Richmond’s Hardywood Park To Be Featured At Events This Week At Beamer’s 25 and Wasena City Tap Room On Wednesday, and Then At First Friday’s!

•July 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hardywood ParkAfter having spent the last few years carefully building a solid reputation for making great craft beer by serving them to its hometown fans in Richmond, Hardywood Park is wasting no time in introducing some of the beers that reputation is built upon to Roanoke, one of the brewery’s newest areas for distribution.  Following the appearance of a couple of Hardywood beers at Blue 5 this past weekend, two more restaurants are featuring the brewery at events on Wednesday the 30th.  Beamer’s 25, in downtown Roanoke, and the Wasena City Tap Room will both have at least a couple of the brewery’s beers available.  In addition, as many as three Hardywood beers will be available at First Friday’s this week.  Bottles of Hardywood beer also began reaching store shelves on Monday, as Wine Gourmet posted on their Facebook page Monday that the store had received an initial shipment.

Beamers 25According to information posted on the Beamer’s 25 Facebook page, the restaurant will be featuring Hardywood’s “Singel”, their Belgian Abbey style Blonde Ale, as well as their Virginia Blackberry, a Belgian style White Ale made with an addition of fresh Virginia blackberries.   If you go, make sure to taste both, but if you have to make a choice, definitely give the Virginia Blackberry a go.  The beer comes across in its taste with a soft, white bread or white biscuity like flavor that is threaded by a berry or plum like flavor that never gets too much in the way.

Wasena City Tap Room and GrillBeginning at 6pm over at the Wasena City Tap Room, Hardywood’s Singel, Virginia Blackberry, and their Bourbon Barrel Double IPA will be making an appearance, as reported on their own Facebook page.  Again, introduce yourself to all of these with at least a taste or two, but here, try not to miss the Bourbon DIPA.  Many bourbon barreled IPAs come at you like a monster, firing from the hip with both guns blazing – characteristics from the IPA itself, and then plenty of influence from the bourbon barreling.  Personally, I thought Hardywood’s was one of the more enjoyable examples of this kind of beer I’ve had by not playing in that neighborhood at all; although the affects from the barreling wins out with plenty of vanilla and bourbon in the aroma and taste, there is a sense that the two sides fought it out and decided to make some sort of peace, the result of which is a beer where the edges are more rounded off and softened, instead of being angular and able to knock you over with each sip.

First Friday's Roanoke VaFirst Friday’s continues to prominently feature craft beer at their events, and this week, the downtown end of the week celebration will indeed take advantage of Hardywood’s introduction to the area, featuring their Virginia Blackberry, Singel, and Bourbon DIPA when the event kicks off at 5pm.  Considering the heat and humidity the Roanoke area has experienced lately, both the Singel and the Virginia Blackberry make perfect beers to take the edge off with.  But again, try not miss a chance to taste the Bourbon DIPA as well.




Get On Board With Roanoke’s New Craft Beer Tours

•July 28, 2014 • 2 Comments

Roanoke Food Tours GuideIn a matter of a few months, there will be seven craft breweries operating in and around the Roanoke area, six of which have opened in the last year or so.  Even without considering the weekly craft beer events at restaurants and bars, the opening of The Barrel Chest, a new beer (and wine) store on Franklin Road, and the addition of at least one new festival at Smith Mountain Lake this year, you’d be hard pressed to argue the growth of the craft beer scene in Roanoke.  But just in case you do want to take up that point, Larry Landolt would like to show you otherwise.  As a matter of fact, he’ll even drive you to the breweries himself.

Landolt, the founder of “Discover Roanoke Food Tours” will soon be introducing a craft beer tour to his company’s repertoire.  Likely beginning in September, up to fourteen craft beer curious folks will board Landolt’s newly acquired tour bus and visit some of the breweries in and around Roanoke, with tastings planned at each stop.  After a bit of information about the Star City’s brewing history, each tour group will head out to visit a few of the breweries, with the included locations varying from one tour to another.

So far, Landolt has talked to nearly all of the area breweries and states that everyone has been very receptive.  After all, it’s clearly a win-win situation, as Landolt offers the tours to interested patrons, and breweries get to show off their beers to folks who might not otherwise visit the brewery for one reason or another.  As with his company’s food tours, he expects that tourists to Roanoke may be interested in finding out just what the area has to offer, beer wise.  And with the growing popularity of the “beer-cation”, a planned vacation for the beer curious to areas with solid craft beer cultures, Landolt may begin to see more and more of those folks who are seeking Roanoke out strictly for its own craft beer culture, especially as it continues to grow.

