A Little DMV Variety
Pete: Last time, I chose beers from Hardywood and nowhere else. This time, I wanted to give a more diverse look at the area and include some Maryland beer. I also felt the need to counter some of the robust hoppy offerings provided by Shane and Brian. Heavy Seas has been one of me and Shane's favorite breweries, so I wanted to include something from from them. I was also able to get a few DuClaw beers, which was awesome because they are really crazy with the flavors they mess around with. They have created everything from chocolate peanut butter porters to a Colossus beer at 17.3% that drinks wayyyyyy too easily for that gravity. It was also a random time that a few mango IPAs were being put out by Maryland staple Frederick and DogFish Head. Interested to see how those go over because they are new takes on IPA from both breweries. I am curious when breweries bow to the market trends because I want to know if they put it together because they wanted to or because it sells. I also threw a few darker high gravity beers in because we have not gotten to try many dark beers and that season is quickly drawing to a close. I also had to throw in some 3 Star to fly the DC flag. Hope these go over well, cheers!
York: Sooooo many flavors here! Peanut butter, habanero, coffee, mango, peach, caramel, coconut, bourbon, apricots, more and more. That’s not even including the tastes pushed from the hops & malt! This huge-spectrum style selection is exactly what I tried to go for in my first batch. Everything from a bright White IPA to a Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with a whole mess of beers in between. I’ve got a soft spot for 3 Stars since they’re in DC proper so I’m hoping the Ghost White IPA provides a good drink. I’ve had a bunch of beers from DuClaw and think they are one of the better brewers of wacky flavors and intense dark beer flavors. I also miss the wide distribution of Flying Dog and Dogfish Head from my days on the east coast so I’m glad to have a rep from each of them. I’ll put it out there ahead of time - I’m yet to enjoy a spicy beer. I’m a bit nervous that my distaste for peppers in beer may overtake my appreciation for the Fever Dream, but will do my best to separate the two.
Shane: York said it best: this is a truly impressive array of flavor blends. I’m even more excited for this group of beers than I was for the last DMV offerings, because it hits a little closer to home. DuClaw, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Union Craft, 3 Star Brewing...so many breweries from right in the heart of the DMV. I have many fond memories of attending Heavy Seas events with Pete during my time in DC, and since Heavy Seas beer is almost impossible to find in New England, I’m pumped for the opportunity to sample them again. But the beer I’m looking forward to the most is probably the Ghost White IPA. I specifically asked Pete if he could get ahold of that beer because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. 3 Star Brewing has gained a lot of traction since I left DC, and I’m ready for a taste.
Brewery Name: Bissell Brothers Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 1 Industrial Way, Portland, ME. But not for long! The brewery is in the process of moving to a new, expanded location in Thompson’s Point, Portland. Since they won't be here for long, think of this post as my way of bidding a very fond farewell to Bissell's current space.
Growlers: Sadly, no. But in this case, that might be a good thing. Bissell mostly does can releases, but they have a small "tasting room" (really just a few tables as you pass through the entryway and approach the registers). The brewery can get a little clogged up if too many people are getting tasters, and it would create even more of a logjam if everyone was getting growlers, too.
The Beers: I can’t say enough good things about the beer that Bissell Brothers churns out. They make Swish, one of my all-time favorite beers, as well as a number of other favorites including The Substance, Lux, and Reciprocal, all of which are highly respected. Bissell rotates their taps, but you can usually count on The Substance being available, and even Swish when it’s in season. Bissell specializes in lighter beers (especially IPAs), though they occasionally have some heavier offerings. I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of their darker beers, but I am absolutely looking forward to it. Again, Bissell makes some of my favorite beers I’ve ever had.
