Beer District

Mar 24 2011
Beer: Alpine Exponential Hoppiness
Style: Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 11%
Availability: Another beer you can’t buy in DC (sorry), this is a seasonal that comes out every year around February. On top of that, it can only be purchased in and around San Diego. If you’re ever down there, check these guys out, they make some awesome beers.
Obtained: In a trade with a guy from Southern California.
About the Brewery: Alpine Beer Company opened in 2002 and is located about 30 miles east of San Diego. They’ve become extremely well-known for their IPAs and Double IPAs, three of which (Exponential Hoppiness, Pure Hoppiness and Nelson) are on the Beer Advocate Top 100 list. I’ve had several of their beers and they range from great to incredible.
About the Beer: I had a small glass of this beer at a tasting a month ago and was blown away to the point where I immediately started seeking out a trade for a whole bottle of it. This one was most definitely worth the effort. It is flat-out fantastic, it’s ridiculously smooth and easy to  drink for being 11% (I drank a bomber pretty quickly and could’ve easily  downed another). It’s super hoppy, but there are so many other flavors  to balance out the hops that the incredible balance makes this one of  the best DIPAs out there. It reminds me a lot of Hopslam, but has more body and doesn’t lose its awesome flavor so fast (this one was bottled in early February and hadn’t changed much since the first time I had it, Hopslam would’ve been greatly diminished).
Grade: A+

Beer: Alpine Exponential Hoppiness

Style: Double/Imperial IPA

ABV: 11%

Availability: Another beer you can’t buy in DC (sorry), this is a seasonal that comes out every year around February. On top of that, it can only be purchased in and around San Diego. If you’re ever down there, check these guys out, they make some awesome beers.

Obtained: In a trade with a guy from Southern California.

About the Brewery: Alpine Beer Company opened in 2002 and is located about 30 miles east of San Diego. They’ve become extremely well-known for their IPAs and Double IPAs, three of which (Exponential Hoppiness, Pure Hoppiness and Nelson) are on the Beer Advocate Top 100 list. I’ve had several of their beers and they range from great to incredible.

About the Beer: I had a small glass of this beer at a tasting a month ago and was blown away to the point where I immediately started seeking out a trade for a whole bottle of it. This one was most definitely worth the effort. It is flat-out fantastic, it’s ridiculously smooth and easy to drink for being 11% (I drank a bomber pretty quickly and could’ve easily downed another). It’s super hoppy, but there are so many other flavors to balance out the hops that the incredible balance makes this one of the best DIPAs out there. It reminds me a lot of Hopslam, but has more body and doesn’t lose its awesome flavor so fast (this one was bottled in early February and hadn’t changed much since the first time I had it, Hopslam would’ve been greatly diminished).

Grade: A+

Mar 15 2011

A Brief Overview of Beer Trading

Beer trading might be the dorkiest-sounding part of a being a beer lover, but if you want to try some of the more interesting beers that aren’t distributed to your city of residence, it’s the most effective way to obtain them. Beer Advocate’s trade forum provides the most active beer trading community that I’ve found on the Interwebs, so that’s where I’d recommend starting if you’re going to get into this addictive hobby. Here are a few tips for how to get started and how to get the most bang for your buck out of trades:

1) Buy a few extra of whatever highly regarded seasonals/limited releases are available in your area. Beers like Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Troegs Nugget Nectar and Bell’s Hopslam are in very high demand in states where these breweries don’t distribute and can be picked up at your local liquor store fairly easily. These are great choices for getting started with trading.

2) Brewery-only limited releases can carry their weight in gold! The hype machine for these types of beers tends to run wild and the demand is usually insane immediately before and after the release. If you can get to a release or have a friend pick you up something from one, you can get on your way to trading for some great beers.

3) Be specific about what you’re looking for when posting on trade forums. One of the biggest rookie mistakes is to post a message stating what you have and not asking for anything specific in return - these posts are often ignored. Make it clear what you want and what you have to trade and if no one gets back to you, that just means you aimed a little too high.

