A few weeks ago, I watched a look reminiscent of a kid on Christmas morning come over the face of a friend who had recently begun his trip into the world of craft beer. He was visiting Blue 5 for the first time, and the sight of the restaurant’s forty six taps of craft beer placed phrases such as “So, I’m going to be here for a while” and “We’re going to need to come back here again, and soon” into his mouth with relative ease. Without a doubt, the nearly fifty beers at Blue 5 make the restaurant a fantastic place to explore most any style from stout to sour. For those of us a little more accustomed to the sight of the numerous tap handles which line the wall behind the bar, what keeps us returning time and time again are the regular weekend changes in beer lineup, events such as the Bourbon County release party and Christmas In July celebration of dark beer, the pre Microfestivus parties, the tap takeovers, the flights, and of course, the sight of the restaurant’s craft beer Manager, Chaz Blevins, who is always willing to chat up craft beer, and what’s coming next to the downtown restaurant.
But regardless of how many beers those of us who frequent Blue 5 have tasted there, or how many flights we’ve sampled, the most memorable visits to the restaurant can also come down to – at least for me – a single beer.
In early May of this year, on a late Saturday night, my wife and I ran into a few of our friends at the restaurant. After a couple of flight tastings, a large bottle showed up before us with tasting glasses for all, a surprise order from one of our friends. Over the next hour or so, some of the same folks who had come to my wife and I’s wedding reception a few weeks earlier split Goose Island’s highly acclaimed Belgian style wild ale Madame Rose – a Belgian style wild ale, barrel aged on cherries – over the retelling of stories from our blast of a reception night which eventually became a roving party of sorts.
Several weeks later, I would be standing at Blue 5’s bar again, splitting a bottle with a few friends. The beer had recently just been released and Chaz, having tasted it already, was having a difficult time holding in his own favorable first impression. At his suggestion and everyone else’s desire to try it, the bottle was soon in front of us. The beer was a Belgian style stout, aged in bourbon barrels, and then given a sour treatment with the addition of lactobacillus, and I wondered how the beer would go over, especially with one person in particular. Admittedly, one of our friends was new to the world of sour style beers, and the glass of Three Brothers Atramentous served as his formal introduction. Among the varied impressions we all had of the beer – smoky, roasted malt, sour cherries, bitter chocolate, something along the lines of cigar wrappers – the friend who had just tasted his first sour style beer announced he was hooked. I ran into him again a few weeks later, seeking out another taste of the beer at a festival.
There have been other many other memories made than those described above at Roanoke’s Blue 5 between myself, my wife, and our friends. And I know we cannot be the only ones. It has often been said that beer brings friends and family together, and when you have the events and the selection that Blue 5 has, these types of moments are bound to occur. Sure, you can look at the tap takeovers and other events from a purely practical standpoint, and you’d be hard pressed to many craft beer bars with the selection that Blue 5 has. But you could look beyond the numbers, beyond the forty six taps, and think of what the beer – but more importantly, the place, provides – a spot to try the beer, often side to side with those who know you well, and then naturally, and more importantly in the long run, a place to spend some time with those friends.
I truly believe it is because of this reason Blue 5 deserves to find itself squarely in the middle of the final voting for CraftBeer.com’s “Great American Beer Bars” contest for this year. Numbers of taps and frequency of events may sway many a voter in such a poll, but I, for one, cast my vote based upon the type of thing that reaches well beyond any statistics – that of fond memories. Cheers.
—Have similar recollections? Check out the poll website here.