Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beer Accessory Spotlight: Redefining the Purpose of the Bullet

I hope everyone is recovering from the mayhem that is Thanksgiving weekend. We at Virginia Beer Blog enjoyed the time spent with friends, family, food, and amazing Virginia Craft Beer. After Thanksgiving dinner round three, Sam and I had a moment to sit down, enjoy some brews, and marvel at our newest gadgets: two new, customized bottle openers from Bullets2Bandages

Bullets2Bandages was founded in 2011 by two former Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers, and joined a year later by another US Naval Academy classmate who served as a Marine Corps infantry officer. During their 3+ years in business, they've donated at least 15% of their profits to veteran charities on an annual basis, to include partnerships with the Travis Manion Foundation, MARSOC Foundation, 31 Heroes Project, Wounded Wear, and the Red Circle Foundation.

The .50 Caliber Bullet Bottle Opener is about as solid as a bottle opener gets and will make for one hell of a conversation piece when you have company. As you can see, the product itself can be customized for businesses and individuals alike. There is an optional Custom Engraved Case that looks great, but I would caution against it, as it appears to add $20 to your total which, in some cases, is more that the bottle opener itself.

Being slightly smaller, the 7.62mm Keychain Bullet Bottle Opener didn't knock the bottle top off with ease like the .50 Cal, but it did the trick just fine. It doesn't grant the leverage of it's larger brother, but the trade-off is for mobility. Coming on a key chain, this is definitely a perfect stocking stuffer, and it goes towards a good cause.  

Parkway Brewing's Bridge Builder Blond was the first test subject.  

Popping with style and ease. 
It should also be noted that Bullets2Bandages' initial sales were more directly to active duty military and veterans. In recent years they have branched out to multiple retailers, such as Cabela's and they are now offered in 60+ Craft Breweries and Pubs across the United States. These items can be custom ordered for businesses through the Whole Sale tab on their site. 

A bottle of 3 Brothers Brewing's The Great Outdoors helped us test out the 7.62mm key chain.

If you're looking for an interesting gift for the beer connoisseur in your life, visit Bullets2Bandages' website to see what they're about. If you find something you like, you'll be helping give back to those who have served.

Blogger Disclosure: Virginia Beer Blog received free product from Bullets2Bandages.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Quick Notes: Apocalypse Ale Works

Apocalypse Ale Works has been on my radar for a bit now; solid beers with great names...Lustful Maiden being the first to come to mind- great taste, only need one or two, and a great name. Their artwork is also incredibly badass. I mean, seriously?! Look at that logo! Their can art is so good that craftcans.com did an interview with the artist!

   So, I wanted to make some notes about their Golden Censer Honey Wheat Ale. This beer looks great when it is poured- nice and clear, not too much head, and some great smells coming out of that glass.
I know they are in Forest, VA...but I don't have a glass for that.

There is a good amount of honey flavor without the beer being overwhelmed with any kind of sweetness. I did taste more hops than I usually would expect from a honey wheat ale, but maybe it is there to contrast the honey? Either way, great flavors without too much hoppiness and some great underlying flavors. I think I tasted some lemongrass, maybe some citrus added late in the brewing process even.

As a side note, I had a couple of these with my Thanksgiving dinner and they really worked well with cranberry sauce and the hickory-smoked turkey I made.

Yeahhhhhhhh I cooked that bird. 

The smokiness of the turkey and the sweet/ tart combo of the sauce really brought out some extra flavors in this beer.

I can't say this is my favorite beer from them but I won't shy away from it either. Definitely worth trying!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Aluminium Session!

So, I've been drinking beer. A good deal of beer. I'm sure anyone who finds themselves at this blog, looking at beer writing focused on Virginia, is also doing a lot of beer drinking. I recently hit my local grocery store and bought a few brews in cans. I drink these beers in a sitting, and I call it an aluminium session.

I think beer from a can is tasty and refreshing. I don't drink the beer directly from the can. I find that doing so adds a metallic taste to the beer. I pour the beer into a beer glass, and enjoy my beer with my olfactory organs as well as taste buds.

