Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blue & Gray Oktoberfest

The Baron von Steuben Oktoberfest is now available from Blue & Gray Brewing Company. Brewed in March and cold lagered over the Summer, this limited beer is for sale in September and typically sells out by the end of the month. I shared some of this year's release with friends Friday evening, and Colleen and I enjoyed it as well while relaxing Saturday before dinner.

I poured the Blue & Gray Oktoberfest into a Blue & Gray pint glass. A hard pour produced a bubbly beige head that dropped very rapidly. The beer is a dark tea color with a slight red tint. A very faint sweet malt aroma can be detected. My impression of the flavor is malt, and more malt. There's a slight sweet note at the start. The finish is dry and the malt flavor lingers in the mouth. The mouthfeel is moderately thick and slightly creamy.

Blue & Gray Oktoberfest is currently available in a limited number of 22 oz. bottles. After September 12, the beer will be available for growler fills at the brewery. And, the beer will be available at the annual Blue & Gray Oktoberfest. This year's celebration is a three-day affair, Friday, September 26, 2008 - Sunday, September 28, 2008. I suggest picking up your supply of the Oktoberfest beer early. I recall last year I visited the brewery the day after the Oktoberfest celebration only to find the beer was sold out.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sad News on the Local Restaurant Scene

Bryan at "In The 'Burg" brings word of the passing of two key figures in the Fredericksburg restaurant scene.

On August 18, Samuel T. Emory of Sammy T's passed away. Dr. Emory opened Sammy T's in 1980 as a groundbreaking restaurant featuring a selection of vegetarian as well as standard fare. I have many found memories of extended stays at Sammy T's enjoying the food, beer, and good company. In fact I was just reminiscing about Sammy T's last night at the Fredericksburg Blogger Happy Hour. The "shelf of beer" offered a large selection of bottled beers. Early employees were mostly college students, many of who were taught by Dr. Emory who was a professor of geography at Mary Washington College (now Mary Washington University.)

On August 22, Rob Ivy was lost. Rob was just 29 but had already made an impression with the popular Sunken Well Tavern. I'm not as familiar with Sunken Well Tavern. I have only eaten there once but had a very enjoyable meal. Whenever I drove past the establishment there were always folks coming and going.

Two successful entrepreneurs, both leaving lasting marks on Fredericksburg. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends.

See Sadness In the F'burg Restaurant Business on "In The 'Burg"

Weekend Beer Events

This will be a 3-day weekend for many in folks in the U.S. While you enjoy some craft beer with friends, please be responsible and safe. In Richmond, the Capital Ale House "Beer Geek Week" continues through Sunday, August 31. In Fredericksburg, the Blue & Gray Brewery is offering preview tastes of their Oktoberfest beer at the brewery.

Friday, August 29 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Spanish Peaks Honey Raspberry Ale, Alhambra Cerveza Negra, Spaten Oktoberfest, Peroni, North Coast Acme Pale Ale

Friday, August 29 - 5:30 - 8:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
Avery Anniversary Ale - Fifteen, Brooklyn Local 1, plus a selection of Ocktoberfest beers

Friday, August 29 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Monty Python Holy Grail, Left Hand Imperial Stout, Dogfish Head Black and Blue

Saturday, August 30 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Legend Hefeweizen, St. Bernardus Abbey Ale #12, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Weyerbacher Thirteenth Anniversary Ale, Kulmbacher Eisbock, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, August 30 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tastings:
Sam Adams Octoberfest, Brasserie Gayant La Divine St. Landelin, Boulder Brewing Co. Cold Hop Ale, New Holland Ichabod

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Photos of Devils Backbone Construction

Nelson County Life, a print and online "lifestyle magazine" covering events in Nelson County, VA, has been keeping local residents up on the progress of the Devils Backbone Brewery.
Check out the articles linked below for pictures from the brewery.

Progress On Track For Devils Backbone Brewery - April 5, 2008
Tanks Going In At Nelson’s Newest Brewery - July 16, 2008

Also, this early report shows the brewery's tanks being prepared for shipping, from Japan.
Brewery tanks on the way! - July 19, 2007

I did get word this week from Jason Oliver that a November opening for Devils Backbone is still planned.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where in the 'burg is that?

I came across this interestingly labeled structure today. Any observant folks in the Fredericksburg area know where it's located, and what it is?

Post your answers in the comments. No prizes, just that personal good feeling of being right. :-)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beer Tourism in Virginia

I've written on the prospects for beer-related tourism a number of times recently. I once mused "I look forward to the day I'm following hop-emblazoned signs through the Virginia countryside." According to an article at, that dream is getting closer to reality.
Now, the region’s breweries and brewpubs are organizing a beer trail that would aim to attract beer-loving tourists from elsewhere in Virginia and surrounding states. The trail would emulate the state’s eight regional wine trails that promote Virginia’s numerous vineyards and wineries. “Our industry is like the wine industry was 20 years ago,” said Mark Thompson, master brewer of Starr Hill, which produces the popular Jomo Lager, the Dark Starr Stout, the Love unfiltered wheat beer and other brews. “Wineries have come together and gotten lots of love. We can do that too ... A rising tide lifts all boats.”

The Charlottesville-area beer trail is believed to be the first trail in Virginia that would focus primarily on locally brewed beer.

“We don’t know yet exactly what the trail is going to look like, but that’s OK,” said Maureen Corum, director of economic development and tourism for Nelson County. “People come here for the experience. They come for the recreation. They come for the scenery. These breweries fit right in with all that.”

