Showing posts with label virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label virginia. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

NoVA Franconia

Whether it is a trendy fad or something more lasting and meaningful, I love the fact that well made lager beers are enjoying a moment in the spotlight here in Virginia.

Sure, there have always been reliable go-to breweries and beers when the lager cravings hit, or as I like to call them, "the weekend", such as Devils Backbone or Port City, but it seems as though there are more options in the shop when it comes to Virginia brewed lager.

Right now I am drinking a lot of one particular beer from the ever reliable Port City Brewing of Alexandria up in Northern Virginia. They already make 2 of my favourite beers, the lovely Downright Pilsner, and an Oktoberfest that is a more than welcome sight in autumn, so when I heard they had brought out a beer called "Franconian Kellerbier", well you knew I would hunt it down.

I didn't really have to do much hunting as another of Charlottesville craft beer fixtures, Beer Run, had it available for curbside pickup about a week after I first heard about it. Minor aside, Beer Run have been an absolute lifesaver in the last few months with a steady supply of Von Trapp lagers.

This is not about the glorious wonders of Von Trapp, it is about this beer here...


Doesn't it just look lovely in my Port City half litre bierkrug, even if the can is slightly less than a full half litre. I love that rich, ever so slightly hazy, amber and the big cap of foam so befitting of a German style lager. To look at it kind of reminds me of my usual favourite German lager, the divine aU from Mahr's Brau. 

The aroma is dominated by a wonderful toasted malt character, sitting beneath the rustic earthiness and general spice that you get with Spalt hops. I have to admit that I don't spend an awful lot of time sticking my nose into the beer because it is just so damned tasty.

That toasted bread thing is there, as is the deep sweetness that I always associate with Munich malts (ie, not sugary), and again the earthy hops bring balance and some slightly floral notes to the party. All of this is rounded out with a clean finish, a medium body, and a touch of hop bitterness that makes it magnificently easy to drink, which at 4.7% means no hangover if you bash a few of these of a school night.


I like to think of these kind of beers as "country beers", the kind of thing you would find in a village Gasthaus, possibly the only beer on tap, served just metres from where it was brewed, and very much the local hero of beer. The kind of beer that you could imagine sitting in the sun, under the shade of a old tree, and just letting the world go by, while you engaged in something completely unrelated to beer, like shelling peas that you just picked from the garden.

I have drunk a fair old whack of Franconian Kellerbier, and it is more than fair to say that I am going to miss it when it is gone, being but a seasonal beer, rather than year round. Would I swap it for one of Port City's regular lineup to be a year round brew, you bet I would, the world is quite sufficiently stocked for IPAs these days, so one of those can go as far as I am concerned.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Opening Up?

Today sees the beginning of "phase one" reopening in Virginia.

From a beer perspective that means restaurants, breweries and brewpubs are able to re-open for outdoor seating only, at 50% of their listed capacity, while maintaining appropriate physical distancing, and groups of no more than ten at any given table.

The various social media platforms I use have been almost swamped with posts from businesses announcing their decision to either expand their operations or not. The tone has varied from sombre and serious, mainly among those companies not opening up further, to celebratory from those opening up, and to be blunt some posts have been puerile to the point of crass.

Having seen a great swathe of posts I put the following on Facebook the other day:
"Have seen too many breweries, brewpubs, and restaurants touting offering outdoor seating service as of Friday with the notion of "getting back to normal".

Well forgive me for not sharing the relief while there is still no vaccine, no reliable treatment, and no cure.

Two weeks from Friday we'll be back to square one."
As a result of that post I have had several conversations with folks in the industry that I count as friends, whether brewers, servers, or owners. The majority of owners feel stuck between a rock and a hard place as they need to have some kind of revenue to pay the rent on their buildings, having unscrupulous landlords not willing to work with them to find a solution that doesn't put staff at risk. Most of the brewery staff I know are concerned that re-opening is going to turn into a shit show as people ignore physical distancing requirements, refuse to wear masks, or just behave in anti-social and frankly selfish manners, all in the name of getting their drinkies on.

One of the brewery owners I spoke with asked me the following question "what will it take to get you back to the pub?", I had no real answer on the spot, so I figured I'd take it out to Twitter...



Of the 25 people that responded to the question more than 75% are waiting for a vaccine or reliable treatment before heading back out to the pub, and I tend to agree with them.