In this session I drank three beautiful Virginia beers. I have pics!!! Pardon the filters on some of the pictures, I got a little crazy on my phone after a few beers.

Hardywood's CREAM Ale ya'll! Beer Advocate
This beer tastes pretty good out of the can! Hardywood tells a good story with this cream ale in a can. Apparently, the first can beer sold came out of Richmond, VA! It was brewed and canned by Krueger brewing with technology from American Can Co. in 1935. Link to cool blip about it on Wired: CLICKY!

I like the smoothness of this ale. It's light and has a fairly light body. The malts and hops are mellow, and it's overall refreshing. The elements are there, but there's something I can't put my finger on that is missing.

Lost Rhino is a very surprising brewery. The brewery is in a weird office park area in Ashburn, VA, but they are crazy about brewing great beer. The Rhin O' fest is a great tasting Märzen (it has a gold medal from the Great American Beer fest!), and their Face Plant IPA is a home staple at this point.

Rhino Chasers is now one of my favorite pilsners. Actually, I've been a little down on the style for the last few years. This beer changes the pilsner game for me. On Untappd I wrote, "Deliciously crisp and bitter. Light body and golden color with thin micro bubble head. One of the most surprising pilsners I've had." I would take further about it, but I'd had a few at this point, and I don't remember it so well... I better go get some more...for science!

The Dam Lager is Sunken City's flagship beer, and it shows. I have to be honest and say I haven't had Sunken City beer before. Fans will be screaming at the screen right now, but I didn't eschew this brewery! I'm glad I finally noticed what's happening up on Smith Mountain Lake!

It's a great easy drinking lager. A good balance of malt and bitterness feels great in my mouth! This lager has light body and pours to a beautiful gold with light head.

Well there's my aluminium session. I had a lot of fun picking out three canned beers, and I hope to get a good variety next time. I like to roller coaster between flavors when drinking beer. I know a lot of people like to start light and build up to heavier, darker beers. I enjoy the contrast between the two, and I usually like to drink them back to back. I like to bookend my sessions with drastically different beers or the same one, to see where I've started and to where I've ended up. How do you select which beer you drink first and last? Do you like canned beer?

P.S. I drank a bottle of Highland Oatmeal Porter while I wrote this. So good! Beer Advocate

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lars and the Real Beer Enthusiast

When you visit Strangeways, you might find yourself wondering if you've already met this guy and just forgot his name. That's how welcome he makes you feel. The moment I realized that, no, I don't know Lars, is when it hit me - this is the first time I've ever been treated like a beer enthusiast instead of just someone's wife. To my partner and close friends who run Virginia Beer Blog, it's apparent that I know what I'm talking about and truly enjoy the craft. Frequently, however, I'm the object of disbelieving stares during tasting discussions and the receiver of mixed-up drink orders at restaurants (because surely I ordered the lighter, more "feminine" beer). Bartenders have even gone so far as to recommend less intense brews to me. So I've been a novelty in the beer world for a while and never really noticed it until Lars, Strangeway's ambassador, engaged me in serious conversation about their work. I won't forget the regard or my favorite taps that day: Caramel Woodbooger Belgian-Style Brown Ale, Delightfully Immoral Grisette, and Wild Wallonian Dawn Honey Saison. If the first one (a Curiosities offering) ever comes back, I've got plans for it. Lars, I hope you like bread pudding.

Credit: Jess Owen Day

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stone Brewing is coming to Richmond. It’s official.

First, I’d like to say that I am extremely proud of the beer community across Virginia. I believe a huge draw that Richmond had on Stone was the rich and welcoming environment that our local breweries have been able cultivate and have absolutely no concern that Stone coming to Richmond will hurt our local breweries. 

And now Stone is Virginia Beer.

