Adventures in our Nation’s Capital.

So the election has come and gone, and while many people are still recovering from the political mayhem of the week, I am still recovering from the mayhem I caused down in D.C. this past weekend.

I’ve been down to Washington a few times, mainly for Redskins games, (which was why I was in town this past weekend) but sadly I have never really had the opportunity to explore the city.  I figured since it was a very patriotic weekend and all, that this would be a good time to change all of that.

The city was amazing, I got a chance to visit and see some of the more important landmarks, I got to see a bunch of crazed teenage girls waiting outside the Verizon Center for Monday night’s Justin Bieber concert.  I got to see first hand that the D.C. area is home to an unbelievable amount of good-looking woman! (Cheers to you ladies!)  Finally, and as far as this blog goes, I got to see what the city had to offer in terms of, you guessed it…beer!

To be completely honest I was much more impressed with the drinking locations, then I was with the local beer selection.  I opted to avoid drinking Flying Dog while I was down there since the beer is readily available up in New England and I already know what that particular brewery has to offer.  I also realized that Shiner beers by the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX was incredibly popular around the city.  Sadly I have never been a huge fan of Spoetzl, and while I drank a few of their offerings, none of them really helped change my mind.

I did however manage to find a few quality local brews, or at least beers from breweries in the general vicinity.  Yes, most of the beers I am going to review in this blog are not from D.C. proper, but they were at least beers that I found while in the city and were at the very least quasi local.  If anybody from the D.C. area knows something important that I missed please let me know so I can remedy the situation.

So…while the Redskins game was a blast (as you can see from the photos below) It is now time to share with you a handful of quality beers I found while exploring the city of D.C.

Petey and I enjoying a beer and cigar at the Skins’ club level cigar bar.


Once again I preface these reviews with the fact that very few beers on this trip blew me away.  That being said I did have two fairly local favorites that I will talk about first.

The Public
Style: American Pale Ale
(DC Brau Brewing Company, Washington D.C.  6% ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 87  RateBeer Rating: 91

DC Brau “The Public” I have to admit the glass is pretty awesome!

I’m probably not out of line in saying that it is probably very difficult to a find a beer that screams D.C. as much as “The Public”.  From the beers name, to its brewing company, to the glass that it is served in, this beer embodies the culture of D.C.  It is very rare to see me review a beer as “simplistic” as this American Pale Ale. (Unless of course we are returning to my post about what I am drinking while I watch a football game)  However this version of the classic APA, is bold unique and suprisingly complex.

The beer pours a beautiful amber, with orange hues and a soft white head.  Rentention is good and there is plenty of lacing, partially thanks to the unique glass in which it is served.  This beer had a suprisngly pungent aroma.  While the malts and hops were both noticeable, it was the unique almost “apple-cinnamon” aroma that really surprised me.  I’m sure this beer has no ingredients even closely related to apples or cinnamon, but somehow that was the first thing that came to my mind.  The hops provide a very comforting, spruce and pine like aroma which gives the drinker that “fresh” forest-like imagery.  The flavor is also surprising.  A solid malt backbone is replaced by a balanced yet obvious hop kick.  While this beer is far from an IPA, the hops are very much the star of this beer’s flavor profile.  Once again, it is a woody, forest-like flavor that is abundant with some light hints of grass coming through.  The beer which is very well-balanced has a clean but lingering after taste that slowly fades.

I got to enjoy this brew with a delicious plate of Bangers and Mash, the two paired together incredibly well, helping to bookend the whole experience.

Matt’s personal rating 3.7 out of 5

The Public with some Bangers and Mash


Milk Stout

Style: Milk/Sweet Stout
(The Duck Rabbit-Craft Brewing  Farmville, NC  5.7% ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 86  RateBeer Rating: 94

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

Yes, I am aware that this beer is from the state of North Carolina.  However, this was a beer I had been waiting to try for a long time and since I was able to find it in D.C. and it seemed readily available, it has made the list.

This was a delicious beer, I am a sucker for a good sweet stout and this certainly fit the mold.  What I enjoyed most was the beers ABV%  Generally sweet stout fall in the 4- low 5% ABV’s but this particular stout still packed a fairly decent punch.  The beer poured a beautiful onyx, with, what was the most disappointing thing about this beer, almost no head at all.  While there was very little head and certainly no real retention, this beer was still decently carbonated and certainly avoided having that cask aged mouthfeel.  The beer itself had that very inviting roasty nose to it, but it remained balanced enough where the roast notes didn’t intimidate the drinker.  The flavor which also was very roasted, was nicely subdued by the use of lactose sugars.  Furthermore the nice medium body and light aftertaste made this a very easy drinker.  As I have stated in previous blogs I am somewhat over the big, oaky/imperial stouts.  This stout on the other hand was creamy and roasted but drinkable and delicate.  A great example of a high quality milk stout.  I really wish I could find this beer more often in New England!

