Great Beer Always Leads To More Great Beer: How One Path Began With Deschutes’ Black Butte Anniversary Porter

•November 14, 2015 • 1 Comment

Deschutes Black Butte Anniversary XXVHonestly, I don’t remember how I acquired the beer.  But with ease, I remember its aroma, how it tasted, its body, and the setting in which my wife and I shared Deschutes’ XXV Anniversary Black Butte Imperial Porter on one chilly night in September, 2013.  If you’re deeply entrenched in good beer like I am, you know it often goes just like this.  The truly outstanding ones, you remember all of it – when you had it, where you were, who you were with, and, as you might have noticed, possibly even how the weather was outside at the time – you recall nearly every detail.  The taste, the aroma – it all creates a distinct, fond memory, but with this particular beer came one additional detail which, when I look back on things, might have been the most important:  how that particular beer would affect my beer choices going forward.

Important to understand is that while I don’t remember exactly how I came across it, I do remember that it was one of the first beers I went out of my way to get.  With no distribution to Roanoke, and with the Black Butte anniversary beer being a somewhat limited release, I couldn’t just pick up a bottle at my local craft beer store.  And although I would never pigeonhole myself into favoring one style over another, I admit that if I were faced, heaven forbid, with a one final beer-before-you-die question and it came down to some world class porter/stout or a more typical hop forward beer – yes, I’d probably pick the latter.  But after having it, the Black Butte XXV was, of course, enough to make me rethink that kind of decision.  So needless to say, it was definitely worth acquiring – so much so, that other beers of its kind would be too.

And in that fact lies what might have been most important about tasting the Deschutes Anniversary beer that evening more than two years ago.  If I had a curiosity for other, well made beers that were perhaps outside of my local availability, this beer poured gasoline on the fire.  It goes without saying that this isn’t to knock any product at all that has been or is currently available on the shelf at my local craft beer stores.  It is to say that this particular Deschutes beer was a stepping stone of sorts to seek out beers being created in other cities, or even in other states.  And while we may not have put the kind of mileage on the car that some I know have, traveling to the west coast or even to such northeastern havens for craft beer such as Vermont, but we have tallied up plenty of miles attending beer festivals, release events, and breweries not necessarily within easy driving distance, and of course, it’s all been more than worth it.

And so this is how it goes with good beer.  One outstanding example inspires you to seek out another, or maybe even the selection from an entire brewery.  An out of this world imperial stout or porter whets your appetite for trying more of the same style, and in turn those may take you off in some different direction as well.  Put simply, good beer begets good beer for the curious beer drinker.

I also can’t help but think about how that beer which I tasted some two years ago and caused such inspiration for myself is crafted by the same brewery my city is currently courting for its east coast expansion project.  Begun just over a month ago, the Deschutes 2 Roanoke Facebook page has over five thousand followers and continues to grab the attention of the Oregon based brewery, with media outlets both here in Roanoke and in Bend, home of the brewery, reporting on the growing interest.  Should Roanoke land the project, I also can’t help but think of how other craft beer curious folks in the region might seek out Deschutes and in turn, have it inspire them to reach out to other breweries and beers, both here in Roanoke and elsewhere.

For myself, I can’t help to think of how that one particular path to good beer would’ve truly come full circle.


Barrel Chest Celebrates Their Anniversary With “Barrel Fest”

•August 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last weekend saw Roanoke’s annual Microfestivus beer festival mark its 18th anniversary with the expected wide variety of beers and beer styles, which as always, presented a good way for those still getting fully into craft beer to expand their tastes.

Tomorrow, August the 15th, Roanoke’s Barrel Chest Wine and Beer is celebrating its one year anniversary by hosting a festival of their own, their first “Barrel Fest”, focusing almost exclusively on barrel aged beers.  For those who cannot get enough of the immense variation of aromas and flavors which placing a beer in a previously used bourbon, wine, or other similar barrel can add to the beer, this is a first ever event for Roanoke, and something that you should most definitely make your way to.  The list of beers scheduled to be available only underlines the need to attend, including gems from breweries such as Hardywood Park, Adroit Theory, The Bruery, Goose Island, and Avery, just to name a few.

The folks over at Barrel Chest also seem to have planned the event with a level of experience that can only come from attending functions like this before, selling tickets with not only with tiered times of admittance, but with a total cap at 250, so as to make sure “crowds are manageable”.  Noon tickets are already gone, and the next “level”, 1pm tickets, will only be available until the 250 capacity is reached.

The details can be found on their Facebook page here, or more specifically on the event portion of that page here.  I’m sure the store will also keep everyone updated on the availability of tickets on those pages as well.