For Virginians, drinking local will soon include enjoying some of the most widely celebrated and respected brews offered. I attribute my current love for beer to Stone Brewing. Double Bastard was the first beer that truly caught my attention and sparked my interest in craft beer. Ruination was the first beer that blew my mind after ordering it for dinner, leaving me unable to taste anything but the beer for the next two hours and inspiring me to get my hop cone tattoo (oh, do you not have a beer tattoo?). The first time I visited LA my first stop was Stone Brewery (which, for those of you who don't know, is in Escondido, over 2 hours south of LA). 

With the recent outpouring of collaboration beers between Stone and other amazing breweries, along with their pride in using local ingredients, I can’t wait to see what Stone has in store for us. We will continue to update as the process progresses, but until it opens late 2015/early 2016 go celebrate by drinking tasty beer at your local spot and don’t forget to update your résumé

Proposed plans attached to official media release.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Answer Brewpub: The Visit!

Let me begin by stating that I love Mekong. They have great food (in my opinion) and an even greater offering of craft and Belgian beers. As far as I'm concerned, they can do no wrong...now thats out of the way, The Answer Brewpub is a perfect addition to the strip mall that houses Mekong. If you haven't been you may be thinking, "You say they are both good, but don't they both serve beer? Don't they both serve food? Isn't having two restaurants next door to each other potentially bad for business?" To answer those questions I would say "Yes, yes, I seriously doubt it. Also, don't ask so many questions all at once, give me a chance to respond to one and then ask another one. Don't you understand how a conversation works? Dick."

Yes, both Mekong and The Answer Brewpub serve beer but this isn't like you are going from one bar to another where you may find a different configuration of the same domestic beers. Instead both places offer beer but from vastly different points of view. Mekong is where you would go if you are looking for a wide variety of Belgian beers with a healthy mix of local craft beers and the occasional tap-takeover from some amazing brewery. The Answer Brewpub serves up an array of hard-to-find/ obtain craft beers as well as some great collaborative beers with some local favorites. To see some of those collaborative beers refer back to this post!

 Happy people drinking.

Other side of The Answer Brewpub.

Yes, both offer food as well, but once again the food selections are totally different. Mekong= Vietnamese food. Wait, no- delicious Vietnamese food. The Answer Brewpub serves up, if you can imagine this, Vietnamese pub food- so you have your fries to enjoy while you drink or you can venture out and get some shrimp crackers or if you are feeling hungry grab a Banh Mi! They offer some different ones, but I had the house special (chicken, fish, and beef) and it was fantastic. Sorry that I don't have pictures to offer, I was busy eating. While both Vietnamese based in cuisine the offerings couldn't be farther from each other.

Third question- I doubt it. Like I stated before, I don't think that Mekong will lose business by having The Answer Brewpub next door. The Answer Brewpub is exactly that, a brewpub; people go there looking to enjoy a few pints, maybe grab a light snack, and then leave...or stay for a while and enjoy a lot of beer, more food, and then have someone drive them home...either way, a good time. There is a stage set up inside of the main area, so I assume there will be bands and/or DJs in the future. In the background they played some dancy remixes of jazz, radio-friendly hip hop, and other genres that lend themselves to bass-heavy background music...somehow it all fit. The space is large- I would imagine the same size as Mekong, but without all of the walls and tables that separate Mekong's various dining areas. All in all, a great space with lots of room for people and their beers!

Apparently "dancy" isn't a word.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fidelis Beer Company Launch Party!

Last Saturday Clay and I checked out the Fidelis Beer Company launch party. The brewing company is brand new to the market and has an interesting business model. Similar to Toms Shoe Company, Fidelis will be benefiting a cause with each of its beer labels. Fidelis is part of a relatively new wave of companies that aim high, not just to make the best product possible, but also to help affect positive change in the world.

We got a taste of the first brew Brian, the founder, is ready to ship. The beer is a farmhouse ale and is a delicious, simple brew, wholesome and fruity in aroma and rustic in taste. It's yeasty and has a grassy barnyard taste but carries more body than I was expecting -a very good thing. It's terrific to see this style gaining so much popularity in recent years.

