Saturday, January 31, 2009

Privatization of Virginia ABC Stores - An Update

A couple of weeks ago I alerted you to Senator Mark Obenshain's proposal to privatize Virginia's ABC Stores. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services killed the proposal today. Senator Obenshain's sent the following update:
Dear Friends,

This morning, a Senate subcommittee dealt ABC privatization a setback, but I'm not giving up. You can read about it here:

Although the Senate killed my bill this year, I see in this setback an opportunity -- a chance to work with interested parties across the Commonwealth to improve upon this legislation and continue the fight in the 2010 session. Please read my note to learn more, and don't give up. I won't!

This proposal is resonating with people across the Commonwealth; Democrats and Republicans alike know that this is not a legitimate role for state government.

I hope that you will continue to be a part of the movement for ABC privatization. Please take a moment to forward my note to your friends, and if you have yet to add me as a friend on Facebook, please do so today so that I can continue to share my thoughts with you, and benefit from yours, throughout the remainder of the 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly and beyond.

With best regards,
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator

P.S. Don't forget to read my new note on this subject!

The Senator says he will continue the fight to have Virginia "join the thirty-two other states that are already enjoying the benefits – to taxpayers and consumers – of private industry." The fight goes on. If you are a Virginia resident, I encourage you to follow the progress of this proposal at the Facebook link above.

Session #24 Reminder

Attention Beer Bloggers, Session #24 is less than a week away. Hosted here at Musings Over A Pint, the theme for February is "A Tripel for Two." See the announcement and details here.

Not a beer blogger? No problem, you can participate as well. Alan at A Good Beer Blog has suggested an alternative way to join in the fun of The Session. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike can participate "live" via Twitter. If you haven't done so already, sign up for Twitter and then post your own thoughts on Tripels on February 6. Be sure to check out Alan's detailed directions for participating. You can also post a comment here letting folks know you are joining in via Twitter.

See you on February 6!

Friday, January 30, 2009

National IPA Championship Returns

Sponsored by Brewing News Magazine, the 2nd Annual National IPA Challenge is underway. From the emailed announcement:
Join us in celebrating March Madness with a single elimination bracket of 64 IPAs from across the nation going "head to head" to see who has biggest cone-jones! The National IPA Championship (NIPAC) starts with the preliminary round on February 22nd in Syracuse, New York; and then continues weekly up until the Final Four on March 21 in New York City.

Enter your prediction of each round on-line at to qualify for the 2008 NIPAC Winners Contest. Visit our on-line Locker Room for full descriptions of each of the IPA competitors. After confirming your age, you will then be able to review the beers and then proceed to our on-line contest. The Locker Room is a long page (64 IPA's), but includes vital information for you to make your picks. The deadline for your picks is Midnight, Saturday, February 21, 2009.

Want to know if your favorite IPAs advance to the next level? Follow their progress on-line using the link provided in the Locker Room. NIPAC winners are posted to the web site within 24 hours of each round. Be sure to subscribe to our Beer Brackets email newsletter so that we can notify you the moment the results are posted.

We've posted a PDF Bracket to the site as well: Print a bracket sheet to put in your office, beer bar, homebrew shop...anywhere! Get hopped up - join the fun on your own, or in an office or bar pool!

Visit for all the details and to participate. Even though I didn't do well with my picks last year, it was fun to play along. The top prize will be a free case of the 2009 NIPAC championship IPA! Good luck.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Expand Your (Beer) Horizons

Here's an article I wrote for the Capital Ale House weekly email newsletter, published January 26, 2009.

Most craft beer fans were at one time stuck in the rut of drinking only macro-lagers from the factory brewers. It's highly likely that you even had "your brand", that you drank exclusively. Now that you've discovered craft beer, it's easy to get in a pattern once again. Face it, even to the knowledgeable craft beer drinker, the choices can be overwhelming. It's tough enough to browse a well-stocked store at your leisure, but when you are looking at a multi-page beer menu, and add in the pressure of your friends, and the server, waiting for your selection, the task can be bit stressful. "What do I choose?" "Will I like it?" Here are a few hints for getting over the hurdle of choosing a beer.

First, of all, it's just beer. Don't stress. The excitement of trying something new is part of the adventure. There's little chance you'll select something that you really don't enjoy. And if you do, often times a quiet word to the server with a new selection will result in no charge for the offending drink. (Don't use this as a ploy to get free samples.) Many establishments will offer free samples, usually 1 or 2 ounce pours. That's just enough for you to decide a beer style isn't to your liking. At a brewpub, start with a "flight" of samples of the house beers. Then you can settle in on one you really enjoyed.