I really do miss going to the pub, I am much more of a pub goer than a craft beer geek. I am as  perfectly happy in a great pub with a pint of Guinness as I am drinking craft lager in any of my favourite brewpubs in the Charlottesville area. However, until there is some form of medical protection against both the virus and the selfish stupidity of people banging on about their right to not wear a mask, I'll continue my drinking from home. Speaking of which, it's Friday and will soon be time to pick up a stash of fantastic lagers for the weekend while my Cascade hopped best bitter conditions in the kegerator.

Wherever you are drinking this weekend, drink responsibly, be safe, and wear a damned mask,

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Session 136: Farm Brewing in Virginia


Another month has flown by, and here we are again on the first Friday of the month thinking about The Session. This month, Dave from Brewing In A Bedsitter, aka @Ramblin_Dave on Twitter, is hosting and his theme is:
Whether it's about the success of modern craft breweries like Jester King and Burning Sky, the worldwide spread of saison or the revival of international interest in Northern European traditions, farmhouse brewing is an recurring theme in the beer world....

You could talk about how the word "farmhouse" is used in modern craft breweries, or about historic brewing traditions. You might want to think about how, if at all, the two are related.

If you think that farmhouse brewing or farmhouse beer refers to something meaningful and relevant in modern beer, you could write something touching on what it means to you. What's its defining element? Is it about style, ingredients, location or something else? Would you call a crisp, clean pilsner or a hoppy IPA a farmhouse beer if it was brewed from local ingredients in a medieval barn? What about a mixed fermentation barrel-aged saison brewed in a light industrial unit in a suburb of Manchester? Why does any of this matter?

If you want to get specific, maybe talk about one or more beers or breweries that you think embody some aspect of the idea of farmhouse brewing. Or if you're a homebrewer, you could talk about ways that your own beer has been influenced by it.

Conversely, if you think that the modern idea of a farmhouse brewery is largely just about marketing and aesthetics then you could have a go at dissecting and deconstructing it. Where did it originate and what are its roots? Who popularized it? How is it constructed and signalled? Most importantly, why are people so keen to buy into it?

Here in Virginia "farm" breweries have exploded since the passing of SB430 back in 2014, which established a new brewery license type specifically for breweries located on farms. The relevant addition to the beer licenses section of the Virginia Code reads as follows:
Limited brewery licenses, to breweries that manufacture no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per calendar year, provided (i) the brewery is located on a farm in the Commonwealth on land zoned agricultural and owned or leased by such brewery or its owner and (ii) agricultural products, including barley, other grains, hops, or fruit, used by such brewery in the manufacture of its beer are grown on the farm...
The law sets out quite clearly what the definition of a farm brewery is, as far as the Commonwealth of Virginia is concerned:
  • produce no more than 15000 Bbl per year
  • brewery is on agricultural land in Virginia
  • brewery uses that farm's agricultural produce in its beer

The first brewery to take up this license type is just down the road from me here in Central Virginia, the wonderfully monikered Lickinghole Creek Brewery. I have to admit that I have only been to the brewery itself once, Mrs V and spent several hours sitting in the midst of glorious views, drinking the first batch of their Enlightened Despot Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (I realise some will be shocked by the thought of me drinking anything barrel aged) and eating extra mature cheddar cheese with crusty bread. I was also a big fan of their session IPA, Til Sunset, until they stopped making it.


In keeping with the requirements of SB430, Lickinghole Creek grow a portion of the barley they brew with, as well as wheat and rye, and many of the herbs, fruits, and vegetables that go into beers like their Carrot Cake and Rosemary Saison. In the spirit of keeping things local, they also get some of their barley malted at Woods Mill Malting.

In the 4 years since Lickinghole Creek became the first farm brewery in Virginia, at least 10 more breweries have got in on the act. So whether your in the south west of the Commonwealth, or up north, close to DC, there is likely to be a farm brewery making beer with the produce of their land near you. You're really only shit out of luck if you go east of Richmond, at lest until later this year when Virginia Beach will be getting in on the act.

Of course, when you think about it, farm brewing in Virginia is really nothing new. Peter Hemmings brewed with corn and wheat grown on the Monticello plantation of his owner Thomas Jefferson. James Madison was so impressed with the beer produced by Hemmings that he wanted to send one of his slaves to Monticello for the autumn brewing season so he too could learn the craft. The earliest recipe I have seen for a uniquely American farmhouse beer is from southern Virginia, and dates from 1765, for perhaps the original pumpkin beer, known as Pumperkin, which used that fruit for the fermentables.

