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.

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A Beer At Sunset: A Review of Malibu Nights IPA Brewed with Tangerines and Hibiscus by Champion Brewing Company in Charlottesville, VA

When I saw this beer on the shelf I just had to pick it up because an IPA brewed with tangerines and HIBISCUS?! Sounds crazy right? Hibiscus, Hawaii’s state flower, is used in many tropical areas of the world. It is brewed in teas or used as a medicinal herb. So this has to be the ultimate chill beer, right? 

When you first pour the beer out of the can you notice the tropical pink/orange and amber hue, which likely resembles a Malibu sunset, depicted on the can. It hits you with cool citrus hops on the nose, and has a sea salty meets pine finish. It has a moderately dry and smooth mouth feel and grapefruit citrus hop flavor. Made with Amarillo and Citra hops, the ABV is 6.5%, which is well masked by primarily Amarillo hoppiness. Unfortunately, this beer falls a little flat for me , both, in hop flavor and in carbonation. Wondering if the bitterness from the hibiscus was not in the same hop profile. Very interesting brew to try, none the less, and is even worth a six pack to mull over the flavor profile a few more times. I give this beer three tropical sunsets out of five.
   

Luck of the Irish: A Review of Tollan Rye Hopped RyePA by Three Notch’d Brewery In Charlottesville, VA

I am glad I saved this beer so that I could have it shortly after St. Patty’s Day in celebration of Irish heritage. Three Notch’d brewery makes this single hop beer, annually, using a different hop every year. Tollan Rye is brewed in dedication to the Irish immigrants that helped to build the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Crozet, VA. Tell me that job doesn’t take true grit, and I’ll show you a liar.

This year the beer was brewed with mosaic hops. It has a powerful hop aroma straight out of the can. It has a couple finger width head and is golden orange in color with moderate carbonation. As with most ryePAs this beer is packed with bitterness at 75 ibus. It has an earthy and peppery nose with a mellow citrusy back. The hops overpower the 6.5% ABV that this beer clocks in at. Perfect beer to have while overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. I would recommend having this beer without food to really enjoy the complexity of the rye peppery profile and juicy hop punch. Not much else to say about this one, other than I look forward to seeing what they do with the 2017 series. I give this beer 4.5 tunnelers!

Mini Double Feature Tasting Review #2

In this second installment of our double feature tasting, my wife and I went for a beer type we haven’t had in a while, and a beer that we thought we would like right off the bat. We have a Czech style pils and a hopped up pale ale, respectively. We usually get tasting beers that we are not confident we would want a full 6 pack of, or simply have not tried. I am kinda wishing I had more of both, after the tasting, but such is craft beer life.

Wild Wolf Brewing Co.-” Czeched Out “-Nellysford, Va – This aptly named Chez pilsner was pretty tasty indeed. Like all/most Czech style pilsners this beer has a heep of Saaz hops. This pilsner was surprisingly very smooth and low bitterness given the pepperiness of Saaz hops. The hops are complimented well by a beautifully mellow apple-y malt backbone. It has low effervescence and no head when poured. It is 5% ABV and 28 IBU. My wife went on a trip abroad in college to the Czech Republic and got me turned on to Czech beers. She has since lost taste for them in exchange for American hoppy ales. This beer is a good bridge back to the old world if you are looking for one. New to Czech hops? Definitely give this a go. I give this beer a resounding 4 out 5 palec nahoru’s ( Czech for thumbs up!)


New Belgium Brewing Co.-” Voodoo Ranger 8 Hop Pale Ale”-Right off the bat we noticed with this beer that it was very effervescent with a small head. It carried a wonderful bouquet of grassy and citrusy hops in every sip, but they don’t pack a punch or too much power given the weak malt backbone. It is a very drinkable ale, which tastes almost like a hoppy session IPA at 5.5% ABV. It is a great porch chair rocker beer, but if you are looking to absolutely rock your taste buds with all of the hoppy flavor you smell, this beer may disappoint a little. Despite my yearning for absolutely explosive hops, I am trying to give this beer its fair due as a very easy drinking hoppy ale. In this vein, I give this beer a 3.75 out of 5 black magic women.

Our Love Child: A Review of Love Child #7 Sour Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, MO

This has been in the Hopper for a few weeks: Again, this is another meaningful tasting. This is the last day before our baby girl goes to daycare and my wife goes back to work. So it was an obvious choice to pick out a beer with the name Love Child. It is luckily one of the best sours I have ever had! (Thanks Jess and Andrew!) Just like this day is, the beer has a little bitter nose but mostly sweet and tart! It has a really good sour punch that goes from the nose and lingers on the back end. The brewers rated that the funk on this beer was moderate, with low fruitiness, and low-mid sour. Apparently, the aging process kicked in because I would say that it is a mid-high sour, mild fruitiness, and low funk. Definitely some citrusy sour with a brown sugar and apple base. I would gladly trade the funk for more delicious sour. The beer pours with little head and is a golden peach color.

