Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Brew FAQ: What is Cider?

From apples to a sometimes fizzy alcoholic drink, this fall favorite has been made throughout history.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 11:50 AM

In the simplest, most basic definition, cider is fermented apple juice. In the United States, we’ve gotten our terms for alcoholic and nonalcoholic cider somewhat confused over the decades, so we usually refer to alcoholic cider as “hard cider” while everyone else in the world just calls it “cider.” I follow the global crowd for our terminology: alcoholic fermented apple juice is “cider”; unfermented apple juice is simply “juice.”

True cider, like the kind you make yourself or get from a good craft cidery, is very different from the mass-market cider you may be used to. For one thing, it’s typically not very sweet. It can be tart, sour, balanced, funky, mellow, spicy, dry, bitter, apple-y or wine-like but it’s generally not what most of us would consider sweet. True cider isn’t even always fizzy; many traditional ciders are actually served still (that is, nonsparkling or nonfizzy).

If you, like me, spent your college years drinking cider that was as sweet as candy and as fizzy as soda, then you’ll need to retrain your taste buds. I recommend a cider tasting to get a feel for what you’re about to make. Head to a well-stocked store and pick up a few different bottles. Get a mix of U.S. craft ciders and imported ciders, if you can. Then invite a few curious friends over to your place and start opening bottles. You’ll quickly get an idea of what the wide world of ciders has to offer — and what tasty rewards are in your future when you make your own.

How Cider is Made

All cider starts with juice. How and where you get this juice, its quality, its particular characteristics and its balance of flavors — these are all factors that go into your finished cider. You don’t have to seek out fancy heirloom apples just to make good cider, but you do need to put some thought into the juice you’re using. For now, just be assured that no matter what apples or juice you have available, you can definitely make a tasty cider. No doubt about it.

Once you have some juice, turning it into cider is the easy part. Fresh-pressed juice is so full of natural sugars and wild yeasts that you can practically see it start to ferment in front of your eyes. Even pasteurized, store-bought juice has plenty of sugar to ferment; you just need to add some yeast purchased at a homebrew store.

The yeast eats up the sugar and gives you alcohol and carbon dioxide in return. In a few weeks, you’ll have homemade cider — it really is just about as simple as that!


Making a Modern Cider

People have been turning apples into cider for almost as long as there have been apple trees, so what is “modern” cider? This is cider making tailored to a new generation of cider drinkers. It’s cider made in tiny third-floor walk-ups, sunny country kitchens and suburban garages with the door rolled up. It’s cider that uses what you have on hand, whether that’s picking up a gallon of fresh juice at the farmers’ market, using your juicer to juice your own apples, or cruising the pantry aisle at the grocery store for some bottled stuff. It’s cider on a scale that works for you — small 1-gallon experiments or larger 5-gallon batches to share with friends. It’s cider made with hops, or with fresh pineapple, or with bourbon. Modern cider is your cider; it’s whatever you want it to be.

Friday, October 6, 2017

How Virginia's Laws Struggle to Keep Up With the Booming Craft Beer Industry

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 1:30 PM

You can find a lot of handy items at Virginia breweries, but there’s one thing you’ll never find: a coupon for beer. Not at a brewery that’s obeying the law, anyway. The Code of Virginia is unambiguous. Offer instantly-redeemable beer coupons, and you’re on the wrong side of the law.

Following this statute and scores of others — collectively known as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act — is a fact of life for businesses in the state’s growing craft beverage industry. There are laws governing nearly every step of the process, from the moment a recipe flows from a brewer’s mind to the second it quenches someone’s thirst.

Some people within the industry wonder whether it’s time to rewrite the playbook — if not through a major overhaul, then at least tweaks that could better reflect the realities of the 21st century.

Most manufacturers laud recent legislation that has allowed the craft industry to flourish. Since the Virginia legislature’s 2012 passage of the landmark law that allowed sale and consumption on premises at breweries, there’s been a flurry of actions aimed at bolstering the industry. Still, most of the laws that govern craft beer come from an era when society had a different relationship with alcohol.

Travis Hill, chief operating officer of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, says many of Virginia’s laws regarding alcohol originated in the post-Prohibition era. Nevertheless, he says, they are centered on public safety and promoting fair business practices, which remain important today.

