Review: Old Dominion Grapefruit Pale Ale

Old Dominion Brewery started life as a humble brewery in Ashburn, VA, way back in 1989 (this is fairly old by craft brewery standards, considering that much of the craft movement didn’t gain traction until the 2000s). They lovingly crafted beer and sodas for many years, supplying the Mid-Atlantic with reputable products in bottles and kegs. In 2007, they joined up with Fordham brewery out of Annapolis, MD – and in 2009, the breweries consolidated and moved their base of operations to Dover, Delaware. These two breweries are partners with the Rams Head Tavern in Savage, MD, who keeps several of their beers on rotating taps at all times.

I was meeting friends for dinner at Rams Head one April evening and, as per usual, I was heinously early. I grabbed a pint of this Grapefruit Pale Ale, their summer seasonal, which had just premiered earlier that week. Worth noting, I really don’t like trying to snap pictures of my beers in this venue because the lighting is so dark and kind of red-orange saturated. It doesn’t make for good photography.

This is (probably) a pretty, honeycomb gold color (again, those lights make it hard to tell) with a fluffy, off-white head on its beery shoulders. There’s plenty of full-bodied lacing remaining inside of the glass as the head settles. The nose is faintly hoppy, fairly grainy, and with some light notes of citrus fruit in it.

The bartender described it as “bright” and I agree: it’s very easy to drink and nicely crisp. Now, I don’t really usually like grapefruit anything, so this beer was kind of a risk – but it paid off. It’s great served cold on a warm day. It’s a little piney and reminiscent of an IPA in that way. The finish is a little dry (probably the number one complain that I make on this blog…), but not so dry that I’d never get this again. I think I would order it in the future, especially to support local craft beer.  Four out of five frosty mugs!

Review: DC Brau The Corruption

I call the DC area my home and I definitely love the craft beer scene that DC and Baltimore have to offer. One of the staples of the area is DC Brau, a brewery inside of the District, and one of their flagship beers is The Corruption. It’s their take on a Pacific Northwest-style IPA and is made with plenty of Columbus hops that bring it up to 80 IBU.

DC Brau was formed in 2009 by two local restaurant industry veterans, Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock, who saw a gap in the area craft beer market and sought to fill it. The brewery experiments a little  with beer styles and have had offered a lot of American Double/Double IPAs in the past as well as a rye beer, some Belgian styles, and a Scotch AleWee Heavy.

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I had this brew at Yard House in Springfield, VA. Yard House, if I understand correctly, is a chain of  sports bars with a large tap selection of craft beers and is owned by the same company that mans Olive Garden and Seasons 52. So it’s no hipster-owned craft beer neighborhood bar, but it does tend to sport a massive beer menu with plenty of variety.

I met a friend for lunch there one day and figured I might as well review a beer while I was at it! I have a soft spot for local food and beverage, so I opted in for The Corruption. It’s a medium golden hue with a thing, nearly-white head (maybe a little hard to tell because Yard House is quite dimly lit). The head didn’t stick around long at all in my glass and didn’t really create any lacing.

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It has a very grainy nose with plenty of hops as well. It smells a little like fresh bread to me. The taste is slightly dry and bitter – not unpleasant, but a little drier than is my personal preference. It’s a good, solid beer with plenty of flavor, but that isn’t overpowering. All the same, it is solid in the way that it isn’t exactly stand out to me, either.

It did balance well with some savory food (roasted brussels sprouts and potatoes, a Cuban sandwich, some sweet potato fries), which I only barely remembered to photograph because I was famished and it was all delicious.

Review: Gilly’s Craft Beer & Fine Wine

Disclaimer: Gilly’s used to be My Bar. Capital M, capital B. Mine. I lived about a 10 minute walk from it and went there way more than is probably healthy, both to drink and to write (while drinking). I don’t live there any longer, but I still always stop by for a pint when I’m in the area. So I’m probably biased toward the place, but it had several years to really win my affection.

They’re both a bottle shop and a beer and wine bar with 19 rotating taps. Additionally, they sell genuinely delicious sandwiches and cheese plates if you feel like snacking (although the sandwiches here are for more than a mere snack – they’re significant). The staff is always knowledgeable about their beers, and even just beer in general, and always give out plenty of sample tastes upon request.

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Last year, they joined up with Untappd and became a verified venue and now use a large screen TV and Untappd software to keep a live list of their beer menu. Gone are the days of printed menus and sharpie lines through the kegs that had kicked! If you check in at Gilly’s using Untappd, your user name and icon appear on the screen as well – a sort of digital territory marking for beer nerds, I guess.

