Stone Brewing To Open Up In Roanoke?

•March 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

By now, you may have heard that the nationally known craft brewery Stone Brewing, based in Escondido California, is searching for a spot to locate a brewery on the east coast.  More notably for those of us in Soutwestern Virginia, and more specifically the Roanoke area, you may have also heard that the Star City seems to be getting some mention in rumors for that possible location.

Needless to say, it’s all too easy to get excited over the prospect of a major craft brewing company, much less one of Stone Brewing’s stature, opening up here in Roanoke.  The idea is certainly not baseless – a Facebook group promoting such a development in Roanoke was started a mere 21 hours ago and has already reached above 500 followers, but more importantly, a post from that seems to have come from the group’s administrators mentioned just three hours ago that they believe Roanoke has responded to a request for information from the brewery, which, if true, would seem to imply a formal curiosity in the city. 

Of course, there are at least a few other east coast locations that also have begun generating excitement over the possibility of Stone opening up within their city limits.  Fans of the brewery in Charlotte, NC, have also created a Facebook group to show their enthusiasm for bringing Stone there, and there has also been plenty of relevant twitter activity from craft beer fans in and around Blount County, Tennessee over the last few days.

Could it be possible that Stone would open up here, or nearby Roanoke?  If you are a craft beer fan and live in or around the Star City, there certainly seems to be enough activity so far to believe Roanoke just might indeed be throwing their hat into the ring.  Perhaps Blue 5’s and Jack Brown’s participation in Stone’s Most Bitter Bar competition last year helped put the city on the radar.  At the very least, considering Roanoke’s number of restaurants and pubs which prominently feature craft beer, its yearly craft festival Microfestivus and other events, and the number of local and regional breweries which have opened up over the last few years, I would think our resume is strong for such a possibility.

As the Facebook group puts it, I personally believe that Roanoke is indeed worthy of Stone opening up here in the Roanoke Valley.  How can you help?  Visit the Facebook group, and give it a “Like” to show support, and keep up with the news and posts on the group for the latest.  Share the group with friends.

Let’s get on board with this, Roanoke craft curious.  Give them a hearty Cheers, and show some Roanoke, Virginia love.  It’s time to truly show off the craft beer enthusiasm that’s been building for some time now.  Let Stone know that you’d love to welcome them to our craft beer loving city of Roanoke.

Here’s one more link to the Facebook group.

“For The Love Of The Brew” – Roanoke’s First Rare Beer Event Is Saturday. (Here’s a Quick Run Down of Some Of The Beers…)

•March 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

For The Love of the BrewOne offs, limited releases, brewery exclusives.  Regardless of how such beers get their start, whether to simply mix things up for a brewpub’s more locally based customers, or whether to test run a beer for perhaps larger distribution in the future, or just for the sheer fun in it, most craft breweries are consistently coming up with beers that place somewhere well outside their usual line up.  Perhaps they are simply “bigger” beers, monsters in terms of recipe and/or ingredients with an aroma and flavor to match, or perhaps they are less “popular” styles that might seem a bit risky to put to market.  No matter the reason for their creation or what sorts of beers they are, these brews often generate plenty of curiosity, due to their limited availability.  To try these beers, you often have to be in the right place if not also at the right time.  Again, they are usually available only at the brewery’s tasting room or brewpub, and if they see any distribution at all, it is often on a very limited scale.  But curiosity is a given characteristic of the true craft beer geek – trying different beers and different styles is why we all got into such beer to begin with.  So to say that such limited release beers are not only on our radar, but at the very top of the list, is an understatement indeed.

Imagine then, a beer festival based solely upon featuring such brews.  The idea isn’t necessarily a brand new one, as several festivals which are based around offering limited release beers have been going on annually for some time now.  A few in North Carolina are reaching their fifth or so year of operation, including ones in Raleigh and Charlotte.  But as mid sized cities, such as Roanoke, continue to grow in their overall craft beer appreciation, so does the curiosity for hosting their own rare beer events.  Such a festival for the Star City then was perhaps always on the horizon, and simply needed enough interest and enough time to become reality.  This Saturday, all the necessary forces have finally come together as Roanoke will host its first rare beer event – “For The Love of the Brew” – held inside the downtown Roanoke Market Building.

Information and details can be found on the event’s Facebook page here.  Now onto the beers.