Some of the regulations, rightfully or not, call to mind the stereotypical lawlessness of Prohibition-era alcohol consumption. “The interior lighting shall be sufficient to permit ready discernment of the appearance and conduct of patrons,” reads a statute that seems to be aimed at forbidding seedy speak-easies.

Another statute appears to prevent shady financial relationships that shut out competition. When a manufacturer sells alcohol to a retail establishment, the goods “shall be for cash paid and collected at the time of or prior to delivery.” There are even the traces of Virginia’s now-mostly-repealed blue laws, which restricted business on Sundays. “Persons licensed to sell alcoholic beverages at wholesale shall make no delivery to retail purchasers on Sunday.”

While those in the craft beverage community must navigate nearly all the laws at some point, there are a few sections of the regulations they brush against regularly, according to Porter Hardy, president of Smartmouth Brewing Co. in Norfolk and co-chairman of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild’s government affairs committee.

“Much of what we’re dealing with is what we can and can’t advertise, and what we can and can’t do together with restaurants,” he says.

People in the industry sometimes have trouble understanding all the intricacies of the law. Even Hardy, who practiced law before switching careers, sometimes needs clarification. “There are consistently times we have to check the statutes and work with the ABC agents,” he says. Hill says the department constantly receives questions about regulations as new business practices and technology change the way people communicate about and consume alcohol. One example is the emerging use of social media.

Advertising regulations make up a large part of the ABC Act, and most of the laws are straightforward, as with a ban on advertising alcohol near schools and playgrounds. But social media hasn’t fit so tidily into the advertising models in place when the laws were crafted. The interpretations that come out of discussions hosted by ABC officials offer some workable — if unconventional — solutions. “If five restaurants sell my mead, I can’t highlight one of those on Facebook and say, ‘Go to this or that restaurant,’” says Glenn Lavender, who owns Silver Hand Meadery in Williamsburg. “But if a restaurant posts that they’re selling it, I’m allowed to re-post that.”

ABC agents have also demonstrated flexibility and creative work-arounds within the letter of the law. A hallmark of Virginia’s ABC Act is the three-tier system. Breweries and distilleries must sell their products to retailers through third parties, called distributors. Manufacturers are not permitted to distribute their own beer. But that doesn’t mean that a brewer’s spouse can’t be a distributor. Aaron Childers owns Pretty Ugly Distribution. Her husband, Shawn, co-owns Big Ugly Brewing Co. in Chesapeake. Pretty Ugly distributes beer made by Big Ugly and several other craft breweries in Hampton Roads.

Childers says the idea is not unique. A few other breweries in Virginia have an affiliated — but entirely separate — distributor. She says the separation is key to the business model’s legality. “There has to be crystal clear delineation between the businesses,” she says. “We have completely separate bank accounts and separate records.” That relationship is perfectly legal — even facilitated by ABC officials. “I call them all the time with questions, and my first line is always, ‘It’s me again.’”

There’s a case to be made for a complete overhaul of ABC laws given the fluid evolution of craft beverages, according to Lavender. “When a lot of these laws were made, the industry was not what it is now,” he says. Mead, made from fermented honey and water, is especially tricky to deal with, because it doesn’t fit neatly in a single category. Yet Lavender is certain of ingredients he can’t include. “I’m not allowed to ferment any grain at all, because I don’t have a brewery license,” he says. Lavender thinks making laws based on the outcome of fermentation would make more sense than beer, wine, and spirits categories. “We’re all just fermenting different sugars anyway,” he says.

But Kevin Erskine, owner of Coelacanth Brewing Co. in Norfolk, says some of the laws, though they seem arbitrary, serve to help the industry’s little guys. One regulation he highlights is a rule capping at $10 the value of gifts — wine glasses or hats, for instance — given to patrons as a way to promote their products. Yes, he says, it’s a pain making sure freebies fall within this limit, but this also prevents large corporations with deep pockets from gaining unfair advantage with lavish gifts. Erskine says in aggregate, Virginia’s regulations do a fair job reining in the liabilities inherent in alcohol production, but there can always be improvements.

