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When District ChopHouse opened almost 20 years ago, just months before what?s now Verizon Center provided the Washington Capitals with a new home, it was one of the first of a wave of new establishments in D.C.?s now bustling Penn Quarter. And it?s been an anchor of the D.C. beer scene ever since. You won?t find anything too exotic amid Barrett Lauer?s lineup of classics, casks, and bourbon barrel-aged beers, by design. Head brewer since 2004, Lauer takes pride in the standards?a nut brown, oatmeal stout, amber, IPA, and light lager?as well as seasonals and special releases he?s spent more than a decade perfecting. In the latter category belongs BarleyWine ?15, brewed in early December and released earlier this month after two months of aging.Go Big or Go Home
Malty, rich, and 10 percent alcohol, BarleyWine ?15 is not for the faint of heart. Differing from previous recipes, this year?s version of the annual delight uses a touch of oak-smoked wheat in addition to Lauer?s usual bill of malts: Pilsner, crystal, chocolate, and peated. Also a departure this year: BarleyWine ?15 has Chinook hops, most detectable alongside the darker malts in the beer?s roasted, bitter finish. But don?t mistake it for a hoppy beer. Sweet and strong without being cloying, the brew?s prominent flavors are toffee, dark chocolate, and caramelized sugar. Sound tasty? Keep careful watch over Lauer?s taps for this gem as well as some spin-offs; he?s put some in casks with dark toasted American oak chips and plans to age some in bourbon barrels for later release. District ChopHouse will also soon offer bottles of BarleyWine ?15 and other specialty brews, including its well-regarded barrel-aged Imperial stout.Photo by Tammy Tuck