Just the Bottle

One woman's adventure in beer, food, wine and spirits

Handsome Beer Company

Handsome Beer Company has had several DC area events and Baltimore events with more to come.  There have been reviews and interviews done by Fritz Hahn and DC Beer as well as I am sure others.  I don't want to recreate or even attempt to copy what that high of caliber of beer writers have done, but thought I would jump in.  I will say surprisingly enough my favorite is what they did with their Medium & Message.  I am usually a malty mama, but the Medium & Message was really intriguing. There was some interesting fruit notes and some bite in the form of pepper that came through.

If you haven't checked them out - do.  They have an event coming up on Friday.  These are two amazing fellas who are really passionate about what they do.  They are perfectly executing some great styles of beer.  I really imagine considering the quality and they're energy, we will be seeing them on the scene for a while.  Which in the long run is great.

I don't think we have hit capacity yet in the DC area in regards to beer.  This...excites me and it should you.  There's plenty of opportunity in the congenial bunch (who sometimes pretend to be curmudgeons) for healthy competition.  I think that will continue to make it a fun and engaging scene for guest/consumer to brewer.

So to that I say, enjoy Handsome Beer and encourage more innvators to bring their A- game. 

Wynwood Brewing

During this last trip home to South Florida, I was able to visit Wynwood Brewing Company.  I have been wanting to visit ever since they began welcoming guests.  I convinced my mom to drive me (shut up, I don't have a car while I am there) and off we went.

Wynwood portion of Miami is an arts area that has blown up over the last few years.  Previously, it was mostly warehouses.  It's amazing to see what's been done.  Although there are some concerns about the driving cost and what it will do to some of the local merchants and artists.

Wynwood Brewing is a real great addition to the burgeoning Florida brewing scene and Miami in general.  It was founded by a father and son team and is definitely a family affair.  

I first became interested in what they were doing when I saw the Miami Herald article about their opening.  Being the first brewery to open made them trailblazers that had to deal with a good deal of red tape and absurdity.  They overcame that and even found a novel way to fundraise in securing a government loan to open their business.  I hadn't heard about many other breweries taking advantage of that in the past.

After entering the tasting room, I ordered a flight that included their signature beer La Rubia.  La Rubia is a blonde ale made with a combination of German Pilsner Malts, British Crystal Malts, Czech Saaz Hops and German Ale Yeast.  It's incredibly refreshing with mild bitterness that leads to a smooth finish.

I also checked out the Magic City, Father Francisco and Rickenbacker.  Magic City is a great example of a pale ale.  Father Francisco was light in body with some spicy and sweet notes.  Rickenbacker was more of a session beer done in the pilsner style.  It was light bodied with citrus elements on the finish. All the beers reference Miami in some way as in historical elements or geographically.

One thing that stayed with me after the tasting and tour was the "Miami water makes Miami beer" comment.  Water is definitely a crucial element of beer, but how crucial?  I am clearly a novice in this, but still I would love to read more and hear other thoughts by more knowledgeable people about the water question.

In the end, I would highly recommend visiting Wynwood Brewing and the area in general.  If Wynwood Brewing is any indication on what Miami can do, expect big things. 

 

 

 

 

Festivus Fun and Florida Beers

I was lucky enough to get time off to go home to the South Florida area for Christmas.  Well, lucky to be able to witness the crazy that is my family in person.  With that in mind, let’s list some of the great beers I had and perhaps throw in a great quote or two from my family.

Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale

Cigar City beers are finally appearing in the DC area.  The brewery is located in Tampa, Florida area.  This beer was full of flavor with notes of nutty coffee profile.  However, it was very light which gives you the darker flavors you want for the holidays, but easy to drink.  It was perfect for a Floridian who wants to enjoy the holidays even when it’s 80 degrees on Christmas.

Parental Unit

The male parental unit liked this beer.  The male parental unit also told me when I brought home cookies made from scratch based on my grandma’s recipe that the cookies were dry.  He then ate almost all of the cookies while I was at the beach.

Key West Southernmost Wheat

It’s an interesting take on the witbier style.  I didn’t get the cleaning product flavor that always seems to occur when I drink a wheat style beer.  For real, around mid-palate usually I get this Pinesol character.  Anyways, great citrus notes with a hint of lime and some spice.

Parental Unit

The male parental unit liked it, but this is also not his favorite style.  At some point during the visit a heated discussion emerged of whether my dad should date if my mom were to die.  She ends the debate by stating, “No skanks.”

The Eleven Brown Ale

Here’s another perfect beer for a Floridian who wants malty, toffee flavors in a lighter format.  I loved the flavor and slight hoppy notes on the finish.

Parental Unit

He dug this one.  We both like more malty flavors.