Try a different beer in a style you enjoy already. Not all brown ales are the same. Nor are all pale ales just like every other pale ale. That goes for any style. Whenever I'm asked to suggest a new beer for someone, my first question is "What beer have you liked in the past?" If you know you've enjoyed a brown ale such as Newcastle Brown Ale, try an American Brown, like Brooklyn Brown Ale. You'll find some different flavors, but still enough familiarity to avoid any shocking changes.

Do you have a favorite pale ale? Try picking one from a different part of the country. There are still plenty of regional differences in beers. A commonly held rule is that west coast pale ales run to the citrus side, while east coast brewers tend to use more bittering hops. However I could give you plenty of exceptions to that rule, so why not experiment for yourself?

By the way, selecting-by-style is an especially good tactic for introducing macro-lager drinker to craft beer. Find another American lager for them to enjoy. This gives them the general appearance of a beer they are already familiar with, but with more flavor for their enjoyment. Locally, I've had particular success introducing macro-drinkers to craft beer with Old Dominion Lager and Starr Hill Jomo Lager.

Are you feeling "habitual" in your beer selections? Try kicking it up a notch. Select a "big" beer. Go for something with Imperial in the name. Do you like "dark" beers like Guinness? Try an Imperial Stout such as Great Divide Yeti or Old Rasputin. If you enjoy Pale Ales, try an Imperial Pale Ale such as Avery Maharaja.

Lastly, always look at the seasonal selections. I often find myself selecting the seasonal releases from a brewery over their year-round beers. These limited-release beers are labors of love for many brewers. They may take longer to brew, require more effort, or use hard-to-find ingrediants. The results are often uniquely flavored beers that you begin to look forward to each year. Seasonal releases might be considered the "chef's special", which rarely dissapoints at your favorite restaurant.

Finally, have fun! That's what it's really all about. The next time you are at your favorite beer retailer or bar, make a point to try something you've never had before. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January Giveaway Reminder

There just 6 days left to get your entry in for the January Giveaway sponsored by Thomas Hooker Brewing Company. Post a comment to any post on Musings Over a Pint through January 31 and you'll be entered. Hooker Brewery is giving away your choice of something from their online store, up to $14 in value.

See the original announcement and details here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Charlottesville Beer Trail

The Washington Post today has a nice article on four Charlottesville-area breweries. Writer Jenny Mayo and boyfriend Mike, who blogs at DC Beer, spent two days exploring the Charlottesville beer trail. They visited Starr Hill, South Street, Blue Mountain, and Devils Backbone breweries. The couple completed their research by enjoying the beer samplers provided at each stop. This is a trip I'd like to replicate soon. 

I first wrote about the Charlottesville Beer Trail last year.
See the Washington Post article, Virginia Is Also for Beer Lovers, here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blue Mountain Full Nelson Pale Ale

Blue Mountain Brewery might be considered the undiscovered gem of Virginia breweries. Opened in October 2007, Blue Mountain beers are just beginning to show up in Fredericksburg. Owner and brewer Taylor Smack is producing some very tasty beers in nearby Afton, VA and I expect/hope we'll see more of them showing up locally this year. While some of their beers have been available on draft at Capital Ale House, Full Nelson Pale Ale is the first Blue Mountain beer I've been able to bring home in bottles. It is currently available at Kybecca Wine and Cheese.

Blue Mountain Full Nelson Pale Ale pours a dark copper color with a thick, frothy head. The head is very slow to drop and leaves behind plenty of sticky lacing. The aroma is very mild citrus with a hint of fruitiness. However, the aroma is deceptive, as the flavor packs a wallop. The flavor is full of wonderful, bitter hops with a citrus edge. As I drank I could tell that a strong malt backbone was there adding balance, but still allowing the hops to shine. The beer is medium-bodied with a slightly oily mouthfeel. The finish brings a slight dryness and the bitterness lingers for quite awhile.

The brewery uses their own farm-grown Cascade variety hops in making the beer, which no doubt contributes to the full, robust flavors. Full Nelson is a very flavorful beer, and now that it's available locally, I'll certainly be enjoying it again. The brewery is just a couple of hours away but I've been unable to visit yet. That is an oversight I intend to rectify very soon.