It’s The Day Of Microfestivus! Check Out These Last Minute Beer List Possibilities and ‘Don’t Miss’ Beers

•August 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hardywood ParkLast minute changes to beer lists for festivals are simply the nature of the beast.  With that being said, some of the up to the last moment (possible) additions to today’s list for Microfestivus include some welcome additions.  Please keep in mind that oftentimes, until I see the beer being poured into my tasting glass, I might not believe it’ll be there.  Still, if these are true, I might be the very first in line to get a taste.

Hardywood Park Brewing Company (VA)  – Vinalia Urbana and Bourbon Cru.  Vinalia Urbana is a Belgian style Golden Ale which has been aged in white wine barrels.  I haven’t had the chance to taste this one quite yet, but most folks rate it pretty highly, referring to light apple and pear aromas and tastes, a light flavor from the barrel and perhaps from the wine used, and some candied fruit sweetness.  Bourbon Cru, a bourbon barreled Belgian Quad, has always been a personal favorite, with sweet bourbon out front and dark fruits not far behind.

Devils Backbone (VA) – The Devil Went Down to Oregon.  A collaboration with Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing, this is a beer that has showed up occasionally in the area from time to time, and also had a brief run in a mixed bottle pack that sold in stores for a while.  It is an Imperial Rye Ale, and was a favorite out of that mixed beer set (along with an Imperial IPA called Double Gooch), and as you might expect, has that wonderfully good spicy (I always think it tastes like white pepper) aroma and taste.

DuClaw Brewing (MD) – Umeboshi Gose.  DuClaw uses a particular variety of Japanese plums for this one, and adds a spicing to the beer as well not through traditional coriander but through the use of Japanese Shiso leaves, imparting a mintyness to the beer.

Not So Hidden Gems?

There will be plenty of beers to try out at Microfestivus tomorrow, representing all sorts of different styles and takes on a style.  Part of the fun and curiosity of any beer festival is making the most of what you’ll try, and hopefully finding memorable beers to base future curiosity on.  Which ones will you not want to miss?  Here are a few to consider:

Go Local:

Due to the fact that Big Lick Brewing doesn’t distribute, and tasting their beer requires a visit to their tasting room, I might imagine that some folks in the area might not have had the opportunity to try their beer.  If so, consider this your chance to try out a few examples of what the fine beer Big Lick has been brewing.  Beyond that, check out many of the solid examples of craft beer our local spots are turning out, since almost all of our nearby breweries will be represented today!

Go Small:

Chances are decent that Brothers Craft Brewing from Harrisonburg will have one of a handful of lower abv beers that have recently been on tap at their taproom, their Grisette.  A light, milder tasting Belgian style with plenty of history, this beer gives everyone a chance to try something completely different than anything else which will likely be at the festival.

Go Big:

As mentioned above, should Hardywood Park’s Bourbon Cru Belgian style quad ale be available, it should not be missed.  It is a sipper to be sure.


One of the beers I personally can’t wait to sample is a smoked IPA, brewed with peaches no less, from North Carolina’s Natty Greene’s.  You might know their Buckshot.  You might even know their Wildflower Witbier.  Do you know the brewery puts out a handful of some of the most sought after sours in this part of the country?  The brewery is capable of fine beers well beyond their flagships.  This “Lexington Smoked IPA” is part of their Silo Series, and is an example of such a beer.

Whichever beers you end up trying, hopefully many will satisfy the taste buds, and one or two standouts will satisfy some curiosity you may have for craft beer or a particular style or brewery….Cheers, all.   Have a blast.

Featured IPA For Microfestivus: Chaos Mountain’s Ultimate Warrior Imperial IPA

•August 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Today’s earlier post listed several of the IPAs which are scheduled to show up at Saturday’s Microfestivus.  But since today being the “official” #IPADay of 2015, I thought a closer look at one IPA (technically Imperial IPA) in particular wouldn’t be overkill.  I mean, it’s IPAs and their bigger brethren we’re talking about – considering all the endless aroma and flavor profiles they provide their fans, overkill just doesn’t seem to be possible in any way, shape, or form.

Chaos Mountain BrewingQuick Look:  Chaos Mountain Brewing Company’s Ultimate Warrior Imperial IPA

In the sixteen months since nearby Chaos Mountain Brewing Company opened, head brewer Will Landry and crew have seen their core line up of beers introduced on draft in bars and restaurants throughout the area, and then watched as their hard work took packaged form and began showing up on store shelves.  Just recently, the Callaway brewery introduced many of those beers to the Richmond market.  Beyond those core beers however, the brewery continues to produce several rotating and seasonal beers, often available at tap takeover style events or only at the brewery itself.  One of those, their Ultimate Warrior Imperial IPA, will be available Saturday at Microfestivus ’15.

