2016, Another New year…

Well, looking back at this year, it wasn’t a good one for brewing. I had plans to brew 12 batches of beer this year; I ended up only brewing 3 of them.  Well, I hit 5 if you count doing 2 extract batches at a friend’s house, but only 3 all-grain brews in my brew house.


I had some health issues over the last year, doctors went for about 11 months without a satisfactory diagnosis. I spent about 6 weeks in the hospital not including a dozen or so emergency room visits for fluids.  I was vomiting out of control, and missed about 2 months of work.  Eventually I was diagnosed with a dead gall bladder, and they removed it.  This fixed the vomiting, but the thing left the incision infected, and they cut out most of my belly button when it went necrotic.  After a couple of months of wound care, I was back on my feet, and ready to brew again.  Now throw in losing my job of the last 15 years, and the GFI outlet in my garage blowing out, and needing to be replaced, but I couldn’t reach it behind all the crap stuffed in front of it, and I was only aloud to lift 5 pounds because of the surgery, and you can see the continuing difficulty.  Eventually I got the brewery back in place, and brewed a quick 2 batches, or else I would have had only a single brew on the year!


It is too early to tell how the last 2 beers will turn out, but the Rauchbier I did over the summer was stellar! I will definitely be brewing more of that in 2016.


I am unsure of what I will brew in 2016. I desperately need to fill the pipe line though.  There were two opportunities this fall that our club arranged for us to serve homebrew to the public.  Unfortunately, due to little beer, and being out of town on both dates, I was unable to attend.  In 2016, I intend to serve to the public on at least 3 occasions, but hopefully more.  We have a local beer festival that usually supports about 40 or 50 taps of various professional beers.  They usually have some good ones, but many times the offerings are slim.  Last Spring I went to 8 tents in a row with nothing on tap but IPA’s.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like a well-crafted IPA as much as the next guy, but I don’t need 16 taps in a row with nothing but!!!!


Anyway, this show happens twice a year, and as of a couple of months ago, our local ATF office has finally agreed that the way the law was written, us serving homebrew for free to the public is acceptable! We will be serving at both of these shows.  We will also have the NHC coming to Baltimore this year.  I don’t think much of Baltimore, as either a city, or as a beer destination, but hey, it’s close enough that we think we will have enough members to pour in a booth at club night, so looking forward to that!  This will also be my first NHC, I wanted to go to San Diego, but losing my job pretty much killed those hopes.  Now that I am once again employed, Baltimore is in my cross hairs…


These 3 events are reason enough to get brewing with a passion, but if I add to that a nearly empty keezer, it almost becomes daunting. And, just because I am a glutton for punishment, I signed on to the IGOR team.  The details of this are in the post under Igor: SMASH Blonde Ale.  Basically I will be involved in running some experiments with a bunch of other home brewers for a podcast/blog at:



I think it must be time to start making some plans before I begin falling short of my goals again! New plan, brewing a Russian Imperial Stout on New years Day, getting things started right in 2016!!!

Looking Back at 2014 and Foreward to 2015

So, it’s a week or two after New Year’s, I suppose it’s time to look back on the last year of brewing, and contemplate the future…

A friend of mine, for the last 7 or 8 years, and I had off and on discussed getting back into brewing.  Both of us had done a bit of extract brewing in years past, for me, it was some 20+ years ago.  Neither of us had brewed since those early days.  In November of 2013 we finally pulled out the old equipment, and brewed a batch of Whiskey Barrel Stout, a Brewers Best kit.  As I recall, it was pretty damn good.  It was gone by the middle of December; I think I drank about 14 of them at our Christmas Party that year!

2014 saw a committed return to brewing, more so than when I first started some 20 years earlier.  In those days, I was living in Atlanta.  There was a homebrew shop there, and I was able to buy kits and equipment, but the guy working there wasn’t a brewer, and I couldn’t get answers to my questions.  There was no internet to speak of at the time, AOL was about it.  I brewed some bad beer, no fermentation temperature control; I recall brewing an Irish Red, and putting the fermenting carboy in a box seat window because it looked pretty with the sun shining through it!  Needless to say, that was not a good beer!!!