A trio of beers not to miss will be available from Harrisonburg’s Three Brothers.  The first is the brewery’s Russian Imperial Stout “Resolute”, followed by their sour style Belgian blonde Savage Blonde, both of which I mentioned recently in a post here.  A third will be their richly delicious Dubbel, aged in Rum barrels.

Included in the beers Nelson County’s Devils Backbone is bringing will be their “Dead Bear” Imperial Stout, usually a brewery basecamp exclusive.  Dead Bear boasts a creamy mouthfeel and an extremely flavorful taste, plentiful of bittersweet chocolate and some deeply roasted coffee.

Apocalypse Ale Works is bringing a couple of new inventions, their Cenful Blonde and a taste of their collaboration with Devils Backbone’s Brewmaster Jason Oliver, a doppelsticke called Devils Secret, which I wrote up recently in an article here.

From Legend comes a couple of interesting options, the first of which being their monster of a barleywine.  The second is an oyster stout called Teach’s Stout, a beer that is part of the brewery’s 2014 Urban Legend series, in which the brewery teams up with a brewer from another Virginia brewery to produce a beer to help celebrate Legend’s 20th anniversary.  A good oyster stout is always a personal favorite, and usually pairs the slight briny (or even slightly sweet) flavor from the oysters used to a solid but not overwhelming, dry-ish roastiness of the stout.

Starr Hill, among others, will be offering up what looks like will be a bourbon barrel version of their Cryptical imperial stout.

Sunken City is bringing out roughly three one offs, which should include their California Common lager Steamboat (Steemboat?).  I had a chance to taste this at the tap event at Cork & Crust about a week ago, and it was darn good, featuring a sturdy hop (pine? the slightest citrus?) presence that gave the beer plenty of character and a refreshingly bitter snap and a barely there fruitiness that also helped to keep things interesting.

From Victory, bottles of their Old Horizontal barleywine should be available as well as a keg of their seasonal, draft only Hop Ticket Hoppy Wheat ale.

Rare beer events often showcase the extreme in flavorful, aromatic beers.  In Roanoke’s first go at such a festival, from headcount alone, it looks like several kinds of stouts will take center stage, which won’t be out of place at all if you love to pair such beers with colder weather. Take the opportunity to taste some limited run, Virginia produced beer, and perhaps most of all, come out to support what hopefully will be the first of many rare beer events for the Roanoke area.  Cheers!

Weekend Tap Update (Updated)

•February 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Friday night kicked off the weekend with a couple events, listed below.  As (almost) always, tap takeover style events mean that at least some of the beers that were featured are still available at those locations.

Local Roots Restaurant, Roanoke, VaIn addition, a few other new beers have also made an appearance at other locations around Roanoke for the rest of the weekend.  First, Local Roots has recently put Terrapin’s Mosaic rye malt based ale, which I believe is single hopped with the hop that bears the beer’s name.  This was a fairly recent release for the Georgia based brewery and has been pretty highly reviewed overall.

Blue 5 RestaurantBlue 5 continues to pit new draft beers against each other in head to head match-ups, with this weekend’s contest featuring New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk stout versus DuClaw’s Cocoa Fuego spiced up stout.  Fans of either beer can then vote for their favorite on the Blue 5′s facebook page, with the restaurant working to then bring back the winner again to the bar at some point in the near future.

Starr Hill Brewing(Friday) Weekend Tap Update arrives a little early as two craft beer events will be kicking off the weekend on Friday.  First, Martin’s Grill in downtown Roanoke will be hosting a tap takeover featuring Starr Hill (Crozet, Va), and among other beers, I would expect to see the brewery’s Grateful Pale Ale, which was recently promoted to year round availability.  Also, this year’s edition of the brewery’s Little Red Roostarr Coffee Stout, produced in collaboration with Red Rooster Coffee Roasters in Floyd, Va, has recently begun releasing to the area, and quite possibly could make an appearance at this event.

Cork & Crust Friday Night HopsSecondly, downtown Roanoke’s Cork & Crust continues to elevate its presence as a craft beer destination in town with the newest installment of their Friday Night Hops event.  Each Friday since the beginning of February, the artisan pizza restaurant has held a tap takeover style event featuring local and regional breweries and bands.  So far, Devils Backbone, Apocalypse Ale Works, and Wild Wolf breweries have been present, but this time around Sunken City Brewing will be showcasing their beers at the event.  John Park, a Roanoker and well known presence in the region’s food and beverage scene, recently visited Sunken City and assisted in creating a special release stout which will be on tap at Friday’s event.

