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Last week’s beer madness is finally over. The Lagerheads, now tired and dehydrated, wound up attending five beer events in seven days, trying 64 (mostly) new beers in one week. This feat bests even the honeymoon we took through Belgium and southern Germany, but those were full beers and these were usually only 3-ounce pours. Even so, it was a marathon of cup swirling and mouth swishing that has left our palates in a state of confusion. The week certainly deserves multiple posts, and we’ll be providing those in the coming days. But to start, we’d like to reflect on some of our favorite pours from Saturday’s Savor event at the National Building Museum.
Here are the ones that bubbled to the top for each of us.
- Legend’s Maibock: Richmond’s Legend is a regional treasure, an inventive brewery that has built a range of truly fine beers. Among those is the seasonal Maibock, based on the original German style. Tried this one after sampling the same style from Gordon Biersch. No contest. Legend’s packed far more flavor with a solid malt profile with strong caramel and nut flavors combined with notes of fresh fruit. It transported Bruce back to his college study-abroad days in a Bavarian beer garden.
- Left Hand’s Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter: Let’s be honest… Smokejumper is an awesome name for a beer, which is what invited our interest in the first place. (What’s a smokejumper? Read this book immediately.) The beer poured with a persistent tan head and was extremely dark in color. Its smoked flavor suited its name perfectly, with an almost rugged quality that actually could make you want to leap from an airplane… if you drink enough of it. But for all its unique character, the smoke was not overpowering, and the beer had a surprisingly smooth finish. A real find.
- Lagunitas’ Gnarly Wine: Again, how can you beat a name like that? Like the Smokejumper, the Gnarly Wine lived up to its billing. It was truly gnarly—in the best possible way. Packs a punch at 11% ABV. A super-malty, rich beer that reaches the limit of the style. Any stronger and sweeter, and it would not have been palatable. But extremes are the fashion these days, and Gnarly Wine charted new territory without becoming lost in the process.
- Flying Fish’s Exit 4 American Trippel: Bruce’s favorite beer of the night. Recently profiled on NPR, Flying Fish plans to create an entire line of beers named after exits on the Jersey Turnpike. If this first installment is any indication, we have much to look forward to. Brewed in the Belgian style, the beer stands up to any of the originals we’ve sampled from across the pond. Strong citrus flavors balanced with hops, but not overpowered by bitterness. A surprising and impressive beer that Bruce hopes to find somewhere for purchase in DC. (Anyone seen it around?)
- Boulevard’s Saison-Brett: From this Kansas City brewery’s Smokestack Series of complex, limited-edition ales, the Saison-Brett was a delicate mix of spice, citrus, and yeast-produced tartness. The bottle’s stunning label caught Tammy’s eye, and she hopes to be lucky enough to come across her own bottle so she can enjoy more than a taste of this refreshing, dry farmhouse ale.
- Coronado’s Orange Avenue OPA: In addition to the orange and coriander thing, this beer had some nice wheat and honey flavors going for it and a surprisingly low hop presence. Tammy considered this fairly light Californian “Orange Pale Ale” to be the best-smelling beer she tried. (Again, our palates had been through a lot by the time we met this one, but when your notes say “outstanding” there must be some truth to it.)
- Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA: Wow.This big, full beer was hopped to the gills, resulting in pine and grapefruit aromas and a nice, dry finish. A good malt foundation with hints of bread and yeast. Tammy appreciated the earthy quality the Belgian yeast added to what would have otherwise been a typical Stone IPA (if you dare call them “typical.” More on Stone soon).
- The Lost Abbey’s Cuvee de Tomme: Double wow. While her first three picks indicate the direction Tammy’s beering has taken lately, this one definitely brought her closer to her roots: the strong, sweet Belgian beers that got her hooked on the stuff in the first place. A perfect storm of recent craft brewing trends, this incredible 11% beer is aged in oak-barrels that have been inoculated with wild Brett yeast, and the result is an amazing combination of sour cherries, raisins, vanilla, dark red wine, and smoky wood flavors. Not something you can drink a lot of by any means but very complex and unique.