4) Follow the trade forums prior to just diving in to get a sense of the trade value of certain beers and to see what beers are in demand.

5) Use FedEx or UPS when shipping. It’s actually illegal to ship alcohol with the USPS, and while people still use it because it’s cheaper, I’d advise against it. You could find yourself facing a fine if you’re caught.

6) Always throw in something a little extra, even if it’s just 1 or 2 12oz bottles. People like to get beer that they can’t buy in stores, so something you see in stores every day could be extremely exciting to someone else across the country.

Hopefully that can be of some use to you. Below is a complete list of my trades made to-date. I should warn you though, trading can get expensive, so don’t go too crazy!

Trade #1: 1 750 ml. of Cascade Bourbonic Plague FOR 1 375 ml of Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton & 1 12 oz. Westvleteren 12

Trade #2: 1 750 ml. of Cascade Bourbonic Plague FOR 1 22 oz. of The Alchemist Heady Topper & 1 12 oz. of De Struise Black Albert

Trade #3: 1 750 ml. of Mother Earth Silent Night FOR 1 4-Pack of Surly Abrasive (16 oz. cans) and 1 16 oz. can of Surly Furious

Trade #4: 1 750 ml. of Mother Earth Silent Night, 1 12 oz. of Founders Red’s Rye PA & 1 12 oz. of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter FOR 1 375 ml. of Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme (2009 vintage) & 1 22 oz. of Alpine Duet IPA

Trade #5: 9 12 oz. Bell’s Hopslams, 2 12 oz. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stouts and 1 12 oz. Red’s Rye PA FOR 1 375 of Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa, 1 375 of Lost Abbey Red Poppy, 1 375 of Russian River Consecration and 1 500 ml. of Russian River Pliny the Elder

Trade #6: 1 375 ml. of Russian River Temptation, 1 12 oz. of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (2010) & 1 12 oz. of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (2009) FOR 1 375 ml. of Cantillon Blabaer Lambik (2010 vintage) - note: this was an international trade and shipping costs were HIGH

Trade #7: 1 750 ml. of Jester King Black Metal & 1 750 ml. of Brewer’s Art Ozzy FOR 1 750 ml. of East End Gratitude and 1 16 oz. Surly Abrasive

Trade #8: 1 750 ml. of Jester King Black Metal FOR 1 375 ml. Lost Abbey Sinners Ale 2010

Mar 10 2011
The beer above (Cigar City Or) is all that remains of my recent trip to Florida with my girlfriend. Thanks to her parents, who were wonderful hosts, we spent a good amount of time exploring the burgeoning South Florida craft beer scene. As far as I can tell, Florida was largely a craft beer desert until 2008 when Cigar City Brewing opened up in Tampa and immediately started taking the craft beer world by storm. Now South Florida appears to be getting in on the action as well.
We hit up three beer bars in our short time down there. The first was 8 Oz. Burger Bar in Miami Beach, which had a great draft list and some interesting, hard to find bottles like Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and Brooklyn Black Ops. Their burgers were also top-notch. Next we stopped in at The Abbey brewpub, a quirky little place also in Miami Beach. This place came highly recommended, but failed to live up to expectations. They only had 2 of their own beers on tap, they didn’t serve any food, and the place just had a strange vibe to it with the oddly dim lighting and a weird bartender who claimed not to drink. Finally, we stopped in at World of Beer in Coconut Creek, a fairly new bar with 40ish beers on tap and several hundred more available in bottles. The prices were great, all draft beers were available in 4 oz. sample pours, and while they didn’t serve food, you could have food delivered to you by any of the restaurants in the immediate vicinity. This is a great place with a promising future. Unfortunately we never made it over to the Funky Buddha Lounge, whose Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is a new entrant on Beer Advocate’s Top 100 list, but they didn’t have that beer on tap anyway, so it will have to wait for another trip.
The local beer stores in South Florida leave a little something to be desired, but Total Wine in Ft. Lauderdale had a great selection, and I was able to try a number of Cigar City beers I’d never had before (including Jai Alai, Maduro, Guava Grove and Vuja De).
Overall South Florida’s beer scene has a ways to go, but it seems like they are miles ahead of where they were just a few years ago. I’m guessing more craft breweries will start distributing their beers down there soon (I couldn’t believe Sweetwater didn’t!), and the scene will continue to grow.

