Monday, September 29, 2008

Northern Virginia Brewfest

On Sunday I took a drive up to Centreville, VA to attend the Northern Virginia Brewfest. Yes, that's two beer festivals in one weekend. What can I say, except that I have an understanding family. As I arrived at Bull Run Park, there were large dark clouds off in the distance, but it was, at the moment, clear and quite warm.

There were 50+ breweries in attendance, along with many food vendors, and a few miscellaneous merchandise booths. I enjoyed a number of very good beers during the course of the afternoon, but I will mention just a few that stood out. My first stop was the Mad Fox Brewing / Vintage 50 tent to see what beers Bill Madden was making available. I opted to start with the Wee Heavy. I returned to the same tent later, after I heard murmurs of a "stealth beer", and acquired a sample of a very enjoyable Altbier. (I understand that there was a Saison in the stealth tap on Saturday.)

Another beer I enjoyed was a Pumpkin Ale from New Holland Brewing. The beer is made with real pumpkin, in addition to the usual spices. The beer had a very pleasant pumpkin flavor that was not overpowered by spices.

Eventually the dark clouds moved in and we got a brief, but heavy rain. I grabbed a glass of Starr Hill Festie and a bowl of chili from Hard Times Cafe and waited out the rain under one of the tents provided.

In looking for new beers to try, I stuck with more "moderate" beers rather than big, high ABV beers, given I did have a long drive home. Another new-to-me beer that I enjoyed was Wolaver's Brown Ale from Otter Creek. This is a well balanced brown ale with a moderate hop bite.

The beers are always nice, but I especially look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones when I go to a beer fest. I had good conversations with Tom Cizauskas of Yours For Good Fermentables. Tom works for Select Wines and was representing eight breweries this weekend. The New Holland Brewery representative Joel also blogs at The Grain Bill and it was a pleasure to meet a fellow beer blogger. I also had an interesting chat with Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso. Jim told me that Flying Dog's move to Maryland has been a success and the beers are doing well in the east.

I had a very enjoyable afternoon at the Northern Virginia Brewfest. Both this event and its sister event, the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest in Leesburg, are extremely well-organized. The focus is on good beer in a family-friendly venue and indeed I saw lots of families in attendance. Despite the rains the crowd was still growing as I left for home. The organizers, volunteers, and the breweries, are to be congratulated on a successful and fun event. I look forward to the next one.

I was having so much fun focusing on beer and people I neglected to take many pictures. I have uploaded a few here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

6th Annual Fredericksburg Oktoberfest

The 6th Annual Fredericksburg Oktoberfest at the Blue & Gray Brewery got off to a festive start Friday evening. Despite the gray skies and occasional rain, the opening day events were well-attended. The evening began with a "early-bird special" of bratwurst and a beer. I chose Blue & Gray Oktoberfest beer with my meal. Musical entertainment was provided by The LOW'nBROWS Oompah band and singer Sabine. A large crowd gathered under the tent to enjoy polkas, waltzes and other traditional German "hofbrau haus" music.

Spotsylvania Supervisor Hap Conners and Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce President Bob Hagan where on hand to tap the ceremonial first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Job well done gentlemen. In addition to the Oktoberfest, the Blue & Gray Hefeweizen was also available, along with the year-round Blue & Gray beers.

Singer-songwriter Sabine performed a song she composed specifically for the event. The chorus goes like this:
In Fredericksburg, we're celebrating
Oktoberfest and Weizenbier
We have our designated driver,
Now bottoms up and let's say cheers.

This year the Oktoberfest celebration has been extended to a three-day event. The Fredericksburg Oktoberfest is always a fun event and this was a very enjoyable way to spend Friday evening. And if you don't believe me, here's a recommendation from Lew Bryson.

The festivities continue Saturday 11:00AM - 7:00PM and Sunday 11:00AM - 4:00PM RAIN OR SHINE. Admission is free. The complete schedule of events is here.

Pictures of the evening's events are here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

It's a busy weekend. The 6th Annual Fredericksburg Oktoberfest put on by the Blue & Gray Brewing Company kicks off Friday evening and runs through Sunday. I plan to be there Friday evening. You can see the full event schedule here. On Saturday I'll be helping to serve Blue & Gray Oktoberfest beer at our church's Fall Festival. (Rained out.) Also this weekend is the Northern Virginia BrewFest in Centreville. I look forward to seeing many of you there on Sunday.

In addition, these retailer tasting events offer even more opportunities for trying out some new beers.

