Thursday, July 29, 2010

Breakfast Beer: Shennandoah Chocolate Donut Stout

One of the most rewarding aspects of the craft beer movement that has been taking place in the U.S. for the last 30 years or so, is the quality and variety of beer styles that are being brewed. We are very fortunate to have a staggering amount of choices. Small local brewers are allowed to experiment, and are brewing up beer styles that just could not be produced on a large, commercial scale. A great example of what I am talking about is Chocolate Donut Stout from the Shenandoah Brewing Company of Alexandria, VA.
Beer for breakfast? Donut beer? Has to be a gimmick right? Yes and no. While this beer might indeed be gimmicky, it is in fact a very tasty sweet stout, that you guessed it, smells and tastes very similar to a glazed chocolate donut. The brewery calls this beer a double chocolate stout that is brewed with real chocolate, and essence of donut that is added to the beer using a "secret method."
Chocolate Donut Stout pours to a murky deep brown to black color with a tan head that fades, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose on this beer is sweet and sugary, with aromas of sweet donut glaze, chocolate malt, dark chocolate, and hints of vanilla. The palate is soft and fat on the tongue with flavors sweet and chocolate malt, dark chocolate, and sweet glaze flavor. This beer finishes with more flavors of chocolate malt, hints of light roast, and more donut glaze sweetness.
This beer is very sweet and a bit one dimensional. That being said, it does taste like a chocolate donut, and that is the whole point of this effort. This beer makes for a unique beer tasting experience, and for the curious is well worth a try. It would work well with deserts, or as a desert itself. Available in select Northern Virginia markets on draught and in bottles, this beer is a bit hard to find, but can be purchased at the brewery. For more information visit:

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Bold and the Beautiful: Bold City Brewing, Jacksonville, FL

Being a veteran of the craft beer scene for past 20 years or so, has really made me appreciate beer at the local level. For me, there is nothing better than drinking local and finding those small, artisan brewpubs and breweries that serve their local markets. I've had some amazingly good beers along the way and some places have been particularly memorable. One such place is the Bold City Brewery of Jacksonville, FL. I was fortunate enough the visit this place last year, and enjoyed many a pint in their beautiful, little tap room/pub area attached to the brewery.
Founded in 2008, Bold City has only been brewing for two years, but in that short time, they have gained a very strong and local following. Bold City brews up an number of different beers styles, and they are doing them very well. If you visit the tap room, you will find 7-10 beers pouring, including a seasonal offering, and special "one off" beers. I was able to enjoy a cream ale, a hefeweizen, a pale ale, English old ale, a red ale, a brown ale, and IPA, and espresso aged brown ale, and a smoked porter.
A very impressive line up, and each beer I tried was flavorful and delicious. Bold City does a fantastic thing as well. If you are going to purchase a beer at the tap room, they will give you a free sample try of every beer they have on tap. If you are hungry? They have a private catering who will grill up some burgers and wings for you as you enjoy the beer in the tap room.
Want to take some beer to go?
Growlers are available as well. Due to Florida law, the growlers are a gallon in size. Most growlers are either 2 liters or a half gallon making the Florida growler quite unique. This should not deter you from purchasing one in my opinion. The initial investment of $20 for a gallon of world class craft beer is money well spent. I was happy to fill my growler with their winter seasonal smoked porter. I will return with my growler the next time I find myself in the Jacksonville, FL area. The brewery has recently purchased a bottling line, and is in the process of offering Bold City beers in 12 oz bottles. Look for find their beers at local retailers and of course cases to be sold at the brewery to go. For now, Bold City beers are available on draught at restaurants and bars in the Jacksonville area, so these beers are well worth seeking out if you are in the area. If you are a beer lover? Then a visit the brewery is a must visit. For more information on this incredible little, local brewery visit:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

End Game: Brewdog The End of History

Extreme beers have been a huge trend in the craft beer world for the past 5 years or so. Breweries world wide have been pushing the envelop be it big hops, big malt, big sour, big alcohol. You name it, odds are a brewery has done it, and there is always another brewery out there that is ready to top that with an even more extreme version. The Brewdog Brewery of Fraserburg, Scotland has pretty much ended the game with their latest beer The End of History.

This beer now holds the title of the strongest beer in the world, coming in at 55% abv or 101 proof. Only twelve 33 ml bottles (which have since been sold) were produced, and the beer retails at $770 a bottle, making it the most expensive beer in the world as well. But it gets even better. The End of History is marketed in road kill. Each bottle is marketed in a taxidermied carcass of either a squirrel, rabbit, or weasel.

Enough already. This quite frankly is ridiculous. The point of extreme beer is lost, if what you have is a beer being brewed just because you can, or you are going for some sort of record, to "one up" the next brewery. That is all Brewdog is doing. It has nothing to do with showing "big corporate brewers" the amazing things they can do with beer. I love Brewdog's beers but this is just a pissing contest plan and simple. Evidence of this was Brewdog's extreme IPA Sink the Bismark a 41% ABV beer that was brewed to recapture the "world strongest beer" record that a German brewery had broken.

The End of History is suppose to be based on a Belgian blond ale infused with nettles and juniper. I doubt you will find any beer character in this beer, and the brewery states, drink it as a shot like a fine whiskey. Pointless. If I want a fine Scotch whiskey, I'll purchase one, and pay a lot less than this gimmick of a beer.