As I drink down this delicious beer, I am playing with my girl on her tummy time mat while throwing a toy for my corgi, Hobbes. We are really enjoying the last afternoon with our baby being just ours before we share her with the world. Here’s to our little love child, Riley. We love you and can’t believe how fast you are growing!

Beerstory #1- St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. Seems like this cold that I have contracted is starting to win the battle and there will be no beer drinking this St. Patty’s Day. This unfortunate circumstance has lead me to create a new segment for this blog, which I am excited about! It is called “Beerstory,” which is Beer + History= Beerstory. I will be doing some light research into the history of beer and beer related events to add to my overall appreciation for beer!

I thought it would be timely to delve into St. Patrick’s Day as the holiday is synonymous with drinking beer (stouts come to mind) and whiskey. Speaking of whiskey, please head over to my main blog A is for Ambivalence to see my most recent post “Gentleman’s Yack!”…Now moving on to the Beerstory.

St. Patrick was considered to be the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in the late 300s A.D. In northern England and wasn’t even named Patrick. His real name was Maewyn Succat. He, for good reason, didn’t like being given a name you might find in the Lord of the Rings, and preferred to go by Patricius. Now, I know what you are thinking, on name alone, this guy sounds like a straight up leprechaun, but that’s actually not when they come into play. Patrick, as we will refer to him, was not a very religious fellow. He was captured by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland when he was 16 to be a shepard. He was later also captured by the French. It was after his experience in France that he started to get into the whole holy trinity thing and wanted to bring his new found Christianity to Ireland. So he willingly went back to Ireland and banished all their snakes and taught everyone the ways of the holy trinity by using the three cloves of the shamrock as a visual representation. Okay, he didn’t actually banish the snakes, as lore has it. Ireland never had snakes to begin with, but the first part with the shamrocks is true. The dude became very popular and started many churches, and as any civilization that is converted to Christianity does, they go apeshit about their new found religion. ” What about the beer,” you ask? Yes, let’s get to the drinking.

St. Patty’s Day started as a religious celebration in Ireland in the 17th century to commemorate St. Patrick (not an actual Saint by the way), and the arrival of Christianity to Ireland. They would have a feast day on March 17th as he was said to have died on that date in 461. He first ever St. Patrick’s day parade was held in Boston in 1737 when the custom grew more national popularity with immigration and such. “So.. Beer?” I hear you continuing to say. Well that comes in because in a roundabout drunk history sort of way, the day was observed as a reprieve from following Lent for one day, and you could feast. Drinking was still frowned upon in the old country, but as recently as the 1980s, Budweiser tried to convince us otherwise and popularized the notion that the Irish ( and fuck it, everyone) should also drink and be merry on that day.  Thank you capitalism! This perpetuated the belief that all Irish people like to get drunk, especially on this day. “So what should I do?,” I hear you asking. Well, if you are lucky enough to be in Ireland right now or have access to some of these good sounding brews, have a couple for me!

What to drink: Guinness and Jameson are the obvious choices. Really, any stouts or Irish beers would do. So here are the top 5 Irish favorites from Rate beers— 1.Galway Bay “Two Hundred Fathoms” (Imperial Stout) 2. Galway Bay “Of Foam and Fury” (Imperial IPA) 3. Western Herd “Back Beat Witbier” (Witbier) 4. White Hag “Black Boar” (Imperial Stout) 5. Western Herd “Siege Pale Ale” (American Pale Ale).

I hope to have all of those beers some day. Best of luck to everyone celebrating today, and please be safe.

March Hop Madness: A Review of Hop Duster DIPA from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA

We decided to kick off the first Thursday of March with a visit to one of our local breweries for a steal the pint night. I was in the mood for something heavy hitting and hoppy (as usual) after a tiring day/week. It is also necessary to celebrate as best as you can whenever you are able to go out with a newborn. I ordered up the Hop Duster vaguely remembering it was tasty when I got it last year. The Duster pours a golden orange cleanish hue, with pine and citrus notes that hit your nose immediately. The taste replicates the powerful aroma with a very hop forward piney and citrusy jamboree and smooth finish. Per the brewery menu, they use Armillo, Simcoe, Cirta, Centennial , Falconers flight, and Cascade hops. That is basically all the hops any hop head could want in one drink. The beer is not overly carbonated and the 8.4% ABV is well hidden. If you are not careful this beer could take you under pretty quickly, though it would be a good way to go out. As you can tell from my picture, I dug a good deal into this one before I remembered I should probably get a picture. That alluring golden orange, sweet, sweet liquid candy! I found myself wishing that they had some bottled, or I had my growler on me, because I kinda wanted to bathe in those suds back home. Suffice it to say, it was a good outing and good reminder that fun can still be had as a new parent. Regrettably we couldn’t squeeze in another cold one before the timer started ticking on the next baby fit. I give this beer a 4.5 fly-by-dustings out of 5! Check out my main blog: A is for Ambivalence to see the double feature short story that goes along with this review! ( will be posted shortly)