Friday, September 26 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Leinenkugel Oktoberfest, Red Hook Late Harvest Autumn Ale, Anchor Porter, Unibroue Maudite, and Tiger

Friday, September 26 - 5:00 - 8:00pmm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting Featuring Susan Greene of the Global Brewers Guild:
Aspall Organic Cider, De Proef Signature Ale, Victory Baltic Thunder, North Coast Old Stock 2008, Malheur Brut Reserve and Dark Brut

Friday, September 26 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Unibroue Quatie-Centieme, Weyerbacher Old Heathen Stout, Left Hand Twin Sisters Double IPA

Saturday, September 27 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Bell's Best Brown Ale, Delirium Nocturnum, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Bell's Octoberfest, Bell's Best Brown Ale, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, September 27 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tasting Featuring Peter Showvaker of Troeg's Brewing Company
Dreamweaver Wheat Ale, Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale, HopBack Amber Ale, Trogenator Dopplebock, Dead Reckoning Porter

Saturday, September 27 - 1:00 - 5:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
Hook & Ladder Brewing Co: Golden Ale, Backdraft Brown, Lighter and Dominion Brewing: Oktoberfest, Oak Barrel Stout

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.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's "Wet Hop" Beer Season

It's that time of year and many brewers are releasing their wet, or fresh hopped beers. Rather than using the typical dried hops, the hops are used in the brewing process fresh from the harvest. I'm quite fond of these beers and enjoy very much the stronger, "green" flavor imparted by the fresh hops. These are beers you definitely want to drink fresh as time will reduce the unique flavor imparted by the wet hops. Here are a couple of interesting videos about the process.

The folks at Sierra Nevada have a promotional video on their Harvest Ale. The video provides an informative look at what it takes to produce fresh hop beers. Some beautiful footage from the harvest fields is included as well. (Hat tip to

Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver was recently featured in a Denver Post article on their Fresh Hop Pale Ale. In the article, and accompanying video, the effort that goes into this annual beer is discussed. Chipper Dave at the Fermentedly Challenged blog reports that the Fresh Hop Pale Ale will be released on October 3.

The Sierra Nevada video is here.
The Great Divide video is here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beer Coasters

It's interesting how how one can find themselves with a collection of something without actually giving thought to collecting. That's what has happened with me and beer coasters. Beer coasters, or mats, are one of the pieces of breweriana that seem to accumulate around here. I typically pick them up when visiting brewpubs or beer fests. I was recently looking at the stacks I have and reminiscing about their sources. Some are from friends who brought them back from trips, sometimes accompanied by beer! Others where gathered on visits to breweries. I've picked quite a few up from brewers' booths at beer fests.

These bits of cardboard provide advertising for the breweries. Fortuitously, they also serve a number of useful purposes for drinkers. Besides keeping the bar or table dry (when our beer is improperly served in frosty mugs), they are quite useful for marking your seat at the bar if you have to get up. Need to attend to "business" after drinking a few beers? Just place the coaster on top of your glass and you'll (generally) prevent an over-zealous server from taking your beer away while you are gone. I don't know how prevalent these coasters are in other parts of the world. Boak, of Boak & Baily, comments that the coasters are popular in Germany, but are not used in England.

Beer coasters have some advantages for collectors over other sorts of breweriana. As opposed to a collection of bottles or cans, they take up very little space. You can store the coasters in photo albums or on a wall. Of course the best thing to do is to use them as they were intended. Put them under a glass of good beer!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blue & Gray Oktoberfest Preview

The 6th annual Fredericksburg Oktoberfest will be held this weekend, Friday, September 26 - Sunday, September 28. You can expect plenty of food, beer and entertainment all weekend. The celebration is a family event and, as with all Blue & Gray events, activities for the kids are planned as well. This year's event has been expanded to three days. The fun starts Friday evening at 5 pm with an early bird special of bratwurst and a beer for only $5.00. The OOmpah band starts at 6 pm and a ceremonial keg tapping with local dignitaries takes place at 7 pm. Saturday includes sing-along with the OOmpah band, a German Shepherd exhibition, free Fall crafts table for kids, and beer barrel bowling races. Sunday festivities include a magician, petting zoo and German Shepherd exhibition. There's an early bird special from 11am-12 noon on Sunday of a Bavarian breakfast with Weisswurst, pretzel, and a 12 oz hefeweizen, only $5.00!

Fox 5 TV was at the Blue & Gray Brewery this morning to shoot a couple of segments as a preview of the celebration. The brewery employees enjoyed a breakfast of Weisswurst and Blue & Gray Hefeweizen. Now that's a hearty start to your mid-week!

