port City you can see their website here: http://portcitybrewing.com. I did not see the Derecho on the website, but there is a great write-up available at the brewery. Also DC Brau here: http://www.dcbrau.com. Last, to learn a little more about Steam Beer you can visit Anchor Brewing’s website which has a short video on the subject – http://www.anchorbrewing.com/beer/anchor_steam.