We ended up brewing 7 extract beers between November and May.  Most of them were OK, but not the quality I was looking for, it was time to go all grain!  I ended up developing a medical condition in June that slowed me down quite a bit, and because of that, I only managed to fit in 5 all grain brews.  Those recipes’, and experiences, are detailed throughout this blog…

Total beers brewed in 2014:

5 Gallons of Düsseldorf Altbier

5 Gallons of Honey Brown Ale

5 Gallons of Old Ale

5 Gallons of Robust Porter

5 Gallons of Christmas Spiced Ale

5 Gallons of Whiskey Barrel Stout

5 Gallons of Dunkelweizen

10 Gallons of Ordinary Bitter

5 Gallons of Special Bitter

10 Gallons of American Stout

5 Gallons of Brown Porter

5 Gallons of Spiced Brown Porter

5 Gallons of American Pale Ale

5 Gallons of Sparkling Cider  (Which was basically vinegar, and was my first concoction to ever go down the drain!)

1 Gallon of Ancient Orange Mead  (Hasn’t aged enough to drink yet, hoping it doesn’t suck…)

81 Gallons of homebrew, not to shabby.  I would like to outperform that in 2015 though.

Brews on my short list include a Scottish 80 Schilling, a Rauchbier (which will be my first lager), a Dry Stout, and a Belgian Double.  That won’t be all I do, but things I have desired as of late.

I joined a homebrew club in December of 2013 here in Fredericksburg.  I had never been a member of such a club before, and I am glad I joined as it has formed some great friendships over the past year for me, which was especially nice since I was new to town, and all my friends were a good 2 hours away…  I also managed to win the Home Brewer of the Year competition in my club, which was a nice honor!

I had never heard of a homebrew competition prior to joining the club.  Not only did I enter beers in competitions in 2014 for the first time, I also took my BJCP exam, and became a Certified Beer Judge by the end of the year!  Sadly, I was 2 points shy of qualifying as a National Judge, so sometime in 2015, or possibly 2016, I will sit for another tasting exam to see if I can improve my score.

I ended up winning 8 medals, 4 Bronze, and 4 Silvers.  I am hoping to obtain my first Gold medal in 2015!

I will also be running my first full scale homebrew competition in 2015, in February.  The site for that comp is http://www.battleoffredericksburg.com/BOF2015/

I would also like to launch a beer/homebrew podcast, but I think that will likely have to wait until 2016…

And, as always, by real goal is to continue to improve on my brewing skills and the resultant beers.  I have already learned more in the past year than I ever learned in the last 20 years, I hope to double down on that in 2015…

21st Annual Dominion Cup

I went down to Richmond this past weekend and judged in the 21st Annual Dominion Cup.  First round was Ciders and Meads.  I felt pretty well out of my element here.  I have consumed a few meads, and quite a few ciders in my time, but I am no expert, and don’t know the finer points of creating them.  This made it very difficult when it came to trying to give constructive feedback on the score sheets.  You can’t very well suggest a change in mash temperature for a mead or cider!!!


The round went pretty smoothly, with Scott and I judging 12 of the 23 entries in the category, and then doing a mini best of show.  We medaled 2 ciders and a mead.


Round 2 was Belgian Heavies.  This round had 21 entries, but we had 6 judges, so my group of 3 judged 10 beers.  There were only 2 of us who were BJCP judges, so we each headed up a team, and then sat on the mini best of show together.  My end of the table got quite a few stinkers.  My group only pushed 1 beer to the mini best of show, and the other end sent on 3.


The event was hosted by the James River Homebrewers, http://jrhb.org/  and they did a great job.  The host facility was the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, http://www.hardywood.com/  and they were very gracious to us.  Between the judging rounds, we were told to go to the tap room, and help ourselves, as the wait staff hadn’t yet arrived for the days shift.  We enjoyed quite a few different brews before dutifully returning to our judging duties.  After the second round of judging, we were given wrist bands that woiuld allow us to drink for free for a couple of more hours while awaiting the award ceremony.


I was pleased to see that they put the Pro-Am Porter on tap during our second judging section, and I had two of them that afternoon.  The Pro-Am Porter was brewed at Hardywood by two friends of mine, Brian and Scott.  They won the Dominion Cup last year, and were awarded the ability to brew at the brewery, and compete at GABF, the Great American Beer Festival.  Unfortunately, the beer did not get entered into the GABF last year, so they went down again this year, in July, and brewed again, and their beer will appear at the GABF this year!  I hope it does well, it deserves to!  The beer is a Robust Porter.  Because of the size of equipment at the brewery, only 3 barrels of the full Coconut Porter will be made, it is in the mixing tank now.  This is what has been entered into GABF.  The other 15 barrels of plain Robust porter are what they had on tap Saturday, and what will be making the local beer markets over the next month or so.