Landry recently explained to me both how the beer came about and the types of hops that go into the beer.  “[Ultimate] Warrior came about as we were looking for another seasonal…one of the owners loves Nelson Sauvin [a particular hop variety] and he had just bought a small quantity and suggested we use that.”  Nelson Sauvin is a New Zealand hop variety which has been growing in popularity for some time now, and is said to be able to impart a white wine like ‘fruityness’ to beer, with a name that originates from the Sauvignon grape.  “I had [also] bought some small quantities of different hops just before we opened…so we started with some Warrior [another hop variety] which was really the only bittering hop we had, but I like it so it was fine.” Landry continues, explaining the remainder of the hops used in the beer, “…I had a little Falconer’s Flight, which is one of my personal loves, and we saved the Nelson for dry hopping.  Because it’s 8.5%, it has a strong malt backbone to support all the hops.”

The resulting beer has been popular at the brewery and at some of the tap takeover style events held around Roanoke, and has enjoyed a measure of success both with those new to IPAs as well as more experienced with the style.  “We’ve had dozens and dozens of folks come in and say ‘I don’t drink IPAs but I like this’, while it still succeeds in satisfying the IPA crowd.”

But while Landry and the rest of the crew at the brewery enjoy such feedback, Ultimate Warrior will likely remain as an occasionally brewed beer.  “We plan to brew a batch about once a quarter to meet the draft needs of the taproom and a bar here and there…”

On Saturday, Ultimate Warrior will also be available at Microfestivus.  I’d say that’s well close enough to celebrate, though somewhat belatedly, the “IPADay” holiday.

Microfestivus ’15:  This One’s For All The IPA Lovers In The Crowd

•August 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Microfestivus 2011#IPADay 2015 is today.  For true IPA fans, I doubt you needed an official reason to celebrate IPAs, right?  I know I don’t.

However, for those of you heading to this year’s Microfestivus, let me say this.  Just for kicks, I say we “officially” plan to move this “official holiday” to Saturday.  Because by my count, there are going to be enough notable IPAs there to keep your tasting glass filled with delicious hoppiness all day.  Not convinced?  Here’s a little breakdown of just some of the IPAs and Imperial IPAs that will likely be available, grouped (hopefully) helpfully and accordingly, with a little info about what they bring to the table.

The Produce Department: One of the most endearing attributes for IPAs are how they can deliver all sorts of citrus like, fruit forward aromas and flavors.  Here are a few.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Easy Jack (“Session” IPA) – Oranges all day. Also, is light, low abv, insanely easy to drink, with a mineral like finish.  I took this to the beach this year and never looked back.

Terrapin Beer Company Hi-5 (IPA) – oranges, nectarines, this is also fairly easy drinking with some pine and a dry-ish, crackery malt to it.

Troegs Brewing Company Perpetual (Imperial IPA) – Some tropical fruit and oily, piney hops, as well as slightly sweet, as you might expect.

Foothills Brewing Jade (IPA) – Slightly spicy (white pepper spicy?), melon flavors, and shadowy herbal aromas and tastes.

The Party Crowd: IPAs such as these deliver, of course, plenty of bitterness and ‘bigger’ versions more than a “solid malt backbone” to match…

Parkway Brewing Company Four Damn Fights to a Pint (Imperial IPA) – Boisterous and bitter, big grapefruit, malt to match.

Sixpoint Brewing Resin (Imperial IPA) – The name says it all, right?

Hardywood Brewing Company The Great Return (IPA) – Grapefruity, orangey, with a medium bodied mouthfeel.

The Well Dressed: While with others, that hop/malt balance is restrained, in a good way of course, lifting whatever hop profile the beer has to a high level…

Alpine Brewing Company Duet (IPA) – Nimble, deftly constructed, pine, citrus, and a perfect amount of supporting malt.  Just amazing stuff.

Big Lick Brewing Company Peace, Love, and Hoppiness (Imperial IPA) – I always hate to use the word, but for a bigger IPA, it’s fairly balanced.  Well placed pine and citrus, assertive but not overly so.

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter (IPA) – Grassy, white peppery, spicy, piney, oily.  In other words, there’s plenty going on to enjoy.

Of course, there will be many, many others, including many Virginia examples.  Wild Wolf Brewing’s Primal Instinct, Brothers Brewing’s Hoptimization, Chaos Mountain Brewing’s Ultimate Warrior, South Street Brewing’s Bar Hopper and Parkway Brewing Company’s Get Bent Mountain IPA.

I’ll say it again.  IPADay, if not everyday, is most definitely being celebrated….Saturday.


Microfestivus 2015: There’s A First Time For Everyone, and Fall Just May Be Coming After All…

•August 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Big Lick Brewing CompanyMaking their first appearances at this year’s Microfestivus will be a couple of newer local breweries, and both are bringing with them a good overall representation of the beers they produce.  Big Lick Brewing Company opened in late September of last year and since then has rolled through what seems like a few dozen well crafted ales and lagers at its downtown Roanoke location.  At Microfestivus, head brewer Bryan Summerson plans on bringing his easy drinking Status Quo Cream Ale, his ‘session’ IPA Time The Avenger, and his knock it out of the park Imperial IPA Peace, Love, and Hoppiness.  Any of these three are worth the stop by their tent on Saturday.  If you haven’t made it down to their place, I recommend trying all of them.