Keeping Up With Harrisonburg’s Three Brothers Brewing Company

•February 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

3 Brothers Brewing Harrisonburg VAAdam Shifflett was the first to ask what was in the two, one gallon Ziploc bags I was holding.  “Here”, as I lifted one to near eye level, “are some toasted coconut flakes, and in the other, toasted almonds”.  With no true brewing experience under my belt, I had been invited to visit Three Brothers Brewing Company in Harrisonburg and help “design” a small size cask beer – or more to the point, and thankfully for my limited skills, simply add a couple ingredients to a small batch of the brewery’s new Russian Imperial Stout.  All morning I had been wondering how the two ingredients would go over.  At the very least, I hoped that I simply wouldn’t be in the way.  After all, Adam and his brothers, three guys who had been home brewing for most of their adult lives, and who now own and operate a brewery that had begun distributing to restaurants and stores in central and southwestern Virginia – were guys who actually brew beer.  I was just showing up with two Ziploc bags.  The cask, as long as my ingredients didn’t make it unpalatable, was to be featured at the brewery’s tent at Roanoke’s 16th annual Microfestivus in a couple months.  I kept feeling that my involvement was a bit like looking over the shoulder of a successful painter and saying… “um, hey buddy, don’t you think you ought to add a little more green over in that corner there…?”  But Adam shook my hand, graciously welcomed me to the brewery, and seemed to be perfectly fine with a couple of somewhat random food items that I would soon be pouring into his brewery’s newest beer.

Inside the 3 Brothers Brewing TaproomLater that afternoon in the brewery’s taproom, over samples of several Three Brothers beers, I got a chance to chat more in depth with Adam and his brothers, Jason and Tyler.  There was an obvious sense of excitement about what they were accomplishing at the brewery so far, but it was tempered, lying underneath a steady and confident “there is work to be done” focus.  Undoubtedly, the growing crowds of hometown supporters who had been coming out to the brewery to sample their beers and meet the men behind the brewery had been giving the brothers a sense that they were onto something good.  Three Brothers had been building itself upon a core group of beers, including their Great Outdoors Pale Ale, Hoptimization IPA, Admiral Imperial IPA, Tri Briathair Scotch Ale, and Elementary Porter.  But even as distribution was opening up within Virginia, Adam and his brothers were already looking well down the road.  As Adam poured another sample, he mentioned an interest in barrel aging future releases, which the Three Brothers has since plunged into – a flavorful Rum barrel aged Belgian Dubbel has been available on draft here in Roanoke off and on for some time now.  Just recently, the brewery has produced a sour style beer, called Savage Blonde, also aged in rum barrels.  Branching out into releases such as these certainly reflects the brothers’ own personal interests in different styles of beer, but they also of course recognize that they are not alone in their curiosities.  No longer just fans of all the varying beer styles out there, as the core team at a growing brewery, Adam, Jason and Tyler know they need to respond to the ever evolving tastes among the craft curious.  As Adam mentioned in an email after my visit, “…the biggest hurdle that we (Three Brothers) and other Virginia breweries seem to be facing is that there are so many drinkers want to always have something new.  [We try] to keep things fresh and still grow the brands that we think form a great backbone for the brewery.”

Draft list in the taproom at 3 BrothersA few months ago, evidence of “keeping things fresh” surfaced in the form of a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout called Resolute.  First released in larger markets such as Richmond, reviews were immediate and stellar.  Some commented in online forums about the beer, comparing it to similar beers from more widely distributed, more nationally known breweries, comparing it even to Goose Island’s revered Bourbon County Stout in head to head tastings.  A couple weeks ago, the beer appeared, momentarily, on draft here in Roanoke, and certainly lived up to the reputation it had quickly built.  Luxuriously rich, sips of the beer came across with a decadent weight to them, like local farm, whole chocolate milk, and showed off a formidable and grand mixture of semisweet chocolate layered with bourbon and roasted malt.  No one flavor stood out on its own, instead linking arms together as one, as it came at you, immediately getting your attention, and then respect.  Needless to say, the beer did not disappoint.