Recent legislation has allowed Landolt to more easily begin planning his craft beer tours.  Virginia Senate Bill 178 allows for operators of such tours to include the cost of the tastings with the tour price.

Private as well as public tours are planned to be offered, giving groups of friends the chance to visit the breweries together, perhaps as part of a family gathering or bachelor/bachelorette party.  But in general, the tours will last roughly three hours and visit three breweries, including ones within Roanoke and Salem, such as Parkway, but also include breweries more on the periphery, such as Smith Mountain Lake’s Sunken City.  Landolt expects the tours to begin operating in late September.

Visit the company’s Facebook page here, and its website here.

Microfestivus 2014 Brewery Quick Look: Perennial Ales

•July 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As this year’s Microfestivus craft beer festival is now less than two weeks away, I figured I’d take a look at some of the breweries planned to be represented at the festival.  For the next several days, I hope to write up a few quick looks at some of these breweries, with more of an eye towards the ones that are new to the festival this year.  Of course, as often with beer festivals, last minute changes are somewhat the rule of thumb, so keep in mind breweries (and beers) can be announced and then drop out, but for the moment, St. Louis’ Perennial Ales is on the list.  Here’s a (super) quick look.

Perennial Artisan Ales, St. Louis MO

Perennial Artisan Ales“Thin Mint!” came the exclamation from across the bar.  Having seemingly little to do with any of the other subjects of conversation at the time, and well, since most everyone tends to enjoy the occasional surprise appearance of Thin Mints, it grabbed my attention.  Of course, none of the tiny dark chocolate treats had suddenly appeared before the patrons at Blue 5’s “Christmas In July” celebration of dark beers Friday night.  But a stout that tasted like one apparently had.  A few minutes later, I was tasting the same beer, Perennial Ales’ “17” Imperial Stout, made with mint leaves and cocoa nibs.  Yep.  Thin Mints.  And it was good.

Still relatively new to the Roanoke area, the St. Louis based brewery has had a few of its ales show up on tap in the Roanoke area, “17” being the latest.  At the least, an “Imperial” Saison called Regalia and their Aria Belgian Ale have made appearances at spots around the Roanoke, and bottles of a few others have shown up on store shelves as well.  On August 9th, the brewery will be represented – for the first time if memory serves – at Roanoke’s Microfestivus.

The brewery creates a wide range of styles, and their Abraxas Imperial Stout might be the most coveted among folks who are more familiar with the brewery’s beers.  Arguably more known for their Belgian style beers however, their “flagships” include the Aria, a Belgian style Saison brewed with chamomile leaves called Saison de Lis, and Hommel Bier, a dry hopped Belgian Pale.  But the entire line up does include several styles, from more limited released IPAs to acclaimed Stouts like the Abraxas and another called “Sump”, to German styles, like their Black Walnut Dunkel.  Often, their beers feature added local, organic, and seasonal ingredients to deepen their complexity, as with the mint leaves in 17, or with the local honey used in their Tripel “Woodside”.  Perennial also produces several barrel aged beers, as their Brewmaster, Phil Wymore was once the cellar manager at Goose Island, and oversaw the Chicago brewery’s well known barrel aging program.

Microfestivus ’14 features at least a handful of breweries which are new to the festival this year, of which Perennial is just one.  If you haven’t had a chance to taste any of their beers yet, stop by and see what the St. Louis brewery has to offer!



Weekend Tap Update: Dark Beers Kick Off The Weekend At Blue 5 Tonight

•July 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Foothills Sexual Chocolate StoutTaste enough beer and you will eventually hear someone say something along the lines of “Yeah, well, I’m just not into [insert any style of beer here]”, writing off perhaps an entire style in one fell swoop.  (Trust me, it won’t take long.)  It could be argued that the great expanse of hop forward beers may have this situation cornered with their long road to appreciating that bitter bite, a learning curve that for some might as well be as big as the arch in downtown St. Louis.  But you’ll also hear the same being said from time to time about darker beers, and predominantly among those, stouts or porters.  (Although for the record, there are plenty of these beers that sport a formidable hop presence.)

