Draft Notes

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Archive for the category “Virginia”

Virginia Beer Month 2015 – A Beer a Day

While conducting my usual review of all things craft beer on the world wide web, I ran across an article by Chris Lang of “The Burg” which peaked my interest.  Chris proposed I (and anyone else who was listening) celebrate Virginia Beer Month with a different Virginia beer each of the 31 glorious days. My immediate thought… challenge accepted and it will be the 2nd return of Draft Notes to feed the 4 or 5 parched individuals frequenting my mighty blog each day. So here we are.

I was inspired by Chris’ list, but unfortunately our state beer availability is slightly different. Here is my consumption list which I will continue to update through the month. Also keep up on Twitter.

Saturday August 1, 2015
Brewery: South Street Brewery
Brewery Location: Charlottesville, VA
Beer: Virginia Lager
Style: American Light Lager
Notes: Crisp lager to get the month started. Slightly malty and sweet, works well on the patio during a hot day. Not exactly an exciting beer, but would take it over the big macro options.

Jet NoiseSunday August 2, 2015
Brewery: Young Veterans Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Beer: Jet Noise
Style: Double IPA
Notes: Balanced DIPA which allows you to forget the 8% ABV quickly. Smooth, Nice hop aromas, sweet piney notes. Paired well with Jamaican Jerk Chicken off the grill.

Monday August 3, 2015
Brewery: Old Ox (Not to be confused with Red Bull)Ox
Brewery Location: Ashburn, VA
Beer: Year of the OX (2015)
Style: Double IPA
Notes: Beer created to celebrate the Old Ox’s 1st anniversary. Orange and grapefruit aromas. Grass and grapefruit notes. Bitter, boozy finish.

Tuesday August 4, 2015
Brewery: Heritage Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Manassas, VA
Beer: American Expedition
Style: Wheat Ale
Notes: This is a Honey Ginger Wheat which is extremely smooth and easy drinking. Really crisp and slightly sweet finish. Had this from the can, but in the past I had it on draft which was even better. Maybe I was just thirstier!

Wednesday August 5, 2015
Z damBrewery: Legend Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Richmond, VA
Beer: Z Dam
Style: Golden Ale
Notes: Limited aromas. Grass, ginger, and citrus notes. All very subtle. Dry mouthfeel. Interesting beer, but a little light for me.

Thursday August 6, 2015
Brewery: Champion Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Charlottesville, VA
Beer: Killer Kolsch
Style: Kolsch Style Ale
Notes: Crisp, bready, light hops. Another great summer beer. Champion took an ale and fermented it at cooler lager temperatures, hence the style is listed as kolsch “style”.

Ways and MeansFriday August 7, 2015
Brewery: Port City Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Alexandria, VA
Beer: Ways & Means
Style: Rye Session Ale
Notes: My hometown brewery and I dipped into one of my favorites. Spicy, full flavored work of art at 4.5% ABV. Holds up in all weather and I just had to throw it in the VA Beer Month mix.

Saturday August 8, 2015
Brewery: Blue Mountain BreweryOfest
Brewery Location: Afton, VA
Beer: 13.Five Ofest
Style: Marzen
Notes: A delicious Oktoberfest beer which quenches the thirst. Could drink it by the liter. As for the name, found this on the Blue Mountain website: What’s in a name? Only beer conforming to the “Stammwürze” law, which states a beer must have an Original Gravity of 13.5° Plato, can be served at Oktoberfest in Munich.

Sunday August 9, 2015
Brewery: Chaos Mountain Brewing
Brewery Location: Callaway, VA
Beer: Mad Hopper
Style: IPA
Notes: Big citrus aromas, all hops, no mercy. An in your face IPA.

Wildcat - Image from OBH website.

Wildcat – Image from OBH website.

Monday August 10, 2015
Brewery: Old Bust Head Brewery
Brewery Location: Warrenton, VA
Beer: Wildcat IPA
Style: IPA
Notes: Almost the opposite of last nights Mad Hopper. Still has the citrus, but a lot more balanced with sweet malts making their way through the hops. Great beer, but I definitely prefer the Bust Head English Pale Ale.


Starr Hill Snow Blind Doppelbock Lager

Starr Snow Blind With the holiday season in full swing, I decided to take a look at a couple of winter seasonals before they get by me. Today I have selected a beer from in state (Virginia) brewery Starr Hill named Snow Blind. This is the first year Starr Hill has released this doppelbock lager which weighs in at 7.4% ABV and a mere 13 IBUs. I appreciate them going a less traveled winter route by choosing this style over the more common spiced up high ABV ales.

Originating in southern Germany, doppelbocks are defined by their complex malts, roasted flavors, and low bitterness. You may have noticed that many breweries choose to name their doppelbocks with a name ending with “ator”. Randy Mosher’s “Tasting Beer” explains this trend originated with Paulaner Brewery creating the first in 1629, named “Salvator”. This name was used generically to describe all doppelbocks (like in the US we use the brand Kleenex to describe a tissue) until the 20th century when Paulaner decided to protect their brand. German breweries kept the “ator” as we see in beers such as Ayinger Celebrator and Spaten Optimator. Furthermore, some American craft brewers pay homage in beers such as Troeg’s Troegenator and Bell’s Consecrator. After explaining all this you will note that Starr Hill did not follow the trend. Oh well, let’s drink.

