Brewery Name: Port City Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Alexandria, VA
Facebook: Port City Brewing Company
Background: One of the staples of the area, Port City has been a part of my beer life for quite some time now. It’s one of the first craft breweries that I appreciated, largely due to their involvement in the local scene in everything from philanthropic sponsorship to hosting bar crawls. Port City has been holding it down across the river from DC in Alexandra for some time now and has the showcase of beer medals and awards to prove it. I had previously been limited to what gets distributed and is easy to find, but I recently had the chance to get over to their tap room and am now an even bigger fan.
Growlers: Yes! Crowler, growler, retail bottles, whatever you’re looking for!
The Beers: Several of Port City’s core beers are leagues beyond most house brews. They’re fairly well distributed locally so I’ll keep it short on those and focus on a few that I hadn’t seen prior to my visit:
Vibe: I’m not sure why, but I expected the taproom to be more similar to an old school beer bar with a long wooden bar, a low ceiling, and not much in the way of light. I can happily say that I was quite wong. The room opens up to seating and a bar on each side of the main room. Only one was running while I was there but I can absolutely see how it would be beneficial to have an overflow tap setup for when it's more crowded. There’s also a back section that has some couches and a few high tops, plus some picnic table style outdoor seating areas.
Everything in here is well done and very modern for the beer world. The bartops, the taps and signs, and even the wall art and neons all fit together really well. The modest branding that's found on their bottles definitely didn't have me expecting a taproom with floor to ceiling paintings of the area, stainless steel and video board tap systems, an array of artwork and a bunch of spots where brewery ambassadors from all over the country have left stickers and notes. There were signs posted for all sorts of events too, from seasonal releases to yoga classes to charity drives. Joggers and Lagers was one that I found particularly clever in naming and it almost made me even consider running sometime with the bribe of beer at the end. Lots going on, but still has a really tight local feel to it.
Service was well above average during my visit. It was another brutally hot day and the first beertender I interacted with pointed me straight towards one of the fresh IPAs they had put on as a crisp summer beer. During a later round, I asked a particular brew and the fella, having poured a few for me and gotten reactions on those, actually pointed me in another direction and absolutely nailed it. Lots of respect for that kind of interaction and it really helps hone in on what their own folks really like coming off the tap.
Dogs: Definitely in the outdoor space but I’m not sure about inside. To be honest, the inside space isn’t the greatest for dogs anyway since it's mostly high tops and primarily just a big room.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Slightly more affordable than average for where it is in my experience. Full pours of house beers start as low as $5 for a pint. Even the smaller batch or specialty stuff is very fair at $7-8 for a snifter size pour.
Food: No kitchen here but their website does reference bringing in food trucks now and then.
Final Thoughts: Really glad to have finally made it to Port City. It’s been part of my beer life for quite a long time and it was a lot of fun to try some of the stuff outside their core lineup. Like many non-city breweries, the location isn’t ideal for transit or to look at but the beer, vibe, service combo drastically outweighs those small details. A staple of the the area beer scene, Port City is high on the list of places to call an easy go-to.
Brewery Name: Le Triangle
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 13 Rue Jacques Louvel-Tessier, 75010 Paris, France
Facebook: Le Triangle Paris
Background: That's right: Le Triangle is our very first brewery review from outside the United States. My wife and I recently traveled to Paris to attend a friend’s wedding, and we spent some time exploring the cultural scene while we were there. Yes, of course, there’s the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and a thousand other sights to see. But there are also romantic wine bars, amazing restaurants, and, of course, and handful of breweries. Knowing that the beer scene in Europe is considerably different from the beer scene in the states, I went into the visit with tempered expectations. Belgian and German styles abound, and I was almost ready to give up on finding anything truly special until, on our very last night in the city, we stumbled upon Le Triangle.
Growlers: No, but you can purchase bottles in the taproom.
The Beers: We visited the brewery on the later side, so I was sadly unable to sample everything that they had to offer. I was excited to see that the menu featured a number of collaborations with other French breweries, as well as a handful of guest taps. Le Triangle is clearly dedicated not just to showcasing their own beer, but the best that France has to offer.
Vibe: What an awesome place. My wife and I wandered in close to midnight on a Sunday, primarily driven there because it was one of the few places still open at the time. We had little idea what to expect, but were welcomed immediately by both the bartender and the establishment’s patrons.