The complete schedule of events has been posted at the Blue & Gray website.
The Fox 5 videos are here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

FABTS will hold it's monthly meeting on Saturday at Total Wine in downtown Fredericksburg. The theme for the meeting is "Oktoberfest Beers". This promises to be a very fun meeting. I am committed to a Boy Scout activity and will miss the meeting this month. Also, the Capital Ale House Oktoberfest celebrations in Richmond continue through September 30th. Many brewpubs tap special beers this time of year, so be sure to call your favorite watering hole and ask about seasonal release events.

There are quite a few interesting tastings being held at local retailers this weekend. I hope you'll be able to take advantage of them.

Friday, September 19 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Lindeman’s Framboise, Red Hook Longhammer IPA, Paulaner Hefeweizen, Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale, Otter Creek Oktoberfest

Friday, September 19 - 5:30 - 8:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
Michelle Ditzler from Freeman Beverage will present a tasting of seasonal beers:
Brooklyn Oktoberfest, Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Blue & Gray Oktoberfest, Flying Dog Gonzo Porter, Flying Dog Woody Creek White, Flying Dog Double Dog IPA

Friday, September 19 - 5:30 - 7:00pm
Grapes of Taste, Ladysmith
Legend Brewery Beer Tasting:
Lee Lonnes will conduct a tasting of beers from Legend Brewing:
Brown Ale, Golden Ale, Pale Ale, Chocolate Porter, Oktoberfest, Lager, Hefeweizen

Friday, September 19 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Special Guest Andrew Miller of Magic Hat

Saturday, September 20 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Legend Oktoberfest, Bell's Octoberfest, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Victory Festbier, New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, September 20 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tastings:
Victory V-Series Saison, Bell's Best Brown Ale, Ommegang Chocolate, Bell's Double Cream Stout

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.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beer on a Stick - Huh?

Nope, it's not a frozen beer treat. This Beer on a Stick (tm) is something different.

Apparently, it is supposed to keep your hands dry and your beer cold. I don't get it.

Read more here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Prohibition Movement is Still Very Much Alive

Craft beer drinkers, in fact those who partake in any alcoholic beverages, should never be complacent regarding legal alcohol. The threat to your responsible enjoyment of these beverages remains under attack. There are a number of organizations active today that seek a return to Prohibition. One, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded back in 1874 and is still very much alive today. The group led the movement that gave us the failed social experiment of Prohibition and they have not given up their fight. This group has active chapters throughout the U.S. and in 36 countries around the world.

The WCTU website states, "The members chose total abstinence from all alcohol as their life style and protection of the home as their watchword." In a publication on alcoholic beverage serving size, the WCTU states "No Alcoholic Drink Is Safe!" I find the organization's name to be very ironic. They call themselves the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. However, by their own words it appears they would not even allow Jesus Christ into their homes. It is biblically documented that Jesus Himself drank wine, and even changed plain water in fine wine for party guests.

The WCTU made the news most recently when, at its 135th Annual National Convention in Burlington, Vermont, the organization presented the first annual WCTU Millstone Award to the Amethyst Initiative. According to the WCTU the award "was created to bring public awareness to a person, organization, or governmental body that creates or uses their position of influence to promote unhealthy, illegal, or immoral behavior that we believe places children at risk." Readers are reminded that the Amethyst Initiative was set up "to support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age." The Initiative is a call to study the issue and to develop better ways to protect our youth.

The timing of the "first annual" award leads one to assume it was created especially to honor the Amethyst Initiative. Not only does the WCTU continue to work to ban all alcoholic beverages, they are apparently opposed to even a discussion that may serve to keep our youth safe from alcohol abuse. It's no surprise that the The Partisan Prohibition Historical Society, also known as the Prohibition Party, is listed in the WCTU site under the heading "friends of WCTU".

Readers will recall the recent attempt by a small group in Virginia to warp Christianity to their own private interpretation. Be it local or national, there are numerous forces at work attempting to keep us from the responsible, and legal, enjoyment craft beer and other alcoholic drinks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beer T-Shirts

Recently the "Serious Eats" blog ran a feature entitled "Restaurant Shirts Are the New Concert Tee". The author opines that "restaurant shirts have replaced the concert tee". I don't own any restaurant tees per se, however my thoughts went right to my own collection of brewpub and brewery tees. It doesn't happen at every stop, but I do like to pick up a shirt when I visit a new brewery. I prefer beer shirts that are from specific breweries, rather than generic tees that simply have some witty (or not) saying about beer.