This always throws me for a bit of a loop. Without getting into the argument over those all too common myths regarding darker beers – that they’re all too heavy, or that they’re all fuller bodied than other kinds of beers, or that they always have much more calories than other types of beers – darker beers are often full of some extremely beloved aromas and flavors.  Rich flavors.  The best, richest, most chocolaty dessert like flavors.  Your favorite-morning-beverage like flavors.

Just consider for a moment the words often used to describe stouts, porters, or other dark beers:  Coffee like, Chocolaty, Roasty, Smokey, Rich, Intense…or “tastes like” liquorice, espresso, or even dark fruits (think dark cherries perhaps).  This doesn’t even begin to touch on their typically smooth as silk mouthfeel.  Nor does it begin to delve into how aging many of these beers in whiskey or bourbon barrels can add further complexity, or how simply adding oats to the brewing process can impart an even smoother body, or how adding lactose can add sweetness to styles such as Milk Stouts.  And we’re not going to even get into the breweries that toss peanuts or peanut butter into brewing their dark beers.

Often, we tend to write things off after one less than satisfying experience and then apply what we “learned” across the board.  If perhaps you’ve only had one, two, or even a handful of darker beers (stouts, porters, and the like) and haven’t quite landed a favorite, you may owe it to yourself to come out to Blue 5 Restaurant’s “Christmas In July” celebration tonight (starts at 5pm).  According to the restaurant, close to thirty dark beers will be front and center, and I am willing to bet you can find one or two that will envelope you in their rich, roasty nature.  (And might make you change your mind about dark beer – or any kind of beer for that matter – too.)

Check out this week’s earlier post, below, for a partial listing of beer to be featured at the event.  Beers will be available in both draft and bottle form!


Also, don’t forget this weekend to turn out for plenty going on at our local breweries in and around Roanoke.  Food trucks and/or live music have become regular fixtures for spots like Chaos Mountain, Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers, Parkway Brewing Company, and Sunken City.  Daleville’s Flying Mouse will be hosting a “ShrimpFest” out at their place on Saturday as well.

Blue 5’s “Christmas In July” Event Begins To Take Shape

•July 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Blue 5 RestaurantAre you ready to indulge in the dark?  As noted in Monday’s post, Blue 5 Restaurant’s “Christmas In July”, the downtown restaurant’s annual summertime celebration of stouts, porters, and dark beers, kicks off Friday at 5pm.  Around 25 of these types of dark beers in all are apparently going to be making an appearance at the event (according to the restaurant’s Facebook page) but to get your mouth watering and ready for the upcoming dive into the overwhelming selection of velvety smooth, rich ales, below is a partial list of the ones that will be available.

Terrapin Brewing’s Wake ‘N’ Bake Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout

Three Brothers Resolute Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout

Three Brothers Atramentous (Resolute Barrel Aged Sour Belgian Stout)

Allagash Brewing Red Howes (Stout brewed with cranberries)

Perennial Ales “17” Mint Chocolate Stout

Foothills Brewing Sexual Chocolate

Boulevard Brewing Chocolate Ale

Evil Twin Brewing Biscotti Break Porter

BFM (Swiss) La Mandragore Foreign Stout

Parkway Brewing Barrel Aged Belgian Dark Ale Magella

Again, this is only a partial list.  On the restaurant’s Facebook page, a listing of breweries likely to be represented also includes the likes of Founders, Schlafly, Oskar Blues, Smuttynose, Legend, Lost Rhino, and Starr Hill just to name a few.

In addition, the night will also likely serve as our first introduction to Hardywood Park Brewery, which recently announced it would begin distributing into the Roanoke area.  Representatives will likely be on hand, and it is rumored that not only will brewery logo glasses will be available for a limited time, but the brewery may also contribute to the spirit of the night with one or two of their own beers as well.

Don’t Miss Blue 5’s “Christmas In July” Celebration of Stouts This Friday

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Blue 5 Christmas In July 2014For those who still think rich, dark beers are only for the colder months of the year, Blue 5 Restaurant hosts an event each summer to help wash away such thoughts, and to help remind everyone that a great stout is a good idea no matter what the calendar might say.  (But we’re well beyond all that, right?)  This Friday, the downtown restaurant will kick off their annual “Christmas In July” at 5pm with over 20 stouts on tap, including beers from breweries such as Harrisonburg’s Three Brothers, Winston Salem’s Foothills Brewing, Terrapin Brewing, Heavy Seas, Founders, Schlafly, Evil Twin, Oskar Blues, Legend, Smuttynose, Lost Rhino, and Starr Hill.