Friday, January 16, 2009

SAVOR Brewery List Announced

The second annual SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience will be held in Washington, DC on May 30, 2009. This interesting, if somewhat pricey, event is designed to showcase the delights of pairing beer and food. The list of participating craft breweries has been released by the Brewers Association, the sponsor of the event. There are four Virginia breweries participating this year; Capitol City, Legend, St. George, and Starr Hill. That's a big step up from last year when just one Virginia brewery (Williamsburg Alewerks) participated. I see also that my two favorite Maryland breweries, Clipper City and Flying Dog, are listed.

The complete 2009 SAVOR brewery list is here.

Privatization of Virginia ABC Stores

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) wants the state to get out of the business of selling alcohol. Don't worry, this is not another anti-alcohol campaign, but a move that would benefit both the consumer and the state. Senator Obenshain intends to introduce a bill that would require Virginia to sell off its 331 liquor stores, otherwise known as ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) stores, and move the business to the private sector. The Northern Virginia Daily has the story.
While the finer points are still being worked out, previous studies have found the commonwealth could realize some $700 million in new revenue — or 23 percent of this year’s budget shortfall — every year.

“ABC sales aren’t that impressive,” Obenshain said. Virginia’s stores made a profit of about $104 million last year, roughly equal to the amount of wine and liquor taxes the stores took in.

Taxpayers could do much better by letting the private sector take over, he said.

Farming out the operation of ABC stores was just one of hundreds of recommendations of a 2002 report on government efficiency and effectiveness chaired by former Democratic Gov. L. Douglas Wilder

While not a new idea, this is perhaps an idea whose time has come given current budget hardships. The state would still collect tax revenue from privatized liquor stores, but do away with the overheard such as leases, payroll, and benefits. There's little doubt that private store owners, with profitability in mind, could offer a better selection and a better shopping experience than that currently offered by the stark state-run stores.

See Legislation could help offset Va.'s deficit by turning over liquor stores for the complete Northern Virginia Daily article.

Senator Obenshain has also created a group on Facebook, Virginians for ABC Store Privatization, to help increase awareness of the cause.

Update, January 31: The proposal was killed in committee today. See this update for more information.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Local Restaurant Reviewers Visit Capital Ale House

Local restaurant reviewers Nancy Rossbacher And Stephen Sylvia recently visited the Fredericksburg Capital Ale House and their review appeared in today's Free Lance-Star. They mention a few of the many menu items, and I do agree with their assessment of the bratwurst and knackwurst plate. It's one of my favorites. The reviewers didn't mention it, but the Capital Ale House also serves a very tasty Angus burger. However, I do suggest ordering that entrée on a night other than the Monday $1 burger nights, when I've found meat is apt to be over-cooked.

My first thought when reading the positive review was "Oh no, here we go again." I feared there would be another crowd surge like we recently experienced after The Pub was reviewed in the paper. However, given the crowds that already fill Capital Ale House on weekend evenings, any visitor surge is likely to be well-masked.

See the Free Lance-Star review here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Flying Dog Pays a Visit

The featured brewery for this week's "Steal the Glass Night" at Capital Ale House was Flying Dog Brewery. The Flying Dog Winnebago made an appearance as well. Four Flying Dog beers were on tap, Old Scratch Amber Ale, Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale, Double Dog Double Pale Ale, and Gonzo Imperial Porter. The beers were served in a variety of Flying Dog logo pint glasses. I've attended just a few "Steal the Glass" events at CAH but this one seemed to be exceptionally well-received, and I saw plenty of Flying Dog glassware heading out the door.

I started my evening with a Double Dog Double Pale Ale. This imperial-style pale ale packs a wallop of citrus and sweet malt with, if I may say so, a pleasant alcohol kick. At 11.5% ABV, one was enough though. I finished with a Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale before I had to leave for a prior commitment.

JT, who drove the Winnie down from Frederick, MD, also brought along some bottles of Garde Dog for sampling. This is the brewery's Spring seasonal Biere de Garde. I had a small sample of Garde Dog and found it to be very tasty. The aroma is earthy and sweet and a good preview of the taste to follow. It's tough for me to compare with last year's release, but JT told me that this year's beer has "more funk." The bottles JT had were fresh off the bottling line, so expect to see Garde Dog in stores soon.