Apart from sampling the beer, we met Brian, the founder and owner of Fidelis. He's a humble, interested guy who doesn't seem to do things half way. Apart from being an attorney in the US Marines, he's a husband, father, and brewer! He seems passionate about the beer and the causes, which will hopefully drive excellence in both. He's not the only heavy hitter on the team: Fidelis also has a fighter pilot, and a PhD in their ranks. From the surface it seems as if they have a driven and experienced crew. This is a brewery to watch.

Keep up to date on their new releases and info on their website. Let them know you'd like to see their beer on tap near you on their twitter!

Check out this interview of Brian at Bible, Beer, and Babies.


Monday, September 1, 2014

The Answer Brewpub!

The Answer Brewpub- Building an Empire of beer!

If you drink beer in Richmond/ Central Virginia you (should) have heard of Mekong. Mekong has some great offerings when it comes to food- authentic Vietnamese cuisine at affordable prices! YAY! What makes Mekong truly great is their selection of beers; there are so many beers I'm not even going to begin to list them all, but there are enough to warrant Mekong receiving Craftbeer.com's Great American Beer Bar for both 2012 and 2013! This led to some astounding beer specials both years, and when they win again this year there will be more! Mekong is one of my favorite restaurants in Richmond and definitely my favorite beer spot in the city. 

All of that being said, An Bui- the genius mind behind Mekong, has been working on The Answer Brewpub. The Answer will be located next door to Mekong (seriously, right next door!) and will have a different list of beers from Mekong plus some collaborative beers from An and other local brewers. The Answer Brewpub opens tomorrow, the 2nd, at 4 pm and I know that I plan on being there! Earlier today the facebook page for Mekong and The Answer Brewpub filled people in on what their offerings are tomorrow...it is as follows:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

3rd Annual RVABrewBQ!

I know this post is a little late, but I figured I would make it so I could add in the pictures I took...

So Sam, Clay, and I decided to go check out the 3rd Annual RVABrewBQ (Ercell couldn't make it- he was invited!) so we could taste samplings from the ELEVEN (11) different breweries in Richmond!

Each brewery had a couple of different beers, as I said a sampling and the customers/ tasters were killing it. Within a couple of hours of arriving around 1:30 or 2 there were a number of breweries who were down to only one offering, and Bold Rock was completely out by 3:30. Does this mean that ciders are more popular than beers or do cider drinkers just drink more than beer drinkers? I don't know, nor do I care to find out. I'll keep drinking beers, and the occasional cider, and enjoying them all.

Train of thought- back to beer- the whole ticketing system was alright; tickets were a dollar, two tickets got you a sample pour and six tickets got you a full pour. All in all not a bad deal as most places around Richmond charge around $5 or $6 for a full pour of any local beer, but you usually don't get to talk to the brewer while you drink it. I'm not going to go into detail about the specific beers as a) I drank a bunch of them b) like I said, I waited too long to write this, and c) my taste in beers isn't on par with current beer drinking trends and I don't want this blog to crash because I rail against IPAs.

Overall, it was a great time with a lot of great food (lots of really good bbq- we ate at both Alamo BBQ and Boardwalk), a lot of great beer, and what seemed to be a lot of happy beer-drinkers getting to enjoy the summer weather and drinking outside! My only hope for next year is that Richmond has more breweries so there are even more options. It'd be great if breweries could figure out a cost-effective and efficient way to bring a larger sampling of their brews.

Anyway, look at the photos- I took them, and tell me what you thought of the festival if you went. If you didn't go, why not? What would entice you to go?
What do you think of my photos? Are they any good?
Does the Virginia Beer Blog need to find a new official photographer?
Are there more questions I should be asking?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Google Trends: Beer vs. Wine vs. Distilled Spirits

I was checking out the fantastic Virginia craft beer site vabeertrail.net, and the aggregation functions of the site got me thinking about the overall growth of interest in craft beer in the state. As far as I know, beer has always been a challenger to wine's popularity in Virginia. I figured that with the explosion of interest in craft beer, maybe beer was catching up to wine.

I turned to a nifty site Google put up a while ago called Google Trends. It's important to note that this data is from Google web searches, so it really only reflects the interest of users searching the internet with Google.com.

