November 29, 2010

Alewife

I went to Alewife yesterday before and again after attending the Ravens game. They've got a great selection of 40 draughts and probably twice that many in bottles. They have two huge chalkboards on the walls facing the bar that show their current draught and bottle offerings.

Alewife's draught menu


I started of with a glass of The Bruery's Mischief, a Belgian style strong ale. I love this beer! Yesterday was my first experience and it's already at the top of my favorites list for 2010. Just looking at the clear, golden liquid in my glass made me think "crisp, refreshing, smooth" and I was right. Mischief is complex and very well balanced. There was a little tartness to it almost like white grape juice that I really liked. Notes of pear, a little lemon, and sugar, with a little earthiness, lively carbonation although not too prickly (there's that word again, prickly), and a dry finish. My hope is that it is just as good from the bottle as it is on draught.

After wolfing down Alewife's "Cubano" sandwich, I tried a bottle of Bink Bruin.



The Bink was okay. Poured deep brown with a tan head. Yeasty, 'dirty'/musty aroma and taste, which I liked. Some hints of cinnamon and toffee. Smooth and a little viscous, bitter, easy to drink, but not a ton of character. Interesting, but just didn't do it for me I guess.

After the game I had a Great Divide Fresh Hop draught. Deep golden orange color, very clean look. Lively carbonation, leaves really nice lacing all the way down the glass. Some grassiness from the hops, pine and citrus notes, but not overly pungent. Creamy mouthfeel. A little bit of a bite. More hops and less malt flavor fooled me into thinking this was an IPA, not just an 'American pale ale'. I enjoyed Fresh Hop a lot and could have had 3 or 4 more if I didn't have to go home.

Notes on Alewife itself...

First off, I love the building. I'd been in it before when it was... Lucy's? I think that was it. Anyway, really cool building, tall ceilings, dark woods. Nicely varied selection of beer, 40 draughts and at least twice as many bottles. The food is great, and they even have some nicer menu items you won't see at typical 'beer bars', such as ox tail or rockfish. I really liked my Cubano sandwich, although I would have liked the mustard/pickle spread to have more pickle (or maybe the two could be separate); the crab soup and butternut squash soup are both really delicious. Duck fat is a placebo to some but I did think the duck fat fries were seasoned well and tasted better than the regular ones. The spinach/artichoke dip had big tasty chunks of artichoke but was a tad oily (just needs a little tweak). The shrimp croquettes are good and the mussels are delicious and have a nice chile kick. Not that I come to a beer bar to drink coffee or hot chocolate but I was surprised to hear that they don't serve any hot beverages. Not a problem for me, but could be for some. Service was great; fast; staff are knowledgeable. They'll give you shooter-sized tastes of any draughts before you order a glass. They've got a few big TV's if you like sports and good beer. Could be a little loud in a crowd or with the music cranked up because of the high ceilings, but that doesn't particularly bother me. There were two other beer lovers there at the same time I was; one writing his tasting thoughts in a notebook, and another setting her glass of what I'm pretty sure was Stillwater Cellar Door up by the window to get a nice picture with her small DSLR. The location is easy to get to but isn't near too many other similar places, so it could be considered 'out of the way' by some. Nonetheless, with a little time I think Alewife will become a go-to place for many beer lovers. I'm definitely going again soon.

November 23, 2010

This past weekend

This weekend was a good one for beer.

On Friday I went to my friend Marc's house. He made some really delicious sliders while we each downed a can of 21st Amendment Back In Black IPA. It's deep brown in color, essentially black once poured, and has soft citrus and grassy notes. I've found that canned pales and IPA's are often easy on the palate, lacking the bite the bottled ones have, but in no way is this a bad thing. Back In Black has a light roasted flavor from the malt, and is very smooth through each sip. A little bitter at the end... Once the sliders were ready I cracked open the 750ml bottle of Stillwater Cellar Door, a farmhouse ale brewed with white sage. Hazy golden color with fluffy white head. Smells of earth, grass, a little citrus. Dry body with a refreshing, lively, prickly carbonation (love that word, prickly). Flavors of lemon and orange, with some spice and pepper notes as well. Very well balanced.



For dessert, we headed out to the fire pit and opened up the Schlafly Reserve 2008 barleywine. Smokey, vanilla aroma, with obvious high alcohol content. Thick, viscous, deep rusty brown in color with very little head unless you pour vigorously. Flavors of oak, vanilla, caramel, with a nice nutty aftertaste. Leaves the palate relatively clean, forcing you to go back for more sips!



On Sunday I got together with a whole bunch of friends for our second annual pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving potluck dinner (yes, I meant to say Thanksgiving twice). I started things off with a can of 21st Amendment's Fireside Chat. It sounded interesting, and as expected from 21st Amendment, comes uniquely packaged, but I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting more from this "spiced English ale". It was easy to drink and not over-spiced. However, without the spice I think it would not have had any flavor at all, but the spices present did not seem to be the right ones, or mesh with each other. Oh well. After everyone had finished at least their first plate of food (everyone brought a dish and there were at least 20 people there), I opened up the Saison Rue, a Belgian-style Rye ale with brettanomyces yeast, from The Bruery. Pours a brownish-gold color. Spicy aroma with that lovely rye character (I have been really loving rye beers this year) and a little funk courtesy of 'Brett'. Light citrus taste, notes of dark fruit; a little earthy, and pleasantly sweet. Very rich with a lot of flavors going on. I plan on getting another bottle soon. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I shared this with and toasted to my beer-loving friends; Dong, Robin, Ben, Nikki, Justin, and Kristin.



For dessert I brought a bottle of Great Divide's Espresso Oak-aged Yeti imperial stout. This took care of my desire for both a solid dessert and some sort of coffee-like beverage. Pours black, like black hole black, but with a rich golden brown, bubbly head, looking almost like melted dark chocolate. The stuff barely moved in the glass, and coated the sides almost like cough medicine - very thick. Once poured, immediate smell of dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, coffee, and a little oak from the aging. Big, intense flavors; more dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and of course espresso. Oak and hop flavors are very subtle, almost undetectable. A little alcohol bite. Good for sipping, and great for experiencing the taste opening up as it warms. Pour over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or put some whipped cream in to make a light float. Delicious!