We visited my grandparents on Christmas day.  They always have something to say about my life, my weight or just about anything.  One of my favorite past anecdotes from my grandfather involves me suggesting he participate in a class in which he would write his autobiography.  He responded very negatively.  I asked why he wouldn’t be interested and he responded, “because I can’t remember all the ladies’ names.” 

Unfortunately, it was a very brief trip home over the holidays.  This made it difficult to see friends and visit breweries like Funky Buddha or Wynwood Brewing Company.  Well that and not having a car unless I borrow my parent’s car.

Fall means Pumpkin Beer Time

If it’s fall it means it’s time for all the pumpkin beer. Some people hate on pumpkin especially pumpkin beer and fall in general. Many like to make jokes about white girls in yoga pants. My feelings about the hatred of pumpkin and fall can be summed up as -

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To further elaborate - I like pumpkin and I like fall. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. We would wear sweaters and pretend we actually needed them when it was 60 degrees out.

I ended up having some friends over to enjoy pumpkin beer. French Twist DC posted her own tasting notes as well as history of pumpkin beer and Girl Meets Glass shared her pumpkin beer thoughts too.Beerbecue participated virtually with the Haybag as he was busy with 2.0. Bill Jusino also tweeted some of the fun. There may even be a DC Beer post on pumpkin beer. Another friend who is in Annapolis did her own pumpkin beer tasting and posted her thoughts. I also found the Great Pumpkin Beer Review with detailed reviews of several pumpkin beers.

There are still pumpkin beers available for purchase at many retail establishments, but I would start buying anything you like now as well as Oktoberfest and marzen. I have waited until October or November and places are sold out of many of the best.

On to my tasting notes-

Epic & DC Brau’s Fermentation Without Representation Collaboration Beer - I loved this one. I found it more balanced with the right about of spice, but still pumpkin flavor. By that I mean, it wasn’t like drinking pumpkin pie.
Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale - I am not sure if it was me or what, but I got strong buttery flavors. It was overpowering. It came off as sort of caramel popcorn. I have a second bottle to try later.
Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale Gruntled Pumpkin - This was not a crowd favorite. It came off as more gourd and squash like. When I drank it on it’s own, the first taste was clover and gourd smacking me around.
Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale - Here was another example of pumpkin beer being more balanced and not simply pumpkin pie in a bottle. It was slightly hoppy and slightly spicy as maybe corriander on the finish.
Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin - It looked light in the pour, but definitely packed a punch. It was more malty like I normally enjoyed. It had more caramel notes with the pumpkin spice flavors popping through.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead - Our group did not enjoy this one. The spices were overwhelming in a harsh way.
Brasserie McAuslan’s St-Ambroise Citrouille - It was light and had minimal nutmeg notes. It was very smooth, but not that impressive.
Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin - I really enjoyed this beer, but didn’t really consider it a pumpkin beer. It was toasty with great caramel and nutty flavors. I just didn’t get any pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavors.
Flying Dog Brewery, The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale - This was a crowd pleaser. It was a dark color poured, but not very heavy. Plenty of clove notes.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - This is always another popular pumpkin beer. It’s lighter and more on the pumpkin pie scale with a lot of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg notes.
Matt Brewing Company’s Saranac Pumpkin Ale - This is a middle ground pumpkin beer. It is also lighter with more sweetness in the form of  clove and nutmeg.
Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter - The pumpkin is slightly overpowered by the porter in this beer. It came off as more muted.

In the end, taste is subjective even your own. I find that depending on what I am eating, the weather and even the type of day I had that my taste in beer will change. I may go for a second round of some of these beers especially when it gets a little cooler.

I survived DC Beer Week

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I survived DC Beer Week, but just barely. DC Beer Week is a great time celebrating what the DC area has to offer. DC Beer among other outlets provided information on some of the best events of the week. DC Beer is a great site to follow year round for events, discussion of beer and all beer related things.

Sunday, August 11th began with an early wake up to get ready for the day. I dragged my tired ass to Chocolate City to begin my Brewery Tour that included six DC and VA breweries. We began at about 10:00am with First Coast Bohemian Pils. As one of my new friends on the tour said, “This is a great morning beer.” It was light, crisp and great introduction to the day.

We hopped on the bus and moved onto DC Brau. DC Brau continues to have a soft spot in my heart. I went with Exquisite Corpse and Heurich’s Lager. The Exquisite Corpse was proposed by the Beer Director at Pizzeria Paradiso and is a collaboration among Greg Jasgur, Sam Fitz of Meridian Pint, Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Jeff Hancock of DC Brau. It has great aromatics with citrus notes, effervescent and very clean taste and dry finish. It was very refreshing. I fell in love with the Heurich Lager. I have never tasted a lager like that. The nose isn’t as big with just a hint of sweetness. It really shines through the palate changing flavors from slightly spicy to somewhat sweet with a great texture.While there, I also secured my shirt for my AMAZING air guitar performance of “Livin’ on a Prayer” at Solly’s.