I started with a spiced beer, Oliver’s Intrigue in Tangiers. I asked a little about it and learned that this brew was a collaboration between Oliver Brewing Company and Charm City Meadworks, both Baltimore local businesses. This beer is “brewed with orange blossom honey and gently spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and star anise.”

It pours a nice ruby brown color with a little off-white head that falls quickly and leaves lacing behind in its wake. I noticed very little nose, perhaps because the pour was so cold. Maybe I get a hint of a citrus smell, but I didn’t notice any spices on the nose.

The first taste is a brown ale with a slight peppercorn hint at the back of the throat. It’s lightly sweet, but not too malty. I’d say that there’s a slight tartness to it. I don’t find it at all dry or bitter and there’s a sort of heat to it that feels alcoholic. The drier finish becomes more apparent as this beer warms. It’s light and crisp with low carbonation. Easy to drink, but not as remarkable or distinct as other spiced beers I’ve tried.

I also splurged on a 10oz pour of a $16 sour beer from Belgium. The Brouwerji Alvinne Cuvee Freddy was a treat. It pours a beautiful, dark brown, ruddy color, quite opaque. No head at all on this pour. It has a really sour and funky smell to it and the taste is an amazing puckery sour! Honestly, it’s one of the best sours I may have every had – and for that price, it better be!

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Photo by @stunim of Instagram

Review: Elysian Dark O The Moon ’15

Like so many wonderful things in life, Elysian Brewing Company‘s Dark O The Moon only comes around once a year. I’m a big fan of fall and all things that come along with it: crunchy leaves, cool weather, pumpkin flavored everything, and Halloween. I’m down with pumpkin. I’m on the pumpkin train to Flavortown. And I like me some pumpkin beers.

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Photo via BeermanceNW

Not all pumpkin beers, mind you; there are some real stinkers out there, but pumpkin stouts, especially, are on my to-drink list just about everywhere. This isn’t the first year that I’ve enjoyed Elysian’s pumpkin brew and it certainly won’t be the last. Noteworthy: this is the 2015 edition of the beer, not the 2016. I’ll admit, I didn’t ask Frisco’s why they had last year’s version instead of this years. I just cheerfully ordered up a beer that I remembered fondly.

Poured from a tap into a pint glass, this beer is a dark black-brown pour that no light seemed to pass through (just how I like it!). It had almost no head at all, just a touch of light tan foam. The nose is all cinnamon. Aggressively cinnamon. It’s brewed with pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and cinnamon.

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Photo by BeerSnobChick

Tasting notes with this beer are chocolate and a dark, sweet bread. It is pleasantly autumnal in every way – color, smell, and taste. It tastes much less like cinnamon than the nose would suggest. I didn’t get a really strong punch of pumpkin, per se. The chocolaty nature of this beer isn’t sweet, it’s more on the roasty end, resembling baker’s chocolate.

As far as texture goes, it has a really good, sturdy mouthfeel. There’s weight there, which is, in my opinion, how a stout should be. I remembered this beer fondly for a reason: it’s well-balanced and full of the flavors of my favorite season. It’s not my favorite fall beer (that would be Warlock – another review for another day), but it is a sold contender.

Review: Fort Collins Red Banshee Amber Ale

Another beer at Root Down in the Denver Airport, Fort Collins Red Banshee Amber Ale was undeniably refreshing! I chose to kill some time during my 4 hour layover here, where I grabbed a tasty lunch and another beer before the Red Banshee. It was a nice, low-key way to spend some time in a lively, bustling airport before returning home from my amazing Portland trip.

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This beer is available year-round from Fort Collins, which is a brewery located in northern Colorado (and therefore aptly named). They offer around 50 ales and lagers both at their tavern and in bottles and cans distributed around the US. I also believe I’ve had their seasonal Oktoberfest and really enjoyed that – I’d buy it again if I found it.

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Poured by draft and into a pint glass, Red Banshee was a lovely medium red-brown color. It had a minimal light tan head, which dissipated rather quickly, and left a little bit of lacing behind. It smelled a little, for lack of a better word, vegetable-y. It also had a malty nose to it.

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It was a toasted malt, mellow, sweet red with a drier finish to it. I made a note in my phone with the word, “unremarkable.” So I guess if there’s one word I have to offer, it’s that one. I wasn’t impressed, per se, but I like it well enough. It was very drinkable when served nice and cold.