The shirts tend to elicit comments and some serve as great conversation starters about craft beer. I frequently can be seen in my "Get Hazed" shirt for Hazed & Infused Pale Ale from Boulder Brewing. Although, I'm not so sure the reader's first thought is of beer when I wear that one. I wore a "Great Minds Drink Alike" shirt from Great Divide Brewery to the World Beer Fest in Raleigh last Spring, and was actually stopped by someone who wanted take a picture of the shirt. (I'm pretty sure it was the shirt she was interested in, not the physique behind it.)

My most recent acquisition is a shirt from Outer Banks Brewing. The tee bears the slogan "Beers With Character, Characters With Beer". Catchy. And now that we're getting close to cooler weather, it's time to dig out my "hoodie" from Blue & Gray Brewery. That sweatshirt initiates many opportunities to tell folks about Fredericksburg's local craft brewery.

There are any number of beer-related tees bearing that oft-repeated quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." We know that the quote is little more than legend, but it's a fun thought none-the-less. Recently, Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus decided to recall shirts they sold with that quote incorrectly attributed to good ole Ben. That's an interesting gesture on the part of the brewery, though it might just serve to turn the non-returned shirts into collector's items.

A shirt from Weeping Radish Brewery has the following prayer:
He Who Drinks Beer Sleeps Well,
He Who Sleeps Well Cannot Sin,
He Who Cannot Sin Goes to Heaven.

The prayer is attributed to a "16th Century Monk". Do I believe that? Not at all. I've also seen a variation referenced as an "Irish Proverb". That doesn't make the shirt any less fun to wear and talk about though.

What are some of your favorite brewery tees?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shooting Creek Brewery Granted Alcohol License

Shooting Creek Farm Brewery in Floyd County has been granted an off-premises license by the Virginia Alcohol Control Board. Following a contentious hearing last month, Robert O'Neal, Virginia ABC's chief administrative hearing officer, ruled on Friday that the people raising objections did not prove their claim that the brewery would disturb the "peace and tranquility" of the area. From the Roanoke Times:
Floyd County's first microbrewery moved one step closer to opening with Friday's news that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has granted it a license.

But owners of the nascent Shooting Creek Farm Brewery say they will wait to see whether neighbors and a pastor who contested their license would appeal the ABC's decision.

"We're happy. But we definitely know this is just another step toward opening," said brewery owner Brett Nichols.

Nichols, his wife, Johanna, and neighbors Ray Jones and Christine Blackburn applied in March for an ABC license to brew and sell up to 10,000 barrels a year of original recipe stouts and ales for off-premises consumption. Under such a license, patrons could each sample up 4 ounces of beer at a tasting room on the property.

Four neighbors and a Baptist minister had objected to the brewery opening on the existing organic farm. Their objections were based solely on innuendo, rather than fact. The group made outrageous claims that supposedly already drunk winery visitors would wreak havoc when they then visited the brewery. They also objected to increased traffic on local roads. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the ABC officer ruled that the claims were unfounded. In addition a Virginia Department of Transportation study showed that increased traffic created by the brewery would not overburden the road.

While this is a victory for the Shooting Creek owners, and Virginia craft beer fans, the battle does continue. Minister Brown continues to spew his prohibitionist propaganda. He states "This is a battle between what the people want along that road and what I've called the pro-intoxication winery people. They make their money by selling alcohol and getting people intoxicated." The opposition has 30 days in which to file an appeal.

Floyd County blogger Doug Thompson has commentary on the brewery battle here.
Previous posts on Shooting Creek Brewery here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

The annual Gonzofest will take place on Saturday at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD. The event will feature live music and host the Hard Times Café Chili Cook-Off for the Maryland State Chili Cook-Off Championship. In addition to the eclectic sounds of four different bands and the taste of competition caliber chili, attendees can enjoy a variety of Flying Dog beer and tours of the Flying Dog brewery. A complementary souvenir mug and beer samples are included in the price of admission. See the Flying Dog web site for more information.

In addition, there are a number of opportunities locally to try out some new beers. Jeff from Blue & Gray also sends word that their Oktoberfest beer is now available in kegs and growlers fills, in addition to bottles.

Friday, September 12 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Brooklyn Oktoberfest, Troegs Hopback Amber, Kona Wailua Wheat, Hacker-Pschorr Munich Gold

Friday, September 12 - 5:30 - 7:00pm
Grapes of Taste, Ladysmith
Beer Tasting:
German and fall beers

Friday, September 12 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Southern Tier Imperial Pumking, Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown, Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale

Saturday, September 13 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Beers TBD, plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
St. Peter's English Ale, Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weissbier, plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, September 13 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tastings:
Blue & Gray Oktoberfest, Coney Island Freaktoberfest, Southern Tier Harvest Ale, Southern Tier Big Red

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.

