Brew Tour #1: Winchester Brew Crawl

Winchester, Virginia is a small town in the north western region of Virginia. It is snuggled into the armpit of West Virgina to the north and west. Using a basketball analogy, it almost looks like the West Virginia panhandle is palming Winchester on the way to going for a massive dunk. I promise you these descriptors are pertinent to the story at hand. Winchester has only 26 thousand residents and is known for its annual Apple Blossom festival. While it is not a particularly noteworthy town, it holds it’s own for an interesting micro culture born out of what used to be a hub for George Washington during in his early years during the French and Indian War, and much later becoming site for a Capitol Records pressing plant. My wife and I have an intimate connection to Winchester as we got married in their historic George Washington Hotel almost eight years ago. Her parents moved right outside of Winchester almost a year ago, and we recently took a trip up their with our little girl and our dog for some grandparents time. We were relieved of our parenting duties for one night to break away for a true date night. As you might have been able to guess, we took advantage by going on a brewery tour. History can be fun, but learning about a town through trying their beers is better, so let’s move on!

Where We Tied the Knot

We did some planning ahead of time and found three breweries right in town that we could check out in one crawl: Escutcheon Brewing Co., Winchester Brew Works , and Alesation Brewing Company. Google Maps encouraged us to visit in that order to work from the outside of town towards downtown. First stop Escutcheon!

 Escutcheon  Brewing Co. has a somewhat boring facade, with a new age naval yard interior. It is a welcoming environment with several flat screen TVs placed around the bar for sports watching pleasure. We decided to kick off the fun with a flight. We chose a good balance of brews consisting of: Annealed Coffee Stout, Double Hull IPA, Plimsoll IPA, Agonic Line Lager, and Kerlogue Red Ale. Off the bat, I found the hop character of both of the IPAs to be lacking, and they were on the malty side. Double Hull had a sweet cherry malt flavor with slight cherry blossom floral notes and a smooth mouth feel. It was an easy drink as the malt character covered up the ABV. Plimsoll tasted like a cross between a lager and pale ale. The nose had slight citrus taste, and it ended with a malty sticky back. Not the experience of what a true hop head was expecting for IPAs. The Agonic Line Lager has good balance of sweet malt and bitter hops. Very easy drinking and clean mouth feel. The Kerlogue Red Ale may have been my favorite of the bunch. It tasted of cherry on the nose, and had a wicked good cherry smell. Smooth mouth feel and a little tart with hint of cranberry. Lastly, the Annealed Coffee Stout had a good coffee taste, but was somewhat boozy and watery. Burnt caramel notes on the back. It could have been much better balanced.

Beer Stats and Review:

1. Double Hull IPA: 8.2% ABV and 80 IBU- Hops- Cascade, Columbus, Lemon Drop, and Apollo. Probably a little harsh, but I gave this one 1.75 Titanics out of 5.

2. Plimsoll IPA: 6.7% ABV and 70 IBU- Hops- Apollo, Chinook, Lemon Drop. Also, probably harsh, but gave this one .5 punctured hulls out of 5.

3. Agonic Line Lager: 5% ABV and 22 IBU- Hops- Uses some of the four noble hops along with an assortment of domestic and imported malts. I gave this well balanced Vienna Lager a 4.25 True North’s out of 5.

4. Kerlogue Red Ale: 6% ABV and 22 IBU- Hops- ???- I give this one a perfect 5 neutral WWII ships out of 5.

5. Annealed Coffee Stout- 6.5% ABV and 40 IBU- Centennial hops with many malts and local coffee beans from Winchester’s Hopscotch Coffee- Give it a 2.75 malleable metals out of 5.