Next stop was the new Blue Jacket. We were greeted with water. Yes, I was very happy to have some water. Being this is Blue Jacket they presented our beer tasting in some serious stemware. They had a microphone set up and serious staff mingling about. They poured only one beer their kolsch. Greg Engert spoke about the history of the space and their goals upon opening. He also offered some tasting notes on the beer. He’s a genius who when speaking is comfortable discussing medieval history to architecture to tasting notes in a beer and more. He’s just a fascinating guy who never comes off condescending. 

We proceed onto Port City in Alexandria. I tried the Derecho Common and Downright Pils. Both are pretty solid beers. The Derecho Common had some mild fruitiness and mild maltiness. At Port City we had a shortened version of a tour.

After Port City, we headed to Mad Fox. As we entered I ran to the bar and ordered a bacon and cheese burger with fries. Food was necessary.  I grabbed some of our sample beers including the Broad Street IPA. It was a pretty solid IPA with some piney notes and light citrus. At the bar I ordered the Mason’s Dark Mild. It offered what I love from a beer and gave me something to enjoy with my food at an ABV that allowed me to chill out. It was not too heavy, chocolate, malty and somewhat roasty flavor.

We jumped back in the bus and headed off to Three Stars Brewery. Dave warmly greeted us right away. I asked for the Lime Basil Session Saison and then sampled the Peppercorn Saison. I am loving the Lime Basil. Guess what it tastes like? That’s right unicorn tears. No, but it’s really perfect for the insanely hot weather and has all these spice notes that are well balanced. Dave led us on a brief two part tour of the history of Three Stars and their process. I love hearing about the early days with him and Mike and seeing how far they have come. I can’t wait to see where they are in the next year or two.

It was a great tour and I really hope more maybe smaller versions can be organized.

The rest of week was kind of a blur. I hit up Big Hunt on Tuesday with stops at Pizzeria Paradiso and Scion where the Flying Dog event was held. I enjoyed several delicious beers with new and old friends. At Big Hunt I was able to try the Allagash James Bean. It’s amazing when you look at the color and then the taste is so different. It felt silky, chocolate, some roast elements.

Another night I skipped DC Beer Week activities to enjoy some amazing cocktails with FEW and friends. More on that and my gin class with Caledonia Spirits another post.

On Thursday, I headed with friends to celebrate at Smoke and Barrel for a Neil Young themed DC Beer Week event. I started off with Allagash Golden Brett, which I described as funky deliciousness. Their food is spectacular. I ordered this yummy sausage sandwich and my friends ordered their BBQ platter with sweet potato fries and grits. At some point, I ordered a round of Bulleit bourbon because Thursday.

After leaving Smoke and Barrel, I convinced most of the crew to hit Millie & Al’s. Of course the skeleton danced and I made everyone do two $1 Jell-O shots. Afterwards, the karaoke began. We signed up for numerous songs including “You Can Go Your Own Way”. That’s where I decided to drop to my knees and slide to my friend. I still stand by that decision even though I left a part of my knee on the floor.

Yesterday my body finally informed me that we were sick and I decided to take an easy the rest of the weekend.

Righteous Cheese Rocks My Face Off

I have been having a good amount of fun lately and haven’t blogged enough. What? Shocked? Yeah, well sorry I am so busy kicking ass and taking names.

I won a free cheese and beer tasting at Righteous Cheese located at Union Market. How? See the statement above. I also won a tequila and mezcal dinner that you should expect to read about soon among other things.

The cheese tasting theme was “Backyard Cheese and Craft Beer”. We tasted -

Beer

Stillwater Cellar Door (Westminster, Maryland)

Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca (Dexter, Michigan)

Great Lakes Wright Pilsner (Cleveland, Ohio)

Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (Kalmazoo, Michigan)

Cheese

Coach Farm Triple Creme (Goat - Pine Plains, New York)

Cave-Aged Marisa (Sheep - La Valle, Wisconsin)

Beecher’s Flagship Reserve (Cow - Seattle, WA)

Billy Blue (Goat - La Valle, Wisconsin)

Carolyn Stromberg led the tasting. She’s amazing as an instructor. She was really dynamic as a speaker and provided this great overview along with tasting notes. I am always amazed at people who speak with such comfort and passion. It makes it really interesting to sit and learn.

She had us do a more professional tasting. We rated the cheese and beer matrix style - each beer versus each cheese. We rated each combination between -2 to +2 depending on how much we enjoyed it.