He says a bigger issue than what some see as nanny-state governance is overlapping jurisdiction. While the breweries must follow Virginia’s laws, they have to mind the regulations of federal and local governments, too, and those different levels of oversight aren’t always on the same page.

Virginia is a good place to be as more people look to wet their whistle with craft beverages, Erskine says. In some other states, such as Florida and North Carolina, there’s outright antagonism between parties within the brewing industry. And lawmakers in other states aren’t always so eager to invest in the craft beverage industry.

“The reality is that, especially here in Virginia, the government is doing its best to help this industry grow,” he says.

Four New Richmond Beers to Ease You Into Cooler Weather

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 1:05 PM

As the sun falls a little sooner each day and we bid summer adieu, we welcome late nights with good company by backyard fires, snuggly comfort food and plenty of flavorful brews. While the great love-it-or-hate-it pumpkin beer debate rages on, let’s turn our attention to some worthy autumn-tinged gems that warrant a sip and a savor.

Aragonia by Twisted Ales - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Aragonia by Twisted Ales

Aragonia by Twisted Ales
5.3 percent alcohol

This English brown ale pours amber, is medium-bodied and curiously leads with bold espresso notes. It settles sweeter on the palate than you might expect with detectable caramel and chocolate flavors. No bitterness here, folks. With fairly low alcohol, you’re safe to enjoy more than one of these malty delights — but don’t get too twisted. twistedales.com.

Sour Stout by Väsen. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Sour Stout by Väsen.

Sour Stout by Väsen
5.4 percent alcohol

What’s happening here? That’s likely your first reaction to this deliciously deceptive sour stout. A most solid and unexpected fall beer, this one pours dang near opaque, but is remarkably light-bodied. Roasted nibs, chocolate and other flavors you would expect from a stout immediately hit those notes after a swirl of the glass, but a sip reveals all the tartness of a well-crafted sour. Distinctive — but not acidic or vinegary — flavors hang out alongside a smidge of fruitiness before a bizarro return to a dark chocolate finish. Keep an eye on its Scott’s Addition taproom — it’s got a bourbon barrel-aged version of Smoked Farmhouse in the works. vasenbrewing.com.

Reaper's Red IPA by Three Notch'd. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Reaper's Red IPA by Three Notch'd.

Reaper’s Red IPA by Three Notch’d
4.9 percent alcohol

Straight out of the Three Notch’d RVA Collab House comes a devilishly good red India pale ale in collaboration with Creepy Hollow Scream Park. Crisp, refreshing and light-bodied, this brew is perfect for those fall days where it’s hoodie weather at sunup and short sleeves by midday. A taste of this shimmering ruby brew unleashes both caramel and grapefruit notes courtesy of a Centennial and Cascade hop duo and some white wheat, flaked oats and Carared malt. We have a Halloween beer that doesn’t involve a controversial gourd, folks. threenotchdbrewing.com.

English Mild by Intermission. - INTERMISSION
  • Intermission
  • English Mild by Intermission.

English Mild by Intermission
4.2 percent alcohol

This brewery might be the new kid on the block with just two offerings on tap at press time, but we’re expecting good things if what follows is as tasty as its English Mild. This is an easy drinker, with very little bitterness that fills the glass with a deep, rich brown. Roasty malt and caramel flavors stand out, although you might also detect a bit of licorice if you spend some time swirling it around on the palate. There’s a slightly silky mouth feel and some nice lacing on the glass once the creamy tan head subsides. A basic style done just right. intermissionbeer.com.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Richmond's Craft Beer Industry is Overwhelmingly White. How Can That Be Changed?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 11:19 AM

If only the sea of faces at a brewery were as colorful as the beer pouring from the taps.

A rich imperial stout might be served alongside a pale ale, but only a few black and brown faces mingle in a predominantly white crowd, even in racially diverse Richmond.

Nationwide, the stereotypical craft beer drinker is a white male in his 30s — beard optional — according to demographic data reported by the Brewers Association trade organization in August.

Women and Hispanic craft beer drinkers are increasing in numbers, says the association’s craft beer program director, Julia Herz, and blacks represent 10 percent of craft beer drinkers.

That’s not bad compared with national numbers, considering that blacks make up 12 percent of the population. But it’s a poor showing for metropolitan Richmond, whose population is about 50 percent black.

