Thanksgiving Eve is one of the busier bar nights of the year. The folks who are leaving town have left. The folks who have stayed put —finished with work, shopping, and cooking— go out to play.
That's how I set the scene, five years ago, in 2007, when the Evening Star Cafe, a restaurant and pub in the cozy Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, served its first-ever cask-conditioned ale on the night before Thanksgiving.
The cask was a firkin (10.8 gallons) of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.
The brewery —Heavy Seas, of Baltimore, Maryland— describes the Loose Cannon as a thrice-hopped American IPA (India Pale Ale). I describe it —especially served still fermenting, fresh, from a cask— as aromatic, juicy, fruity (think melons and citrus), and well-structured.
The tapping was a success. So much so, that the pub has continued the tradition each Thanksgiving Eve since. But, alas, this year, Evening Star has closed, temporarily, for renovations, re-opening in December.
So, for this Thanksgiving Eve, the five-year Del Ray, Alexandria, tradition moves a block up Mount Vernon Avenue, to ...
... Del Ray Pizzeria: a good-beer bar and, of course, pizzeria.
Like the Evening Star, Del Ray Pizzeria is a newbie to cask-conditioned ales. So, I and Jonathan Mcintire —the local representative of Heavy Seas— will be on-hand at 5pm this Wednesday to lend a hand, and a mallet, to tap the Loose Cannon.
And, it's a special cask of Loose Cannon for Del Ray. Heavy Seas' cellarman has dry-hopped it with U.S. west coast Simcoe hops, which were flown to the brewery within days of being harvested. Additionally, he's infused the beer with hand-toasted chips of Red Maple, White Oak, and Birch.
There is no overall fee for admittance ... simply pay for the the pints you order. A cask contains 86 U.S.-sized pints, give or take.
- UPDATE: Photos from Del Ray Pizzeria: here.
- The past tradition (at Evening Star Cafe)
- Dry-hopping is the addition of hops to beer AFTER fermentation, such as directly into a cask. The process infuses beer with fresh hop aromatics, which would be otherwise lost during a kettle boil. Wet-hopping, on the other hand, is a term denoting the use of just-picked hops. The cask above was dry-hopped with wet-hops. Learn more about cask-conditioned beer at CaskAleUSA.
- Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.