All this reminds me that I still have a bottle of that original batch of Enlightened Despot sitting in the cellar...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Go Mad My Son

Yesterday, Mrs V, myself, and my parents went up to DC for a day trip. It's only a couple of hours by car from our house to the parts of Northern Virginia that have a connection to the city itself through the wonders of the metro, and so we parked up and rode into the District of Columbia.

Having bimbled by Capitol Hill, strolled along the National Mall, sauntered around the National Air and Space Museum, we were all well and truly foot weary. Earlier in the day my mother had mentioned that my parents would like to treat us to a good meal. Not being all that knowledgeable about the DC area, and the fact that our car was out near Falls Church, I suggested trying out Mad Fox Brewing.

I have only ever heard good things about Mad Fox, so it was with some excitement, and not a little trepidation, that we took our seats. I say trepidation because so often when a place is praised to the heavens it fails to live up to my expectations.

Mad Fox would be different. From the moment I looked at the beer menu I knew what I wanted to drink. Mason's Dark Mild, a 3.3% English style mild, served on cask, that could not have been any more spot on had it tried, and yes, it was served as cask ale should be, sparkled. I tried a few samples of other beers, a k?lsch, both filtered and keller style, again excellent, an English Summer Ale, superb, and a porter which was entirely magnificent.

The beer was just one part of the deal, as there is traditionally food involved in dinner, and the food was as good as the beer. Whether is was my burger with caramelised onion jam, or my mother's fig and balsamic pizza, there was a general consensus that the food was delightful. Oh, and did I mention yet that the service was absolutely wonderful?

It's fair to say I have become a fan.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Booze and Politics

Yesterday I went to a conference at Montpelier, which was once the home of James Madison, the driving force behind the Constitution of the USA. Part of the setup at Montpelier is the Center for the Constitution, and they organised the conference around the theme of election campaign finance reform. It was a very interesting day of talks, panels and Q&A sessions, and I will be writing some posts about things that popped into my head during the day on one of my other blogs. What the hell though does this have to do with booze?

One of the speakers yesterday mentioned a story about James Madison's early steps into Virginian political life. In 1777 Madison was running for election to the House of Delegates, the lower house of Virginia's bicameral General Assembly and successor to the Colonial Era House of Burgesses. His opponent during the race was a tavern owner called Charles Porter. As was customary at the time, Porter plied the voters with rum and punch, while Madison refused to do so. Unsurprisingly, the electorate voted for Charles Porter, though Madison's supporters claimed that this custom was effectively corruption, a complaint which got nowhere with the political powers that be, after all, George Washington was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758 having used exactly the same methods.

That story brought to mind a book I read a couple of summers ago whilst lounging by the pool on our annual trip to Florida. The book is called 'Plain, Honest Men', by Richard Beeman, and is an account of the drafting of the Constitution of the USA, in 1787, and it recounts a drinking session held just before the final draft of the Constitution was signed, where many of the delegates of the Convention joined with the First Troop of the City Light Horse to honour George Washington. The bar bill for the festivities was impressive:
"fifty-four bottles of Madeira, sixty bottle of claret, fifty bottles of "old stock," copious amounts of porter, beer and cider, and some large bowls of rum punch".
Given there were, apparently, about 60 people at the event, that's quite a night's drinking per person there! I am assuming that the 'old stock' mentioned there is an old or stock ale which would have been pretty strong and then aged for well over a year.

Anyway, all this got me thinking that there may just be some correlation between booze and political life, the former lubricating the latter. Apparently, many of the compromises that eventually found their way into the American Constitution were hammered out not during the formal sessions of the Convention but after hours, in the taverns of Philadelphia over bottles of wine, beer and cider. Perhaps it would be helpful for modern political leaders to get down the pub and actually talk to each other over a few pints of 'old stock' and maybe a bottle of Madeira or two?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Law of Unintended Consequences

For those of us who live in Virginia and love beer, July 1st will likely go down as one of the best days of 2012. It was on that date that law SB 604 came into effect, allowing breweries to sell pints of their products in their tasting rooms. If you come to the Starr Hill tasting room this Saturday I will, as a result of this law, be able to sell you a pint and, speaking from the point of view of someone behind the bar, I much prefer pouring pints than samples.