I didn’t manage to win anything this year, but Brian and Scott won 5 medals, and Harry won 1.  Some other friends in another club here in Fredericksburg, Sideways Brewing, won several awards as well.  Congrats guys!!!


The winners were:


21st Annual Dominion Cup


555 Entries



Best of Show

1 Jeff Melton (CAMRA) 16E: Belgian Specialty Ale John Cogar-Melton Camp

2 Steve Bremer (James River Homebrewers) 13F: Russian Imperial Stout RIS

3 Jon Burris Jr (Sideways Brewing Club) 11A: Mild Mum’s Mild



Plato Award

Jamey Barlow (CAMRA (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale)) 14 Plato Points

Karl Homburg (Member) 14 Plato Points



Table 01: Light Lagers and Pilsners

17 Entries

1 Patrick Gibson (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale) 2A: German Pilsner (Pils) The Pils that Ills

2 Andy Cleveland (Jrhb) 2B: Bohemian Pilsner Pils to Purge Melancholy

3 George Mowell (DC Homebrewers) 2B: Bohemian Pilsner Mic Czech



Table 02: Amber and Dark Lagers

21 Entries

1 Kevin McElroy (CAMRA) 4A: Dark American Lager Frozen Leprechaun Lager

2 Lloyd O’Hara (JRHB) 3B: Oktoberfest Taking Tiger Marzen By Strategy

3 Brian Bergquist, Scott Bergquist & Rod Bergquist (FBI (Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders)) 3A: Vienna Lager Vienna Lager



Table 03: Bock and Dark Hybrids

15 Entries

1 John Smith (CASK) 5D: Eisbock Eisbock

2 Ralph Nalbandian 5A: Maibock / Helles Bock My Bock

3 Brian Bergquist, Scott Bergquist & Rod Bergquist (FBI (Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders)) 5B: Traditional Bock Mad Bee Bock



Table 04: Cream and Blonde Ale

24 Entries

1 Karl Homburg (Member) 6A: Cream Ale Castleburg Cream Ale

2 Jon Burris Jr (Sideways Brewing Club) 6A: Cream Ale Palisades Pop

3 Chris Kenney (JRHB) 6B: Blonde Ale Popping Bug Ale



Table 05: English, Irish, and Scottish Ales

20 Entries

1 Jeff Sties, none (CAMRA) 9B: Scottish Heavy 70/- Scottish Ale 70 Shilling

2 Ben Steelman 8C: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale) Sabbath Bloody Special Bitter (Whitbread Tour)

3 Harry Pilgrim (Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders) 8C: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale) Pilgrim’s Pride ESB



Table 06: American Pale Ale

33 Entries

1 George Mowell (DC Homebrewers) 10A: American Pale Ale Summer Crush

2 Steve Beasley, Steve Beasley (James River Homebrewers) 10A: American Pale Ale Lil Mo

3 Jason Price, Debbi Price (James River Home Brewers) 10A: American Pale Ale 6.3 Aftershock



Table 07: American Amber and Brown Ale

17 Entries

1 Derek Wolf 10B: American Amber Ale Tiger’s Eye Amber Ale

2 Karl Homburg (Member) 10C: American Brown Ale Bishop’s Brown

3 Brian Bergquist, Scott Bergquist & Rod Bergquist (FBI (Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders)) 10B: American Amber Ale Amber Ale



Table 08: English Browns

20 Entries

1 Jon Burris Jr (Sideways Brewing Club) 11A: Mild Mum’s Mild

2 Daniel Deibler (CASK) 11C: Northern English Brown Brown Ale

3 Jason Barker (Oregon Brew Crew) 11B: Southern English Brown So Brown



Table 09: Stout

29 Entries

1 Steve Bremer (James River Homebrewers) 13F: Russian Imperial Stout RIS

2 Chad Ritter (JRHB) 13A: Dry Stout Charlie’s Brown

3 Tony Ammendolia (JRHB) 13D: Foreign Extra Stout Foreign Ex



Table 10: American IPA

33 Entries

1 Kevin Ellis (MONKS) 14B: American IPA Must Have IPA

2 Sean McAuliffe (none) 14B: American IPA Angry Wife IPA

3 Clayton Caswell 14B: American IPA CPA



Table 11: Imperial and Specialty IPA

32 Entries

1 Steve Beasley, Steve Beasley (James River Homebrewers) 14C: Imperial IPA Forked Tongue

2 Jamey Barlow (CAMRA (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale)) 23B: Specialty IPA You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett

3 Patrick Gibson (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale) 23B: Specialty IPA The Ryness



Table 12: Wheat and Rye

29 Entries

1 Andy Skotnicki, MIke Mercer (Wort Hogs) 15A: Weizen/Weissbier Wolf Run

2 Alistair Reece (Charlottesville Masters of Real Ale) 15C: Weizenbock Winter Wheat

3 Gabriel Soll (DC Homebrewers) 15D: Roggenbier (German Rye Bier) BS 14



Table 13: Belgian and French

35 Entries

1 Trey Thomasson (None) 16A: Witbier NitWit

2 Jamey Barlow (CAMRA (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale)) 16C: Saison Murican Farmhouse

3 Christopher Updike (MASH) 16C: Saison Pilialo Saison



Table 14: Belgian Specialty

20 Entries

1 Jeff Melton (CAMRA) 16E: Belgian Specialty Ale John Cogar-Melton Camp

2 Luis Ponce (HOWL (Homebrewers of Western Loudoun)) 16E: Belgian Specialty Ale Atomic IPA (Belgian IPA)

3 Roger Jackman (Harrisonburg Homebrewers) 16E: Belgian Specialty Ale Pluto Patersbier



Table 15: Sour Ale

21 Entries

1 Jamey Barlow (CAMRA (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale)) 17D: Straight (Unblended) Lambic Dreg Pirate Roberts

2 Jamey Barlow (CAMRA (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale)) 17C: Flanders Brown Ale / Oud Bruin Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

3 Sean O’Hern (James River Homebrewers) 17B: Flanders Red Ale A Flemish Rose Grows in RVA



Table 16: Belgian Strong

21 Entries

1 Richard Goetsch (None) 18E: Belgian Dark Strong Ale The Pious

2 Dan Bremer, Steve Bremer (GRIST) 18A: Belgian Blond Ale Sexy Blond Ale

3 Dan Tully (Seven City Brewers) 18A: Belgian Blond Ale Fast Blonde



Table 17: Strong Ale

20 Entries

1 Thomas Crouch (MASH) 9E: Strong Scotch Ale Heavy Fire Showing

2 Jeff Metz 19C: American Barleywine Barleywine

3 William Spiesberger (jrhb) 19C: American Barleywine Knock the Fork Out Barley Wine



Table 18: Fruit Beer

18 Entries

1 Shaun Hennessey (Sideways Brewing Club) 20A: Fruit Beer Pineapple Berliner

2 Karl Homburg (Member) 20A: Fruit Beer Curtain Wall Stout

3 Daniel Deibler (CASK) 20A: Fruit Beer Kuse



Table 19: Spice

22 Entries

1 William Guy (FOAM) 21B: Christmas / Winter Specialty Spiced Beer Holiday Antidote

2 Bryce Carter, Bryce Carter, Chris Cone (JRHB) 21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer All Hallows

3 Shaun Hennessey (Sideways Brewing Club) 21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer Imperial Coffee Chocolate Oatmeal Stout



Table 20: Wood and Smoke

23 Entries

1 Shaun Hennessey (Sideways Brewing Club) 22C: Wood-Aged Beer Weeze Heavy

2 Brian Bergquist, Scott Bergquist & Rod Bergquist (FBI (Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders)) 22C: Wood-Aged Beer Oaked Bock

3 Brian Dailey (JRHB) 22C: Wood-Aged Beer Barrel Aged Raspberry Stout



Table 21: Specialty Beer

25 Entries

1 Sean O’Hern (James River Homebrewers) 23A: Specialty Beer RVA: Wild at Heart

2 Daniel Deibler (CASK) 23A: Specialty Beer Kuse

3 Joe Mansell (James River Home Brew Club) 23A: Specialty Beer Coconut Brown Porter



Table 22: Kolsch, American Wheat.

