Lately, I have been taking the train (or driving) down and back up on a section of I-95 that I have been referring to as “The Corridor.” From Washington, DC down to Richmond, VA and finally down to Fayetteville, NC, it is pretty much a straight shot. As you can imagine, there are some pretty boring sections and there are parts that make you sit up and say “hmm.” Remind me to tell you that part about three big Confederate flags sometime…
So, one Monday morning, I got out my electronic beer map and decided to see what breweries had been developed along with the interstate. Surprise! Outside of the section from Washington to Richmond, there was not much developed at all. (Raleigh, NC will be covered separately because I do go that way on occasion) So, with that in mind, I am going to lay out all of the breweries along the Corridor and give a brief glimpse of those that I have been able to visit on my journeys. Some are pretty interesting, and some I have a hard time qualify as breweries.
So, what is on draft at The Cheez Bar at Whole Foods Market in Fairfax, VA? Here is the list as of 12 February 2018. I have had 3 Stars Raspberry, and while I would like to report it was really good, I think it failed my taste test. However, the other beers could bear your review. What do you think?
Ever had a hot beer? No, I don’t mean a beer at room temperature, I mean the kind of beer where you take small sips of the frothy beverage because it stands up and says “Hah! You can’t take a full taste of me! Go ahead, I dare you!”? Yeah, I said the same thing, “Why would I want such a beer?”
Well, leave it to Evil Twin Brewing (446 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, NY, 11249, www.eviltwin.dk) to introduce a beer that is all that and more – and you get and leave the bar and say to yourself “I liked it!” It is called You’re In the Jungle Baby! and it is scintillatingly good.
The beer itself is not so common among the bars in Northern Virginia and I discovered it in the fridge at the Spacebar (709 W. Broad Street, Fall Church, VA 22046 V: 703-992-0777; www.spcbr.com). Spacebar is a post-industrial themed bar owned by the same people who own Galaxy Hut. Their drafts move pretty quickly (they have 24 drafts) and they have few in a fridge immediately to the right. That is where You’re In the Jungle Baby! lurks.
Now for the information: 12% ABV (this beer brings its own strength), the color is dark, and the aroma is hot and spicy (you can feel the heat in the glass even though it is cooled down). The taste kind of sneaks up on you and when you think it is safe to make a pronouncement, it stings you. Like wild fire. There is a strong pepper flavor that just leaps up and takes a hold of your mouth by the tongue. But the sensation is actually pleasant. Its hot but not in the way that reminded me a Mexicali pepper. It is deeper and richer. The crazy part is that you would like to have more of it even though you know what happens.
It takes a few minutes to calm down, but by then you are confident you are going to tear up. It took about 2 hours for the reaction to finally settle itself out. But it still creates an interesting question: Would I do it again?
However, if you thought that this was all the evenings activities was completed, you were wrong. The evening in Maryland and the Smoketown Brewing Station was far from over. I could turn for home or I could venture out a little further into the hinterlands and reach Charles Town, WV. I opted for a visit to a state that sided with the Union in the Civil War and found the Abolitionist Ale House.
Wedged into row of small mixed used store fronts, the Abolitionist Ale House (129 W Washington Street, Charles Town, WV 25414 v: 681-252-1548 www.abolitionistaleworks.com) is nicely modern on the inside. The brewery consists of two gutted two buildings (at a minimum) and then connects them together to give a nice large floor plan. They support about sixteen high end brews on a continuous basis and have the ability to handle a large number of folks. After I scooted over there (it was a 15-20 minute drive on some fairly twisty roads in Maryland) and got parked on Washington Street, I received a nice bar brief and made a selection – a West by Quad.
The West by Quad is one of their better beers and their is a reason for the care: It is really good! It is a Belgian Quad that is fermented in Breaux wine barrels and West Virginia honey combs. Rich malty flavors dominate with hints of dark fruit and honey sweetness, finishing with hints of oak. Color is dark and the aroma leaves you with red wine and honey. The beer has a feeling of envelopment and you really lose yourself in the oak and nicely placed bits of honey comb. It has a 9.5% ABV.
It gave this 4 1/4 stars on Untappd.
The next beer I tried was the Rye Pale Ale. Now as pale ale goes, this is pretty standard stuff, but what I was really interested in was the rye. Rye is used as a flavoring agent, but it is usually in such large amounts that it overwhelms the rest of the beverage.