Corum is leading the effort to set up the beer trail, which she expects to be more fully developed in the fall. Nelson County has already obtained the trademark for “Red, White and Brew” for use in future marketing campaigns. The list of breweries that would be included on the trail has yet to be decided, Corum said, though Starr Hill, Blue Mountain and the Devil’s Backbone are natural fits because of their relatively close proximity to one another. Others, such as South Street Brewery and several breweries in the Shenandoah Valley, have also been mentioned as potential spots along the trail.

While this effort is currently focused on Charlottesville and surrounding areas, I see no reason why it eventually won't extend further afield. There are breweries and brewpubs in the works for Winchester, Fredericksburg, Floyd, and Northern VA among others.

See the entire article at "Brewed egos".

Old Dominion Brewpub Closed Permanently

I was alerted to this news via DC-Beer, and it is confirmed by this posting on the Old Dominion Brewing Company website:
Coastal Brewing Company has decided to close the Old Dominion Brewpub in Ashburn, VA, which the company acquired in 2007 with the acquisition of Virginia-based craft brewer Old Dominion Brewing Company.

The brewpub closing is effective August 25, 2008.

The closing of the brewpub will allow Old Dominion Brewing Company to focus on its primary objective - producing authentic, high-quality craft beers and sodas.

This decision will have no impact on other operations of Coastal Brewing Company. Brands under both the Old Dominion and Fordham names will continue to be distributed and marketed along the east coast of the U.S.

We apologize for any convenience [sic] this may cause.

Thank you.

If you have any questions, you may reach us through our website at:

Sad news indeed. The brewpub had been getting excellent reviews from visitors and the "Taste from the Tank" nights were well-attended. The brewpub even underwent renovations recently.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Craft Beer Tasting - An Exploration of Beer and Food

Last November, Colleen and I offered a Craft Beer Tasting in the fund raising auction for our son's school. Due to varying schedule conflicts, the event had been postponed several times. However, we were finally able to do the presentation Saturday evening. We loaded up our car with coolers of beer, food, glasses, and serving dishes and utensils for the tasting held at the winning bidder's home. The winning bidders had also been previously given a selection of 6 different beer glasses and the book "The Brewmaster's Table" by Garrett Oliver.

The original offer was a tasting of 6-8 beers, along with food pairings, for 6 people. Narrowing down the beer selection, while still demonstrating variety, proved difficult. We ended up presenting 11 beers.

  • Jomo Lager - Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA
    Vienna Lager paired with artichoke dip on crostini

  • Prima Pils - Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA
    German Pilsener paired with Cabot 3 Year Cheddar

  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier - Brauerei Weihenstephan, Germany
    Hefeweizen paired with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and custard on lady fingers

  • Backdraft Brown - Hook & Ladder Brewing Company, Silver Spring, MD
    American Brown Ale paired with smoked beef and corn bread

  • Dale’s Pale Ale - Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery, Lyons, CO
    American Pale Ale paired with Jamaican jerk shrimp

  • Avery India Pale Ale - Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, CO
    American IPA paired paired with spicy Buffalo wings

  • Stoudt’s Double IPA - Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Adamstown, PA
    American Double IPA paired with guacamole dip with tortilla chips

  • Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout - North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA
    Russian Imperial Stout paired with homemade brownies

  • Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend - Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY
    Quadrupel paired with Stilton cheese and pears

  • Dominion Millenium Ale - Old Dominion Brewing Company, Ashburn, VA
    English Barleywine paired with cashews and blue cheese dip on pita crisps

  • Yeti Imperial Stout - Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, CO
    Russian Imperial Stout served with vanilla ice cream as a "float"

We began with a brief introduction to craft beer in general. I talked about enjoying all aspects of the beer; appearance, aromas, flavors, and aftertaste. Each participant was given a menu listing the beers and the foods to be served with each, along with room for notes. I was happy to see that folks took lots of notes on the beers. Most of the attendees had some familiarity with craft beer, and I believe everyone found something new to enjoy.

We then spent almost three hours working our way through the beers. We served 4 - 6 ounce samples of each beer, along with a small dish of each food. As I discussed each beer, Colleen was busy serving up the foods for each course. Not only did she do a masterful job of preparing the plates, she also cleaned the dishes from the previous course. All of the food was enjoyed as much as the beers were.

Except for the Dominion Barleywine, most of the beers selected are available locally at this time of year. I couldn't find any barelywine in local retailers, so I pulled some bottles from my "cellar." Unfortunately the Yeti stout (indeed all Great Divide beers) is no longer being shipped to Virginia, but a local retailer still has some stock that I availed myself of. The purpose of the event was to illustrate the variety offered by beer, though the selection was heavily influenced by my own preferences. The other "promise" to the winning bidder was that they'd had beer left over to enjoy at a later date, so we left behind bottles of most of the selections.

The menu for the event actually only listed the first 10 selections. The stout ice cream float was an unlisted surprise meant to cap off the tasting. The floats generated many "oohs" and "aahs" as the glasses were brought out

The auction winners treated everyone to a dinner of grilled steaks after the tasting. This gave us all a chance to relax a bit before heading home. Preparing for the event was a lot of work, and created some nervousness as we wondered if we'd pull it off. It turned out to be a success and everyone had a great time. Colleen and I are considering making the same donation for this year's auction. The folks attending this event did give us a warning regarding offering the event in a future auction. They jokingly told us not to be surprised if they told other folks how awful the event was, in order to keep the bidding low so they didn't have to battle others for it. I'll take that as a sign of a success.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post-Prohibition Beer Revival and the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933

Today marks the 75th Anniversary Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933. The storm was one of the worse in history for eastern Virginia. The storm's devastation also had an affect on the first post-prohibition beer halls in Virginia. From the Free Lance-Star:
The day after a nameless, catastrophic hurricane hit Colonial Beach on Aug. 23, 1933, scavengers in bathing suits dove in the Potomac River for bottled treasure.

