Monday, August 20, 2012

August Local Beer Roundup

Emphasizing the "beer" part of "Beerbrarian," there have been a few noteworthy developments in Washington, DC beer news lately. In a warehouse not too far from the Takoma Park Metro station, 3 Stars Brewing began to make and sell beer. 

The Urban Farmhouse is a saison-style ale that is hopped, but not over-hopped, with Centennial and Cascade. Given that no other local breweries offer this style, Bluejacket’s saison is not yet a local brew, kudos to 3 Stars for product differentiation. Green, white, and a handful of pink peppercorns go into the boil, which also includes a generous amount of wheat. The former is obvious on the nose, and plays well with the spicy esthers from the yeast. The latter is clear in the body and appearance of the beer, which finishes with a vegetal aftertaste, almost like biting into a fresh red pepper. A cask of the Urban Farmhouse had orange peel and more Cascade hops, creating big citrus flavors towards the end of the beer, washing away the spices.
Neither Coleman nor McGarvey profess to like brown ales, another locally underrepresented style, but you wouldn’t know it from the Southern Belle, an 8.7% ABV stunner that tastes much closer to 6%. Toasted pecans were added to the boil, and complement the chocolate malts and delicate, effervescent carbonation. One cask of the Belle featured vanilla beans; the taste was eerily reminiscent of pecan pie, not at all boozy, and vaguely suggested lactose. Another cask used lightly toasted oak, adding hints of white pepper, sourness, and a dry finish.
The Pandemic Porter will probably attract the most attention, and have you hollering “two for $5″ as if you were in Hamsterdam. Both DC Brau and Port City brew robust porters, but 3 Stars doesn’t have much interest in that kind. Instead you get a 9.6% ABV imperial coffee porter, with a gallon of Qualia cold-brewed Yirgacheff concentrate added to each barrel. Vanilla and coffee dominate this beer, but there’s a quick, dry finish that doesn’t linger, and thanks to the skills of both Qualia and head brewer McGarvey there’s very little bitterness. One cask at Churchkey upped the coffee quotient to the point where I got the shakes. Picture Du De Ciel’s Peche Mortel taken to 11 and you’re somewhat close. Another cask utilized heavily toasted oak, which stood up to the vanilla and coffee flavors, drying out the beer and further hiding the alcohol content.

Meanwhile, over in Northeast DC, DC Brau collaborated with another local brewery that doesn't have brewing space yet, Bluejacket, on a grätzer. A hoppy smoked wheat ale native to what was once Prussia, then part of Germany, and now part of Poland. 
this style is functionally extinct in the wild, like a Dama gazelle. If you attended SAVOR in 2011, you may have gotten a taste of something like a grätzer from Bayou Teche Brewing’s “Bouncanee,” a smoked wheat ale, and Choc Brewing in Oklahoma has gone to great lengths (Weyermann smoked malt, yeast from a Polish homebrewer, and water replication) to brew a traditional version. Two of DC’s finest will take a crack at continuing to revive this style, calling it “The Embers of the Deceased.” At just 4% ABV, it joins Ground Wolf and Your Favorite Foreign Movie as sessionable offerings brewed at DC Brau.
In expanding market news, New Hampshire's White Birch Brewing has entered the DC market, initially with three styles.

Crown of Gold (Rye Pale Ale / 4.2% ABV)
From the brewery: English malts, toasted rye for spice, American ale yeast, and whole leaf Cascade hops. Sounds like a winner to me.
Hop Session Ale (American IPA / 5.1% ABV)
Somewhere between a mini-version of an American IPA and a hoppy red ale or American amber, this is the only year-round release the DC market is going to see for the time being. Citrusy West Coast hops playing nicely with caramel malts, finishing with some of that resin-y dryness you kids love so much.
Hop to Wit (Witbier / 5.2% ABV)
Puns! Witbiers aren’t known for being particularly hoppy, but this one is, with an additional juicy kick that comes from grapefruit peel and pink peppercorns (traditional witbiers opt for orange peel and coriander). Let’s thank and reward them for not calling this a white IPA.

Look for both 3 Stars and the grätzer on tap at finer establishments around town. White Birch will be in bottles at stores and restaurants.


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