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Where Spotted: Grape + Bean, 118 S. Royal St., Alexandria
Price: $5.50 per 11.2 oz. bottle
Nesting Behavior: I consider myself a prescriptive drinker: I choose my beer based on the situation at hand. Pizza begs for pilsner, fireplaces call for barleywine, and if somehow I could manage a disaster-free Thanksgiving dinner, a food-friendly Belgian holiday ale would complete the spread. But I am also prone to impulse, and I was helpless against the alluring label of Hitachino Nest XH, with the wide-eyed, drugged-out glare of its cartoon owl and—more importantly—its description, “MATURED IN SAKE CASKS.”
The Manhattan Project: I shouldn’t have been surprised, but as I poured it, the beer smelled like sake. This was followed by fruity cherry, rose, apple, and some oak-like heat that would be at home in a bourbon snifter. The beer is modeled after strong Belgian dark ales, and it shared some of those signature spice notes, not to mention a weird wormwood astringency. The sum of its parts—oak, fruit, bitter, and spice—was a beery approximation to drinking a Manhattan