3 Brothers RIS Firkin Display at MicrofestivusA few months after my visit to Three Brothers, I found myself making a bee line for the Three Brothers tent at last summer’s Microfestivus, where the cask I had helped with was located.  Considering that I had a hand in making the beer, albeit a relatively insignificant one, I hoped that the beer was at least good enough to get through a two ounce pour.  As it turned out, it was delicious.  But then again, I had only thrown a couple of ingredients in, which were barely noticeable in the background.  Adam and his brothers had produced a fantastic stout, the proof of which lay in the fact that it didn’t last long into the festival.  Looking back, I shouldn’t have worried.  After having tasted several of their beers, from the samples at the brewery to more limited releases like Resolute, faith in just how delicious the beer from Three Brothers is has been an easy thing to come by.

Check out the brewery’s website.

Weekend Tap Update: Hops and More Hops.

•February 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Unfortunately, it been a while for Weekend Tap Update.  The good news is, it’s well worth any wait…

…because it’s a bit like a dream come true, at least if you’re a fan of hop forward beers.  A couple of annually released fan favorites are showing up at various spots all around Roanoke.  (Including what is arguably my own all time favorite beer, and that’s saying quite a bit.)  Yes, no matter where you turn, you’re likely to be able to get your hop fix on.

Troegs Nugget Nectar, what the brewery calls its “Imperial Amber”, showed up at Local Roots this past Sunday, and will also make an appearance at Blue 5 this weekend.  An extremely flavorful beer, Nugget Nectar doesn’t sacrifice any bitterness but mainly leads with a mouthful of mouth puckering tangelo like flavor, which is paired with a swift moving light caramel sweetness.  The hops lend what some might call an herbal, hop leafy, or almost slightly peppery spice to the beer, but for me the selling point is that turned up volume of citrus aroma and flavor, which I cannot find the same hint of in any other beer than Nugget Nectar.

Making an appearance likely tonight at Blue 5 is Bell’s Hopslam.  An imperial IPA brewed with honey, you’ve also likely had this near legend before too – but year after year is of course worth revisiting.  A perhaps more rounded out, smoother attack on the palate than many bigger IPAs out there, Hopslam is still one of the better ones out there, and like the Nugget Nectar, has an aroma and taste that is undeniably all its own, and instantly recognizable.  It features a honeyed sweetness, some lighter herbal or grassy type flavor, a bit of pine like flavors as well, and orange or tangerine type citrus.  Year after year, I cannot pin down just how this beer tends to come across with such soft, rounded off edges, but delivers such flavor.  It’s a mild form of attack, but one that still wins you over.  Must have to do with the honey, I always think.

Apparently, a cask version of Ballast Point’s IPA Sculpin will also be at Blue 5 as well, which should offer a new and interesting take on that highly regarded beer.


Seek Out Foothills Brewing’s Jade IPA

•February 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Foothills Jade IPAIf this is what it was going to take, then so be it.  Since early 2011, Winston Salem’s Foothills Brewing had been brewing a brewery only IPA called Jade to fond reviews, and since then, those who aren’t lucky enough to live around the corner from the brewery – but had been fortunate enough to get a taste at some point – had been begging for it to be distributed.  Bright of citrus and “tropical fruit notes” as the brewery website states, Jade IPA has been making quite the name for itself over the last couple years, inserting its quickly made reputation into discussions about the best IPAs in the region.  So in December, when the offer came across the brewery’s Facebook page – get us to fifteen thousand “likes”, and we’ll bottle Jade – fans of both the beer and the brewery alike responded.  Of course, the offer was likely not much more than a footnote in Jade’s history.  The planning around brewing a beer that was formerly brewery only for more widespread distribution takes some time, and certainly can’t revolve around the sudden reaching of a social media milestone.  Thankfully for all of Jade’s fans, the beer was likely coming anyway. Yes, Foothills did reach fifteen thousand likes.  But more importantly, Jade is being bottled and is already being distributed in its home state of North Carolina.  A small keg of it recently kicked at Blacksburg’s 622 North Restaurant.  And soon, it’ll be reaching Roanoke.

The beer itself:  I had the pleasure of trying Jade about this time last year at the brewery, after hearing quite a bit about it from friends, and the beer certainly didn’t fall short of expectation.  The beer gets its name and much of its aroma and tasting notes from use of the New Zealand Pacific Jade hop variety, which is said to impart those tropical citrus mentioned above, as well as a slight black peppery flavor.  On the brewery website, it is also noted that the beer is dry hopped with both Cascade and Citra hops, which helps add additional fruit (pineapple is often mentioned) as well as pine like aromas.  The beer sets itself apart, to me, with an almost lime like, quick tartness, then squeezes in that equally fast moving peppery taste, before finishing fairly dry.  To me, Jade wraps all this in a slightly sweet, barely there coating, and then delivers it to you with just enough body and a crisp carbonation.  Many have mentioned a pleasantly and refreshingly dry finish.  If you’re like me, and love juicier IPAs, Jade is very spot on, and excels at being very “drinkable” even at just north of 7%, all without being overly sweet.