The beer above (Cigar City Or) is all that remains of my recent trip to Florida with my girlfriend. Thanks to her parents, who were wonderful hosts, we spent a good amount of time exploring the burgeoning South Florida craft beer scene. As far as I can tell, Florida was largely a craft beer desert until 2008 when Cigar City Brewing opened up in Tampa and immediately started taking the craft beer world by storm. Now South Florida appears to be getting in on the action as well.

We hit up three beer bars in our short time down there. The first was 8 Oz. Burger Bar in Miami Beach, which had a great draft list and some interesting, hard to find bottles like Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and Brooklyn Black Ops. Their burgers were also top-notch. Next we stopped in at The Abbey brewpub, a quirky little place also in Miami Beach. This place came highly recommended, but failed to live up to expectations. They only had 2 of their own beers on tap, they didn’t serve any food, and the place just had a strange vibe to it with the oddly dim lighting and a weird bartender who claimed not to drink. Finally, we stopped in at World of Beer in Coconut Creek, a fairly new bar with 40ish beers on tap and several hundred more available in bottles. The prices were great, all draft beers were available in 4 oz. sample pours, and while they didn’t serve food, you could have food delivered to you by any of the restaurants in the immediate vicinity. This is a great place with a promising future. Unfortunately we never made it over to the Funky Buddha Lounge, whose Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is a new entrant on Beer Advocate’s Top 100 list, but they didn’t have that beer on tap anyway, so it will have to wait for another trip.

The local beer stores in South Florida leave a little something to be desired, but Total Wine in Ft. Lauderdale had a great selection, and I was able to try a number of Cigar City beers I’d never had before (including Jai Alai, Maduro, Guava Grove and Vuja De).

Overall South Florida’s beer scene has a ways to go, but it seems like they are miles ahead of where they were just a few years ago. I’m guessing more craft breweries will start distributing their beers down there soon (I couldn’t believe Sweetwater didn’t!), and the scene will continue to grow.

Feb 26 2011

A Night at ChurchKey

It had been a little too long (two months or so) since I’d last been to ChurchKey (http://www.churchkeydc.com/), so I figured having an old friend in town was a great reason to head on over there for some delicious beer on a Thursday night. ChurchKey, which opened about a year and a half ago, has single-handedly transformed the DC craft beer scene. Its unexpected massive popularity has caused other bars around the city to also start paying attention to the craft beers they carry, and it’s been great for beer fans like myself. I’ve always been a beer fan, but ChurchKey really helped me open my eyes to the huge world of beer out there, and got me out of the comfort zone I had fallen into. I can say definitively that without ChurchKey, I would not have this blog.

I started out the night with Mikkeller’s It’s Alive (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13307/43080) a Belgian Pale Ale with some wild yeast added in at the end of fermentation. It wasn’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped, but it was still a very tasty, easy-to-drink, somewhat sweet Belgian ale. Next I ordered a couple of the 4 oz. sampler pours that I love so much: another Mikkeller, the Big Worst Barleywine (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13307/56831), and Stillwater’s 25 to One Belgian Stout (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/22150/66512). Flat-out, the Big Worst was horrendous. Yes I know that it’s 18.5% alcohol, but I thought it was undrinkable. It was way too sweet and boozy and the other flavors in there just got buried by the cloying sweetness. I couldn’t even finish 4 ounces of it and gave it to my friend. The 25 to One was better, but nothing special. It was a fairly easy-drinking stout with a nice balance, but there was nothing about it that made it stand out.

