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!