Beer Review : Atlas Brew Works Ponzi IPA

New-to-me DC-based Atlas Brew Works is, I can tell, a brewery that I will be going back to for more interesting pints. I like to drink local when I can and, while it’s not a guarantee of quality (everything in life is a mixed bag), keeping in a small geographical area can get you to try things you might have otherwise overlooked.

I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg and stared down their sizable beer list. Ponzi was described as being “criminally hoppy” which is sort of my equivalent of “you had me at ‘hello.'” I ordered up a pint and settled in.

I could smell this beer when the waitress set it down on the bar about a foot away from me – big biscuit and wheat smells wafted over to me along with some herbal hops. This IPA pours a rich straw gold color that’s fairly clear in a frosty pint glass. There’s a nice, fluffy, slow-to-fall white head made up of a fine matrix of bubbles. A close-up sniff gives me more citrus notes to go along with the initial hop-forward smell.

The taste is a big, west coast punch of flavor. The male (Munich) is light, yet flavorful and the hops cover a wide range of tastes from bright green on through dank. The finish is dry, yet very balanced. And there’s a sweetness here that reminds me of milk stouts and that made me wonder if there was any lactose added to this brew. The description that Atlas gives doesn’t mention it specifically, but there’s something going on with the malts here that is a little bit brown sugary.

There’s a whole garden full of hop varietals in here: Cascade, Chinook, Centential, Mandarina, and Ahtamun. Just bring the whole crew, why don’t you?

The nose on this beer promised big flavor and the taste delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely order it again. Five delicious mugs out of five.

Beer Review: Founders All Day IPA

To acquire this beer, I took a walk to my corner store during which I got street harassed and followed in my own neighborhood and then was rained on in a sudden sundering of the sky by a thunderstorm. Honestly, this beer better be really good after all of that. Let’s find out!

This 4.7% ABV IPA (a little beyond a session, I would say). It’s a beautiful color like a rich, amber honey gold. There’s a handsome, fluffy, active head that hangs around for about a minute. It leaves a smear of foam and some pretty sticky lacing behind. It’s almost malty-sweet smelling to me, which I’m surprised by. There should be a lot of forest resin going on in this beer. I’m expecting a decent punch of flavor punch based on the nose of this beer.

The taste up front is a little bit dry, but it absolutely does deliver on those resinous hop flavors that the smell promised me. There is definitely a sweet note to it from the malts that I was smelling before. There’s a lot going on in this beer and I’m really enjoying the layers of flavor. It’s both sweet and dry, and very slightly bitter. I’d say it’s very well-balanced overall.

This beer has a fairly light body with some moderate combination. It’s extremely easy to drink and very refreshing. I give it five mugs, even in spite of the bitterness.

Beer 201: Greaves’ Rules

A friend recently introduced me to the drinker’s sort of ten commandments (there are ten pieces, yes, but that’s not why) known as Greaves’ Rules. Devised by now-retired British journalist, these ten rules describe the etiquette of round-buying and drinking conduct in public houses. Now, if these rules are any indication, British drinking culture is a bit different than the American one that I know.

Or maybe my practice of drinking solo to kill time between work and another social engagement means that I just do go out drinking properly. Or, at least, properly in the sense of the Brits. How do these rules strike you? Are they similar to your own drinking habits or do you do something different as well?

Greaves’ Rules

1. When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2. This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3. In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

4. The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5. Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6. For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7. Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8. When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9. In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10. Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion

Beer Review: Stone Brewing Jindia Double IPA

When I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg, I heard one of my bar neighbors talking smack about a peppery, spicy beer. That had my name written all over it, so I asked which beer that one was and ordered a pint blindly. Sometimes we just have to trust in fate pointing us to the right brew.

Stone Brewing’s Jindia Double IPA pours a very handsome, rich golden-amber hue. There’s about a finger of cream-colored head on it with some staying power in those little bubbles. It smells almost wine-like to me, which may have something to do with the 8.7% ABV on this beer. There are also notes of bread, ginger (but not too aggressive – no burning nostrils here), light citrus, and a dash of herbaceous juniper.

At first taste, it’s peppery up front, but in a nice, warm sort of way – which is where the ginger comes in, a close second in this marching order of flavors. It moves through a slightly sweet citrus phase before finishing dry, but in a pleasant way. It’s full of many layers of great tastes that go well together in my mind. It gets a little dryer as it warms up and is maybe on the cusp of being too dry, but honestly it is overall really delightful. The mouthfeel is good, pleasantly light, and the carbonation seems balanced for the flavor profile.

There’s a wonderful, refreshing mix of botanicals in this brew. I’m usually on the fence about juniper in anything – I’m just as likely to like it as have my stomach turned by it. It’s always a fun surprise. I’m not sure I would have ordered this if I’d known it would have juniper in it. All the same, I’m glad that I did. This was a juniper beer that went over well for me.

