Review: Port City Brewing Essential Pale Ale

Port City Brewing, based out of Alexandria, VA (right next to Washington, DC for those not from the area), is the very model of a reliable, simple brewery. It doesn’t go crazy or try to show off. They offer five flagship beers year-round as well as a few seasonal and one-offs – and they are all genuinely solid beers. Would I call any of them exceptional? No. But if I want a pale ale or a porter that’s going to be a sure thing, I know that I can turn to Port City.

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Essential Pale Ale is an American Pale Ale and not an IPA (APAs have a relatively even hops-to-light-malt ratio while IPAs are happier by nature) and does reflect that style well. This is a mild beer that still packs a punch of flavor, but doesn’t overwhelm the palate. It’s a great pairing with almost any food.

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This beer pours a slightly hazy honey gold with a short white head that fades and leaves a little lacing behind. The smell is yeasty and maybe with a little citrus – it is balanced and inviting to me.¬†At first taste, it is very mild. Almost more like a pilsner than what I think of as a pale ale. Not much bite, not much in the way of strong hop or malt flavors, and not really sweet, either. It’s pleasantly bready with just a hint of sweetness.

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Based on everything I’ve just written, this beer sounds… bland. But it’s not! While mild in nature, it is really very flavorful. It’s balanced, as a pale ale should be, and it never relies on a hoppy punch in the face as many IPAs do. I recommend it highly, especially if you’re scarfing down a easy burger or other American comfort food.

Review: Port City Ways and Means

I had to run some errands in Crystal City/Arlington a few weeks ago and ended up with some free time between two appointments. Seemed like a perfect opportunity to grab some lunch and a beer! I was right near a place I’d been once before, Highline RxR, which had a decent beer selection. I was hungry as heck and walked by their place, where an outdoor sign proclaimed that it was Taco Tuesday – they won me over so fast.

With a list of 32 craft beers on draft, Highline strikes me as a place with a lot of potential. I went to a birthday party there a few years ago and enjoyed good beers, decent food, and some of the board games that they keep in house for entertainment. It’s kind of inconvenient to get to, and in a more city-like area than I prefer (meaning I may have to pay for parking, which I take as a deep, personal offense).

I can’t remember my first choice of beers, but they didn’t have it, so the waiter suggested Port City Ways and Means, which I’d been eyeing up as well. Easy-peasey. It pours a handsome, rich golden hue that was maybe just a little bit hazy. It has almost no head, just a smattering of white across the top of the beer, which stuck around as I drank the beer down.

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It struck me as a sort of tropical, fruity smell, sweet, with a mild hop smell. I think there’s some orange in there, too. It has a bright, hoppy taste with a dry, slightly bitter finish. It tastes balanced at first, but ends up being a little drier than I prefer my beers to be. It’s bright and easy to drink, but I just don’t like that finish at all.

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I liked it less and less as it warmed up. That dryness just came forward more and more. It was a fine beer, I guess, but I wouldn’t order it again. It was refreshing, paired with an order of chicken tacos. For $8 for three beef, chicken, or fish tacos (or a selection of all three), Taco Tuesday is a solid deal.