Review: Boulder Beer Company Mojo IPA

This is my second-to-last beer of my Portland trip (it was on my layover, so it only kind of counts, I guess) and it was overall a good choice, I think. I was still a little bit in beer vacation mode, so I wanted to squeeze a few more beers into my trip before coming home. It sure beats paying $12 for a tiny cocktail on the plane, as well.

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Boulder Beer Company Mojo IPA was poured from a nitro draft (meaning that, in the carbonation process, nitrogen gas is used instead of the usual CO2, yielding a smoother, creamier beverage) into a pint glass. It poured an opaque, buttery yellow as the bubbles gently cascade their way up the inside of the glass. It’s really a beautiful beer. It had a pretty, cream-colored head that lasts and lasts.

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It cleared to a lovely, rich marigold color. The nose, to me, is something fruity and sweet and summery. Orange peel, perhaps. It has a light, hoppy smell. The first sip is a little resinous (in a good way) and is full of the long-lasting head. It’s a malty, citrusy, hoppy west coast stye IPA for sure! My only complaint is that is became a little too dry and bitter when it warmed up.

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I paired it up with a bahn mi turkey burger and sweet potato fries at Root Down in the Denver airport. It was also a delicious sandwich, by the way, and worked well with the moderate flavored Mojo IPA. The price was good – especially for an airport – and the burger itself was tender, moist, and not at all dried out.

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Root Down, by the way, has a cool decoration style, it’s clearly travel themed. I sat at the bar because I was dining solo and it had a glass top with suitcases and their contents frozen in time under the glass. There were clothing items, postcards, toiletries – all with a vintage travel vibe. I definitely spent a bit of time staring at the set up! I highly recommend Root Down overall, so if you find yourself in the Denver airport, definitely check it out.

 

Review: Great Divide Samurai Rice Ale

Normally, gluten-free or rice-based beers are just not up my alley. Rice is often an additive in cheap, mass-market swill and so it has, to me, a negative connotation (which is maybe an unfair attitude of mine, but that’s another post for another day). GF/rice-based beers have, generally, been fine, but a relatively unimpressive lot. All the same, I have to say that I enjoyed Great Divide‘s Samurai Rice Ale.

Now, I have to clarify: Samurai is not a gluten-free beer; barley is still used in the brewing process.

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I enjoyed this beer on draft at Noraneko Ramen in the waterfront district of Portland, OR. And let me tell you, Noraneko is an experience not to be missed. I know ramen shops are a bit popular these days, but not all of them do an amazing job. Noraneko really does. I ordered their regular  shoyu ramen with the “special egg” (a soft-boiled egg soaked in vinegar and soy sauce, if I know my ramen toppings) and the pork belly chasyu (slowly braised to perfection).  I also ordered kara age (fried chicken) and tsukemono (pickled vegetables) for the table to share.

The chicken and some of the pickles may have been a little too salty, but the ramen itself was very good. A fine portion for $9. Mild broth, not too salty, and with firm noodles that don’t just fall apart. The pork  belly was tender and flavorful and the egg was exactly right (I love a soft/runny yolk). The toppings included some bamboo shoots, green onion, and leafy greens, but the egg and meat are add-ons and will run you about $3 per item. It adds up, but it’s a great meal.

Right! Sorry ! Beer! Good Japanese food just gets me all excited.

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The Samurai was a draft beer poured into a pint glass. It was a beautiful golden color with a smallish white head. Not much of a nose on it – maybe a hint of cereal and something a little floral. It was served quite cold, so the smells may not have opened up yet. It tasted a little sweet at first, but very light overall. There may have even been a hint of something fruity to it. It was lightly hoppy, and a tad citrusy, but not “fruity” I guess. Not compared to, say, something like Mad Fox’s Orange Whip IPA.

It ended up as a very easy to drink beer, perfect for some flavorful food, which is kind of why I ordered a lighter rice-based ale in the first place.

My friend Sara ordered the Pho-style ramen bowl and an Off Color Troublesome Gose (which turns out to be a blend of two beers: a wheat yeast ale with coriander and a second beer brewed only with Lactobacillus bacteria). The Gose had a very sour nose, a zippy lemon taste, and a fairly light finish. James had the special BBQ ramen bowl (he was saddened by the lack of protein in it, save for the little scraps of what seemed to be brisket ends at the bottom of the bowl) and the Samurai rice ale along with me.

Cheers to good beer, good friends, and good food!