It is nice when you find a beer that fits the very mood that you are in. You just close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the cool breeze from the wind on your cheek and the cold ripple of the liquid moving across your lips and into your mouth. Beer is good!
The Two Up Two Down is a ABV of 6.8% with a murky gold color. The aroma is a sour lemon with a slight hint of grapefruit and nectarine. The taste is more of the same with sour coming through on the lemon and grapefruit at first and then comes the nectarine and it finishes up with an apple. The tail end is smooth. The mixture is really well done and more sour goses should try to emulate the mixture that Commonwealth has formulated. It is really good.
The Two Up Two Down will take you back to those heady days of summer. The taste is light and fruity – just a nice reminder of why you ordered a sour gose. Sit back, you and your honey, and watch the sun going down with this great beer easily within reach. That is what summer is for.
Word had come across the beer channels that a new brewery was going to be opening in the near future in Fairfax City. Stylish and functional, it was going in near the Safeway in Old Town Fairfax and so I scheduled a time on the calendar to go after they had their soft opening the week before last.
The Chubby Squirrel Brewing Company opened to fanfare in Fairfax City. It claims to be the first nanobrewery and brewpub in the city. (What makes it a nanobrewery when they have six of their own plus Right Proper Brewery and another brewery is a mystery…) When I arrived the second night (I will explain), they had a good crowd, mostly runners and it took a while of waiting to belly up to the bar and put in an order for a Black Squirrel Oatmeal Stout. When it came, it was the right color and it was a bit cold, so I looked for a place it could work my magic on the elixir.
I guess I did a little too good of a job, because it had a notably flat taste that comes from being too dependent on oatmeal and a little weak in its stout configuration. The flat taste just kind of ruined it.
On top of that, it was not particularly cold, which is OK for a stout, but it came out of the same tap as all of the other beers and I am wondering if all them are held at the same temperature.
The decor of the place is pretty good for a brewery. They have a long lot and I had a feeling they had a more of a design that was equal sides. Just the way certain things were arranged, like the register (it is tucked into the corner in the rear), the big chalk board (this thing is really big and you can’t ready the whole thing) and the restrooms are more arranged for a square rather than a long rectangle.
Now, why did I go there two nights instead of one, you might be asking yourself, if I had successfully scheduled a time to go? Well, because the first time I went, it was closed on Tuesday at 9:00pm. Locked tighter than a drum. It was also closed on Monday and Wednesday, so Thursday (the day I scheduled) was the first night I was able to go. It is not unusual for a brewery to be closed on Monday, or even on a Tuesday, when they are in a quiet area (rural or suburban, it is kind of expected) but a brewery that is in a busy area, a busy beer drinking area, that is closed three of the seven days is not a good indicator that they have thought this out.
Like so many businesses, this one has a couple of hills to surmount before it will be successful. I will be going back to sample the rest of their beer, but I don’t think it will be much better than the Black Squirrel Oatmeal Stout. I will give this brewery two years on my calendar and if they can turn it around, then we will have a good brewery in town. If not, they will be looking to let the space.
The Fairfax Beer Garden was just the ticket to unleash the opening beer weekend of the post-school season. Held on 24 June from 12pm to 6 pm, it was the idea of the High Side Craft Beer and a few of their local business partners in Fairfax City. The idea was to take just a basic weekend and turn it into a beerfest and they succeeded.
The craft beer business is taking a serious turn for the good and tastiness of its charge. Fairfax City has been waiting for a fun event and good time that fell during the summer months when time is relaxed and school is out. It proved to be just the ticket toward making that weekend just the spark to kick off the summer.
Boosted by the World Cup, the Beer Garden featured 12 beers from 6 breweries and eight brews from High Side (20 beers in all). Those from outside breweries included:
They also had a corn hole tournament, music from Mobius Records and a charity event for Fairfax CASA. In addition, there were 250 beer glasses that were provided to the event. Though the weather proved less than friendly, the crowd turned out. A good time was had by all.
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.
There’s a street for selling just about every kind of product or service in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. On Hang Bac, you’ll find silver jewelry, while Hang Duong is for desserts. There’s also coffin street, noddle stret, and beer street. That last one isnt surprising: vietnam’s largest brewery, Sabeco, estimates that the country’s 90 million citizens will drink more than 4 billion liters (about 34.2 million barrels) of beer in 2017.
As of yet, there isn’t a Craft Beer Street in Hanoi, but Pasteur Street Brewing, a pioneer in Vietnamese craft brewing when it opened in early 2015 in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), can change that. The company just debuted a second taproom and restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City and opened a third spot in Hanoi in July. Although it won’t brew there, Pasteur Street will serve least 12 draft beers, including Jasmine IPA, Passion Fruit Wheet, Dragon Fruit Gose, and Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout, which won gold at the World Beer Cup in 2016.
“Hanoi is craving craft beer right now. They have a few breweries, but none with restuarants and that pub-like atmosphere,” says general manager Brandon Watts, who moved from Colorado to Vietnam last spring to work for American founders John Reid and Alex Violette, former of Colorado’s Upslope Brewing. As the capital city, Hanoi was a no-brainer for expansion, Watts says. Pasteur Street already has 35 accounts there is still growing.
So far, the majority of the brewery’s customers are expats from the United States, Australia and Europe, but that’s changing. “The locals are coming around,” Watts explains. “It’s a status thing. If you are going out drinking with your buddies, you go for bia hoi [the local lager]. If you are taking a date out for dinner, you go for craft beer.” a few weeks ago, while comparing notes with one of the other dozen or so craft breweries in the country, Watts pointed out that “with the amount that the locals drink, if we can get just a tiny percentage of that, we will all be okay.”
In August, Pasteur Street will begin exporting cans of Passion Fruit Wheat to the US with Shelton Brothers. The brewery will start with Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and California, but hopes to add others states and other beers by the end of the year.
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.