There’s no hard data on the demographics of Richmond beer drinkers, but anecdotally, observations at breweries and beer-centric restaurants reveal a heavy white skew.

The racial reasons are as complex as the chemistry of brewing, infused with centuries of oppression and conflict, sometimes overt but often subtle and unintentional. The problem is more complex than who’s drinking what beer and where.

As a white woman, I’m no more qualified to pontificate on black America than a man can empathize with pregnancy, but I crave a colorblind America, so I’ll give it a stab.

Carena Ives serves a variety of local beer at Carena’s Jamaican Grill: “Putting ‘craft’ in front of it makes it this other thing.” - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Carena Ives serves a variety of local beer at Carena’s Jamaican Grill: “Putting ‘craft’ in front of it makes it this other thing.”

Neighborhood Placement

Location, location, location. Mostly for reasons of rent and industrial zoning, craft breweries often situate themselves where customers must seek them out, beyond neighborhoods that otherwise might attract minority customers.

But consider beer-focused businesses in Old Towne Petersburg.

“We have a very diverse crowd, including color, age and gender,” James Hartle of Bucket Trade says, citing nearby Virginia State University and the military as key drivers.

Amanda Marable, marketing manager at Loveland Distributing, says she’s noticed that demographic lines at restaurants have blurred in the past decade. “You find pockets of beer lovers all over now,” she says, “in every neighborhood.”

Two examples are Mama J’s and Carena’s Jamaican Grill, both of which offer a handful of craft beers.

The owner of the grill, Carena Ives, likens craft beer to NASCAR. “It’s not like we can’t go to a NASCAR event, but not many people of color do,” she says. “If it’s embraced by one segment of the population that we don’t have anything in common with, then it’s just assumed that it’s not for us.”

When it comes to the beers on tap at her restaurant, she says: “I don’t even call Legend a craft beer. I say it’s a local beer. … Putting ‘craft’ in front of it makes it this other thing.”

In many ways, the status quo reflects a chicken-and-egg conundrum. A neighborhood’s average income, its restaurants’ menu prices and community popularity of products influence beverage offerings.

A budget-conscious restaurant serves inexpensive beers and upscale restaurants focus on wine lists. When restaurants don’t carry craft beers, brand reps don’t visit them, so regulars don’t have the opportunity to try new products. Because beer has a limited shelf life, bar managers have another reason to avoid buying unproven products.

And from a business standpoint, location carries risk. Breweries tend to open closer to an established fan base rather than pioneering in areas where success is less assured.

Bobby Faithful is the front of the house manager at the Answer Brewpub, owned by An Bui of Mekong Restaurant. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Bobby Faithful is the front of the house manager at the Answer Brewpub, owned by An Bui of Mekong Restaurant.


Bobby Faithful, who works as front-of-house manager at the Answer Brewpub, recently helped launch a brewing certificate program at the University of Richmond.

Faithful initially became interested in craft beer as a consumer, he says, before taking a job with a well-known Delaware brewery, Dogfish Head.

The company promoted “off-centered ales for off-centered people,” he says, “so I felt like I fit in even though I was the only black guy.”

He finds the Answer to be a comfortable workplace, he says, with an Asian owner and female and minority management.

Black Richmonders fill other important roles at local breweries, including Triple Crossing Brewing Co., Stone Brewing, Ardent Craft Ales and Trapezium Brewing Co. in Petersburg. One area brewery, 7 Hills Seafood and Brewing Co., now is black-owned.

Someone who’s observed the issue up close is Sterling Stokes, known across social media and the blogging world as RVA Beermeister — a regular in the beer community.

“For the most part,” he says, “I think our local community is very accepting of diverse backgrounds.” He notes Hardywood’s Heart and Soul Brew Fest as an example: “It was very uplifting to see more African-Americans like myself at a beer event. … Honestly, it was something I didn’t know was missing from my life.”

Owner Michael Abdelmagid brews 7 Hills Seafood and Brewing Co.’s beer on site. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Owner Michael Abdelmagid brews 7 Hills Seafood and Brewing Co.’s beer on site.

A Molehill

Michael Abdelmagid, owner of 7 Hills, has another theory: Craft beer simply is a relatively new concept to the black community.

