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The top beer wish on my wish list has been fulfilled, and D.C. now has a strong cask ale presence — strong enough that we honored the trend in the new Best of D.C. issue, out today. So what’s next on the wish list?
D.C. might have the best beer availability of any city in America; we get great beer from both coasts, from Michigan, from Colorado, from the Southeast and from New England. We have a German beer garden coming, and the city’s finer establishments are showcasing rare, up-and-coming microbrews from Italy and Quebec. And lord knows we have our share of Belgian beer and mussel houses.
So maybe it’s selfish to ask for more, but I want British-style beer. Fresh, mild, buttery, low-alcohol (“session”) beers that are meant for downing by the pint. Enter Oliver Breweries.
Oliver is the house label for the Baltimore brewpub Pratt Street Ale House, which began distributing to the District in October, filling our casks with ales of real English provenance. Brewmaster Stephen Jones hosted a dinner at Commonwealth on Tuesday in which he showcased his liquid offerings and genuine English accent.
Before moving to the U.S., Jones logged four years experience brewing for the UK’s now-defunct Firkin Brewery (not related to the Canadian chain of the same name). In 1999 he moved to Baltimore and started at Oliver, working for brewmaster Barrett Lauer — who now mans the tanks at District Chophouse — before taking over the top spot in 2001.
Oliver’s Brit cred goes deeper than their brewer, however. They use only Ringwood yeast, an English standby, and mostly English malts and hops — the hops in particular known for their mild flavors and low bitterness, a hemisphere removed from our citrusy west-coast crop. Oliver’s mainstay beers, such as their Ironman Pale Ale and Dark Horse mild, are brewed with cask treatment in mind, with subtle flavors that come out in every buttery pint at Commonwealth, Pizzeria Paradiso, Churchkey, or anywhere else you find the beers that are now flooding the city.
What do they taste like? Keep an eye out here on Y&H for the Drool List of beers from the Commonwealth beer dinner.