Appearance is a deep mahogany brown with a light tan head.

Aromas I detect are chocolate, caramel, and a touch of roasted barley.

As I sip this beer, the malts are obviously dominating – no surprise there. I taste roasted flavors, sweet caramel, and then eventually boozy, coffee finish.Starr Snow Blind w Glass

The dominant sensory impact with this beer is the mouth feel. A very heavy carbonation dominates and slowly dissipates in the mouth leaving a syrupy lip smacking finish.

Overall, I like this beer and it grows on me as I sip and write. The roasted flavors are perfect for the winter weather and dominant malts make the beer quite smooth and easy drinking. The style is not for everyone, but if you like ambers or porters you may be attracted to the malty and roasted goodness. Hop Heads need not apply.

You can read more about Starr Hill and their beers (to include Snow Blind) at http://www.starrhill.com. Their beers can be found in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Personally I am a big fan of their Starr Pils and Grateful Pale Ale.

Devils Backbone Schwartz Bier

This week I would like to do my first review of a black lager which is one of my favorite styles due to the high amount of flavor in such a smooth, sessionable beer. The particular beer I chose is by Devils Backbone and appropriately named Schwartz Bier (Black beer).

This is my second review of a DB beer with Azrael, their Strong Belgian Ale, being one of my first posts.  As discussed in the prior post, this is a fast rising award-winning brewery out of Roseland, Virginia. Schwartz Bier won Bronze in the World Beer Cup in 2010 and has racked up a few Virginia craft beer awards.

This beer clocks in at 4.9% ABV. As you can see in the pictures, my review was done from a 12 oz bottle poured into a mug.DB Schwartz - Glass

Appearance is midnight black with a small amount of khaki colored head.

Aromas I detect are roast notes, chocolate, and molasses. Nothing really jumping out, but that is to be expected with this style.

Tastes are roasted malt/barley, a little espresso, caramel, molasses, and a bitterness which hits at the end as the beer clears off the tongue.

With such a dark beer it is natural to anticipate a heavy mouth feel, but this style is far from it. Schwartz Bier has a light body and is clean and crisp. Almost dries out the mouth after the bitterness fades. Medium to low amount of carbonation.

Overall I find this to be very representative of the black lager style:  Plenty of roasted flavors, bittersweet, and quite refreshing. I can’t find too much negative about this beer and it is nothing but satisfying, so I will rate Devil’s Backbone Schwartz Bier 4.5 Mugs on the Draft Notes Scale. DB Schwartz - Label

This style is a definitely a nice break from traditional winter beers I have been drinking over the last few months such as stouts, strong ales, and warmers.

Don’t get Devil’s Backbone in your neighborhood? Some popular Black Lagers you could look for are Kostritzer (one of the oldest and original producers in Germany), Sam Adams Black Lager, and Full Sail Session Black Lager.  I had a great one in Charleston, SC last month by Westbrook called Dark Helmut if you are lucky enough to live in that area (or visit).

Devils Backbone: http://www.dbbrewingcompany.com

Port City Derecho Common

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.

Port City Derecho Common

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.

Devil’s Backbone Azrael

Devil’s Backbone Brewery is nestled up against the mountains just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It is not well known outside of Virginia except for the hardcore beers enthusiasts who know this small countryside breweries award winning ways on the world stage. The 2012 World Beer Cup gold for Vienna style lagers was given to DB’s appropriately named “Vienna Lager”. This award was preceded by the 2009 Great American Beer Festival gold at the prominent Denver contest. Additionally DB has received awards for their pilsner and hefeweizen.  It would be too easy for me to review and brag about the Vienna Lager, so I have selected their Belgian inspired strong golden ale, Azrael. A quick googling of Azrael informs me that this beer is named after the Angel of Death (At least in the eye of Sikhs and Muslims). If this were a hot wing challenge I may back away, but I think I will take a chance as the rendering of Azrael on the label is an alluring blonde. Famous last words in many stories; however, I press on.

A Strong Belgian Ale is generally spicy, hoppy, and fruity with a high alcohol volume. This particular beer is 7.8% ABV and the brewer promises a dry spice and the usual hints of fruit. Popular Belgian Strong Ales you may be familiar with include Duvel (translates to “devil” – I see a theme), Delirium Tremens, and Brooklyn Breweries Local 1. None of which are known to go easy on the drinker, so moderation with this style is important.

When I pour the 12 ounce bottle into my chalice, I am surprised by how light a golden color this beer is. When I think of strong beers, a light straw color is not what I am expecting. This must be part of the trap by the prior mentioned blonde angel of death. I proceed cautiously and try to detect the scents of Azrael. It is very sweet and pear comes through along with a little citrus. Seems safe to drink, so I continue. The Belgian yeast strain is unmistakable, very slight spice, what I thought was a pear scent tastes more like a green apples, and I taste heavy cloves in the after taste.  As for mouth feel, once again I would point out how light this beer is and it has minimal but persistent carbonation. After a few more sips, Azrael is proving to be easy drinking and I could see how this could get you in trouble fairly quickly. Overall, I would rate this beer 3.25 mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.

Devil’s Backbone Azrael Belgian Strong Ale

For more information on Devil’s Backbone Brewery, visit their website here: http://www.dbbrewingcompany.com. I am scheduled to visit the brewery in November, so look out for my brewery write-up later this year. Cheers!

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.

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