“It isn’t necessarily part of broad African-American culture right now,” he says. “Not even all of white America or Asian-Americans like craft beer.”

There also are fewer women than men, Abdelmagid says: “It’s not like there isn’t inclusion. … It just takes time to catch on.”

Integrating the craft beer community can be small part of a solution to today’s broader problems. As a safe place where the focus is on fun and relaxation, breweries and beer-centric bars can begin to break down barriers.

“The community is completely inclusive in some ways,” says Jacob Brunow of Brown Distributing. And as someone from a diverse family, he says he’s attuned to racial tensions. “We need to diversify badly, but how do you bridge that gap?”

To that end, Brown has been the host of wing, bacon and barbecue festivals that attracted a wide range of people who want to drink craft beer. Exposure is the answer, he says: “Get beers in people’s hands.”

Abdelmagid agrees with that approach. “Market it to different people in different ways, pair it with foods and events,” he says. “They’ll enjoy the beer and get exposed to it.”

At 7 Hills, he holds a variety of events that bring in people who wouldn’t have come only for the beer brewed on-site.

And white America may just need to step outside of its comfort zone too. It’s time to visit restaurants, businesses and organizations that aren’t on regular rotation. In my dream world, as more of us embrace the diversity of beer styles, our appreciation for the diversity of people will increase as well. S

Monday, March 6, 2017

Richmond Recipe: Beer-Brined Pork Chops

Posted on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 10:21 AM

Metzger Bar and Butchery’s Brittanny Anderson, a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for 2017 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, shares this recipe to pump up the flavor of an ordinary pork chop.

1 1/4 cups salt
3/4 cup sugar
5 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 onion, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 quarts water
32 ounces beer
4 bone-in pork chops


Combine all the ingredients except the beer in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once the salt and sugar have dissolved, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes. Then add the beer and chill until it’s cold.

Using a large bowl or gallon-sized freezer bag, pour the beer mixture over the pork chops. Brine for three hours in the refrigerator.

Remove the pork chops, pat them dry and season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill the chops on each side for 5 minutes or until they’re medium.

Brittanny Anderson - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Brittanny Anderson

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Väsen Brewing Co. Will Open in Scott's Addition This Summer

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 10:26 AM

Väsen Brewing Co. is big. It takes up most of the back end of the HandCraft Building in Scott’s Addition, a cavernous space still under construction.

Steel framing is slowly getting covered by drywall, pipes stick out of dirt trenches and there’s a whole lot of gravel around. Part of the concrete flooring is in, but it’s still important to watch your step.

The plan is to produce 2,750 barrels of beer in the first year and swell to around 17,000, co-founder Tony Giordano says. He wants to try out different varieties to see which ones sell the best. Just because a brewer likes it, he says, doesn’t mean customers will.

On this cold day, it’s hard to imagine the space full of beer drinkers. But opening day is closer than it looks, Giordano says: “I think it’s a real possibility that we can be making beer here in about three months and opening in about five [months].”

Giordano, an Army veteran and a University of Colorado graduate, began working at Boulder Beer Co. with a plan to learn as much as he could about the business and then start his own brewery with his cousin Joey Darragh.

They grew up in Northern Virginia, and both were introduced to the burgeoning craft beer and home-brewing scene out West. While Giordano was in Boulder, Darragh was living in California where he worked as an engineer for Apple and Tesla Motors.

Two years ago, the bearded cousins moved to Richmond and immediately fell in love with the HandCraft Building.

“We wanted to take what we’d learned on the West Coast and bring it back here,” Giordano says. “Opening this kind of brewery in Boulder — we probably would have been successful, but it would have been just another brewery.”

They also were ready to come home — although not back to the Washington area. “We wanted more of a laid-back scene,” he says.

And that’s helped drive the message behind the brand as well.

Giordano and Darragh look at it as a lifestyle brand. The word “väsen” means inner spirit, or essence, in Swedish. Before moving to Richmond, the two traveled to Europe to learn as much as they could about brewing and beer styles. Their last stop was in Sweden, and when they heard the word’s translation they knew they had the name for their business.

“We want our brewery to be a place where people can be themselves,” Darragh says.