Three beer piers built that year in the Maryland waters of the river had been destroyed in the storm. Crates of beer had fallen to the bottom of the river.

The "adventurous swimmers dove in for the suds, savoring their rewards in the river lest they violate Virginia law," hurricane historian Rick Schwartz wrote in "Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States."

The beer piers of the Potomac were a rapid response by thirsty Virginians to the impending end of Prohibition. The 1920 amendment to the Constitution outlawed the manufacture, distribution and sale of intoxicating beverages.

After Congress authorized the repeal of Prohibition in February, 1933, and subsequently allowed 3.2% alcohol beer, Maryland reacted quickly. On April 7 beer was legal in Maryland. However, Virginia's Governor supported Prohibition and delayed the legalization of beer. Enterprising Virginians realized the waters of the Potomac River belonged to Maryland. They soon built piers off the shores of Colonial Beach and Fairview Beach on which to house beer halls, which were technically located in Maryland, not Virginia.

After the destruction of the piers, Colonial Beach acted to ban "any sort of structure beyond low water in the Potomac River." The town also prohibited the operation of "any beer garden, bar room or other business on [the] shore front without a permit." In September the town did enact beer-license requirements and the "revival" continued with the repeal of Prohibition in December of 1933.

See "Storm Interrupted Town's Alcohol Revival, But Not For Long"
Also, "Hurricane anniversary brings flood of memories"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

The Capital Ale House "Beer Geek Week" kicks off on Monday, August 26 and runs through Sunday, August 31. I've posted the beer tapping schedule here.

Friday, August 22 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
St. Landelin La Divine, Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale, New Holland Mad Hatter IPA, Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat, Samichlaus

Saturday, August 23 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Weyerbacher Insanity Barrel-aged Barleywine, Kulmbacher Eisbock, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Weyerbacher Thirteenth Anniversary Ale, Kulmbacher Eisbock, plus 1 Customer Choice

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Neo-Prohibitionist FUD

As expected, the neo-prohibitionists have responded to the Amethyst Initiative with their usual FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). In a press release in response to the Initiative, Mother's Against Drug Driving President Laura Dean-Mooney states "Parents should think twice before sending their teens to these colleges or any others that have waved the white flag on underage and binge drinking policies." She goes on to declare "By signing onto this initiative, these presidents have made the 21 law nearly unenforceable on their campuses. In fact, I call into question whether or not these campuses are bothering to enforce the 21 drinking age."

Let's look at the facts. The Amethyst Initiative signed by the college presidents states:
We call upon our elected officials:

To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age.

To consider whether the 10% highway fund “incentive” encourages or inhibits that debate.

To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.

We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.

[emphasis added]

Mrs. Dean-Mooney goes into alarmist mode and preys on parent's fears regarding the safety of their children. The college presidents are supporting study to determine if the current LDA is the answer or not. If MADD is so sure of its "facts" why are they so critical of this call for public debate? One would think they would welcome the study, instead of relying on emotional blackmail in an attempt to stop it. If the leaders at these colleges had given up on enforcing the laws, they wouldn't be calling for public scrutiny of the issue.

No one can deny that underage and binge drinking are serious issues, and drinkers of all ages need to be educated on alcohol use vs. abuse. The national minimum drinking age of 21 has been "enforced" by the withholding of highway funds since 1985. Yet, by MADD's own admission, "drinking, binge drinking, drinking and driving and other alcohol-related problems continue to be a major health and safety problem on college campuses." The growing number of signatories on the Amethyst Initiative shows that college presidents are concerned about the problem, concerned enough to stand up and risk being subjected to MADD's vitriol. Instead of burying our heads in the sand, it's time for serious study of the problem, and to come up with real, working solutions. The attitude of MADD can only serve to delay any constructive progress on bettering the situation.

Choose Responsibility's response to MADD's tactics is here.

Beer Geek Week at Capital Ale House, Richmond

All three Richmond area Capital Ale House locations will be participating in the annual Beer Geek Week 2008, August 25th-31st. Jacob Brunow from Capital Ale House emailed this tapping schedule. There are quite a number of interesting beers in the lineup.

Unfortunately the Fredericksburg Capital Ale House location isn't open yet. It is my understanding that a November opening is targeted, and staff training is scheduled to begin next month. Perhaps next year there will be four locations participating in Beer Geek Week!

Monday, August 26th@ Capital Ale House INNSBROOK
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout? (in current lead) 2007 poured through the coffee filled Randall (Caffirandall) in all its jittery glory
5:00pm- Hitachino Espresso Stout 2008
6:00pm- Bells Expedition 2007 & Ommegang Chocolate Stout 2007
7:00pm- Weyerbacher 13th 2008
8:00pm- Oskar Blues Ten Fidy 2008

Tuesday, August 26th@ Capital Ale House ALL LOCATIONS

Wednesday, August 27th@ Capital Ale House INNSBROOK
5:00pm De Dolle Stille Nacht 2007, One of the highest gravity beers of Belgium
5:30pm JW Lees Harvest Calvados Aged Wooden Lined FIRKIN
6:00pm North Coast Old Stock Ale 2008
7:00pm Blue Mountain Dark Hallow 2008 Local and Barrel Aged
8:00pm Hitachino XH 2008 Aged in Sake Barrels

Thursday, August 28th@ Capital Ale House DOWNTOWN
Tapping of the Weyerbacher Simco Double Hop FIRKIN!
5:00pm- Bells Hop Slam 2008
6:00pm- Dogfish 120 Through the Randall The Enamel Animal
7:00pm- Dogfish Burton Baton 2008
8:00pm- Smuttynose Big A IPA 2008
Plus a few Surprises!

