Virginia is for (Beer) Lovers
This Sunday The Lagerheads drove out to Leesburg for the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest, where over 50 breweries from all over the country offered one to three beers for sampling. All in all it was a good time–not too expensive, not too crowded, and not too many beers sold out early. Our only complaint was that designated drivers had to pay $20 to enter, despite the fact that they would not be drinking anything (our buddy Josh forgot his ID–Doh!). Sure, it was also a bit of a drag that in most cases local volunteers instead of brewery reps were manning the tables and many were not very knowledgeable about what they were pouring, but that's unavoidable at an event like this.
This year the two-day festival had the added local significance of hosting the (re-)launch of Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale. Since splitting with Old Dominion, Bob and Ellie Tupper have looked for a brewery that would take on the complex task of brewing Hop Pocket, which conditions for six weeks (as opposed to one week like most beers). They recently partnered with St. George Brewing Company out of Hampton, Virginia, to begin making their award-winning beer again. According to Ellie, Hop Pocket should be available soon at Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda and eventually other locations. We'll keep you posted.
Since this beer festival was not the usual "all-the-two-ounce-pours-you-can-drink" affair, we couldn't run around sampling whatever we pleased for obvious financial and health reasons. Instead, we had to be strategic about which 7-ounce beers to spend our precious tickets on. Out of the dozen we tried, below are the six beers we have decided to share with you.
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA: A nice, big beer! This "hefty, revered" IPA from Denver has tons of grassy hops, tons of nutty malt, and is plenty strong at 9.1% ABV. Not a smart one to start the day with, but we enjoyed it.
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat: Brewed in San Francisco with 400 pounds of pureed watermelon, this beer has a strong watermelon and citrus smell, but the fruit is only subtly present in the taste. We found it to be a very drinkable, unique keg beer but are not sure we would like it as much out of the can it usually comes in.
Celis White: This beer's recipe, which includes Curacao orange peel and crushed coriander, is based on the Belgian white style Pierre Celis re-created from boyhood memories when he founded Hoegaarden (pronounced hoogarden, like "whodunit") in the 60's. The Celis brand was picked up by Michigan Brewing Company after Miller bought and then closed Celis' post-Hoegaarden Austin brewery. This beer poured a cloudy pale yellow, had a nice, sour yeasty smell, and was a refreshing citrusy wheat. Lovely!
Bluegrass Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Stout: This whiskey-barrel-aged beer from Kentucky was dark brown and had a beautiful tan head. The aroma has lots of vanilla, cream, and cocoa and it tastes sweet with some brown sugar and smoky flavors. This beer seemed medium-bodied and smooth for having an 8.5% ABV.
Vintage 50 / Mad Fox Wee Heavy Ale: Despite saying we wouldn't drink anything we had tried before, we couldn't pass this big boy up. Wee Heavy is a strong Scotch Ale with a complex recipe that includes currants. It has an intense plum aroma with a hint of floral hops, and tastes sweet with raisin and caramel/toffee flavors. We look forward to getting this beer at Bill Madden's new brewpub in Falls Church instead of having to drive all the way out to Vintage 50 Restaurant in Leesburg.
Williamsburg Alewerks Coffee House Stout: This very dark beer looks like coffee, smells like coffee, and tastes like coffee. The aftertaste is even about the same as when you chew up a coffee bean–bitter as all heck. For those of you in to that kind of thing like Bruce is, definitely try this beer. If your tongue curls under such circumstances like Tammy's does, stay away!