This is where I should establish that my wife is fluent in French, having lived in France for over a year. She immediately struck up a conversation in French with the bartender, and after just a few short sentences made a surprised noise as the bartender switched to completely accentless English and revealed that she was, in fact, from Ohio. This coincidence cracked me up, and we had a great time talking to her about what brought her to Paris, her recommendations for places to visit before our flight home, and more.
The brewery itself was founded by two Canadians, and has a very (North) American microbrewery vibe. It’s fairly small and intimate, with a bar in the front and a handful of tables in the back. The owners were hosting some fellow brewers from Canada for a bit of a beer share in the back, and the jovial conversation and clinking of glasses fit the mood perfectly. It was a quiet night, due primarily to the late hour, but it wasn’t hard to imagine an establishment packed with patrons, drinking beer and enjoying a meal. In classic Parisian fashion, there were a handful of tables and chairs outside on the sidewalk as well, though it was too late for us to take advantage.
Le Triangle is also one of the most laid back and accommodating places I’ve ever visited. We stayed well past closing, and at no point were we ushered out the door. Quite the opposite, in fact--we offered to leave more than once and were always encouraged to stay for another drink. Considering we had been looking for a place to enjoy a quick nightcap, the fact that we were able to stay as late as we did and enjoy such engaging conversation was a truly unexpected pleasure.
What Makes It Unique: The variety of styles available. I enjoyed a New England IPA and a couple of weisses while I was there, but there was plenty more on the menu. I went in expecting more Belgians and German-style beers, but was blown away by the variety on offer, both from Le Triangle and their guest taps.
Price ($ to $$$$$): €€. Very reasonable prices, more or less on par with what you would expect in an American microbrewery. They offer pours, half-pours, and tasters to go along with some wine selections for non-beer drinkers. Everything was affordably priced, and I’d have happily spent hours here.
Food: Yes. Le Triangle has a full food menu, and although we arrived too late to take advantage of the munchies on offer, everything sounds absolutely delicious and perfectly Parisian.
Final Thoughts: Le Triangle may have exceeded my expectations more than any other brewery I’ve been to. After almost a week of Belgian ales, German pilsners, and English bitters, discovering a place with as broad and inventive of a menu as Le Triangle was a real treat. Every beer I had was delicious, and the collaborations made me want to explore the French beer scene even further. Le Triangle was the perfect place to spend an hour at the end of the night, and my only regret is not being able to sample the food! If you’re ever in Paris, I highly recommend paying Le Triangle a visit.
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Brewery Name: Dirt Farm Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Bluemont, VA
Facebook: Dirt Farm Brewing
Background: My time in Washington, DC, had previously been limited mainly to city proper. While that includes some great spots like Bluejacket, it’s certainly not the oasis of craft breweries that I let myself get accustomed to in San Francisco. I’m back in the Capital City for a time, so I felt it prudent to expand the radius a bit and see what the greater area had to offer. First stop: Dirt Farm!
I'll admit, I’ve always been a sucker for drinks with a view. Dirt farm has by FAR the best backdrop I've ever experienced. It’s reminiscent of the setting you'd find at a nice vineyard in Sonoma, which makes sense since the property is shared by their sister winery, a small market, a hop farm, and an apple orchard. Taking advantage of the view with a giant stone patio provides the opportunity to completely and entirely disconnect from city life--a feeling I always forget is so nice until it happens.
Of course, the beer has to be good to make a brewery worth visiting (especially at what is essentially a destination location in a rural area), and Dirt Farm checks that box with flying colors. They source as much as possible from their own property and add that hyper-local vibe to all they offer. Great beer, excellent branding, and wonderful service make this a hell of a first impression for what the State for (beer) Lovers has to offer!
Growlers: Yes, and they are AWESOME. Stainless steel growlers that look like they could survive the apocalypse are available for purchase in several colors. Another nod to the branding: Dirt Farm has a simple but impressive logo, combined with good-looking merch and swag.
The retail beers, in addition to growler fills, are all of the 32-ounce can variety. Not ideal for my personal preference, but certainly not something I’m upset about.
The Beers: Dirt Farm had eight beers on tap when I visited (convenient for flights of four!), and as you may have been able to guess by now, all were sampled. Here are a few of the highlights:
Vibe: Serene. I went on a weekend afternoon and, thanks to the amount of space available, it was busy but not crowded. The outdoor area alone is larger than many entire venues, and the inside can hold a good amount, too. It’s impossible to sit here with a beer and look out over the Virginia countryside without letting out a nice healthy exhale and sinking comfortably into your chair. It’s high up on a hill and far from any street noise, plane traffic, or anything else that would take you anywhere but that exact moment in time.