Event schedules subject to change. Call ahead before traveling.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

'Hop'-ing Around the Net

It's hop harvest season and many breweries are gearing up to release their fresh-hopped ales. As you eagerly await these seasonal releases, here are a few interesting hop-related links that you might enjoy.
  • First up, The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article entitled "Hops Farmers Find Growth Business" that reports on a new crop of hop farmers. (Sorry, bad pun.) Current high prices for hops are encouraging some people begin planting hops as a commercial crop. Given the ups and downs of agriculture and the high costs of specialized harvesting equipment, is this a viable investment? Risky perhaps, but craft beer drinkers and brewers will certainly wish these folks well.

  • In "Hops processor welcomes 'Dirty Jobs' film crew" the Yakima Herald reports that Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe spent two days picking hops in the Yakima Valley recently. The host took part in all aspects of the harvest process from picking to drying to baling. I look forward to seeing this episode of the show. No air time has been announced.

  • Speaking of TV shows, Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations, recently filmed a segment at 'Eamonn's, A Dublin Chipper' in Alexandria. It is reported here that "Irish born owner Chef Cathal Armstrong and Bourdain shared Dublin tales, pints of Guinness and Eamonn's signature fish."

  • Finally, this is sure to set your mouth watering. Rogue Ales has posted a side show of the Rogue Farms Hop Harvest on Flickr. Not only are these photos gorgeous, but the slide show is informative as well. Even after watching this slide show several times I still drool. I've visited a few hop storage rooms at breweries, but I can only imagine the intense aroma eminating from this processing shed!

Legend Oktoberfest

I brought home another locally brewed Oktoberfest beer yesterday to enjoy with dinner. This time it was the Oktoberfest from Richmond's Legend Brewery. Legend Oktoberfest pours a deep, reddish-copper color. An easy pour creates a thick, creamy, beige, and very long-lasting head. The aroma is mild and malty, with faint caramel notes. The flavor consists mainly of the expected, slightly sweet malt. There are also hints of caramel and a light roastiness. Some hop bitterness is also detectable. The mouthfeel is smooth with little noticeable carbonation. The finish is clean and slightly bitter with a short lived sweet malt aftertaste.

We enjoyed the Oktoberfest with a somewhat decadent 4-meat pizza topped with sausage, bacon, pepperoni, and canadian bacon. The slight roasted flavor and bitterness of the beer matched the meat flavors well and the clean finish allowed the food flavors to be enjoyed. I found the Legend Oktoberfest to be an easy drinking and enjoyable beer. I have another bottle of this beer in the refrigerator and look forward to opening it soon. To compare this one to the Blue & Gray Oktoberfest we had recently, I found the Blue & Gray beer to have a bolder flavor profile, which I personally preferred. Of course, your mileage (and tastes) may vary.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Capital Ale House Update and Construction Photos

I spent some time this afternoon at the location of the new Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg. Capital Ale House VP Chris Holder showed me around the construction site and shared his excitement over their new location. After months of little obvious activity, the site is buzzing now. There are numerous craftsmen onsite and Chris tells me the project is actually ahead of schedule. The first question I asked is the same question I get from local people I talk to, "When will you be open?" Chris didn't provide a specific date but it's important to note that the incentives package approved by the City of Fredericksburg requires the business to be open by November 1. So, local beer enthusiasts, we don't have long to wait.

As you enter the restaurant the main feature will be the 80’ long, curving bar that runs much of the length of the room. Plans call for over 75 draft beers plus 2 casks on tap. There will also be a very large bottled beer selection. There are numerous booths being built throughout the establishment. The seating arrangements vary in size and the restaurant will be able to handle groups of many sizes. The next room back from the bar will be a large dining room. Here again, attention is being given to flexible seating to accommodate both large and small groups. Off the main dining room, stairs lead down to a private dining room for special functions.

Opposite the bar are steps leading down to the beer cellar. This special area will have cool storage for special and vintage beers, along with some small tables for tasting those very special beers. The front wall of storage area will be glassed to facilitate viewing the large display of stored beers. The casked beer will also be stored here for serving at proper temperature. Serving lines lead from the cellar to the bar above.

Special attention is being paid to preserve many of the features of the old building. Ceiling beams are left exposed. When old beams did have to be cut or removed, they were saved and will be used for display in other parts of the building. An old stained glass window that was found onsite was moved to a prominent location.