As a result of the law coming into effect there have been a veritable slew of breweries opening up with tasting rooms that are effectively pubs. Unencumbered with the requirement to have 45% of their on-premise business come from food sales, I can see more and more breweries turning their tasting rooms into bars. On a personal level I very much welcome such a move, anything that means there are more pub-esque places in the Commonwealth is a good thing in my book.

However, this does raise a question in my head. Given that the legal requirement for pubs and bars to have food is now effectively redundant, why is it still on the statute book? Wouldn't it make sense for the Governor to take a pro-free market stance and reduce the daft regulation and red tape around starting a pub, thus allowing pubs to focus on what pubs are for? Good beer, maybe some snacks and being a social centre for the community, oh and making a viable living for those who want to run a pub without the hassle of being a restaurant as well?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reason to Celebrate

July 1st 2012 is a date that may prove to be decisive in the history of brewing in Virginia. That was the date when a law came into effect which allowed breweries to sell pints of their products in their tasting rooms. The main reason it may prove to be decisive is that I am fairly sure we will now see a flourishing in the numbers of small breweries opening up and taking advantage of the law to build a following without having the hassle of distribution to deal with straight off the bat.

One such brewery is opening its doors to the public on Saturday, the first of several that I am aware of in the Charlottesville area. Beer Hound Brewery is the brainchild of one of the members of the homebrew club I go to, and owner of a local homebrew shop - Fermentation Trap. Beer Hound is located in Barboursville, about 15 miles north(ish) of Charlottesville, just off the main highway that runs through the area, Route 29, which runs from Baltimore in Maryland to Pensacola, Florida.


The brewery is based in the same location as the homebrew shop, and they have a nice bar where you can try the 8 beers they will have available, which on Saturday will be:
  • Archie- American Brown Ale
  • Scottie- Scottish 60/-
  • Teufelhunde- Belgian Abbey Blonde
  • Fang- Oatmeal Stout
  • Kujo- Rabid Pale Ale
  • Olde Yella- American Pale Wheat
  • Scrappy Doo- Marzen Oktoberfest
  • Winston- Root Beer
As you can see from the names there is something of a canine going on here, that's because Kenny, the brewer, and his wife love dogs and it is pretty normal to see their dog at the shop. One thing that is interesting to note in that list is a 60/- Scottish ale, a new brewery doing a session beer? I like the sound of that and will hopefully be able to get over there on Saturday to try the beers. Given that Beer Hound is on the opposite side of town from most of the breweries, it is effectively Mrs V and I's local brewery now.

Hopefully in the near future I can impose on Kenny to do the Brewer of the Week interview, in the meantime I am looking forward to trying the beers and welcoming another brewery to the area! You can follow Beer Hound on Twitter at @BeerHoundBrewer or on their Facebook page which I linked to above.

Picture credit: not mine, taken from Beer Hound's Facebook page.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Getting It Right

I have written before about the fact that this part of Virginia is well stocked with breweries rather adept in the lager making arts, especially the guys at Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain, whose Vienna Lager and Classic Lager, respectively, are two of my go to tipples. I have also written many times about my ongoing attempts to find a Bohemian style Pilsner to satisfy my longings for something akin to the many golden drops I drank when I lived in the Czech Republic. This weekend I added another Virginia brewery to my list of go-to lagers.

Based up in Alexandria, I have been aware of Port City Brewing for a while now, mainly because their porter is quite simply sublime. The porter was the first of their beers I ever tried, when I was up in Alexandria to have my biometrics taken as part of the process of getting my unconditional green card sorted. It is an insanely easy beer to drink, which if it didn't pack a 7.5% punch I would happily drink all night, though if I am doing the drinking at home I might actually do so. Anyway, last week during one of my lunchtime wanders I popped into Market Street Wine to see if they had anything interesting on which to spend my tip money from a previous shift at Starr Hill, and so I picked up a single of Port City's Downright Pilsner. Just a side note, having the option of buying singles is great, too often have I bought 6 packs only to not really enjoy the beer and have 5 more to dispose of.


