Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Mid-Atlantic Beer Trail

Eight days traveling from Washington D.C. to Valley Forge, Pa. does not give a complete picture of the Mid-Atlantic beer scene, I realize. But it at least can give one an idea of what the area's beer taste is like when one happens to be, say, traveling the nation's historical trail.

Start, for example, in Washington D.C. There are many places to drink in the nation's capital, but there may not be any quite as unique as Granville Moore's. Set in what appears to be a burnt-out tenement house on the east side of the city (see picture), the location actually hosts a Belgian-beer-specialty gastropub with a great selection of mussels. But what made it stand out was the fact that its only domestic beers were local and rare.

Chief among them - and the toast of the entire trip the Beer Geekette and I took about a month ago - was Stillwater Brewing's Of Love and Regret. The small Baltimore brewery's Belgian saison was overflowing with lavender and heather, but it was done so heavily with floral overtones that it actually transcended any style and literally became a mouthful of a joyous field on a spring day. Yes, that sounds ridiculous - but if you can get your hands on the beer, you actually may agree.

One of the other joys that could be found at local bars or liquor stores was the Espresso Stout, from Old Dominion Brewing of Delaware, a slightly burnt but artfully balanced big-bodied bruiser. And for pure hops goodness, DC Brau's Corruption IPA brought an astringent grassy taste that mellowed and improved pleasantly as you got used to it.

In Pennsylvania - where we wandered from Gettysburg to Amish Country to Valley Forge - we chose to avoid Victory Brewing beers, opting instead for things not available in Colorado. And there was still plenty to enjoy.

Troegs Brewing of Hershey offers a Hop Back Amber Ale with a semi-grassy, semi-bitter aromatic hop taste that compliments and jazzes up its solid malt backbone very well. The same brewery's Pale Ale was decidedly unchallenging in comparison.

Sly Fox Brewing of Phoenixville (suburban Philadelphia) kicked out a 113-IBU Route 113 IPA that was the most bitter - but still enjoyable - offering of the excursion.

And the winner of the historical-trip beer tasting was, appropriately enough, the George Washington's Tavern Porter from Yards Brewing of Philadelphia. A thick, dark and strong English porter brewed from our first president's actual recipe, it had a sticky, tastily burnt feel that left a very satisfying fullness.

The only real unevenness came at Appalachian Brewing, a Harrisburg-headquartered brewpub company with five locations, including one just off the historic battlefield in Gettysburg. While it did malted beers well - its Celtic Knot Irish Red and Jolly Scot Scottish Ale were the fullest tastes of an impressive eight-beer, 40-total-ounce tasting tray - it fell down with other standards like a light-bodied Hoppy Trails India Pale Ale and awkwardly medicinal Water Gap Wheat Ale.

So, there is life outside of Victory and Flying Dog in the mid-Atlantic brewing scene. You just have to know how to find the right beer to go with the thoroughly historic setting.

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