 Moving on to Winchester Brew Works! This was a fun little nano brewery that you could miss in a blink of an eye. Luckily, we didn’t miss it and got some prime parking right across the street. Becky and I, both, loved the artistic logo, the atmosphere, and the beers! They had quite a few beers that were combinations of others, which was really fun to try out and pick up on all the shared flavors. When we sat down we decided that we had to get our own flights because of how good the beers sounded. Here was the tasty breakdown: I started off with the Belgian Orange. I described it on my handy dandy “Untapped” app as, ” Tangy. Tart. Orange blast. If I could live in this beer I would. Feels thirst quenching, and has a honey back.” It was sweet, light, smooth, citrusy and clean. Second up was Mango Wheat. It is a pale wheat ale that obviously has mango in it. The mango gave it s kind of citrus funk flavor. It was tart and citrusy on the nose with a wheaty back. Per my app review, ” This is a treat.” Next, I got into the Canoe Falls Pale Ale. It tasted smokey, funky, slight farmhousey flavor, yet smooth. Cascade Falls IPA was next. It is expectedly hoppier than canoe Falls. So, so smooth. Citrusy and clean. A very solid meat and potatoes IPA. Nothing fancy, just some tasty hops with a clean finish. Then I went for Canoe Love Cream Ale. Noticing any theme with the names? Yup these are all variations on each other. Canoe Love is like PBR for people who care about taste. Creamy, light, wheaty with full on corn flavor. Think liquid Corn Pops in the best way possible. I followed Canoe Love with an American Amber Ale pallet cleanser. It was a very funky brown ale with a touch of hops. The ABV was pronounced with a sorta compostey background taste. Last, but not least, Belgian Pale, which is the base Brew for the Belgian orange. This beer has a fierce orange flavor base. That base and clean mouth feel meet up for a turf war in your mouth, and both sides win. It is a dry and farmy Ale, and oh so, so, good!

Beer Stats and Review:

1. Belgian Orange: 4.5% ABV and ? IBUs. It is classified as a blonde ale, and I couldn’t get any scoop on the hops. Probably won’t be able to for a lot of these Nano Brews. I gave this 4.75 orange dreams out of 5.

2. Mango Wheat: 4.8% ABV and ? IBU. It is sweet, light, subtle, smooth, and funky. I gave it a 4.25 funky fruits out of 5.

3. Canoe Falls: ? And ?.  It was hoppy and had a complex flavor profile. Gave it a 4 river rafts out of 5.

4. Cascade Falls: 6.8% ABV and 92 IBU. Uses Cascade hops, Chinook and Columbus. Give it 4 rapids out of 5. 

5. Canoe Love: 5.2% ABV and 20 IBU. Sweet, tasty, and easy drinking. Gave it 3.25 creamed corns out of 5.

6. American Amber: 5.6% ABV and ? IBU.  Maybe my least favorite of the beers. I give it 2.25 meh’s out of 5.

7. Belgian Pale: 5.5% ABV and ? IBU. Definitely my favorite of the flight. Give it 5 barnyards out of 5.

Lastly, our final destination brought us to some much, much….. Much needed food. We went to Roma Old Town Wood Fired Pizza. We just happened upon our last brewery there *wink*. Alesatian Brewing Co. It is also a nano brewery located right above the restaurant. It would be hard to believe if Alesatian brews more than one beer at a time, but they somehow keep multiple taps going. Long story short. Food..bangin! Beer..hoppin! We both just split our own pints there. We chose Pizza Beir for obvious reasons, and my personal favorite beer of the whole trip…Hop Sneeze IPA. Pizza Bier is a light Amber Ale with smooth mouth feel. The slight tang in the malt went well with the tang in the marinara sauce of the delicious margarita pizza we were sharing. Hop Sneeze is soooo hoppy, with a piney nose and honey back. It is somewhat floral, and very smooth. It has a good balance of dank and funk.. Man I could go for another right now. Like, right fucking now! It is equally good as it’s name is gross.

View from Alesatian

Beer stats and Review:

1. Pizza Bier: 5% ABV ? IBU. Definitely a good combo with tomato sauce. Clean, and cuts through pizza grease. I give it 4.5 pizza pies out of 5.

2. Hop Sneeze: 7% ABV and 75 IBUs. This unfiltered, amazing, hoppy IPA is sure to please the senses. We even took a crowler of this home. Perfect 5 hop tissues out of 5.

Hop Sneeze

We had an absolute blast on this night out. I like to think that beer allowed us to remember how to let loose and have carefree fun, but the truth is that’s how Becky and I are when given a chance to enjoy ourselves. Winchester, thank you for the tastes and the experience! We look forward to doing the circuit again in, perhaps, a part deux? Winchester is definitely a worthwhile place for any beer enthusiast to wet their whistle. Go on, visit, you know you want to.


Conception-Ale: A Double Feature Review and Story of Sisters of the Moon IPA from Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, N.C.