Vibe: As this review posts, Bissell Brothers only has a couple of weeks left at this location, so more than anything this is a farewell tribute. The vibe is perfect for what Bissell is, although I’d be hard-pressed to say that the location is an ideal setup. There isn’t much in the way of indoor space, so for the most part you end up waiting in line outside until you are able to get in and buy your beer at the register. There is a small area set aside for people to sit and enjoy tasters, and when the weather is nice you can sit in a small, cordoned-off area outside. For the most part, though, you walk in one door, buy your beer, then shuffle out through the other door. It’s efficient, if nothing else, and Bissell has found ways to make the most of the space they have. For instance, having a “cash and cans only” line on Swish release days REALLY speeds up the process. The brewery itself is littered with stickers from other regional breweries, as well as the graffiti art that has become Bissell’s trademark. All in all, I wouldn’t say it’s a great space, but they do what they can and the quality of the beer MORE than makes up for it.
Dogs: Dogs are always welcome in line. Honestly, there really isn’t enough space for dogs inside the tasting area itself, so it’s almost a moot point.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. They don’t do growlers, but cans can be pricey (usually in the realm of $13 for a four-pack, though Swish will run you a slightly heftier $17).
Food: Bissell doesn’t sell food, but you can almost always count on a local Portland food truck setting up shop just outside. This is a great arrangement for everyone, because standing in line for an hour can build up quite an appetite.
Final Thoughts: Bissell's beer is some of the best I've ever had, but it’s hard to ignore the shortcomings of the current location. Space and capacity are definitely an issue, but that’s why they’re moving to a new, larger space. And while the limited space, long lines, and small capacity can be a little frustrating...it kind of fits Bissell’s motif! Bissell Brothers clearly takes pride in being a local hotspot, their art style is very much graffiti/street art, and they’ve done what they can to maximize the space they have. So yeah, while the current space certainly leaves something to be desired, the guys here do what they can, and I can’t wait to see the new space.
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Shane: There are nine beers in this post, but there's no debating that Swish is the center of attention. Bissell Brothers' most beloved creation, Swish is a beer that people line up for hours just to taste. Which is exactly what I did. I'll talk more about it later on, but suffice it to say that Swish is one of my all-time favorite beers, so I'm curious what you guys will have to say about it. Other highlights from this group are the well-respected Calcutta Cutter (which sits at 92% on BeerAdvocate and 98% on RateBeer), the Lil' Heaven session IPA from Two Roads, and G-String from upstart Maine brewery Funky Bow. I also included two more Garrison City beers (although my personal favorite, Khaos, continues to elude me), as well as some goodies from Foundation Brewing's first ever canning run of Blaze. I tried to vary the selection a little more than last time, but in New England the IPA is still king.
York: So Shane's first set of beers had the most highly rated beers in it, and he has promised an even better collection this time. It seems that my excitement about the Almanac beer I included is matched or even outdone by Shane's enthusiasm for the Swish from Bissell Brothers. There are a whole bunch that I am really looking forward to here, and think this a perfect spectrum to have samples of back-to-back. Good variation across the light end of the beer spectrum and a ton of variety in the hop combos and ABVs. The Calcutta Cutter is probably the most exciting to me outside of Swish and its hype, and I'm really pumped about how many of these are dry-hopped too! The Hop Swap is an intriguing beer--keeping the backbone of the recipe the same each year but switching the hop type(s). I'd love to be able to try more than one year of this in the same tasting to see how much is controlled by the hops vs the rest of the beer. That’s a really cool concept to me. Maybe a visit to Sebago will provide something on that vein one day.
Pete: Shane set the bar very high for the first post. Realistically, I wasn't sure if he could top himself because he said he wanted to mix in fewer IPAs. Thankfully he did not do that, and instead stuck to the beer style that has New England as the top IPA destination in the United States (and also the world). Bissell has been dialed in with everything we have tried, so Swish has the highest of expectations. I like that there are a few Garrison City beers too, because they really exceeded my expectations last time. This is just a cornucopia of hop goodness and I expect everything to be top notch. Not sure how Shane tops himself after this. P.S. the Amber Apparition has one of the creepiest can designs that I have ever seen. Looking forward to digging into all of these. Cheers!
Brewery Name: Right Proper Brewing Company: Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 624 T Street, NW, Washington DC 20001 (Parking is hard to find, but they are one block from the Shaw Howard University stop of the Green Line of the DC Metro)
Growlers: Yes, unless the beer is something ultra rare that they only have one keg of. They sell $15 dollar clamp growlers, which I believe are worth the money because they preserve the beer better.