The rye in the Rye Pale Ale is part of a nice blend that goes along with the hops. It adds a slightly nutty flavor, but not an overwhelming sort. It has an ABV of 5.3%, a color more akin to dark copper and an aroma with a high hop count.
The marketing information give a nice summary: “An copper amber beer hopped with Mosaic and Citra hops, it has fruity hop flavors balanced by a malt backbone with subtle hints of caramel and spice.”
The combination of the hops and the rye really gave the drink the kick that it needed. Smooth to the touch, the Rye Pale Ale was a nice complement to the West by Quad, though I don’t think I could made it a recommendation.
What is the most expensive beer in the NFL? New York – Nope. Dallas – Nada. Washington, DC – Surprisingly, no. It is the home of the Oakland Raiders – the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum. No word on how much a beer goes for.
It was time to get out on the road again and see what treats are offered on our nation’s countryside. So I looked up and down the Virginia/Maryland border and ventured to find the town of Brunswick, MD. The town of Brunswick is pretty small and is pock-marked with homes and railroads from around the turn of the century. After making a number of plunges down to the bottom of ravines cleverly shaped as streets, I came out on a street that was barely wide enough to hold two vehicles. This street, Potomac Street, (is divided into an east and west) is where I found Smoketown Brewing Station.
Smoketown Brewing Station (223 West Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD, 21716 V: 301-834-4828; http://smoketownbrewing.com) is a recently remodeled fire house. The architecture and the design really bring it to bear, but you have to step back across the street to be hit with fact. As it was constructed, the fire house is in sections and there are some rather odd decorations, such as the men’s room being on the outside of the building, and the depth of the building which is impressive. I went to the second level of doors to order my beer and to take up a seat. (The front and the outdoor seating were completely taken with patrons.) I got my beer (more on that in a moment) and then got up to stroll around a take pictures.
Because of the time of day, I went to the front of the building first to capture it, and the people in the outdoor seating area starting calling to me about the fact that I had a camera. When I responded to them, it turned out that they were there to celebrate someone’s passing – it was a wake! These people were giving up there Saturday night to dedicate it to a 72 year old woman, who as it turned out, had been involved in several charities and boards in the town and had never told anyone. Not a soul. So, this celebration was a part to recognize all of this woman’s contributions as well as her warm smile. I took photos of the group and have posted them here and hope that the group will recognize this small point of recognition.
Now, onto the beer. First though, recognize, that in a small
town such as Brunswick, MD, craft made beer is a treat because it is going to be put up against the macro brew beer. So, by a matter of cause, this is going to be better than the macro brew beer in some quarters. So, I asked for a Raspberry Mother Pucker. This beer came with a 6.2% ABV, color was a dark copper, the aroma was light raspberries and a mild hop. The taste however, was light and a bit on the flavorless side. It couldn’t quite pull it off, either as a raspberry fruit beer or as a witbier. It was a good attempt, and pretty good for craft beer, but on the grand scale, it just couldn’t quite cut it. I gave it 3 stars on Untappd.
After a plate of chicken taquitos and basic wings, I ventured again into the world of American Hefeweizen. Even though this one was titled “German Crossing Hefeweizen,” I have gone on before about the difference between American and German Hefeweizen, and this is American Hefeweizen. It is a 5.2% ABV and 17 IBU with a color of murky gold. It has an aroma that is lightly hopped and a really weak flavor of bananas. The taste is unfortunately weak and the bananas (or banana flavoring) doesn’t really come to its help in any form. For American Hefeweizen, it is OK, but not much beyond that. The whole mess needs to be re-thought if it is going to be German Hefeweizen. I gave it 2 1/2 stars on Untappd.
The whole experience at Smoketown Brewing Station was an eye opener – people take their craft beer seriously and will defend their outlets. But more importantly, they take each other comically, laughingly, tenderly and seriously all in one and there in lies the beauty of small towns.
Just a brief review of a place that most Pittburghers really cherish – and this from a Baltimore Ravens fan! When asked what she thought of the beer, Karen replied that “it is almost spiritual” and “the pierogies are heavenly too…”
So get on your iron horses and head for Steeltown, a little slice of heaven has been discovered.