Friday, August 29th@ Capital Ale House MIDLOTHIAN
Limited edition and small batch brews. These we had to beg for!
Tapping of the Harvieston Ola Duhba 30 year FIRKIN (Very few of these in existence)
5:00pm Wintercoat Double Hop IPA 2008 (Only keg that made it into VA)
6:00pm Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron 2008 (12% Imperial Brown Ale aged on santo wood from Paraguay)
7:00pm Smuttynose Farmhouse 2008 & Smuttynose Maibock 2008 (only ones in Richmond)
8:00pm Franches Montagnes Abbey De Bon Chien 2007 (one of the most complex and rare beers you will ever taste!)

Saturday, August 30th@ Capital Ale House DOWNTOWN
Join us in celebrating a belated Birthday to one of our favorite west coast breweries!
6:00pm Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Stout 2008
7:00pm Stone 11th Anniversary Black IPA 2007
8:00pm Stone 10th Anniversary Double IPA 2006 & a toast to Stone
Plus a few surprises!

Sunday, August 31st@ Capital Ale House INNSBROOK
5:00pm Lagunitas Brown Shugga 2006
6:00pm JW Lees Harvest 2006
7:00pm Dogfish Head Fort 2008
8:00pm Bells 3rd Coast Old Ale 2008

Other potential interesting items that will be tapped:

A Wooden Lined Firkin of Regenboog Kerst this keg. It is so delicate that it has to be rotated every few days so the wooden Keg doesn't get dry and crack. This 12% treat has been sitting in this wooden FIRKIN since February. Either poured on Weds or Sun.

We might get a special green hopped version of Blue Mountain Full Nelson to pour through cask. Its being made currently and won't be ready until a day before. If ready will be tapped on Thursday Downtown.

A special Legend Cask dry hopped with local hops from the "Hop Man" Lindsay Weiford's back yard! Thanks Lindsay! If ready will be tapped on Thursday Downtown.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Choose Responsibility Announces Amethyst Initiative to Encourage Debate on Legal Drinking Age

Choose Responsibility has announced their newest project, the Amethyst Initiative. Working with over a hundred college and university presidents, the goal is to initiate "informed and unimpeded debate" regarding the 21 year old legal drinking age. The Amethyst Initiative declares that the current drinking age statutes, and the 10% highway fund "incentive" that serves to bind states to that age limit, are not working.

I am both disgusted and disheartened by the epidemic binge drinking by America's youth. It's time we educated our youth on how to enjoy alcoholic drinks responsibility. I also believe that the T&A/Frat party image of beer consumption as promulgated by the factory beer producers over the last decade has contributed to the problem. These companies share in the responsibility for the issues we face today. Choose Responsibility proposes viable solutions to the problem of irresponsible alcohol consumption. Part of the solution is education, not simply lowering the LDA. I support the work of Choose Responsibility and encourage my readers to familiarize themselves with the work of the organization.

Five Virginia college presidents have signed the Amethyst Initiative statement: Walter M. Bortz, Hampden-Sydney College; Nancy O. Gray, Hollins University; Robert R. Lindgren, Randolph-Macon College; Elisabeth S. Muhlenfeld, Sweet Briar College; Kenneth P. Ruscio, Washington and Lee University. Check out the ever-growing list and see if your local college or university is represented. Is your son or daughter's school on the list? If not, encourage the school to get involved. The safety of our youth depends on it.

The Project Amethyst Statement
Choose Responsibility Web Site

Related blog post here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Red Drum Taphouse, Nags Head

Somehow we've missed this establishment in previous visits to the Outer Banks, an oversight we won't repeat. The local tourism guides made note that the Red Drum Taphouse features 18 draft beers, in addition to bottled beer selections. That was enough to grab our interest. Many of those taps were devoted to the usual suspects, Guinness, Bass, Yuengling, and Blue Moon. But there were also less-than-usual offerings such as Lindeman's Framboise, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Victory Prima Pils, along with North Carolina's own Highland Gaelic Ale and Big Boss Bad Penny Brown Ale. That's a pretty outstanding selection for the Outer Banks.

I ordered a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA to sip on while we perused the extensive menu. Colleen opted for a Big Boss Bad Penny Brown Ale. The brown ale was a very nice English Brown Ale. Of course I enjoyed my IPA very much. However discretion weighed in to convince me one Double IPA was enough for an early dinner and I opted for a Highland Gaelic Ale to have with my meal. It is worth noting that our waitress was very familiar with the beers, something not often the case when ordering craft beer in a restaurant.

The menu offers a large selection of food including seafood, ribs, burgers and pasta. I ordered the Seafood Jambalaya, with sauteed shrimp and Andouille sausage in a Creole sauce over rice. Colleen ordered one of the daily specials, a pecan-encrusted wahoo. Our son decided on another special, a "low country boil" of spiced steamed shrimp, clams, Andouille sausage, corn on the cob and red pototos. All the food was excellently prepared and very, very tasty.

During the meal I noticed a Breckenridge Brewey sign hanging on the wall. I asked our waitress if they had Breckenridge beers. She smiled, and stated they did not, but shared that the owner had "spent some time in Colorado" and had collected breweriana for decorating the bar. "Like that Fat Tire sign" she joked. "I wish he'd take that down." Apparently folks get excited when they think they might find Fat Tire available in the Taphouse. The Colorado craft beer influence probably helps to explain the craft beer focus at the restaurant.