There was a pretty large workforce on while I was there, and every single person was as upbeat as the next. The first beertender I spoke with on arrival offered up his thoughts on splitting the menu into a hoppy and non-hoppy flight, which is something I recommend to everyone whenever possible. Others provided what seemed like real, genuine opinions on their favorites, what was new, what was flagship, and what they’d recommend in pint format. There was not a single moment of being rushed or annoyed, and every encounter was high energy. Well done team--it’s a feat that seems increasingly rare these days.
The buildings on site are all incredibly fitting for the rustic farm setting without feeling old or dingy. Lots of stonework and some modern touches make for a great combo. There are also a lot of options for seating, allowing for everything from huge groups to a discreet date night table.
Dogs: Encouraged, which I am pretty sure will be a theme as I trek through the outer 'burbs. Tons of space and lots of dog lovers at this one.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. Perhaps it's just a product of my own bias towards city life, but I expected something this far into the country to be notably cheaper. Flights are on the high end of fair at around $12 for four beers, and full pours are consistent with what you’d see in more populous areas. Higher than I expected, but well within my overall preference. It’s also worthwhile to just consider that some of that beer price goes to the incredible property you can drink it on.
Food: On-premises offerings include flatbreads and pretzel bites. No outside food allowed at this one, which came as a bit of a surprise since it’s got such a picnic-here-for-the-whole-day kind of vibe. I didn’t partake in the food, but what I saw looked pretty super.
Final Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this one. The tremendous venue combined with more than a few great beers makes it undeniably noteworthy. The hours are understandably a bit limited due to its location, but I highly recommend checking it out during an afternoon while the weather is nice.
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Cidery Name: Citizen Cider
Type of Cidery: Brewpub
Location: Burlington, VT
Facebook: Citizen Cider
Background: Citizen Cider is one of the most popular hard cider makers in New England. Located in Burlington, VT, the cidery has become known for producing a wide range of high-quality products. They’ve experimented with dry-hopped ciders, herbed ciders, sweet ciders, and dry ciders, and their distinctive cans and bottles have made it into bottle shops all over the region. I’ve dragged Alex, my poor fiancée, to brewery after brewery despite her gluten allergy, so when we realized we were just a few blocks from one of her favorite cideries, I was only too happy to pay Citizen Cider a visit.
Growlers: No, but both cans and bottles are readily available in the taproom.
The Ciders: Citizen Cider has a regular rotation of beers that includes a standard dry cider, a ginger cider, and even a cider made to resemble a witbier. Since Alex and I were well acquainted with this core series of ciders, we opted instead to focus on the more interesting, uncommon offerings in the taproom. These included:
Vibe: Citizen Cider is a really cool place. Just a really cool place. The taproom has a great vibe, and while I can imagine it being a little claustrophobic during the winter, with the doors open and the deck full display, it was a beautiful sight to see.
A mix of long tables and high-tops greets you when you walk in, along with a lengthy wooden bar for those just stopping in for a pint. The walls are adorned with all manner of photographs and artwork, and the industrial-style vibe of the space gives it an open, spacious feel. Exposed lights dangle from fixtures hanging from the ceiling, which I imagine must look very cool in the evening.
Service was great--even though we moved around a bit to catch the sun, they never lost track of us. The staff was friendly, and both food and cider made their way to our table faster than I ever expected. The murmur of conversation that always seems to fill the space settles over you like a blanket, providing a warm, comforting sense of belonging. With dozens of people there enjoying a refreshing cider on a beautiful day, Citizen Cider can’t help but feel friendly and welcoming.
Dogs: Yes! We saw more than half a dozen dogs traipsing through the taproom while we were there. We were lucky enough to visit on a beautiful spring day, so many people were out and about with their furry friends.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. If you’re just stopping in for a flight or a pint, Citizen Cider definitely isn’t going to break the bank. Even their takeaway cans and bottles are very reasonably priced, considering how expensive craft beer and cider has gotten. But be warned--you may find yourself unable to resist their amazing food.
Food: Yes. Oh, yes. Citizen Cider has a full food menu, and you would be doing yourself a disservice to not at least sample some of what they have on offer. From starters and sandwiches to entree-sized meals, Citizen Cider offers a ton of different options to choose from. We only snacked on a couple of (delicious) sides during our time there, but the entire taproom was filled with the smell of delicious food that left us wishing we had stopped by earlier for lunch.