Matt’s personal rating 3.9 out of 5.

On to some other brews that I enjoyed…

Dominion Oak Barrel Stout
Style: American Stout
(Old Dominion Brewing Company  Dover, DE  6.1%ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating:  89  RateBeer Rating:   96

This is a quality beer, however, I can’t say I see eye to eye with the ratings this beer is getting on the various beer rating websites.  It’s good but it is fairly one dimensional.  It pours a a gorgeous onyx with a giant frothy white head, but outside of that I find it fairly bland.  The aroma has hints of roast but the oakiness from the aging process is a little to dominant.  The same can be said for the flavor; while very robust, the flavor is still somewhat one dimensional.  The oak essence ultimately overpowers the stout features making this a difficult beer to do anything but slowly sip. (nevermind drink more than one)  That being said this beer is tasty; it lives up to its name of being an oak barrel stout as I could easily pull out the oak characteristics while drinking it.  Ultimately it could have been more balanced and slightly more “drinkable”, however it is still a quality beer and certainly something you should try if and when you are in the D.C. area.
Matt’s personal rating 3 out of 5


Loose Cannon Hop^3
Style: India Pale Ale
(Heavy Seas Beer,  Baltimore, MD  7.25%ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating:  91  RateBeer Rating:  98

Heavy Seas Loose Canon3 IPA

This was a last minute find as I was sitting at the airport in Baltimore.  I’m surprised I didn’t find this beer more often throughout the weekend as it was both very tasty and very drinkable.  The beer pours a deep copper with a solid white head and good lacing.  The beer is quite hoppy but far from overboard (no pun intended).  The “3” after the word hop in the title refers to the fact that this beer is hopped in three very different ways.  First it is hopped during the boil, then it is hopped via a hopback when being transferred to the fermentation vessels, and finally it is dry hopped while in secondary.  The variety of hop additions as well as the fairly unique blend of hops used really gives this beer a nice complex hop profile.  While it is far from the best IPA I have ever had, it was without a doubt the best IPA I found while I was down there, and was certainly a quality citrus focused IPA.
Matt’s Personal Rating: 3.3 out of 5.


The Gift
Style: HellerBock

(Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, VA  6.5%ABV)
Beer Advocate Rating: 84  RateBeer Rating: n/a

Starr Hill’s winter offering

I had heard about Starr Hill Brewery prior to this trip (to mixed reviews) but had never had a chance to sample any of their beers.  I was hoping to find their Northern Lights while in town but “The Gift” their winter hellerbock offering was the one beer from them that I found.  Now I am not a huge “lager” fan, it takes a very good lager regardless of style to get me excited.  While this particular beer didn’t blow my mind, I was still pleasantly surprised when I drank it.  Other winter ale’s that fall under the “bock” shadow, such as Sam Adams’ winter lager have never really done anything for me.  At the very least this was an enjoyable, drinkable beer.  It poured a deep copper with a red hue and had a very nice two-fingered bright white head.  The beer itself was not overly complex, however the simplicity and crispness of it, made for a very pleasurable drinking experience.  Even at 6.5% ABV this beer drank like a session lager, and while it was not spiced, it certainly gave off a winter vibe.  This beer certainly did not come across as a world class beer, however it did make me very interested in drinking other beers from this brewery.  Hopefully, at some point in the near future I will be able to hunt down “Northern Lights” or another staple from this brewery and get a better idea about the quality of beer produced by this company.
Matt’s Personal Rating:  3 out of 5


As you can see, my beer drinking adventures in D.C. were very hit or miss.  Even after all of the beers I sampled while down there, only two of them were able to score a rating above “3.5”.  That being said, all of the beers I listed in this blog are worth trying.  Perhaps you will enjoy them more than I did, maybe you will agree with me completely; regardless as we all engage in the adventure that is the world of craft beer, here are 5 more beers based in or around the Washington D.C. area that everyone should try at least once.

Now that I am back from my mini vacation I will hopefully be able to catch up on a couple of entries that I have been wanting to do.  Stay tuned for another look inside 11:11 Brewing as we work on this years release of “Three In The Evening” a Belgian Tripel, as well as another blog focused on the art and the purpose of Vorlaufing.




Categories: Beer

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