We were very glad to have opted for an early dinner. By the time we were finishing up around 6:30 PM, there was a line waiting outside of folks waiting to get in the door. The Red Drum Taphouse is located at milepost 10.5 on Beach Road in Nags Head. It seems that being off the main road isn't hurting business. While it might not qualify as a "beer destination", Red Drum Taphouse will certainly not disappoint the craft beer fan looking to enjoy some good beers and tasty food. I am sure we'll be back.

Weekend Beer Events

On Friday and Saturday, Blue & Gray Brewing Company will be previewing its Oktoberfest beer by giving away free tasting samples. You can taste it now, although the beer will not be available for sale until Labor Day weekend. Stop by the brewery Friday 3-8 pm or Saturday 10am - 1 pm.

Also, see below for an additional tasting event next Thursday.

Friday, August 15 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Stoudt’s Double IPA, Lagunitas Sirius Ale, Anchor Steam, Beck’s Octoberfest, Dupont Organic Cider

Friday, August 15 - 5:30 - 8:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
Southern Tier Pumking Ale, Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout

Saturday, August 16 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Beers TBD
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Ettaler Klosterbrauerei Curator Doppelbock, D. Carnegie Baltic Porter, plus 1 Customer Choice

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Thursday, August 21 - 4:00 - 7:00pm
Total Wine
Beer Tasting:
Hook & Ladder Brewery

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shooting Creek Brewery - Virginia ABC Hearing Update

At a three and a half hour hearing on Wednesday, neighbors and a Baptist "minister" expressed their objections to the plan by Ray Jones and Brett Nichols to open Shooting Creek Brewery at an existing organic farm in Floyd County. The Roanoke Times reports:
The hullabaloo over whether to license Floyd County's first microbrewery apparently comes down to a question of "quietude."

That was the outcome of 3 1/2 hours of wrangling Wednesday at a packed hearing on a license application for Shooting Creek Farm Brewery. It will be at least a month until a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officer issues a decision on letting the brewery produce up to 10,000 gallons of beer per year.

Held in a small room filled to nearly overflowing by the 40 or so people who attended, Wednesday's session explored what effect a new business might have on rural Thomas Farm Road. The several-mile stretch of gravel and dirt runs through pastures and wooded slopes near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Speakers put the number of occupied residences along it at between eight and 15. A recent state study found an average of 15 vehicles use it each day.

This was important, speakers said, because Virginia law bars granting an alcohol license in cases where it would "substantially interfere with the usual quietude and tranquility" of a place.

Neighbors who opposed the brewery plan stressed the "interfere" portion of the law, arguing that traffic and noise would inevitably rise.

Brewery representatives also provided letters from supporters of their plans. That support was rebuffed by the VABC Hearing Officer "because the purpose of the hearing was to explore the opposition." Readers will recall that the Floyd County Supervisors previously called a meeting to explore the opposition and failed to notify the brewery representatives beforehand.

The opposition's objections were listed in an article published in the Roanoke Times prior to the hearing:
According to ABC records, four neighbors and one pastor have officially contested the state licensing of Shooting Creek Farm Brewery. They are David Elliott, Jean and Paul Lacoste, Gloria Underwood and the Rev. Warren Brown of Faith Baptist Church in Check.

Their objections are many. Among them are fears that more traffic will exacerbate blind spots and other problems along Thomas Farm Road, the narrow dirt thoroughfare that winds through bucolic farmland dotted with old homes.

"People drive like crazy on this road," resident Gloria Underwood said. "And you get a bunch that's already toured the wineries [Chateau Morrisette and Villa Appalaccia] and then they come over here, and it's going to be a mess.

"We don't need no more drunks out there. And they can't tell me they can't get drunk," she said.

"It's the kind of traffic they really don't want in their area -- quite possibly inebriated," said Brown, the pastor.

"We see the other end of this thing," Brown said. "I see the ... dads in jail when they've messed up their life because they were drunk one night. Unfortunately, Shooting Creek is really not interested in what the people around there want."

So the objections are based merely on innuendo, not fact. If the visitors to the local wineries were driving around Floyd County drunk, the VABC would have already stepped in to revoke the wineries' licenses. I find the "Reverend" Brown's insinuation that craft beer aficionados are "quite possibly inebriated" to be insulting. Interestingly in the same article, economic development and tourism director Maureen Corum in nearby Nelson County states "We feel that these are the type of businesses that attract a higher-end traveler." Microbrewery patrons are typically baby boomers, who are more likely to drink responsibly and to patronize hotels and restaurants, she said.

A ruling from the VABC is expected in 30 - 45 days.

Previous posts on the Shooting Creek Brewery issue:
New Virginia Brewery Faces Opposition
Update on Shooting Creek Brewery vs. Prohibitionists

Update: Read Doug Thompson's excellent commentary at Blue Ridge Muse.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Outer Banks Brewing Station

During our visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina we enjoyed a steak dinner at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. The craft beer scene on the Outer Banks is pretty limited, so this local brewery was a must-stop. The white building that houses the brewery and restaurant is surprisingly easy to to miss; look for the large wind turbine located in the back of the brewery as your landmark.