They also want to pair the company with such groups as the American Alpine Club and Blue Sky Fund. They plan to sponsor athletes, too — in fact, Väsen’s first event will be with the Richmond Kickers.

Although they see their beer as something that can ride along in a kayak on the river or get thrown in a backpack for a hike, along with the nonprofit Blue Sky Fund, Väsen’s also working with One Percent for the Planet.

“The environment is really important to us,” Darragh says. “It goes beyond the outdoor athletic community.”

Until then, they’re focused on developing different recipes with head brewery scientist Jonathan Warner. He’s isolated several yeast strains from local trees and fruits to use in the fermenting process. This is the kind of research and development that will set Väsen apart from other breweries, the cousins say, as they play around with traditional styles and infuse them with American beer-making techniques.

“We’ve created this whole other thing,” Giordano says. “It’ll be interesting to see how Richmond takes it. It’s not going to taste like anything they’ve ever had before.”

Monday, February 27, 2017

Five Hopping Richmond Brews to Jump-Start Spring

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 11:40 AM

While plenty of tasty winter warmers remain out there, the abundance of fresh India pale ales in this city and unseasonable weather makes us long for porch drinks, river rock hangs and longer days. After exploring what’s to come, I’ve rounded up offerings from both ends of the spectrum to make sure to keep everyone happy and satiated.

  • Scott Elmquist

Helles Frozen Over
5 percent alcohol
Strangeways Brewing

They said it would never happen. The curious purveyors of strange have crafted a good, old-fashioned lager. To be fair, it’s anything but ordinary. Hopped with Glacier, Galena and Centennial, it’s low on bitterness with a robust, malty backbone and light to medium body. This crafty creature is an easy drinker sure to please lager heads as well as those looking for something that can take them through the evening without a headbanger in the morning.

  • Scott Elmquist

8.5 percent alcohol
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Fans of this 2015 release will rejoice knowing it’s now back annually. Lots of hops come together to tantalize your buds with citrus zings and a wallop of tropical aromas. This imperial IPA pours hazy amber with a pillowy head. It has a hearty helping of malted barley from Copper Fox Distillery that offers up a nice balance. Despite the alcohol, it’s not a booze bomb.

  • Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

Kentucky French Toast
10 percent alcohol
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

Another stellar offering from the farm. This barrel-aged imperial brown ale boasts a prominent bourbon flavor that hits you right up front. Swirl it around in your mouth to reveal subtle maple and vanilla notes followed by a smidge of cinnamon at the finish. Its creamy mouth feel and medium body make this one an easy drinker — even before noon.

  • Scott Elmquist

Malibu Nights, Tangerine Dreams
6.5 percent alcohol
Champion Brewing

A unique brew that’s the cool kid at the party based on looks alone, this American IPA pours pinkish amber with an off-white head. Brewed with tangerines and hibiscus, it’s dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops, making it tangy, dank and bursting with fruity aroma. Bonus points to Champion for crafting a label akin to an album cover straight out of the ’80s that would make Duran Duran proud.

  • Scott Elmquist

Piece of the Action
7.0 percent alcohol
The Answer Brewpub

Fans of Mosaic hops will absolutely want in on this citrusy little number. Pours hazy golden and immediately delivers a phenomenal floral bouquet that includes hints of pineapple, papaya and mango. The finish is nice and dry. This beer will make you want to punch winter square between the eyes.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Don’t-Miss Spring Events for Richmond Beer Lovers

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 12:05 PM

Feb. 26: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery Four-Course Stout Brunch at Graffiato

It’s never too early to start drinking beer, am I right? And 11 a.m. seems like a perfectly reasonable time. It happens that Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s four-course stout brunch starts then and lasts until 2 p.m. Make your reservation at Graffiato to give Hardywood’s Singel Mimosa, Bourbon Vanilla Raspberry Stout, Kentucky Christmas Morning and Bourbon Sidamo Coffee Stout a try. $45, not including tax and gratuity. Reserve your spot by calling 918-9454. Graffiato, 123 W. Broad St. graffiatorva.com.