Of course, it’s difficult not to wonder what the individual stouts from these breweries might be.  Would Three Brothers’ Resolute be a possibility?  Founders’ or Schlafly’s Imperial Stouts?  Considering some of the beers that have shown up at this event previously, such as Foothills’ Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout, it’ll be certainly be worth coming out just to check out the tap list.

In addition, there will be some “special surprise” stouts as well.  One also has to wonder if the recent news of Richmond’s Hardywood Brewery coming to Roanoke just might play into the event’s plans somehow.

Without a doubt, this is an event not to miss if you simply love a velvety smooth, blow your mind rich, deeply flavorful, chocolately, roasty, possibly barrel aged stout – or simply love great beer regardless of style.  Blue 5 puts away many of these beers throughout the year just to put them on tap for this event alone.  Trust me, should you still think that the coming of cold weather is the only time for a great stout, you’ll definitely be missing out.

View From The Road: Three Brothers’ Virginia Dark Black IPA

•July 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Three Brothers Virginia Dark Black IPAHere’s another post in what I’m calling the “View From The Road” series, taking a look at a singular beer to seek out and enjoy, but nothing so rare that you have to refinance your house to buy any, or travel to the opposite coast to find it. Cheers!

Could it be, after all this time, the name is still an issue?  After all, it still seems as if it’s easier to find discussions on what to “appropriately” call a Black IPA – a style of beer that for the record I prefer calling, well, a Black IPA – rather than to find much about the beers themselves.  But for whatever reason, there often seems to be a black cloud (yes, and I said black cloud) that perpetually hangs over the “style” for which we can’t settle on a name for, or for that matter, the origins of.  Whether it’s the name of the style (which I doubt) or not, time after time, I still hear folks saying they can’t find one they truly care for.  Personally, I think we still have a hard time getting past the obvious.  Introducing darkness to a beer that is usually hazy at the most feels a little unnatural, as if we’re forcing it into a situation it’s obviously not comfortable in.  Or more correctly, we’re not comfortable with the thought of such a thing.  In other words, calling a beer an IPA that is as dark as pitch feels a bit like we’re taking some revered, deeply respected actor whom everyone tends to like – let’s say, Harrison Ford himself – and forcing him into some unnatural circumstance, like shooting a TV spot for Hank’s Used Cars over on Main and 4th.  It just seems wrong somehow, and immediately makes it uncomfortable to watch.  Or in the case of the Black IPA, to like what we’re drinking.

But perhaps our issue with Black IPAs is that there aren’t enough exceptional examples out there to start validly comparing one against another.  In most of the ones I’ve tried, it seems as if the two “sides” of the beer don’t play well together, and it turns out a little muddled, or the dark ale qualities seem to be almost an afterthought.  For my money, the better examples of Black IPAs come across as dark ales almost first, reminding you of Porters or even Dark Milds, the qualities of which (smokiness, light roastyness) at the very least match, if not step directly in front of, any typical IPA “attributes” (citrus or pine like for example).

Lucky enough for those of us here in Roanoke, such a quality version of the style is being produced in our own backyard.  A couple of months ago, Three Brothers’ Virginia Dark Black IPA showed up on draft in the Star City, and in the last week or so, bottles starting popping up on store shelves in spots like Sumdat and Wine Gourmet.   Here’s a quick breakdown of this tasty beer.


Matched up step for step with a definite, earthy pine like aroma and taste from the hops, Virginia Dark rolls out a ‘just enough’ roasted graininess flavor with each sip.  Again, think of the roasty nature of a good Porter, or almost to a dry stout.  With a couple more tastes, you’d swear there’s a bit of smokiness in the background.  There’s a dryness that aids in the whole “earthy” feeling of this beer.  Given some time to warm a bit, the smokiness may come out a little bit more, but still, none of the other characteristics really back down either.  Somewhere in there, there’s a quick thread of citrus too.

Many Black IPAs seem to have two distinct sides that don’t mesh well, one featuring whatever characteristics that were given to it by the malt that was used, and that of the hops.  But in Virginia Dark, the two work together to bring about a beer which is full of earthy tastes and aromas and make one great tasting beer, no matter what you want call it.



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