Virginia Brewery Snapshot: Williamsburg Alewerks. Fittingly Timeless.

Raw materials, plenty of skill, a white-hot flame – together, historically, they bring to mind accomplished creation.  Hard work meets learned proficiency, on the most time honored level.  In colonial Williamsburg, these age old skills are kept alive and always on demonstration.  Metal meets metal as blacksmiths rhythmically ring out the timeless sound of a trade long past.  Glass blowers fashion their wares with just a spin, a steady breath and more red hot heat, giving the magical quality of nearly instantaneous formation to the most practical of items.  The setting couldn’t be more fitting for another local craftsman, Geoff Logan.  Logan is a brewer, after all.  An even more timeless craft than the blacksmith’s, the art of brewing is backlit by the same warm glow of history.  But at Williamsburg Alewerks, at which Logan is the head brewer, that glow is not only lit by hundreds of years of antiquity and generations of brewers before him – it’s literally present.  Whereas most breweries use an immersed heater or steam to brew, Logan employs a method based off of traditional English brewing techniques using direct fire.  Just as the blacksmiths and glassblowers nearby, Logan fittingly combines his brewing skill and the raw materials of beer together, quite literally over that common third element, white-hot flame, to create his own version of a slightly different timeless art – well crafted beer.

The results are a selection of beers that range from solid year round offerings, like the brewery’s Tavern (brown) Ale, or the Red Marker, an amber.  Highly rated by readers on both ratebeer.com and beeradvocate.com, Alewerks’ Washington’s Porter is also available throughout the year, and features balanced but robust flavors of coffee and dark chocolate.  Logan and the brewery also release several seasonal ales and limited release ales, one of which, their Pumpkin Ale, received high some high praise from the editors at beeradvocate. It’s not difficult to see why such a beer turned out so well – on the brewery’s website, Logan refers to himself as “kind of a dork for pumpkin pie”.  “When I was doing test batches for that ale, I really wanted to dial in the pumpkin pie flavor. A lot of people say it’s a pumpkin pie in a glass.”  Other limited releases are both the rich Coffeehouse Stout, and a version of the Coffeehouse aged for at least three months in Virginia Gentleman bourbon barrels called Café Royale.

Their newest release, Bitter Valentine, is an Imperial IPA that manages to stand out among the vast numbers of IPAs in the market today.  According to Logan, Bitter Valentine’s flavor profile “is made up of citrus, stone-fruit, pine, and all around hop goodness balanced by a delicate malt backbone”.  It is another Alewerks beer which is well balanced, although the main highlight is a mouthful of pleasant citrus flavors, including fleshy, juicy orange, tropical tastes, and a bit of grapefruit and ripe peach.  Unlike what the name might imply, the bitterness is only a seam running through the citrus, bringing the drinker back to hops’ harsher reality here and there.

The craft of brewing good beer is a timeless one, and whether over direct flame or otherwise, making good beer will always be linked to rich traditions that strike a romantic chord among both brewer and craft beer fans alike.  But Alewerks’ brews are hardly in need of any dusting off.  What truly puts a feather in Virginia’s craft beer scene is how well Williamsburg Alewerks is bringing those traditions, ones which are always in fashion, those of the skill and hard work to the current scene of craft beer today.  Accomplished creation, of course, is its own ageless tradition.

Visit the brewery’s website here!

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~ by thebeerroad on May 11, 2012.

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