First off, I have to say that this may be one of the most meaningful beer reviews that I will write, which is why I have to combine this with a beer story. Man, am I happy I saved one of these beers this long.

The Review: The beer is salty and peppery with a bitter bite. You can taste the hops a little better when it isn’t ice cold. This beer tastes like it was made with some of the salt water from the Atlantic, which is nearby the brewery. The beer is almost impossibly effervescent, which makes it impossible to pour it into any glass because you will always get 80% head no matter how good of a pour it is. I, unfortunately, couldn’t find what hops are used in this, but whatever they are there is definitely some heavy floral and slight citrus notes that you can taste on the front end. The peppery and salty spice hits you in the back of the throat on the back end. It is 7% ABV and a fairly easy drink. Definitely reminds me of the beaches in NC and really takes me back to our story to come. I give the beer 3.25 out of 5 phases of the moon. Very unique tasting IPA, which may be best enjoyed while relaxing at the beach.

Now for the story…
The Riley Prologue:

In early Spring of 2016 we went down to Surf City, NC (Topsail Island) for a couple day getaway with our dog. It was the off-season so we were able to get a really good deal on a house with beach access. It was a somewhat spontaneous decision to go down there, and it really paid off. We walked the beach, ate good food, good beer, enjoyed good weather, and “actively planned” for the baby girl, Riley, we have today. It was pretty amazing to find such a place and have such a memorable time just over 5 hours and a handful of “don’t do meth” public service signs away. It was made infinitely more special knowing that 9 months later we were gifted with a new member of the family. We are looking forward to going back with our expanded family in tow, finding some more good beers to drink and perhaps making some more life changing decisions. Also, our Corgi, Hobbes, was a class act while we were there. He loved romping around on the beach meeting everybody and anybody that would give him attention. He also got a kick out of playing with the tide, and at one point hilariously falling into a tide pool.

From Buds To Suds: How My Love For Beer All Began

It was a hot summer day in Northampton, MA and I was itching for some beer, and also possibly because I was developing a heat rash. I was with a newly found buddy of mine at graduate school walking the sticky downtown streets. He asked me if I wanted to get a drink at a bar after one of our late night classes. “Sure why not?” It was not too long ago that I was drinking natty light/ice by the caseload with friends while in undergrad. I prided myself a more mature man of sophisticated taste because I had most recently been drinking Yeungling and Shock Top for the flavor and not exclusively to get drunk. My buddy asked me what my favorite type of beer was as we walked up to the first outdoor bar. He said that his favorite beers were IPAs. I agreed that that was also my favorite, because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know there were different styles of beer, and I also didn’t want to ask what IPA stood for. He ordered us two local IPAs. They smelled extremely pungent with European piney hops. I drank in a big manly “This is my favorite beer” gulp, and my mouth got opened up to an explosion of bitterness that I was not prepared for. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I thought beer was supposed to essentially taste like tainted carbonated water, and not what I would imagine liquified potpourri tastes like. While I was not happy with the ordeal I had just put my mouth through, I slugged the rest of the beer down like a champ..and then maybe had one or two more for good measure.

–Northampton Brewery–

I guess good tasting beer is similar to coffee in that it is an acquired bitter tasting beverage. It makes absolutely no sense why a person would like the taste of it, let alone try to persevere through multiple times of water boarding one’s tongue just so that it gets some weird Stockholm Syndrome with it all in the end. I am not necessarily just talking about IPAs or beers with hop forward flavors, I am also talking about those sludgy stouts and porters that can sometimes almost be quite literally loafs of bread in a glass. All of those tastes legitimately make no sense for anyone to like, but here I am years later, psyched about when a new brewery is moving in across the street from another brewery.

I would say that I am fully submerged into the beer filled rabbit hole these days, and I can’t appreciate my Northampton buddy enough who normalized good beer for me. I’m raising a glass to you, Pete, may your pale ales always be drinkable, your IPAs hops blasted, your saisons funky, your stouts smooth and chocolatey, and your sours..well…. sour.

In this blog I hope to continue exploring how beer and beer culture has intersected with, and enhanced, my life. You will find me showcasing individual beers for review, and also just reminiscing on good stories. I would end this off with a “Cheers!,” but as an American saying that, it kind of reeks of preppy or hipster d-bagginess. So instead, I will end off with this period. Period.