Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter Beer Extravaganza, part 2

Host Bob Tupper and all the brewers
Here's more from the Winter Holidaze Extravaganza held Wednesday, 19 December, at the Brickskeller, Washington, D.C.

[Part 1 of my review is here.]

According to host Bob Tupper the crowd that night may have been the largest in recent memory. This, while I'm having a sip of Boston Beer's Utopias, generously offered to me by Greg Kitsock, the editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. Definitely spirituous, and tasty, not beer-like at all.

Capitol City Shirlington
Michael Jackson had once told Bob Tupper to always begin and/or end a beer tasting with a fruit beer.

So ... Brewer Mike McCarthy, 5 years with this DC area brewery chain, courageously brought his tart cherry ale. I say courageously, because every beer after his was higher — sometimes much higher — in alcohol.

At 5.2% alcohol by volume, this had been brewed with acidulated malt— adding a slight tanginess — and 8 lbs of aseptic fruit puree added post-fermentation for slight sweetness. Nice yin-yang and very pleasant.

Dogfish Head
And now for something completely different: Worldwide Stout, at 18% alcohol by volume, presented by brewery president, Sam Calagione.

Bob Tupper introduced Calagione as being "absolutely fearless," willing to try and fail and try again until successful. He produces "an amazing range of high quality beers."

The keg of Worldwide Stout that Sam had brought had been filled in 2004. Sam said he was surprised that he had found this: apparently the brewery had attempted to sell every drop of beer that year in order to break even.

Cellaring had smoothed the beer, Sam noted, the roastiness lessened, but with new hints of pit-fruit, maderia, and molasses.

Sam invited everyone to the pub: an experimental beer is currently being served there, a spiced porter called "Spruce Willis". He recalled that the brewery had begun at its small Rehobeth pub in 1995. He recounted reading one particular customer comment, soon afterward, at the first release of ImmortAle: "It tastes like wood, but it got me fu**ed up!" It's going to be a long road, Sam thought.

Recently, a fan of the brewery — a wood-flooring salesman — alerted Sam to an exotic, hard wood from Paraguay. Sam said it's so hard that it can withstand a bullet fired at it at close range. The brewery is using it for a new wood-aged beer called Palo Santo Marron.

The Dogfish distillery is developing a distilled mead called BE, aged in wood, with maple sugar and honey.

Sweetwater Tavern Merrifield
Brewer Andrew Cummings reminded me that he had met me and Ernesto Igot, Clipper City's brewmaster, two years ago, when he was brewing at Great Divide Brewery in Denver and we were there for the 2006 Great American Beer Festival.

He brought his spiced winter ale called Happy Trails, brewed with ginger, black cardamom, Curacąo orange peel, and cinnamon. Andrew mentioned that a little bit of cinnamon goes a long way. He carefully used only 500 grams in a 15-barrel batch. A fascinating beer with almost a curry-like flavor.

Bob Tupper asked Andrew if he, Dean Lake at Sterling, and executive brewer Nick Funnell confer much. "Yes, we talk to each other often" replied Andrew, "but we don't always listen!"

Rock Bottom, Bethesda
Bob Tupper mentioned that this national chain gives enough latitude to the individual brewers that each location seems to brew beers with a unique sense of place.

Brewer Geoff Lively brought the 11th Anniversary Ale. Brewed in previous years, but spiced and known as "Trouble", Brewer Geoff left it unspiced this year: a 8.2% alcohol by volume Belgian tripel/golden ale — crisp with a hint of nectarines and cloves.

Lively invited all to stop by at noon the next day when he would be tapping a keg of his cellared 2006 Atom Smasher Barleywine (named for the pub's building which had formerly housed offices of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). "Come in for lunch, and have a couple — 11% abv pints!" he said to general merriment.

Rock Bottom, Arlington
Brewer Chris Rafferty had made the same style of beer as Brewer Lively of Bethesda, and with the same yeast, but to slightly different flavor-effect.

Whereas Lively brewed his to 8.2% alcohol by volume (abv) and 24 International Bittering Units (IBUs), Brewer Chris brewed his to 8.5% abv and 40 IBUs. it was fascinating to notice the flavor differences that these made along with 75 lbs of candi sugar. There was a hint of mace, maybe, in the drier finish. Czech hops for bittering.

Talking at the brewers' table, Rafferty mentioned that he remembered me from my days brewing in Philadelphia at Manayunk Brewing — over 10 years ago — when he had been brewing at a nearby John Harvard's.

Capitol City, Capitol Hill
Brewer Brian brought his Southern Brown Ale.

A decade ago, a beer at this strength — 6.3% — might have been considered extreme. How times have changed!

Hopped with UK Fuggles and Styrian Goldings from Slovenia, it was dark brown, creamy, and with a hint of brown sugar. Quite nice.

Brian explained that Southern Browns — referring to southern England versus northern England — tend to be maltier than their northern brethren.
Favio Garcia of Dominion
Coastal/Dominion Winter Brew
It was a good to see Favio Garcia still at Dominion; many of the long-timers have departed since the sale of the brewery.

Brewer Favio presented the brewery's very tasty "English-style I.P.A." They had "emptied their larder," using every variety of hops that they had in the brewery.

Clipper City Winter Storm Imperial E.S.B.
I presented our Winter Storm — a 7.5% abv winter warmer brewed with a cépage of English and US malts and hops.

It was pulled fresh from a cask, so I had the opportunity to speak on the freshness of cask ales. "Imagine a cask as a small fermenter," I said. "I've brought the brewery to you." (Friends at my table said they had been taking bets on how many times, in my enthusiasm, I would say the word, "Fuggles". Only twice.)

I read from the editorial — Drink More Beer — written by a BBC announcer — that I've quoted on this blog.

Finally, I presented Bob Tupper with a 6-pack of cellared barleywines from my personal stash for the evening's Childrens Hospital auction: from a 2006 Clipper City Below Decks, to a 1999 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, to a 1992 Thomas Hardy Ale, brewed at the now-closed Eldridge Pope Brewery, and others. The winning bid was over $300.

There were several more beers — Jewbelation 11, Starr Hill, DuClaw — but at this point, this blogger put down his pen, and simply enjoyed the evening.

May you enjoy your evening tonight ... and your day tomorrow.

Linksmų Kaledų!

More photos here.

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