Again, it should start making appearances soon in Roanoke in bottle form and on tap soon, so if you haven’t had a chance to try this out in North Carolina or at the brewery, be on the lookout for this one.

The Time Has Finally Come For Adroit Theory Brewing Company

•January 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Adroit Theory TenebrisLed by a velvety smooth, slick body and mild carbonation, Tenebris, a take on an English Barleywine from Northern Virginia’s Adroit Theory Brewing Company, coated the slightest hints of any graininess with a supply of sweet toffee flavor that bordered being too much but pulled back in the nick of time.  It was possibly one of the best beers I had tasted so far from the Northern Virginia based nano-brewery, who seems to have taken every step in their evolution with no small amount of calculation.  From the names of the early test batch beers to the dark, cryptic, and not so slightly foreboding label designs, the brewery seemed intent on molding a particular image, and carving out a particular spot to call their own.  But the beer, of course, needed to be good, and also just as interesting.  Here again, the brewery’s own takes on particular styles as well as the additional treatments given to each beer – such as vodka infused ash spirals which were used in a double IPA – were intended to not only prove Adroit Theory could make enjoyable beer, but to also set the brewery well apart from others.  In 2012, word of Adroit Theory’s development seemed to quicken through a taste tester program of sorts, which is exactly how Tenebris would come to me.

In addition to the “regular” Tenebris, three more versions came my way, each one with a different barrel aging treatment of the beer.  From the start, Adroit Theory had made it known that barrel aging would factor into their plans often, and while barrel aging beer is hardly new, doing it well can be somewhat uncommon.  A gin barrel version of Tenebris was next, and the pine like flavor imparted to the beer was an equal match for the light caramel, toffee like tastes.  Tenebris also had a vague fruit like flavor that I couldn’t quite pin down, like the flesh of a mildly sweet white grape, or some sort of mild tasting melon, and against this, the slightly peppery gin flavors worked interestingly well by contrast.

Beers such as the gin barrel Tenebris and even the Imperial IPA aged on vodka soaked ash wood may sound like possible one-offs, and they very well may be.  But they also are as close to a flagship beer as you might ever see from Adroit Theory, as the idea is to keep things as interesting as possible.  A Facebook post once mentioned that the brewery was planning on doing test batches for “not just another Pale Ale” and for a Saison like few others, and while many folks might try to back that up, finding a brewery determined to carry out such promises isn’t always easy.  Take for example Adroit Theory’s Saviours & Guillotines, a Saison brewed with Syrah grape must, then aged in a Cabernet Sauvignon barrel, or better yet, one with absinthe inspired ingredients like basil, sage, and wormwood.

Remaining in my Tenebris tasting were a rye whiskey and then a bourbon barrel version, each upping the ante for the beer.  As mentioned before, sometimes barrel treatments can be a heavy handed matter, but the effects on these two beers were entirely positive, and melded faint vanilla, moderate wood like, and overall bourbon tastes to the toffee like flavor of the beer, bringing all of those flavors together into one new and nearly singular package.

Adroit Theory Brewing CompanyBringing together so many tastes into a single, flavorful beer only seems to mirror the stage the brewery as a whole has finally reached in their measured and steady growth.  On January 1st, Adroit Theory Brewing Company was finally able and ready to post a photo of their Virginia ABC License on their Facebook page.  Since then, final touches on a tasting room have been made, the “Black Heart Society”, a membership type program through which fans can order the Adroit Theory’s beer has been introduced, and most importantly, a Grand Opening has been planned for this coming Saturday (Feb 1st).  The brewery’s evolution in the craft beer world is about to finally take one big step forward.  For me, for now, I finished the last sip of my Bourbon Barrel Tenebris and wished it wasn’t my last bottle.  For those who have heard of such beers but haven’t gotten a taste yet, a simple message was released on the Facebook page just a couple days ago:  “This Saturday, the wait is over”.  I would bet the the staff at the brewery can’t wait as well.

Quick Note:  While the brewery’s Black Heart Society is now available, the brewery can only ship beer to Virginia residents currently.  Details can be found on the brewery’s shopping page here.  Check out the brewery’s website here and their Facebook page here.


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