In talking with Chris, it is obvious that he is passionate about good beer, and providing a fun place to enjoy it. Chris emphasized that Capital Ale House will be a place for people to linger over good beer and good food. I did specifically ask if the Fredericksburg location would continue the many events and specials held at the Richmond locations. So often we've seen restaurants open Fredericksburg branches with what seems like half-hearted enthusiasm. Not so with Capital Ale House, we can expect to see the same "$1 Burger Night", "Steal the Glass Night", and other special events in Fredericksburg as well.

The opening of Capital Ale House will be a great addition to the craft beer scene in Fredericksburg. Given the November 1 opening deadline, it looks like I may be doing my Christmas shopping in downtown Fredericksburg this year!

See pictures of the construction here.
Previous posts about Capital Ale House here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Session #19 - Deutsches Bier

The 19th edition of The Session is hosted by Lootcorp 3.0 - A Brewing Bog and is introduced thusly:
I’ve decided to make September’s topic Deutsches Bier - German beer. I want you all to focus on the wonderful contributions our German neighbors have made to the beer world. You can write about a particular German style you really enjoy, a facet of German beer culture which tickles your fancy, or any other way in which Germany and beer have become intertwined in your life.

Although I do enjoy German and other imports, I'm an unabashed fan of American craft beers. American craft brewers are adept at taking a classic style and making it their own, often giving it that extra "oomph". Sometimes the change is brash, sometimes subtle. Some folks might cry out about a beer being "not to style", but for me it's not about strict adherence to style guidelines, which are changeable, but whether or not the beer is enjoyable to drink.

For this Session we'll take a look at some American versions of classic German styes, focusing mainly on beers brewed or available locally. We'll get a glance at a few of the many American craft brewers who have adopted these styles to create some of our favorite beers. Some of the beers stay close to "style", others less so. This isn't necessarily a discussion about German beers, but rather a survey of some American beers influenced by German styles.


These dark beers have high malt content, with little hop flavor. A common bock that most Americans are familiar with is Shiner Bock from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Sam Adams Winter Lager is another popular example. Abita Brewing Mardi Gras Bock and New Glarus Uff-da are other examples I've tried.

Doppelbocks take bock beers "up a notch". First brewed by the monks of St. Francis of Paula, they're typically darker, with a higher alcohol content. Brooklyn Brewery Brooklynator Dopplebock and Tröegs Troegenator Doublebock are two that I've enjoyed recently. Boston Beer Company also produces their Double Bock annually. Flying Dog Wild Dog Collaborator Doppelbock is an adaptation I wrote about for a previous session post. New Glarus Unplugged Bourbon Barrel Bock and Tommyknocker Butthead Doppelbock, though not local, have also made appearances at our table.

Dortmunder / Export Lager
Originating in Dortmunder, Germany, these crisp lagers are similar to Pilsner beers. Locally, two favorites are Hard Times Select Lager, brewed by Clipper City in Baltimore, and Old Dominion Lager. The Boston Beer Company brewed Dortmunder Style Export as a Longshot contest winner in 2007.

German Pilsener
The German answer to Bohemian Pilsners, these light, crisp lagers often exhibit strong hop bitterness. Victory Prima Pils is one that I often enjoy. Other local examples are St. George Pilsner and Tröegs Sunshine Pils. New Belgium Blue Paddle Pilsner from Colorado is an example that seems to be popular in the western part of the Country. Left Hand Brewing Polestar Pilsner from also Colorado is available the east.

Maibock / Helles Bock
Maibocks are lighter in color and alcohol than standard bocks. Though traditionally served in the Spring, maibocks seem to available year round here. Dead Guy Ale from Rogue Brewery in California is widely distributed. Locally, St. George Brewery produces Fall Bock maibock. Weeping Radish Maibock is another east coast Maibock.

Munich Dunkel
These are rich, complex beers from Bavaria. I can only think of two American beers that I've had in this style. Saranac Chocolate Amber Lager from Matt Brewing in New York and Weeping Radish Black Radish Dark Lager from North Carolina.

Munich Helles
The Munich Helles style was originated by the Spaten brewery in answer to the German people's new-found fascination with "lighter" Pilsner beers. I've had only a few American examples of the style. St. George Lager and Weeping Radish Corolla Gold are two east coast examples that come to mind.

Märzen / Oktoberfest
Traditionally brewed in the Spring and kept in cold storage until it was time to celebrate the harvest, this would be my favorite German-style of beer. Numerous breweries release Oktoberfest-style beers in the late Summer. Blue and Gray Baron von Stueben Oktoberfest is available in limited quantities in September and was the subject of a post earlier this week. Samuel Adams Octoberfest is another that I look forward to appearing on draft at local restaurants each fall. Other examples available locally include Brooklyn Oktoberfest Beer, Clipper City BaltoMärzHon, Old Dominion Octoberfest, and Victory Festbier. Gordon Biersch Märzen is another favorite from one of the Country's best lager beer brewers.