21 Entries

1 Thomas Grim (brewing network) 6D: American Wheat or Rye Beer GNA Rye

2 Eli Newcomb (N/A) 6C: Kolsch The Hound

3 Patrick Taylor (CASK) 6D: American Wheat or Rye Beer Sunshine Wheat



Table 23: Mead and Cider

23 Entries

1 Clayton Caswell 24B: Semi-Sweet Mead Bonfire Mead

2 Kevin Lynch (CAMRA) 27C: French Cider SABAKCB-K-3068

3 Kevin Lynch (CAMRA) 27A: Common Cider CGJ-6-N



Table 24: Porter

16 Entries

1 John Smith (CASK) 12C: Baltic Porter Baltic Porter

2 Karl Homburg (Member) 12B: Robust Porter Court Jester Porter

3 Brian Bergquist, Scott Bergquist & Rod Bergquist (FBI (Fredericksburg Brewing Insiders)) 12A: Brown Porter Porter #2

August 2nd FBI Club Brewery Bus Tour

Saturday, August 2nd, saw my homebrew club, the FBI, taking its second bus trip of the year.  Unfortunately I missed the first trip that I planned, so I was really looking forward to making this one after hearing those reviews.  I had a brilliant time, and I think everyone who went felt the same.

The trip started out with a stop at Mad Fox Brewing Company.  http://madfoxbrewing.com/  Upon arrival, they delivered to us a flight of 4 tasters.  Our group was large; there was a bachelor party on the bus with our group, and another couple as well, and they chose to not let us select our own beers.  The beers chosen for us were:


Kellerbier Kölsch (4.4% ABV) Our 2011 Great American Beer Festival® Gold Medal award winning Kellerbier style Kӧlsch. Same recipe as our standard Kӧlsch, just an unfiltered version served cellar style like a German Brewer might enjoy directly from the lager tank. The experience might not be as crisp as the filtered version due to the presence of yeast and other proteins that are typically filtered out. Try them both and see for yourself!

Saison (6.0%) – Brandy Barrel version also available. Sturdy farmhouse-style ale that showcases a yeast from Northern France, along the Belgian border.  The earth and spice notes as well as the citrus fruit character are yeast driven.  The balance and complexity of the aroma will change as the beer warms in your hand.  Medium bitterness and honeyish malt with a semi-dry finish.

Orange Whip IPA  (7.5%) This brew is dry hopped with Citra hops from our friends in Yakima at Hopunion.  The kettle additions of Citra hops, brings this brew in at a whopping 75 IBU’s and the hops flavors are much more pronounced with citrusy hints of pineapple, orange etc.  This version is also loaded with malt flavors with plenty of crystal malt, medium to full bodied and deep copper colored.

Geordie Brown (6.0%) AVAILABLE ON CASK ONLY A Northern English style brown ale in the tradition Of Newcastle upon Tyne hence the use of the nickname for folks of that region, known as Geordie’s.  A malt accented brew made with imported English pale and crystal malts with a touch of roasted barley.  Medium/light in body and very lighly hopped with the English hop varietal, First Gold.  Flavors of sweet caramel and toffee with a hint of roast malt in the finish.

The beers were fine.  I found the orange Whip to be the best of the 4, followed by the Kölsch and Saison as OK, and the Brown which I wasn’t a fan of.  We collectively thought it had a Diacityl issue, and I also felt the roast was a bit too much.

They also set out a buffet for our group, a couple of pizzas, chicken, and sandwiches.  The food was good, and they put out boxes for taking it all with us, which was nice, as the other breweries we went to had no food.

We took the tour of the brewery, and were given a few more samples out of the bright tanks.  The way they run their tanks, they use the CO2 from the end of the fermentation to carbonate the beer.  I imagine they aren’t the only ones, but I had never heard of anyone doing this before.  The beers we had back there were:

Broad Street IPA 7.3% ABV An American-style India Pale Ale that is brewed with 100% Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest and then dry- hopped with over 44 pounds of Centennial for an extra fresh hop punch. This beer has a fresh resiny herbal and citrusy grapefruit aroma that follows through to a tingling hoppy herbal bitterness in the finish. The British pale and German Vienna malts provide a biscuity malt sweetness that balances the hop bitterness.

Stir-About Oatmeal Stout – 5% ABV A traditional stout beer hand crafted with dark malts, and a heavy dose of roasted barley to give it its coffee-like finish.  This full bodied stout will have a dry, malty, smooth body as a result of the addition of flaked oats.  Lightly hopped with pleasant malty flavors, very bold flavors for the cold months ahead.