Come Friday night I got home and made a beeline to the fridge. Sadly I didn't take any pictures of the beer itself, I was too busy enjoying it. According to a tweet from Port City, the beer is simplicity in itself - 100% pilsner malt, 100% Saaz hops for 43 IBU, unfiltered, naturally carbonated. Sure enough the beer poured a touch hazy, reminding my of the kvasni?áks I loved drinking in Prague, topped off with a firm white head, I was excited to say the least. Aromas of bread, a touch of grainy cereal and the lovely hay and lemongrass of Saaz. Tastewise it is on the nail, a bit of biscuit and bread balanced with the bite of a well hopped beer, I loved it. The only thing missing was being in a beer hall like the sadly gone Radegast and being able to order a tuplak, a one litre glass. I think I'll be buying a case of this in the coming week, and foisting it on my Czech and Slovak friends when they come round to celebrate the establishment of Czechoslovakia, later in the month.


Having been suitably wowed by such finesse in bottom fermenting, I grabbed myself a six pack of Port City's Oktoberfest while I was at Whole Foods yesterday, to compare with Paulaner's Oktoberfest Wiesn - I treated myself to a 1 litre glass with a can of the Paulaner from World Market. One of my criticisms of a lot of Oktoberfest style lagers made over here is that they tend to be a bit too sweet, overloaded with caramel malts which makes them heavy to drink. Port City succeeded in not falling into that trap, making a nice clean, crisp beer with a nice juicy sweetness rather than the cloying caramel thing that some brewers go for. I can see the rest of the six pack being gleefully poured into the tuplak (sorry, just can't call it a ma?) and polished off with abandon, I wonder if I can persuade Mrs V to don a dirndl...


So there we have it, another brewery in Virginia making good lagers. Happy days all round.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On the Judge's Bench

Saturday was my kind of day. The temperature was pleasant, it rained for about 9 hours and I was a at a beer festival. The festival in question was the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival being hosted at Devils' Backbone, and I had been asked if I would like to steward at the Virginia Beer Cup part of the festival.

Having driven for an hour or so to get there, Devils Backbone being even further away since we moved into our new house, I got myself checked in and promptly asked if I wouldn't mind being a judge for the day rather than a steward. Thus it was that I found myself in the august company of several BJCP Master and National judges, as well as the executive director of the - who I also enjoyed a good chat with over a re-competition pint in the brewpub itself.

Judging a commercial beer competition is slightly different from judging homebrew. For a start you can generally assume that the brewers know what they are doing, and don't need to be reminded off the importance of sanitation and such like, and using the GABF style guidelines means you don't have to discuss the nature of a black IPA.

With something like 70 beers to judge, in 5 categories, I was very happy to be given the task of judging dark beers in the first session and then lagers in the second. Dark beers covered a multitude of styles, from brown ales to stouts and pretty much everything in between, my personal favourite was an oatmeal stout, while in the lager category a schwarzbier stood head and shoulders above the competition. I am still not sure who the oatmeal stout was from, but the schwarzbier, which eventually took best in show and hence the Virginia Beer Cup itself, was a Devils Backbone brew.

One thing that became abundantly apparent during the competition was that what Virginia perhaps lacks in the quantity of breweries, when compared to say North Carolina, is more than made up for in the quality. We have some damned good breweries in the Commonwealth, and hopefully the many startups that are in the works will add as much to the quality of our local beer as to the quantity.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Date with Isabel

Saturday was hot, and it was hot too. I had a busy day lined up, moving my cellar from our flat to the new house and then picking up some friends for the 40 mile trip to the newest venture of the guys from Blue Mountain Brewery. Shifting all my beer was heavy work, and included moving 2 carboys of fermented beer which involved much car based contortion, but it all got there safely and set up with the minimum of fuss. We went to the house yesterday and I am immensely happy with the room I chose to be the new cellar as it was 64°F, that after a couple of days of 100° temperatures and the AC being set to 78°.


The highlight of the day though was to be a trip to the newly opened, as of yesterday, Blue Mountain Barrel House. I won the trip because they had some problems with naming their beers, basically the TTB thought "Chocolate Orange Bourbon Porter" was misleading in some way and Blue Mountain decided to run a competition on Facebook to have the beer named by their followers. A quick Google search later and I had discovered that Brazil is one of the leading producers of both cocoa and oranges. I knew, in the far reaches of my memory, that Brazil had once had a royal family, so after some digging on Wikipedia I came across the page of Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, whose mother, Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies, was a member of the House of Bourbon. Thus Isabel was born.