Five house beers were listed on the menu; Ölsch (a Kölsch), Buddha Bubba Hefeweizen, Dragon's Milk Brown Ale, Captain's Porter and Third Degree Tripel. Unfortunately the Tripel was not available. No APA or IPAs, though they do serve Dogfish Head 60 Minute as a guest beer. Colleen ordered the Buddha Bubba Hefeweizen and I opted for the Captain's Porter. Shortly after we placed our order Colleen exclaimed "They put fruit in the beer!" when she saw a hefeweizen being delivered to a nearby table. Sure enough her beer arrived with a slice of lemon on the rim. It doesn't surprise me when I see this at most bars, but to see it right at the brewery is surprising. I would expect the brewer would want the flavor of the beer to be promoted. Fruit only serves to mask the flavor of the beer, which is why Corona and lime is such a common sight.

Colleen promptly removed the lemon slice from the tall wheat beer glass and found the hefeweizen to be very pleasant. The beer was quite cloudy with a mild aroma and a nice spice note. Looking around the restaurant it appeared the hefeweizen is very popular.

My Porter was served in a nonic pint glass. The beer was very dark with a thin beige head. The aroma was mild toffee with a hint of hop. The flavor was mildly sweet with some coffee notes. There was a mild hop bitterness that lingered for a short time. Overall a pleasing porter that went well with my food.

Our steaks were very well prepared and topped with copious amounts of herbed butter, with fried onion rings and green beans served on the side. Our son also enjoyed a steak with fries, though he had pink lemonade rather than an Outer Banks beer! The service was prompt and attentive. We enjoyed a nice dinner before heading back to the beach so our son could get in an evening swim.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rock the Mike: The Freeman Brainefit

News from Flying Dog: Flying Dog Brewery's longest standing employee and brewery manager, Mike Freeman, was recently diagnosed with a very serious brain tumor, Stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), which is the most aggressive of its kind! Due to Mike not being able to work and to offset some medical expenses, Mike’s friends and family are hosting a fund raiser. The fund raiser, Rock the Mike: The Freeman Brainefit, will be Saturday, August 23rd at the old Flying Dog warehouse in Denver (24th and Blake) from 7PM - 2AM. There will be several bands, free beer from Breckenridge, Great Divide and Flying Dog, free food and a raffle, with a $20 donation requested at the door. All of the proceeds from this event are going to Mike and his fiancée Jennifer.

We're fans of Flying dog beers around here, and I know there are lots Denver-area folks who visit this blog. This is a great thing the Denver area breweries are doing and I encourage all you Denver craft beer fans to head out to the old Flying Dog brewery on Saturday, August 23 to support this worthy cause.

For more information visit or click the poster to the right.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Update on Shooting Creek Brewery vs. Prohibitionists

A couple of weeks ago I reported on efforts of some self-appointed bible interpreters to interfere with the opening of a legitimate business in Floyd County. It seems their protests against the Shooting Creek Brewery have attracted the attention of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors. The Star City Harbinger reports on the Supervisors' actions:
The Floyd County Board of Supervisors has asked to hear objections and comments about the "proposed" Floyd brewery at the August 12th (8:30 AM) board meeting. See Meeting Agenda. Ironically, this is just a day before the Virginia ABC Hearing scheduled for the 13th of August in Roanoke.

[Owners Brett] Nichols and [Ray] Jones told me they are surprised the Board of Supervisors placed the issue on its agenda. Neither of the owners has been contacted by the Board or the County Administration to respond to questions or address concerns over the new microbrewery.

Nichols and Jones found out about the addition to the Board’s agenda by visiting the Floyd County website. According to BJN Brewworks, the company was not notified about the Board meeting by the County Administration.

Wouldn't it make sense to actually notify the business in question about the call for comments? Reminds me of Dean Wormer's line from Animal House. I wonder if the folks expressing objections were notified?

Operating a brewpub is a highly regulated, and entirely legal business in Virginia. Floyd County has a number of wineries already in operation that generate a lot of tourism interest for the area. One has to wonder why the neo-prohibitionists are suddenly up in arms over this brewery.

After reading this report from Doug Thompson of the visit he received from one of the Baptist "ministers" I don't think even the "ministers" themselves know why they oppose the brewery:
Hi, did you know there is an effort to start a brew pub that will brew and serve beer?

Isn't that what they do at brew pubs?

Yes, but we don't think brew pubs belong in Floyd County.

Why not?

Because drinking is a sin.

It is? Didn't Christ serve wine to his disciples?

That's not the point. We don't need a brew pub in Floyd County.

Again, I ask: Why not?

Because it will corrupt our children.

Last time I checked, the minimum age for drinking in the Commonwealth of Virginia is 21. There are a several places in Floyd County that sell and serve beer, wine and -- in one case -- mixed drinks. Seems like the kids have survived that.

Well, we want it stopped.

You came to the wrong house for support. Don't come back or I'll call the sheriff and charge you with trespassing. Good day.

Good for you Mr. Thompson. I encourage my readers to see Mr. Thompson's full response here. Unless folks take a stand against these people who want to have their own personal interpretation of law, be it man-made or biblical law, they will continue to operate and grow. Don't ever think that history can't repeat itself. Even successful campaigns start small.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

This Saturday is the monthly meeting of the Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society. The theme for the meeting will be "Meads". The meeting is held at Kybecca on Plank Road starting at 1:30 PM. There will be a variety of commercial and home brewed meads for sampling.

Friday, July 25 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest, Lagunitas IPA, Magic Hat #9, Kwak Belgian Ale, Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock

Saturday, August 9 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Beers TBD
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA, Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout, plus 1 Customer Choice

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Boulder Beer Taphouse - Denver International Airport

Last week over at the blog Fermentedly Challenged, Dave alerted his readers to the opening of the new Boulder Beer Taphouse in the main terminal at Denver International Airport. Coincidentally this week I had a trip to Denver scheduled so I planned on lunch at DIA before my flight home.