The IPA was interesting.  It was probably right in the BJCP style, but in comparison to what IPA’s have become, it seemed almost more like an APA.  The head brewer was giving the tour, and he labeled it as an East Coast IPA to differentiate it from the West Coast hop bombs I suppose.  The Stout was pretty good.  I found it to be a bit ashy for an Oatmeal, but it was certainly drinkable.  I failed to get any of the coffee notes mentioned above, but that was fine by me, I am not a coffee fan…

Also of note to our members, Mad Fox is very friendly to home brewers.  They are happy to share yeast.  While we didn’t see it, I asked, and was told that the brewery has a lab where they run their plates and slants.  They have been running some of these strains since they first opened the brewery in, I think, 2009.  Anyway, they are willing to share their yeasts from their fermenters.  Simply take a mason jar, write your e-mail address on the lid along with the type of yeast you are interested in, and drop it off at the bar.  When your yeast is ready, they e-mail you, and you go by to pick it up.  Charlie, the head brewer, did mention if you don’t pick it up in a timely manner, you go on the list, and they won’t harvest for you in the future, so don’t leave them hanging…

Another interesting point, the brewery uses no American grains in their recipes, only British, German, and Belgian.  They do of course use American Hops.

After the tour, I ordered a sample of one of their English cask beers.  Sadly, I was a bit disappointed with it.  It had little character of any sort, very low malt flavors, nothing in the hop flavor what-so-ever.  This beer won a Bronze at the GABF, so I am thinking the cask they were pulling off of must have just been old and off its prime?  The beer was:

English Summer Ale – 5.2% ABV An emerging beer style developing in the UK, golden hued, light malt accented brew made with English pale and German pilsner malts and then lightly hopped with American Citra hops. This is a great beer to enjoy on the hand pump. Earned a  Bronze Medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival®.

They had just bottled a barrel aged beer a few days before we arrived.  They were selling bombers, and the sales were hot, we saw them sell a good 40 bottles while we were at the bar buying our bottles.  I picked up one to drink now and one to cellar for a year or two, there was a two bottle per customer limit.  I may bring mine to the next club meeting, if I can resist wanting to keep it all to myself!  The beer is:

Oaked Wee Heavy – 8.6% Aged in Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye white oak barrels, Oaked Wee Heavy intensifies the sweet toffee and dark dry fruit characters while balancing the sweet notes with drying spirit and oak.

Finally, they were aging barrels in the main tap room, just behind our table.  I went over to smell some bungs, and was taken with one in particular.  In speaking to the head brewer, he thought it would be bottled and available for sale in December, and expected it to sell out quickly.  I will be going back to buy some for sure, a little Christmas present for myself!  This also delivered the name of our Iron brew entry, Charlie’s Ordinarily Bitter Bunghole.  The beer is:

Oaked Slobberknocker American-style Barleywine – 9% ABV Aged in Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye white oak barrels, Slobberknocker picks up vanilla and hints of toffee along with some oak dryness. This is a very complex sipping beer that rewards the patient as it warms and the barrel character expresses.



The second stop on the tour was at Port City Brewing Company.  http://www.portcitybrewing.com/  This was the biggest brewery we visited, they were also the only ones running a true bottling line.  They had a large number of awards on the wall, mostly from the GABF and the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Awards.

The tap room here was really jumping.  There were two bars, and both had a constant line.  The system was a 7 dollar fee on arrival, and you get 6 tasting tickets.  They also filled growlers, and served pints, but we were there to taste, so everyone opted for the taster package!

There were far too many beers available here to taste them all, and everyone in the group were getting whatever they wanted.  So I was discussing various beers with people, but I can’t post here who had and enjoyed what, just what I ordered, which was:

Optimal Wit:  Our Optimal® Wit is brewed in the Belgian Wit Bier tradition. It is brewed with raw wheat and oats, and steeped with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise. This ale is a pale golden color with a bit of cloudy haze from natural yeast in the bottle. This unfiltered ale offers layers of complex, nuanced flavors that evolve in the glass. It finishes crisp and refreshes the palate.  Optimal Wit won the Gold Medal at The 2013 Great American Beer Festival, recognized as the best example of the style in America!