This was a risk that paid off well for me. I would most definitely order this beer again, as long as I had the time to slowly enjoy a DIPA. 8.7% packs a wallop. Five out of five mugs from me.

Beer Review: Drink Your Breakfast

Brunch and booze go well together. They’re an established power couple. Most folks think of the popular mimosa or bellini, perhaps an Irish coffee, or the classic Bloody Mary. But there’s more than just champagne and liquor to be had at these meals. Consider these four beers to enjoy before noon.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Brewed with oats, coffee, and bitter chocolate, this robust beer experience is intensely flavored. It is perhaps one of my all-time favorite beers and would go great with sweet or savory foods.

Sixpoint C.R.E.A.M.

Beer and coffee go great together, especially with this cold brew concoction from Sixpoint Brewery. Smooth and creamy, it offers a nice buzz (from both parties) any time of the day.

Michelada (“Red Beer”)

This is more of a beer cocktail than a straight beer, but it’s a great one that I only tried in Portland for the first time about a year and a half ago. Start with a salt/spice-rimmed pint glass, pour in a Mexican beer, and add a splash of Bloody Mary mix. How’s that for hair of the dog?

Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast

Combining coffee, maple syrup, beer, and… scrapple(!), this unusual blend of A.M. flavors is sure to start the day off right. Scrapple, for those not in the know, is a sort of mushy blend of pork scraps, spices, and fillers. It’s an odd duck, but it’s one that I grew up eating, so this Delaware-area local has won me over with its weird food charm.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada River Ryed Rye IPA

River Ryed sounds like a nice beer for a lazy day. Although, the last time my friends went on one of those lazy tube rides on a river, one girl broke her elbow. So maybe those aren’t as relaxing as one might hope. I think I’ll continue to hide indoors, as we writers are wont to do, and have my beer in peace with minimal threats to my bones, thanks.

This pours from a bottle as a very pretty auburn color. It has a very carbonated look to it, though. That’s not normal for most beers. Of course, I realize my glass may have been a little wet (creating more nucleation sites) so perhaps I’m at fault here. Must dry my glasses more thoroughly in the future.

There’s a thin head of large, cream-colored bubbles. This fizzles out rather quickly over a few minutes, presenting some sturdy lacing. It smells, to me, like an amber or a brown ale – malty and a little sweet without a lot of hop notes to the scent.

It’s very crisp up front with a nice sort of vague graininess to it. It turns a little dry after I swallow, but not in an unpleasant way (and we know how picky I am about dry aftertastes). And – I swear this is true – it finishes with a banana-like note. I do get the rye as well, but it’s not super strong. Finished with Chinook hops, I was expecting more spiciness from those and the rye from which the beer gets its name.

This is a very middle of the road amber to me. I’d say it’s a pretty well-balanced beer overall and it’s pretty refreshing. It’s got good body, it’s not at all watery, though it really is a little more carbonated than I would have expected or preferred. It’s pretty solid and I’d grab it again. Four out of five.

Beer Review: Evolution Craft Brewing Roasty Oats

Hello again, Beers and Cheers! I don’t come in often enough to be considered a regular, but I definitely wander in every other week or so. Their taps rotate frequently, so I only see the occasional repeat on two back-to-back visits. Someday, I swear I’ll eat something there so I can review how their food stands up to their beer selection. I’m very much a “come for the growler fill, stay for a pint” kind of gal.

With a name like Roasty Oats, I had some pretty specific expectations for this beer from Evolution Craft Brewing. It pours so dark that it’s practically black with maybe one finger of short-lived tan head. This leaves a little bit of creamy lacing behind, but this slides down the glass fairly quickly; it’s not very clingy. It smells appropriately roasty with some notes of coffee in there as well. Unlike some porters or browns, there’s no hint of sweetness from the smell itself.

The taste is all roasted grain up front (good, that makes this an aptly-named beer) with the darkness of coffee and cocoa behind it. There’s maybe a tiny hint of sweetness on the rich, mapley side of things, but it’s mellow. I would definitely not call this a sweet beer by any stretch, but it’s not completely on the dry/bitter end of roasty, toasty stouts, either. It doesn’t suffer from the metallic taste that some stouts and porters seem to end up with. There’s a decent mouthfeel on this and, while it’s perhaps on the thin side, it’s not at all watery. I love my dark beers with a little bit of body to them and this one is generally fine.

Absolutely a well-balanced beer in my eyes. Five mugs out of five and I’d love to order another one of these in the future.

Beer Review: Manor Hill Experimental IPA

I love growlers. Don’t get me wrong there. But the first pour from one is always a challenge for me. I’ve got sad noodle arms and have a hard time hoisting a growler and pouring with one hand, so I use two to make sure I’m not going to drop the thing on the floor. Unfortunately, this means that I can’t tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle like I normally would and this definitely impacts the pour that I get out of growlers for the first one to two glasses.