The Beers: I had a lot of lovely beers the last time I was there but I wanted to rundown some of my all-time favorites because I have been going to this brewpub consistently since it opened. Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne, a Berliner Weisse hopped and spiced to taste like champagne. This beer is wonderfully tart and funky to the point that you really think you are drinking Champagne. Häxan, a porter (yes, a porter). It has all the qualities I look for in a great porter: chocolate, coffee, some roasty flavor, and it is really smooth and creamy so you can have a few of them without getting palate fatigue. These two beers are probably the best beers made in DC, and I am not saying that lightly. The brewery also does some fun random beers that don’t necessarily fit into a described style, like their anti-imperial stout, Comrade! This beer sounded too good to be true, because most beers that offer the flavor of heavier beers usually miss out on some other characteristic like texture, which makes them disappointing. This beer is 2.4% and hits all the imperial stout characters in body, flavor, and aroma. I could drink this beer all day and I really enjoy that they were able to come up with it. The brewery also does special releases of their older beers that have been allowed to age or condition in barrels, which makes it exciting every time you go to the pub because there is usually something new that you have not had before on tap.
Vibe: Really laid back. They have two huge bars, stand up seating, regular tables, and picnic tables outside for seating when it gets warm. You can go there just to grab a beer with friends after work, or roll in there for brunch still wearing your pajamas. It has a great feel to it that doesn’t make anyone feel out of place. They also have a location specifically for growler fills, so if you just want a pint and a growler you usually don’t have to push up against the bar. The building is a renovated older building, which is nice because it makes the place feel like it is part of the community. So many places in DC just rip down old buildings and build these huge modern structures that feel out of place. Right Proper is just a low key place to grab a great beer.
Dogs: Yes, outside.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$
Food: They have a lot of really good food options, and I like that they have really considered cost when building their menu. A lot of new places in DC can be a little pricey, but you can get a really good locally sourced meal here for a decent price. They also have a dedicated cheese guy who runs their cheese program if you are interested in that aspect. They always seem to have a large stock of wonderful cheese there.
Final Thoughts: Really one of my favorite restaurants in DC.
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So a Man Wakatus into a Bar...
York: I cannot wait to hear the write ups for these beers from the other guys! I couldn't get away from the idea of including a lot of different types of beers, but I did include 2 really solid Double IPAs. The rest run a huge range of the spectrum--a sparkling ale that I bet will be something completely new for all of us, one of my favorite sours from one of my favorite brewers, a local honey brew, and an amazingly refreshing wheat to round it out. Pliny the Elder has the reputation of king of IPAs in a land completely dominated by hoppy brews, and I had to make sure it made it into an early set. It's a bit soon for repeat breweries with so many good options around, but we all liked the Almanac and Golden Road beers from the first set of beers so much that I stuck with the winners and included another from each. I like every beer on this entry a ton, and even the lower rated ones come from really exciting breweries that I can't wait to get more from.
Shane: I see you, York, with your talk of "repeat breweries." I doubt Bissell Brothers and Garrison City will be missing from many of my posts in the near future though, so repeat away! York has hyped this group of beers pretty hard, so I'm excited to dive into them. I’m eager to try Pliny the Elder in particular, since I feel like that's a glaring gap on my beer résumé. York, I feel like your love of sours is a little stronger than mine, so I’m very curious to give the Wakatu Sour a try. Your extremely high rating has me really intrigued, and I wonder if it will translate to someone a little less enthusiastic about the style itself. There's a really great blend of beer types in this group, which I also appreciate. Drinking in New England can get you bogged down in IPAs, so seeing a wide variety of styles is exciting.
Pete: Pliny, pliny pliny pliny. Pliny. Pliny? Pliny. Ok, now that that's out of my system, this is a really cool collection of beers that I was really excited to try. Pliny is of course a must try, a legendary beer in its own respect. I am also happy the Brian’s batch had another Almanac beer because I have only heard really good things about them. More west coast hops and IPAs can’t be a bad thing, and it isn’t. It is also nice that we were able to try some California wine grapes in beer form and a fun sparkling ale.
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