OK, I know that is a little bit strange to have two brews from the same brewery in a one-two ordering, but I am feeling a little bit wiggy at the moment. Now the last beer, Rueuze from The Bruery, was a combination of sour and blond ale and it overcame all of my trepidations about blond ale. Now I have another beer from The Bruery Terreux again and it literal has blown my mind regarding sours and Berliner Weiss.
Now Berliner Weiss has a number of the same issues as blond ale, but it also has a couple that are special to it. One is that is supposed to be light with grapefruit and orange flavor and a light little bit of sour added to it. This can be tricky because unless it is a lot of sour, the sour actually become lost in the mix and it kind of comes out as a something of a fruit beer. The second one is that it is to be served with syrup, which I don’t take akin to because that is making it a sundae. It is beer, for heaven sake, not ice cream!
The Bruery (737 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Voice: 714-996-MALT(6258) Hours: 830am-5pm Mon-Fri; www.thebruery.com) is an established setting. It has a 4.4% ABV but don’t let it fool you for a minute. Frederick H. is set up as follows:
Sour – Foeder Aged Berliner We’re on a first-name basis with our new German-style tart wheat beer. Meet Frederick H. (The “H” stands for “Hottenroth”.) But this isn’t Fred as you knew him with Sarah. This is a Berliner Weisse with an entirely different personality. At his core, Frederick H. embodies some of the elements you’d expect in a Berliner Weisse-style beer, such as a tart flavor profile from lactobacillus, a hint of brettanomyces and traditionally low ABV. He gets a little racy though, and gains even more funky and earthy notes from house cultures and fermentation in our oak foeders at Bruery Terreux. After nature takes its course, Frederick H. emerges with a bright, refreshing body, palate-cleansing tartness and au naturel rawness.
So, having all of this in mind, I order it. When it comes, it has a nice deep rich color to it, a rich hue, that says all kinds of good things about what will be in the glass. I lean over the glass, get my nose into it and I get a real sharp tart smell. This thing is loaded for bear! And now for the taste…
Tart! Really tart! But it is part of a carefully crafted flavor palette because they the tart entry is carefully matched with a Berliner Weiss that is without match. The tart entry is really what you taste, but the Berliner Weiss begins about 1/3 of the way through the taste and ends up with the flavor you have at the end.
This is the part where I say it is good but not a whole lot different from the Rueuze, but I can’t because it is a whole different calling. Yep, two beers, one brewer, and they are equally good. Just a bit wiggy.
Now sours, as you can guess, are one of my favorite groups within brewing. I know some of you do not support my appreciation, but I really love sours and I like to see more of them across the board. They make beer really sing.
But the other side of the board is blond ales. If there is one area where I do not support blonds, its in blond ales. (Yes, you can guess my hair color.) Blond ales are a throw away place when you don’t know what to do with a mild tasting ale but you have to put it somewhere, so you decide to put it out there and hope that it sells. Something. Anything. Just as long as it turns a profit, you will be OK with it.
So, I wince when I see Rueuze by Bruery Terreux sour blond ale on the menu at Rustico. Wonderful to see a sour beer, but not so great to see it mixed with a blond ale. But The Bruery (737 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870 Email: email@example.com Voice: 714-996-MALT(6258), www.thebruery.com) has regularly produced some pretty good brews in the past and their Terreux brand is a showcase for some of these respectable beers. It describes its Rueuze as follow:
“Rueuze is our take on the traditional Belgian-style blend of lambics of different ages. We carefully select a number of oak barrels from our warehouse that have been aging our sour blonde ale for anywhere from several months to several years and blend the beers together to what we find to be the ideal flavor. This is one complex beer. Notes of hay, barnyard funk, apricots and olives play wonderfully with the balanced acidity.”
The beer comes in a non-descript light golden color, but I immediately recognize that the beer is a little more opaque than usual. The smell is a nice beautiful blend of sour flavor and the better side of blond ales, but it is also impenetrable. It is not giving up its secrets. So, it is time for a taste.
I know it is going to be a good beer from the second I taste it. The sour elements immediately make their presence known and slowly the really good taste of blond ale comes to back them up. Sour apple-like taste is nicely presented and then extended by the blond ale. It is really nice to sit back and take swig after swig of their wonderful elixir. The Rueuze made me really glad that I had ordered it and I was sad when it was finished.