Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fermentation without Representation

Something about Thanksgiving always makes me think of good beer. Most likely it's the memory of the roasted pumpkin ale that Nick and I made at my cousin Caroline's place in the Poconos back in 2003, and which we drank like water it was so smooth, sharing it with our collective families during that Thanksgiving dinner. (Well, really it was Nick's masterful brewing, but I like to think I played a decent Igor role in the affair. "Bring me the hops!" "Yesss, massster....") Dad and I still reminisce about that pumpkin ale every now and then, usually around this time of year.

I may not make beer myself (yet), but I know a thing or two about it. I believe my appreciation of beer began a few years after my AmeriCorps days of drinking $2 pints of Bud Light, when I was living and teaching in Brooklyn and dating the aforementioned wonderful young gentleman who had gotten his hands on his first used homebrew kit. Those were good nights and weekends of us concocting blackberry wheat ales and caramel fig porters and scottish red ales. Mmmm. I've been angling for exceptional beer (and an exceptional partner) ever since. And, oh, that pumpkin ale. With a few empty carboys lazing around under the back deck behind my apartment and a Rogue Nation homebrewer's card in my wallet, I'm thinking it's high time I got cracking on recreating that delicious brew. But first: research.

Small-scale craft beer brewing has really taken off recently in these United States. While there's quite a tradition of homebrewing and microbrewpubs in parts of the Pacific Northwest especially, it's only more recently that folks around DC have had access to anything approaching "local" beer. (My backup since college has been Pottsville, PA's own Yuengling lager, though Flying Dog and a few Baltimore-based breweries have sprung up over the past handful of years.) Ah, but earlier today I joined my newlywed friends Meredyth and Greg for a tour of DC Brau -- the answer to the thirst for what D.C. has not had in over 60 years: a brewery whose product is available in local stores and on tap outside of its site of production. Here's a snapshot of Mere and Greg at the end of our tour -- don't they look happy to have a local source for good beer?

The tour itself was pretty interesting once we got past the rather nondescript, giant metal tanks and into the area with cask-aging ales and the secluded sour beer fermentation room (where rare, wild yeasted brews do their thing for a couple of years before being imbibed). The canning machinery was also pretty fun to learn about, though it wasn't running when we walked past while sipping on samples from the 4 varieties on tap and admiring the cool sculptures and murals scattered about the space. I especially liked the Belgian-style Citizen tripel and the (also Belgian-style) Penn Quarter porter. Looks like I'll have to make my way over to Meridian Pint for a taste of the Fermentation Without Representation, DC Brau's seasonal pumpkin porter, as there was none to be found on site at the brewery for us to fill up Greg's growlers.... Maybe I can pick up some free empty 750ml bottles while I'm there, instead of drinking endless 4-packs of Grolsch like Nick and I used to do to build up our supply of resealable bottles. I do love all things pumpkin, after all (and have a hard time looking at a bottle of Grolsch after that first summer of being a homebrewer's assistant.)

Speaking of local breweries springing up, I also just a couple of weeks ago tried out a few of the inaugural offerings of Cerveza Nacional and Cornerstone Copper Ale from Chocolate City Beer. It was part of the background research I was doing on local entrepreneurs for the next issue of Bittersweet Zine. No, really. I haven't yet toured their brew space, nor that of the soon-to-open Three Stars Brewing Company, but I aim to get myself to both in coming months. So much beer to try, so little time. Oh, wait, no, that's not quite right. I am a food educator, after all, and high-quality, locally-made beer must somehow fall under my purview. It's for the good of the food community, I assure you, as few things complement a good, locally-sourced meal like a good, locally-sourced drink.

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