All the same, I get the things filled now and again and then fight with them to get a good beer out of them. This time, I went to Gilly’s in Rockville, MD and got my growler filled with Manor Hill Experimental IPA.  This is a beer that I wish I knew more about (I even have in my notes, “research hops”), but there is really no concrete information about it out there. I don’t even know what hops they used. My impression is that this is a rotating series and that different hops will be used in different batches. Basically, I have no way of knowing exactly what I was drinking.

This is a somewhat hazy pour with a rich golden color and a very fluffy head (no doubt from my ham-fisted growler pour). The head loiters for a few minutes, but then sinks slowly, leaving some decent diamonds of lacing behind. It smells hoppy in a green way with notes of pine resin. It’s fresh and bright, but there aren’t any fruity smells.

The first sip is full of flavor. it’s lightly grainy and bright with refreshing, almost herbacious hops. It’s piney, but never dank. This is a great beer for warm months because it’s both flavorful and light at the same time. Hoppy, but not overwhelming at any point. There’s no dry finish to be found in this beer, so I definitely love that.

I give it five out of five because I would absolutely drink this again… but I can’t be sure that I’d ever have the same beer twice. It’s a conundrum, but I’m willing to take a risk, I think.

Beer Review: Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Do you ever just get an idea for a dish stuck in your head and it pesters you until you finally buckle under the pressure and try to make it? That’s what happened with this sandwich. I had some leftover brie and a bag of brussels sprouts in my fridge and the thought of this creation haunted me.  I wanted a brie grilled cheese stuffed with roasted brussels sprouts and smothered in grainy mustard.

Well, it was a mess. It oozed out all over the place. I had to pick globs of brie up off of the plate with my hands and just sort of tuck in like I had no manners at all. It was an experiment, but it was a damn delicious one, even if it was maybe a failure in some ways.

This beer was, similarly, an experiment that I think didn’t really pay off. It pours straw gold with a hint of orange from the bottle. There’s a very ephemeral, short-lived head that’s less than a finger high, which disappeared in about 30 seconds. Maybe less. The carbonation in this beer is very active in the glass, bubbling away.

It doesn’t smell like much: faintly bready and almost like a witbier. I don’t smell a whiff of cinnamon, though, which is disorienting. You think it’d be in there, front and center.

The cinnamon is the dominant taste, though. It’s nice and strong up front, but fades about as quickly as it came. Honestly, the aftertaste of this beer, once the cinnamon disappears, taste a lot like applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled into it. The beer is made with long grain rice so it’s no wonder it has a very light body and flavor.

Honestly, there’s not a lot going on here. It’s refreshing enough if you like cinnamon (and I do), but nothing really great in the end. Personally, I wouldn’t bother buying this experiment again. Just two out of five mugs.

Beer 101: Glassware

There are many styles of glassware that can be used to enjoy beer. While I’m generally a pint glass kind of gal (if I’m not swilling my beverage straight from a bottle or can while running the dishwasher or attending a picnic, that is), I’ve tried and come to appreciate a wide variety of beer vessels in my time. Here are a few of my favorites, which can be found at True Beer (with whom I am not affiliated in any way):

Chalice/Goblet

Nothing is going to make you feel more like you’re in an episode of Game of Thrones than a big ol’ chalice of ale. To be clear: a chalice is the more stout, thick-walled version and the goblet is generally more delicate. The bottom of these glasses are often marked or scored to create imperfections in the bottom of the inside of the glass – this creates a nucleation site to encourage more carbonation and a bigger head. These traditionally pair great with Belgians, strong dark ales, and higher ABV beers.

Pint Glass

The standard American pint glass is a 16oz somewhat cylindrical glass with a slight taper, creating a wider top. These are prevalent, easy to buy, relatively cheap to replace, and good with a wide range of beer styles. Pale ales, witbiers, English bitters, stouts, and more are all a good match for the traditional pint glass.

Weizen Glass

This tall, thin-walled beauty is designed specifically for wheat or weizen-style beers. It’s built to show off the tall, beautiful heads that these beers are known for while also locking in lots of those banana and clove aromas that are signature. Use this to serve hefeweizen, kristalweizen, gose, and other wheat ales.

 Mug/Glass Stein

Sturdy and large with a handle for a good grip (and keeping warm hands away from cold brews), these are great for a rousing round of cheers as they’re less likely to crack or break than their peers. Plus, they can hold a lot of beer. While traditional German steins have lids and were made from stone, modern glass version are less concerned with plague-ridden flies from getting in . Lagers, Ales (I know, that’s basically everything), marzens, stouts, and more can be served in mugs.