Fredericksburg-area beer blogger David Turley (Musings Over A Pint) and I, and several local homebrewers were all on hand to help him celebrate.
A collaboration between Lyle and Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet, Va., Smoke Out, his Rauch Hellerbock, won the silver medal in the Pro-Am competition of the 2008 Great American Beer Festival. It's a full-bodied deep-golden bock, with a gorgeous malty middle, and a smokey, almost bacony flavor and aroma. A deceptive 8+% alcohol.
Lyle walked about the restaurant, proudly offering samples of his Rauchbier. A few of the customers were indeed taken aback by the smokey flavor. But more than a few ordered full pours. And, Smoke Out, indeed: Capital Ale House does not allow smoking, until after 9PM.
Smoke Out is also on tap at the three other Capital Ale House locations in the Richmond area. Lyle told me that Starr Hill is considering brewing it again.
Friday evening was another kind of celebration as well.
Capital Ale House had just opened this Fredericksburg location four days earlier on Monday. So, this was their first Friday evening.
The beer bar and restaurant, housed in a restored building in the historic downtown area of Fredericksburg, was packed with customers. And, at least from the vantage of my seat at the bar, things seemed to move smoothly (other than a line to get in at about 8pm).
The restoration of the old building had included exposing wooden ceiling joists, repointing brickwork, and refinishing original wood plank flooring.
Of course, the central draw is the beer. The Ale House has 60 draft lines and stocks 300 different bottled beers. Two cask ale handpumps are promised but none were yet available Friday night. A ribbon of ice runs the length of the bartop on which customers can keep their beers cold.
With so many beers to choose from, I tried two (in addition to Smoke Out).
Victory Brewing's fresh-hopped Harvest Pils had a fresh-garden aroma and a bracing finishing bitterness.
Lights Out Holiday Ale, from Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia was thick, earthy, raisiny, and dark reddish brown ale. At 7% alcohol by volume, it finished with a healthy smack of English hops. I drank that with my meal: the house-made black bean burger topped with crumbles of Maytag Blue cheese.
Very busy with the capacity crowd, Matt Simmons —General Manager for the entire Capital Ale House chain— still took the time to talk with us and to congratulate Lyle. In turn, we offered Matt congratulations on the new location.