March 15: Greenery Floral Arranging Workshop at Strangeways Brewing

Drinking beer is all well and good, but you really ought to learn something once in a while. If you head over to Strangeways Brewing at 6:30 p.m. March 15 and put yourself in the capable hands of the folks at Strawberry Fields Flowers and Finds, you’ll leave that night with a lovely St. Patrick’s Day arrangement and a healthy understanding of how to get flowers looking nice in the future when friends are coming over to share a few cold ones. $35. Reservations required. Strangeways Brewing, 2277 Dabney Road. Call 303-433 or visit strangewaysbrewing.com.

Cask Café & Market - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Cask Café & Market

March 19: International Pilsner Day at Cask Café & Market

It’s International Pilsner Day, and you can celebrate at Cask Café & Market with new pilsners from Garden Grove Brewing Co., Ardent Craft Ales, as well as Ardent’s annual doppelbock, Defenestrator. Plus, you can fill up on schnitzel and bratwurst sandwiches to make the entire Germanic experience complete. The Cask Café & Market, 206 S. Robinson St. Call 355-2402 or visit thecaskrva.com.

April 20: Hops to End Homelessness Fundraiser at Triple Crossing Brewing

At both the downtown and Fulton locations of Triple Crossing Brewing, you can help out from 4-10 p.m. by hoisting a brew. Ten percent of proceeds from Hops to End Homelessness happy hour will benefit Home Again, a nonprofit that helps the homeless with shelter. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St. and 5203 Hatcher St. Call 495-1955 or visit triplecrossingbeer.com.

April 29: The Virginia Hopped Cider Festival at Blue Bee Cider

Blue Bee Cider started the trend with its Hopsap Shandy, and now other cideries in the state have followed by hopping ciders of their own. On April 29, the Scott’s Addition cidery will play host to the Virginia Hopped Cider Festival. You can expect tastings, hops-focused workshops, and art that focuses on hops. Even food that uses hops as an ingredient will be on hand, and you can commemorate the day with a snap at the festival’s photo booth. Blue Bee Cider, 1320 Summit Ave. Call 231-0280 or visit bluebeecider.com.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Richmond's Buskey Cider Stretches the Way You Think About Cider

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Strange things are going on over at Buskey Cider. You might find a few unexpected ingredients in its latest releases.

“We’re doing some different stuff,” founder Will Correll says. “Collaborations are interesting — they’re tons of fun and we’ve got a lot of friends in different industries.”

Cider exists at the nexus between beer and wine. Like wine, it’s fermented from fruit juice, but it finishes with carbonation that’s more reminiscent of beer. Cider’s flavor profile is a flexible one — it can go from dry to sweet. And because it isn’t as assertive as say, a big bold cabernet sauvignon or chocolaty porter, it can lend itself to experimentation.

It helps the process to have different perspectives from other industries. Buskey co-founder Matthew Meyer, who’s the head winemaker at Williamsburg Winery, brings an important layer of expertise to cider-making. Alex Steinmetz, an experienced brew master, offers a different viewpoint.

“Most cideries act like a brewery or act like a winery,” Correll says. “We don’t see cider as either.”

Buskey is about to start fermenting in wine barrels, he says. So far, in collaboration with Reservoir Distillery a few blocks away in Scott’s Addition, the cidery has only finished and aged cider in bourbon barrels. Right now, there’s a heavier, darker Trappist-style cider that’s barrel-aging. The team is ready to try something a little different.

Earlier in the year, Buskey and Confluence Coffee joined to produce Nitro Coffee Cider. It was a natural collaboration — Buskey already was serving nitrogen-infused cider at its tasting room, and Confluence uses the technology to produce its creamy cold-brew coffee. The result? A tangy drink with the deeper, savory flavors of coffee — and a little jolt of caffeine to go along with the alcohol.

Some of the more exotic ciders have been single batches made with a method more commonly used in breweries. A device filled with fruit or herbs called a Randall is hooked up between the tap line and the tap itself. The cider then flows through the flavoring ingredients, infusing it right before it hits the glass. The result has been unusual concoctions such as jalapeño-lime or mango-mint. Plus, the flavoring ingredients never touch the keg’s tap line, so an entirely different recipe can be whipped up and served from the rest of the keg, if that’s what the folks at Buskey feel like doing that day.