Colossal One: Our anniversary is in the middle of winter; the darkest, coldest days in the Mid Atlantic. To celebrate our first anniversary, we brewed a very special, strong dark ale to warm us against the cold.  Imperial Stout is an extra strong version of stout, which originally was brewed by the British to withstand the rigors of export. We used the West Malle Trappist yeast to give it a Belgian character. The beer shows aromas of bakers chocolate and dried fruits. It is rich, dark and strong, with flavors of espresso and dark swiss chocolate, spice and a touch of orange zest.  The beer is very limited: we brewed only ONE batch, on ONE day, to celebrate a very special milestone for our craft brewery.  COLOSSAL ONE won a Bronze Medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in the Aged Beer category. We have since planned to rerelease COLOSSAL ONE as an Occasional brew.

Colossal Two:  This Porter is a stronger, smoked version of our flagship Porter. It is dark brown, almost black in color, and has a smoky, roasted aroma and smooth, rich, complex smoke and chocolate flavors. Our Brewers and the Tasting Room crew teamed up to mill in by hand 5000 pounds of German beech wood smoked malt and 600 pounds of roasted malt. This was all done bag by bag over the course of an afternoon, truly a labor of love! Enjoy COLOSSAL™ TWO with smoked meats and cheeses in front of a fire.

Porter:  One of our earliest noted brews, our robust Porter remains a flagship brew for Port City. This beer shows bittersweet flavors of coffee and dark chocolate, with a very complex malt character enhanced by yeast fruitiness. It pours ink black with a rich, long lasting brown lace in the head. Port City Porter has earned a 90 point rating on Beer Advocate, and was named “One of the 40 Essential Dishes Every Washingtonian must try” by The Washington Post!

Revival Oyster Stout:  Port City Revival Stout is a limited edition beer that we made with oysters from War Shore Oyster Company. Crafted by Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves, this beer is brewed in the British and Irish tradition of oyster stouts.  We steep War Shore’s Chesapeake Bay oyster shells in the brewing water to add mineral content and then add the oysters and their liquor to the brew during the boil. The oysters add a subtle whiff of a sea breeze, a slight briny character and a smooth textural element to the beer.  Revival Stout is available on draft only, in Port City’s Tasting Room, and on tap at select oyster houses, restaurants and bars in DC, Maryland and Virginia. Additionally, five percent of the sales of Revival Stout will be donated to the Oyster Recovery Partnership to support their efforts to revive the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Essential Pale:  Essential Pale Ale® is a deep golden color with hop aroma reminiscent of fresh fruit. The pleasing bitter taste from American hops is balanced with English and German malts, and offers a complex full flavored character that is smooth and refreshing.  Essential Pale Ale earned a 93 point rating in Draft Magazine, May, 2013.

Monumental IPA:  Monumental® IPA is a rich copper color, and is intensely hoppy. We add a special blend of American hops throughout the brewing and fermentation process to create a complex combination of aroma and flavor. This ale exhibits floral notes, flavors of citrus and resin, combined with delicious caramel background notes. Our IPA’s perfectly balanced style will keep the palate fresh and invite the drinker back into the glass.  Monumental IPA won a Bronze Medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, and a Gold Medal at the 2012 Virginia Craft Brewers Festival.

In addition, I had some of their Ways and Means Rye IPA, but they don’t have it listed on their web site, so I don’t have the details for it.  I would love to give a review of everything above, but by the time we left Port City, I was feeling REALLY good, and my notes are greatly lacking.  The one thing I can say without a doubt, my absolute favorite was the Colossal Two.  They didn’t have bottles of it for sale, and I thought about buying a growler, but I didn’t.  I am thinking that come October or November; I will be making a drive over and hoping to get a growler of this brilliant brew.  It is listed as an occasional brew, but hopefully they will have some at that point, as it really isn’t a summer beer…

Without a doubt, Port City was the best stop on the tour as far as the beer was concerned.  Mad Fox had a great presentation by the head brewer, and I actually learned something, and the beer wasn’t bad by any means, actually quite enjoyable, but not as good as the offerings at port.



Our third and final stop was Forge Brew Works.  http://forgebrewworks.com/  This is a small brewery that does not bottle anything, they are just a tap room with tasters, pints, and growler fills.  They have been open for roughly a year.  Unfortunately, everyone was fairly disappointed with the beers here.  I don’t have breakdowns of all the issues, but there was nothing stellar that stood out to any of us.   Hopefully they will improve with time, they are still very new.  I plan to re-visit in a year, and see what is happening.  They obviously have a following, as they were out of 4 or 5 of the beers on their menu board, maybe those were the best recipes, who knows?  I was winding down by this point, so only bought 4 tasters, the minimum to get a price break.  I had the following:

Oatmeal Stout  4.8% ABV

Our take on the British classic, we use extreme amounts of oatmeal to belie the lower ABV of our offering, in addition to chocolate and caramel malts along with the traditional Maris Otter base.