Congratulations Brewdog, you have ended the whole extreme beer trend, it has offically "jumped the shark." And in my opinion it is about time. For more information visit:

Fox Hunt: Mad Fox Saison

Bill Madden, CEO and brewmaster of The Mad Fox Brewing Company, of Falls Church, VA is no stranger to American beer lovers. This award winning brewer has been brewing up some amazing beers over the last 15 years or so in the DC Metro Area. Be it at Capitol City Brewing, Founders, or Vintage 50, Bill's beers have had a loyal and faithful following. On July 12th, 2010 Madden finally opened Mad Fox, and has hit the ground running.

Mad Fox features at any one time 5-7 beers, as well as six beer engines serving up cask conditioned beers as well. I was fortunate enough to pay Mad Fox a visit and enjoyed the fantastic atmosphere, service, food, and of course the beer. One beer that I really enjoyed is Mad Fox Sasion. The brewery describes this one as such:

Saison (6% ABV)

A sturdy farmhouse-style ale that showcases a yeast from northern France, along the Belgian border. The earth and spice notes as well as the citrus fruit character are yeast driven. The balance and complexity of the aroma will change as the beer warms in your hand. Medium bitterness and honeyish malt with a semi-dry finish.
Mad Fox Saison pours to a hazy, pale, golden color, with a tight, white head that fades, and a lively carbonation. The nose on this beer is fantastic, with big spicy/earth aromas of yeast, paired with citrus, and touches of malt sweetness. The palate is firm, with good pale malt flavor, paired with some spicy flavors of yeast, and touches of citrus. This beer finishes with more of those good pale malt, yeasty and citrus flavorful up front, then ends dry with some hop bitterness that lingers with spicy yeast flavor.
Excellent example of saison. This is an outstanding beer to enjoy as an aperitif, and a phenomenal beer to match with a number of dishes on Mad Fox's menu, which is tailor made to match with all the house brewed beers. Mad Fox has arrived, and will be a go to destination for anyone who loves good craft beer in the DC Metro Area. For more information visit:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Retreat from Battle: Lee's Retreat Brewpub at Blue & Gray Brewing

Great news for beer lovers in and around the Fredericksburg, VA area. Lee's Retreat the long awaited brewpub that is attached to the Blue & Gray Brewing Company is now open for business. This is truly a great thing. Now you can enjoy Blue & Gray's beers on draught with some appetizers, or a nice meal as well as getting your growlers filled or purchase bottle product at the brewery. For more information visit:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Give me Liberty! Anchor Liberty Ale

On this most sacred day for Americans, our Independence Day, I can not think of a more appropriate beer to celebrate with than a few ice cold bottles of Anchor Liberty Ale from the Anchor Brewing Company, of San Francisco, CA. This beer has never been called an American Pale Ale or American India Pale Ale by style, but may indeed be the prototype to those two now classic style that were to come and can be found with great ease today.

Liberty Ale was first or one of the the very first examples of an American beer that featured the Cascade hop variety, an hybrid American hop grown in the Pacific Northwest. Cascades are unmistakable in a beer. They have those signature lemon, citrus hop aromas, flavors and bitterness that really make a great "hoppy" beer just sing hops. This beer was first brewed by Anchor in 1975 to commemorate the ride of Paul Revere, so today of all days is a great day to lift an Liberty Ale and say God Bless America.

This beer is an American classic. Hop character is in this beer in abundance, yet this beer has a solid malt backbone to balance, and is a very drinkable beer. Liberty Ale is dry hopped which means it conditions over whole flower hops giving this beer very fragrant hop aromatics that make it even more complex and inviting.

Anchor Liberty Ale pours to a deep orange color, with a tight white head that fades, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose on this beer is just bursting with fragrant, zesty, vibrant, citrus/lemon and slight herbal hop aromas. This is paired with a touch of pale and caramel malt aroma, but the hop aroma really shines here. The palate is soft with good pale and caramel malt flavors, with some light fruit flavor. Liberty Ale finishes with more malt and fruit flavor up front, then ends with a long, dry, citrus hop bitterness that lingers.

This is a wonderful beer to drink or enjoy with a meal. It makes a great aperitif beer, and is the beer world's answer to a dry martini. It is a great beer to enjoy year round, but this one would be a natural at any cook out or barbecue today on the 4th of July. Happy 4th of July!! God Bless America! For more info visit:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Discover Beer this Fall: Brew Masters

This is long overdue. The Discovery Channel is coming out with a new series this Fall called Brew Masters. The series will be hosted by Dogfish Head Brewery founder and owner Sam Caligione. Should be a very interesting look at beer, the brewing process, the history, the culture. I really wish they had done this one when Michael Jackson aka The Beer Hunter was still alive. I remember meeting and talking with Jackson at a beer dinner 14 years ago and MJ saying to me "I would love to do another series." The Discovery Channel was just not interested at that time, and sadly Jackson, the man who would have been the clear choice for this passed away in 2007. The Beer Hunter aired in 1989 on Discovery, and still is the most definitive series on beer over 20 years later. I wish Sam a lot of luck, I'll tune in, but Sam is no Jackson.


I watched all five episodes of Brew Masters, and while I enjoyed it, it was a bit of a let down to me. It was nice to see the day to day operations of the Dogfish Head Brewery and founder Sam Caligione going on adventures to Peru and Egypt. That being said? It seemed like one big infomercial for DFH. I do not believe this formula is going to work if Brew Masters features Dogfish Head again. I believe a new brewer needs to be featured. Frankly I got a bit tired of Sam and the gang after the third episode.