Also making what I believe is their first appearance at Microfestivus is nearby Callaway Brewing Company, which opened in late May of 2014.  The brewery will likely be bringing their Five Mile Mountain Amber Ale, their Freeborn IPA, and a relatively new White’s Wheat American Wheat Ale, which according to their Facebook page, uses wheat grown in Franklin County.

Witness The Changing of the Seasons at Microfestivus

Although my thoughts couldn’t be farther from cooler temperatures and the end of summer, I was reminded just a couple days ago that fall is approaching when I nearly ran over a stack of Southern Tier Pumking in the store with my shopping cart.  And while that mighty fall ale might not be coming this year to Microfestivus, a couple others will, so should you want a taste of the soon to be upon us season, seek out these:

Harrisonburg’s Brothers Brewing Company (formerly Three Brothers) is likely bringing their Fairgrounds Fall Ale, which uses allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg to impart a sense of the (coming) season.

Nothing says fall beer like an Oktoberfest style lager, and nearby Sunken City Brewing Company may bringing their own version, their Sunktoberfest, as well as their dark wheat beer Nachthexen.

Also, be on the lookout for this one:  There seems to be a chance that Pennsylvania’s Saucony Creek Brewing may be represented by their Maple Mistress Imperial Pumpkin ale, which is also made with spices and is produced with an addition of maple syrup.  It’s a bit sweet, but is a very solid beer if you don’t mind a sweeter fall/seasonal beer.

***Please keep in mind, the nature of a festival beer “list” is always subject for changes…and don’t forget to scroll down for yesterday’s Microfestivus ’15 post!  Cheers!

Looking Forward to Saturday’s Microfestivus – New Breweries, New Beers

•August 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Microfestivus 2015I can’t help it.  You could call it simple curiosity I guess, but I know better.  Leading up to any beer festival, I try to become as well informed and acquainted with the beer list as possible.  I simply want to know what I can try that I haven’t had before, or at the least, what favorite I’ll have a chance to revisit.   I simply can’t wait for the list to be handed to me at the gate.  Days before, I’m on the event’s website, seeing what’s what.  The night before a major beer fest?  I can be found poring over the list, forming a plan of action.  It just may be the craft-beer-nerdiest thing I do.

So, with Roanoke’s Microfestivus craft beer festival just a few days away (Saturday, August 8th), I figured a quick look at some of the beers that will be making an appearance was called for.  Of particular note are some well known breweries that, as far as I can remember, are making a first appearance at Microfestivus.  There are also some smaller breweries which are new to our area that will be represented as well.  With the disclaimer that pre-festival beer lists can always change at the last moment, and often do, here are a few possibilities to consider:

Alpine Beer Company – Alpine, CA. 

Makers of several highly rated beers, including many IPAs, such as Nelson and Duet.  Due to a recent agreement with Green Flash, who of course will be opening up a Virginia facility in 2016, a handful of Alpine’s beers have begun showing up at tap events in the state, including very recently at Blue 5.

Possible beers at Microfestivus:  Alpine Pale Ale, Duet IPA, McIlhenneys Irish Red Ale.

Ballast Point Brewing Company – San Diego, CA.

Another brewery making their first (I think!) appearance at Microfestivus, but with beers such as Sculpin and Victory at Sea, Ballast Point needs no introduction.

Possible beers:  Grunion Pale Ale, a beer that can redefine what you think of most ‘run of the mill’ pales ales with its dank aroma and taste, Even Keel, their ‘session ipa’, with a slight chance we’ll also see the Thai Chili version of the brewery’s Wahoo White Ale.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Paso Robles, CA.

(Notice a certain pattern?  And some wonder why the West Coast still carries that certain sense of revered craft beer nobility.)

Possible beers:  Easy Jack IPA – easily one of the best low ‘session’ ipas on the market, and Pivo Pilsner.

Green Flash – San Diego, CA (and in 2016, Virginia Beach!)

Possible beers:  Jibe session ipa, their Soul Style ipa, and Le Freak.

….and here are a couple of breweries that you might not know of yet that will be in attendance, again, with possible beers representing them:

The Civil Life – St. Louis, MO.

Beers appearing:  Rye Pale Ale and their American Brown ale.

Monocacy Brewing Company – Frederick, MD.

Beers appearing:  Riot Rye Pale Ale, and their HL Rex Session Pale Ale.

Brewers Alley – Frederick MD.

Beers appearing:  An English style IPA and a Kolsch.

This is merely just a start to some of the beers that will likely be at this year’s Microfestivus.  I hope to post a few more in the coming days…!


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