After some disappointing beers, I went to an old favorite to try to right the ship, but maybe my taste buds were just off that night because even Founders Dirty Bastard (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/1199/7463) didn’t taste up to its normal level of awesomeness. This beer was the first Scotch Ale that ever stood out to me with some great maltiness and a little bit of sweetness, but I think after having such strong-tasting beers early on, it couldn’t keep up. Finally, I finished the night with a 4 oz. glass of Westoek Belgian Blonde (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/3464/64116), a beer brewed in collaboration with the world-famous Struise brewery in Belgium. This was a great-tasting light Belgian ale and definitely the highlight of the night. While there were a few disappointments, it was nice to finish the evening on a high note.

Grades: Mikkeller’s It’s Alive: B+, Mikkeller Big Worst: D, Stillwater 25 to One: B, Founders Dirty Bastard: A-, Westoek: A-

Feb 24 2011
Why can’t all great beers be so cheap? Last night I had a Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (pictured above) from Central Waters Brewing Company in Wisconsin (http://www.centralwaters.com/). This has got to be one of the best barleywines I’ve ever had, and for a style that often runs on the very pricey side, it was insanely affordable. My friend Dan brought me some from Wisconsin, where he got a 4-pack for $10.99! Now compare that to the $24 I paid for one 750 ml. bottle of Pelican Mother of All Storms, and it’s just silliness. As with most bourbon barrel-aged beers, the bourbon was really heavy in the smell, but the beer did a great job of balancing out the bourbon with the other flavors in the taste. There was a good amount of sweet caramel and vanilla flavor going on here, and the barrel-aging definitely mellowed out some of the hoppy character that you could tell was lurking in this beer. As it warmed up, the hops made themselves even more known, just adding to the complexity of this delicious barleywine. For a beer so high in ABV (11.5%) it was incredibly smooth and drinkable. Overall this was a phenomenal beer and I’ll give up a bump from an A to an A+ for being the best barrel-aged barleywine you can get for the buck.
Grade: A+

Why can’t all great beers be so cheap? Last night I had a Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (pictured above) from Central Waters Brewing Company in Wisconsin (http://www.centralwaters.com/). This has got to be one of the best barleywines I’ve ever had, and for a style that often runs on the very pricey side, it was insanely affordable. My friend Dan brought me some from Wisconsin, where he got a 4-pack for $10.99! Now compare that to the $24 I paid for one 750 ml. bottle of Pelican Mother of All Storms, and it’s just silliness. As with most bourbon barrel-aged beers, the bourbon was really heavy in the smell, but the beer did a great job of balancing out the bourbon with the other flavors in the taste. There was a good amount of sweet caramel and vanilla flavor going on here, and the barrel-aging definitely mellowed out some of the hoppy character that you could tell was lurking in this beer. As it warmed up, the hops made themselves even more known, just adding to the complexity of this delicious barleywine. For a beer so high in ABV (11.5%) it was incredibly smooth and drinkable. Overall this was a phenomenal beer and I’ll give up a bump from an A to an A+ for being the best barrel-aged barleywine you can get for the buck.

Grade: A+

Feb 22 2011

Quarry House

I took my first trip ever to the Quarry House in Silver Spring tonight (http://www.quarryhousetavern.com/). It’s a great dive bar with a fantastic beer list, something we could use more of in DC proper. The burgers were excellent (and 1/2 price tonight, hooray for good fortune there), and even the craft beer was pretty affordable. I started out with a Dogfish Head Red & White (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/10099/32435), a big, boozy Belgian-style ale fermented with pinot noir juice. It definitely had a little bit of wine characteristic to it, but ultimately it was a little too sweet and boozy for my tastes, and the other flavors weren’t enough to support it. Still a solid beer, but one I wouldn’t go out of my way for in the future. Next I had a Tripel Karmeliet from Bosteels (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/202/656), a delicious, well-balanced Belgian Tripel that went down very smoothly. It had some nice spice and fruit flavors without being overly sweet as some tripels can be. Finally, I closed my night with an Orkney SkullSplitter (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/118/402), a Scotch Ale that I’ve seen around for years and eventually just had to try. This beer was very malty and a little sweet, but I was expecting a bit more from it. It wasn’t nearly as flavorful as I expected, and while it was definitely a solid beer, I had hoped for more from one of the top-rated Scotch ales in the world.