For the holidays, Correll says, the cidery is releasing a cranberry-basil variety. “The idea for putting seasoning in came last Christmas before we were open,” he says. “My sister asked me if I’d make a cider to match the turkey — she asked for rosemary-thyme cider. It turned out great.”

Some of Buskey’s most popular innovations have been hopped ciders. Given the scarcity and price of hops, it’s expensive to produce, Correll says, but Citra-hopped cider has been a big hit. Steinmetz also is experimenting with Cascade hops in a spontaneously fermented cider — a method similar to the one used to make sour beers.

By mid-January, Buskey should have its cider in cans and on store shelves — small local spots at first and larger stores in the spring. At the taproom, the experimentation will continue.

“We can come up with an idea and have that product done and selling in a couple of weeks,” Correll says.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Light That Fire: Six Richmond Winter Seasonal Beers to Warm Your Solstice

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Winter seasonals offer beer-lovers an adjunct to hibernation. Cravings shift to richer, deeper beers, to strong ales suitable for sipping such as imperial stouts, flavored porters, barley wines and bocks, some barrel-aged and others with tastes of the holiday. The Richmond area’s newest breweries have your winter cravings covered.

  • Scott Elmquist

Dam Sturgeon
10.3 percent alcohol
Ammo Brewing, Petersburg

The smooth, rich, creamy malt notes of this imperial chocolate stout can make you feel as if you’re floating gracefully across the stage like the Nutcracker prince, while the daring, dark, smoky flavor conjures visions of the Mouse King. Because Ammo doesn’t yet distribute, you’ll need to visit its Old Town Petersburg taproom for the full experience.

  • Scott Elmquist

Dark Ages Imperial Maple Brown
8.7 percent alcohol
Castleburg Brewery & Taproom, Richmond

A hint of roast from brown malts, the sweet, earthy tasty of Vermont maple syrup and a hint of cinnamon — this rich, imperial ale is reminiscent of wandering through a quiet forest on an early winter afternoon. Castleburg has taken the recipe from its award-winning Bishop’s Brown Ale and added malt and seasonal flavorings. The brewery isn’t distributing yet, so you’ll need to enjoy Dark Ages in the tasting room or at home by the fireplace with a growler by your side.

  • Scott Elmquist

Coffee Milk Stout
5 percent alcohol
Stone Brewing Co., Richmond

Making this seasonal release even more special, the coffee that tantalizes your tongue as you sip this smooth milk stout comes from local coffee company Lamplighter Roasting Co. The touch of bitterness from the coffee — apparent but not overwhelming — and the creamy sweetness of the milk sugars make bittersweet a pleasure. Big in taste, deceptively low in alcohol.

  • Scott Elmquist

Lucky 45 Graham Cracker Porter
6.8 percent alcohol
Trapezium Brewing Co., Petersburg

Richer than the average porter, Trapezium’s dark seasonal beer leaves the taste of honey grahams on the back of the palate, like a chocolate-covered cookie. Pair it with a brick-oven pizza from the Trapezium kitchen or look for it at other Petersburg restaurants for a trip beyond the familiar.

  • Scott Elmquist

Belsnickel Weizenbock
8 percent alcohol
Kindred Spirit Brewing, Goochland

Inspired by the crotchety German Christmas folklore figure — see YouTube for Dwight’s memorable portrayal in “The Office” — Kindred Spirit’s wheat bock offers a full-bodied mouth feel with spicy, clovelike notes and a rich, satisfying malty finish. Per German guidelines, this amber beer is made with 50 percent wheat and with ale yeast.

  • Ash Daniel

The Dawson Sweet Potato Ale
6.5 percent alcohol
Steam Bell Beer Works, Chesterfield

The ubiquitous sweet potato casserole isn’t always a welcome guest at family holidays. Such is the tale behind the Dawson, named for founder Brad Cooper’s grandmother, who tried in vain to appeal to her grandchildren with a variety of holiday dishes with the bright orange root vegetable as star. Finally, Cooper says, he found a worthy sweet potato recipe — in a beer. Brewed with an amber ale base, it presents a caramel nose and finish, with a touch of earthiness from sweet potatoes, squash, sorghum syrup and toasted pumpkin seeds — yet without the spices that can sometimes overpower seasonal gourd-based beers.

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