The style name is German for "black beer." These dark beers buck the stereotype by being lighter in body, though dark in appearance. Boston Beer Samuel Adams Black Lager is usually available late Summer in the brewery's "brewmaster collection."

Vienna Lager
This is a "mainstream" lager originally developed in the city for which it gets its name. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is the Vienna Lager that's probably most familiar to Americans. Starr Hill Jomo Lager from Charlottesville is an excellent example of the style, and one that only recently began getting wider distribution. Pennsylvania Brewing Company's Penn Pilsner is another fine example. Weeping Radish brews a Vienna lager called simply Fest. Interestingly, the Vienna Lager style today is most commonly found in beers from the U.S. and Mexico.


These somewhat bitter, brown beers could be considered the German answer to Engish Pale Ales. I only recall a couple of these from American breweries. Weeping Radish Farm Brew Altbier was enjoyed on a trip to North Carolina couple of years ago, and Alaskan Amber I had just recently in Denver.

Berliner Weissbier
Berliner Weissbiers are sour wheat beers typically served mixed with sweet fruit syrup. I've not had the opportunity to try any authentic Berliner Weissebier, but do frequently enjoy Festina Pêche, Dogfish Head Brewery's interpretation of the style.

These traditional German wheat beers are generally made available during the Summer months. They typically have moderate to strong clove or banana aromas and flavors. Locally, Blue and Gray Brewing releases Virginia Hefeweizen each Summer. This year's release from Blue & Gray was a bit more hoppy than usual, a flavor variation I enjoyed. Brooklyn Brooklyner Weisse, Outer Banks Buddha Bubba Hefeweizen, Victory Sunrise Weiss, and Weeping Radish Weizen are other local examples.

Somewhat similar to blonde ales, the style was originally developed in Köln, Germany, I've had only a few American examples of the style. Flying Dog Brewery Tire Bite Golden Ale and Weeping Radish Kolsch are two that come to mind.

Strong, dark wheat beers, Weizenbocks typically have a noticeable alcohol flavor. Clipper City Brewery Hang Ten is one I look forward to each year. the brewery releases each July, bucking the stereotype for "summer beer". Boston Brewing Longshot Weizenbock made it's appearance earlier this year. Victory Moonglow Weizenbock is another very popular Weizenbock.

The list above is by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. The beers mentioned are ones that I've had recently, and are generally available locally. After completing this exercise it becomes apparent that some American brewers are specialists in German ales and lagers. Victory, St. George, and Weeping Radish are east coast brewers that produce a range of German-style lagers. Other breweries offer them along with other styles. I'd never given much thought to the number of beers I've enjoyed that have German style influences. It's plain to see from this limited list that the German brewing traditional has had a significant influence on American craft brewers.

Update, September 9: The Session roundup has been posted at Lootcorp.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weekend Beer Events

We have an extended lineup of beer sampling opportunities for Friday and Saturday. Why not try something new this weekend? Head over to one of these events and try a beer you've never had before and tell us about it in the comments. You'll be entered in the drawing for the "The American Brew" DVD.

There's a special event in Leesburg on Friday evening. Kristen Umstattd, Leesburg’s Mayor, will be tapping the first cask of the Leesburg 250th Anniversary 80 Shilling Ale at Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge from 5PM-7PM to kick off the Leesburg 250th Anniversary Festivities. See here for details.

Friday, September 5 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
D'Achouffe McChouffe, Anchor Liberty Ale, Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, Stone Ruination IPA, Old Speckled Hen

Friday, September 5 - 5:30 - 8:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
Bell's Oktoberfest, Victory Festbier

Friday, September 5 - 5:30 - 7:30pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Ballast Point Amber Ale, Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, Wychwood Hobgoblin

Saturday, September 6 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
La Chouffe Belgian Golden Ale (Belgium), New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale (Michigan), plus 1 Customer Choice
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Cooper's Sparkling Ale (Australia), Avery Fifteen Anniversary Ale (Colorado), plus 1 Customer Choice

Saturday, September 6 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine, Alexandria
Beer Tastings:
Bell's Octoberfest, D'Achouffe Houblon IPA, D'Achouffe McChouffe, Ayinger Octoberfest

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.

A Beer and Tourism Partnership

The MillerCoors sponsored "Brew" blog brings word of an interesting tourism ad campaign. From "Leine's in Wisconsin Tourism Ad":
Celebrate “a taste of fall.”

