Beer Road Field Trip – Roanoke’s Blue 5 Restaurant

Blue 5 RestaurantTrying good beer at home can have its advantages.  You can have your own private tastings, inviting others over to share and bounce thoughts off of, and have plenty of time to feel out whatever was hauled in from your local source of good beer in the comfort of your own home.  But when there are places in town where you can find it on tap, a field trip is always fun, and can be enlightening.  Trying beer on tap hopefully gives a more accurate, if not just different, look at non mainstream brews such as the ones I enjoy, with one obstacle.  It’s not always easy to actually FIND craft beer on tap.  Most restaurants, from even the smallest local bar to a regular chain, often stick with the traditional line ups of mega brewery beer – after all, it’s what has always been there, always sold – unwilling to take a chance on having even a single micro/craft beer on draft.  Here in Roanoke, something interesting will pop up on tap with a one here, one there kind of tendency usually – with one exception.  From the moment it opened,  Blue 5 restaurant downtown decided to feature several, off the main road beers from regional, craft, or perhaps larger but atypical breweries, and an overdue field trip down there last week was definitely called for.

I couldn’t have timed it better.  I had just posted recently about darker lagers such as Schwarzbiers, and before that had written a post about English style brown ales.  Both are light to medium in body, are not high in alcohol content, with each taking quite different angles at toasted malt flavors.  Either way, each can be excellent beers to try when getting into something different.  And there are currently two prime examples of each style on tap at Blue 5 – one, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier which ought to be tried at least for how much the look will throw the uninitiated off the flavor.  Black as night, the beer is instead light and pretty balanced, and most surprising is how all the flavors you taste show up somewhat like shadows, all faint, in the background, and just hinted at.  Together, they make up something to savor and let your taste buds feel out.  Also on tap is another I mentioned in a recent post, Smuttynose Brewery’s Old Brown Dog Brown Ale.  This one is just outright good – a smooth but rich malty flavor, very little if any noticeable hop bitterness, it tastes perhaps of brown bread, caramel, and that delicious toasted malt taste.

There are others of course – Dogfish Head’s hoppy 60 Minute IPA, Magic Hat’s seasonal Vinyl (red lager), Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, an Amber Ale from Boulder Brewing and more – 16 taps in all, which the Blue 5 website says changes seasonally.  It’s important to note that Blue 5 has a fully loaded live music schedule with top quality bands as well.  But what’s also important is that the place exists, for when that need for trying something good and different, and on tap, comes along.  For myself, I also always throw a trip to Blue 5 under the heading of “blog research” as well, especially when my girlfriend says something along the lines of “….Blue 5?  Weren’t we just there?”.  There are other places in town that definitely deserve noting for putting a craft beer or two on tap, but as of right now no other in Roanoke that I know of with so many non mainstream in one place.  In other words, a good place to try good beer, and a great place for a field trip.

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~ by thebeerroad on April 9, 2010.

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