The new taphouse is located in the former location of the Samuel Adams pub, just outside the TSA screening area. The taphouse has a bar, a few tables and a small food preparation area. In addition to the house beers, Boulder Taphouse serves a selection of macro-beers and harder spirits. It was disheartening to see several patrons sucking on bottles of Michelob Ultra while sitting in front of the Boulder Beer taps. A selection of sandwiches and salads are also available.

I opted for a Hazed & Infused Dry Hopped Ale, and a smoked ham sandwich on sourdough bread. The beer pours a slightly cloudy copper-orange with an aroma that's predominately citrus hops. The flavor is all hops with a lasting bitter finish. A bready malt attempts to hold everything together but still the hops dominate. The ham sandwich was standard fare, although tasty and it did hit the spot.

The quick beer made the trip through TSA mildly bearable. Once I made it to my gate, United announced that my flight was delayed by 2 hours*. I only wish that the Boulder Beer Taphouse was on the gate side of security! However, I did spot a pub in the terminal serving Boulder Pass Time Pale Ale. How apropos.

* Once we finally boarded the plane we were delayed another 3 hours!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whither Local Beer?

The Annual Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair is the oldest continuous running agricultural fair in the Nation. After 270 years the fair added a "beer garden" to the venue this year. The Free Lance-Star reported that fairgoers could "choose from a selection of five beers: Blue Moon, Miller Lite, Yuengling, Coors Light and Leinenkugel." My schedule didn't permit me to visit the fair, and based on the beer list I wasn't compelled to make a special effort just to see the beer garden.

The question that immediately comes to mind is "where are the local beers?" Local home brewer and FABTS founder, Lyle Brown asks this question in a letter to the editor in today's Free Lance-Star:
Plant some local suds in fair's beer garden

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair had a beer garden this year ["Beer garden is popular fare," July 31].

I hope it went well enough to continue in future years.

What was a little disappointing is that the Fredericksburg Fair did not feature a Virginia beer in its beer garden.

No, I am not referring to Anheuser-Busch, which is now headquartered in Belgium. I am referring to any of the outstanding Virginia-owned and -operated breweries there are to choose from.

Virginia has a rich heritage of beer making, all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, who brewed his own beer at Monticello. Why can't our local fair feature beers that give a nod back to that tradition?

There are currently at least six breweries brewing and bottling their own beer in Virginia. It would be very nice to go to the local fair and be able to enjoy a local beer.

Even better, wouldn't it be a novel idea if the Fredericksburg Fair offered at least one beer from Fredericksburg's own Blue and Gray Brewing Co?

Blue and Gray has been brewing beer here in Fredericksburg for seven years now, and they make four excellent beers, plus several seasonals.

Surely it would be possible to offer at least one local Virginia beer at our fair!

The Fredericksburg Fair is a popular local attraction and draws visitors from around the state. With the growing interest in Virginia agri-tourism, especially related to Virginia breweries, this oversight by the fair organizers is disappointing. I agree with Lyle in the hope that this event did well enough to become a regular feature. However, there seems to be little to attract craft beer fans. And I doubt even fans of macro-beers would make a special trip to the fair grounds simply to have a $3.00 cup of Miller Lite. I am sure however that this beer fan would make a special effort visit the fair in support of local breweries. Perhaps next year.

Pint's Pub - Cask Ale in Denver

During my recent trip to Denver I joined a friend for beer and dinner at Pint's Pub. Pint's Pub is a "traditional British brew pub" that brews a couple of cask conditioned British ales. In addition to the cask ales, they offer a number of other house beers, along with an extensive selection of single malt whisky. I skipped the whisky and sampled the two "live ales".

My first selection was Dark Star Ale. When I placed my order the waitress asked if I realized the beer was a dry-hopped cask ale. Most assuredly I replied, that was the reason I was ordering it. The beer is served from a hand pump and at cellar temperature, around 50-55°. I am sure the question was to avoid complaints that the beer was "warm and flat." Dark Star Ale pours a deep brown with only a thin head. The carbonation is very light. The beer has a light, malty, molasses aroma. The taste is a slightly sweet toffee malt. The finish brings a "green" hop bitterness. Dark Star Ale is easy to drink and quite a pleasant beer. No ABV is listed but I suspect it's on the low range for an Engish Brown Ale, maybe 4.5 - 5% ABV.

Next I opted for the second house cask ale, Lancer India Pale Ale. Like the previous beer, it is served at cellar temp. The IPA pours a dark copper color with a moderate head that hangs on just slightly longer than that of the Dark Star. There's a slightly floral hop aroma. I found this to be a nicely balanced English IPA. Caramel malt starts the flavor profile, followed by a piney hop bitterness. The hop bitterness lingers a bit in the aftertaste. Again, no ABV listed but if not "sessionable", the IPA was likely also on the low end.

Both beers were quite enjoyable though if I had to pick one, I'd say the Lancer IPA was my favorite of the two. Deciding to call it an early evening I did not try any of the other, non-cask, house beers. Next time I plan to try others, including a Scottish ale, Gael Force Ale.

Pint's serves traditional English pub grub, including lamb, beef and chicken dishes. You can get a Ploughman's Platter, Fish and Chips or Bangers and Mash if you so desire. I opted for one of the Angus Burgers, or "Wimpys". I had my burger topped with Dill Havarti cheese. The burger was tasty and served with "fresh cut chips" and a selection of pickles, onions, and peppers as condiments.