The Leinenkugel family, which has been brewing beer for five generations, is celebrated as a “Wisconsin Original” in a new ad from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

The ad, part of a campaign highlighting fall activities in Wisconsin, features the Leinenkugel family. A voice over from Dick Leinenkugel talks about “bold reds that stir the possibilities” and “crisp ambers that excite the senses” – references to both Leinie’s beers and fall foliage.

The family’s appearance in the ad highlights its tight connection to Wisconsin’s heritage. The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company was launched in Chippewa Falls in 1867.

A print ad that’s part of the campaign can be seen here.

While the ad campaign does not directly promote beer tourism, it does recognize the state's brewing heritage. I've written previously regarding beer tourism in Virginia. While the Virginia Tourism Council did recently update its web page devoted to Virginia breweries, the information presented is limited in scope. But it's a start. Perhaps we'll see Virginia follow the example of Wisconsin and use it's own brewing heritage, and the ongoing expansion of the craft here, to promote tourism in Virginia too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reference Book on American Breweries

I haven't purchased this book yet, but I'm tempted. The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottled Brands is a comprehensive guide to U.S. breweries. The reference guide lists over 400 U.S. breweries and over 3000 brands produced by those breweries. As noted on the publisher's site, the reference includes:
  • State by state availability charts for each brewery

  • Beer brand listings grouped by beer style

  • Color and Bitterness comparison charts - Individual brand SRM (Color) and IBU (Bitterness) information gives you a good idea of how a beer will look and taste before you buy it

  • Brewery listings by geographic location, as well as information about the states that each brewer distributes their brands

  • Beer brand by beer brand “How Supplied” information listing each beer brand's availability by can, bottle, and keg sizes (great information for anyone who owns a kegerator)

  • In-depth / printable brewery portfolios that utilize beer brand labels

  • Alphabetic Brewery listings

Of major concern with an undertaking such as this is keeping the information current. Given the rapid expansion of craft breweries, not to mention the ongoing consolidation of the large factory brewers, this could be no small task. However, the publisher maintains an online database that is updated monthly. This is definitely a beer geek's book, and would seem to be a good reference for beer writers and serious hobbyists. (If any reader cares to donate a copy, I'm sure it would only serve to improve this blog's content!)

Interestingly, "The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottled Brands" (3rd Edition) has been awarded the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award by the Independent Book Publishers Association. The book was recognized for the Reference/Directories category.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Expensive Glassware Conundrum

My feelings on proper glassware are well-documented. I insist on drinking beer from a glass whenever possible. But, we all know glassware can get expensive. There are almost as many varieties of glasses as there are styles of beer. I remember when the Boston Beer Company released their specialty beer glasses, and many drinkers, myself included, balked at the price. Now, the Spiegelau glass makers of Germany have released their "Beer Classics" line, in a sense taking things up a notch:
Throughout the world, there is a fast growing range of different beers just waiting to be discovered. In order to get most out of the characteristics of beer (appearance, aroma, taste, finish) it is essential to choose the right glass. To cover all these aspects, we at Spiegelau used our expertise and 500 years experience in making crystal to develop three elegant, especially thin blown beer glasses matching the world‘s most common beer styles.

I certainly agree with those first two sentences. The new glass designs include a 14 oz. stemmed glass recommended for Belgian-style beers and pilsners, a 16 oz. footed glass for general lagers and ales, and a 17.5 oz glass for wheat beers. These glasses come in sets of two in a unique tube package. And, they sell for about $15.00 per glass. That's a lot of beer that could be had for the money one would spend to acquire a set of two in each style. How much is too much? Fine glassware for wines is not uncommon, and we often lament that beer doesn't seem to merit same respect that wine receives. I am sure this is very nice glassware and I certainly wouldn't mind adding these to my assemblage. Though I wonder if the apparent trend towards pricey beer glasses is the sort of equality we hoped for. However, if high-end glassware causes folks to sit up and take notice, then I'm all for it.

A color brochure for the new glass line can be found here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September Giveaway

Here's something fun for the month of September. I have a copy of "The American Brew" DVD to give away to one reader this month. This documentary delves into the history of beer in America. It contains appearances by Fritz Maytag, Garrett Oliver, Charlie Papazian, and Carol Stoudt among others. From the Founding Fathers to Prohibition to the modern craft beer movement, the show illustrates the rich, and evolving, tradition of brewing in America.

For the month of September, simply contribute a comment to any post on this blog and you will be entered into a drawing for the DVD. I'll select one name at random at the end of the month. Each accepted and published comment will be counted as an entry in the drawing. It's that simple. Enjoy, and good luck!