Grades: Dogfish Head Red & White: B, Tripel Karmeliet: A-, Orkney SkullSplitter: B

Feb 21 2011
This past Saturday, after deciding I had far too much work to head up to Baltimore for Max’s Belgian Beer Fest (http://www.maxs.com/), I settled for a pretty fantastic consolation prize of drinking some beer at the Dupont Circle location of Pizzeria Paradiso (http://www.eatyourpizza.com/). For those who may not know, Paradiso probably has the second most interesting beer list in town (after the illustrious ChurchKey), and often gets beers that aren’t typically available in DC. What inspired this particular trip was that they had one of my favorite lambics, Cantillon Kriek, on tap (I’ve never seen Cantillon on tap anywhere before!), as well as Cigar City’s Guava Grove Saison.
The place was pretty crowded, but after only a few minutes we were able to get a seat at the bar, and I dove right into some Cantillon, and it was just as incredible as it always is, a perfectly balanced fruit lambic. Next I ordered the Guava Grove, but TRAGEDY, the keg had been kicked earlier in the evening. They had some available in bottles, but it was a little on the pricey side, so I passed and opted for some Southern Tier Gemini DIPA instead. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as the Gemini was waaay too sweet for my liking. After that, I decided I wanted to try something new, and I’d been eying a beer in the fridge since we had gotten there. De Molen (http://www.brouwerijdemolen.nl/index.php/en.html) is a Dutch brewery that I’ve only recently heard of, and I’ve never seen their beers anywhere before, so when the Hel & Verdoemenis (pictured above) caught my eye, I knew I had to have one. It wasn’t cheap ($15 for a 12 oz. bottle), so I convinced my friend to split it with me, but wow, it was totally worth every penny. This was one of the best stouts I have ever had. It was somewhat sweet and less roasty than most stouts, but still had an incredibly complex, chocolate malt/fruit flavor. I need to go back and have more of this beer! Finally, I finished the night with a Thomas Hardy’s English Barleywine (2008 vintage). This was a tasty barleywine that carried a very raisiny flavor with it, but didn’t blow me away.
With another successful night at Paradiso in the books, we headed out into the night, and I’ve been trying to track down more of De Molen’s beers ever since.
Grades: Cantillon Kriek: A, Southern Tier Gemini: C+, Del Molen Hel & Verdoemenis: A+, Thomas Hardy’s: B+

This past Saturday, after deciding I had far too much work to head up to Baltimore for Max’s Belgian Beer Fest (http://www.maxs.com/), I settled for a pretty fantastic consolation prize of drinking some beer at the Dupont Circle location of Pizzeria Paradiso (http://www.eatyourpizza.com/). For those who may not know, Paradiso probably has the second most interesting beer list in town (after the illustrious ChurchKey), and often gets beers that aren’t typically available in DC. What inspired this particular trip was that they had one of my favorite lambics, Cantillon Kriek, on tap (I’ve never seen Cantillon on tap anywhere before!), as well as Cigar City’s Guava Grove Saison.

The place was pretty crowded, but after only a few minutes we were able to get a seat at the bar, and I dove right into some Cantillon, and it was just as incredible as it always is, a perfectly balanced fruit lambic. Next I ordered the Guava Grove, but TRAGEDY, the keg had been kicked earlier in the evening. They had some available in bottles, but it was a little on the pricey side, so I passed and opted for some Southern Tier Gemini DIPA instead. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as the Gemini was waaay too sweet for my liking. After that, I decided I wanted to try something new, and I’d been eying a beer in the fridge since we had gotten there. De Molen (http://www.brouwerijdemolen.nl/index.php/en.html) is a Dutch brewery that I’ve only recently heard of, and I’ve never seen their beers anywhere before, so when the Hel & Verdoemenis (pictured above) caught my eye, I knew I had to have one. It wasn’t cheap ($15 for a 12 oz. bottle), so I convinced my friend to split it with me, but wow, it was totally worth every penny. This was one of the best stouts I have ever had. It was somewhat sweet and less roasty than most stouts, but still had an incredibly complex, chocolate malt/fruit flavor. I need to go back and have more of this beer! Finally, I finished the night with a Thomas Hardy’s English Barleywine (2008 vintage). This was a tasty barleywine that carried a very raisiny flavor with it, but didn’t blow me away.

