From Virginia with Beer

Well, the time spent at my brother’s was most enjoyable and productive in finding new beers.  There’s a splendid shop called Total Wine where he lives, and it stocks a great selection of American craft beer.  This visit, I was shocked to find some Goose Island and quickly snatched up their English Pale Ale and Matilda, a Belgian Style Pale Ale.  I also saw an English Pale Ale (So they say.  Tasted more like an IPA to me.) from the Shipyard Brewing Co. named after Joshua Chamberlain, one of my favorite heroes from the Civil War, and snatched that up immediately.  I shall also be reviewing Dogfish Head’s Sah’tea.  Plenty of other ales found their way into my hands, and it will be my pleasure to reveal their tasting notes later.

Yet, I would first like to recommend a wine which paired perfectly with the grilled meat in yesterday’s dinner: Block 303 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.  (By the way, I just learned something amazing: sells wine!  They’ve really branched out from being a simple bookseller!)  Some of you probably recognize the Rutherford shelf as the most prestigious sub-region of Napa Valley.  Unlike most wine from this place, Block 303 does not cost an arm and a leg, but still shows the quality one can expect from this region.  The wine is very full-bodied, shows great integration, and complexity with flavors of boysenberry and black cherry prominent, though one can discern other dark fruit flavors present therein.  (I forgot them, and I refuse to cheat by reading the label!)  These flavors blend marvelously with the tannins, which, as I mentioned above, make it a perfect match for grilled meats.  A beautiful wine.

Now, let’s move on to the beer.  On the first day, I opened some of the Chamberlain to pair with Jamaican-style curry chicken.  At this point, the beer’s temperature fell a little short of being cold, which is perhaps the best way to enjoy it.  When ice cold, a strong beeriness renders the Chamberlain a little harsh.  When somewhat below room temperature (a little higher than 50 degrees), the citrus flavors imparted by the hops blend mellifluously together to make a beautiful IPA.  (Despite how the brewer labelled it, I am convinced that IPA is a better acronym than EPA for this beer.)  I found this beer to be quite drinkable with an orange flavor at mid-palate and a sweet lemon flavor in the aftertaste being most prominent.

Sometime later, I opened up the Goose Island English Pale Ale.  Here, I shall make a heretical statement: it did not appeal to me.  You see, I prefer my English Ales to be a little sweet or have a lot of malt to make up for the lack of sweetness, this one was bitter and slightly nutty–walnut to be precise.  However, it tasted like a quality beer and I drank it down; however, I handed over the rest of the bottles to my brother, who greatly enjoyed it, at the end of the visit.  It might have tasted better to me if I had been enjoying some meatloaf with it at the time.

After an enjoyable time at the shooting range (FN-USA’s P45 is great fun to shoot), we had some dinner before returning home to enjoy more beer.  While in the restaurant, I drank some expertly made gin and tonic made with Tanqueray.  My brother confided to me that he couldn’t stand gin.  Of course, when I asked how he imbibed it, he replied straight.  Now, gin can rarely be enjoyed straight: only Tanqueray No. 10 and Broker’s come to mind as perfectly delectable in and of themselves.  I think of gin as being divided into two classes: martini gin and gin and tonic gin.  The ones with strong juniper flavor find themselves in the latter class, while the softer gins make for better martinis–though, I must confess to preferring a “sweet martini,” made with sweet vermouth, to the dry martini.  In any case, the bartender’s proportion of gin to tonic water was perfect, and he even remembered me from my first visit, likely as the only customer to ever ask him for this concoction.

We returned to finish watching the film Karas (more on that in another article), which we enjoyed while imbibing some ice cold Goose Island Matilda.  A mistake.  You see, even though I’m slowly bringing myself around to the idea that not all beers should be had ice cold, I still retain that barbaric tendency.  Prominent on the palate stood a strong lemon flavor, which was counterbalanced by a herbal nuance and the right amount of sourness.  Try this with some lightly seasoned seafood or chicken.  This Belgian would have been exquisite at just a little under 50 degrees–oh well, I still enjoyed it.

Then, we ended the evening with some Sah’tea, an incredibly unique beer.  The brewers at Dogfish Head made it with juniper and black chai tea.  I thought that the juniper would make this a piney tasting beer (not a problem for a gin fan); instead, it created a tangy, lime flavor with the tea contributing a little tannin to add complexity to this.  A very interesting beer which I’d likely buy again.  It’s completely unique, and I see it pairing best with some sweet, herbal chicken dish.

C’est tout.  I hope that this article translates to happy drinking for you all!

One comment on “From Virginia with Beer

  1. […] a new idea popped into my head.  It’s been a while since I’ve written a beer review (over two years ago to be precise), and, though this website is dedicated to history and literature, it’s named […]


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