Flying Dog made a great showing in Fredericksburg. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and folks walked away with some Flying Dog swag too. I look forward to more breweries doing the same.

Addendum: There's a Dogfish Head Beer & Cheese Pairing scheduled at Capital Ale House on February 4 with Devin Arloski of Dogfish Head Brewery.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Pub - The Secret Is Out

Friday evening our Dads Group got together for an evening of good cheer and theological discourse. This monthly gathering is usually held at The Pub. We always sit in the so-called non-smoking section and typically have the place mostly to ourselves. This weekend when the first four of us arrived we ended up getting the last available table. I asked the waitress if they were giving something away and she replied that they were "reviewed in the paper." The Free-Lance Star has let the cat out of the bag. A good review last week was the cause of the evening's crowd.

The Pub features excellent "pub grub". The burgers are the main attraction, but the fish and chips platter is another popular selection. However, don't expect a late night meal as the kitchen closes at 9:30PM even on weekends. The tap list consists of some macros, a couple of "irish" beers, along with a few craft beers. They do keep a Sam Adams seasonal on hand, and also currently have an old favorite, Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout on draft. The oak and roasted flavors of the draft Oak Barrel Stout are a bit more robust than in the bottled version. I've not had this one on draft in awhile so a few pints with dinner was a nice treat. You can also get a number of "black and tan" combinations poured if you are so inclined

After a few table shuffles, we did manage to seat our entire group of eleven. We had a good time and eventually heard from the staff that "the door is locked but you can let yourselves out anytime," indicating it was time to go home.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shooting Creek Brewery & Neighbors Reach 'Friendly' Agreement

Last month we heard that an agreement between Shooting Creek Brewery and its neighbors would finally allow the brewery to begin operation. Today, some details of that agreement were reported in the Floyd Press:
“This matter has been resolved among neighbors which is the way it should be handled,” [Floyd Attorney Jonathan] Rogers said, speaking for the Lacostes. “Both sides are happy and there is no lingering bitterness from the dispute.”

Under terms of the agreement, the microbrewery can hold up to 20 “tastings” a month at their location as long as it is limited to “friends and/or relations.” There are no limits on the brewery’s right to sell and ship their product to individuals through phone or Internet sales. The brewery also will not advertise its location on Thomas Farm Road or promote itself as open to the general public for “tastings, tours, events, on premise consumption, or person to person retail transactions except as permitted by (the) agreement.”

The agreement is described as "amicable" and the opposition parties have agreed to not oppose any further ABC licenses or permits for the brewery. That's good news. After all, we're all friends right?

See the complete Floyd Press piece here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Local Beer Updates

The Kybecca Wine Bar kicks off "Movie Night at the wine bar" tonight at 7:30pm. This new event is planned for the first Wednesday of each month. Tonight's movie is The Big Lebowski. The movie is free for patrons of the wine bar, just come in and grab a seat and order as usual. Of course, the Kybecca Wine Bar has an extensive beer list too.

The Fredericksburg Pub will open on Thursday, January 15 at 11:00am. The opening announcement states The Fredericksburg Pub will feature "85 different beers from all over the world, including a wide range of English, Scottish, and Irish draught; cask-conditioned brews, as well as domestics." My inquiry this summer asking about details on the cask-conditioned and other beer selections elicited only an old press release from the company so I can't offer more info, but we'll finally know more next week.

Blue & Gray Brewing has announced that their Valentine's Day seasonal Chocolate Raspberry Stout will be available on Friday, January 16th. The brewery's popular Minor Dementia Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout is just about gone, but more will be available in time for the annual St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Visit From The Magi

We hosted our annual Epiphany party this weekend. Good friends gathered, along with good food and good beer, for an evening of cheer. Colleen prepared a wonderful selection of both savory and sweet delights and I selected a variety of beers to offer. The beer selection was comprised of several seasonal releases; Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Clipper City Winter Storm, Sierra Nevada Celebration, and Tröegs Mad Elf. As a special treat I also had a few bottles of Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi. I set out some Old Dominion Lager for those guests that were interested in less extreme beer. That way I could offer them a beer style they are familiar with, and at the same time introduce some flavor to their palates.

Gift of the Magi is a holiday seasonal from Lost Abbey. I had ordered three bottles from an online merchant last month specifically for this party. I was sorely tempted to open one in the past few weeks but I managed to resist that temptation. Early in the evening we started pouring the Gift of the Magi. We served the beer in six-ounce tasting glasses. This was a good way to let those interested in trying the beer do so, without risking much waste, and folks could refill their glasses as desired.