With another successful night at Paradiso in the books, we headed out into the night, and I’ve been trying to track down more of De Molen’s beers ever since.

Grades: Cantillon Kriek: A, Southern Tier Gemini: C+, Del Molen Hel & Verdoemenis: A+, Thomas Hardy’s: B+

Feb 17 2011

Black Squirrel/Port City Optimal Wit

Made it over to @ThBlackSquirrel tonight for 1/2 price burger night and a few beers. They had Port City Optimal Wit, a beer from the DC area’s newest brewery - Port City Brewing (http://www.portcitybrewing.com/), on tap, so I felt obligated to try it out and support local beer. Witbiers are not typically my favorite style, and this beer definitely didn’t blow me away, but it was tasty and well-balanced and a nice introduction to a new brewery. I’m looking forward to trying more from them in the future. I also grabbed a Founders Double Trouble Double IPA, a beer I haven’t had in a long time and one that I was really looking forward to trying to compare to all of the other DIPAs I’ve been drinking lately. It’s a very solid beer, but it’s not a standout in the style, unfortunately. Still, Founders’ beers are always well above average, and this was no exception. Double Trouble just isn’t an outstanding DIPA, but it’s definitely worth trying if you see it around.

Port City Optimal Wit: B; Founders Double Trouble: B+

Feb 15 2011

Writing for DCBeer!

In addition to this blog, I’ve also started writing for DCBeer.com, an already-established blog that focuses almost exclusively on local bars, breweries and events. My first post, about the upcoming Barleywine Festival at Mad Fox Brewing Company is up at http://dcbeer.com/2011/02/15/mad-fox-to-host-barleywine-festival/

Feb 14 2011
Above is the photo from our tasting/going away party for one of the guys in our beer tasting group who is moving back to the west coast. It was an amazing time and we had some incredible beers. The lineup from left to right:
Bell’s Hopslam, Founders Imperial Stout,  Short’s The Good Samaritan, Allagash Victor Francestein, Green Flash Silva Stout, Russian River Redemption, Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label (2010), Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label (2004), Kerkom Bink Grand Cru, Foothills Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate, Alesmith Grand Cru, Short’s Cup A Joe, Short’s Black Cherry Porter, North Coast Old Stock (2007), Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barleywine
Highlights were the Victor Francestein, the Silva Stout, the Sexual Chocolate and the Kuhnhenn Barleywine. It was also pretty fantastic to get to try the two Girardin Gueuzes right next to each other. They tasted completely different from one another, but both were delicious.

Above is the photo from our tasting/going away party for one of the guys in our beer tasting group who is moving back to the west coast. It was an amazing time and we had some incredible beers. The lineup from left to right:

Bell’s Hopslam, Founders Imperial Stout,  Short’s The Good Samaritan, Allagash Victor Francestein, Green Flash Silva Stout, Russian River Redemption, Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label (2010), Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label (2004), Kerkom Bink Grand Cru, Foothills Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate, Alesmith Grand Cru, Short’s Cup A Joe, Short’s Black Cherry Porter, North Coast Old Stock (2007), Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barleywine

Highlights were the Victor Francestein, the Silva Stout, the Sexual Chocolate and the Kuhnhenn Barleywine. It was also pretty fantastic to get to try the two Girardin Gueuzes right next to each other. They tasted completely different from one another, but both were delicious.

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