As I said, it was hot on Saturday, something like 101° and in the aftermath of the derecho that swept through Virginia on Friday night I was half expecting the tour to be cancelled due to lack of power. As far as I know, large parts of the Commonwealth are still within electricity and thus air conditioning, and we have a week of high 90s temperature ahead of us. Thankfully the brewery was open, had power and was wonderfully cool inside. There were four of in our group, myself, local RateBeer guru Dan, Mark the photographer and my mate Ed, a local school teacher.

The tour was taken by Taylor, owner, brewer, odd job man and gentleman. We learnt that at the brewery they are doing parti-gyle brewing, blending runnings into two 15 barrel kettles to make 2 beers with every run. We saw stacks of whiskey barrels in various stages of preparation for receiving the beer that will sit and age in them. In the barrel cold room there is a wonderful smell of beer and whiskey which reminded me of many a public bar in hotels across the west coast of Scotland, I loved it. Having walked around the brewery, geeked out at the equipment, probed Taylor about his setup, learnt that they have a fascinating effluent treatment system (well, I thought it was fascinating) and discovered that it is possible to get relief from extreme heat by entering a boiler room, we took our places at the bar for a tasting.

Virginia has a law, which came into effect yesterday, allowing breweries to sell full pints in their tasting rooms, and at Blue Mountain Barrel House you can do just that, order full glasses of the beers they are producing there, including Local Species, a "Belgian-inspired, American-hopped, barrel-aged pale ale" which is delicious. You can also get, at the moment, über Pils, a strong pale lager with 40IBUs of noble hop delight. Taylor mentioned that the bottled stuff would benefit from a bit of aging, so in my fridge is my birthday beer, to sit until the middle of November.

When the time came to leave, Taylor told us that he was on his way from the main Blue Mountain Brewery and that if we went over he would let us try some of the latest über Pils current sitting in the lager tanks. He didn't need to offer twice, and we jumped in the car to head up winding Virginia roads to Afton. We sat at the bar had a pint and some pretzels and were then invited into the brewery part of the pub to try the lager. It was divine. Simply magnficent, and if I may allow myself a smug moment, as I breathed in the aroma of the beer, I asked Taylor if he had used my old friend Saaz in the hopping, and sure enough it was the aroma hop, an orange blossom and faint hay delight.

A fantastic afternoon and evening was had, and everyone got home safe and sound. I want to thank Taylor and the Blue Mountain guys for being so welcoming and I would encourage everyone who is in the area to swing by for a tour and tasting. If you can't get down to Colleen, but see the beer in the store, buy it and enjoy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Great British Beer Festival - a Reminder

This week is the Great British Beer Festival, held at Earl's Court in London rather than in the Earl's Court of London Below. Anyway, for those of you lucky people able to get along to the festival and enjoy the best of British brewing (and no, "they" are not, never have been and never will be the best of British brewing), do remember to pop round to the Bières Sans Frontières area.

In particular, head for the American Cask Ale Bar, which is designated according to the website as "W2 - Blackwell", and order a lager. Not just any lager mind, order the Devils Backbone Barclays London Dark Lager that I have posted about several times. I would ask that you only have thirds of a pint rather than anything bigger, at least until Ron has been able to get there to try some.


If crafted lagers are not your thing, preferring instead to have your tongue savaged and abused by hops, then while you are trying Virginia beers, you might want to have a bash at the Starr Hill Double Platinum, a double IPA from the brewery where I do occasional stints behind the bar of the tasting room. A third choice if you are on a Virginia themed drinking session, is St George's Nut Brown Ale - I have never had it so can't vouch for it in quality terms, but I quite like their IPA - they have the temerity to use British hops, Fuggles exclusively no less!

If you do get to try the Barclays London Dark Lager and are of the social media type, please could you tweet about it when you try it? Perhaps I could suggest the following hashtag "#BarclaysDarkLager", and please cc Devils Backbone's Twitter accout, @dbbrewingco.

Cheers and have a great time if you are going!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Help Heal Broken Bones

Earlier this week, Jason Oliver of Devils Backbone posted that his assistant, Aaron Reilly (in the black shirt below), had broken his foot and would be off work for a while.