As you can see in the Google Trends chart, interest in beer and wine ebb and flow in a similar pattern. Wine does have peaks during the holidays that beer doesn't always share.

I don't want to assume too much from this data, it's just interesting to look at and consider how far beer has come in this state. Beer is closer to wine as of June 2014 than it has been since 2004.

Google Trends Report

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dog Street Pub Craft Beer Festival

If you didn't get your fix at last week's National Beer Expo, make sure you get down to Merchant's Square in Williamsburg for the Dog Street Craft Beer Festival! There, you will be able to choose from a long list of participating breweries from around the commonwealth. Virginia Craft Beer, delicious food, and all for a good cause? Count us in!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

National Beer Expo announces participating breweries!

We have been patiently awaiting the release of what brewers will be participating in next month highly anticipated National Beer Expo in Richmond. Today, we are happy to announce that the wait is over! Feast you eyes on the full list by clicking the link below. Get excited Virginia; the national (and international) spotlight will be on our craft brewers the week of July 16 and we here at Virginia Beer Blog could not be more proud of what the Commonwealth has to offer. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

This Saturday!

A Friendly Reminder that the Carytown Beer Festival is this Saturday, June 7th at the Diamond (yes, I know, not Carytown)
Noon to 6pm (with VIP access starting at 11am) 
Visit http://www.carytownrva.com/events/craft-beer-festival.php for more details

Monday, June 2, 2014

VBB Brewery Spotlight: Isley Brewing Company

An amazing day for amazing beer. 
Sam and I recently had the immense pleasure of stopping by Isley Brewing in the Scott's Addition neighborhood of Richmond. What started as an impromptu beer sampling turned into an educational experience.
Sam and the Flight
As Isley newbies, we started with the recommended flight (a choice made easier by their excellent variety and price). All of the brews were excellent, but once again the "Choosy Mother" Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter stole the show. 
Six Samples of Heaven

A description of the days offerings

The back door of the brewery will serve as access to the new deck. 

During the tour, we were informed that the brewery is currently working at 50% capacity. With the planned addition of more brew houses, Mr. Isley hopes to increase the brewery's capacity to 100% soon.

Waiting to be filled with perfection.

The future home of Isley's second bar. Drink and watch the brewers work their magic. 

During the day, Mr. Isley works with Winter Plumbing. The company did the original plumbing work for the building when it was built in 1920 and again when it was updated for the brewery opening.

Mr. Isley was kind enough to let us sample some of his private stock. This included a Bourbon Porter and a Bourbon Ginger that knocked our socks off. Brewed as an experiment but ultimately too high for legal sale (16%), these two brews were a treat but far above the 14% sellable ABV limit.  

If you're like us and drool at the thought of Isley Brewing Company's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter, make sure you get out and Grab a Choosey Mother while it lasts (if you are reading this, it may already be too late) because the next batch wont be around until October. 

Looking for delicious taste for a good cause? 100% of Conundrumheller's proceeds go to Bon Secours Hospitals in honor of  Mr. Drumheller. A longtime friend of the Isley family, he tragically passed away from cancer. After the loss, the idea of using the brew to raise money for research was developed.

So much room for activities!

Beer and burgers.....it's a beautiful thing. 

Before we left we took a tour of Isley's new deck. A welcome addition to the neighborhood, patrons will now be able to enjoy the beautiful Spring weather with a cold beer (not to mention an excellent view of fireworks being launched at the Diamond after Flying Squirrels games.) We were also very excited to hear that Mr. Isley and company are planning a second location coming to the Woodlake area of Chesterfield (county red tape permitting.) After you leave the Diamond's Carytown Beer Festival this Saturday, you can enjoy the newly completed deck and have a delicious Isley Brew at their Luau! We hope to see you there! 

Finally, we would like to extend a huge thank you to Mr. Mike Isley for taking the time to give us a tour of his beautiful facility, samples of his brews, and filling us in on the Isley Brewing story. We can't wait for this weekends Luau and to see what Isley Brewing has in store for us next!

The work in progress