The beer pours a cloudy burnt-orange color. The yeast in the bottles may have gotten a bit shaken up while the bottles were being passed around by folks looking at the label. After a few refills I had a substantial amount of sediment left at the bottom of my glass. There was a moderate amount of head produced even with the small pours. The aroma has an interesting spicy profile mixed with some citrus. The beer has frankincense and myrrh added to it and I think that is what gives it the unique aroma. The flavor is as unique as the aroma. The peppery spices are prominent with just a bit of yeast coming through. There are also some bitter hops noted. The beer is bottle conditioned with brettomyces but those flavors are subdued.

I found Gift of the Magi to be a uniquely flavored beer and I was not let down at the end of my wait to try it out. Everyone who tried the beer seemed to enjoy it and a number of folks had more than one glass. In his own epiphany of sorts, one of our friends who usually prefers flavorless macro-lagers was very impressed with the Lost Abbey beer and enjoyed several glasses.

The evening was quite enjoyable. Lots of beer and food was consumed. Before the evening was over I also brought out some 2007 Samichlaus. I felt fortunate to introduce several folks to some new beers that evening. That's always a bonus to any gathering. Spending the evening enjoying a variety of beer with good friends was an exceptional finish to the Christmas season.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Announcing Session #24 - A Tripel for a Two

The Session is a monthly collaborative effort when beer bloggers write their own perspective on a single theme. For an overview of previous Sessions, see Jay Brooks' summary here. It is my pleasure to host the 24th Session, to take place on February 6, at Musings Over a Pint.

Beer is best when it's shared, and a strong beer is just right for sharing. Belgian Tripels are big beers with a flavor profile that is enjoyed by both experienced and new beer fans. Be it an intimate evening, or watching a ball game on TV, a Tripel is made for sipping and sharing. For Session #24 the theme is "A Tripel for Two." What Tripel would you pick to share with that good friend, family member, or lover?

If you have a beer or beer-related blog, it's easy to participate in The Session. Pick a Belgian-style Tripel to review. Tell us why it's your pick to share with that special someone. Be sure to include a review of the beer so that others might be inspired to choose that beer for a special moment. Bonus points if the person with whom you are sharing the beer includes their review as well.

Post your contribution on February 6. Then leave a link to your post in the comment section below or on my own contribution on that day, or send me an email letting me know about your post. I'll post a summary of all the Session contributions within a few days of the Session date. I look forward to reading about all those interesting Belgian Tripels you've been enjoying.

Update, February 9: The Roundup for Session #24 is here.

Odds & Ends From Around Virginia let us know that Old Dominion Brewery will release their popular Dominion Millennium Ale in February. When asked about the possibility of a release party, Casey Hollingsworth, VP of Sales and Marketing for Coastal Brewing told "that there is the possibility of release events taking place at the two Old Dominion Brew Houses (DC Convention Center and College Park)." Last year Millennium did not make it to Fredericksburg, and I had to look northward for a supply. Perhaps with the recent distribution improvements for Old Dominion beers I'll be able to buy Millennium locally this year.

First Tracks Online Ski Magazine has a report on Wintergreen Hibernator Doppelbock. This is a new beer brewed by Blue Mountain Brewery specially for the Wintergreen Ski Resort. Wintergreen is a popular tourist attraction so it's good to see craft beer promoted there. According to the brewery's website Wintergreen Hibernator is also available on draft at the brewpub.

The online version of the Roanoke Times has an article on a new brewpub in Blacksburg, VA. Bull & Bones Brewhaus and Grill opened to the public on January 1. The 10,000 square foot restaurant features a 100-foot granite-topped bar. The brewpub will feature seven house brews, as well as three macro-beers. The owners say they hope to "eventually win skeptical customers over to their handcrafted brews." Amen to that.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on expansion plans at Legend Brewery. The Richmond brewery plans to add a bottling line, fermenters, and storage tanks. The plans also call for making Legend beers available in 6-packs of 12 ounce bottles. The brewery hopes to expand its distribution range as well.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Session #23 - The New Year

The January edition of The Session is being coordinated by Brewmiker (a.k.a. Beerme) at the Beer and Firkins blog. The theme is The New Year: What will you miss about 2008 and what do you expect will excite you most in 2009, in the "Beer World"?