I enjoyed my visit to this "English pub" very much. The decor is what I'd expect for an English pub, you can even pick up the London Times to read. One can look through a viewing window in the floor to the cask room below. The service was attentive and friendly, and the meal a good value. I'll add Pint's Pub to my list of must-visit places in Denver.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Old Dominion Octoberfest

Christmas in July? No, Octoberfest in August. This weekend I picked up some Old Dominion Octoberfest at a local grocery store. Although the "official" release of this seasonal takes place at the brewpub on Wednesday, August 6, the beer is available at retail stores now. The bottles had a bottling date of July 8. The August release isn't nearly as early as it might seem, Octoberfest is actually held in late September and runs into early October. The brewers need to ensure the beers are available in time for local celebrations, and sales of the style tend to drop off after October.

Old Dominion Octoberfest pours a reddish-brown color with a moderately thin, off-white head that leaves little lacing as it drops. The aroma is malty with some faint notes of cinnamon and vanilla. The flavor has a smooth caramel malt base with a mild spice background; mainly cinnamon and perhaps some ginger. The spices are very mild but pleasing. The finish has some lingering hop bitterness. Checking in at a moderate 5.80% ABV, the beer is smooth and easy to drink.

I always enjoy the Märzen / Oktoberfest beers that make their appearance in late Summer. The selection from Old Dominion is the first I've seen this season and I couldn't resist trying it out right away. The beer was very enjoyable and has me eagerly anticipating the selections from other breweries. Octoberfest beers will begin showing up on store shelves over the next few weeks and I'll be ready for them.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Indian Lagers

Friday evening we joined some friends for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Guru Indian Cuisine in located in the Central Park shopping area and features, I think, the best Indian food in the area. Usually I don't bother with the macro-lager style beers served by so many ethnic restaurants. This evening however, my friend Tom and I decided we'd try out some "Indian beers." We ordered Taj Mahal Premium Lager and Flying Horse Royal Lager, both offered in 22 oz bottles. The beers are from United Breweries - UB Group in Bangalore, India. Guru also offers Kingfisher Lager from the same brewery.

Taj Mahal Premium Lager, a pale American-style lager, pours a golden yellow with very little head. There was a bit of grassiness, and some skunkiness, in the aroma. The flavor was slightly sweet, grainy, and bland. The beer checks in at 4.5% ABV. Nothing outstanding about this beer, but also just what I had expected.

The second beer, Flying Horse Royal Lager, fared better. It too is a pale lager style beer. Pouring a straw yellow color, this one did have a fairly decent head that held up for awhile. The aroma was lightly sweet and I could also detect a hint of hops. The flavor was grainy with some bitter hops in the end. The hop bitterness wasn't enough to stand up to the spicy food, but the beer was definitely drinkable. The ABV rating is 4.7%.

We enjoyed a variety of Indian dishes, and selected "heat" levels ranging from mild to hot. I would have preferred a bit more kick in the beers. Most of the Asian, and Mexican, restaurants in the area serve country-specific beers, which are typically pale lagers. As good as hoppy beers are with spicy foods I'm perplexed that the eateries stick with these more bland offerings. Neither of the beers we had were ones I would seek out to buy and bring home. However, if there were no other choices on the menu, I'd order the Flying Horse Lager again. Even without an outstanding beer to go with the meal, we had a very enjoyable evening with good food and good friends.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tasting Events This Weekend

Not too much going on this weekend. Maybe everyone is busy with vacations. BTW, it's not too soon to start planning to join in the fun next weekend, August 9, at the FABTS meeting. The theme for the month will be Meads.

Friday, August 1 - 5:30 - 8:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
Rogue St. Rogue Red, Rogue Younger's Special Bitter, Rogue Juniper Pale Ale

Saturday, August 2 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Beers TBD
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
De Dolle Bas Keun Belgian Pale Ale, Heavy Seas Hang Ten Weizen Doppelbock, plus 1st customer chooses 3rd beer

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

The Session #18 - Happy Anniversary

This month's edition of The Session is hosted by The Barley Blog. Our host Ray explains the topic thusly:
Use this as an excuse to celebrate. Open a limited release anniversary beer from your favorite brewer. Enjoy that special beer you normally only open on your wedding anniversary or birthday. Either way, tell us about it. Why is it a beer you may only drink once a year? Why is that brewery’s annual release the one you selected?

Hmm, tough one. I can't think of a beer we specifically reserve for special occasions. That doesn't mean I don't plan for special beers for special occasions. Planning what beer to serve at a dinner or other function goes hand in hand with planning what food to serve. We often hear talk of special wines being obtained for special occasions. Why should it be any different with beer? The only difference is beer offers more variety and the possibility of better matches with the food courses.

Regular readers will know that besides beer, we're big fans of food around here. And, it should come as no surprise that we give much forethought to the beverage as well as the food. If we're visiting family for a holiday dinner, we'll plan to bring a special beer to go along with the meal. A special dinner at home is no different, much thought goes into exactly beer to be served. The event doesn't have to be a meal, any special time spent with a loved one, is call for a well-thought out beer selection.

That's one of the beautiful things about our favorite beverage, it's perfectly suited for a special occasion, or for just hanging out. Even if it's an informal gathering, it's appropriate to give some thought to the beer and the people who will be drinking it. Doing so shows you care about the people with whom you are sharing a drink or breaking bread. So yes, I'd say we do have special beers for special occasions. It's the thought about the beer and the people who will be drinking it that makes it special.

Be sure to check back at The Barley Blog to see a summary of all contributions to this month's Session.

Update, July 3: Ray has posted the Session summary here.