Roggenbier  5.4% ABV

Literally “Rye Beer” in German, this brew is actually an ancient style of ale that was brewed until a rye shortage forced brewers to turn to wheat, thus creating the modern Hefeweizen.  With hints of banana and clove, this will remind of you one but with a rye spiciness that is undeniably unique.

Belgian IPA  7.8% ABV

We took Belgian malts and yeast and mixed in some American hops to create this Belgian-inspired IPA.  With a subtle fruitiness from the yeast and a clean hop aroma, and finished with candi sugar, this is a sweeter IPA that still knows its roots.

Abbey Ale  9.0% ABV

A dark strong ale, this style has been brewed in monasteries for centuries.  While we can’t make that claim, we can tell you that we use dark candi sugar and special Belgian malts to give this beer a deceptively smooth finish with sweet hints of molasses and stone fruit.


As before, at this point of the trip, my tasting notes became non-existent.  I recall the Roggenbier being the best of the bunch, but still not being something I would like another of…

If you think it looked fun, you are right, it was, even the bad stop…  My tasting notes are not up to snuff, but the above descriptions should be making you all very thirsty right about now, you should consider joining us on the next trip this Fall!


3rd Annual Crystal Coast Brewoff

3rd Annual Crystal Coast Brewoff


This past Saturday, I traveled down to Trenton North Carolina to judge at the 3rd Annual Crystal Coast Brew Off hosted by the ATF, Alcohol Through fermentation, group out of New Bern NC.


This was a well-run event. They had 128 overall entries, and it was open to all the BJCP beer categories. I ended up judging 30 beers proper, and sitting on the BOS table as well for another 5. It was a LONG day, but fun, and well worth it. I ended up judging Belgians, American IPA’s, Barley Wines, Wheat’s, and a couple of Specialties, which were broken up amongst several tables at the end of the day.


The event was hosted at the Beer Army Combat Brewery. They have a nice facility, I believe they have only been open for the last year or so, not positive on that one. After the judging, I was able to enjoy a couple of their offerings, and they were good! I also want to thank the owner, Dustin Canestorp for footing the bill for my hotel.  They offered a room to the first 10 out of state judges who were interested.  Greatly appreciated sir!


This was also the first Beer Competition I had attended that had a raffle.  The club was able to gather a good amount of swag from various vendors and manufacturers.  They raffled these off to all those present, including some folks who just came in to drink a beer.  I was surprised at how many items they gave away, and would imagine if all competitions did this, they would have an easier time getting judges…


And the winners were:


best of show winner

 kevin moore for his cream ale

category 5 – bock

1. ken hilton

category 6 – light hybrid

1. kevin moore

2. lee hill

​3. rob jones

​category – 7 amber hybrid

1. chuck huffman

2. andrew turlington

CATEGORY -8 english pale ale

1. jeffery french

CATEGORY – 9 scottish and irish ale

1. ken hilton

CATEGORY – 10 american ale

1. chuck huffman

2. dexter garner

3. phil smith


CATEGORY – 12 porter

1. dexter garner

CATEGORY – 13 stout

1. luke dobbs

2. bob sheck

3. lee hill

CATEGORY – 14 ipa

1. ryan spruill

2. jeff veltkem

3. dexter garner

CATEGORY – 15 german wheat / rye

1. john rowley

2. derek wolf

​3.dexter garner

category 16 – belgian and french

1. thad mitchell

2. zach kosslow

3. phil smith

category 17 – sours

1. rob jones

category – 18 belgian strong

1. kris johansson

2. zach kosslow

3. hampton peterman

CATEGORY -19 strong ale

1. ken hilton

2. terry laurie

3. mike dawson

CATEGORY – 20 fruit

1. derek wolf

2. thomas albert

CATEGORY – 21 spice /herb /vegetable

1. ryan stroup

2. luke dobbs

3. zach kosslow


CATEGORY – 23 specialty

1. bryan marsh

2. timothy dryden

3. dennis overby