It turns out that the break will require surgery to fix it, and so Aaron will be off work for several months, and have medical bills to pay.

The guys at Devils Backbone have decided to help offset the costs of Aaron's surgery by donating a portion of the earnings for Aaron's brew which is currently gracing the taps at the brewpub, Reilly's Rye. For each pint sold, they will donate 25 cents and $1 for each growler.

Reilly's Rye is a really nice beer, and Aaron is a fine gent with a passion for beer. So if you are heading to Devils Backbone anytime soon, please drink many pints of Reilly's Rye, fill your growlers with it and help offset some of the bills that will be coming Aaron's way.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Smoke Free Virginia

Apparently there is now a smoking ban in place for restaurants in Virginia, how does this affect me? Well, for a start, there are no such things as bars in Virginia - bars in the sense that most people understand them, watering holes, drinking dens, places with beer and maybe some snacks. To serve alcohol in Virginia it is required to serve food as well, effectively making a pub in reality a "restaurant that serves alcohol" to quote Dave over at Musings Over A Pint.

From my experience of going to "pubs" so far, very few of them have been smoky in the slightest - now admittedly my frame of reference for a smoky pub would be one of the various dark places in Prague that filled up fairly quickly with a blue fug, and you left reeking incredibly badly. But I think making restaurants no smoking is a good idea, simply because eating dinner and inhaling copious amounts of second hand smoke really isn't all that pleasant, it ruins the food for a start.

This has, however, convinced me that Virginia needs bars where the food available includes crisps, chocolate bars and pre-made sandwiches for the hungry, nothing fancy, but something which is easy to do and doesn't require massive capital investment in building a kitchen. I have to admit that I am a bit confused by the law here about what qualifies as food in order to serve alcohol, so if any of my Virginia readers can enlighten me then I would be very happy.

I do however have a problem with smoking bans in principle. What is the point of having a perfectly legal, if unhealthy, habit and then proscribing partakers in that particular habit from performing their perfectly legal act in given places? Why not go to the heart of the problem and ban tobacco (and yes I know the tobacco lobby would be up in arms)? But part of me also wonders, when will the prohibitionists attempt to force similar "alcohol bans"? Now, it would be easy to convince ourselves that the nutter prohibitionist movement could never impose another alcohol ban, but they did it before and would love to do it again, indeed I know of a few towns in the US which are "dry".

Perhaps what is needed in Virginia is a campaign for the law to be changed, and allow bars and pubs to open which are primarily "wet-led" to use the British industry parlance. I would posit that there is scant evidence that insisting on serving food in order to serve alcohol makes people likely to drink less, so why hobble entrepreneurs with ridiculous legislation? While I am in a slightly campaigning mood, I would also like to campaign for the legal age for alcohol consumption to be lowered to 18, it a person is old enough to pay taxes, smoke, vote, die in the army, then by what justification do you deny people the right to enjoy a pint at the end of the day. Also, I want to see the requirement for carding people who look over 30 in shops and other places serving alcohol outlawed - have these people never heard of "innocent until proven guilty". Yes it can be difficult to tell, but you should only card when you are not sure.

Here ends today's lesson.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Taste of Things To Come

On Saturday night Mrs Velkyal and I went for dinner and beers with some friends of ours, who I took great delight in introducing to the wonderful 11° kvasnicové lager from Pivovarsky dv?r Zvíkov. As our friends had just returned from Virginia they brought back a bottle of local beer for me to try, thus it was I got my hands on some Starr Hill Pale Ale - Starr Hill are soon to be one of my local breweries and I am very much looking forward to getting to grips with their full range.


Anyway, to the beer. It pours a rich copper colour, slightly darker than amber, and the head is white but rather thin and disappeared a bit quickly, although a little remained doggedly until the end of the drink. Being an American Pale Ale (a style of beer thankfully that I am really starting to get into!) the nose was very much full of citrus, with a slight touch of pine resin. Up front this beer is very bitter, although it has a delightfully honeyed undertone which stops it from being the equivalent of sucking lemons. The finish is dry and long, and the beer is very refreshing. In many ways this beer reminded me of my favourite pale ale, Galway Hooker - high praise indeed.


So my first beer from Charlottesville (well ok then, technically Crozet but I believe they started in CVille) has given me great encouragement, and will almost certainly be a staple beer in the fridge as it is full of flavour and yet very easy to drink.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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