Final Thoughts: If you love cider, you owe it to yourself to pay Citizen Cider a visit. Their impressively broad array of ciders ensures that there’s something for everyone, and even those who don’t typically gravitate toward cider will likely find something that appeals to their palate here. Whether you love cherries, basil, ginger, maple syrup, or a variety of different hops, Citizen Cider stands ready to satisfy.
Brewery Name: Long Blue Cat Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 298 Rockingham Rd Londonderry, NH. The brewery is located near Manchester–Boston Regional Airport (MHT), as well as near Backyard Brewery & Kitchen, another recent entrant into the New Hampshire brewing scene.
Facebook: Long Blue Cat Brewing Co.
Background: Owned by Jason Knight and Shane Sorenson, two childhood friends from New Hampshire, Long Blue Cat Brewing Company opened its doors for the first time this December. The beer they brew is the result of years of homebrewing experience, and the brewery itself the culmination of the two friends’ ambition to enter the burgeoning New Hampshire beer scene. Of course, you’re probably wondering one thing right about now: what’s the deal with the name? Since Long Blue Cat doesn’t even spoil that secret on their own website, I won’t do it here. But suffice it to say that it’s an endearing story, and you can find it framed on the wall of the brewery’s taproom. You can also stop in and ask them yourself!
Growlers: Yep, growlers are currently the only way to take beer away from Long Blue Cat, as they do not appear to have can or bottling capabilities at the moment. I’m not sure if they are planning to change that, but given New Hampshire’s draconian beer laws and the fact that Long Blue Cat only recently opened, growlers are a perfectly satisfying solution to the takeaway problem.
The Beers: Long Blue Cat had a good number of beers on tap when I visited, and I took the opportunity to sample almost all of them. My flight included:
Vibe: The brewery only recently opened, and during my visit they were still enjoying a healthy “new brewery” boom. The taproom was crowded, but there were plenty of tables and lots of space at the various high-tops for people to sit or stand comfortably. The staff seems like they do a great job of managing the space, and the layout was clearly put together with free-flowing movement and accessibility in mind. Tables are spaced out enough that you’ll be able to hear each other talk without being drowned out by neighboring conversations.
The walls are decorated in classic brewpub form, with cans from various breweries both in the immediate area and beyond lining the ceiling. I saw cans from heavyweight breweries like Tree House and Trillium on display, as well as some well-deserved representation for smaller, local breweries like Henniker and Garrison City. It’s clear that Long Blue Cat has a lot of love for their New Hampshire compatriots.
Service was awesome. It’s surprising how much of a difference little modern updates can make, such as having the waitstaff carry smartphones that they can use to take and keep track of orders, as well as allow patrons to pay for their drinks right then and there. This makes a HUGE difference, especially at a time when the brewery is packed with people. Not having to wonder whether your drink order will be correct or wait for your bill to come is a little thing that makes the entire experience so much more enjoyable. I wish more breweries (and bars, for that matter) would follow Long Blue Cat’s example.
Overall, I look forward to coming back. Between the helpful staff, great layout, cool vibe, and awesome slate of different beer styles, Long Blue Cat is doing some really great things, especially for a brewery that only recently opened its doors. Really well done!
Dogs: I don’t think so. The brewery is a true brewpub, and with food prep stations clearly visible and a full food menu, it’s unlikely that dogs are welcome. That’s too bad, but it’s also completely understandable. [UPDATE 3/11/18: Recent visitors have indicated that dogs are often present in the brewery, which is great news. You may wish to proceed with caution as breweries that serve food can be wary of allowing dogs, but for now it appears that your furry friends are more than welcome!
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Pretty standard prices for a brewpub. Stopping in for a flight or pint is not going to break the bank.
Food: Long Blue Cat has a pretty robust food menu, and although I haven’t had the chance to sample any of the offerings myself, I’ve heard good things. The menu looked to contain items like flatbreads, grilled cheese sliders, and other fun takes on traditional bar food. I wish I’d had the opportunity to linger a bit longer, because all of the food I saw looked fantastic.
Final Thoughts: I came away impressed, and I look forward to stopping by again. Given the number of different beer styles on offer already, I’m excited to see what the brewers come up with next. As the New Hampshire beer scene continues to grow, I hope more breweries are able to open as successfully as Long Blue Cat.
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