Tough topic. I already did the requisite end of year post. I prefer to look forward to what's coming up rather than lament what's gone by. However, in the Old Dominion we are witnessing a passing of sorts. One stalwart Virginia brewery prepares to relocate out of the state, while another stands poised to claim their spot as Virginia's benchmark brewery.

It's old news now that Old Dominion Brewery plans to close the Ashburn, Virginia facility and relocate to Dover, Delaware. Old Dominion was established in 1989 and after 20 years was the brewery that came to mind when one thought of Virginia breweries. It's not the beers I'll miss, it's being able to associate Old Dominion Brewery with the Old Dominion. I do expect to the quality and availability of the beers to remain, it's the Virginia connection that will be missing. I have seen signs that under the new ownership distribution might actually be improved.

But enough of the old, it's in with the new. Starr Hill Brewery was established in 1999 in Charlottesville, Virginia and is now located in nearby Crozet. That same year they won a Gold medal (for Dark Starr Stout) at the Great American Beer Festival. Despite earning recognition at festivals almost every year, the breweries beers were limited in distribution. Then, in late 2007 Mark Thompson signed a distribution agreement with Anheuser-Busch. By the Spring of this year, the beers were available in Fredericksburg, and their range continues to expand.

What does this mean looking forward to 2009? It is my belief that Starr Hill is poised to become the new patriarch of Virginia breweries. All of their year-round beers have won multiple medals. They've also won a medal at the GABF for The Love seasonal, and also medaled in the Pro-Am competition with Smoke Out. Talk about putting a shine on the star! (Oooh, sorry.) Wider distribution, award winning beers — it all bodes well for Virginia's reputation as a beer state.

In addition to Starr Hill, there are numerous breweries making their mark in Virginia, and even more are soon to open. (Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA is another up-and-comer worth watching.) It's a great time to be a beer fan in Virginia. I look forward to enjoying more Virginia beers in 2009 and sharing those experiences here.

Update, January 3: Brewmiker has posted the Session roundup here.

January Giveaway

This month's drawing is sponsored by the Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Connecticut. The winner will get to select something from Hooker's online store. Hats, t-shirts, glassware, anything up to $14 in value, it's the winner's choice!

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

Attention brewers, writers, craft beer promoters: Do you want to sponsor a monthly drawing on the Musings? Contact me.

Update, February 1: We have a winner.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Old Dominion Pale Ale

We've been enjoying a multitude of Winter beers and special releases lately. The beers of Winter are among my favorites, but that doesn't mean that's all we drink this time of year. Although these seasonal releases still take up most of the refrigerator shelf space these days, I like to keep some more conventional beers on hand. Pale Ale from Old Dominion Brewery is one of those that I picked up on a recent shopping trip.

Old Dominion Pale Ale pours a dark copper color with a thick head. The heads drop fairly quick leaving sticky lacing behind. The aroma is mild but rich in piney hops. The flavor is a well-balanced mix of bitter grapefruit, a bit of pine, and a sweet malt background. The finish is slightly dry and the bitterness lingers for a long time. This is a refreshing, easy to drink beer.

Old Dominion's other mainstay beers, Lager, Ale, and Oak Barrel Stout all appear regularly on local retailers' shelves, even the chain grocery stores frequently stock them. For some reason the Pale Ale is less often seen. Now, perhaps due to the brewery's new association with Anheuser-Busch, and the associated distribution system, the Pale Ale joined the others on the shelf at our local grocery store. Even the brewery's Root Beer was sitting on the same shelf with the real beers.

The bottles of Old Dominion Pale Ale were dated November 2008, and still bore the Ashburn, VA address, so I assume these are still Virginia-produced. Even though the brewery will soon will be located in Delaware instead of the Old Dominion, I will be pleased to see the beer stocked regularly on store shelves, especially at the nearby grocery store.

Brooklyn Brewery Barstool Winner

The December giveaway sponsored by Awesomedeals911 was very popular. 38 readers submitted a total 68 comments in December. The randomly selected winner of the Brooklyn Brewery bar stool is Bryan of Fredericksburg. Bryan blogs at In The 'Burg

Congratulations Bryan. Please email me with your shipping address. I'll pass it along to Awesomedeals911, and they will ship your stool directly to you.

I've got another exciting drawing lined up for January too. I'll announce that tomorrow morning, but you can start commenting now to be entered in the January giveaway.