I enjoyed the triple creme with Stillwater Cellar Door. My favorites were Beecher’s Flagship and Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA and Billy Blue and Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca.

As we tasted each cheese along with combining them with mustard seeds, bread and candied pecans we also talked about our thoughts. When we were finishing the tasting Carolyn asked us to share our favorites.

Before leaving I made sure to buy some burrata as it’s made from unicorn tears and love.

Did somebody say beer dinner?

I have great respect for DC Brau. The founders are hard working and passionate men. I remember after they first opened, I tried to find The Public Ale. It was amazing having that first beer. I had a friend at the time who had just moved to San Fransisco and took photos of DC Brau. He eventually made his way back home and loves DC Brau.

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This past Thursday DC Brau held a beer dinner at 1905. The event was featured on TasteDC’s calendar among other great sites. Before the dinner, they held a release happy hour for their Saint Joseph’s Tripel. The beer is named in honor of Joey Belcher. They also donated a portion of the proceeds of the happy hour as well as remembered him fondly during the dinner.

I missed the happy hour as I was catching up with a friend at Vinoteca. It’s another great spot in the area that never gets too packed for weekday happy hour and offers several wines by the glass for $5.

I showed up shortly before the start of dinner. I was greeted by the wonderful staff of 1905 including one of my favorite bartenders, Lyn. She’s a sassy lady with amazing taste in beer and food. I also was lucky enough to meet one of the DC Beers crew, John Fleury.

Let’s get started with this tasty dinner. Nom nom nom.

Amuse Bouche

Oyster Shooter

DC Brau Citizen, Horseradish, Lemon Juice, Pickled Okra
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The amuse bouche featured the DC Brau Citizen as an oyster shooter. I am not the biggest fan usually of oysters, but the spice and acid notes were perfect. The DC Brau Citizen had a balancing effect.

First Course

House-Smoked Pork Belly

Brined in DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter, Maple Glaze, Bacon Collards, Littlenecks

Paired with Penn Quarter Porter (5.5% ABV)

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My preferred beers are stouts or porters. I love the Penn Quarter Porter. The pork belly was succulent. It was so creamy along with the beer it came out very luxurious. The collard greens with bacon added an element of salt.

There were amazing chocolate notes in the porter with some smoke towards the finish.

Second Course

Brau-Brined Salmon

Lemon-Pepper Creme, Deviled Crawfish, Pickled Fennel

Paired with Saint Joseph’s Tripel (10% ABV)

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This was yet another amazing dish. The tripel made delicious sense with the salmon. As Jeff presented the dish, he spoke of having beer compliment or contradict your food. It’s a great aspect of dining with beer.

The salmon was cooked perfectly. It was incredibly moist and sort of fell apart in my mouth. The deviled crawfish and pickled fennel added a nice sourness that was a palate cleanser.

The tripel was a great homage to the Belgian tripel. It wasn’t as overpowering as I find Belgian tripels (possibly food would help). It had lovely citrus notes, some toast and mild sweetness.

Third Course

Crisp-Skin Duck Breast

Housemade Kraut, Sorghum Mustard, Barrel-Aged Ghoul’s Night Out Beer Salt

Paired with Barrel-Aged Ghoul’s Night Out (11% ABV)

Aged in Catoctin Creek Grape Brandy Barrels

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Next we moved onto the duck, which to quote my man friend was “quacktastic”. The sorghum mustard added spicy notes combined with the barrel aged ghoul’s night our beer salt and beer itself. The beer had amazing caramel notes that brought out additional flavor in the duck.

Even though I prefer heavier beers, this may have been my favorite. It reminded me somewhat of a doppelbock with caramel flavors and a lovely smoothness.

We also had the opportunity to sample the Catoctin Creek Brandy to have a better understanding of how the beer was aged. This may be my new favorite brandy. It was very smooth with great vanilla notes and hints of molasses.

Final Course

"Coffee & Doughnuts"

Paired with Barrel-Aged Penn Quarter Porter (5.5% ABV)

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Obviously, I love donuts. I went to the donut party. One can never have enough donuts. As we finished our dinner, we were treated to donuts with light powdered sugar, chocolate ganche sauce, Barrel Aged Penn Quarter Porter and a coffee styled chaser.

The donuts were light, fluffy and warm. That’s a key to donuts is conning the mouth into thinking they are eating something that hasn’t been fried in grease. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

The barrel aging added more vanilla and toasty notes with hints of whiskey to the beer. It rounded the finish.

This was an amazing dinner with great people both attending and working the event. I always love my visits to 1905 and hope to go back soon.

Oh and DC Brau! I’m calling you out. Have more beer dinners!!